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I attended a wild ball game yesterday afternoon between the Phillies and Twins at Citizen’s Bank Park.  The Twins emerged victorious by a score of 13-10 in eleven innings, with a number of shocking lead changes along the way.  However, perhaps the most shocking thing to me in the game was the decision made in the eleventh inning when Charlie Manuel elected to have Danys Baez intentionally walk Justin Morneau with a runner on first base and one out, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position.  Jon Rauch was due to hit after Morneau, and with the bench depleted, the Twins had no choice but to let him bunt.  The resulting sacrifice put two runners in scoring position with two out.

 

To actually believe that Morneau should not have been pitched to in that situation, Manuel must have some pretty strong beliefs about how good Justin Morneau is.  Given that a walk or a single by Morneau is likely to be followed up by a sacrifice from Rauch that leaves the teams in the same situation as if the Phillies had intentionally walked him (second and third, two outs), the real question was what the odds were that Morneau would hit an RBI double or a home run compared to the odds that Baez would be able to retire him.  Supposing for simplicity that Rauch is a sure third out if Baez can retire Morneau, the Phillies odds of winning the game would have improved from 50 to 64 percent in such a scenario.  However, and RBI double followed by a Rauch out would give them only 17 percent chance, and a home run and a Rauch out would leave them with just a nine percent chance.  Again, for simplicity, assuming that both are equally likely and even that catcher Joe Mauer would even score from first on any double, this means that Morneau getting an RBI extra-base hit would give the Phillies a 37 percent drop in their odds of winning compared to a 14 percent improvement if Morneau is retired. 

 

For this to be wise, Morneau would need to have a 29 percent chance of getting the RBI extra-base hit on at bats that he neither walks nor singles.  Even during this great season for him, this has only happened 18 percent of those at bats, and the in-season PECOTA projections would see this having only a 16 percent chance of happening on non-single, non-walk at-bats.  For comparison, Morneau hit home runs on 39 percent of swings in the 2007 and 2008 home run derby, meaning that Charlie Manuel must have thought that Danys Baez is closer to a home run derby pitcher than an average American League pitcher to conclude that the intentional walk is a good idea.  Even with the outcome of the inning as a nagging counterpoint, that sounds pretty hard to believe.

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drawbb
6/20
Matt, I don't follow how you arrive at the 29% figure leading off the final paragraph.
swartzm
6/21
If they IBB him and Rauch bunts, they have a 49% chance of winning. If he hits a single or regular walks, it's about 49% chance anyway. So you just need the odds of an RBI hit (which gives them a 13% chance) weighted by that probability by the odds of an out (which gives them a 64% chance) weighted by that probability to equal 49%. 0.49 = (p) * (0.13) + (1-p) * (0.64) p = 0.29 So a mix of a 29% chance of ending up with a 13% chance of winning and a 71% chance of ending up with a 64% chance of winning on average are as good as a 49% chance of winning.
drawbb
6/21
Thank you for the explanation, Matt...and if someone is going to give my original comment a negative rating for asking a non-obvious question then I think it's high time for BP to eliminate ratings altogether.
Michael
6/20
Nice observation. Thanks, Matt.
jonathanaustin
6/20
Is the assumption that a single results in the same situation as a walk valid? I would think that with runners on 1st and 3rd with one out in a tie game, Nathan would not be bunting. Even a hitter as bad as Nathan should have a decent shot at scoring a runner from third.
swartzm
6/21
Of course there are a million little possibilities that factor in, with the single possibly ending up better than a walk or the double not scoring Mauer or whatever, but this was a rough sketch. They basically would need to think that this was almost a home run derby for Morneau to make this move credible.
CrashburnAlley
6/20
The worse decision was not intentionally walking Delmon Young with first base open and Matt Tolbert on deck. Walking Young would have loaded the bases with two outs, creating a force at every base. Plus, Tolbert is a far inferior hitter.
krissbeth
6/21
I think you need to account for the likelihood of Rauch bunting successfully, and not striking out or popping up the bunt.
swartzm
6/21
There are a number of other likelihoods that I did not account for, all of which were small and had some other effects. The effect of a poor bunt only moved the probability a couple of percent if it happened, and a million other outcomes were also possible. Regardless of how you model it, you're going to come up with a situation where Danys Baez would need to be roughly halfway between a regular pitcher and a home run derby pitcher for it to make sense.
youwouldno
6/21
I was stunned, as were the other Twins fans I talked to at the next game (which I attended). Phillies fans were somewhat less so, due to their view that Baez pretty much is a home run derby pitcher.
kcboomer
6/21
Can you imagine the post-game news conference if Morneau bats and gets a big extra base hit?? When asked about letting Morneau hit had Manuel rolled out Matt's line of reasoning they would have had him tarred and feathered. The fans would have burned him in effigy. Matt's reasoning might be right, but if it doesn't work it is the type of thing that gets a manager fired.
swartzm
6/21
In general I agree that managers have incentives to play by a set of suboptimal rules to keep their jobs. However, walking the go ahead run into scoring position isn't really "by the book," is it? It seems like that would be the opposite situation. Also, Manuel probably has more job security than any manager you can imagine, so this might be less risky than other managers sticking their necks out on a strategic move.