The first blog entry of the rest of my life: Chess match

Thanks very much for the feedback on the post from last week. Got a lot of different request, but one thing that a couple of different people mentioned was tactical stuff. Also some mentions of stats, and some inside-baseball stuff.

The personal/clubhouse/off-field stuff will be tough to make a regular feature. That happens when it happens. But some of the other, we can do pretty regularly — especially tactics. So I’m going to start trying to blog postgame more often, with stats, tactics, and things like that. Please do offer feedback, let me know if this is what you want to see here.
One feature we do at MLB.com in the playoffs is called “Chess Match,” and it’s a breakdown of some tactical turning points. I’m going to try to do one for each game. Here’s tonight’s. There’s more to follow.
The situation: Runners on first and second, no outs, tie game, bottom of the second inning, Yadier Molina at bat vs. Tim Hudson
The decision: TLR calls for a hit-and-run on the 1-1 pitch to Molina

The outcome: Molina swings and misses at a pitch in the dirt and Matt Holliday is easily thrown out at third base.

The analysis: The argument against this play, to me, is pretty clear: Hudson had given up three straight base hits (Albert Pujols was thrown out trying to take an extra base to end the previous inning), and I’ve made my feelings known about giving away an out when the pitcher is begging for a lifeline.
The argument in favor of it, though, is compelling too: Molina is extremely unlikely to swing-and-miss, so odds are he’s going to put the ball in play. He’s always a double-play candidate against nearly any pitcher, and doubly so against a groundball machine like Hudson, so by sending the runners you’re decreasing the chances of that bad outcome. And of course if it goes for a base hit, you’ve got the lead.
The comment: “Hudson’s a groundball pitcher. How many outs did he get on the ground? You sit around with a runner on first, [it’s likely to be a] double play. The one that I kick myself on was the reason we got into that. Yadi had no chance on that [pitch]. It was a hit-and-run. But on 3-1 [in the previous at-bat], I didn’t run Holliday. If I had run Holliday, then he’d have been standing on third and we’d have first and third, nobody out. so that was really something that I regretted.” – La Russa

My verdict: I wouldn’t have done it. But the more I rolled it around in my head, and after hearing the explanation, I at least see where TLR was coming from.
-M.

3 Comments

I dig the Chess Match bit. I like learning more about the tactical aspect of the game and seeing what the manager was thinking about when he made a call. -@jedloomis

I agree, a look at the tactics/strategies and some behind-the-scenes vignettes (when available) make for a good read. Personally, not a huge stathead–tends to make my eyes glaze over. -@r_williamson

Liking the New Format Matt. Especially the tactical stuff along with your stat of the night highlight.

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