Thursday chess match: Having it both ways

The situation: Runners on first and second, no outs, bottom of the eighth inning. Cardinals trail, 4-1, with the No. 9 spot in the order coming up.

The decision: Jon Jay pinch-hits for Chris Carpenter, and Jay puts down a bunt.

The outcome: Jay sacrifices the runners over to second and third. However, the next batter, Skip Schumaker, hits into a 3-2 double play, and the inning is over with no runs.

The analysis: TLR said after the game that this actually wasn’t a sacrifice attempt. Instead, it was a try at a bunt for a base hit. But he also said, essentially, that the fallback is a sacrifice — i.e., if it goes for a hit, great, but if not, it’s a sacrifice.

The idea is, if Jay gets a hit, fantastic. Bases loaded, top of the order, chance to break the inning open. If he doesn’t, you’ve moved the runners over to where a single brings in two runs. Also, and TLR said this, one advantage of a sacrifice is that it all but assures that at least one of the Cards’ thumpers will hit. The problem is that the double play eliminated that possibility.
It still seems a lot like a question of playing for one or two runs versus playing for the big inning, though.
The comment: That was a base-hit bunt. I thought it was there. Hopefully it would have ensured that one of our big boppers comes to bat with the tying run, at least. Didn’t work out that way.” — TLR
My verdict: I still don’t like it. The fact that it was an attempt at a hit dilutes some of my irritation at the play, but not all of it. Because even if it’s nominally an attempt at a hit, when you admit up front that at worstit plays as a sacrifice, you’re thinking sacrifice to some extent. With Jay hitting well, and some other candidates on the bench who might come up with a big hit, it’s clear that you’re not playing for the big inning.

And with a three-run deficit and six outs remaining, you have to play for the big inning. You have to take your chance now, to get all three of those runs in one shot. You don’t get big innings by giving away outs.
It’s a bit like the hit-and-run, which is also not one of my favorite plays — it’s an attempt to have it both ways. In this case, you want a base hit, commit to trying to get a base hit. Let Jay swing away, or call on Stavinoha or Mather. If you want a hit, try to get a hit — and leave yourself the possibility of extra bases, or the run scoring on a hit. 
If you want to sacrifice, then sacrifice. By all means, I am vehemently opposed to sacrificing there, but if that’s the goal, then do it.
-M.

 

3 Comments

Mainly opposed to it because it didn’t work. That’s why people hate Monday-morning quarterbacks, or second guessers. “The manager should have made a different decision.” I don’t know why people who second-guess manager’s decisions believe that makes for an intelligent comment. It doesn’t. I can pretty much guarantee that if Skip drives in the runs, this article would have never been written. And that means the writer really isn’t opposed to the strategy, just didn’t like the outcome.

You are absolutely, 100 percent, entirely incorrect. I didn’t like it the minute he made the play. I tweeted that at the time.

Moreover, if you’ve read this series, you’d know that the whole point is to base the assessment on what we knew at the time.

-M.

in this case, i’m not sure if TLR was being totally honest. I think it was completely the opposite, originally intended a sac, if it ended up a bunt base knock, then fine. birds had been stymied all day, and obviously jay has more speed than ANY pitcher. It didn’t work out either way, and we got swept by the worst team (statistically) in the NL. Big deal, since ’04 the Stros have been a sneaky team against us. and p.s. we can’t count on Schu driving in runs, only on him scoring them. If Tony WANTED a rookie to reach base on a bunt, he is not playing to win. Not down by 3 in the 8th.

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