Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Clint Hurdle's Second Strike in Three Days

On Sunday manager Clint Hurdle defended Andrew McCutchen's decision to try to score a meaningless run from third with two out in the bottom of the ninth of a game the Pirates were losing 6-3. McCutchen was out and the Pirates lost. Hurdle was wrong in defending Cutch's decision to tag and you can read my take on it here.

Last night with the Pirates leading 2-1 Ryan Doumit led off the bottom of the seventh with a single. Hurdle decided to pinch-run with Ronny Cedeno as Pedro Alvarez came to the plate. Alvarez was batting in the seventh hole in the lineup. Following him would be Brandon Wood, Jose Tabata (batting ninth due to a double-switch in the top of the inning) and Andrew McCutchen.

Hurdle asked Alvarez to bunt Cedeno over.

Let's just start with the facts as to why this was a bad decision. The 27 outs a team has are its most valuable resource. By sacrificing, Hurdle was giving one away while at the same time taking the bat out of the hands of the team's biggest power threat. Throw in the fact that the decision actually lowers the team's run expectancy and it doesn't make sense. Add to that the fact that the lineup was essentially turning back to the top one batter later and it clearly was not the right move.

Now the clincher. Pedro Alvarez turned pro in 2009. He made 820 plate appearances in the minors before being called up to the majors in June of last season. Going into his seventh inning at bat last night he had made 468 plate appearances in the majors. That's 1288 total plate appearances. How many sacrifice hits in those 1288 appearances? You got it. Zero.

On Sunday Hurdle argued his team needs to be aggressive to succeed. Maybe, but they also have to be smart, not foolish.

On Tuesday he took a ridiculously conservative approach that didn't put his player in a position to be successful and decreased his team's chances of winning.

Neither worked out, but more importantly, neither was a good decision. I expected decisions and answers like this from John Russell, not Clint Hurdle. It's been a bad start to the week for Clint.

(See all my Pirates coverage, including audio with Clint Hurdle here.)


Irishmike said...

Our boy Terry Collins is in love with the sac bunt in late game situations as well. Your criticism of Hurdle's support for the tag up was that he was supporting his player even though he knew it was a bad decision. I wonder. The inability of managers to grasp even basic statistical conecepts is staggering. I'm not talking BABIP or VAR, I'm talking run expectancy, the value of an out or the concept of a meaningless run.

Even those who do understand the numbers often ignore them in favor of "the book" that was written in the 1950's and adhered to by the mainstream media. Stick with the book and the press leaves you alone even if you hurt your team's chances of winning. Ignore the book in favor of maximizing your team's chances - prepare to catch hell if it doesn't work.

The Hammer said...

The GM of the Pirates knows what is going on and they hired Dan Fox from Baseball Prospectus so I think they have a good sense. It's just in game decisions are ingrained in a lot of these guys.

There are certainly times to sacrifice. That wasn't one of them.

pete said...

Strike 3... hit and run vs SD in the top of the 9th leading 4-3. Overbay on first after a lead off walk with Snyder at the plate and an inaccurate Frieri on the hill... not exactly an ideal baserunner/contact hitter combination. Snyder gets forced to swing at a poor pitch in a favorable count while Overbay gets thrown out. Bucs end up leaving the bases loaded which seems to compound the importance of the decision.