Friday, May 27, 2011

Intentional Balls

A few minutes before Marc Rzepcynski was charged with one of the most dominant reliever losses I think I've ever seen (of his first six batters faced, three struck out ugly, two hit weak infield bounders and one took a curve off the toe), the Jays were faced with a conundrum: Corey Patterson on first, Jose Bautista at the plate, tie game late. To run or not to run?

I've always thought the notion that you shouldn't run with a certain type of hitter at the plate was a fallacy. If (as was the case Thursday night) the defensive team is willing to put the hitter on, then they should - generally speaking - put him on whether or not the runner is on first or second base. I think that's what happened last night: A pitch-around with CPatt on 1st turned into an IBB with Patterson on second. As an offensive team, you should be happy that you have more baserunners, and baserunners closer to scoring that vital go-ahead run.

If the defensive team is not willing to walk the batter with a man on first, then they probably shouldn't be willing to walk the batter with a man on second - with the notable exception of some very specific splits. (If Ichiro is up in a walkoff situation, tie game, with a runner on first, and that runner advances to second, then maybe you walk Ichiro, because the chances of Ichiro hitting a game-winning single - versus the double he needed previously, and the chances of the next hitter hitting the same single - are relatively high.)

In the situation presented last night, the White Sox essentially ceded second base to a very fast runner in Corey Patterson - no doubt because they liked their chances to get past Bautista with two outs in the eighth rather than leading off in a potential walkoff situation. But for a runner as fast as Corey Patterson to completely shut down his game in a vain effort to force the other team to give Bautista a pitch is ridiculous. They're giving you the base, take it, and let what happens happen. If you make up your mind not to run, then how far do you take it? If a pitch goes to the backstop, do you stand on first? Adamantly stating, "We want you to pitch to this guy, because we're terrified of bringing the on-deck guy up in a crucial situation"?

The twitterers who pointed out last night that a runner on first is in scoring position for Jose Bautista aren't entirely wrong. Bautista has 27 XBH and 24 singles. Last year he had 92 XBH and 56 singles. At the end of the day, though, I think you have to be willing to pass the baton. You can't play to avoid the offensive walk: first, because a walk is a positive offensive contribution; and second, because Jose is going to get his walks either way. 100 non-intentional BB to 2 intentional in 2010 should indicate that much.

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