Monday, August 01, 2005

 

I'd Have Bradley Bunt Too


I was screaming bloody murder yesterday in 2 instances. First was when I realized that Tracy burned up the bench too soon and was forced to use Weaver as a PH in the 11th inning. More galling was when Bradley bunted with 0 outs in the 9th in order to advance the runners to 2nd and 3rd. Why have the #3 hitter, usually the best hitter in a lineup, give himself up when it was obvious that Kent was going to be walked intentionally to load the bases?

Forget Bradley's slump (.179 BA in 28 ABs) since returning from the DL. Forget his .208 average with RISP this season. Forget "clutch" altogether. Anyone can argue that Bradley is the better hitter and more likely to drive the runner in than Saenz. Here's a breakdown of ways to score.

Scoring with runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 outs:

Bradley gets a hit, and the runner on 2nd scores. (.282 BA)

Scoring with bases loaded, 1 out:

Saenz gets a hit, and the runner on 3rd scores. (.289 BA)
Saenz hits a successful sac fly. (He has 2 for the season.)
Saenz draws a walk. (17 walks in 227 PAs.)
A breakdown such as a wild pitch, balk, or HBP. (Unlikely.)
A suicide squeeze. (Really unlikely considering I've never seen Saenz bunt.)

There are a lot more possibilities with the bases loaded. I would say that the likelihood of scoring is higher with Saenz at the plate, considering that Bradley isn't astronomically better with the bat than Saenz.

Another way to compare the likelihood of scoring is to calculate "win expectancy." Here are some of the historical probabilities of scoring a certain number of runs given the out/base situation, courtesy of TangoTiger. I have it broken down this way.

Score zero runs -

Scoring 0 Runs, 99 - 02 Historical

The Dodgers win the game in the 9th if they score score at least 1 run. This is the inverse of scoring 0 runs.

ScoreAtLeastARun(0 outs, runners on 1st and 2nd) = 1 - ScoreZeroRuns = 1 - 0.359 = 64.1%
ScoreAtLeastARun(1 out, bases loaded) = 1 - ScoreZeroRuns = 1 - 0.33 = 67%.

The historical likelihood of scoring is a tad higher with the bases loaded and 1 out.

As a check, here are the historical probabilities of scoring exactly 1 run, which is all the Dodgers needed.

Score a single run -

Scoring 1 Run, 99 - 02 Historical

ScoreOneRun(0 outs, runners on 1st and 2nd) = 21.9%
ScoreOneRun(1 out, bases loaded) = 25.2%

Again, it's slightly preferrable to have the bases loaded with 1 out. It appears that Tracy made the right decision. Too bad Slomedo hit into a DP to end the inning; a walk would have been more appropriate. The Cards were handing out walks like those chicks infront of Staples Center who give out free passes to Spearmint Rhino.

(Edit: Slackfarmer in comment #2 correctly points out that the assumption of a 100% bunt success rate is erroneous. This does even out the odds a bit, I would think. Good thing it wasn't Antonio Perez up there attempting a bunt... )

Now if only I could figure out why the Tracy inserted Alvarez into Robles' #2 spot during the last double switch. Phillips could have taken over for Navarro, who was hitting 7th and had caught 3 straight games...

Comments:
Dude..i read your blog often and am a huge dodger fan..one of the biggest..and right now you are pulling a jim tracy. STOP PLAYING THE NUMBERS GAME..it didn't help alvarez beat edmonds did it? Baseball is a streaky game and i understand you would want to sac the runners over..but let bradley bat..worst comes to worst theres still going to be a runner on base somewhere and kent would have brought him in..he took the bat out of 2 batters hands and basically put two outs up there himeself
 
The flaw in your calculus is you assume the bunt goes down perfectly ever time. MB could have poppe out, bunted straight to a fielder so the lead runner is forced, etc.

I didn't like the bunt, but I think it's pretty much a wash. Wasting A. Perez was worse (especially in hindsight). Batting Izzy lead off is bad too.

But the worst thing Tracy does is play the wrong guys. Why on earth is Phillips playing 1B? Repko an everyday guy? A. Perez (with the 4th highest OPS of anybody with more than 10 ABs and similarly ranke VORP) rides the pine?
 
looks like i hit a nerve. good. nothing like a good dialect.

anon, like i said, i was screaming bloody murder when the bunt happened. i was about to go medieval on tracy until i looked at the numbers when i realized that the bunt wasn't that bad. even defendable.

as for "STOP PLAYING THE NUMBES GAME", my masthead clearly shows "dodgers by the numbers" underneath. it's my MO.

slack, you got me. i assumed that the bunt would be 100% successful, which is never the case. bradley is an EXCELLENT bunter, though. he doesn't bunt often, but i've never seen him botch one.

as mentioned, hindsight makes all the difference. running out of hitters by the 11th turned out to be poor. but what if bradley hit into a DP in the 9th? what if ledee didn't come in to PH for perez and perez K'd instead? many of us would be raving mad, i would think.
 
Why would you waste your two best hitters for a statistically insignificant "better chance" at scoring a run, even if you assume the bunt was going to be successful? The decision to make was obvious at the time, and it is only weak justifications of absurd decisions that are the product of regretful hindsight.
 
"many of us would be raving mad, i would think."

But at who? Not at Tracy, who then would have been making correct decisions and letting the players play.

Nor does your chart break down the fact that not all teams give up outs in that situation. The probability of a run scoring in Bradley's AB if he is swinging is somewhere around .280 (figure that it is his batting average, adding in the likelihood of an error or some other weird play scoring a runner, subtracting base hits where the runner might not score). But if Bradley bunts, the odds go down precipitously -- whatever percentage of the time a successful bunt is thrown down the right field line. I understand that over time and millions of situations, those factors balance out. But we're not talking about time and millions of situations. We're talking about that situation. And aren't we really talking about the likelihood that Bradley AND Saenz (and Kent if Bradley strikes out) drive in the run, rather than how you put it, which is the statistically insignificant difference between whether Bradley OR Saenz will drive in the run?
 
just got back from a 2 margarita lunch. i'm either dazed from the booze or that david tickstein went deep during the series...

hey steve, first of all i hope the bar exam went fine.

some good points raised...the run probability chart does not incorporate the strength of the hitter, the pitcher, etc. it's a historical aggregate that i think is insightful and is by no means "the answer" to every game situation. to go into the gory details, i would need to draw up some sort of a decision tree. i simplified greatly because otherwise i'd have to parse actual situational game data. that's too much trouble for me. the chart does a reasonable job summarizing the various possible events. it's a stat, not a rule.

maybe tracy felt that bradley was struggling since he came back. i can't fault him for thinking that. if so, it comes down to either saenz or kent. you really want kent up there, but kent was going to be walked if there was an open base had bradley made a productive out or hit into a DP. so taking a shot with saenz where a sac fly or a walk would win the game doesn't sound so bad.

i don't like giving away outs either, but i find that palatable in a close late game where scoring 1 run is the same as scoring 10 runs. that's just what i think.
 
Still, we are splitting hairs. Just like discussions of batting order. They're interesting, but the real issue is that Tracy isn't starting Perez and Choi.
 
i just realized that bradley is approaching the green line. (.199 BA with RISP in 2004) not good.
 
Accepting that (like too many Dodgers) Bradley has apprently forgotten how to take a walk, I think on eof the things being ignored here is how the situation leading up to Bradley's bunt came to be.

After Izturis' drag bunt, Robles was sent up to sacrifice but Eldred could not find the plate. Tracy tried to give them an out - even at 2-0 and 3-0 counts - and Eldred could not manage it.

Additionally, the "Sacrifice Fly" as a way to win was considerably mitigated by the Cardinals as Eldred ranks #1 among Cardinal relievers in G/F raitio at 2.27.

The most likely way for the Dodgers to win the game was to get a hit. They had the choice to try that with Bradley+Kent plus Saenz (if Bradley or Kent did not GIDP) or with just Saenz plus Valentin (if Saenz did not GIDP).

Of course if Bradley does anything to create an open base at first that does not also end the game, then that changes. As you say in your replies, you would need to create a decision tree.

In the end, though I am not sure it matters much. Tracy's call there was not what I would have done but it was not *obviously stupid*. His lineup choices on the other hand...
 
bradley is an EXCELLENT bunter, though. he doesn't bunt often, but i've never seen him botch one.

Well as of tonight, you have. And tonight there was really no defense for having him do it.
 
i did not know eldred's g/f ratio being that high. good insight.

did bradley just pop up a bunt in the 8th while down by a run???? a tied game in the 9th at home is one thing, down by a run on the road with valentin hitting behind kent... i'm watching this unfold on gameday only, but that seems stupid.
 
"bradley is an EXCELLENT bunter, though. he doesn't bunt often, but i've never seen him botch one."

i love it when i say something and it comes back squarely in the face. i'm ducking them boomerangs right now!!
 
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