Monday, August 24, 2009

The White Sox fail horribly

In the bottom of the second inning against Boston today and leading by the score of 2-0, the White Sox found themselves defending against a first and third situation with two outs. The runner on first, J.D. Drew, attempted to steal second base and the White Sox had him thrown out by thirty feet.

So what happened? They got him in a pickle and while they wasted a bunch of time trying to tag Drew out, the runner on third, Jason Bay, scored. The second baseman, Jayson Nix, even checked the runner on third before continuing with the pickle.

Now, it's not clear to me from the replay when Bay started running or how close the play might have been. It doesn't really matter though, because it's horrible baseball. If Bay was stealing at the same time as Drew, then the catcher should have simply held on to the baseball and put Bay in a pickle. Bay knows this. Everyone knows this. Thus, it stands to reason that Bay waited until he saw that Drew was in trouble. This is standard baseball fare: when a runner gets caught in a pickle, other runners try to advance.

What's really surprising is that the White Sox appeared to trade the run for the out. Let's look at the math:

Run Expectancy for possible outcomes:

Runner on 2nd, 3 out, 0 runs scored: 0.0. In this scenario, the White Sox throw home and get Bay out. I expect that this is what usually happens.

Runners on 1st and 3rd, 2 out, 0 runs scored: 0.54. In this scenario, the White Sox simply chase both runners back to their respective bags and fail to record an out. It is also our baseline scenario.

Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 2 out, 0 runs scored: 0.58. In this scenario, the White Sox prevent Bay from scoring, but allow Drew to take second. Note that it is almost no worse than the baseline and far, far better than any of the next two outcomes.

No one on base, 3 out, 1 run scored: 1.0. This is what actually occured.

Runner on 2nd, 2 out, 1 run scored: 1.32. In this scenario, the White Sox fail to get either runner and they both advance, scoring Bay.

The White Sox would have gained .42 expected runs by simply hanging on to the baseball and letting Drew steal second! Then, after throwing through, they chose not to throw back home, preferring not to risk 0.32 expected runs for the chance at -1.0 expected runs (the difference between the best and worst outcomes and what actually happened, which was itself the second worst outcome). In order for that to be a good play, you would have to believe that you had only a 25% chance at throwing Bay out. This strikes me as fantastically unlikely. It honestly seemed as if the White Sox were consciously trading a run for an out. If so, that is a gross misunderstanding of the costs and benefits involved.

And as I am typing this, the epic FAIL continues. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the third with the White Sox now up 4-1, David Ortiz dribbles a ball up the 1st base line. It's a fantastically easy play for the first baseman, who can tag Ortiz out by about 15 feet with plenty of time to field the ball... ...except Jose Contreras, the pitcher, runs over and muffs the play by trying to field the ball himself depsite the fact that he has a terrible angle on the ball and the runner. Run scores, no one out. It's actually stunning how bad a decision this is. Even if he picks up the ball cleanly, he has a tougher play than the first baseman.

He then walks in a run, throws a wild pitch to tie the game at four apiece, and servers up a three run bomb to Basil Rathbone Mike Lowell for good measure. Thanks for nothing, White Sox!

1 comment:

Lisa said...

If I had been watching the game, I might not have been able to analyze it, but it sure sounds horrible as you describe it.