Game of the Week: 7/13-7/19


It seems only fitting that in the same week Tony LaRussa sees his league come under fire for an intentional walk in the All-Star game, he finds himself on the receiving end of an IBB backfiring.

I’m talking about Saturday night’s game. Dan Haren had thrown seven beautiful innings against his former team, keeping them in check for one run and preserving a lead for the D-Backs. In the top of the eighth, two runners had reached with two outs as Josh Kinney entered the game to face Chris B. Young. With Haren scheduled to bat next, and the Cardinals having a heck of a time trying to hit him, LaRussa tried forcing A.J. Hinch’s hand by placing Young on base with four wide ones and taking his shot with a pinch hitter.

Hinch didn’t flinch, sending Haren to the plate to face Kinney. After taking the first three pitches low, Haren took strike one, a pitch on the inside corner. The next pitch sailed low again, and just like that Kinney had not only walked in a run, but done so by walking the pitcher of all players. The results suggest it was a silly move to walk Young, even if we don’t know what he would’ve done if pitched to regularly, but was the walk the right call anyways?

Using the methodology outlined in The Book we can answer that question. Page 312 holds the information we’re looking for. Essentially: if the pitcher is a weak hitter (meaning a wOBA of ~.115) then walking the number eight hitter with either runners on second and third or first and third is worth the walk. If the pitcher is a decent hitter (The Book says ~.220) then the walk is no longer worth it.

Dan Haren’s wOBA this season is a remarkably good .307. Last year’s was .237. Haren has proven that he’s decent with the stick despite his primary position. Young, who entered as a pinch hitter, only has a wOBA this season of .299. As much as I appreciate the thought put into game theory, LaRussa made the incorrect call by walking Young. Not just because the results worked against him, but because he made his pitcher face the better batter with the bases loaded.

If Haren’s affinity for pitching well hasn’t driven LaRussa to regret the Haren deal, his ability to hit decently may have.

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14 years ago

The move looks even worse if you consider McKinney’s (lack of) control – LaRussa should have known there was a decent chance of walking in a run with McKinney pitching.