Removing Votto from the Lineup
Here’s a game log (with hitter, pitcher, and play event removed), courtesy of FanGraphs, for one of Saturday’s games:
The top of the 9th inning starts with each team having a 50% of chance of winning. The win expectancy shown is from the perspective of the home team. Therefore, the first event is a good thing for the team hitting. The second event did not help them. The third play helped a little. The fourth play did not help, despite the runner on second advancing. The fifth play helped a lot; without the game log, you can still see what happened. The runner from first moved to second without the score or outs changing and the same runner on third – a stolen base/wild pitch/passed ball. In this case, the speed demon on first stole second. The inning ends with the sixth event.
So from the perspective of the team hitting, plays 1, 3, and 5 were good. Plays 2, 4, and 6 did not help them. Now here’s the context:
|H Bell||D Stubbs||0||___||Drew Stubbs singled to center.|
|H Bell||O Cabrera||0||1__||Orlando Cabrera sacrificed to first. Drew Stubbs advanced to
|H Bell||J Votto||1||_2_||Joey Votto was intentionally walked.|
|H Bell||S Rolen||1||12_||Scott Rolen flied out to right. Drew Stubbs advanced to 3B.|
|H Bell||J Votto||2||1_3||Joey Votto advanced on a stolen base to 2B.|
|H Bell||J Gomes||2||_23||Jonny Gomes flied out to left.|
Drew Stubbs led off with a single. He’s a fast man:
Fast people on base is a good thing. Next up is Orlando Cabrera, who sucks (most of his 1.4 WAR this year has come from showing up).
Letting him hit in this situation probably isn’t a great idea. With almost the entire 40-man roster available, there had to be someone available to pinch-hit. But that doesn’t even bother me that much; what happened instead is even worse. The worst case scenario for the Reds would be a double play, which would remove all runners from the bases and give the Padres two outs. Also bad would be giving the Padres an out and removing the bat from the hands of the best hitter in the National League. Which of course is what happened.
Cabrera bunted to move Stubbs to second with Joey Votto coming up. With first base open, Votto is walked intentionally and Scott Rolen becomes the hitter. So not only have the Reds given away an out, but they’ve also removed their best hitter from the lineup in order to put a man on second base. For this, they got two chances with Rolen and Jonny Gomes instead of three chances with Votto, Rolen, and Gomes. In all likelihood, Votto doesn’t get walked (intentionally) with one out and a man on first. But with one man out and a man on second, it’s an easier decision (particularly when one run makes such a huge difference). Usually, with a hitter of Votto’s quality, it’s a good decision to put
him on with first base open behind a runner on second.
It didn’t work out for the Reds, and I was almost screaming at the television watching it. It’s things like “taking the bat out of your best player’s hands” that helps lose games, and games can’t be given away come a week from now.