Reporting Dan Bernstein
By Dan Bernstein–
CHICAGO (WSCR) – Somebody tell Ozzie Guillen that he’s managing an American League team, and one built to slug.
While you have him on the phone, let him know how important outs are, and have one of the smart, informed staffers in the front office tell him about something called Win Expectancy. They know about it, trust me — they see the same things I’m seeing and are thinking what I’m thinking, as is any rational baseball observer.
Ozzie may believe he’s doing the right things with all of the attempted steals and bunts, but he’s standing in the way of his team. In the case of the latter, he is diminishing the Sox’ chances to win even when the strategy is executed properly.
You see, outs are everything in baseball. If you avoid making them, you can score an infinite number of runs. Sounds oversimplified to you, perhaps, but that’s the essence of the game.
(And if you give your opponent more chances than the three outs per inning with errors and missed defensive opportunities, you drastically increase your chance of losing. But the horrible defense of the Sox is a topic for another day)
Every individual outcome during a game changes the percentage chance each team has to win. To see this calculated in real time, you can follow along during any game at Fangraphs or another, similar site that tells you, pitch by pitch, what the number is. Both teams begin at 50%, and then the graph begins to move.
Some things move the line spectacularly, like scoring, others incrementally. It’s all very intuitive, actually. And once you get the hang of it, it becomes common sense, playing out in a very satisfying, understandable way.
And it makes it infuriating to watch Guillen manage.
Going into the top of the ninth last night, the Rays WE stood at 85%. The leadoff, infield single by Juan Pierre, though, moved the line 11.5% toward the Sox, dropping the Rays’ chances to 73.5%. Guillen then chose to have Gordon Beckham sac-bunt the speedy Pierre to second.
This brilliant tactic DECREASED the Sox’ WE by 4.8%, and that’s even as it was “successful.”
Never mind that Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko were coming up, and that Pierre can score from first on a double. Guillen gave away an out, and made his team less likely to win.
How about Sunday, trailing the Angels 4-2 in the bottom of the ninth, with runners on first and second and nobody out, and A.J. Pierzynski at the plate? Another sacrifice bunt, and another 3.9% drop in Win Expectancy. Inexcusable.
The green-lighting of Pierre and others on the basepaths is also draining precious outs off the season. There are a finite number of them, as you know – the remaining games times 27. You can’t replenish them, only maximize them. They are baseball’s version of the clock, and it’s ticking.
There is never a managerial move that is guaranteed to be correct after the fact, and there are all kind of things taken into account beyond percentage chances. I’m aware that these discussions elicit frightened shrieks from cave-people and incense-burning, baseball spiritualists.
“Just have a computer manage then, you nerd! Aaaaaargh!” (hits wife)
Sometimes a lower-percentage decison comes through, but it’s still a lower-percentage decision. Over the course of a season, such hunch plays will add up to get you beat.
The White Sox spent millions of dollars building a lineup designed to hit the ball out of the park. Guillen seems determined, through sloppy use of opportunities, to turn two-run homers into solos and give the boppers fewer total plate-appearances for the year, limiting their ability to affect games.
“All In,” but all too often, out.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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