Bernstein: Guillen Hurting Sox’ Chances

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.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: Guillen Hurting Sox Chances

Dan Bernstein

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.
Listen to The Boers and Bernstein Show podcasts >>

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  • chris

    Could not agree more. The sacrifice hunt has its place, but is it is overused by managers and frequently used at the wrong time or in the wrong game situation

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Ozzie Ball just doesn’t mix with a softball slugging core of Dunn and Paulie.

    Dunn always starts slowly.

  • bronzo

    Wow i couldn’t disagree more…Both situations he mentioned called for a bunt in my opinion. look i know the Sox are built to hit the ball out of the park , but right now they aren’t!! You have to manufacture runs.

    and the reference that people who don’t use sabremetrics to manage a baseball game are neanderthal wife beaters is bullsh**t

    this is the type of column that gives Berstein a bad name …Typical condescending, smug, know it all attitude that truns people off.

    You can disagree without being such a jerk

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      While I do lean toward Bernstein’s sabermetric arguments, I am totally in agreement with you about the second part… Is “hits wife” really necessary? I didn’t realize that using “baseball calculus” automatically makes someone above suspicion of domestic violence.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        totally agree………”hits wife” was a bad, bad line from Dan.

      • bronzo

        That’s all I’m saying… we can have a differnce of opinion without calling somebody a wife-beater…even if I happen to wear one occasionally :) LOL

      • Peter (in Rogers Park)

        Nicely put, Chris.

      • wife

        Don’t worry fellas- I blocked his shot and cracked him upside the head

    • mike in davenport

      His goal is to get you to reply, not to be right.

      When Mitch was on the Danny Mac show, he described Dan’s role perfectly “He knows how to get under peoples’ skin…”

      He’s the radio equivalent of an internet troll. His job is to make money by getting attention to the station; whether it’s positive attention or negative attention deosn’t really matter to him.

  • Dr that doesn't help people

    I once had a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend that sort of looked like Derrick Rose. She was 6’4 and white-ish and she said her name was Terry Boers. She was a real b*tch.

  • Dagglio

    I HATE when Beckham bunts with Pierrr on 1st. It maked NO sense at all.

  • pulseczar

    If a woman doesn’t bow at the altar of sabremetrics does that imply she’s inclined toward husband-beating?

    Let’s ask Mrs. Warren Moon.

    • Spoon

      I told my girlfriend that her WAR was a little low this year… and she backhanded me…

  • regal

    it’s aprill…… it is ap-pril. come down from the ledge..

    the white sox historically do not play in April .

    in other news, bernsie would never hit a woman because that would be redundant.

    • Mr. Pouty Pants

      And most women could kick his a$$!

      YOUR GAY!

    • RealRick

      Losses in April count as much as losses in September.

      Look it up.

      It’s an accurate stat.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        And for how many years now have those April losses been season-killers when September rolls around and the Twinkies win the damn Division by a nose.

        And the friggin’ Twinkies went into the season with 2 effin’ closers on their team, Nathan and Capps, whereas the Sox have what? who?

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        Yeah, but Joe Nathan BAD.

        It’s almost sad, actually… to see a guy that was so good get waylayed by injury. I wonder if he’s still working out kinks or if he’s truly done.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Agreed that Nathan looked awful so far this year, but the Twins had a Plan B.

  • Mr. Pouty Pants

    I’m curious what sabermetrics would say about a team’s odds of scoring by using sacrifice bunts and stolen bases when a team is hitting as poorly as the Sox have been. I understand the finite number of outs argument but if a team is not hitting wouldn’t it be better to get a player to second and risk and out rather than risk an easy double-play, but if each at bat is an isolated incident then it doesn’t matter, but your chances of scoring form second are better than scoring from first, but if you have more outs to work with with a runner on first then you keep swinging, but is the pitcher known for wild pitches, or how is catching, or does the pitcher have a slow delivery, which way is the wind blowing, or is it a grass field or turf, and my head hurts…

    I’m going to go hit my wife now.

    • bronzo

      Exactly Mr. PP thats what I said earlier…when your teams is NOT hitting you have to manufacture runs along with all the other variables you mentioned.

      • Beverly Brewmaster

        But if your team ISN’T hitting doesn’t that make it MORE important to conserve outs? I suppose your counter would be that a poorly-hitting team is more likely to get one hit before making two outs than it is to get two hits before making three outs. But as Bernstein points out, you’ve got a guy on base who will score on a double, or an outfield error, or a botched relay, etc.

        Personally, I think if the bottom of the lineup is coming up you bunt the guy over. But I don’t care how poorly the team is hitting, I wouldn’t give up an out with your fastest guy on base and your thumpers coming up.

      • bronzo

        We’ll agree to disagree on this Bev…I bunt him over and look for a single tie the game…and in Pierzynski’s case move 2 runners over. I would come back with the double play argument in the Beckham case every time.

        It was a moot point with the 2 strike outs last night in my scenario.

      • Beverly Brewmaster

        I guess the question is at which point you’re willing to deviate from the statistics. If I recall correctly, WPA is based on empirical data (e.g. looking at every situation where there’s a runner on first and second and nobody out with a team down two runs in the 8th, and then seeing how many times that team eventually won the game), and thus it doesn’t factor in the quality of the player at bat, whether a team is stronger defensively or offensively, etc. As such, if your WPA was 36% before bunting and 32% after, there may be other factors specific to that game that override the 4% shift in WPA. That’s the real debate here: are there factors that make this situation deviate from the norm? That’s where you and I differ, and I think both our positions have merit.

        One thing to keep in mind (particularly for stat-heads like me and Bernsie)… Fangraphs itself notes in its definition of WPA that “WPA is more of a descriptive statistic and not that great of a predictive statistic.” Like all statistics, it’s one thing to consider when making a decision but certainly not the ultimate basis for making a decision.

      • Beverly Brewmaster

        Oh, and just to clarify… I used WPA instead of WE (which Bernstein discussed above), but they’re basically two ways of looking at the same stat. WE (win expectancy) is how likely a team is to win at any given time. WPA (win probability added) is how a player changes the team’s WE during an at-bat (e.g., when Beckham bunted Pierre over, the Sox’ WE decreased from 26.5% to 21.7%, so Pierre’s WPA in that at-bat was -4.8%).

      • bronzo

        Thanks for the clarification Bev…as you know I’m not much of stats guy…But when it is explained in laymen’s terms even I can understand it…ironically I work in the brokerage industry but I’m anti-sabremetrics. I think it leaves out too many intangibles in my humble opinion.

      • Mr. Pouty Pants

        My head hurts more now…

        *hits wife*

  • Teddy

    and if beckham hits into DP, its 99% Rays…….baseball is also the game of strategizing when you get those outs. Pierre is not scoring from first on a single, you would need a double. Eat an out for a chance that your two best hitters can hit a single………get educated on baseball bernie.

    • ClubMedSux

      So your strategy is based on avoiding a double play? Last year Beckham had 95 at-bats with a runner on first and less than two outs. He grounded into 9 DP’s, but also had 24 hits. So you’re going to give up a 25% chance to have (at the very least) runners on first and second with nobody out because of a 9% chance that he grounds into a double play? And that’s before factoring in that with Pierre on first you’d have to hit a ground ball directly at the infielder to get two. I know what decision I would make, but then again maybe I need to get educated on baseball too.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    By the way, a little love for the Hawks please.

    • bronzo

      Good point Larry…great game last night having Bolland back sure helped . That Bickell goal to start the game was sweet…go back and look at the replays of that.

      Great sports night in Chicago on Thursday Bulls @ 6 Hawks @ 9 …no work on Good Friday…I’ll drink to that.

    • Denver Deadite

      How about that, eh? It may be delaying the inevitable, but the Hawks didn’t just roll over last night.

      Talk about instant impact with Bolland’s return. Not only that, but they finally got into Luongo’s head.

      For a team that’s still up 3-1 in the series, Vancouver completely fell apart last night. You’d think the Blackhawks were the ones going for the series sweep with how the Canucks just turned to being complete goons out on the ice.

      After that, I don’t see how anybody can still think they’re the favorites to win the the Stanley Cup; they truly do not have the mental makeup of a champion.

      • bronzo

        Good point Denver… I was suprised they sent Luongo out to start the 3rd period. Yeah they looked a little shell shocked…would love to see the Hawks bring the series back here fo 1 more game .

      • Beverly Brewmaster

        I’ll be the first to admit I totally underestimated what Bolland brings to the team (mainly because I was too busy complaining about his complete inability to win a faceoff). I think he impacts the game not only with his own shut-down defense but by freeing up Toews, who I think was started to collapse under the weight of trying to do everything as both our best offensive center and our best option to shut down the other team’s top line.

      • Mr. Pouty Pants

        I just wonder if Vancouver saw the game getting away from them and thought “the heck with it, let’s take it easy and let them have this game and go home and win the series. “ I want the Blackhawks to win but every other game they have looked like they don’t belong on the same ice.

      • Larry

        Hawks win last night just makes me think of the “Bring Out Your Dead” scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail when the guy on the dead body cart says “I’m not dead yet”. Hopefully Canucks won’t say “Quiet you” and bash Hawks on the head.

  • Patrick Kelly

    Those statistics don’t take into effect the fact that Becks and Big Donkey can’t hit the blind side of a barn right now……sure Pierre scores on a double, but given what the past week has been like, what is the % chance that Beckham, Dunn or Pauly hits a double….probably lower than 11%

  • Jobby Benks

    Stop talking hockey, talk more hockey. The White Sox are just bad right now, and it is tough to see them giving up outs, especially with the recent bullpen struggles even if they do get a lead or a tie. Listening to Hawk, MERCY! It is so hard not to get depressed. I have to pop an antidepressant every time the Sox go 1, 2, 3. It is April, yes, but the Sox are all playing bad (with the exception of the starters) at the same time. Very hard to watch, or care about at this point. Bring back Roberto Alomar for a spark…hahah!

  • Gentleman RaRa

    The Bulls are on a roll, and The White Sox are sucking.

    So my sports world is well balanced, right now.

  • Harry's Phlegm

    I wonder what managers did before the age of sabremetrics.

  • Jake

    What happened to the wife-beating reference? Did Bernstein take it out?Is this a way of Bernstein admitting he was wrong for once?

    • bronzo

      I’ve never seen that before…they took the “hits wife” reference out of the blog.

      Good catch Jake

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        It’s still showing on mine…

      • bronzo

        Maybe I’m seeing things now that reference is back…

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        At first I thought that maybe CBS corporate had edited the line out, as not P.C. enough for their corporate standards.
        But there it is, still.

        Can you just imagine the $hitfit Dan would toss if CBS censored him on the blog?

      • bronzo

        And question his journalistic integrity? perposterous!!

  • Gentleman RaRa

    Like Bernstein said yesterday, the White Sox are being the White Sox.

    Here’s the likely scenario for the season:

    Sox start out slow and sluggish. Blame it on cold bats, cold weather, etc. They begin to fall behind in the AL Central. Kenny threatens changes. Ozzie calls his team “horse-bleep”.

    Interleague play begins. White Sox tear up the NL, and suddenly they are back in the division race. “Dont Stop Believin” and “Go-Go White Sox” become everyone’s favorite ring tone. “Oh Five” is repeated at every turn, like that even means anything anymore.

    The Twins come to town. They murder the White Sox.

    The Sox go to Minnesota. They get murdered again, this time by Jason Kubel walk-offs. Hawk is silent.

    Season over.

    Pessimistic outlook on my part? Yes. Believe me, I hope the outcome is a division title. But it’s been the same song and dance the past 3 years, and I know the smell of White Sox FUNK!

    • British Bob

      That’s not pessimistic. Just the truth.

  • Jesse Austin

    Bernstein’s comments are okay … up to a point. Bunting in the bottom of the ninth with two men on base when you’re two runs down seems like bunt-overkill. However, bunting is good strategy when your two hitter (Beckham) is not hitting very well.

    And it really is time for *all* the guys at The Score to dispense with the comments about base-stealing. I don’t know why Pierre is the object of so much “hate” on this station. I like that Pierre can throw the opposing pitcher and defense off balance whenever he reaches base. I don’t get the logic of haranguing about Pierre’s being thrown out 18 times last season (while stealing 68), while being perfectly willing to accept Dunn’s probable 200 strikeouts – totally wasted at-bats that contribute nothing to putting pressure on the defense, moving runners along or driving in a run.

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      The reason Adam Dunn’s 200 K’s are okay is because over his career he’s got a .380 OBP. Granted, last year was a slightly down year due to fewer walks (a still not-bad .356 OBP)… but he’s been remarkably consistent over his career in getting 100 walks, hitting 38 (or) 40 home runs, and driving in 100+. The guy is clockwork, and those are “old man” skills, so I think that last year was simply a down year rather than a career arc trend. Heck, he’s likely to get to #500 in a ChiSox jersey.

      Even with Dunn’s struggles, his OBP is still just under Pierre’s (.311 to .321), and the sample size is small enough that a great game by Dunn coupled by a bad one by Pierre would flip that script.

      You also can’t overrate strikeouts. If nobody’s on base, a strikeout is just like any other out. If there’s someone on base then it makes a double play almost an impossibility. They’re admittedly ugly, but they’re not the end-all, be-all.

      Pierre is good at what he’s asked to do, and I’ll admit, Bernstein is tougher than he needs to be on him… but I love the Dunn/Pierre arguments that some callers make- because there’s no comparison.

      • Denver Deadite

        You have to wonder though how many runs that Dunn could potentially be costing the Sox with his strike outs.

        What about advancing the runner on a fielders choice? Defensive errors? Or the fact that his making contact will generate more hits regardless?

        Just because he hits the ball into play with a runner on base instead of striking out doesn’t mean it’s going to end up being a double play.

    • British Bob

      The difference is Pierre doesn’t reach base enough to throw the opposing team “off balance”. Dunn’s swing will generate a LOT more than Juan on the bases. And every time Dunn is in the box he’s putting a great deal of pressure on the pitcher.

      That and Juan’s glove costs us games.

      • Jesse Austin

        Are we talking about the same Juan Pierre? The one I’m referring to routinely gets on base 225-250 times a year when he’s in the everyday lineup. He also has scored more than 90 runs in all but one of those “everyday-lineup” seasons. He does his job, and the Sox need him to play well … just as they played their best in 2005 when Scott Podsednik was healthy.

      • Beverly Brewmaster

        Pierre’s total bases/runs scored are skewed by his number of plate appearances as a lead-off hitter. His OBP has only made it north of .350 once since 2004 (and he played at least 145 games in each of those seasons but one). Of course, if you see Scott Podsednik as a model lead-off guy then obviously you’re not concerned with things like actually getting on base–though even he managed a .350 OBP in ’05.

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        ScottyPods reference… Oy.

  • crash corrigan

    A worse mistake by Guillen might be leaving Dunn in the 3-hole when he’s still off his game coming back from surgery. Right now, he’s killing the Sox and s/b moved down to #6, at least, until he’s right.

  • RealRick

    Great blog.

    And you didn’t even get to how Ozzie and Kenny have destroyed the bullpen this year.

    So much about them to blast and so little cyberspace.

  • poonjab6

    Berstein, go beat your gay again. You are garbage.

  • M. Night Shamalamadingdong

    “Just get a computer girlfriend then, you nerd! Aaaaaargh!” (hits climax)


    Terry’s favorite two words in show biz, Laurence Holmes, mentioned some very disturbing stats during the White Sox 6-game losing streak after the Ranger’s “Xfinity Postgame” last night. It’s not just a low batting average, including an average of 8 K’s and a lack of runs scored during the losing streak. All too often, when the Sox are at the plate, the hitters are behind in the count and this team constantly goes 1-2-3, up and out in order. LoHo did play Ozzie’s postgame presser on his evening show last night, and the manager hinted that DH Adam Dunn, one of 4 Sox regulars struggling right now at the plate, could be moved down in the lineup tonight for Game 3 of the Rays’ series tonight. I found it very curious that Rays’ manager Joe Maddon had Sean Rodriguez, starting at third base for the injured Evan Longoria, batted 3rd in last night’s Tampa Bay lineup. At this point, I don’t know if juggling the lineup will do the trick and stop the Southsiders’ bleeding. The Sox may be “ALL IN” all right, but they are closer to last place than they are first in the A.L. Central as play begins today.

  • Bob in Rockford

    The rub is that sabermetrics stands in opposition to at least two cardinal rules of baseball in this situation. First, move runners along and second, stay out of the double-play. Guillen was reading directly from the unwritten rules of baseball. The question then becomes, have these rules become less valuable than they once were? (Or were they ever really valuable?).

    I understand that the wisdom of the baseball rustic (managing by ‘feel’) is often flawed, but I’m also nervous about giving any one statistic too much weight.

    • Chris in Scottsdale


      You pose an excellent question, and it’s one that has been battled about for the last decade in books like “Moneyball” and “The Numbers Game” (Excellent reads, BTW). Science nerds and statisticians have been questioning traditional baseball logic for a long time, but it’s just recent that they’ve been getting more press for it… For decades we were programmed to accept the “big 3” stats, but as time has progressed, batting average has ceded some publicity to OBP, and RBI’s have been attacked as too reliant on other factors. Home runs? Still home runs.

      How’s the weather in Rockford? I’m running the half marathon there next month.


    Ozzie has indeed moved Adam Dunn down in tonight’s White Sox lineup, which goes like this:

    Pierre LF, Beckham 2B, Quentin, RF, Konerko 1B, Dunn DH, Rios CF, Pierzynski C, Ramirez SS & Teahen 3B.

    Phil Humber and Wade Davis are the mound opponents today at 5:40p. Have fun with that!

  • danny

    baseball is not all computors. sometimes it’s a feel for the game. if your team is slumping bunt to get runner in scoring position.

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