By In Baseball, Stuff

Managing A Food Store

Buttermaker: “You’re putting the tying run on first base, you imbecile!”
Turner: “Couldn’t even manage a food store, he’s managing a baseball team.”
— The Bad News Bears

* * *

If you have spend much time here at the Ol’ JoeBlogs, you might know that we’re not too crazy about the intentional walk. There are two reasons for this. One is an overriding distaste for it. The intentional walk is anti-competitive. It drains the excitement and tension out of a game that, by its very nature, builds very deliberately toward excitement and tension. When Bryce Harper or Paul Goldschmidt or Mike Trout or Jose Altuve come up with two runners on in a tie game, we would like to actually SEE Joey Votto or Aaron Judge or or Carlos Correa or Andrew McCutchen hit.

The intentional walk is Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney World. You wait in a six-hour line for Mr. Toad, your kids are screaming and pleading, the ice cream cone you got them at the start is long gone (and they are wearing most of it on their shirts), and then you finally get to the front, finally get on the ride … and it’s VVVVVVVPPPPPP, OK, ride’s over, thanks for coming.

And you think — as the great philosophers and Peggy Lee have thought — “Is that all there is?”

In truth, though, my overall beef with the intentional walk has lost some of its steam because over the last five or six seasons it has all but disappeared. The IBB has ticked up ever so slightly this year, but we’re talking about the difference of .19 IBBs per game to .20 IBBs, which is nothing. Teams issue intentional walks once every five games or so, and most of those are walks to get to the pitcher. So while, yes, every intentional walk is an abomination upon the earth, well, it’s hard to build up much righteous anger for rare birds.

The second reason we here loathe the intentional walk, though, is strategic. The intentional walk is often a preposterously stupid strategy.

And so we take you to Los Angeles, California.

The Dodgers are ridiculously good. I mean RIDICULOUSLY good. I spent a couple of hours with GM Farhan Zaidi back in March — always a joy, by the way — and we went over the team piece and by piece and at some point I said, “Your team is ridiculously good, isn’t it?” That was before I knew that Cody Bellinger would unload or that Alex Wood would decide to be Clayton Kershaw, but anyway the team is really good. I saw Dodgers president Stan Kasten at the Hall of Fame ceremony on Sunday, and let’s just say he seemed pretty happy.

So the Dodgers and Giants played on Sunday at Dodger Stadium, rivals having very different seasons, and the Giants led 1-0 going into the bottom of the ninth. If you have followed the Giants the last couple of years you know, leading 1-0 going into the bottom of the ninth is not their favorite place to be … to be honest, I suspect Giants fans were pleased that the Dodgers only scored one run to send the game into extra innings. The run, by the way, was scored by Chase Utley who led off with an infield single, stole second and scored on Yasiel Puig’s single. This is noteworthy because Chase Utley is 483 years old.

Anyway, into the 10th … into the 11th … and the Giants scored a run when Joe Panik’s ground ball single scored Kelby Tomlinson. Then came the bottom of the 11th — Giants in their favorite position, up one run going into the last — and with one out Corey Seager smashed a double because that’s what Corey Seager does.

Up came Justin Turner. Now if you are an astute baseball fan, as I know you are, you realize that the Giants pitcher Alberto Suarez had created something of a pickle for himself. The tying run is on second base, in what many call “scoring position.” And Justin Turner is one whiz-bang of a hitter; he currently has the highest batting average in the National League.

A pickle, indeed!

So what is there for Suarez and manager Bruce Bochy to do? Well, on the one hand they could try to get Turner out — as good as he is, most pitchers DO get him out. Or, well, sure, first base is open so he could intentionally walk Turner.

Intentionally walking Turner, though, puts the winning run on base.

You never put the winning run on base.


Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever …

No, wait a minute, stop (hammer time), there is one situation when you should purposely put the winning run on base. That situation is: If you are facing Roy Hobbs and Glenn Close wearing white stands up in the stands. Then it’s OK. Otherwise, um, no.

Glenn Close did not stand up. Justin Turner is not Roy Hobbs. The Giants intentionally walked Turner anyway because the guy on deck was someone named Kyle Farmer, and he had come to the plate exactly zero times in his Major League career. Yes, this was his Major League debut and Bochy decided that “facing a rookie in his first at-bat” was as good a reason to intentionally walk the winning run as “Glenn Close standing up.”

It is not. It most decidedly is not.

Kyle Farmer promptly doubled to win the game because the intentional walk has no honor … and the baseball Gods were watching.

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19 Responses to Managing A Food Store

  1. Jeremy T says:

    If the game was still tied, then the intentional walk would have been totally fine, since only the first run matters and it gives you the force. Up by a run, though… bad call.

  2. Bryan says:

    “they could try to get Turner out — as good as he is, most pitchers DO get him out.”
    In 2017 vs Justin Turner:
    38 pitchers or 29% have allowed a 1.000 OBP
    54 pitchers or 41% have allowed over .500 OBP including those above
    66 pitchers or 50% have allowed .500 OBP or higher including those above
    26 pitchers or 20% have allowed an OBP between .250 and .444
    40 pitchers or 30% have allowed .000 OBP
    Turner reached by error vs Robert Gsellman one of the 40 with .000 OBP so that’s actually 1 in 3 reaching base. Turner has a sacrifice bunt vs Johnny Cueto one of the 12 with .500 OBP so that’s actually 4 in 9 reaching base. Don’t listen to Brian Kenny at Cooperstown, the “highest batting average in the National League” is a red herring, the “highest on base percentage in MLB” is more relevant and his split vs relievers of 417/541/521 is quite possibly even more relevant.
    Alternatively the Dodgers have a 28% chance to win the game when Turner comes to the plate and a 34% chance after the intentional walk. The 21% of the time Turner gets a Walk or HBP against a reliever in 2017 is a null result. 33% of the time Turner gets a hit which is going to most likely average out to around 60% chance to win, often being tie game, bottom of 9th or later, 1 out and runner on first, 50% chance to win simply because it’s tied, higher than 50% because you might score again that inning. The 46% of the time Turner gets out the Dodgers will most likely average around a 15% chance to win, often being down 1, bottom of 9th or later, 2 outs and runner on 2nd or 3rd. Now apply some math:
    33% * +26% = 8.5% more likely Dodgers win vs IBB
    46% * -19% = 8.7% more likely Giants win vs IBB
    21% same result as IBB
    Setting aside divine intervention of the baseball gods that punish teams for an IBB if Glenn Close wore a blue dress or didn’t attend that game, the IBB is a far more valid tactic than old truisms about “You never put the winning run on base.”. Elite hitters especially against a random reliever (don’t ask Kimbrel, Jansen or Miller to IBB someone) can be more likely to reach base than not and scoring a run from 1st isn’t that much easier than scoring the batter.
    Information provided by Play Index.

    • I’m GUESSING that Joe was thinking along the lines of a ceremony honoring Stan Musial as he retired with his 3,630 hits, and Bob Prince, the great Pirates broadcaster, said, “It is ridiculous that we are gathered here to honor a man who made 7,000 outs.”

  3. Mike says:

    So back in May got some tix through work to see the Mets host the Angels. After telling my burgeoning baseball fanatic of a 7-year old son about Mike Trout, suffice to say he became an instant fan. Talking about him, telling me his stats from last night’s game, printing pictures, etc.

    At the game. 1st inning. Trout up with men on 2nd and 3rd and Terry Collins – with NO OUTS IN THE TOP OF THE FIRST – orders the IBB. And now with the new rule, my son has NO IDEA why Trout hasn’t batted and is now standing on 1B.

    As a fan, this is what Joe always talks about, and I thought about that at the moment. Here’s a new fan, and he doesn’t get to see the big moment he came for. Eliminating the IBB will increase fans.

    And, by the way, the Baseball Gods were generous. CJ Cron hits a grand slam. And Trout being great needed no help from the Gods, and later in the game hit a homer, a double, and even stole a base with the Angels leading by 5 in the 5th inning.

    • :-) says:

      In my opinion, this example demonstrates why the IBB isn’t so bad. It gives CJ Cron an opportunity to come up and hit that grand slam in spite of the pitcher walking Trout to face him. It is a team game. If you give an IBB it gives the next guy a chance to beat you. You can gang up on a receiver in football also and that gives someone else on the team a chance to shine.

  4. Bryan says:

    Since the last strike, a team leading by 1 run in the bottom of the 9th or later inning, 1 out, a runner on 2nd or 3rd and issues an intentional walk.
    Year, Pitcher, Hitter, Won/Loss from the perspective of the Pitching team
    2017, Albert Suarez, Justin Turner, Loss
    2017, Brad Brach, Daniel Murphy, Loss
    2016, Cory Gearrin, Paul Goldschmidt, Win
    2016, Jeurys Familia, Freddie Freeman, Win
    2016, Zach Britton, Evan Longoria, Win
    2016, Francisco Rodriguez, Bryce Harper, Win
    2015, Huston Street, Mike Moustakas, Loss
    2015, Hector Rondon, Matt Holiday, Win
    2014, Jim Johnson, Albert Pujols, Win
    2014, Anthony Bass, Prince Fielder, Win
    2014, Joe Nathan, Jose Bautista, Loss
    2013, Josh Collmenter, John Buck, Loss
    2013, Jim Johnson, Paul Goldschmidt, Loss
    2012, Chris Resop, Jay Bruce, Win
    2010, Octavio Dotel, Prince Fielder, Win
    2010, Carlos Marmol, Prince Fielder, Loss
    2009, Brian Wilson, Adrian Gonzalez, Win
    2007, Billy Wagner, Jeff Kent, Win
    2006, Mike Timlin, Miguel Tejada, Win
    2006, Chad Cordero, Miguel Cabrera, Win
    2006, Todd Jones, Freddy Sanchez, Win
    2006, Brian Fuentes, Miguel Cabrera, Win
    2005, Jason Isringhausen, Todd Helton, Win
    2004, Octavio Dotel, Mark Teixeira, Loss
    2002, Eric Gagne, Barry Bonds, Win
    2001, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Rafael Palmeiro, Win
    2000, Derek Lowe, Jason Giambi, Win
    2000, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Jason Giambi, Loss
    1999, John Rocker, Raul Mondesi, Win
    1998, Antonio Alfonseca, Fred McGriff, Win
    1996, Jeff Brantley, Todd Hundley, Win
    1996, Jim Corsi, Albert Belle, Loss
    1995, Todd Jones, Mark Johnson, Win
    23-10 or 70% wins for the Pitchers which is mainly a fluke because 33 games is such a small sample, but teams leading by 1 run, with 1 out and 1 runner who is in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th or later inning win around 70% of the time even when they don’t issue an IBB to the batter at the plate. Specifically last night it was 72% chance to win for the Giants when Justin Turner stepped into the batter box and dropped to 66% after the IBB.
    I don’t think fans were terribly disappointed when they didn’t get to see John Buck or Mark Johnson try to drive in the tying run but generally the IBB is issued to a great hitter in a high leverage situation and the fans aren’t terribly concerned with the math of the situation, they are instead annoyed because those moments are what they want see play out and it’s a lot more interesting if the pitcher tries to get the great hitter out. But “You never put the winning run on base.” from a chance to win perspective simply isn’t true.
    Information provided by Play Index.

    • KHAZAD says:

      If it raised the Dodgers chances of winning from 28 to 34%, that means a rise of over 20% (from the base point) that was handed out freely by Bochy. That is still not good baseball. That rise in winning percentage is only that low because it also takes into account the Dodgers chances of winning the game later if they only tie it in that particular inning. The chances of Turner scoring the winning run in the inning goes up about 70%. The chances of scoring the tying run (which would normally go up slightly based on the situation) probably actually goes down a little bit due to the difference in hitters skills.

      It was still a bad decision. It was still bad baseball.

      As far as your situations above go, (and kudos to your use of play index to do something I can’t make it do – maybe I need a lesson) how many of those games ended in that inning? When the game is tied and you go further, a whole bunch of other factors come into play. What is the percentage of times a team won the game or lost the game in the inning in quaestion, and what percentage when there is not an IBB. I am pretty sure that those percentages will show that putting the winning run on increases your chance of blowing the game.

      • Bryan says:

        Team Event Batting Finder 1995-2017, IBB, 1 Out, RISP, Down 1 Run, 9th inning, sort the inning column so b9 is on top, eliminate all t9 entries, sort the runners column so multiple runners are at bottom and eliminate all of those. Repeat for 10th+ inning instead of 9th. At which point I brute force checked the games since WPA is always listed positive (batter just helped his team win whether they do or not) I was hoping for a wWPA column to sort and quickly count up wins and losses. If (inning) isn’t listed the IBB happens in the 9th:
        2017, Albert Suarez, Justin Turner, (11th) Kyle Farmer Double scores 2, Lose
        2017, Brad Brach, Daniel Murphy, Single, Matt Wieters single scores 2, Lose
        2015, Huston Street, Mike Moustakas, Walk, Sac Fly, Line Out, Lose in 10
        2014, Joe Nathan, Jose Bautista, Dioner Navarro single scores 1, Wild Pitch, Walk, Pop Fly, Ground Out, Lose in 10
        2013, Josh Collmenter, John Buck, (13th) Bunt by P, IBB, Andrew Brown single scores 2
        2013, Jim Johnson, Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill single scores 1, Strike Out, Line Out, Lose in 14
        2010, Octavio Dotel, Prince Fielder, (10th) Casey McGehee single scores 1, Fly Out, Walk, Pop Fly, Win in 14
        2010, Carlos Marmol, Prince Fielder, Ground Out, Casey McGehee Single scores 2, Lose
        2006, Brian Fuentes, Miguel Cabrera, Sac Fly, Fly Out, Win in 10
        2004, Octavio Dotel, Mark Teixeira, Ground Out, David Dellucci 3 run HR, Lose
        2000, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Jason Giambi, Matt Stairs 3 run HR, Lose
        1999, John Rocker, Raul Mondesi, Walk, Sac Fly, Ground Out, Win in 12
        1996, Jim Corsi, Albert Belle, Walk, Sac Fly, K, Lose in 13
        20 Wins in that inning, 3 Wins later in game and the IBB doesn’t score (possible with something like Single and thrown out at home, Single scores 1), 4 Losses later in game and the IBB doesn’t score. 2 Losses on a 3 run HR where IBB is theoretically a non-factor unless you think Stairs was more likely to hit one than Giambi in his MVP year or Delucci is a bigger threat than Teixeira.
        2 IBB to get to the Pitcher spot (Matt Harvey Bunt, Kyle Farmer PH double). Brach’s entire inning: HR, Double, Ground Out, IBB, Single, Single; doesn’t look like he was getting a Save with or without the IBB.
        Prince Fielder IBB, they get a ground ball to SS but can’t get Prince out at 2nd, let alone turn a double play and then icing on the cake Prince scores from 2nd on a single, although possibly it’s an extra base hit with the batter stopping at 1st because the game is over.
        In the much bigger picture based on Nichols’ expected runs (doesn’t have 2+ runs scoring 1st and 3rd so using 1+ scoring with 1 out bases empty and runner on 1st) a generic batter goes from 15.9% chance to score at the plate with 1 out to 27.6% chance to score at 1st with 1 out. Is there enough of a gap between Justin Turner and the Pitcher slot to justify taking the bat out of Turner’s hands? IBB to Fielder to get to Braun seems pretty risky, certainly didn’t expect that to be because of Prince’s speed and McGehee’s clutch hitting.

  5. invitro says:

    The Dodgers are 39-6 in their last 45 games. Ye gods. I’m curious what the last team to have such a streak is. Their current projection is 114 wins. I’m sad the Astros are sucking right now, but being #2 behind the Dodgers ain’t anything to be embarrassed of.

    • Bryan says:

      1941 Yankees June 7-July 26 and June 8-July 27, 39-6, Won World Series 4-1 over Dodgers
      1914 Athletics July 11-Sept 1, 39-6, Lost World Series 4-0 to Braves
      1906 Cubs, 22 streaks of at least 39-6, best streak 41-4, Lost World Series 4-2 to White Sox
      1897 Braves May 11-July 5 and May 12-July 6, 39-6, no playoffs exist
      1880 Cubs May 5-July 23, 39-5 and a tie, no playoffs exist

      • invitro says:

        Thanks! So we have to go back to 1941?! For some reason I thought there might be more streaks better than the Dodgers’ current one. Well, maybe it’s not being written about enough, I’ll have to go google it… or maybe I just love hot streaks.

        • KHAZAD says:

          I just know I have never seen a team this hot. I went back to the two hottest teams in season that I could remember, to see how close they came.

          The 1984 Tigers opened the season 35-5, but then lost 4 of 5 to fall to 36-9 after 45. The 1977 Royals went 35-4 but lost went 2-4 on either side of that run to finish at 37-8 through 45. The 35-4 run took them from 4th place (7 team divisions then)2 games back of a logjam to a 10.5 game lead.

          • MikeN says:

            I remember the Red Sox in one of the Manny years had a hot start, though it may have been home games only. Ended up missing the playoffs when Varitek got hurt.

  6. Ed says:

    Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride no longer exists! (at least at Disney World… I think it might still be around at Disneyland). Which is a shame, because it was a fun ride! There’s a Winnie the Pooh ride there now instead.

    • Njtigfan says:

      I have to weigh I here. Mr toads wild ride was a great ride at Disney world (and yes it no longer exists). And despite what joe says no lines of note. A surrealistic experience with no clear narrative busting through doors and then pursued by cops for no apparent reason. And if your car started left the ride was different than going left. A great great classic charming old timey ride.

  7. MikeN says:

    What’s this have to do with managing a food store?

  8. Jeffsol says:

    Mr. Toads Wild Ride does still exist at Disneyland (Winnie the Pooh replaced the Country Bear Jamboree there). And it’s line actually tends to be one of the shorter ones in Fantasyland.

  9. Pat says:

    Joe, I don’t know if you read the comments (and, to be honest, I hope you don’t. Never read the comments.), but this is unexpectedly one of my favorite things you’ve written—and that’s saying a ton. I cackled out loud multiple times reading this, embarrassingly as I’m in a public place, and plan on using many of your best lines without attribution in the future to make people think I’m funny.

  10. Mark says:

    Just adding to your IBB database: Boston and Chicago were tied 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Two outs. Boston’s Leon on second. They intentionally walk Benintendi to pitch to Chris Young. Chris Young had a homer and double at that point. He hit another homer. 6-3 Red Sox. Because the IBB has no honor…

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