A Lesson in Run Expectancy

Short post coming but this thing just happened in the Rockies-Giants game that drove me mad. In the bottom of the sixth with none out, Gregor Blanco and Hector Sanchez (!!!!) both walked, followed by a Brandon Crawford opposite field home run. As if a Hector Sanchez walk (his second of the game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and a Crawford oppo taco weren’t crazy enough, it gets better. Nick Noonan and Angel Pagan both single, giving us runners on first and second and zero out.

(Flickr/sjsharktank)

(Flickr/sjsharktank)

Now, at this moment, using the 2012 run environment – since the 2013 season is still too young to have accurate data – the Giants should be expected to score 1.44 additional runs this inning. The next hitter was Marco Scutaro. Now, Scutaro has been struggling. He admitted as much to the beat reporters, saying he’s been pressing a bit trying to get going this season. His .167/.212/.167 line certainly reflects that. And, naturally, he sac bunted. I hate the sac bunt. In nearly every scenario, the sac bunt lowers the number of runs a team can expect to score. Indeed, that was the case in this scenario – the run expectancy with runners at 2nd and 3rd with 1 out in 2012 was 1.29, meaning that play was worth -0.15 runs to the Giants.

Here’s the crazy part though – the Rockies followed up the sac bunt with an even stupider strategic decision. They intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval to get to Hunter Pence. The run expectancy with the bases loaded and one out last year was 1.54. The intentional walk raised the run expectancy 0.25 runs, and the Giants now sat at 0.10 runs higher than at the start of this little dance.

So what happened? Pence singled sharply to right, scoring Noonan, and the Brandon Belt grounded into a double play. So after all that, the strategy paid off for the Rockies – the Giants scored 0.54 runs fewer than expected.

This is a good example of process vs. results. Even though the results worked out from the Rockies perspective, a look into the numbers shows that the process was flawed. On one hand, it was counterproductive to sac bunt with Scutaro – no matter how much he’s struggling, he’s a decent threat to get a hit there. On the other hand, it was even more counterproductive to walk Sandoval – a double play ball isn’t something you can count on, especially with two of the Giants’ best hitters due up. The basic lesson here is this: outs are precious and you shouldn’t give them away. You shouldn’t give away opportunities to record them on defense, either.

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2 thoughts on “A Lesson in Run Expectancy

  1. One demerit for “oppo taco”.

    The sac bunt didn’t make sense to me, either. It seems reminiscent of when Omar Vizquel was in his final time with the Giants – when he couldn’t buy a hit, he’d go for the sac bunt just to try to get an out “with meaning.” I’d rather see the guy fight for a hit or BB than intentionally give away an out to advance runners.

  2. Haha, channeling my inner Eric Byrnes.

    Yeah, sac bunts are rarely defensible. This situation – down 1, relatively late in the game, big hitters coming up, no outs (as opposed to 1), runners on both 1st and 2nd (instead of just 1st) – it makes more sense than about 95% of sac bunts I’ve ever seen, but still. Scutaro’s a good hitter, recent struggles or no.

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