FanGraphs Baseball


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  1. I wish Tracy had pinch hit for him with Smith. I’ve never understood how baseball-oriented statisticians can be so careful about small sample sizes, but then glean theories about events that can only be determined by small samples. Pinch-hitting is so context dependent that it’s hard to see the value in the numbers beyond the most raw of data. I’m sure I’m missing something, and this is not to be dismissive.

    Comment by JR — September 22, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

  2. I think the article should also consider that there is some value in saving the pinch hitter for later in the inning, especially considering that they needed at least 2 runs and had their catcher and pitcher due up if they got two batters on.

    Comment by Fred — September 22, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

  3. Jay Payton (LF) and Miguel Olivo (C) were due up. Considering there is only one out at the moment of decision, that’s at least two average batters hitting behind Smith if he can get on base.

    Comment by JR — September 22, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

  4. Down 2 in the 9th with the bases empty power doesn’t matter much. I’d probably go with Giambi for his willingness to take a walk but as you said it doesn’t make a very big difference.

    Comment by don — September 22, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

  5. I know I shouldn’t nit-ipick like this, but for some reason I can rarely resist. I think the Reds would be very surprised to find out that the Rockies were just out of the lead in the National League Central as they were planning on clinching the central this week.

    Comment by Adam — September 22, 2010 @ 1:40 pm

  6. If the Rockies were to win the game, it was certain that they would have had to pinch hit for their pitcher. They needed to score 3 runs, there was only one out and the pitcher was the fifth guy up. Anyways, you at least have to consider whether you would rather pinch hit for Mora or Olivo since you know one of the pinch hitters will be used for the pitcher.

    Also, considering the situation, I don’t think using wOBA is the best way to measure a hitter. When down by 2 with 1 out, OBP is much more important compared to power than it usually, perhaps you should have used different weights.

    Comment by Fred — September 22, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  7. Pinch hit Giambi for him and probably have to use another bench guy to pinch run for him. He can’t run very fast.

    Comment by Jim Lahey — September 22, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  8. For such a small difference, I’d assume you would want to use more exact numbers (without rounding) that have been proven to be accurate. Yet you toss out an “about 10% penalty” and use it.. With numbers coming out so close- a penalty of 10.5/9.5 let alone a bigger +/- in penalty could change your final answer.
    How accurate is that 10%? Is it 10.0%? Have different types of players shown different levels of drop off? With it being so close, yet also inexact -your whole article probably could have just said: “Should Mora have been ph for? Maybe yes, maybe no, but due to pinch hitters performing worse than starters it wouldn’t have made much of a difference either way.”

    Comment by Buster Posey — September 22, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

  9. But why? They’re down two. Giambi’s run doesn’t matter. He’s slow but if he can’t go station to station he shouldn’t be on the roster.

    Comment by don — September 22, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

  10. Seth Smith probably doesn’t have a pinch hit penalty, and might be the best pinch hitter over the last two years.

    Comment by joe — September 22, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  11. No, that’s perfectly fair. Thanks.

    [Bangs head on desk.]

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — September 22, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  12. We often hear the “pinch hit penalty” being bandied about, which is nice, but…

    I think that it came from our book, The Book. I don’t know of any other research on the subject. We explain in The Book that some or all of that penalty (as well as the DH penalty) could be because pinch hitters are sometimes/often regulars who are injured or tired. We also explain that the pinch hitter is always facing the pitcher for the first time even if the pitcher has been in the game for a while.

    My personal opinion is that at least half of the penalty, and maybe more, is due to the “injury/fatigue” factor. So if you have a healthy player on the bench he may have little or no penalty. And of course in this situation, any player would be facing Gutierrez for the first time in the game.

    Matt also forgot about the true platoon ratio of the pitcher. For example, if he had a small or even reverse platoon ratio, then using a lefty would be of no advantage, at least as far as the L/R matchup was concerned. As it turns out, Gutierrez’ estimated true platoon ratio is 1.06, which is a little less than the average platoon ratio for a RHP.

    So we have, in my opinion, less than a 10% penalty for the pinch hitter. We have a pitcher with a smaller-than-average platoon ratio, which would favor leaving Mora in, or using a better hitter who is RH (and one who has a small platoon ratio himself, although all RHB tend to have the same “true” platoon ratios).

    And we have the legitimate issue of making sure you have good pinch hitters left.

    Plus, as someone mentioned, OBP and not wOBA (or OPS or lwts, etc.) is most important in that situation. I don’t know what Mora’s projected OBP is compared to the other options (and then you have to use OBP platoon ratios for the various actors and not wOB or “runs” platoon ratios).

    So, you have a fairly complicated situation on paper.

    However, if things appear close (one option is about as good as another), as they seem to appear in this situation, given the complexity of the issues, and given the uncertainties of our estimates, then that becomes our answer, and a fine answer it is:

    Flip a coin or let the manager decide, and don’t worry about it…

    Comment by MGL — September 22, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

  13. Thanks, MGL. You are right about about my simplification of the issues. Believe it or not, when working on this post I considered sidebars on both the OBP/wOBA and Gutierrez split issues, but didn’t want to make the post any longer and more cluttered than it already was. Really, I did. But I’m also a bit lazy when it comes to this stuff.

    Probably “no big deal” would have been a better conclusion, then, but given the information I was working from (including the not-quite-as-solid-asi_-thought 10% pinch hit penalty), I didn’t think I was too emphatic. Which, of course, makes things less interesting…

    Comment by Matt Klaassen — September 22, 2010 @ 8:15 pm

  14. But let’s not got crazy

    Comment by Z — September 22, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

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