Did You Say Motte or Lynn? Ah, Screw It.

With the telephone, you make the call!

If you look at it one way, sure, it’s a little too important to let crowd noise impede you from hearing the manager during the World Series. But, at the same time, there’s only like, what?, two, three games left? Who cares, amirite? I mean, everyone phones it in on the last day of work, school, and life, right?

Well, the St. Louis Cardinals care. At least they care now. I would not be surprised to see Tony La Russa trucking in one of those big traffic signs — you know, the ones that say helpful stuff on the freeways like “Zombies Ahead!” — in order to clearly make his over-bullpenning known in Game 6 of the World Series.

Actually, despite the hilarity of the Jason Motte / Lance Lynn Blundergate, Tony La Russa’s greatest sin last night was actually under-managing. *gasp! woman faints!*

Yes, in the much-talked-about 8th inning, it would appear that La Russa let an obvious, extra-important match-up fall prey to the Dr. Stein Style of managing: “If it works, I could be the best doctor in the whole state!”

Righty Octavio Dotel started the inning, allowing Michael Young (he my team) to double, followed by an Adrian Beltre strikeout. TLR — Tony La Russa’s alternate gansta identity — then called for an intentional walk of Nelson Cruz, so he could face lefty batter David Murphy with lefty pitcher Marc Rzepczynski*.

*Or as I like to call him, South Pole! Hahah, get it? Because he’s a southpaw and he’s of Polish descen– What? Oh, “moderately to heavily racist?” No no, it’s okay; my wife is practically Polish herself!

The intentional walk is… defendable. Cruz slaughters fastballs like manic butcher (1.06 wFB/C); Dotel tosses fastballs like an AI pitcher stuck in an infinite loop (83.4% in 2011). Moreover, a quick gander at the win probability chart shows a less than 2% effect on the win probability:

Source: FanGraphs; duh embed code! Gosh.

Still, not recommendable or entirely sane.

Rzepczynski proceeds to get a soft ground ball from David Murphy, but it deflected off Scrabble, going for an infield single and a bases-loaded doozy of a jam. That deflection sent the win probability about 10% in the Rangers’ favor. It was a big moment. If that ball comes off Murphy’s bat in 0.1 degrees of a different angle, it’s inning over.

Tragically for St. Louis, though, it goes for the single, and TLR makes his most fateful decision: Leaving in Zep-Scrabble to face Lefty-Crusher Mike Napoli.

As Dave Cameron pointed out, the leverage index was enormous here, and the match-up heavily favored Napoli. As the probabilities suggested might happen, Napoli caught the ball in his teeth, slathered with the butter of History, and then spit it into right center-field for a two-run double.

Maybe Jason Motte, having gotten the word late, wasn’t ready yet? Who cares?! It’s the World Series! No more baseball after this! Take a dive on your way to the mound! Feign a heart attack! Bring in the left fielder to warm up like he’s going to pitch and then put in your reliever! Do something to wrest yourself free from the burning vehicle you’re currently in, TLR! It’s Game 5 of the World Series! This one really matters!

Instead, Tony-Blush elected to play against Fate’s stacked deck, using a hand that included the instructions card. And, like CircleChange11 noted in Dave’s article:

“But what if it worked?” seemed to be the subtitle of tonight’s game in regards to TLR’s decisions.

Well, it didn’t work, so maybe Wednesday’s subtitle needs to be: “This usually works.”

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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

27 Responses to “Did You Say Motte or Lynn? Ah, Screw It.”

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  1. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Tony La Russa needs to communicate with his bullpen by text message.

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  2. John says:

    I’m glad to see that so many Fangraphs writers are big Arrested Development fans

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  3. Erik says:

    In retrospect, I’m a little surprised TLR didn’t make the trainer run out to Rz after he got hit by the comebacker. I don’t pretend to have any idea what goes on during the ump-determines-if-it’s-an-injury conferences, but I’d think it would be worth a shot. A least it gets a delay.

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  4. eric_con says:

    Bradley is Carson’s least favorite co-worker, what with stealing the spotlight and all. Great job!

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  5. Switters says:

    Bizarre that this was in the NY Times on October 22, 2011:


    What are the odds of that?

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  6. Nate says:

    great read. and great txt up there too.
    keep ‘em coming.

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  7. gonfalon says:

    TLR should ditch the bullpen phone in favor of semaphore flags

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  8. Jross says:

    So why not just use Lynn against Napoli?

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  9. Jacob says:

    Admittedly I have absolutely zero experience in this area and as a Ranger fan I am happy about this, but seriously? How does this happen at this level? You think someone would say “Hey I can’t hear you” or double check or something!

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  10. Jacob says:

    There’s got to be an app for that…

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  11. Colin says:

    This article tickled my fancy.

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