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.
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.”