A question from the ballgame…
Can someone (preferably somebody whose very keen on baseball, especially sabermetrics) answer me a question?
Tonight I was at the game between the Athletics and Twins in Oakland. After trailing 1-3, the A’s score twice in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game up going into the ninth. Danny Valencia strikes out. With nobody out, Justin Morneau replaces Brendan Harris.
Okay, here’s the question: you are in a tie game, with nobody on base. Justin Morneau is batting .376, to be followed by Nick Punto, who is batting around .200. What do you do?
The Athletics chose to intentionally walk Morneau. Sadly, they also ended up walking Punto, after they pulled Morneau for a pinch runner. Span then hits a grounder and Punto is out at second, but Span beats the throw, and we have runners at the corners with two out. Tolbert (batting about .167) pokes a shot out to center field, and the Twins score.
I can’t understand the utility of walking Morneau. Yes, he’s batting .375 or whatever, which means that over 60% of the time, he doesn’t reach base, and you then have two outs, facing Punto, Span, and Tolbert. If he singles, you are in exactly the same place you were if you intentionally walked him. So you are betting that 63% of the time making an out is less desirable than 34/191 (34 extra base hits in 191 at-bats) chance of getting an extra base hit. Sure, I haven’t quite factored in chance that you accidently walk Morneau, but I can’t help but think that the intentional walk is the wrong play.
What do others think?