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Why, Oh Why?

Over at Pinstriped Bible, Steve Goldman asks: Why did Joe Girardi play for one run in a two-run game?

In the bottom of the ninth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the A’s at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees trailed 6-3 entering the frame. Jorge Posada led off with a solo home run off of A’s closer Andrew Bailey, closing the deficit to 6-4. Russell Martin followed with a double, and Brett Gardner reached on third baseman Scott Sizemore’s error, putting runners on first and second with no outs and bringing Derek Jeter to the plate.

Jeter is tremendously hot right now. He came into the game hitting .339 since returning from the disabled list and he went 3-for-3 with a walk prior to the ninth-inning plate appearance. Again, the Yankees needed not one run, but two. In baseball this year, teams that have put runners on first and second with no outs have scored an average of 1.4 runs, which is to say the Yankees stood a very good chance of scoring one run there and a solid chance at scoring another. Teams that have runners on second and third with one out see their expected runs go down to 1.3, a fractionally smaller number, but it’s still less of a chance to score. I leave it to you whether eliminating the double play was worth trading that fraction of a run as well as the possibility of having three chances to score those two runs instead of two. Again, we’re talking about old school Derek Jeter here, not April-June Jeter. The formerly ground-ball obsessed GDP expert has hit into just three twin killings in 40 games, the last one coming about two weeks ago. What do you do?

Girardi chose to take the bat out of Jeter’s hands.


1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 24, 2011 9:47 am

I made the same point in the recap - Jeter's hot, let him swing. If the DP is so scary, hit and run. There is home run potential behind him, so the DP doesn't completely kill the rally.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 24, 2011 10:17 am

You got it. Guy had three hits in the game.

3 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 24, 2011 10:37 am

I thought it was the right move. A bunt with Jeter in that situation is not automatically giving up an out (Jeter's speed, bunting ability, pressure on the fielders, etc.). But even if Jeter just moved the runners over (like he did) then you give Granderson, Teixeira or Cano a chance to tie the game with a base hit. Seemed like a no brainer to me. And it worked it pretty well, except for Tex's inability to get that run in from third... :-(

4 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 24, 2011 11:00 am

[2] Seems like I remember reading that Jeter has had five 4-hit games already this year and that was his career high. So, maybe Joe figured that Jeter's supply of 4-hit games was already tapped out for this season... ;-)

5 RIYank   ~  Aug 24, 2011 11:34 am

It's not a terrible move, but I didn't love it.
The successful sacrificed lowered the Yankees' win expectancy by a fraction of a percent. As Bama Yankee notes, Jeter had some chance of reaching safely on a bunt hit or error -- but there was also a significant chance that he would pop out or fail to move up the runners.
If you think he really was 'hot' that game, that makes it a bad move to bunt, I agree. I'm a little skeptical about that. New pitcher, etc.

So I figure it was a wash. Which is better than most of Girardi's plays.

6 briang   ~  Aug 24, 2011 12:17 pm

a boring move for sure.....but, we're not gonne be bummed about it if texiera can drive a run in and get the other over with one out. fuckin tardo pops out foul and does nothing productive.......jeeeeez.

i saw a homer that brandon allen hit in his brief time with the diamond backs the other day that was so impressive i had to watch it a few times in a row. i just happened upon him that day when i saw the homer. never heard of him before. the one he hit last night in the second was comparable. i was shocked to see him in the A's line up and not shocked when he crushed that one. this guy may have a bright, bright future. i'm not sure who has that kind of power these days....

7 Jon DeRosa   ~  Aug 24, 2011 1:30 pm

[3] & [6] Agree the bunt isn't crazy. I just wouldn't have done it.

But Teix's failure to get a sac fly and move runners was not important. If he gets a sac fly there and moves the runners around, what changes? Because of Jeter's out, Teix needed a non-out event in his PA. His out was the second out of the inning (whether it was a productive out or not doesn't matter) and made it impossible to score any other runs via an out.

And since the Yanks needed 2 runs, and gave away an out, they then required a non-out event to score the tying run. Which is why a lot of people do not like a bunt that merely brings the tying run to second with one out.

8 OldYanksFan   ~  Aug 24, 2011 1:49 pm

Did Teix swing at the first pitch?
Might the pitcher have walked him (with 1B open) rather then give him something fat?
I know Robbie will usually swing at the first pitch within 2 inches of the K zone... but you get 3 strikes. Was Teix overanxious? Ted Williams says the key to hitting is getting a good pitch to hit.

Maybe Joe's sac bunt was the wrong move... but it that situation, we had them on the ropes, with the heart of our order up.

Did Teix realize that just a single is all we needed?

9 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 24, 2011 3:22 pm

[7] I understand what you are saying and you are correct about the situation being the similar if Teix gets the run in. But it's hard to know how they would have pitched Cano with the tying run on third instead of on second. First base would have been open but would they risk wasting one in the dirt that could score the tying run? Like I say, it's hard to know. But you make a fair point about Teix really needing the non-out event. But letting Jeter swing away also required the non-out event. If Jeter gets a single in that situation, then you probably have 1st and 3rd with no outs (with a run in...IF they don't decide to hold the runner at third). It all sounds good until Jeter makes a nonproductive out or even worse kills the inning with a DP.

I understand why people don't like the bunt in that situation (but some people wouldn't call for the bunt if their life depended on it. lol), but my argument for the bunt is always the same. Anytime you can "control" the situation to give yourself a better chance to tie the game then I would do it. Using the bunt gives you a lot more control than swinging away. I feel comfortable that Jeter had a very high probability of getting the tying run in scoring position and thus giving the next two hitters (who are 2 of the 3 top RBI guys in the league) a chance to knock them in.

In short, Jeter's required non-out doesn't tie the game, but Granderson or Teixeira's required non-out does tie the game. Bunting Jeter allows more control over the situation and eliminates the bad outcomes while still giving you a similar chance to tie the game. I can see both sides, but I'd still go with the bunt every time in that situation.

10 RIYank   ~  Aug 24, 2011 3:56 pm

[9] I think a lot of that is wrong.
A hit by Jeter doesn't tie the game, but a double very likely would, and a hit would give them a much better chance of winning than the successful sac did, because it would have got the two RISP without giving up an out. That's why it's not wise to bunt any time it gives you more "control" over the game.

By the way, I just noticed something incorrect in Goldman's discussion, too.

I leave it to you whether eliminating the double play was worth trading that fraction of a run as well as the possibility of having three chances to score those two runs instead of two.

No, the elimination of the double play is already built into the numbers that got him to that "fraction of a run", and so is the possibility of having three chances to knock in the tying runs rather than two.

In that situation, the successful bunt definitely does give the team a little bit more of a chance to score the two runs. It also greatly reduces the chance of scoring three runs. The biggest problem with the bunt, in other words, is the increased chance that the Yankees tie it up and then lose in extras.

11 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 24, 2011 4:55 pm

[10] If a lot of my stuff was wrong, does that mean some of it was right? ;-)

I don't disagree that a double by Jeter would have been great in that situation. But so would a double by Granderson or Teixeira in my situation. Either way, you are still needing the non-out to tie the game. But in the bunt scenario, you can tie the game with a single but you probably don't tie the game with a Jeter single in the non-bunt scenario. Sure, your chances of winning the game (i.e. scoring more than two runs) is better if Jeter gets the hit. But what happens to your chances if he makes an unproductive out? Again, Jeter's chances of getting me into a chance to tie the game without the possibility of the DP far outweighs his chances of getting a hit in that situation. So, I would still have him lay down the bunt (especially since...and this is the part that the bunt haters usually forget...you are not automatically giving up the out when he bunts).

I do agree with you about reducing the chance to score three runs. But in that game: playing at home, coming back from 6-0 and starting the 9th down by three....I would take my chances with a good chance to tie the game and WIN it in extras (but then I guess I'm more of "glass half full" guy. lol). I will admit that I might have played it differently if the game was on the road. You know: play for the tie at home and play for the win on the road. I hate extra innings road games...

12 RIYank   ~  Aug 24, 2011 8:10 pm

Oh, yes, a whole lot of it was right! This part is still wrong:

"Again, Jeter's chances of getting me into a chance to tie the game without the possibility of the DP far outweighs his chances of getting a hit in that situation"

It doesn't. It just about balances.
We can tell this by looking at the Win Probabilities of the two situations (runners on first and second, nobody out; runners on second and third, one out). They are almost identical -- they differ by half a percentage point. Now, that's for an average batter. So if some people think Jeter is right now a considerably better than average batter, they are right to want him to swing away.

The other thing is, of course, that calling for a bunt is not the same as automatically giving up an out and moving the runners. So if you think Jeter is a great bunter and the A's are not expecting the bunt, that favors bunting; if you think they were expecting it and he's only a so-so bunter, that favors not bunting.

Yes, I'm aware we're on to the next game now, but I just checked this thread one more time!

13 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 24, 2011 10:04 pm

[12] Thanks for coming back over to discuss this with me. Maybe I just don't get that "Win Probabilites" stat. I mean, I've seen some of those statistics in the past but I'm not sure where the data comes from (how far back does it go? Does it include just the Yankees? Or is the AL where they don't bunt as much or the NL where they do...or both?).

I guess what I would like to see is the probability of the two guys you bunt over scoring on a subsequent base hit vs. the probability of Jeter getting a base hit (with his double play possibilities thrown in there for good measure) and then those same two runs scoring. I realize that stat probably doesn't exist, but that's what I would like to use to see if my statement was false or not. Again, thanks for discussing this with me.

14 Kered Retej   ~  Aug 24, 2011 10:38 pm

Thanks from a lurker on the education on this stuff. One question I had is that the Win Expectancy data includes the bunt, right? That is, the Win Expectancy for the runners on 1st and 2nd no outs includes all the times there was a bunt, which in my mind can skew that number.

For example, if you believe that not bunting results in more runs, the "true" Win Expectancy of the runners on 1st and 2nd no outs is really a little bit higher (because all of the past hitters would have hit away).

If I understand the point from Bama, I think that's an argument for less variance in the results. Just using averages doesn't tell the whole story; you need the distribution as well, I think.

15 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 24, 2011 11:12 pm

[14] Exactly! That has always been my point about that Win Expectancy stat. I assumed it included the "bunt" cases along with the "non-bunt" or "swing away" cases. You would really need to break those two cases out of the stats. What is the Win Expectancy of the cases when the bunt was used vs. when the bunt was NOT used. That was the question I wanted to ask RIYank.

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