The Reds lost a heart-breaker last night to the Marlins. It was a loss that featured some very poor, against the numbers tactical decisions. Let’s break down the 9th inning as orchestrated by Bryan Price.
The Reds were down 2-0 entering the 9th. Frazier and Mesoraco lead off the 9th inning with back to back doubles, and we have a 2-1 game. Ramon Santiago steps to the plate.
Chris Heisey was on deck to hit for Santiago, but after Mesoraco doubled, the Reds had the tying run on second base with no outs. Price decided to let Santiago go to the plate and bunt the runner over to third base. At that point in the game, the Reds had a 41.9% chance of winning the game (according to Fangraphs WPA statistic) . After Santiago was able to get the sac bunt down (which isn’t a sure thing in itself), the Reds chances of winning decreased by 2.4%, to 39.5%.
The Reds now have the tying run on third base with 1 out. The next player due up is Skip Schumaker (.239/.286/.310). Price decides to let Schumaker hit instead of bringing one of his two better options off the bench, in Ludwick (.261/.321/.393) and Heisey (.223/.274/.366). The Marlins infield is obviously playing in, so you either need to fly ball or line drive to tie the game. The one thing you absolutely can not do is hit a ground ball. Sure enough, Schumaker hits a ground ball for out number two, and the Reds are down to their final out. Let’s break down the ground ball/fly ball/line drive numbers between Schumaker, Ludwick, and Hesiey.
As you see, Skip Schumaker has a significantly higher chance of hitting a ground ball, the one thing you can’t do in that situation. Ludwick and Hesiey also have significantly more power, so you also lose a chance of hitting a walk-off homer. It should be noted that Schumaker does have the lowest K% of 19.3% this season, compared to Ludwick’s 23.8% and Heisey’s 22.1%. That of course would be the worst possible outcome in that situation, however those numbers are pretty close. The numbers are also pretty consistent if you only look at splits against a RHP.
After the Schumaker disaster, Kristopher Negron came to the plate. The Marlins decided to pitch around a guy making his 54th career plate appearance to face Zack Cozart (.223/.273/.302). Surely, Price will pinch hit for a guy who entered the day with the second worst OPS (.580) in Major League Baseball, right? Nope, Price let Cozart hit, and sure enough Cozart strikes out to end the game.
Bryan Price over-managed by bunting with no outs, and the tying run on second base. Then he under-managed by leaving Ludwick and Hesiey on the bench. Hopefully this is a learning experience for the Reds first year manager, because these kind of decisions are poor tactical baseball moves. That is one of the few things a manager can actually control.