2014 Reds

Bryan Price’s poor 9th inning management

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.

schuluddhesieyAs 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.

30 thoughts on “Bryan Price’s poor 9th inning management

  1. Very good analysis. I like Price, I think he is very good with pitchers but has a way to go yet with other aspects of the game. If he can be open minded and willing to make adjustments to his thought process and game plan he could be a terrific manager. However, so far he has stubbornly stuck with the same old thinking.

    • You can hit a ground ball with a men on 3rd with 1 out IF it’s a base hit which is what Skip’s would have been absent a great play by the Miami SS. The BA on a groundball goes up significantly with the infield in; nor is a flyball 100% assured of scoring a slow runner llike Meso from 3rd. I note also that your pct of flyballs includes infield pop ups which, of course, don’t score anybody. Nor does a line drive that gets caught. So the statistical comparison given is quite dubious.

      Also Skip’s been hotter than both Ludwick and esp. Heisey; he was 5 for his last 14 going into that AB. And Cozart had been 5 for 11 with a HR and 2 3Bs in the prior 3 games. “Poor game management”? More like Monday morning quarterbacking with perfect hindsight.

      I wasn’t crazy about pulling Heisey back (he was on deck) and letting Santiago bunt but that is a fairly common tactic when down by 1 at home in that situation.

      • Totally agree, I think the issue is that is their ever an ideal situation to sacrifice?
        only with a pitcher up, a sub .200 hitter, in a tie game? And if a tie game when is sacrificing the best.
        He was playing for the tie, and I totally disagree that a groundball is a bad outcome in that situation, I did not see the game but understood if Mes is running on contact he probably beats a throw, also groundballs can get booted and require a throw. A deep flyball seems to be more of crap shoot and I doubt Heisey or Ludwick provide less of chance to K.
        I would think the original analysis would question ever using sacrificing as a tactic.

  2. The odd thing about Price is he said he would be different than Dusty, no more “by the book”. In fact, Price is not only very much exactly like Dusty in management style, he goes by virtually every cliche in the “old book”. Santiago has been decent and surely could have moved the runner over with a groundout while increasing the odds of a hit. The reason he left Skip in there was surely for the RH pitcher. Clearly he has a limited roster, but its hard to make something out of his recent demand for more accountability when that does not include himself.

    • He also emulates Dusty’s attachment to “gritty” veterans. He continues to give too much playing time to Schumaker. Nothing against Schumaker, he was signed for a bench role that he would be adequate in. But his numbers, offensively and defensively, do not warrant the amount of playing time he is getting when there are other options that could be explored.

    • Reds have 1-2 too many pitchers and 1-2 not enough bench players imho.They cannot afford a specialist pitcher for one AB. That’s a waste of roster space.

  3. The bunt was a bad decision. As to using Schumaker, my guess is that Price thought that Heisey and Ludwick would be bad matchups against a side-winding righty.

    Cishek’s numbers, though, are better against lefties, though I suppose a case can be made that he typically faces only very good right-handed hitters and the mediocre RHs are pinch-hit for. The Reds have a thin bench, which is the overriding problem, but I would have liked to have seen Lutz hit for Schumaker.

    With a man on second and no out, a team has 3 chances to get a game-tying hit, so I don’t understand why Price would give up one of those chances.

  4. I’m old school, and I wanted nothing to do with the bunt. I also didn’t want anything to do with Heisey or Ludwick pinch hitting in that situation because of the propensity to pull everything. Santiago has been decent, give him a shot to at the very least get it to the right side of the infield. A sacrifice without the sacrifcie if need be. I also think that sending Grit up to the plate in the situation was defensible given the situation and the sidewinding style of the pitcher. Now, I wouldn’t have minded the bunt so much if it was the winning run because if forces every play to go home and disrupts the natural defense. The bunt was a bad decision, but I don’t have too many issues with the rest of the inning. Unfortunately, that bunt dictated how the res ot the inning was going to play out.

    • We must have gone to the same old school together on this one. Agree including that whether it was the tying or winning run makes a big difference in deciding whether to bunt.

  5. Also , why in the world would you ever send up Jack the “nohitman” Hanahan in a pinch hitting situation ? – bizarre – dude couldn’t hit it in the ocean if he was standing in front of it

  6. Can’t figure Price out. Why the heck he continues to play Schumaker in left instead of Ludwick is beyond me. Ludwick has made big hits in most, if not all, of the last four games in which he’s played. You play the best or hottest player you have, and that’s Ludwick in left.

  7. I can live with the bunt. Wasn’t thrilled about it, but it got the tying run 90 ft. away instead of 180 feet. Several more ways to plate a run from third than there are from second.
    It boils down to performance by two veteran players that didn’t come through and didn’t look good in the course of it. Schumaker and Cozart shouldn’t have been up at that time. Isn’t this just the scenario we want Heisey in? Coming off the bench to pinch hit. Game on the line. Isn’t that when he is most successful, coming off the bench? Granted, it took an excellent play by Miami’s SS to get Schumaker, but he shouldn’t had been up in that situation. Cozart shouldn’t had either. Those two are on Price. That being said, over the last 4 seasons, if I had a dollar for every time the Reds had a runner on third base with less than two outs and didn’t get the runner in. Well, I could spend a few weeks on vacation in the Bahamas.

  8. Reds have called up Barnhart and optioned Lutz to the Bats. This is good for Lutz, he needs to play. That is another fault I have with Price, he never gave Lutz any kind of playing opportunity. It’s not like the guys he played ahead of him were world beaters. You can’t expect a young guy like Lutz to sit on the bench for a week at a time an then produce.

    • But it probably also means Peña is unavailable and they are playing a man short not counting Hannahan who shouldn’t even be on the active roster.

      • Yep but he wouldn’t use Lutz so he was playing a man short anyway. Since his second call-up Lutz was 3-7 as a PH and his slash line in very limited playing time was almost the same as Schumaker’s season line (.238/.273/.381 vs, .238/.287/.311) but Lutz was the forgotten man on the bench. I hope they leave Lutz alone at AAA and let him finish out the season there, he needs the playing time. Maybe a September call-up for him when the Bats season is over.

      • Aren’t we still a man short since Lutz would have been a backup for Pena at first? Looks like we are stuck with playing guys out of position for a while.

  9. Yes! I don’t know if I was more disturbed by Bryan leaving Leake in to hit in the bottom of the 6th inning or with Bryan ordering the sac bunt in the 9th inning with no outs. From the Old Cossack’s perspective, both decisions were indefensible.

    I do not believe Ludwick has anything left in the tank as a sarting LF, but Ludwick is the best option on the roster if the Reds believe they still have a shot at the playoffs this season. Personally, I do not see the playoffs happening for the Reds in 2014, but I do not want to see the team throw in the towel either. Either way, Schumaker, Hannahan and Santiago are not the answer for any significant offensive contribution. I remember when WJ and/or Bryan tried to justify the abilities of Santiago, Schumaker and Hannahan contracts, they referenced their bat control and situational hitting. Apparently situational hitting and bat control translates to bunting and only bunting, rather than hitting behind a runner or hit and run plays or taking a walk or sac flies.

    • As I said on that game’s recap thread, I was the most disturbed by Leake hitting in the 6th.

  10. Great Job, as always Nick. I had said Pena should PH, but didn’t realize he was in the game and then left because of injury. Having Shumacher hit was questionable, but I have always seen late in games with the Reds tied or behind by a run, Cozart has been PH for….and could not believe Price didn’t let Ludwick or Heisey PH for Cozart here. Wasted a great effort from Leake. We always talk about players stepping in moments like these, but the Manager=Price needs to step up as well in this situation and give the Reds the Best Chance of tying the game. And this is why…..the Manager, General Manager, and Owner have more influence to a game and a season then alot of people think, by putting the best players in the situations where the percentages of tying or winning a game is possible. Or in the case of the GM & Owner…making sure they acquire the best players for a game or games, that give a team the best chance to win.

  11. Here’s the lineup per MLB.com. As suspected, no Peña. I’m guessing he is “day to day” what with Barnhart called up.

    Hamilton, B, CF .269
    Bruce, J, RF .223
    Frazier, T, 1B .283
    Mesoraco, D, C .289
    Ludwick, R, LF .261
    Schumaker, S, 2B .239
    Negron, K, 3B .283
    Cozart, Z, SS .223
    Simon, A, P

  12. The Santiago bunt was a “yell at the screen” moment for me. It put all the pressure on Schumaker to be able to hit a sac fly. And even with GOOD hitters, I’m honestly skeptical that they have the ability to control this. I guess the 2.4% decrease in win likelihood after the bunt backs me up. And the frustrating thing is that it’s viewed as the “safe” route – we give up the opportunity to score MORE runs in order to insure that we can score ONE run. I am honestly skeptical that modern MLB players can hit a sac fly when they want to at a rate any higher than they would by accident. Do players and managers have a mistaken opinion about such plays being the “safe” way to play, maybe based on a “book” written in an era where players had better “bat skills”?

  13. Most of the time, I hate the bunt but we got Mes to 3rd with only one out. Most Managers would have made that call. If Schumaker or Cozart do their job, we’re not having this conversation. Heisey does better in PH situations so yeah, probably should have gone with him over Cozart but I’m with WVREDLEGS on this one.

  14. I forgot about Leake leading off the bottom of the sixth. At the time I was surprised by it, but I up until this year, Leake has been a pretty good hitter, so I was not totally opposed to it. With the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, I can see a series of bad managerial decisions in the game beginning with that one. Any one of them could be overlooked, but when combined they add up to bad game management.

    Again, I like Price and don’t intend to be overly critical, but I would like for him to do some self analysis and be open minded enough to improve his skills as a manager. He needs to go back after every game and critique his in-game management skills. Hopefully he is doing this, but I am not seeing very much in the way of improvement, at least in the areas discussed here. He keeps stubbornly adhering to the same game plan he has been using all season.

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