FanDuel - WFBC

August 19, 2008

Rays Walk Hamilton Intentionally with Bases Loaded: The Tampa Bay Rays made history Sunday night, walking Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers on purpose with the bases loaded so they could face Marlon Byrd, who struck out to cement a 7-4 Rays win. The intentional walk was the first time in 107 years that an American League player was walked intentionally with the bases full and only the fifth overall since 1900. "You don't pitch to Superman when you have Wonder Woman on deck," said Rays closer Troy Percival.

posted by rcade to baseball at 10:57 AM - 31 comments

I'm surprised that doesn't happen more often. Ahead by a few runs, against their best hitter, it seems like an easy decision to let one run in vs. risking 4 runs. Go Rays.

posted by bperk at 11:12 AM on August 19

Nice "Wonder Woman" crack. Yikes!

posted by NoMich at 12:01 PM on August 19

"You don't pitch to Superman when you have Wonder Woman on deck," said Rays closer Troy Percival.

Oink.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 01:26 PM on August 19

Yeah. I can't imagine that Marlon Byrd liked that crack any more than women did.

posted by rcade at 01:29 PM on August 19

Besides, as a comic book geek, I feel compelled to point out that Wonder Woman is a badass.

posted by rcade at 01:30 PM on August 19

Oh, like Superman totally wouldn't kick Wonder Woman's ass.

I like the strategy, though. I'm sure it makes Josh Hamilton feel like a god, and Marlon Byrd ... well, not so much.

posted by wfrazerjr at 01:37 PM on August 19

Thought there was a good comment at Baseball Musings:

"Hamilton's home run rate per AB is three times higher than Byrd's. Based on his career stats, Marlon had less than a 2% chance of cranking one. So the move was almost a cinch to work, at least to the extent of preventing a grand slam."

Troy Percival reveals himself to be a non-comic book geek. Wouldn't Jimmy Olsen have been a better reference? Or confuse shit and say Superboy Prime or something.

posted by yerfatma at 01:57 PM on August 19

Oh, like Superman totally wouldn't kick Wonder Woman's ass.

Considering he couldn't beat Batman, I wouldn't give him good odds to defeat someone with actual superpowers. Wonder Woman is pretty great. She kicked the shit out of a titan and beat Medusa.

As for deliberately walking in a run, I dunno. Part of me doesn't like that, but you can't really argue with the results.

posted by rocketman at 02:07 PM on August 19

Gee, lbb, I took the remark to mean you don't pitch to Superman because you have some one after him who could really knock one out of the park and bring everyone home. After all, Superman might have hit a single and only brought one runner home.

I'd say they went with the known quanity rather than take a chance of 4 more runs. But while I am familiar with Josh Hamilton, I do not know that much of Marlon Byrd.

posted by steelergirl at 02:55 PM on August 19

In case ya'll didn't know Marlon Bryd hit a walk-off grand slam August 4 against the yankees so walking Hamilton could have been a costly move to bad it didn't work in the ranger's favor. GO RANGER'S!!!!!

posted by rebelred at 04:15 PM on August 19

I did not know that rebelred, but even if Byrd hit his grand slam one day before, not pitching to Hamilton was the right call. And walking Hamilton, with the bases loaded costs one run, no matter who is on deck.

I'm not totally shocked by this call, like Mr. Perk, I am also surprised it hasn't happened more often. Something I found interesting was that in each of the handful of times this did happen, the team that issued the walk won the game. So, next time your team has the bases full, your best hitter at the plate, and the other team chooses to walk him to face whoever the next guy is, just turn the tv off.

posted by BoKnows at 04:36 PM on August 19

From Wikipedia's summary of Super Woman *Diana is one of the strongest and most powerful superheroes in the DC Universe. Her strength is on par with Superman's *Diana can achieve speeds as fast or faster than that of Superman

All that, and the fact that she could easily slip her "Lasso of Truth" on the catcher to find out what type of pitch was going to be thrown.

I'd say the Rays got lucky.

posted by dviking at 04:57 PM on August 19

I can't believe no one commented that the relievers name was the eponysterical "Grant Balfour".

Regarding Hamilton, I still think it's a terrible move. It happens so infrequently that the numbers haven't yet shown how foolish it is; and if anything, it probably happens with 2 out more often than other times, so it's not really gaining an advantage. Or to put it another way: how many times have you seen a player get walked, only to have the next batter crank one? Quite a few, actually, but because it's so rarely done with the bases loaded, it's somehow seen as a "smart" move. Bullshit- you never give up outs.

If it's 7-3, one swing from Hamilton potentially ties the game with 2 out. Which means you'd go into extra innings if you can just retire Byrd with two outs and no one on- which after all, is what they were banking on since if they DON'T retire Byrd after walking Hamilton they potentially lose the game right there, since even a single from Byrd would add yet more runs without giving up an out.

But it's not just the one swing you care about; it's the runs you give up in the inning, whether they come by homerun or otherwise. Basically, up 4 runs you'd trade a run for an out- but this is trading a run for a fractional out. Byrd has a .293 average to Hamilton's .300; he has a .376 OBP to Hamilton's .365. This means he's marginally less likely to get a hit, but more likely to get on base. Walking Hamilton gives up an out, because a run scores, the situation- bases loaded- doesn't change, and the next hitter is just as likely to reach base.

Perhaps it was best explained in the comments of that baseball musings link:

But unlike Hamilton, Byrd didn't need to hit a home run to tie the game, he needed to hit only at least a double. Hamilton hits a HR every 19.5 PA this year. Byrd gets an extra base hit every 10.9 PA.

posted by hincandenza at 05:02 PM on August 19

Superman would always have to deal with the moral crap like he always does about using his super powers when not really needed. Wonder Woman never concerns herself with that mumbo jumbo. Why have a conflicted superhero up to bat when you can have a focused one?

(I would have walked him too)

posted by knowsalittle at 05:11 PM on August 19

What a chickenshit move. Intentionals walks for strategic purposes are part of the game, i.e. to generate the possibilty of a force out or double play when a man is on second or men on second and third. I never liked it when Barry Bonds was walked so often. What you're saying to your team is, 'I don't think you're good enough to get this guy out, so we're going to walk him and hope you don't blow it with the next guy.'

posted by Shotput at 05:15 PM on August 19

Intentionals walks for strategic purposes are part of the game, i.e. to generate the possibilty of a force out or double play when a man is on second or men on second and third.

That move seems plenty strategic to me. I don't think they walked Hamilton just to give him a break.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 05:53 PM on August 19

I'll agree it was a risk, but "chickenshit"? Naw, I ain't buyin' that. To me it's like taking a safety on purpose in football. It seems crazy to give the other team 2 points, but under just the right circumstances (up 6, time running out, backed up on your own 1 or 2 yard line), it is a smart play to get the free kick rather than punt from the end zone.

The one that does not get done enough is in basketball. Up 3 with seconds left, it makes sense to foul the ball handler in the back court. Why give them a chance to get off a 3-pointer? Give up the 2 free throws and go home a winner.

posted by gradioc at 06:13 PM on August 19

props to Joe Maddon for having the balls to call this one. Seems to me like it's another example of things just working out (somehow) for Maddon and his Rays this year.

posted by boredom_08 at 06:54 PM on August 19

Can they do this more often at least for the next five games so that the Red Sox can take first?

posted by sox1903 at 12:20 AM on August 20

gradioc/YYM, what you're missing is that unlike other sports, you can't run out the clock in baseball. Here, they give up a run, and face the same situation: bases loaded, 2 outs. The only thing that has changed is that the batter is a little weaker in his slugging (so if he hits it, he is less likely to hit it for a 2B or HR), and that a run is added to the opponent tally.

What makes it a poor move is that the % difference in their hitting ability is far less than the very real run that has crossed the plate. If they pitch to Hamilton, he makes that third out 2 times in 3, and even the 1 time in 3 he doesn't make an out he still doesn't hit a homerun most of the time. But giving up a run, making it a 3-run game with 3 on? That's risky, because if Byrd gets a hit or BB- and he has a better chance than Hamilton- the lead narrows even more and you still haven't gotten that third out.

In football/basketball, the equivalent would make sense if they could say "Walk Hamilton, and Byrd is the last batter you'll face, win or lose". Then the pressure is on Byrd to hit a grand slam, or at least a bases-clearing double. But that's not how baseball works, which is why this is a poor move. Walking a good hitter to get to a weaker hitter with a man on second and less than 2 outs makes sense, as it sets up the force play at all bases. But a hitter who is walked with the bases loaded is like giving up a single, which means his OBP is 1.000 and his SLG is like 1.000; so you're basically turning a hitter in to a 2.000 OPS hitter. NO ONE in the history of baseball is that good, so it's a poor move.

posted by hincandenza at 05:26 AM on August 20

I can understand what you're saying Hal but in this situation the move worked. It may not work every single time it is tried, but this has only happened five times since 1900. While the move may look to be a bad choice statistically, it worked out for the Rays. They allowed a run and struck out Byrd to win the game. So it seems to me that this decision helped them to win the game, therefore it was a good one.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:40 AM on August 20

Hal, do you happen to have the players' AVG and OPS stats with bases loaded or at least with RISP? Not that it necessarily makes a difference, but it might make a difference

posted by bender at 07:57 AM on August 20

So it seems to me that this decision helped them to win the game, therefore it was a good one.

Name that logical fallacy. Even with the poor decision to walk a run in the Rays still had a very good chance to win the game. The fact that the Rays went on to win does not validate the decision.

I agree with Hal's assessment of the decision. They would have at least been better served to pitch to him and try to make him chase something.

posted by tron7 at 01:23 PM on August 20

On the face of it, it would appear to be a bad move. What a manager would have to know is the next batter's performance against the pitcher in the game at that point. Joe Madden is said to be savvy in the use of statistics developed through the use of a computer, thus he probably felt that facing Byrd, even though Texas was a run closer, was a better bet than facing Hamilton.

posted by Howard_T at 01:37 PM on August 20

bender: yeah, you can get those at ESPN as a player's split stats, for both Byrd and for Hamilton.

The truth is, their splits are wildly different, but also for relatively small sample sizes; the bases loaded stat is about 10 and 12 at-bats for each of them, and thus not really meaningful.

With two outs, you only have to get either Hamilton or Byrd to make an out; if you don't face a batter after Byrd, at worst you are tied, and anything short of a homerun from Hamilton has the Rays winning 7-6 or better. There's a 37% chance Hamilton doesn't make an out, and a 38% Byrd doesn't make an out; there's only a 14% chance they both reach base safely, where Byrd becomes the wining run.

Odds of Hamilton ending the game by making an out: 63%Odds of either Hamilton or Byrd ending the inning by making an out: 86%Odds of Hamilton hitting a homerun: 5%Odds of Byrd hitting at least a double with a speedy Hamilton on 1st potentially coming around to score the tying run: 9%
That's pretty simple. If Byrd gets any kind of hit, it's 7-6; any extra base hit probably scores the tying run. Walking Hamilton means you have doubled the chances that the Rangers will tie the game on one swing, with the added danger that the winning run is now on 2nd or 3rd.

YYM:I can understand what you're saying Hal but in this situation the move worked. It may not work every single time it is tried, but this has only happened five times since 1900.
There's a reason it's only happened 5 times; most managers know it's a terrifically poor move. If this were a regular occurrence, the numbers would showcase how bad a move this is. And generally speaking, the test of how smart a managerial move can be boiled down to "If every game boiled down to this move, how would it affect our winning percentage?".

posted by hincandenza at 02:24 PM on August 20

Howard_T: What a manager would have to know is the next batter's performance against the pitcher in the game at that point
That would be like basing my next move in blackjack not on the time-tested odds, but on how the last three hands played out. In any case, Byrd's line against Wheeler in 10PA: .444/.500/.778/1.278. The only way this move works is if Byrd was such a poor hitter that he basically was an automatic out- which he isn't.

Anyway you cut it, it was a poor move made either through faulty reasoning, or for PR reasons. Maddon might have thought "Last thing I want is for the Mighty Josh Hamilton to tie the game with a Sportscenter-made video clip". Even though the odds of that happening were far less than Hamilton simply popping or grounding out to end the game, and even a GS only ties it, and TB has the better bullpen.

posted by hincandenza at 02:41 PM on August 20

Ah, but throw out all the stats for one second and think about the pressure this put on Byrd. In spite of all the progress that has been made in the last 2 decades in quantifying aspects of this most number driven of sports, it is still a game being played by humans with all their foibles.

What did that feel like, standing on deck and watching the catcher stand and hold his mitt out to the side? Shock, anger, fear, embarassment? All these I would think, and some more I can't imagine.

What exactly were the odds of his getting a hit when faced with a situation seen only five times this century?

Oh, and BTW, I said explicitly it was a risk. I jumped in because Shotput called it "a chickenshit move". I was not defending the wisdom, but the right of the manager to use the rules of the game.

posted by gradioc at 05:47 PM on August 20

I think it was a bad move for all the statistical reasons already pointed out. The move was especially puzzling to me because they had the option of telling the pitcher to pretend to pitch to him but actually not throw anything over the plate that could be hit. They should have just pitched for the corners or whatever, if they walked him so be it as they did have a run to give up, but to just roll over and hand the team a run without making them look closely at pitches seems pretty stupid. There is a good chance that pitching carefully you get the guy to chase a bad pitch trying to be a hero.

posted by Atheist at 06:46 PM on August 20

I'm going to agree with Hal.

Hamilton up to bat, down by 4 runs, with the bases loaded. The only reason you walk him is because you are worried that he'll tie the game up with one swing of the bat. He can't win it, just tie it.

Josh Hamilton, vs RHP, has had 631 plate appearances in his career. He's hit a HR 39 times, or about 6.18% of the time. Therefore, there is about 6.18% chance of Hamilton tying the game during his at-bat.

The moment you walk Hamilton, you make the score 7-4 and still leave the bases loaded. The game can be tied with a double or a triple, and LOST with a home run.

Marlon Byrd, vs RHP, has had 1600 plate appearances in his career. He's hit a double 70 times, and a triple 11 times, and a home run 26 times (for a total of 107 different ways to end up with at LEAST a tie game). Therefore, there is about a 6.69% chance of Byrd tying (or WINNING) the game during his at-bat.

You increase your chances of the tie (or LOSS) by walking Hamilton to get to Byrd.

Want to use bases-loaded splits instead?

Hamilton: Hits a home run 8.33% of the time (2 out of 24). Byrd: Hits a double, triple or home run 13.89% of the time (3+2+5 out of 72).

You increase your chances of the tie (or LOSS) by walking Hamilton to get to Byrd.

posted by grum@work at 01:09 AM on August 21

Hal, without looking at the statistics you so ably researched, I had originally thought this was the equivalent of taking a safety late in a game with a 6-point lead. You've convinced me otherwise. I always thought Joe Madden was not a really good manager in the way he handled players, but that he had enough of an undersanding of the game to be able to manage the situational aspects of the game. Now I'm fairly sure that he is not too good at that either. How the Rays have succeeded as well as they have has to be attributed to a lack of injury (until recently) and favorable scheduling when the injuries did occur.

posted by Howard_T at 05:00 PM on August 21

How the Rays have succeeded as well as they have has to be attributed to a lack of injury (until recently) and favorable scheduling when the injuries did occur.

Seriously, you are joking, right?

posted by bperk at 05:39 PM on August 21

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