This is not so much of an analysis than it is an angry, frustrated, rant, so please bear with me. If tonight’s game isn’t a better indication of why Fredi Gonzalez is a terrible manager, I don’t know what is.
That’s really it. I don’t know what else to say. It was first and second with no one out, with the pitcher slot due up. The leverage index for this upcoming situation was 5.20, i.e. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! And Fredi sent Emilio Bonifacio to the plate. To bunt.
Two things. One, in this case, my assumption is that the bunt is the wrong move, simply because the team was down more than one run. If you’re down a run and or the game is tied, my guess is that it’s far more acceptable. To find out, I pulled out Dave Studeman’s old WPA calculator for funzies. I put the run environment in Landshark stadium to be 4.6, which I think a good deal fair.
The WPA difference as calculated by Studes’ calculator (it had the situation at an LI of 4.7, so it’s a bit off of what we had at the stadium) between the desired game state by Fredi and the game state we got was 0.09, from a loss of -0.036 on a successful bunt to -0.127 on an unsuccessful one. As you can see, not much different. Of course, as MGL always says, a sacrifice bunt doesn’t involve just those two events; we need to come up with an expected value for multiple events. With that in mind, here’s a madeup expected value based on some qualitative information about Bonifacio’s sacrifice bunting capability along with the good possibility that he could beat out the bunt.
- 75% bunt success rate
- Bonifacio has a 41% career bunt hitting success rate, but obviously he’s squaring early and the defense should be more than ready, so give him 20%, which is probably a bit generous. 20% of 75% is 15%
- Thus, Bonifacio is expected in this case to sac bunt 60% of the time, get a hit 15% of the time
- 25% of the time he will not bunt successfully
- Let’s give Bonifacio the benefit of the doubt and use his career walk rate of 7.2% (sounds a little high to me, and I’m pretty sure they’d adjust and throw it in the zone to make him beat them, but it’s easier this way). Tack on another 1.8% to that 15% up there
- In his career, Bonifacio has grounded into double plays 6% of the time. Let’s give him 5%, maybe the defense isn’t at double play depth thanks to his bunting, they lose some effectiveness. 1.2% of the time, it’s a devastating DP.
- Let’s use his batting average as a value for his expected hits. Career batting average is .248, or 24.8%. Of that 24.8% which will go into play for hits, assume 54% will be on the ground, and of those 54%, 10% will be infield hits (just using career totals). Tack on another 0.3% to the 15% above.
- The remaining 23.7% of the time, Bonifacio will score Cody Ross from second and leave Gload at second base. That’s 4.9% of the time.
I covered a decent amount of bases in this case. What’s the tally?
60%: Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out, Weighted WPA: -0.021
17.1%: Bases loaded, 0 out, Weighted WPA: 0.029
4.9%: Runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 outs, 1 run in, Weighted WPA: 0.010
1.2%: Runner on third (not always on third, but let’s run with that assumption), 2 outs, Weighted WPA: -0.003
16.8%: Runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out, Weighted WPA: -.021
In comparison, if we just used the bottom and took out the bunt, using Bonifacio (of all people).
23.7% Runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 outs, 1 run in: 0.046
8.4% Bases loaded, 0 out: 0.014
6% Runner on third, 2 outs: -0.017
61.9% Runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out: -0.079
It’s the difference between a neutral expectancy and an expected drop of 4%. Of course, THESE ARE NOT EXACT! I haven’t considered every situation, such as reaching on error, which are small but significant. I also didn’t take into account Bonifacio’s chances of ripping an extra base hit, and he has hit 18 of those this season, so you can probably tack on a good deal to either side, making it perhaps a 2% positive move to bunt and a 1-2% positive to swing away (he’ll be hitting more extra base knocks if he’s not bunting). Take what you will from this, it’s JUST AN APPROXIMATION.
All this being said, think about what this entails about Fredi’s managerial capabilities. With Bonifacio, the team’s unequivocal fastest runner, Fredi decided to pinch run for Ross Gload with Brett Carroll and send Bonifacio to the plate. I understand that they seem to think that Bonifacio is a switch hitter, but they also knew that Bonifacio’s worst side is on the left side facing righties (that’s why they were platooning him before), and in a situation like this, you would expect to try and get any advantage you can. Bonifacio is likely the worst hitter on the team, though Carroll isn’t far off. Bonifacio hasn’t been good from that side of the plate, so maybe they’re even hitters, maybe Carroll is a bit of a dog in this case. I think if you wanted a PINCH RUNNER, you would choose the BEST RUNNER on your bench, especially since you presume the two hitters involved are so bad that they wouldn’t fair all that differently, even adjusting for handedness.
I don’t expect Fredi to think that deeply, but even if he looked at the stats in a shallow sense, he would see that Bonifacio is a massive dog to Carroll. Career, Bonifacio is .233/.301/.300 from the left side against righties; in other words, he’s not a switch hitter, he’s just terrible in general. Could the wOBA adjustment on Carroll’s ZiPS-projected .281 wOBA be so bad that it actually drops him below .233/.301/.300, which I’m guessing is a .250 wOBA? No, probably not, the drop in wOBA is usually 15 points. I’d say he’s even, maybe a bit of a dog, but more than made up for by the fact that Bonifacio has killer speed. And that’s the WORST CASE scenario. And that doesn’t consider the fact that they wanted Bonifacio to bunt, meaning somewhere between 60%-80% of the plate appearances in such a situation would end in the same instance for both of the players (presuming Carroll is a halfway decent bunter, which I’m sure he is).
After this, you’d be insane to think Fredi was anything but a bad manager. In a situation like this, where the decision is fairly obvious, for him to mess it up blatantly as he did was damning. The results aren’t important; the expected values are likely to be on my side in this argument. Fredi was flat out WRONG tonight, and it might have been a good reason for us losing the game.