Blogservations: Fredi sends Bonifacio to the plate, Marlins lose


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.

Emilio Bonifacio

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

Total: -0.005

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

Total: -0.036

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.

Tags: Brett Carroll Emilio Bonifacio Fredi Gonzalez Miami Marlins

  • fishcrazy

    I wouldn’t say Fredi’s a bad manager; he’s managed to hold the club together despite a rotation and bullpen that fell apart for a couple months in May and June, and a lineup that forgot how to hit in July. He knows how to handle players on a personal level and get good results.

    I also wouldn’t say he’s a terrible tactician. It seems bullpen matchups, substitutions and shuffled lineups work out a fair percentage of the time. But there have been some real head-scratchers. Tonight, I have no idea why you’d sac bunt when you’re down 5-3. Why would you give away an out just to move men up when the lead runner doesn’t even affect the outcome?

    I’d say Fredi’s real weakness this year is his Boner fetish. I don’t know if it’s stubbornness in refusing to admit his former player-crush is terrible, or if he really and truly believes in Boner’s abilities. I also don’t know which is scarier. It took him 2/3 of the season to realize Boner is not starting material despite his being the object of national ridicule. And now in a clutch moment in a do-or-die game, with the team in danger of falling out of the playoff hunt for good, he shoves his beloved Boner down our throats once again. (Yeah, I just wrote that.)

    You hate to point your finger at one moment in a game where Cantu left a battalion on base, JJ could only go 5, and the hitters mustered 2 hits through 7. But fairly or not, decisions made in clutch situations are what stand out the most. And bunting with Boner was a bad one.

    I don’t recall a manager ever being so smitten with a player so undeserving of the adulation. Any other manager would’ve relegated Boner to designated pinch-runner, or to the minors, period.

  • michaeljong

    Fishcrazy,

    I don’t know much about Fredi’s personal relationship with the players, but I’ll assume it’s good, because he seems like a nice guy. But if you check out the bullpen management series, you’ll see that by that measurement (and you can question the management, presumably), he has not done a good job with the pen. His insistence on using Pinto and his apparent distaste for leveraging Calero’s appearances this year makes it evident.

    Eventually Fredi made the right decision regarding Coghlan over Boni at leadoff, but batting Uggla and Ross 6th and 7th when they’re two of your best hitters and insisting that Cantu bat cleanup despite his lack of extra base pop is not very good. Not to mention the numerous time Helms, Gload, or Boni have batted second. He has the old school mentality about lineups, and that sort of mentality leads to things like “fastest guy leads off, no matter what” and other nonsensical stuff.

    All that being said, I definitely agree with that his most egregious error is the Bonifacio mancrush. I don’t understand it, and tonight it definitely made no sense. Managers just don’t get too many chances to make the important decisions, and tonight Fredi played a role in potentially costing us a win, or at least a chance at one. Damnit, I’m still disgusted.

  • Deborah

    FREDI ONLY NOW DECIDES TO USE ANDREW MILLER AFTER 6 DAYS OF ANDREW BEING ON THE BENCH. HE DESERVES BETTER. I NOTICED THAT CHRIS VOLSTAD, I MEAN MR. HOMERUN KING, IS PITCHING FOR VANDENHURK WHO IS EVEN A BETTER PITCHER THAN VOLSTAD. ANDREW SHOULD GET THAT JOB BECAUSE HE DOESN’T GIVE UP SO MANY HOME RUNS IN A LOT OF INNINGS THIS YEAR. WE NOW HAVE NO CHANCE OF MAKING IT TO THE POSTSEASON.

  • JoeA

    Michael,

    That’s the thing that blows my mind about this situation. As you pointed out, once he squares early it’s a sacrafice and no longer a bunt for a hit as the element of surprise is gone. If the bunt is a successful sacrafice our win expectancy goes down!
    Secondly Bonifacio is absolutely horrible from the left side. I honestly feel he would have been better off working on the things that may make him a decent player in the minors this year. He is still only 24 but this was a lost year for him. He learned nothing from Fredi and the coaching staff.

    The perfect example of what could have been this year happened in the 1st inning. N.J. walks and Hanley hits a 2 run bomb right behind him. If Bonifacio was batting 1st or 2nd, like he was most of the year, chances are thats a solo shot for Hanley. Ah, what could have been!

  • michaeljong

    JoeA: Having Johnson could have easily been worth 2.5 WAR over the course of the season over Bonifacio, and that probably takes into account the downgrade of moving Cantu to third.

    And, as you and Fishcrazy mentioned, the bunt in this case isn’t a very good idea, because you’re looking for a big inning to score two more runs. Down by one or tied, it may be the right call. In fact, based on Studes’ WPA calculator, the move becomes a 2% positive on our end if successful and the team was down by one.

    Deborah: I know you like Andrew Miller, but you can’t deny he had a hand in the team’s loss last night by giving up the homer to Zimmerman. And aside from the homers, which probably are a bit unlucky, Volstad has been better than Miller this year. I’ll take a look at the homers Volstad has allowed to be sure though.

  • Stan Makowski

    Michael,
    Isn’t it interesting that the national media views our manager so favorably, yet we who see his every move draw a very different conclusion. As he sits in the dugout I feel that two major thoughts are going through his mind: What am I doing here? and Will someone please tell me what to do next! Toward the end of last year there were a couple of player interviews where if one read between the lines, it was evident that Gonzalez wasn’t held in great esteem. And what can this fixation with Bono do for team morale? And let’s not forget his running Hermida out there despite his obvious flaws. One that is not mentioned but should be is that he plays too deeply in RF. Do your followers remember earlier this year when Baker was introducing the lineup with a quib about each player. He literally said,”…and batting …is one speed Jeremy Hermida” In my opinion, that comment spoke volumes. I haven’t heard this mentioned yet, but is there a possibility that they will release Amezega and keep Bono? They sort of fill the same role but not with equal skills. What really disturbs me about Bono is that he played one year in the minors under Butler, that great leadoff man of a few years ago who was famous for infield hits and reknowned as baseball’s best bunter. If he didn’t learn anything from him, he never will.

    Assuming Gonzalez will be back next year, for he is Loria’s lackey, here’s what I would like to see happen in no particular order.
    1) replace the 3B coach or maybe switch him with the 1B coach…or anyone.
    2) Hire a very experienced bench coach ( a Don Zimmer type) to help with in-game decisions. The comment above about Cantu still hitting #4 despite slumps and injuries is very true. If the guy has a bad wrist. or is experiencing dizzy spells from some medication, move him down in the lineup for crying out loud.
    3) Possibly replace the pitching coach with someone who emphasizes situational pitch selections. These fellows have the talent yet seem to hit a developmental wall.
    4) Insist that Bono be sent to minors for more seasoning…there is potential there but it shouldn’t be learned at the ML level.
    5) Insist that Hermida and Pinto be traded for whatever they will bring.
    6) Replace the batting coach with someone who emphasizes situational hitting and contact. Current coach was a big HR hitter who stuck out way too much and featured a low batting average…sound familiar?
    7) Make Wes Helms team captain…maybe he can get these guys to run all out when they hit the ball.

    One last point. JJ has not been anywhere near the same for several starts. Yes, he did win a couple of games but something isn’t right. That dominent command is gone and too many pitches miss the stike zone by too much of a margin. Someone should find out if the guy is hurt.

  • michaeljong

    Stan,

    Your suggestions may be worthwhile. I disagree somewhat with your assessment regarding Jim Presley and his approach affecting other players. Sure, he wasn’t a good hitter in his day, and having a bad hitter be a hitting coach makes no sense. But I don’t think strikeouts and low average are as bad provided you’re walking enough to compensate. Presley didn’t, and that’s probably why he didn’t last in the bigs. But there aren’t too many guys in the lineup that are like that, Bonifacio being one of them that does strikeout too much not to be walking.

    It is amazing that Fredi gets credit for the team that they’re fielding, not for his managerial prowess. But most managers only get credit for wins and losses, and honestly, how hard can it be write a good lineup card? I can do it pretty well, and I’m terrible at baseball. Managers simply don’t do enough to get credit for their team’s wins and losses. I’d say the same goes to coaches, with the exception of a few of them like Dave Duncan, who seem to make a tangible difference in the players that pass by under his tutelage.