Sam Perlozzo Can Share the Blame

As I drove home down I-95, my radio broadcast of the Orioles – Red Sox game just ruined a perfectly beautiful Mother’s Day.
I didn’t really expect the Orioles to win this one, not with unheralded Jeremy Guthrie going up against the top winner in the American league, Josh Beckett. Somehow though, the Orioles were leading when I finally picked up the FM signal in the 7th. They added another run in the 8th to make it 5-0, and Guthrie had only thrown 85 pitches through 8. He would get a chance for a complete game. I can’t say Guthrie was dominant, he only struck out 2 batters, but to get through the patient and dangerous Red Sox with so few pitches, well, the kid had a great game.
Guthrie starts the 9th. With a 5 run lead, The Book doesn’t even list the win probability, their charts go to 4 runs. In other words, the Orioles damn well better win this game. I’ll assume it was a 4 run lead so I can use the charts. Just pretend the Orioles gifted the Red Sox a run to start the inning. Don’t worry, we won’t have to pretend for long.
In a 4 run game, the Orioles should win 97.9% of the time to start the inning. After the first batter grounds out, they are up to 99.2%. Its all downhill from there. Ramon Hernandez drops a fair popup and Coco Crisp reaches base. Now we are back to 98%. Ortiz doubles, now we can stop pretending because its a 4 run lead. Expected win % (XW% for short) is now 97.8 (Ortiz actually improved them more than .002 because we move on to the real charts here.
I’m going to pause here, Perlozzo made his first mistake just before Ortiz batted. He removed Guthrie, who had thrown only 91 pitches. Yes, the kid was pitching over his head, but his pitch count was still low, and he had not yet made a mistake. He didn’t lose his control and walk Crisp, he didn’t give up a screaming line drive, he induced a freakin pop-up! The announcers said something about letting the lid leave on a positive note. As I prophetically said to my girlfriend, “How positive is he going to feel when the bullpen blows this?”
His second mistake was bringing in Danys Baez, who lets just say, is not the Oriole’s best pitcher. I’m going to take some sabermetric flak on this. The party line is that even with a 3 run lead, you should bring in something less than your best pitcher. Even a bad pitcher will close a 3 run lead out most of the time, and allow you to save your better pitchers for high leverage situations. This situation is different.
First of all, this is the Red Sox. They are a good team, and are more dangerous than the average team, which the WE charts assume. They are in the Orioles division, so games against the Red Sox count double – beating the Red Sox does as much for the Oriole’s playoff hopes (I know, silly) as 2 wins against the Twins. The win would have made the Orioles a .500 team and would mean they take 2 out of 3 on the road from a team they have had all kinds of trouble against. If you remove Guthrie, which was not warranted, its time to bring in your best, and that’s Chris Ray or Jamie Walker, neither of whom had pitched the day before, not Baez. You are going to bring in Ray anyway if Baez gets in trouble. Why not just stop the trouble from happening in the first place, instead of bringing in Ray with less margin for error?
Willie Mo Pena singles. 1st and third. WE = 94.8%. Now they bring in Ray. Why? With the tieing run on deck, its a save situation! And Ray is the closer! The save rule should never be used as part of a manager’s strategic process, but so often, it does. I said that Ray should have been brought in earlier, and I still think he needs to come in this game, but the man for this situation is Jamie Walker, lefty specialist. The Red Sox have JD Drew at the plate, a lefty who you aren’t going to pinch hit for. My call, assuming you can’t undo what’s been done, is bring in Walker for 1 and then go to Ray. I suppose the risk is that Walker gets a DP grounder and Ray is denied a save. For their careers, Ray allows a .298 OBP against lefties, Walker .280 – and that’s including his first 2 ineffective years in KC which are totally different than his career after that. Anyway, Ray walks Drew, bases loaded, WE = 88.1 and slipping fast.
At this point, Perlozzo’s blame is over, if Ray wasn’t already in now I would have had to bring him in, and since he’s your best overall reliever, you have to stick with him come what may.
Youkilis walks. 5-2, WE = 78.2%. Varitek doubles, 2 runs score, 5-4. Now WE = 44.4% Now its obvious to all what I’ve been dreading since the dropped popup, the Orioles are going to blow it.
Eric Hinske up, intentional walk. WE actually remains at 44.4%. This is a neutral move. The winning run is already in scoring position. You take away a struggling pitcher’s margin for error, he can’t walk anyone else now, but you give the team a forceout at the plate. With Alex Cora up, they get exactly that, and it was such a close play that Youkilis would certainly have been safe if it was a tag play. Finally, the O’s raise their WE to 71.7%
Julio Lugo is up for the second time. He grounds to first, Ray covers the bag, drops the ball, and both runners score. Game over.
The blame:
1. Ray – pitched like crap, and just when it seemed he got through it, he screws up with the glove.
2. Perlozzo
3. Hernandez

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3 Responses to Sam Perlozzo Can Share the Blame

  1. Pizza Cutter says:

    Sean, I have win probability data from 2000-2006. At the beginning of the bottom of the last inning, with a five run lead, the visitors have a 99.2% chance of winning. The leverage in the initial situation where you would have brought in Ray was .24. I suppose FanGraphs could show it to you more beautifully. Yeah, I suppose I could give you some Sabermetric flak, but then again, you’d be asking Ray to go 2/3 of an inning after not pitching last night, and you’re right about the divisional implications in the standings. It wouldn’t have been a horrible thing to bring him in there. BBTN said to bring in your best pitcher if the leverage gets to be around 2.3 before the ninth and 1.6 in the ninth. I should look to see how many appearances that would actually give the closer. Figure a guy can pitch 65-70 relief appearances in a year. Would he actually get into that many games under that system?

  2. Sean Smith says:

    Remember, I only would have brought Ray in if a pitching change had to be made. After the popup, my call would have been to stay with Guthrie.
    Under no circumstances do I bring in Baez to the 9th. Its either Guthrie, best reliever, or best left reliever.

  3. Carlos Rubi says:

    I absolutely despise managers that don’t use their closers with 4+ leads.

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