Ryne Sandberg did it again

Yesterday, we went over three different plays within the span of a week in which third base coach Ryne Sandberg was needlessly aggressive with Michael Young on the bases. Perhaps I should have waited a day to publish, as Sandberg wasted no time adding another aggressive blunder to the list.

In the bottom of the third of last night’s series opener against the Washington Nationals, the Phillies had runners the bases loaded with two outs with Delmon Young at the plate. The Phillies had loaded the bases on Michael Young’s triple and walks drawn by Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Delmon, as he often does, swung at the first pitch and weakly sliced a ball down the right field line. Right fielder Jayson Werth dove in an attempt to catch the ball, but it was just out of his reach and it skipped to his left towards the line. Young and Rollins scored while a gimpy Howard lumbered around the third base bag. Inexplicably, Sandberg sent Howard as Werth relayed the throw to second baseman Anthony Rendon. Seeing how dead of a duck Howard was at the plate, Sandberg changed his mind and told Howard to stay at third. Howard, having already made the turn with his momentum carrying him forward, had to slam on the brakes to halt his 240-pound frame. He came to a dead stop, and with the ball snugly inside third baseman Ryan Zimmerman‘s glove, maneuver his way back to the bag with a dive to no avail.

Here’s an angle showing specifically how Howard had to maneuver. (Note: The hitch in the video comes from CSN’s replay, not the .gif.)

To borrow from yesterday’s exercise, let’s compare the win expectancy from the initial base-state and the two possible outcomes:

  • Initial: 58%
  • Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 2 out: 76%
  • Inning over (top 4th, 0 out): 72%

Even if asking a slow player to travel 270 feet for a run that takes you from +2 to +3 was a +EV move, it quickly becomes a poor decision when factoring in that Howard is currently battling a knee injury and has a serious foot in jury in his recent past. You may be able to count on two hands the players in Major League Baseball who are slower than Howard.

Let’s say Howard doesn’t have to put on the brakes and instead barrels towards home plate. Rendon cuts off Werth’s throw and fires to catcher Kurt Suzuki. Does Howard attempt to slide to avoid Suzuki’s waiting glove (because he’s out by a mile)? Or does he attempt to collide with Suzuki to jar the ball loose with his weight advantage? In no small part, sending Howard puts him in situation where he is somewhat likely to exacerbate his current knee injury or cause a new injury depending on the outcome of the collision.

While Sandberg’s previously-discussed aggression was poor from a tactical point of view, his aggression with Howard was poor from a player safety point of view. And, yes, also a tactical point of view.

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21 comments

  1. Evan

    June 18, 2013 07:31 AM

    When people start saying “I wish Juan Samuel was still the 3rd base coach…”, you know things are bleak.

    Also, ever since Davy Lopes was fired, this team’s base-running skills have went down the drain.

  2. LTG

    June 18, 2013 07:32 AM

    Also, why the hell did Howard stop going back to the base? He would have been safe if he just kept going back instead of anticipating the throw getting away.

  3. Alex

    June 18, 2013 07:43 AM

    Lopes wasn’t fired. He rejected the Phillies contract offer.

  4. JRFarmer

    June 18, 2013 07:53 AM

    Bill,

    I was watching this last night. Right after Howard was tagged out, Tom McCarthy and Wheels praised him for “playing hurt”. I didn’t shout at the TV when Howard was tagged out, it was the broadcasters’ comments made me protest.

  5. LTG

    June 18, 2013 07:59 AM

    The Phillies made Lopes a disrespectful offer, and he left. They didn’t fire him, but they greatly undervalued his contributions.

  6. JM

    June 18, 2013 08:24 AM

    It seems like Sandberg is not adjusting to the big league game. Does he anticipate minor league arms or accuracy when he is sending these guys? Maybe he is just tired of the losing too, and just sending guys hoping for that “spark” that flips the switch on this hapless team. Either way, bad, bad decisions from a guy who should know better. This is not the Minors or the 1983 cubs Ryno…

  7. hk

    June 18, 2013 08:33 AM

    “Does he anticipate minor league arms or accuracy when he is sending these guys?”

    Maybe he is anticipating major league speed, which Young and Howard no longer have.

  8. JohnMatrix

    June 18, 2013 10:59 AM

    Someone call in to angelo cataldi and make these points.

  9. Richard

    June 18, 2013 11:00 AM

    “Maybe he is anticipating major league speed, which Young and Howard no longer have.”

    Maybe he could watch the actual situation and player unfolding before him rather than implementing automatic approaches, as seems to be his M.O.

  10. bubba0101

    June 18, 2013 11:50 AM

    Sandberg isn’t a third base coach regardless of his current role on the team. He should be the bench coach this year and manager next year. Time to turn over a new leaf. Yet another misuse of talent by our organization. What could possibly be learned by coaching third base. At least let him be the coach of the AAA team so he keeps with managing.

  11. Phillie697

    June 18, 2013 12:28 PM

    @hk,

    Did Ryan Howard ever have major league speed? Not a single year in the majors with positive BsR.

  12. hk

    June 18, 2013 12:47 PM

    It was an (obvioulsy bad) attempt at sarcasm.

  13. Shaun Nestor

    June 18, 2013 03:18 PM

    I do agree with you that this was a poor choice by Sandberg, and the same with the Mike Young, but Sandberg did think at the time that there was a chance for Howard to score, so he told him to go. Only then did he realize that Werth would get the ball in that fast, so he tried to get Ryan back in time. But for Ryan Howard to stop completely and turn around, even with a perfect Achilles, will take time to turn around, basic physics, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Should he have told Ryan to stop? No. Did it make a difference? No. An out is an out. Howard did stutter-step on his way back to third, instead of sliding in, so he is partly to blame for the out. But when it comes down to it, it was a call by Sandy to try to get another run in, which, any other game, could have meant the game to the Phillies. Sandberg is new to coaching at the MLB level, and it will take time for him to get past the learner’s curve

  14. Pencilfish

    June 18, 2013 03:34 PM

    Shaun Nestor,

    No doubt Sandberg is still “learning”, but he seems to be a slow learner. There have been more players thrown out at home in 2013 than the examples above, so there’s a clear trend. It doesn’t look like he understands the game situation very well. If this an audition for 2014, RAJ should be widening the list of candidates by now…

  15. Larry

    June 18, 2013 04:49 PM

    Ryan Howard is getting a lot of hits and hit a monster homer yesterday. His avg is now over 270! I remember Phillie697 saying Howard was done and wanted him traded if possible. I think we need Howard as he has helped carry this team for several years. He isn’t done by a long shot.

  16. Larry

    June 18, 2013 10:38 PM

    So Kevin Frandsen is hitting 325 since he’s been a Phillie. Now Utley comes back and he going back to the bench?? Anyone think Frandsen deserves the bench??

    Also another nice game for Howard. He is paid to produce runs and his RISP this year is still over 300. The homers will come as he gets healthier.

    Cliff Lee is the real ace of this team. Where would the Phillies be without him?? Do we really want to trade him? It would have to be an amazing return for Lee to make sense and RAJ is the guy we are going have to trust. lol

    Cliff Lee – last 9 starts 7-0 with a 1.97 era.

  17. Larry

    June 18, 2013 10:45 PM

    he’s

  18. Western Dave

    June 18, 2013 10:59 PM

    The Electress of Hanover is less impressive every day. Perhaps Parliament needs to step in.

  19. Oliver

    June 19, 2013 02:53 AM

    And again today!

  20. The Burrell Shuffle

    June 20, 2013 01:33 PM

    I dont care at all if Ryne is a terrible 3B coach in terms my feelings towards him as a future manager. 3B coach is a glorified traffic cop. they may have input and be able to teach and help while not next to 3B, but the actual job has no bearing on one’s ability to manage a baseball team. And while you definitely need to know baseball situations and have good anticipation and a feeling for outfielders’ arms, it requires an entirely different mindset. You need to be a good guesser and be abkle to read plays developing far in advance. Not everyone can do that (though a former player should be pretty good) regardless of how good or bad they can manage a team.

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