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.