Why Didn’t Tim Anderson steal 2nd?

Good day folks, it’s your pal BeefLoaf and it has been a minute since I wrote to yous (this is Bridgeport) in these virtual pages.  I wanted to dissect a White Sox game situation for you from a game I didn’t watch and one that will probably be forgotten soon enough because it brought up an interesting situation.  When I say “interesting situation” it is one in which the angry twitter mob thought one course of action was clear and which I, upon learning about it, thought that it was probably a lot less clear.  Let’s dig in and see if any of my reasoning has solid footing.

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WARNING:  I AM A NOTED RICKY STAN, SO I MIGHT COME UP WITH A CONCLUSION THAT DOESN’T FIT YOUR NARRATIVE OF RICKY AS A TACTICIAN (truth be told, I think Ricky is a pretty “meh” in-game tactician, but that’s besides the point) SO IF THIS MIGHT CHALLENGE SOME OF YOUR THINKING AND YOU DON’T LIKE THAT SORT OF THING, THEN FEEL FREE TO LEAVE THIS PAGE RIGHT NOW (you already clicked on it, so that’s all that really matters) AND GO TO TWITTER AND CURSE ME OUT FOR THIS POST.

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The situation is from the 9th inning of Wednesday’s matinee between the White Sox and Nationals in the nation’s capital.  We pick it up with a game tied at 4, in the top of the 9th and 108 favorite Tim Anderson (aka Nino Brown, the leader of these young White Sox) singles off of Nationals closer Sean Doolittle.  The White Sox have a runner on 1st with nobody out and this is when mayhem ensues.  With Aaron Bummer due to come up next, our fearless leader Ricky Renteria decides to pinch hit Ryan Cordell, which seems like a reasonable idea because Bummer has zero career plate appearances.  At this point in the game, Ricky also has FAN FAVORITE Yonder Alonso at his disposal as well as some guy that I believe catches for the White Sox named James McCann.  Cordell enters the game and on the first pitch attempts to bunt Tim Anderson over to 2nd…….AND FAILS…he bunts into a force out, where Anderson is out at 2nd and he’s safe at 1st.

BUNTING IS HORRIBLE, IT LOWERS RUN EXPECTANCY

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That is true, it does and I am not a big fan of bunting at all, for a hit or otherwise, it’s not a great play imo. Outs are a valuable commodity and we shan’t be wasting them.  Here is some quick mathaments provided by Tom Tango on Run Expectancy for the years 2010-2015.

% chance that a run will score in an inning

Runner on 1st, No Outs 41.6%

Runner on 2nd, One Out 39.7%

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Ah, fuck it, case closed, game over……

BUT WAIT!!  This is based on all situations, which would lead me to the conclusion that for an average hitter this is a negative proposition.

Average hitter 100 OPS+

Ryan Cordell 60 OPS+ (Career), 88 OPS+ (2019)

 

So now it looks like bunting is becoming a slightly more viable option because Cordell is a worser hitter than the table implies meaning he’s likely to move the % in the other direction by batting, not to mention Cordell has the most sac bunts on the squad, 3, so he does have experience making bunts.  Without getting into the weeds on the math, let’s assume this isn’t that terrible of a choice (I still fucking hate bunting).

THE ANGRY MOB SAYS TIM ANDERSON SHOULD’VE STOLEN 2ND BASE

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On it’s face, I thought the same thing (and it is still reasonable to believe that).  Even though I wasn’t watching the game I checked in later, tweeted with NWI Steve about it and it sounded totally reasonable to me.  Then I got to thinking….and thinking some more.  And then I saw a tweet that said something about Ricky’s predictable bunting and it smacked me right in the face.

SAC BUNTS ARE USUALLY PREDICTABLE, BUT BASE STEALING ISN’T

Most people are taking Tim Anderson’s career sb % (66-80 for 82.5%, very fucking impressive) and compounding it with Kurt Suzuki’s cs% this season (2-15 for 13%, not good) and saying, stealing a base is a no-brainer.  There is one problem here.

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Sacrifice Bunts, by nature are plays that mostly everyone knows are coming and Stolen Bases by nature are opportunistic surprise type plays (not 100% surprises, but other than hit and runs or other very specialized situations, the stolen base is a surprise by nature), so you can’t just take Tim’s great efficiency (hand selected for the best situations) and Suzuki’s terrible efficiency (also hand selected to ensure he does as poorly as possible) and lob them into a situation in which EVERYONE KNOWS IT IS COMING.  It’s a bit simplistic (I love simplistic, but I don’t think it works too g00t here).

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Also, there was a lefty on the mound, in Sean Doolittle.  Doolittle has mainly had a league average cs% against him as a pitcher, but that also might not tell us much.  In general, base stealers are less successful against left handers, that should be kind of obvious as the lefty gets to look directly at the base runner and review their leadoff before addressing the hitter.  Anderson’s sb% is lower against lefties 76.5% (still very good), but again, steals are generally opportunistic.

I thought long and hard and was pretty sure I’d never write this post because I assumed I could never find a culprit, who’s base stealing is as obvious as a fucking sacrifice bunt.  Then I realized that the baseball world has given us a perfect example of a player who’s stolen base stats ARE ALWAYS IN THESE SITUATIONS.  Terrence Gore.

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You know Terrence Gore, fucking pain in the ass!!  He’s as small as an alley cat and about as quick as one.  Gore has been deployed through his career as the pinch-runner base stealer guy.  You know this shit is coming.  No game theory involved at all, this mufucka is running.   Gore has a 78.6% success rate stealing bases.  WE ALL KNOW HE IS GOING.  How’s he do against LHP?  Only 9 for 13 or 69.2%…which isn’t great.  And that is probably the best case scenario for a stolen base guy stealing a base in a situation WE ALL KNOW HE IS GOING.  I’d imagine Tim Anderson or other very efficient base stealers are probably going to be safe less than this given the conditions.

So basically we, the Angry Mob believe it to be about an +80% probability, when it might be a lot closer to a +70% probability, that’s a distinct difference.

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BACK to Tom Tango’s data above, without looking at it, I’d assume in the Lord’s year of 2019, bunting would be slightly worse on account of the fact that there are far less singles than there used to be in the modern game of baseball.  Fair is fair, if Imma present some contrary information, I might as well brain dump stuff that goes in the other direction too.

THERE WAS MORE TO THINK ABOUT THAN MEETS THE EYE(S)

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One other thing,, why not pinch hit McCann here and deal with the consequences of having only 1 catcher, especially when this was a 1 run / 1 inning strategy where you get to Alex Colome and he shuts them down in the 9th (Oops!)?  That sort of strategy is rarely done, but I would’ve applauded Ricky going in that direction and living with the consequences, I think that strategy far outshines sac buntings and game theory poor base stealing strategies, but most skippers (probably all skippers) ain’t pulling that maneuver on a lazy Wednesday in June.

-BeefLoaf
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