Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Problems (and Not) of Grant Balfour

OK, to everyone who is all up and impressed by the Ray's risk-taking in loading the bases last night: I just want to make clear that loading the bases in no way could have helped the Phillies. Who cares is four (or three, or two) guys score? It's the bottom of the ninth in a tied game, and so it's only about whether one guy can score--Eric Bruntlett, who's already on third. There are no outs (i.e., you can't just get a forceout or two elsewhere to end the game without the run scoring). So you have to make it as easy as possible to get Bruntlett out at home. And therefore it actually helps the Rays and not the Phillies to walk two guys to create the forceout.

It sounds all dramatic to walk the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, and in some ways those walks do signify drama: the Rays wouldn't have done it if the score had been more uneven, if one little hadn't meant the game, and if there hadn't been a lone baserunner on third that represented that run. But it's not that the Rays were impressively putting their World-Series lives on the line--or actually risking anything at all.

In other words, granting ball four was not among Grant Balfour's problems last night.

P.S. Much as I'm kvetching about this, it's the five-man infield that I find awesome. Never saw that before. Stuff for the ages.


Danny Liss said...

With a man on third and no outs, at least one run scores 86.4% of the time. With the bases loaded and no outs, at least one run scores 87.2%. There's a large risk of walking the bases loaded because then a walk or hit-by-pitch ends the game. Remember this classic?

AGW said...

Okay, that is true--I did not consider the BB, HBP, or a bloop single. Major omission, my mistake. Okay, some increased risk for the Rays.

But this .8% is interesting. I'd think that that .8% difference is due to psychology (psyching out the pitcher who is surrounded by baserunners, momentum in the batting team's court, etc.). And you could argue that it's all about psychology that in this postseason, the Phillies generally can't seem to pull together hits when they need to (since having people on base shouldn't really affect your actual hitting ability in any other way). So maybe it's reasonable for the Rays to bank on this dearth continuing?

(I know--much less sabermetrically-based argument.)