Look, bitching about the manger is one of the oldest traditions in sports and it can frequently mark you as a mouth-breathing, talk-radio show calling ignoramus, and I understand that, but the last two games from Ron Roenicke have just been complete debacles. Train wrecks. Ron Roenicke didn't see the iceberg. Ron Roenicke decided to go with Hydrogen over Helium.
And what makes it all the more maddening is that just a few days ago I watched the Dallas Mavericks put research and analysis to work to win the NBA Championship. (Read this post by John Hollinger. Rick Carlisle was fantastic, and Roland Beech was the first person I ever read who put sabermetric-style analysis to a sport other than baseball.)
And I could point out all kinds of examples of Ron not using his lefty correctly, not understanding platoon splits, and not pinch hitting. I could bring up the "8th inning guy" thing again. But why be so complicated? I have an example that flies in the face of traditional baseball notions AND advanced stats, as if he was trying to be as wrong as possible.
In the 10th inning last night, he brought in Tim Dillard. Crappy, grindy fast guy Tony Campana promptly doubles to lead off the inning and is sacrificed to third by Kosuke Fukudome, bringing up Starlin Castro.
Now, in this situation, the following things are true:
1. Tony Campana is very fast. Even with an extra infielder he is pretty likely to score on a ball in play. He is the only runner that matters.
2. Tim Dillard doesn't strike a lot of people out, and induces ground balls about 46% of the time, and FBs/LDs about 54% of the time.
3. Your best chance to get out of the inning involves either a double play or a SO.
4. Starlin Castro, who cannot hit into a DP because no one is on first, only strikes out about 12% of the time. The rest of the time he either walks or puts the ball in play, and he only walks 3.5% of the time.
5. Starlin Castro is exceedingly likely to put the ball in play and drive in the winning run.
6. Aramis Ramirez is on deck. He hits GBs 35.6% of the time. This year he has struck out about 12% of the time, but for his career he has struck out 15.4% of the time.
7. Tango's win expectancy chart recommends walking the batter in this situation absent other information (i.e. who is pitching, hitting, on base, etc.)
8. You could also choose to walk Ramirez as well and pitch to Carlos Pena. This raises the possibility of walking in the winning run, but consider....
9. Carlos Pena for his career strikes out 31.3% of the time.
10. And Carlos Pena for his career, hits ground balls 37% of the time on balls in play.
In this situation, I think you should pitch to Pena. He's somewhat likely to ground into a DP, he's fairly likely to strike out, and the pitcher's spot is on deck at that point, so the Cubs would have to go to their pretty awful bench at that point. What would be even better is if the Brewers had another lefty in the pen at which point it's a no-brainer. Given that they didn't, I suppose it's defensible to pitch to Ramirez instead. It is completely indefensible to pitch to Castro.
And you know what else would have helped? Having Kam Loe available, as he truthfully has no special powers in the 8th inning, but does have a special power of inducing ground balls 56% of the time, or 12% more frequently than Dillard. But you used him in the 8th inning last night against players who are a poor matchup for his skillset, and for the 3rd night in a row, so he wasn't available.
One more fact for you. Dillard, for his career, strikes out about 5 people per nine. A strike out helps you a lot in this situation. You know who is better at striking people out? John Axford, that's who. He strikes out almost 12 per nine innings. But we had to save him for the save situation that never came to pass. At least he's well rested. (And by the way, the Cubs DID use their closer to get out of a similar jam, so don't tell me that no managers do things like that.)
I grant you that there were thousands of ways to avoid getting into this situation in the first place and I'm sure that all of these will be criticized as well, but I think this situation really shows the lack of thinking going on in the Brewer dugout.
A baseball team is a multi-million dollar investment, and wins add revenue and add value. I will never understand how owners can still entrust these enterprises to people who rely on folk-wisdom, gut feeling, and the concept of "8th inning guys".
50 minutes ago