Player of the Game: Oscar Salazar (2.385 hitting NRuns on pinch home run)
Padres with 1.000+ NRuns: 4 (Torrealba, Gonzalez, Gwynn, Salazar)
Padres defense: 2.740 NRuns
Mariners defense: -0.192 NRuns
Mariners with 1.000+ NRuns: 0
Goat: Jose Lopez (-1.982 NRuns: -0.976 hitting, 0.000 fielding, -1.006 running)
Three interesting topics from this game:
- Twice the Mariners loaded the bases with less than two outs, and both times they came up empty.
1st inning: With no outs and the sacks jacked, Jose Lopez hit a groundball to 3B that 3B Chase Headley astutely threw home for the force out to save a run (and cut the RE by 0.677 runs). But despite the play being a bit slow and despite catcher Yorvit Torrealba struggling with the handle upon turning to throw to 1B, he still got Jose Lopez at 1st for the 5-2-3 double play, costing the Mariners a whole other run in run expectancy (1.006 to be exact). With one ill-timed groundball and a subsequent lack of hustle up the line, Jose Lopez gave up 1.683 NRuns. Josh Wilson's flyball to right was subsequently caught to end the inning (-0.671 NRuns).
8th inning: With one out and the bases loaded, Michael Saunders pinch hit for Rob Johnson... and struck out (-0.831 NRuns). Casey Kotchman pinch hit for Cliff Lee (after seven decent innings), and grounded to short to end the threat (-0.671 NRuns). The decision to pinch hit for Rob wasn't terribly curious, as he's not having a good season at the plate, but he did have a double earlier in the game and has shown a propensity to work some walks, while Saunders (though he's much improved from last season) has looked overmatched at the plate on occasion this season, especially in pressure situations. I can understand not wanting to bring groundball machine Kotchman to the plate with one out... but why not let Robo Rob hit with one out in that situation?
Unless Wak is tacitly admitting the season is lost and he's experimenting at this point (and a willingness to lean on Sean White and Brandon League in high leverage situations as usual along with a reversion to his usual lineup indicates this isn't the case), that first pinch substitution was probably not the best decision given all the factors. The Kotchman PH for Lee was fine: Kotch is probably the best guy to send up at that point.
But twice the Mariners had a great opportunity to pick up, on average, a couple runs, and each time they found a way to come up empty. It's little wonder they have one of MLB's worst records.
- Jerry Hairston's caught stealing play was actually a blown bunt and run by Wade LeBlanc, who didn't get the bunt down. But for consistentcy's sake, I always score a CS in Net Runs against the runner regardless of the circumstances.
Here it still makes sense: Even a blown hit and run should be far closer than this play was, as Hairston was out by several yards. It's like Hairston changed his mind about going (probably not given Tony Gwynn Jr at 1st base was going, indicating a called double steal bunt and run), changed his mind again in a fraction of a second, and by the time he took off he got such a terrible jump he might as well have gone on contact as usual.
Whatever the case, Hairston timed the run so poorly that there was no saving that play.
- The National League's lack of a designated hitter creates some interesting game situations, as the pitcher is usually a terrible hitter and compels opposing managers to plan their in-game pitching strategy around the pitcher's spot in the lineup approaching.
That said, the intentional walk is usually not a good call statistically speaking, and Bud Black's decision to intentionally walk Rob Johnson with two outs and a man on 2nd in the 6th looked like a good decision with the pitcher Cliff Lee on deck. But a longer view of the situation shows that it probably was not.
Despite his double earlier in the game, Rob Johnson is not an effective hitter, and usually can be put out. Yes, with a man on 2nd going on contact, even a grounder into the outfield runs a significant risk of plating a run. The Pads had a 3-1 lead in their cavernous pitcher's park and the run expectancy in this situation at Petco Park is a mere 0.266 runs. Roughly a quarter of the time, the batting team gets a run or more in during this situation, and that's assuming they send a league average hitter (AL average: 261/332/410) to the plate. Rob Johnson (198/304/316) is decidedly below average as a hitter and not by any means a serious threat.
Even granted Rob's propensity for walks, if he does walk, that just puts him harmlessly at 1st base, leaving Mike Carp at 2B and raising the run expectancy to 0.374 runs... with the pitcher Cliff Lee coming up. Bud Black opted to take that situation in passing Rob Johnson intentionally, but facing Rob would have given his pitcher Wade LeBlanc a strong situation PLUS set up a strong situation for the 7th inning
In the 78-80% chance you get Rob Johnson out, the pitcher Cliff Lee (who likely finishes the bottom 6th against the Pads) is then due to lead off the 7th inning. Either the Mariners pull their dominant ace about 1-2 innings too early, easing up on your hitters as the M's go to their vulnerable bullpen... or in wanting another inning from Lee, the Mariners are forced to let him hit, most likely producing the 1st out and cutting their run expectancy in the 7th by nearly half: 0.380 runs with no outs and empty bases to 0.198 runs with one out and empty bases, undercutting their top 7th.
Black's decision helped get the Pads easily out of the 6th... but facing Johnson could have also gotten the Pads easily out of the 6th, while ALSO setting up an easy 7th inning, either for the defense as they likely pick up a quick out on the pitcher... or for the hitters if the M's lifted Lee for a pinch hitter, giving the Pads an easier pitch to face from the bottom 7th onward.
All this aside, the M's eventually imploded in the 8th with lots of help from bad defense and Oscar Salazar, rendering much of this moot. But Black's decision and the strategic implications provides an excellent look into how NL baseball differs from AL baseball, where the DH simplifies most managerial decision-making.