Tuesday, October 7, 2008

On That Squeeze . . .

There's going to be mountains of coverage of the suicide squeeze today, so I'll keep my relatively average strategic insights to a minimum. For the record -- and I don't think this surprises anyone -- I am against that kind of strategy in that situation for all of the reasons you might expect. That said:

1) Though I am a fellow traveller, I hope we can all agree that statheads tend to come off their worst when they're really hitting the "Wow, how stupid was THAT" card. So, while I won't disagree with any of that kind of analysis today, I do hope the snark is kept to minimum. Scioscia may have made the wrong call, but he has made a lot of right ones over the years, and it strikes me that the eve of the ALCS is not the appropriate time to launch a reducation-of-smallball-lovers campaign; and

2) Even those of us who would never have called a squeeze play in that situation should probably acknowledge that, had it worked, we'd be spending a lot of time talking about how ballsy Scioscia was. It was still ballsy, even in failure, just as it still would have been the wrong move, even if it had succeeded. Above all else, there is a certain, tattered nobility in sticking to one's guns in situations like that even if it ultimately proves fatal.


rufuswashere said...


The failed squeeze changed the win expectancy for the Red Sox from 33% all the way up to 61%, even BEFORE there were 3 outs in the top of the 9th! Wow.

Yes, the better team won, but that was not the right call by Scioscia.

Peter said...

It rated highly on the excitement scale, that's for sure. And Willits almost made it back to third!

I'm a little biased, but I don't think any other sport can match the tension of the late innings of a game like that.

dtro said...

It probably was the wrong call by Sioscia, but Aybar had 9 sac bunts on the year and several bunt hits from what the announcers were saying. He really should have gotten that down, especially since the pitch was a strike.

Anonymous said...


If the sac works, K-Rod comes in in the bottom of the 9th. That's been the formula all year for the Angels, and it isn't like it has just worked against the Mariner's and Oakland. The Angels won the season series against Boston also.

But for great drama, how great have these last two Boston/Angels games been? Baseball is fabulous for building drama and tension through October.

Josh said...

Wow. That fangraphs stat is really something.

I watched as a Red Sox fan, a Moneyballer, and a Scocia-disliker, but I thought the move actually made a lot of sense. I think I have to turn in my membership cards.

If it's remotely true that that's how they've done it all year, then isn't there a fairly good chance that Aybar can get a bat on the ball? Letting him swing away means that he probably makes an out, so Figgins (and his .700 OPS versus RHP) comes up with 2 out and a runner on third.

It didn't work, but I don't think it was indefensible.

Anonymous said...

"tattered nobility"

well put

Daniel said...

Tough game. I called the squeeze play when Aybar came up. I don't think it was a bad call. The Angels needed one run. Their best bunter was up. Their second fastest baserunner was on third.

The only problem I had with the call is that it was a new pitcher and Delcarmen hadn't thrown a strike yet. If that was Lester in there, I think it's a great call because Lester had been in the strike zone all game so you know he's going to come in with one 2-0.

Some of the blame lies on Scioscia, but more of it on Aybar for not at least fouling that pitch off.

LC said...

The suicide squeeze call was insane, particularly on a 2-0 pitch. If a batter is unable to turn on a fastball in that count (or take ball three), then there should have been a pinch hitter. And, if there had to be a bunt, then why drag one and go for the base hit?

Anonymous said...

what i dont get is how noone is talking about how Vtek dropped the ball. It was clearly a blown call by Welke. So now Boston fans have the "Tuck" and the "Roll".

Preston said...

Yes, the squeeze killed the Angels' chances, but that win expectancy alone is not enough to condemn it. There are many factors involved in calculating whether it was a good call, most notably the win expectancy if they execute the squeeze (I'd guess around 90% for the Angels) and the chances that Aybar would have a worst case outcome (i.e. a missed bunt or a pop-up). Given that he is supposedly a strong bunter, I would say there is at least a 75% chance he gets his bat on the ball, even just to foul it off, and frankly I would expect it's even higher. Aybar just choked, forgot his fundamentals, and stabbed at the ball.

By the way, I think a 2-0 pitch is actually a good suicide situation - Delcarmen has to throw one at least around the plate, meaning there's no worry of a waste pitch to counter a suicide.

I actually didn't like the play at the time, generally preferring suicides to extend a lead rather than take one, but the more I think about it, the fewer problems I have with it.

Daniel said...

Preston - normally, I would agree with you about the count. 2-0 is a great count for that kind of thing, IF the pitcher can find the strike zone. My only problem with the call is that Delcarmen's first two pitches weren't all that close, so it's not unreasonable to think that he's having control issues in a pressure situation. And if you've got a 95 MPH fastballer throwing wildly, that is not a good time for a bunt.

Other than that, I agree with you. But I would have liked Scioscia to wait until he established that he could throw a strike before making that call.

Josh said...

There was plenty of talk about how Tek dropped the ball. There were about 45 replays of it during the game.

The ump made the right call.