A Thing That Happened and a Thing That Did Not Happen

Bob Levey

The Blue Jays' home opener is tonight, but here read this thing about the Rangers and Astros!

On Sunday, the 2013 MLB season officially kicked off with the Houston Astros somehow beating the Texas Rangers, despite having a payroll of approximately one and a quarter Ryan Howard-s, or less than one Alex Rodriguez, or one and one eighth Tim Lincecum-s, or - hey did you know that the Houston Astros have minimal payroll obligations this year?

Amidst the Astros' 8-2 win, two things happened that were notable. An alternate way of saying this is "one thing happened and one thing did not happen", but that's pretty irrelevant.

For one, in the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Astros up 4-2, left-handed hitter Rick Ankiel pinch-hit for right-handed hitter Brandon Barnes against right-handed pitcher Derek Lowe. That was the thing that happened. Ankiel then hit a three-run home run, putting the Astros well in front of the Rangers and dashing any playoff aspirations that the Rangers may have had.

Ankielhomer_medium

via gamereax.com

In the next half-inning, Rangers left-handed hitter Leonys Martin was not pinch-hit for against left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard. That was the thing that did not happen. Martin struck out on four pitches.

Screen_shot_2013-04-01_at_5

The whole point of having players on the bench is to use them when the situation calls for them to be used, right?

Ankiel and Barnes

In the first situation, Astros manager Bo Porter recognized that it would be more beneficial to have a left-handed hitter bat against Derek Lowe than a right-handed hitter. Perhaps Porter saw Derek Lowe's 2012 splits against righties and lefties:

  • vs. RHB: .281/.330/.353
  • vs. LHB: .340/.412/.525

You'll note that Derek Lowe is not really a good pitcher at all any more, especially against LHBs. Regardless, perhaps Porter also saw Barnes' not good 54-PA sample vs. RHPs from the end of 2012.

  • vs. RHP: .176/.222/.235

Barnes, like most baseball players, is a much worse batter vs. pitchers of the same hand. Rick Ankiel, like most baseball players, is a much better batter vs. pitchers of the opposite hand. Ankiel, a LHB, in 2012:

  • vs. RHP: .237/.299/.437

You'll notice that this is still not a particularly good slash line. I will casually remind you that for one, it is much better than Brandon Barnes' line, and, for two, that the Astros' entire payroll is still approximately the same as what Ryan Howard earns for a year and a quarter. Also, the Astros' only other bench options were Marwin Gonzalez, J.D. Martinez, and backup catcher Carlos Corporan.

I'm not trying to bash the Astros; rather, I'm doing the opposite. Bo Porter was proactive in finding ways to leverage his players to best suit their strengths, and in this case, it worked.

Martin and Gentry

Now on to situation two: Leonys Martin up to bat with one out and no one on in the top of the 7th inning with his team down 7-2. One could argue that at this point the game is out of hand, what with Ankiel hitting the home run the inning prior. I would be tempted to agree with one making that argument, however with Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Lance Berkman, and Adrian Beltre coming up after Martin, I feel as though a manager would want to try his best to take advantage of the situation.

I present to you...not taking advantage of the situation. Martin was left in to face same-handed Erik Bedard, and promptly struck out on four pitches.

Erik Bedard, like Derek Lowe, is better vs. batters of the same hand. In this case, LHBs like Martin would have a tougher time against Bedard.

Bedard , in 2012:

  • vs. RHH: .270/.348/.438
  • vs. LHH: .211/.306/.322

Martin, meanwhile, in AAA, was much better vs. RHPs than vs. LHPs, as you might expect. In fact, he was really not all that good against lefties like Erik Bedard.

  • vs. RHPs: .391/.461/.673
  • vs. LHPs: .289/.333/.474

Ron Washington had Craig Gentry on the bench, who is in fact quite good against LHPs like Erik Bedard. In 2012, Gentry posted a .343/.425/.434 line against LHPs - that's good! I can only wonder about what may have happened had Gentry batted for Martin.

I'm sure there are other factors at work here--I understand that being a manager is not just about using stats to manage your team, but also about managing players and what not. Perhaps Washington wanted to "test out" Martin against lefties to see if he could handle them. Who knows! I just know that pinch-hitting Craig Gentry for Leonys Martin against Erik Bedard probably would have increased the Rangers' chance of a win.

I probably could have written fewer words on this. Regardless...there you have it: a thing that happened and a thing that didn't happen. Managers are important!

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