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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Picking on Pena

Ron Hostetter has a nice post discussing the hiring of Tony Pena as the Royals manager. In particular he says:

"But it is clear that Pena's managing abilities are not up to par. He loves to bunt away precious outs in early innings. He often yanks pitchers who are doing well, while leaving pitchers who are getting killed out there way too long. The relievers never know what role they have. And too often, utility infielders are playing outfield positions."

As if to underscore his point, in tonight's 7-5 loss to the Angels Angel Berroa doubled to leadoff the second inning with the Royals already up 3 to 1. While the next batter, John Buck is no Barry Bonds he has hit better of late (.481 SLUG in August) and yet Pena had him sacrifice Berroa to third which he did. After a ground out by DeJesus luckily Desi Relaford singled to score the run.

But should Pena have bunted?

To answer that question I turned to my handy dandy MLB Pocket Manager. The Pocket Manager (based on tables derived from play-by-play data from 1999-2002) says that in that situation, runner on 2nd with no outs, the run potential is 1.189 runs while the scoring probability is 63.2%. The calculator then says that if the manager attempts to bunt the break even percentage for being successful and scoring at least one run is an astounding 93.9%. Further, the Pocket Manager says that it is never a good idea to sacrifice in that situation if your goal is to maximize runs.

In short, Pena should not have bunted in that situation even if he was virtually certain that Buck could get the bunt down. In that situation a manager especially with the Royals pitching staff and only a 2 run lead should not be playing for a single run. Ultimately, of course the Angels came back and won the game. Buck later hit a solo homerun. A great example of a manager squandering precious outs in the early innings.

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