The 2-Run Sac Fly
Hanselman set the tone for tonight’s game earlier today; it was going to be very tough to put together anything against Carlos Carrasco. The pitcher was as good as predicted tonight, but Smyly was very good himself around an unfortunate 4th inning which saw Carlos Santana drive in two runs with a shallow sacrifice fly to right field. How do two runners score on a near-infield fly depth pop?
After the game, Kevin Cash told reporters the following:
#Rays Cash said Guyer was playing deep as instructed on key play in 4th, so it was better that Forsythe made catch. Better throw=great play
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) April 14, 2016
At first thought, it sounds like coach speak when they’re covering for the players making a mistake. After all, why would Brandon Guyer be instructed to play so deeply against a right-handed batter facing a lefty?
The spray charts show that Santana has power to all fields when hitting righty and has in fact hit many baseballs deep to right field over the years (2011-2016):
Looking at that spray chart, it would make sense to position Guyer deeper in right field than he normally would be against a righty. In fact, Guyer was positioned toward the deep gap where the doubles are (blue dots). Here’s where he was when the Sun Sports broadcast first panned to the outfield on the key play:
Note that Forsythe was shaded up the middle on the play as the infield defense played Santana to mostly pull while the outfield as were Desmond Jennings & Kevin Kiermaier who are not even in the view. Playing deep allows the outfielders to charge in on a liner and get momentum behind a throw home to attempt to prevent Francisco Lindor from tagging up.
Forsythe sprinted all the way over to the spot (note the red X above) to make the catch, but Guyer began to slow up and peeled off the play a bit but still managed to get this close to Forsythe. It was unclear from either broadcast whether either player verbally called for the ball, but neither player made any visual signal to take charge on the play.
Once Forsythe caught the ball with his back to the plate, the speedy Lindor was able to take off for home. Forsythe was able to mostly stop his momentum, spin, and step into his throw but his front stride was short and his back side fell back a bit as he made the throw almost like a quarterback who overthrows his receiver running a deep crossing route over the middle.
This is not to say that Lindor would not have scored had Guyer taken charge of the play as we cannot predict a perfect throw from someone running that far away from the play, but in theory, it should have been an easier play for him.
Compounding the problem at the end of the play was the fact Drew Smyly was too close to the play in backing it up to prevent the baseball from getting away and he in fact played the incoming throw to the side and it bounced away from him into the camera well allowing Mike Napoli to be awarded home plate.
In the end, this was a two-run play in a game which the Rays lost by three. One run could have scored, but two never should have been able to come home on a fly ball that didn’t make it 200 feet out. It would have taken a great play to prevent the first run from scoring, but the good play would have been Guyer taking charge on the play and Smyly getting more depth in backing up the play to prevent further damage.