The Process Versus David Ortiz | The Process Report

The Process Versus David Ortiz

In 1986, Baseball Digest published The Book of Unwritten Baseball Rules. The first rule on that list reads loud and clear:

Never put the tying or go-ahead run on base

Joe Maddon does not read the unwritten rules of baseball because he has the written rules on hand.

In The Book,  by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman, and Andrew Dolphin, the data is clear on what a manager can do in the bottom of the 9th inning. The Book says:

With two outs, one can also issue the walk to an unprotected, elite batter when doing so does not advance the lead runner.

When Maddon issued the intentional pass to Ortiz last night, Jacoby Ellsbury was the only runner on base at second thus allowing Maddon to exercise the data-supported strategy and allow Fernando Rodney to face Mike Napoli.

Over the past five seasons, Rodney has a .241/.336/.326 slash line when facing left-handed hitters like Ortiz. Against right-handed hitters, that slash line drops to .204/.309/.312 thus granting Rodney the platoon advantage. Napoli has hit .256/.340/.494 against right-handed hitters since 2009 while striking out 27 percent of the time. Napoli has been particularly susceptible to changeups from right-handed pitchers as he has hit .186/.237/.256 off that pitch while striking out 39 percent of the time.

Ortiz is clearly the elite hitter in the Boston lineup, while Napoli is not nearly on the same level as the feared slugger, and has a propensity to strike out. Factor in Rodney’s changeup-heavy ways and there’s an argument to be made that Napoli is the batter to go after. The Book deemed it okay to walk an unprotected elite hitter with two outs, provided it didn’t advance the lead runner.  The argument then centers around whether Napoli qualifies as suffice protection. Given his decision to walk Ortiz, Maddon didn’t seem to think so.

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