The Process Versus the Orioles | The Process Report

The Process Versus the Orioles

Fun game. Let’s focus on Joe Maddon’s key choices and how things played out.

  • Foremost, hat tip to Maddon and Tom Foley for a good night of defensive positioning. Manny Machado did beat a shift later in the game but early on Jeremy Hellickson, who I believe pitched better than his line suggests, had a run of groundballs that were right to positioned fielders. Taking a few steps this way or that way don’t boast the same visual power as a stacked shift like the one thrown at Kelly Johnson, but they do turn create additional routine plays and that adds up.
  • As for the more obvious moves. Maddon’s first hands-on decision came in the sixth inning when he kept Shelley Duncan in to face Luis Ayala. Duncan, having started the game with a lefty on the mound, came to the plate representing the tying run. It was fair to wonder if Maddon would regret not replacing Duncan with Matt Joyce against the sinker-slider right-hander, yet a few pitches later Duncan tied the game up and validated the non-act. Was Maddon’s call by luck or design?
  • It’s hard to say. One obvious explanation is Maddon wanted to keep his other pinch-hitting options open for later in the game. This seems reasonable. The Rays had three more innings to play and there were right-handed hitters with more extreme platoon splits than Duncan in the lineup.
  • But there is something else to consider. Duncan is a pull-heavy hitter. He flies open a lot and almost all of his home runs and extra-base hits will go to left field. Anything thrown away or down in the zone can give him trouble. Despite the slider Ayala has thrown 68 percent of his pitches to right-handed batters since 2011 over the inner or middle part of the plate—Duncan’s nitro zone. Sure enough Ayala threw a bad slider over the middle and Duncan smashed it. Of course with better execution this decision may have looked as poor as it originally appeared, so luck played a part regardless. 
  • Whether Maddon felt Duncan versus Ayala was a good matchup or not, it’s nice to see someone dealing with personal trials enjoy some professional success.
  • Maddon’s other big decision was using James Loney in place of Sean Rodriguez later in the game. I thought Loney matched up well with Jason Hammel because of his ability to cover the plate and go the other way with pitches outside. Tonight he showed both of those attributes off by taking an 0-2 Pedro Strop fastball down the left-field line for a double. The pitch happened to be elevated and off the plate but Loney still got a bat on it and recorded his first hit with Tampa Bay.

Stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info


  1. Jason Hanselman wrote:

    I liked Maddon’s usage of Duncan. When you regress Duncan’s L/R platoon splits you’ll notice that he isn’t the lefty-masher one would probably assume by looking at him. He hits both types of pitchers similarly, but the one thing he does mash is the mistake fastball. Catch too much of the plate or not climb the ladder far enough and it doesn’t matter how fast it is he’s going to hurt it. I sincerely hope Maddon doesn’t just play Duncan against lefties as I’d rather see him distributed against pitchers with lame fastballs or those that lack a solid secondary pitch that they have a lot of confidence in behind in the count. I hope to see many more Duncbombs I just hope he isn’t relegated to only starting against lefties.

    • R.J. Anderson wrote:

      Yeah he’s a weird guy to play matchups with because you’re going solely on location/type more so than any number. I thought O’Day was a bad matchup for the same reason as Ayala, in that you’d expect both to be down in the zone then away late. But if a guy is throwing fastballs, especially up like you said, he’s got a chance to get extended and add a number to the board.

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