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jason takes his hacks

rob at the birdwatch wants to know what the heck tlr was thinking in the 8th inning last night. first tony let marquis bat for himself with the cards trailing by a run, man at first and nobody out; then two batters later he pinch-hit for edmonds. resetting the sequence, per birdwatch:

  • Y. Molina hit by pitch
  • H. Luna ran for Y. Molina
  • J. Marquis flied out to center
  • D. Eckstein singled to center, H. Luna to third
  • A. Almanza relieved C. Vargas
  • A. Pujols hit for J. Edmonds
"Er, OK," says rob. "So TLR let the pitcher hit for himself and pulled the 950 OPS guy." and indeed, on the surface this appears to be a disturbingly irrational set of decisions. but more disturbing yet is the fact that i can actually follow tony's reasoning. i often can't, whereas i can almost always follow rob's articulate dissections of in-game maneuvers. but in this situation i think tony called it correctly. let's walk it through:

if he pinch-hits for marquis, his only three options are: pujols, grud'k, taguchi. his other two bench players have just been burned: luna has gone in to run for molina, and diaz will have to enter the game for molina. all three potential pinch hitters bat right-handed, while marquis swings left and thus holds the platoon advantage against vargas; marquis is also a .350 hitter with an OPS of about .900, and since it's a bunt situation his presence at the plate keeps the dbacks guessing and keeps the cards' options open. and finally, marquis is mowing down the diamondbacks and only at roughly 100 on the pitch count.

weigh the alternatives: taguchi is a less productive hitter than marquis; no option. grudzielanek has been struggling lately and loses the platoon advantage. the only viable option was albert, but when you factor in the short bench, and the small-ball circumstances, and marquis' pitching performance i think tony picked the better option: let jason hit.

tony's thinking on the marquis at-bat may have been further influenced by the knowledge that edmonds, due up in two batters, has just 1 hit and 5 strikeouts in 9 career at-bats against dback reliever armando almanza. if tony has albert pinch-hit for marquis, he then faces the possibility of having to pinch-hit taguchi for edmonds later in the inning, when almanza comes in from the pen (as he surely will). instead, tony kept his pitcher in the game, got a credible at-bat from marquis, and still had albert available to face almanza. as it played out, albert got up there in a position to break the game open . . . . and fizzled again in a clutch spot, something we'll all fret about into october.

here's another consideration: should marquis have been bunting? that would put the tying run at 2d with one out; if eckstein chases him home great, but if not that leaves a man on, 2 out, and almanza coming in to face edmonds. if tony pinch-hits albert there, almanza intentionally walks him and leaves the mound; albert's neutered. as it turned out, if marquis bunts eckstein would have chased home the tying run; but that's with hindsight. given the circumstances and the looming almanza-edmonds matchup, i think the decision not to bunt was a defensible one.

come the 9th, when marquis came up with two out and a man on 3d in a 1-1 game . . . . . now the options are grud'k and taguchi. again, the pitcher is a right-hander, so you lose the platoon advantage by pinch-hitting; and, again, neither ph option is a demonstrably more dangerous hitter in that situation than marquis is. grudzielanek might marginally increase the odds of a hit, but if you burn him you go into extra innings with a one-man bench and the possibility of having to let some other pitcher --- say, al reyes --- swing the bat in an rbi spot in the 12th or 14th or whatever. seems a high cost for a pretty small --- if any --- advantage.

happy thoughts: marquis struck out 7 guys. scary thoughts: molina might have busted a bone in his hand. who'da-thunk thoughts: the cardinals still picked up half a game on the cubs yesterday, who are now in third place and suddenly looking like sellers, not buyers, at the midseason trade bazaar.