October 27, 2017

Smoltz: When You Absolutely Need To Score A Run, A Single Is Better Than A Home Run

Just because John Smoltz is working alongside Joe Buck for Fox's broadcasts of this year's World Series does not mean he has to adopt the inane (and wrong) opinions of Buck's former, long-time booth partner, Tim McCarver. But it appears that Smoltz has done so, anyway.

During the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 on Wednesday, Houston's Marwin Gonzalez was leading off against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The Astros trailed by one run, 3-2. If Houston did not score at least one run in that inning, it would lose the game. After Gonzalez fouled off a pitch to fall behind in the count 0-2, Smoltz said this:
Well, the Astros would love to get a big swing and tie it up, but I think if they can get on base, and create a little more havoc for Jansen, he has to speed up his delivery when there is a runner on. Coming into this game, 52 out of 57 attempted steals have been successful.
Smoltz pitched in the major leagues for 21 years and is a member of the Hall of Fame. He has been hired by Fox Sports to explain the game of baseball to fans watching at home, to offer some insight into what is happening on the field. And he said that if a team absolutely must score at least one run to avoid losing the game, hitting a single is better than hitting a home run. Seriously. He said that.

Yes, yes, I know, a home run would tie the game at 3-3. But a single. A single creates "havoc" for the pitcher, and in Jansen's case, that "havoc" can get him somewhat out of his usual rhythm on the mound. Smoltz notes that most runners who attempt to steal a base against Jansen are successful. That is true - 91% successful, in fact - but the steal puts the runner only at second base. The home run has him trotting right past second base unmolested and across the plate. ... Why am I even explaining this?

Oh, Gonzalez hit the next pitch over the fence in left-center for a game-tying home run.

From 2010-2015, a team with a runner on first base and no outs could be expected to score 0.859 runs. If the leadoff batter hits a home run, then his team has already scored 1.000 runs in the inning - and is still expected to score 0.481 more runs from that point on. Is Smoltz acquainted with the old saying "a bird in the hand"?

In August 2006, Tim McCarver said:
There is nothing that opens up big innings any more than a leadoff walk. Leadoff home runs don't do it. Leadoff singles, maybe. But a leadoff walk. It changes the mindset of a pitcher. Since he walked the first hitter, now all of a sudden he wants to find the fatter part of the plate with the succeeding hitters. And that could make for a big inning.
You might think that a home run would be most likely to start a big inning, because - Boom! - you've already got one run on the board. It's "free money". ... Nope. McCarver, who played professional baseball, unlike you, believes a leadoff walk is the absolute best thing. (McCarver also said that a leadoff walk always scores, always!, so you know that's true.)

I have heard McCarver say that during a rally, hitting a double is better than hitting a home run because it keeps a guy on base - to rattle the pitcher. ... So rather than have that guy score a run, it's preferable to have him on base and hope he can score.

This is where we got the joke of referring to home runs as "rally killers". Except there are a ton of people who work in sports media - and some former players - who actually have called home runs "rally killers"!

Steve Lyons (working as a Dodgers announcer) said it.

Lance Berkman said it.

Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler (Blue Jays announcers) said it.

George Brett said it.

Mike Schmidt said it.

Steve Lyons said it again (seven years later, not having learned a goddamn thing).

Mark Grace said it.

Jeff Francoeur said it.

We've been watching baseball games the wrong way, for decades. We never realized that when your team has a rally going, the desired outcome is fewer runs. In fact, it's probably best if the opposing pitcher throws a perfect game. That way, none of your team's players will be "clogging up the bases".


allan said...

Also: In the top of the 10th before Altuve's home run, Smoltz was talking about Roberts's managerial moves and said that if the moves work out and the Dodgers win, then the moves were good. If they lose, then the moves were bad.

No. This is so wrong. A move like bringing in Jansen for 6 outs was the right move (imo), but it simply did not work out. It usually would, though. You don't wait and see what happens before deciding if you made the best choice.

Are these guys really that dumb or do they think they have to play dumb for the audience?

Paul Hickman said...

You Sage !

Another Rally Killing HR from Yuli ......

Yu "whirling dervish" is sent off to look for more stray dogs !!!!!

This game SHOULD be over ........ But I remember saying that a few times the other night ?

Dr. Jeff said...

Dusty Baker was the source of the "clogging up the bases" quote, right?

allan said...

I think so.
If not, he is certainly the one most associated with it.