It's not easy to manage a major league baseball team. Lots of eyeballs looking over your shoulders, lots of second guessers and definitely a lot at stake. But there was some controversy or at the very least some second guessing as to how Dodgers manager Don Mattingly handled the bottom of the 7th inning pitching matchups.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th inning. Chris Withrow was pitching with two outs and runners on second and third. He had just struck out Elliot Johnson for the innings second out. The Braves sent up rookie outfielder (left handed bat) Jose Constanza who had really made the Braves post-season roster as nothing more than a pinch runner and an emergency pinch hitter.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided to pull Withrow and go with the platoon matchup and bring in LHP Paco Rodriguez. Of course Mattingly failed to think ahead to the Braves next move, or at least think clearly ahead and the Braves manager sent up the right handed hitting Reed Johnson to bat for Constanza. On deck was the leadoff hitter Jayson Heyward. Yes, he is left handed... but he also is pretty good. At this point do you go against the platoon matchup but with the pinch hitter penalty (yes players hit significantly worse as pinch hitters than they do as starters) and pitch to Reed Johnson with first base open or do you walk Johnson and go lefty vs lefty against Jayson Heyward. Mattingly chose to give the intentional walk to Johnson and face Jayson Heyward with Paco Rodriguez with the bases loaded.
So here are the three scenarios we need to look at in terms of which scenario has the highest win probability for the Dodgers (or lowest for the Braves).
1. Chris Withrow pitches to Jose Constanza with two outs and runners at second and third.
2. Paco Rodriguez pitches to Reed Johnson with two outs and runners at second and third.
3. Paco Rodriguez intentionally walks Reed Johnson and pitches to Jayson Heyward with two outs and the bases loaded.
Mattingly's Brain Table (100K Games Simulated)
|ATL||84.607%||C.Withrow||2nd, 3rd||2||Pitch to Costanza|
|ATL||84.277%||P.Rodriguez||2nd, 3rd||2||Pitch to Reed Johnson|
|ATL||85.842%||P.Rodriguez||Loaded||2||Walk R.Johnson, pitch to Heyward|
Well, it appears that the best decision was to have Paco Rodriguez pitch to Reed Johnson, followed by having Chris Withrow pitch to Jose Constanza and lastly to give the intentional walk to Reed Johnson and have Paco Rodriguez pitch to Jayson Heyward with the bases loaded. But did it cost the Dodgers enough win probability to really have any heartburn over it? Only if you think that 1.24% win probability is enough to complain over.