Joe Maddon out-galaxy brains himself, manages to win anyway

Shohei Ohtani homered twice to bail out manager Joe Maddon.

Shohei Ohtani homered twice to bail out supervisor Joe Maddon.
Image: Getty Images

There are a few key questions in baseball over the previous a number of years that repeatedly intersect: “Why can’t the Angels win anything when they have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, two unique talents among the greatest the game has ever seen?” and “How did Joe Maddon ever win a World Series with the Cubs when he’s forever wrapped up in whatever gimmick he’s trying?”

Friday evening, that intersection was lit up like Times Square, as a result of Maddon pulled an all-time stinker, whereas Ohtani, Trout, and Jared Walsh (an All-Star in his solely full season, and proprietor of an .841 profession OPS in 215 video games) powered the Angels to a 9-6 victory over the Rangers.

Maddon’s newest “look at me, the big brain genius” transfer got here throughout the primary “why can’t the Angels win with these generational talents?” portion of the proceedings, as beginning pitcher Reid Detmers obtained knocked out within the fourth inning, down 3-2, with two runs already scored within the body and runners on the corners with one out.

Austin Warren got here in from the Los Angeles bullpen and walked leadoff man Marcus Semien on 4 pitches, loading the bases for Corey Seager, whom Maddon selected to deliberately stroll, bringing in a run.

This is an extremely uncommon transfer, one which makes little or no sense on its face, however that may be sensible in very particular conditions. On August 17, 2008, as an illustration, the Tampa Bay Rays had a four-run lead over the Rangers within the ninth inning on the previous Arlington ballpark, the one which didn’t should be changed with an unlimited Home Depot. That evening in Texas, the Rangers had Josh Hamilton representing the tying run on the plate, and this was the primary of Hamilton’s huge years – he was a month faraway from his iconic Home Run Derby efficiency at Yankee Stadium and on his method to main the league in RBIs and whole bases.

Maddon, then managing the Rays, issued a free go to Hamilton, making it 7-4. Dan Wheeler relieved Grant Balfour, struck out Marlon Byrd, and the sport was over.

Before that, the earlier occasion of a bases loaded intentional stroll was probably the most well-known: May 29, 1998, when Barry Bonds obtained a free RBI from the Diamondbacks fairly than be allowed to place 4 on the board with a grand slam in Arizona’s 53rd sport ever – and clearly, regardless that it labored, it’s not one thing they’ve repeated in 24 years since.

In that case, there have been once more two outs within the ninth inning, and the selection was pitching to Bonds (up as a pinch-hitter for Chris Jones, who’d really homered earlier in that sport) with the bases loaded, up 8-6, or pitching to Brent Mayne with the bases loaded, up 8-7. Mayne had a .652 profession OPS coming into 1998. Bonds had a .609 slugging share that 12 months. That’s why the response to Buck Showalter’s transfer, which labored when Gregg Olson struck out Mayne, was that yeah, it was bizarre, but additionally, it was Barry Fucking Bonds (and this must be a reminder of how wonderful and feared he was earlier than BALCO) with the bases loaded towards an growth workforce, and also you gotta get bizarre in that scenario.

There have been 4 different intentional walks with the bases loaded in MLB historical past, in line with SABR, however these had been in a segregated league and don’t matter. This was the third time it occurred in 75 years, and it occurred not within the ninth inning with two out, however the fourth inning with one out.

Seager is a rattling good participant. He’s a two-time All-Star, the 2016 National League Rookie of the Year, 2019 league doubles chief, and 2020 NLCS and World Series MVP. He obtained a $325 million contract this winter for a motive. He’s additionally off to a superb begin on that pact, having gone 9-for-26 in his first six video games, with a homer and 5 RBI.

There’s nonetheless a giant hole between “this guy’s a damn good player” and prime Bonds or Hamilton. Seager’s profession excessive is 26 homers, and that was in his rookie 12 months. He hasn’t gone deep 20 occasions in a 12 months – throughout a homer-crazy period – since 2017, when he hit 22.

Seager now has 18 intentional walks in his profession. Bonds’ 120 freebies in 2004 is clearly the file and stuff of legend, however Bonds solely had 5 seasons (a type of 2005, when he performed 14 video games) when he was deliberately walked fewer than 18 occasions – as a result of Bonds had extra profession house runs by the top of his first MVP season, 1990, than Seager has hit in his total time within the majors.

You don’t deliberately stroll Corey Seager with the bases loaded as a result of regardless that he has two profession grand slams, the possibilities of him hitting one are far decrease than the possibilities of him making an out. In truth, in his profession, Seager has grounded into three double performs with the bases loaded. Since he’s not a house run hitter, the largest fear about Seager must be a double, which he’d finished 4 occasions in his earlier 58 profession plate appearances with the luggage full… in comparison with 5 strikeouts. Why not give him an opportunity to do these issues and perhaps escape the inning with zero extra runs? Why put a free run on the board and invite an opponent who’s already forward to construct their lead?

Seager doesn’t warp the run expectancy matrix a lot as to make Maddon’s technique defensible in a Bondsian or Hamiltonian scenario, not to mention when it meant increasing the Angels’ deficit from one run to 2, with a pitcher on the mound who had thrown 4 balls and nil strikes. Regardless of the way it labored out, it was boneheaded managing.

And regardless that the Angels gained, due to Ohtani going deep twice, Trout reaching base 3 times and homering, and Walsh smashing a two-run shot for insurance coverage within the seventh, it didn’t work. Mitch Garver missed a grand slam by the size of the warning observe, settling for a sacrifice fly, after which Warren balked house a run to make it 6-2 – the rating it will’ve been had Seager lashed a bases-clearing double.

Adolis Garcia fouled out to finish the inning, and the Angels strung collectively six straight hits within the high of the fifth to make all of it moot – on this event. But it’s this type of nonsense from Maddon, and a pitching workers that has ranked within the backside half of the American League every of the previous 4 years and hasn’t been within the high 5 in runs allowed since 2011, which can be the reply to the larger of the questions for Orange County, and baseball at giant: why, for nearly as good as Ohtani and Trout are, we don’t see them in October. The Angels gained Friday evening, however Friday evening was why.

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