Jul. 26, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young (24) breaks a bat against the New York Mets in the sixth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-US PRESSWIRE
Double Guessing the D-backs is going to be hopefully a new regular feature here on the 'Pit. The aim of the series is to take an actual scenario from the past week (such as when Chris Young pinch-hit for Stephen Drew) and try to determine if the Diamondbacks made the best possible decision. Notice I said "best possible?" There's no way to be certain that any other move would have worked better, so most of this will be based off possibilities and probabilities. A player with a higher probability of success in a situation is probably more desirable.
On Thursday night the Diamondbacks found themselves in a pickle. They quickly found themselves in a 3-0 hole. It was the 6th inning and the Mets rookie pitcher, Matt Harvey, was simply dominating. He had 10 strikeouts through the first 5 innings, but finally slowed down just enough in the 6th to walk to guys and get pulled from the game. Stephen Drew was the next batter up, so Terry Collins, the Mets manager, called in Josh Edgin for a lefty on lefty matchup.
In response, the D-backs pull a surprise and called back Stephen Drew in favor of the pinch-hitting Chris Young, who might now be platooned to face mainly lefties. So was this the best available call?
First of all, a little spoiler alert. This moment is heavily connected to a later moment in the game, so it's more about whether or not the D-backs chose the right strategy in this game, rather than whether they picked the right tactic in this inning.
Anyway, back to the 6th inning. The logic of the situation seems fairly evident: Chris Young is very good against left-handed pitchers, and very average to below average against right-handers (career wRC+ 127 vs 83 for the fancy hats, or career batting average .333 vs .239). Likewise, Josh Edgin is really good at getting out lefties so far in his career, but not so much with righties.
To top it all off, Stephen drew is worse against lefties than Chris Young is against righties (career wRC+ only 80), he's also worse against righties than Young is against lefties (career wRC+ 100). Replacing Drew with Young would cause a massive 159 point difference in OPS, so you're much more likely to get an advantageous outcome with Young against a lefty than Drew.
So it was the right move, right? Not so fast, Hondo. We're not looking for the right move, but the best possible. Removing Stephen Drew means a couple things, especially in the 6th. First, he'll have to be replaced in the field. And since Wade Miley had already been replaced, that was another bench player getting burned. It was a safe bet to assume that both Drew's and the pitcher's part of the lineup would each get at least one more at-bat. So replacing Drew in the 6th means you're committing yourself to replacing the position another time.
As it turned out, the Diamondbacks would have a situation in the 8th where the previous move tied their hands. Wouldn't you it's another 2 on, 2 out situation, and one run has already scored. The pitcher's position (formerly Drew's) was up, and now Kirk Gibson had limited options: Lyle Overbay, Henry Blanco, or John McDonald. Not exactly a great choice.
If Gibson had held back Young for what would have been the 8th showdown, he would have faced Tim Byrdak, another lefty. But even if Gibson somehow had a limited ability to look into the future (where he could see that he'd have two opportunities to use Chris Young but didn't know the outcome of either), he still made the right choice in batting him in the 6th.
One of the old school ideas about using closers is using them in the 9th (or the last inning of an extra inning game). In reality, a closer should be used in the inning with the highest leverage, which could be before the 9th. You can't assume you'll get another chance to use your best pitcher against your opponents best batters, and likewise Gibby didn't assume he'd get another chance with 2 guys on and a great matchup at the plate.
The Win Expectancy (as provided by FanGraphs) shows this was true on Thursday. After Young grounded out to short in the 6th, the WE dropped 10.9 points. When Overbay struck out to end the 8th, WE only dropped 8.5 points. The 6th was a higher leverage situation, with a great matchup.
I think it's fair to say that although it was frustrating to be down to a choice of Overbay, Blanco, or McDonald in the 8th, the D-backs still made the right decision in the 6th.
What do you think? Would you have made the same move, at the same time?