This piece, by BP Wrigleyville’s Editor-in-Chief Sahadev Sharma, first appeared at the Baseball Prospectus main site and is exclusively available to BP subscribers. We’ve posted a sneak preview here.
Let’s be clear: I don’t believe in second-guessing managers. I spend a lot of time around clubhouses during the season, and one of the many things I’ve learned with that access is that there are dozens of things we can’t begin to understand that go into the in-game decisions made by managers. However, on Friday evening, for the first time in 164 games, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Joe Maddon had done something wrong in the top of the eighth inning.
After a one-pitch groundout to start the eighth inning by Starlin Castro, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny immediately came out to pull starter John Lackey. The Cardinals righty had just tossed 86 masterful pitches, spanning 7 1/3 innings, allowing just two hits—one a bunt single by Kyle Schwarber—and zero runs as his team clung to the scantest of leads. Matheny went to his bullpen, calling upon lefty Kevin Siegrist to face Chris Coghlan. It was a gutsy call by Matheny to pull his starter who had been so dominant and still hadn’t touched 90 pitches, but it wasn’t as if he was going to a bullpen that he’d struggled to trust in the regular season.
Much to my surprise, Maddon let Coghlan bat against the southpaw. Siegrist has a reverse split for his career; it’s rather pronounced, with a .577 OPS for lefties compared to righties’ .663. Reverse splits are rare, and usually when you see them, the assumption is that it’s a pitcher with an odd arm angle, the right pitch repertoire (neither fits for Siegrist), just a small sample, or a stretch of randomness. If it’s the latter two, the belief is that eventually these things will even out. But with Siegrist, it appears we have an outlier: This has been going on long enough that it’s time to start buying the numbers.
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