2021 World Series: Nonsense disguised as sabermetry could cost Atlanta dearly


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2021 World Series: Nonsense disguised as sabermetry could cost Atlanta dearly

BRISTOL BOARD – Brian Snitker boasts of being an old-school leader in the midst of the new analytical age. And I believe him. I have no doubt that he is a great manager and is achieving in his fifth season in charge of the Braves, the step that cost the legendary Bobby Cox so much: Advancing to the World Series. A man with 43 years in the organization as a player, coach and manager who prior to game four, was two victories away from achieving just the second franchise title since moving to Atlanta.

However, no matter how old-fashioned you may be, it is understood that today you must handle the concepts, analyzes and decisions that sabermetry throws up and that are discussed in conjunction with the group of operations that lean towards the percentages and probabilities that your team runs more runs than the rival for 9 innings and ends in a win.

Snitker’s decision to start the game with pitcher Dylan Lee, who pays the price for being the face of the club, will go down in history as one of the worst managerial decisions in World Series history. That’s right … In 117 years!

What happened around Atlanta’s game 4 pitching decisions was a complete embarrassment to the organization. Shame on Major League Baseball. Something that should not be repeated.

We are in the World Series. This is the biggest event in Major League Baseball, where you crown your champion. An event dating back to the 19th century, with an unrivaled tradition in any sport. The dream of every baseball player and the desire of each one of the more than 20 thousand Major League Baseball players in history. The ecstasy of the victory of the champions of each league and their fight for total dominance. It is the space with the most coverage, attention and even value for fans who provide some of the biggest crowds of the year, paying exorbitant amounts for a ticket to access the ball park. Opening a World Series game is not only one of the greatest honors for a pitcher, but it is also the opportunity to enter some of the most relevant pages in the rich history of the game.

So, in a situation of such relevance in the world of sports, which transcends the culture of each of the teams involved and of the countries represented in the diversity of players, with the view of the sports world set on this very high stage of a billion dollar industry that generates attention and passions …

Are you going to assign the role of starting pitcher in a World Series Game to a boy with just 80 major league pitches of experience?

This was a decision that takes away the shine, prestige and weight of the “World Series Game X Opener” label. It is like entering a stage where no one has the right to figure or deserve something for their effort (data), and simply “anyone does whatever it takes here” in order to achieve a goal based on the idea that someone or some intend to impose outside of the land.

The growing popularity of the game of “bullpen” using a “starter” instead of a “starter” (which can mean the same thing, but in baseball terms it is not the same), has caused many teams to rethink the concept of “rotation. “and defining roles in a pitching corps. It is a strategy that allows a manager to have the flexibility on certain days to plan a complete game based on relievers, either to jump a space in the rotation or to give additional rest to a starter. In the past, it was used to give a long reliever or an aspiring rotation the opportunity to live the experience and mindset of starting a major league game.

But doing it in a World Series the way Atlanta did today was an embarrassment disguised as sabermetrics. The worst that for me has been seen in a field. And I say disguised because it was made under the “opener” scheme. To be clear, sabermetrics was not in favor of the decision to start with Lee.

And as much as I personally support the use of analytics in decisions, I am not in favor of the “opener” in a World Series.

Total failure

Major League Baseball regulations are that the starting pitcher is announced at least 3 hours before the start of the game. This is where the expectations of the game begin and with an established rotation there are no secrets as to who is going to pitch in the next four or five games. But even four hours before Game 4, the name of the Atlanta starter was still a mystery. Both for Dusty Baker and his Astros, as well as for the media around the world, as well as for the 50 thousand fans in Atlanta and the millions of World Series fans on the planet. No one knew who would launch this game. Another bullpen game was speculated, as had already been glimpsed in statements by the manager. The secrecy and secrecy seemed from a secret CIA mission.

What was the big secret? … Would they repeat with Fried? Was Charlie Morton’s fibula miraculously repaired, fractured in Game 1? Would they make a long reliever a starter? Would they reactivate Greg Maddux at 55 years of age?

The big answer was Dylan Lee, a 27-year-old pitcher who made his major league debut on October 1 facing 3 Mets hitters. The next day he faced 6 batters and allowed 2 hits and 2 runs. Twenty days later he was included on the Championship Series roster and pitched two innings, allowing 3 hits and a run against the Dodgers in Game 5. He was included on the World Series roster and faced 3 Astros hitters in Game 2, getting two outs. In total 80 launches. Eighty pitches to 19 batters facing each other!

With this performance, with this experience, Lee appeared as the brand new starter of Game 4 of the 2021 World Series.

You say …. Well, but … How about and is it part of the manager’s intuition? What if it is a hidden secret weapon that comes to win? Sure it can happen, but those rare cases are reserved for those guys who are prospects who display phenomenal data and conditions and above the average level of a major league player. A star, or potential star.

I have nothing against Lee, nor the conditions or projections of this pitcher, but if we are going to play with analytics, Lee is perhaps one of the worst picks in numbers. His WPA (Victory Aggregate Probability) in his very little experience is in negative numbers, indicating that it is a factor that can help you lose, rather than give you opportunities to win. His repertoire is limited with only three pitches that also don’t look above the level. Of 12 batters faced in the postseason, he struck out 3 but also allowed three hits. Lee is a natural reliever, he was an occasional starter, even during his time at Fresno State University, where he started only 5 games of his 42. After being signed by the Miami Marlins as a 10th-round pick in the 2016 draft, he participated in 156 games. of which he opened 25, the last in 2017 in class A.

Is it the best option dictated by analytics? No.

What message do you give your organization when, in your first World Series since 1999, your starter from a Series up game is one of your relievers from your AAA team at Gwinnett? One that wasn’t even on the 40 roster a month ago.

Each team is autonomous, but what message does Major League Baseball send in the face of a severe decision? Do you pay a ticket of $ 1,000 or more to see the average reliever start in the majestic World Series?

Thank the Gods of baseball, this didn’t work out. Obviously Lee’s face coming out of the bullpen on his way to the mound was a poem. Not even he believed the magnitude of the assignment. Nothing less than to face Jose Altuve opening a game, a fastball pitcher against an MVP who does not discriminate. On the first pitch, Altuve was able to get on base by hitting the infield. Already Lee’s face got worse and he passed Michael Brantley by balls. Next hitter, Alex Bregman, whom he struck out at 2-2 (he had only had 1 hit in the World Series). Next hitter Yordan Alvarez, four balls in a row.

It looked like Snitker’s head was going to explode. He jumped out of his chair. Every step he took towards the mound was like stepping on lava. He did not finish climbing the mountain and Lee was already stepping on that same lava. He looked downcast, defeated, disappointed, bewildered and humiliated on a global level. You don’t always succeed in baseball, and a bullpen man knows that very well, but not being able to respond in a sixth or seventh inning to resolve a game situation is not the same as being first on the pitching list. of the day and having to leave after just 15 shipments and only 5 strikes, leaving the bases loaded and the latent possibility of losing a game that can make you lose home advantage in the World Series.

Kyle Wright came to take care of the matter and faced Carlos Correa who grounded to third base, but allowed Altuve to score the first run. With two outs, Wright struck out Kyle Tucker to end the inning and Atlanta started losing 1-0.

Wright performed for the second time in the series and in his Game 2 debut he faced 3 batters … all struck out. Wright had already been a starter in the 2020 postseason including a 6-inning performance with just 3 hits allowed. Wright changed the face of the game consuming 4.2 innings allowing only 5 hits and tying the Astros. Once again he was the man who gave Atlanta a break.

The question of everyone at Truist Park, and in the world is: why was Wright not the starter? For being right? Houston is not a team that varies its lineup according to a right-handed or left-handed pitcher, nor will they change the structure of their “horses” by the hand of the starter or starter. Altuve is Altuve against rights or lefties.

This terrible decision, which I am more than convinced was controversial and emotional within the walls of the Atlanta Braves organization, may gain less weight after the offensive awakening of the Braves and counting on the form like the rest of the experienced bullpen. solved the next 8 entries. Truist Park exploded with back-to-back home runs by Dansby Swanson and Jorge Soler that put the Braves up on the scoreboard. They won by the minimum 3-2, but that first Houston race could be the key to the collapse of Atlanta. It was the biggest risk ever seen in a World Series.

But the emotional impact for a pitcher like Dylan Lee is irreparable for now. You may not see more action in the series. You will go to an unwanted chapter, so you win the ring. It is not their fault, it is the fault of those who want to reinvent the wheel and use sabermetrics as an excuse. Baseball analytics is a science made to support decisions based on data, to project probabilities based on samples. The decision to start with Lee, I am convinced that it was not a sabermetric decision, it was a whim, an invention disguised as analytics based on the initiator’s formula. A nonsense that went wrong and will thus go down in history.

Leonte Landino is a journalist and producer of baseball content for ESPN International. He is an active member of the BBWAA and SABR. You can follow him on twitter @leontelandino


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