Why oh why did you run?

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This play was a killer.

Every now and then the Cubs will make a boneheaded play or coaching decision and we as fans pound our fists and scream “WHY” to the heavens.  Then I figure it might not be a bad idea to look at the expectancy charts and determine whether it really was a bad risk or decision (as we did before).  I think most of the media were annoyed at Luis Valbuena‘s earlier TOOTBLAN, but I was more displeased with the one performed by Brett Jackson.

We’ll pretend for the moment that Dale Sveum had a good reason for not pinch-hitting for Steve Clevenger when facing Aroldis Chapman and just set up the scenario.  Here’s the play-by-play in that fateful ninth inning:

Chicago – Top of 9th SCORE
Aroldis Chapman pitching for Cincinnati CHC CIN
A Chapman relieved M Latos. 4 4
B LaHair struck out swinging. 4 4
B Jackson doubled to deep left center. 4 4
B Jackson caught stealing third, catcher to third. 4 4
S Clevenger struck out swinging. 4 4
0 Runs, 1 Hits, 0 Errors

You kind of expected All-Star Cubs legend Bryan LaHair to strike out against Chapman, but Brett Jackson’s nicely struck double was really sweet.  And then they fucked it all up by running.  Or did they?  Let’s look at a couple things as we did last time: run expectancy and win expectancy (thanks Tango).

With a man on second and one out, in any inning, an average team over the past 20 years or so is expected to score 0.721 runs.  Let’s say that Brett was successful in getting to 3B. That’s man on third one out, which has a run expectancy of 0.989 so you have a net gain of 0.268 runs.  What if Clevenger had just grounded out?  If Brett advances to third, then that’s man on third two outs, 0.385 runs.  If Brett doesn’t advance, then man on second two outs, 0.348 runs.  Obviously if Clevenger did the unthinkable and got a solid hit off Chapman, then the run scores, or at worst it’s man on first and second, one out (0.963 runs) or runners at the corners, one out (1.211 runs).

Brett didn’t get to stay at second because he went to third, and because he got tagged out, didn’t get to stay at third either.  That’s bases empty, two outs now, which carries a run expectancy of 0.112 runs.  That’s a major hit on your chances to score, going from 0.721 to 0.112 or a net loss of 0.609 runs.  Therefore from a general point of view, in any inning, this was a stupid play because the risk was much, much greater than the marginal reward they could have gained from the steal attempt.  Of course, he could have waited for Chapman to uncork a wild pitch and getting to third then would’ve been nice, but alas.

What about from the win perspective?  It was the ninth inning where every risk is magnified.  At that point you just want to scratch across any run and put the pressure on the other team.  If you’re the away team you want to try to get across any run you can, because the home team bats last and knows how many runs they have to get to at least send the game into extras.

Looking at Tango’s chart, Brett Jackson’s failed steal took the Cubs from a 56.6% chance of victory all the way down to 39.7%.  The FanGraphs win expectancy chart agrees:


Source: FanGraphs

Looking at the interactive chart, Brett Jackson’s (or the coaching staff’s) fail brought the Cubs from 55.7% chance for winning down to 39.3%.

In conclusion, Cubs players and coaches, do not steal third when you are already in scoring position with one out.  It is dumb.  Stop it now.

About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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