Last night, the #Nats trailed 4-3 with bases loaded and Robles due up…

Photo by Andrew Lang for TalkNats

Managerial strategy is part of the chess game, and sometimes an early move is your best move. Can a manager pinch-hit in the fourth inning of a game based on a pitching change from the opposing team? Would it make a difference if I told you this game was being played in an American League city? What if you had bases loaded and your batter was in a deep slump the last week (.154) and only hitting righties at .196 on the season? Analytics are there for a reason. The due-up batter was Victor Robles. The reliever brought in to face Robles with bases loaded was Anthony Castro. There was one out in a one-run game. A productive out ties the game.

Small sample sizes, but in Castro’s career, righties hit him at .105/ .190/ .105/ .296 and lefties at .200 /.273/ .600/ .873. The Blue Jays manager felt the need to make a move at that point to remove his lefty and go to Castro with bases loaded. The Nats had the left-handed Andrew Stevenson sitting on the bench in a game that the Nats were trailing 4-3. There would be no pitchers to pinch-hit for in a game using the DH.

What better spot in a game would you have to insert Stevo? Toronto made their move, would the Nats counter to their move? Nats’ manager Dave Martinez did nothing. Robles quickly got into an 0-2 hole after chasing a ball out of the zone. Mind you, a long flyball would tie the game with a Sacrifice Fly. A doubleplay would kill it. That’s exactly what Robles did. A tailor-made doubleplay ended the threat.

Stevenson was never used in the game. He is a .500 pinch-hitter this season. His slash is .500/ .625/ 1.000/ 1.625 in 8 plate appearances. Small sample size yes, but the perfect spot for him. Do you want Stevo’s career numbers? In 86 plate appearances, he slashes a very impressive .310/.395/.465/.860.

This is not being written in hindsight. I wrote my thoughts in real-time once the Blue Jays manager signaled for the right-handed Castro.  The K rate for Robles in that spot 30.4% and about an 89.5% chance of getting himself out. The only good news was that Robles had not tapped into a doubleplay all year…until that moment.

They say hindsight is 20/20. Foresight with analytics is worth something. So the question to Martinez would have been, what spot would you be saving Stevo for if not that exact situation? A previous Nats manager when asked a similar question once answered “extra innings” and if Davey was asked the question, I would have liked to have heard an answer. Davey wasn’t asked.

“We had some opportunities,” Martinez said. “We gotta get Josh going. I mean he’s a big, big part of the middle of our lineup, and he’s gonna get going, I know that. So hopefully, we’ll get him going. He took some good swings today. Like I said, he’s just fouling balls off that I saw him hit in Spring Training. So we just gotta get him going. … So just gotta get that middle of our lineup going.”

Martinez was asked about Josh Bell who is batting .109. He was not asked about Robles and that particular situation in the fourth inning. The Nats’ manager did not use a player off of his bench in the game last night. The beauty of that spot at that moment was that a productive out scores a run. The last 2 years, Stevenson’s air ball to groundball rate is 1.42:1. In the past 2 years, he hasn’t hit a popup to an infielder. All air balls have gone to the outfield. Just hit it far and deep, tie the game, and move the line.

Some of you would say a manager would never pinch-hit in that situation, and you would be wrong. You don’t even have to look hard to find situations in which managers have done that. The Blue Jays manager won the game right there. Charlie Montoyo won that game of chess.

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