Being a baseball manager is rather exciting compared to what most other 70-year olds get to spend their afternoons doing, but it’s still rather boring. There just isn’t that much to do.
In basketball you can call a timeout and scream at the bunch of seven-footers. You have your own little Etch-A-Sketch pad. You can substitute all you want. All you want. Imagine LaRussa under such circumstances.
In football you get to pick one of 200 plays that you drew up, minute after minute, all while simultaneously communicating with NASA satellites and avoiding streams of 350 lb bodies rushing to and away from the field. People really shouldn’t weigh 350 pounds.
And I am certain that there are various forms of entertainment that hockey coaches can engage in, and I would gladly mention them if I cared about the sport enough to know anything about it.
But as a baseball manager, you are left out of all the fun. First, you are called a manager and not a coach for a reason. You can not outsmart the other guy by secretly preparing a new play. You can’t teach a killer 3-2 zone. You don’t really teach or coach anything at all. And worst of all, even when the games start, well, there still isn’t much to do. And if you look at the following data, you’ll see that they have to wait for hours for what limited fun they might have.
These are, apart from starting the runner, the most frequent management decisions coming from the bench. The excitement level of the first hour is just beneath that of playing domino, while innings 4 through 6 serve as a gentle wake up call leading up to the crescendo of late ones, where managers rise to shine. Or not.
I’d like to lead you through a few typical managerial moves we encounter in late and close games, and evaluate them based on what we talked about the last time, namely run expectancy. The first rule of run expectancy in the ninth inning is – lower your expectations.
Look at how the run expectancy changes as the game moves on:
You are basically twice as likely to score in the first inning as you are in the ninth inning of a close game. The first and the second inning discrepancy is very telling as it represents the quality difference between the top and the bottom of the lineups, with former batting in the first and the latter in the second inning . After that the batting orders in any inning are pretty evenly spread and one can notice a light increase all the way to the sixth until starters start giving way to the bullpen guys.
The advantage of compiling one’s own run expectancy charts is the possibility to generate them for any given situation. Look how quickly game’s balance shifts as soon as the world’s best relief pitchers take the mound:
The probability that at least one run will score in the inning.