Tuesday night as I was watching the St. Louis Cardinals take a beating from the Colorado Rockies, Mike Matheny asked Shelby Miller to intentionally walk a hitter. The intentional pass is a commonly used practice in baseball, so most of the time I am not irked by it. However, in this situation, it really got under my skin. Please let me explain why.
First off, it was only the bottom of the 3rd inning. The Cardinals were down 3-1 at this point, so the game wasn’t out of hand. Sure, Miller was struggling with his command, but he did have 2 outs in this inning. I repeat, there were two (2) outs when this IBB was called for. Sure, there was one runner on base, Wilin Rosario was on third. Oh, Troy Tulowitzki is batting? Yes, PLEASE walk him! Nope, wait, the batter is DJ LeMahieu. Who? Why are we walking him? Oh yeah, we are walking him to get to the pitcher…yes, we are walking the number 8 hitter in the lineup with TWO outs to get to the pitcher for the easier out.
A little background on LeMahieu. He is a career .278 hitter, batting .264 this season. He has 6 homers in his career with a slugging percentage of only .361. Is he really that big of a threat to break this game open that we should pass him to get to the pitcher? No, in fact, it would’ve been advantageous to allow Miller to pitch to LeMahieu. For the season, Miller is tough against right handed batters. Allowing a batting average of .217 against righties compared to .270 versus lefties. Not only that, the slugging percentage allowed against righties is 70 points lower than to lefties. Ok, maybe LeMahieu crushes right handed pitchers? Again, the answer is no. This season LeMahieu is hitting .253 against right handed pitchers and .305 against lefties. Last time I checked Miller throws with his right arm. I could bring up more stats about LeMahieu’s poor hitting but I’ll just summarize it with this, he’s not good at hitting right handed pitching this year. So, to recap Miller is better against right handed batters and LeMahieu is worse against right handed pitchers, this year. Why did Matheny want to walk him?
In my opinion, the number 8 hitter in the lineup should NEVER be intentionally walked. Maybe if there are two runners on and Bartolo Colon is waiting on deck in a close ball game. The number 8 hitter is the number 8 hitter for a reason. He probably isn’t very good.
The main reason this whole situation of intentionally walking a batter to get to the pitcher with 2 outs really makes me mad is because you have essentially made the following inning harder than it needs to be. If you get the number 8 guy out, the pitcher has to lead off the next inning. That next inning practically becomes a 2-out inning for you. Why wouldn’t you attack the number 8 hitter with 2 outs? That seems like a complete no-brainer to me.
The thing is, this isn’t the first time Matheny has done this this season. Every time he makes this move it causes me to stand up and yell at my TV screen, much to my wife’s dismay. Even my dog doesn’t like it when I yell. It isn’t my fault though, it is the knuckleheads running this baseball team.
Maybe Matheny knows something I don’t. Maybe he can see in to the future and saw LeMahieu hitting a 400 foot homer off Miller. I don’t know why else he would chose to intentionally walk the number 8 hitter with 2 outs and a runner on third in the bottom of the third when trailing only by 2. I am dumbfounded.