St. Louis Cardinals: Should Grichuk have been sent home?
During last night’s St. Louis Cardinals loss to the New York Yankees, the ninth inning provided some late drama and endless debate for Cardinals fans.
After closing in on the Yankee’s lead in the seventh inning, the St. Louis Cardinals found themselves with an opportunity to tie it in the ninth. The St. Louis Cardinals found themselves facing a familiar rival in Aroldis Chapman, arguably the best closer in the game.
With two outs, Randall Grichuk drew a walk off Chapman. Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny, brought in Jose Martinez to pinch hit for Kolten Wong. One a 1-2 count, Martinez laced a double into left field that traveled to the wall.
Here is where it gets interesting.
Grichuk took off for second base looking at the play as it developed in front of him. As he began closing in on third base, it seemed as if he began to slow down, anticipating a hold sign from third base coach Chris Maloney.
However, Maloney started to wave Grichuk right until the short stop received the throw from left field. Maloney gave Grichuk the hold sign and the Cardinals now had two on and two out with Dexter Fowler coming up to bat.
Unfortunately, Fowler could not bring Grichuk in to tie the game. But, many were left wondering if Maloney made the right call to hold Grichuk.
So, did Maloney make the right call? Let’s take a look at both cases.
Maloney made the right call
As the play developed, you might have thought the Cardinals were about to score against Chapman for the first time since 2011. You probably even were doing the “go ahead” sign with Maloney, until you saw the short stop receive the ball.
At the time the short stop received the ball, Grichuk was a mere two to three steps off third. Maloney reacted instinctively and threw up the “hold” sign and saved the Cardinals from an out at the plate.
More than likely he was going to be out, right? Well don’t worry. MLB’s Statcast offered a little insight to the play and what might have been had Maloney sent Grichuk.
Here is what we know. Grichuk needed to travel a total of 270 feet to score the tying run from first base. After his secondary lead of 11.4 feet, his total distance remaining dropped to 259 feet. At that distance Grichuk would need about 8.6 seconds to reach home.
Recall from the video the average MLB player takes approximately 4 seconds in between each base. If we take the numbers from Statcast, the average amount of seconds between in each base is about 3.64 seconds.
Let’s assume Grichuk runs the last 90 feet in about 3.64 seconds. That means that from first to home, based on the number provided, Grichuk would’ve made it home in roughly 10.9 seonds.
As I mentioned earlier, Grichuk would roughly need 8.6 seconds to reach home from about 259 feet of distance. He would need about 9 seconds from 270 feet away. So what this tell us is that Grichuk was running slower than he needed, by about two full seconds, to reach home.
Now let’s add the other variable in the equation: the ball. According to Statcast the SS received the ball 157 feet away from home plate. Statcast assumes the SS will throw the ball at 90 mph.
At that speed, the ball will reach home in about 1.4 seconds. I’ll allot at least an extra half second or so to complete the tag and what not, so really 1.5 (nit picking here).
You can see where this is going, right?
Grichuk needs at least 3.64 seconds to reach home. The ball needs 1.5 seconds to complete the play. Grichuk is out by a mile or, if you want to come full circle with me, by the two seconds I projected Grichuk missed when running the bases. Mind blown.
Had the play happened, Grichuk would have been about a third of the way down the line by the time the ball reached home. Yikes.
So if you’re Chris Maloney and those firmly in the “yes” camp, the numbers don’t lie.
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Take the chance and send him home
Hard to argue the evidence above, but that’s what I’m about to do. However, from here on out will be some guess work and some opinionated conclusions. Who knows, maybe you are in the “no” camp after all.
If you are going to live and die by the Statcast video, then I’m sorry. While the video gives us the numbers behind the play, it doesn’t account for the single most thing in baseball when it comes to defense: human error.
I haven’t found the probability of the play actually being recorded as an out, but I think the Statcast video does an awful lot of assuming as the play happens.
For instance, at no point does the video mention the probability of either the left fielder’s throw or the short stop’s throw. It just simply says if the short stop throws it at 90 mph it would take 1.4 seconds to reach home.
While the number portion might be true, how do you not account for human error at all? Now it’s obvious that the left fielder made a decent throw into the short stop, but what would have happened if Maloney sends Grichuk?
Does the short stop rush his throw? Does the throw come in at exactly 90 mph? Does the ball get away from the catcher? Does the ball hit Grichuk before getting home? Does the play result in a obstruction call on the catcher?
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Like I said earlier, I am only making opinionated conclusions. However, I think these are fair questions in light of what could have happened. Sure, the Cardinals would have been taking a big risk sending him to the plate. But, ill say it again. They haven’t scored off Chapman since 2011.
If you are the Cardinals, you have to win at all costs. I know there are those out there that say “send him” based on the fact that at least they are trying. I’m not saying the Yankees don’t make that play, but how can you ever be that sure?
There are a couple of takeaways that I’ll mention before I say what I would’ve done.
1. Route running efficiency: My numbers aren’t perfect in the sense that Grichuk doesn’t take a 90 degree angle turn at every base. It’s impossible to do so, but I would really like to see what that looks like. If he ran the most efficient route and still would have been beat by two seconds, then the call is a no brainer. Also, bigger lead?
2. Maloney has some nerve: It takes a good coach to know when to send and when to send runners. If you blame this loss on Maloney, shame on you. He made the call that he felt best. If anything it should have been a signal to Dexter Fowler saying get it done.
3. Start Jose Martinez: Enough said.
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So what would I have done? Send him. If he is out he is out, but I went down trying to score. I’ll take the chance that everything is going to go perfectly for the Yankees. Baseball is a fine line. The Cardinals have to be bold enough to walk it. What would you have done?