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August 8, 2011 / Nat Anacostia

A rule of thumb for managers

Managers,

It’s getting late in the game, and your starter’s pitch count is getting high. It’s still a close game, you’ve got a runner on base, and your pitcher is coming to bat. Should you lift him for a pinch hitter?

Because calculating the win expectancies may be challenging even for a manager who majored in math, let me suggest that you use a simple rule of thumb. Ask yourself, “If my pitcher walks the first guy he faces in the next inning, will I lift him for a reliever?” If the answer is yes, then send in a pinch hitter now. The extra pitching value from leaving him in to face one or two or three more batters won’t be as great as the offensive value given up by having your pitcher bat in a high leverage situation.

Jim Riggleman used to get this strategy wrong, and yesterday Davey Johnson got it wrong as well.

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