Buck Showalter's $2,000,000 tactic
From Tom Verducci's article on Buck Showalter, in the March 28, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated:
"Showalter had schooled his players on this: runners at first and third, less than two outs and a ground ball that the second baseman fields near the baseline. Most runners on first are taught either to stop or head toward the infield grass, making it hard for the second baseman to tag them and still have time to throw to first for the double play. Showalter taught the Orioles to slide directly into the second baseman, essentially breaking up a double play in the baseline. "That's six to 10 outs a year if we do it right," Showalter said. Which is 0.2% of the more than 4,000 outs a team gets over a season."
Well, an extra six to ten outs is a lot. Plus, it's not just the outs: it's also the extra runner at first base.
Assuming the runner on third always stays put, and doing a little arithmetic with Tango's base/out matrix:
Suppose there's one out. If the team turns the double play, the inning ends and the run expectancy is zero. If they don't, it's first and third with two outs, which is worth .538 runs.
Suppose there's no outs. Runners on 1st and 3rd with one out is worth 1.243 runs. Runner on 3rd with two outs is worth .387 runs. Difference: .856 runs.
Now, most of the time there'll be one out (it's a lot easier to get two runners on with one out than with no outs). Again from Tango, it's about a 2:1 ratio of one out over no outs. That means the .538 happens twice as often as the .856, which means each broken-up double play averages .644 runs.
"Six to 10" instances of saving .644 runs is 4 to 6 runs. Call it 5.
A free-agent win is worth about $4.5 million. A win is about 10 runs. So, at free-agent rates, 5 runs is worth over two million dollars.
So Buck Showalter has saved his team $2,000,000 -- over half his salary -- in that one small on-field strategy change.
I don't know anything about on-field strategy, so I have no way to evaluate all that. So these questions are for you SMEs reading this.
Will Showalter's strategy work? Is 6-10 outs a reasonable estimate of what it saves? Are there unstated drawbacks that negate those outs?
By sharing the strategy with Sports Illustrated, Showalter runs the risk that all other teams will adopt it, completely negating the Orioles' $2 million advantage. Why would he do that?
I guess I'm thinking that the story sounds a bit too pat. But, I don't really know. Your comments?