White Sox manager Tony La Russa, no stranger to criticism or second-guessing during his year-plus at the helm in Chicago, made an unusual and costly tactical error in the sixth inning of Thursday’s 11-9 loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers (box score).
The Dodgers, up by a 7-5 margin, had a runner on first base and two outs in the inning when Trea Turner stepped to the plate against White Sox lefty Bennett Sousa. Sousa worked an 0-2 count against Turner before uncorking a wild pitch that allowed the runner to advance. Rather than allow Sousa to continue against Turner with a 1-2 count in his favor, La Russa called for an intentional walk — the first of the season to come in a two-strike count — to bring up Max Muncy, who was making his return from an elbow injury.
That proved to be the wrong decision in shorter order, as Muncy unloaded a three-run home run on the fifth pitch he saw, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 10-5:
A reasonable person might ask, what the heck was La Russa thinking? Here’s our best attempt at explaining his thought process. It boils down to La Russa 1) greatly overestimating Turner’s chances of getting a hit and scoring another run (we can say for sure La Russa wasn’t concerned about Turner drawing a walk, since he issued one); and 2) greatly underestimating Muncy’s chances of extending the inning.
It’s true that Turner entered the game with a .303 batting average on the season, but that mark isn’t representative of his true odds of recording a knock given the count. Turner has hit .269 in at-bats that have reached a 1-2 count this season, and even that number likely overstates his chances, seeing as how he’s a career .226 hitter in those situations.
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