To walk Edgar Renteria or not to walk Edgar Renteria?


Today the media has been going crazy debating whether Cliff Lee should have walked Edgar Renteria to face Aaron Rowand. At first I was going crazy as well. To me it should not have even been a question- PITCH TO EDGAR RENTERIA! I mean, it’s Cliff Lee v. Edgar freakin’ Renteria!

2nd_3rd 0 0.144 0.249 0.307 0.147 0.079 0.074
2nd_3rd 1 0.305 0.285 0.218 0.101 0.053 0.038
2nd_3rd 2 0.724 0.054 0.141 0.049 0.021 0.011
Loaded 0 0.128 0.255 0.211 0.143 0.134 0.13
Loaded 1 0.33 0.252 0.151 0.106 0.093 0.068
Loaded 2 0.675 0.092 0.105 0.055 0.048 0.025

That is the Run Expectancy table for bases loaded situations and 2nd and 3rd situations. The run values start at 0 on the left and incrementally go up by 1 as you move to the right.

So when Renteria came to the plate, there were men on 2nd and 3rd with two outs. If you pitch to him the chances of getting out of the inning scoreless is 72.4%. The chance of allowing 1 run is 5.4%, the chance of allowing 2 runs is 14.1%, and the chance of allowing 3 runs is 4.9%.

If you walk him to load the bases, the chance of allowing 0 runs is 67.5%, the chance of allowing of 1 run is 9.2%, the chance of allowing 2 runs is 10.5%, and the chance of allowing 3 runs is 5.5%.

The obvious move appears to be pitching to Renteria. The percentage chance of getting out of the inning clean is 4.9 higher, while the odds of giving up runs is higher when you do walk him.

HOWEVER, there are some other factors we need to take into account.

Edgar Renteria is a below average hitter. In order from 2008, his wRC+ has been 86, 69, and 95 over 1324 PA. However, he has and still can mash lefties. For his career, in 1353 PA, Renteria has a .404 OBP, .503 SLG, and 143 wRC+ against lefties. In 3793 PA against righties, he has a wRC+ of 93. That’s a sizable difference. Now I’m not going to run a platoon split regression whatever, but I’d imagine that the results would tell us Edgar’s true talent against lefties is well above average.

The batter behind Aaron Edgar Renteria is Aaron Rowand. He too has sucked the past three years, with wRC+, starting in 2008, of 97, 96, and 77 over 1514 PA. Unlike Renteria, he has no noticeable skill against lefties. In 1268 PA against lefties he has a wRC+ of 117, compared to 102 in 3050 PA against righties. So his true skill is just average against both lefties and righties, although its probably even lower than that as of today because he has not been a good hitter for a while now.

So it’s established that the hitter behind Renteria is an inferior pitcher against lefties, which Cliff Lee. Now it’s also important to remember that the more times through a lineup a pitcher goes, the higher his wOBA Against will be. When Lee faced Renteria, it was his third time through the lineup. Even an elite pitcher like Lee pitches like a league average pitcher the third or fourth time through a lineup.

In essence, at that particular moment in the game, the match-up was a slightly above pitcher versus an above average hitter. However, had Renteria been walked the match-up would have become a slightly above pitcher versus a below average hitter in Rowand.

So although the Run Expectancy table says not to walk Renteria, in this specific case, considering other factors, the smart move was to walk Renteria. “The Book” also does say that if you walk someone before the ninth, the best time to do it is with 2nd and 3rd in a tie game, as the lead runner won’t be advancing and you’re not putting the winning run on base, since they already are on base. Moreover, one of the biggest aspects of walking a better is the relative performance of the on-deck hitters. Well, we already discussed how Renteria, in that situation, has a much better skill or talent level than Rowand, so there is a talent and wOBA disparity in that match-up.

The Rangers should have walked Edgar Renteria to face Aaron Rowand. However, the whole thing could have been avoided had Texas simply brought in a fresh, righty arm from the pen.

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