PITTSBURGH - MAY 06: Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates lays down a bunt against the Houston Astros during the game on May 6, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
I'm not totally sure why I'm still so annoyed about this, but I wish Clint Hurdle would give a full explanation of his brutal eighth-inning decision on Friday to have Andrew McCutchen bunt with no outs, a man on first, and a one-run deficit. It leaves me wondering whether he thinks the fans don't actually want to know why he what he did, or he doesn't care that they want to know, or if wasn't really thinking much of anything.
Or could Hurdle have let McCutchen swing away, even without Paul in motion, because McCutchen has grounded into just 10 double plays in 1,282 major league at-bats?
"We thought about it," Hurdle said Saturday. "There were a number of things we thought about through that."
One of the factors at play was that Houston right-handed reliever Wilton Lopez is not particularly fast or slow to the plate.
"The time from the pitcher was one where it wasn't a gimme one way or the other," Hurdle said. "So, get the guy to second. I wanted to make sure we got the guy to second and got the shot at getting the run in that way.
"So, yeah, we thought through that. We thought through a bunch of things."
Hurdle thought about the fact that McCutchen never grounds into double plays, and then decided to have him bunt anyway? Okay.
He thought about how Lopez is "not particularly fast or slow to the plate," which is a decent reason not to have Xavier Paul, who has never been an especially proficient basestealer, try to swipe second. But it does not explain why Hurdle didn't let one of his best hitters - a fast guy who rarely grounds into double plays - try to hit. I'd love to know what else was among the "bunch of things" Hurdle thought about, but they're probably lost now, buried in the portion of his brain reserved for neoclassical architecture and Persian calligraphy and the landscape of Lesotho. I'm sure Hurdle thinks a "bunch of things" about those subjects too, and that he didn't just think "BUNT GOOD!" and call for a play that cost the Pirates a chance to win the game.
If there's a serious explanation for what happened here, let's hear it. If not, perhaps Hurdle could study this, which doesn't even take into account that McCutchen is good, or the Astros can easily just bring in a lefty against Garrett Jones with two outs. (Or this, if you're of the opinion that it's a good idea to play for a tie in the eighth inning - with no outs and a man on first, there's roughly a 44 percent chance of scoring at least one run. With one out and a man on second, there's a 40 percent chance. And again, that's before considering that the batter is McCutchen.)
Obviously, Hurdle has forgotten more about baseball than I'll ever know, but if he's going to do something that clearly appears to be negative expected value, I would really appreciate a list of the "bunch of things" he's thinking about. Otherwise, I'll have to just assume he's costing the Pirates wins.
UPDATE: My wording in the last paragraph might have been confusing, but I wasn't saying that Hurdle's decision to have McCutchen bunt clearly cost the Pirates the game. That would be absurd. I'm saying that, over time, the play has negative expected value, and will in the long run cost the Pirates wins. You can add in "he's costing the Pirates fractions of wins" if that doesn't make sense.