Laynce Nix made just his seventh career start at first base last night. He also laid down only his fifth career sacrifice bunt attempt. There were a number of things in that sequence that made me scratch my head, perhaps the least of which was the actual Nix bunt.
As it played out in real time, I was conversing with Bill Baer (@crashburnalley) of Crashburn Alley. Bill is a man of numbers, truth and justice. I suggested the move that ended up playing out, minus the bunt, and Bill quickly pointed something out:
I was surprised but Bill was probably right: Nix is .253/.296/.450 against righties and John Mayberry Jr. .232/.313/.438. Mayberry gives you a slightly better chance of getting on base if you keep him in while Nix gives you a slightly better chance of hitting a double or HR. Since Nix was in front of Mayberry, the decision should have been predicated on what Nix could do and it should not have been a reactionary decision based on what Nix did. Perhaps the most perplexing decision of the night, having Nix bunt, was made further confusing to have Pence steal, bringing the Phillies to the exact outcome they would have had had they just let Nix take a pitch or two, had Pence run on the slower-than-normal to the plate Hanrahan, and fired away from there.
The result last night was a loss. One that could have and should have very easily been a win with some minor tinkering. The failed bunt attempt left the window open for even further catastrophy: bringing Thome in there forced the Phillies to use one of their last remaining bench players, Wigginton, and lost any defensive pluses they had with Mayberry in left. Nix had made a nice stab at first earlier in the night and looked comfortable there. This move luckily was not compounded by an error in left or at first that really would have driven the point home that this was not the most optimal move.
There were some very questionable stretches of selecting pitchers down the stretch, with instances of high leverage where it may have been optimal to bring in Jonathan Papelbon or keep Antonio Bastardo in versus bringing in Joe Blanton. I’ll let Bill explain that, though.
If the Phils are going to leave Nix in in that situation, you let him fire away. He’s not your biggest power threat but he’ll give you an opportunity against a righty like Hanrahan to hit a double, which may have scored Pence from first. Unfortunately, could haves and should haves don’t register in the standings and thankfully the Phillies have an opportunity to avenge their loss today. This time, Charlie is starting bunting machine Juan Pierre and giving Big Jim a shot at first. If Thome bunts today, Charlie will have some more questions to answer.