Letting Cesar Izturis Hit In The Bottom Of The Ninth

The situation:

Orioles down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth against the Blue Jays, with two outs and the bases loaded.

The scheduled hitter:

Cesar Izturis: batting .236/.283/.280 coming into the game, but with two singles – including one with the bases that plated two runs – earlier in the day.

Bench options:

Josh Bell: 3 for 15 with 8 K’s in the majors this season

Jake Fox: batting .227/.267/.381 this season

The decision:

Let Izturis hit versus Shawn Camp, or pinch hit for him?

With two outs, the most important things is not to end the game there – that means OBP is king. A walk ties the game; any normal hit wins it, with Adam Jones at third and Felix Pie on second. Bell is really not an option, so that leaves us with either leave Izzy in there or bring up Fox. Their respective ZiPS projections for the rest of the season:

Izturis: .249/.296/.312
Fox: .265/.311/.444

So clearly Fox is the better hitter overall, but his biggest advantage is in slugging – the things the O’s need least in the given situation.

Camp is a right-handed hurler, so that is to Izturis’ favor – he’s a switch-hitter, while Fox is only a righty swinger. Cesar has enough plate appearances that his career platoon splits (though better versus lefties than righties) are probably pretty accurate. Jake’s need to be regressed quite a bit – he actually has a reverse platoon split in the majors for his short career. Approximate projections versus right-handed pitchers:

Izturis: .243/.293/.303
Fox: .248/.303/.438

So Fox is jut a touch more likely to get on base (and at least tie the game), and a touch more likely to get a hit and win the game. Then we need to include the pinch-hitting penalty, since it’s much harder to come off the bench cold and perform. So the projections for the given situation are more like:

Izturis: .243/.293/.303
Fox: .222/.272/.393

Fox is still the better overall hitter, but Izzy was more likely to tie or win the game. Not much more likely – or very likely in general – but he was the better bet in that situation. The platoon advantage and the pinch-hitting penalty made leaving Cesar in there the correct call, I think. That doesn’t mean manager Juan Samuel did it for the right reasons though; he said it was because Izturis drove in the team’s only runs of the game.