After a couple quiet weeks on the squeeze front, the baseball gods smile on us with seven tries, including four suicides and a safety squeeze by noted bunt detractors, the Oakland Athletics, that led to insulting a pregnant woman on Twitter!
Updated season leaders (full list)
Game: Oakland at Houston, 2013/4/5 (box, 8-3 Athletics win)
Situation: Top 5, one out, 0-0 count, runners at 1st/3rd, Oakland up 3-0
Pitcher: Xavier Cedeno
Batter: John Jaso
Runner on 3rd: Josh Reddick
Leverage index: 0.97
Win probability added: 3.4%
And the first squeeze of the year is called by . . . Oakland? Team Moneyball is known for their reluctance to play small ball and give away outs. The Houston TV team wondered if affinity for this play (the 1st/3rd squeeze) was brought by Jaso from Tampa. Tampa did finish #2 on the Suicidal Tendencies list last year.
In any case, the squeeze is a rarity by Oakland. Below are the number of sacrifice bunts the A’s have run in the Billy Beane era. After Beane’s conversion to statistical analysis (~2000), the A’s have only been above league in sac hits once, in 2010 (AL average ~35-38 per year).
Only six of those were with a runner on third (scoring runs on all 6). One of those (2008-05-16 vs Atlanta) might not have even been a squeeze with Dana Eveland, a pitcher, at the plate and runners at 1st/3rd. The play was probably just to move the runner from first to second base with the run scoring on a throwing error.
Of course, the best time for a squeeze is when the opposition isn’t expecting it. So perhaps the last 12 years have lulled the league into a false sense of security.
One other note… The A’s executed a safety squeeze at the end of spring training.
Game: Oakland at Toronto, July 26 (box, 10-4 Blue Jays win)
Situation: Bottom 6, one out, 0-1 count, runners at 2nd/3rd, Toronto down 4-3
Pitcher: Tommy Milone
Batter: Travis Snider
Runner on 3rd: Colby Rasmus
Leverage index: 2.5
Win probability added: +14.2%
Baseball fan bucket list: seen two runs score on a squeeze, check.
Dandy Squeeze Score (what’s this?): +3 (+1, success; +1, batter reaches base; +1, down one run; +1, two runs score)
Leverage index: 2.4
Win probability added: +8.8%
The Athletics entered the bottom of 6th inning at Texas with a 3-2 lead, but after Mike Napoli was dispatched on strikes, a Mitch Moreland home run tied the game. Two more hits put runners at the corners with Elvis Andrus to be followed by the heart of the order. In this situation, the Rangers offense is capable of bludgeoning the opposition. Ron Washington instead opted for the squeeze, not entirely indefensible with the speedy Andrus at the plate. Andrus did not repay the faith of his manager however, bunting the first pitch in the air back toward the pitcher. Brandon McCarthy dove for the pop up and appeared to make a great catch, ensuring a double play to end the inning. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz somehow saw the play otherwise. He immediately and decisively ruled the play a trap, allowing the run to score and the inning to continue. A’s manager Bob Melvin argued vehemently and earned himself an ejection. Replays appear to support his case, and the play will be added to the campaign for increased use of technology to review umpire decisions.
For the moment, the call dramatically changed the complexion of the game. As called, the Rangers win probability increased to 77%. However, an inning ending double play would have kept the score tied going to the seventh inning, a 27 point swing in win probability. A Josh Reddick home run in the top of the seventh rectified the blown call, and the A’s retook the lead in the 10th for the win.
Dandy Squeeze Score (what’s this?): +4 (+1, success; +1, suicide; +1, batter reaches base; +1, right-handed pitcher; -1, bunt popped up; +1, tie game)
Game: Seattle at Oakland, April 6 (box, 7-3 Mariners win)
Situation: Top 6, one out, 1-0 count, runners at 1st/3rd, Seattle up 5-2
Pitcher: Jordan Norberto
Batter: Chone Figgins
Runner on 3rd: Michael Saunders
Leverage index: 0.9
Win probability added: +3.0%
Dandy Squeeze Score (what’s this?): +2 (+1, success; +1, batter reaches base)