In the fourth inning of Friday night's game between the Los Angeles Angels and host Texas Rangers, an eventual 9-6 win for the Angels, Halos manager Joe Maddon dialed up a tactical decision not often glimpsed – the bases-loaded intentional walk.
Rather than face Texas shortstop Corey Seager, who came into this game with a slash line of .308/.381/.543 since the start of the 2020 season and had the platoon advantage, Maddon ordered him walked by reliever Austin Warren even though the bases were juiced. That forced home Charlie Culberson and gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead. Here's a look:
Out in center, a plainly flummoxed Mike Trout appeared to be verifying that, yes, this happened with three runners on base:
After the walk, Mitch Garver hit a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-2 in Texas' favor, and then Warren balked home Marcus Semien to make it 6-2. Adolis Garcia then popped out to end the inning.
Needless to say, you don't see this sort of thing very often:
Intentional walks with bases loaded, since 1950:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 16, 2022
Corey Seager, tonight
Josh Hamilton, 2008
Barry Bonds, 1998
Tonight & '08 were vs Joe Maddon-managed teams
Bear in mind, though, that as noted the Angels were behind at the time of the Seager intentional pass. That makes this decision even more of a historical rarity:
So was it the right decision? That's impossible to say for the simple reason that we can't know how Seager would've fared had he been allowed to hit, but the frame didn't go very well for the Angels after Maddon's unconventional lever-pulling. On average, teams that have the bases loaded and one out, which was the base-out situation when Seager came up, score 1.56 runs. The Rangers wound up scoring three runs after that point, one of which on Seager's IBB, so in that sense they beat the average – almost doubled it, actually.
That average runs scored reflects the presence of an average hitter at the plate with the bases loaded and one out, and Seager is much better than that (particularly if allowed to face a right-handed pitcher, which Warren is). That said, the mathematical reality is that Seager was probably going to make an out in that situation even as good as he is and even with the platoon advantage in his favor. That's just the nature of hitting in baseball. As well, teams with the bases loaded and one out score three or more runs from that spot forward a bit less than 19 percent of the time. While Seager's a darn good hitter, he's not peak Barry Bonds. It bears repeating that we can't call this a demonstrably poor decision, but Maddon's decision probably helped the Texas cause in this game.
If nothing else, it was compelling (some might choose another adjective), and the fact that the Angels mounted a comeback and won the game surely inoculates Maddon from an abundance of second-guessing.