After a moderately disastrous start to the 9th inning last night, the Cubs had allowed the tying run to reach third base with two outs, and the Braves sent up Matt Adams to pinch hit.
It was one of those “oh God no” moments, as Adams not only has the residual dusting of Cardinals voodoo magic, but he’s also done nothing but rake since coming over to the Braves. I mean, they literally started playing Freddie Freeman frequently at third base so they could keep Matt Adams in the lineup against righties.
So it was that Adams was set to face a righty, Wade Davis, as the winning run. Contrary to popular wisdom in that moment, Joe Maddon elected to intentionally walk Adams, putting the winning run on base.
According to win expectancies – which are context neutral – the move was not a good one, but maybe not as horrible as you’d imagine: the Cubs’ win expectancy dropped from 83.8% to 80.1%. Given the context (i.e., the batter, his hot streak, the long inning, etc.), I think it was a perfectly justifiable decision by Maddon, even if it was a terrifying one.
Things got much more dicey, though, when you consider that the Braves were never going to let Adams run the bases as the winning run, and maybe that should factor into the context, too. After Dansby Swanson entered as a pinch runner, he easily stole second base, putting the winning run in scoring position, and dropping the Cubs’ win expectancy down to 75.9%. Sean Rodriguez walked, dropping the win expectancy to 72.9%.
Johan Camargo popped out, though, and all is well that ends well.
Now that we know the Cubs won the game and the terror has subsided, it really was a fascinating inning to see unfold, with some of the highest leverage micro-moments you’ll ever see.
I think the decision to walk Adams was among the most interesting moments, given the classic “wisdom” about not putting a winning run on base intentionally. What did you think about the decision at the time, and what do you think now in retrospect?
Like I said, I was nervous as heck when the decision was made, but, at a gut level, I had no real beef with it. Even now, after the fact, knowing the win expectancies, I still think it was a good decision.