The Rangers lost a one-run game last night, 4-3 against the Cleveland Indians at home. It was a game Texas had a chance to win at the end.
Down 4-2, Nomar Mazara led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double, followed by a Mike Napoli RBI double that came mere feet from clearing the center field wall to tie the game. So down a run with no outs and a man on second base, Texas had Rougned Odor, Ryan Rua, and Joey Gallo due up. The prevailing thought, at least in my mind, was that at least one of these guys could get a hit, maybe more.
Rougned Odor ended up striking out on eight pitches, and then manager Jeff Banister made a decision that, according to my Twitter timeline both during and since the game, wasn't very well-liked. He pinch-hit Jurickson Profar for Rua.
It seems that many felt that letting the righty Rua remain in the game would have been a more prudent decision at the time as opposed to getting Profar up as a left-handed bat. And to a certain extent, I get it: While the exact difficulty isn't very well agreed upon, the idea that hitters perform worse coming off the bench than hitters already in the game is backed up by a strong history to prove it. Furthermore, in an era of more specialized bullpens, it's entirely possible that the penalty is even more severe than back in the good ol' days.
And yet, I can't help but think that, despite the ensuing Profar strikeout on a pitch that could have -- maybe should have -- been called a ball, the reasoning behind Banister's decision was sound.
First, let's consider that Cleveland closer Cody Allen is a right-handed pitcher. In 2016, he faced 124 left-handed hitters and 140 right-handed hitters. The lefties posted up a wOBA 70 points higher than the righties at .292. If we want to put an even finer point on it, opponent slugging percentage was 112 points higher at .382 when the hitter was standing in the left-handed box. That's not nothing, nor is it exactly insignificant.
Moving back over to the Rangers, let's consider Ryan Rua for a moment. Without even considering who you're pinch-hitting for him, it's important to determine, "Should you consider pinch-hitting for him?"
In 2016, Rua took 116 plate appearances against lefties, 153 against righties. Maybe not the largest sample size, but it's the most recent "large" sample we have to work with here. The results? A .337 wOBA against the left-handers and .301 against right-handers. Translated to wRC+ -- where 100 is league average -- that comes in at 107 and 82, respectively. The gap is at least significant. So we have our answer to the question. Yes, maybe you should consider pinch-hitting for Ryan Rua in a late-game situation when it necessitates a platoon advantage.
Enter Jurickson Profar. Profar was abysmal against left-handed pitching in 2016, posting up a wOBA of .212 (wRC+ 21). That's of no consequence at this point in the exercise. The pitcher he was coming in to face was a right-hander, and Profar -- batting out of the left-handed box as a lefty -- put up a .322 wOBA (wRC+ of 97) in 2016 in 231 such plate appearances. So yes, Profar profiles as a guy who should hit right-handed pitching better than Ryan Rua.
And when you're attempting to tie or win a game, you take any advantage you can get, which is exactly what Jeff Banister did. Now, to argue the finer point of whether or not Profar's "pinch hit penalty" was significant enough that Ryan Rua should have hit for himself in that situation is another matter entirely. But on the surface, taking the platoon advantage was probably the right call, even if it didn't work out.
When you play the laws of averages and flip a coin 100 times, you'd expect it to come up heads 50 times and tails 50 times. You wouldn't necessarily expect those to occur one by one in sequence.
So, while I've been one of the more vocal critics of Jeff Banister in the past -- mostly regarding his bullpen usage last season -- I can't really fault him for playing the odds in the second game of 162. It just didn't work out this time.