The hit and run play: when it works and the batter pokes a single through the right side of the infield resulting in runners on the corners and nobody out, boy, it’s a thing of friggin’ beauty. When it doesn’t and results in a strike-em-out/throw-em-out double play it’s the most maddening thing on the planet.
But does it work? In the aggregate, I mean?
That’s the question Mike Fast of Baseball Prospectus attempted to answer. And he does so with a thoroughness that is pretty damn breathtaking.
Be warned, though: if you’re the sort of person who glazes over when confronted with graphs and charts and things, you may just want to scroll to the conclusion. Which, wouldn’t you know it, is full of nuance and complexity, just like everything else worth knowing in life:
The hit-and-run is far from the worst play in baseball. For a small-ball tactic, it has been quite successful over the past nine seasons, increasing scoring by .06 runs per attempt on average … However, there are some situations where the hit-and-run attempt made less sense and was a barely positive or even a net negative play—with the fourth and fifth hitters in the lineup up, with one out, or in the popular ball-strike count of 2-1.
I suppose that won’t stop the old school guys from thinking it’s the best thing ever and the stat guys from thinking it’s the worst thing ever. But hey, there’s fun in that stuff too.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.