The conventional wisdom is that right- and left- handed pitchers pitch "better" (low ERA) to batters of the same "handedness," (because pitcher prefer to pitch "inside.")

The game (Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis) is in extra innings. Pittsburgh leads 2-1, having scored a run in the top of the twelfth. Pittsburgh has a right handed reliever, Rhadames Liz, who gets "one on and one out" against two right handed batters. It's down to the last two outs.

The first, second, and fourth batters coming up (Kolton Wong, Jon Jay, and Matt Carpenter are left-handed); Peter Bourjos in the third spot, is right-handed.

Pittsburgh has two left handed relievers who have worked one inning in each of the two previous games, but only a total of three innings each in the previous week. Why not use one, or even both lefties to get the last two outs?

Liz gave up a single and a walk, loading the bases, and then a single for the tying run in the 12th. After pitching a perfect 13th, he gave up the losing run in the 14th because the Pirates couldn't score.

One more consideration: The following day (today) is an off day, giving relievers a chance to rest.

Would a general manager have reason to question a manager for 1) violating the conventional wisdom about right- versus- left handed match ups and 2) NOT playing to win or lose the game in the current inning to spare future relievers?

  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is too specific to a certain manager's decision.
    – Joe
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 20:35
  • I don't think questions asking "Why did a manager do X" that are specific to a single game and decision are appropriate; there are too many factors that could be in play that nobody here would be aware of. General "why would X do Y" are good questions, but not when it is this specific.
    – Joe
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 20:35
  • 1
    Tom - I would've suggested an edit if (to me, at least) it was that easy. Here you're saying "Conventional wisdom is X, why did manager decide to do Y"? Changing it to "how" is no better - there's no way to know unless the manager posts here. Asking what the conventional wisdom is would be fine (and you clearly know what that is); asking what factors might go into not following the conventional wisdom might be fine depending on the question; but all those specifics make it hard to see an answerable question.
    – Joe
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 20:39
  • I agree with @Joe. This would be a good question for the manager after the game, but would be purely speculation by any user on this site. Those lefties could have been tired, sore, or hurt. Some players even though they are left handed hitters, hit left handed pitchers better than right handed (although not all that common). Maybe the manager went with his "gut". Impossible to know without the manager answering the question.
    – diggers3
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 21:43
  • 3
    I'm going to disagree completely and say this is a perfectly valid question. Anyone can give a well-researched and evidence-supported answer. We happily accept questions analysing referee/umpire decisions, I don't see why we can't objectively question coaching/management decicions. See here: meta.sports.stackexchange.com/questions/530/… Commented May 7, 2015 at 4:28

2 Answers 2


While it is usually to a hitter's advantage to hit against an opposite throwing pitcher it is not always that simple. Some left handed hitters have a better season average against left hand pitchers while some right hand pitchers have better luck against left hand batters. The manager can look at each individual situation as they come up . . is the pitcher on his game tonite or is the hitter on a streak? Not as simple as looking at right vs. left


There are two parts to consider when answering this. The first one regarding right-handed pitchers being better against right-handed batters, and vice-versa with lefties. The second is the situation itself.

The first thing to consider is kind of what @Larry mentioned with splits not actually holding true to that thinking. It more depends on the pitcher's pitch selection. For instance, cut fastballs actually break to inside of an opposite handed hitter. An example of this is Mariano Rivera (a righty), who had one of the best cutters in the game. He actually allowed a career .213 BA to right-handed hitters and a .206 BA to left-handed hitters (better against lefties) because his pitch broke that way. It more depends on the break of the pitches, which is why there are a lot of right-handers that are more effective against RH batters, and vice-versa.

The second part of this is the specific situation (I found the game so I could reference it). In the game, Worley started and lasted 6 innings, which meant that by the time Liz came in, the Pirates had already used 4 of their relief pitchers (he was #5). ML teams usually carry 12 or 13 pitchers, 5 of which are your starting rotation that will almost never see relief, which means you have 7 relief pitchers. This means they had 2 left in their bullpen in a 2-1 game that had already gone 12 innings. In extra inning games, you generally stretch pitchers out more than usual because you never know how long the game will go and you don't want to run out of pitchers. In that case, you're looking at a game in which one team had scored 1 run in 12 innings and the other team 2...scoring isn't coming easy, meaning that game could easily go 15+ innings. At that point, you have position players pitching, which furthers their risk of injury too. This is why you don't see a pitcher coming in during the 12th inning to face 1 batter. Generally, they try to get at least 2 innings from each pitcher. If Worley had lasted another inning or 2, you might have seen the change since it would have saved 2 pitchers for later. With him lasting only 6 though, your bullpen was already pressed into action earlier than normal.

  • As a manager, I'd do what you suggest if the game were tied. But here, I have a 2-1 lead, which is to say that the game is "mine to lose." I want to minimize my chances of losing my lead in the 12th inning, but if I do, I'm not going to worry about the 13th and subsequent innings. Just let the last reliever stay in until he loses the game.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 15:56

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