(Photo: Ben Rouse)
The Brewers win on Monday got pretty hairy in the ninth inning, when the Cubs scored two runs and ultimately stranded the bases loaded. Alfonso Soriano scored the first run, and was in scoring position thanks to defensive indifference by the Brewers with nobody out. In hindsight, it seems like the Brewers might have saved themselves (and their fans) a little stress by holding the runner at first.
It made me wonder if anyone has done a cost-benefit analysis of defensive indifference. I came across this data from Baseball Prospectus that shows defensive indifference sharply increased from the mid-90’s to the mid-00’s.
Surely, teams would not practice defensive indifference if they thought it could cost them a game, but it contributed to the Brewers nearly giving up the lead on Monday. At the very least, defensive indifference with no outs would appear to notably reduce the likelihood of a win in certain circumstances.
The best info I have been able to find with some cursory online searching is in this 2011 blog post by author and statistician Tom Tango. He says if a team is down by two runs in the bottom of the ninth with one out, with a runner on second base, the chance of a win is .129. In the same situation but with two outs, the win expectancy is .052. Tango’s conclusion: “So, defensive indifference with 2 outs is fine. With 1 out? Not really.”
With no outs and a five-run lead? Based on Monday’s outcome, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to say defensive indifference in that case was imprudent.
I may be the only person who feels this way, but it drives me crazy that runners get no credit for a stolen base when the scorer ruled defensive indifference. He may *guess* there is no play on, but he still has to make the effort and is moving up. I can see why you don't want to punish the catcher and pitcher statistically, but I think the runner deserves some sort of credit.