One thing I love about Orix Buffaloes manager Norifumi Nishimura is his willingness to speak his mind. Of course, as one of Japan’s principle advocates of the sacrifice bunt, that means ascribing all kinds of benefits to the tactic.
Nishimura attributed Orix’s 9-2 loss to the SoftBank Hawks on Sunday to:
- His starting pitcher repeatedly throwing pitches that were easy to hit
- His No. 2 hitter failing to sacrifice after his leadoff man reached in the 1st inning.
Mind you, his starting pitcher, rookie Daichi Takeyasu had been fairly sharp in his four previous starts. But still, Nishimura is asserting that getting the runner to scoring position with one out could have prevented the ass-whipping that was to follow.
Is it reasonable to assume that a visiting pitcher would do better if he entered the bottom of the first with the one-run lead Nishimura lives to play for?
Here’s a quick study from the available data including recent starting pitchers, and how they performed on the road in those games when they went to the mound in the first inning of games that were either scoreless or 1-0. Included only those in which I have a record of them with a minimum of 50 innings as a starter in games that were 1-0 after the top of the first.
|Name||IP 1-0 starts||ERA 1-0 starts||ERA 0-0 starts||Win Pct 0-0 starts||Win Pct 1-0 starts||ERA Diff .|
|Kenshin Kawakami||54 1/3||4.14||3.70||0.560||0.750||0.44|
|Takayuki Kishi||107 1/3||2.93||2.54||0.583||0.615||0.39|
|Kazuhisa Ishii||93 2/3||4.04||3.66||0.367||0.444||0.38|
|Hideaki Wakui||142 1/3||4.05||3.77||0.495||0.474||0.28|
|Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi||89 1/3||4.84||4.57||0.404||0.333||0.27|
|Tetsuya Utsumi||151 1/3||3.51||3.54||0.442||0.450||-0.03|
|Kan Otake||124 2/3||3.54||3.61||0.386||0.625||-0.07|
|Koji Uehara||122 2/3||3.08||3.19||0.516||0.600||-0.11|
|Masanori Ishikawa||152 2/3||3.48||3.68||0.388||0.619||-0.20|
|Shunsuke Watanabe||99 2/3||3.79||4.04||0.426||0.500||-0.25|
|Kenichi Nakata||104 2/3||3.61||4.03||0.373||0.692||-0.42|
|Yoshihisa Naruse||118 1/3||3.42||3.91||0.375||0.571||-0.49|
|Toshiya Sugiuchi||196 2/3||2.61||3.20||0.494||0.684||-0.59|
|Tsuyoshi Wada||188 1/3||1.96||3.68||0.514||0.941||-1.72|
|Naoyuki Shimizu||86 2/3||3.22||5.11||0.403||0.818||-1.89|
It seems from this data that it might be a good idea to get your pitcher a 1-0 lead in the first inning if you can. Having said that, I think I can see why Randy Messenger‘s teammates have infamously scored so few runs for him: He has done better when they don’t.
So Nishimura’s assertion that one run could have changed everything is probably not as ridiculous as it first sounds. And if your starting pitcher was Tsuyoshi Wada — at least back in the day before he had Tommy John surgery, why the heck wouldn’t you sacrifice in the top of the first if you had a chance?