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Jim Leyland's Use Of Small Ball Was Right Call

WARNING: Over-analysis of a single managerial decision in a nine-inning baseball game follows.

The Tigers had a chance to take the lead in the 7th inning of tonight's 4-2 loss, which would've put Scherzer in line for his 7th win of the season, but failed to bring home Alex Avila from scoring position. Here's the talking point: Avila, who led the inning off with a walk, was in scoring position with one out because he was bunted over by Brandon Inge.

A sacrifice bunt from FOX Sports Detroit's perennial player of the game!?!?! That's for the National League birds! Why!? 

Well -- and this comes from someone who only likes small ball in small, appropriate doses -- I think the implementation of it in that situation by Skipper Jim Leyland was absolutely perfect. Remember, the Tigers had only three hits up to that point in the game with the Mendoza-flirting Brandon Inge coming to the plate. Yes, he has seldom power, but the rare chance he gets any kind of hit if he's allowed to swing away is offset by the likeliest outcome: Avila still standing where he was at the beginning of Inge’s at bat.

In a 1-1 game, with Tigers' pitching mowing during the winning streak, you 100-percent bunt your worst hitter to set up a potential game-winning hit for Ramon Santiago (who happens to have respectable "clutch" stats) and – should Santiago not get the job done – the hot-hitting Austin Jackson (who's hitting .333 BA since April 29 and has one of the only three hits in the game). The strategy is backed up by common baseball sense and, in this case, STATS. To read someone essentially say, "well, if Inge would’ve hit a HR there, instead of giving up an out, the Tigers would’ve been up 3-1," to counterpoint the small ball argument makes my head hurt. Yeah, if Martinez would’ve hit a grand slam in the first inning the Tigers would’ve won, just like the Tigers would’ve won had they scored more runs than their opponent.

Some baseball schools of thought write off small ball entirely because, in a very broad sense, it decreases the odds of scoring runs. That's awfully closed-minded, especially since big innings still happen all the time with one out in an inning. Further, Brandon Inge isn't contributing all that much to big innings often, anyway. Needless to say, Leyland having Inge bunt a guy over didn't kill the odds of the Tigers scoring a run any more than Santiago and Jackson did by failing to get hits following the classic sacrifice bunt. It was the right strategy that simply didn't pay off.