Bottom of the 10th, 2 outs, Dodgers trailing 3-2. Reed Johnson is on first and Scott Podsednik bloops a single to center. Johnson is running on contact and the centerfielder is slow getting the ball back to the infield. Dodgers 3B coach Larry Bowa sends Johnson home. Here's what Larry Bowa and Joe Torre had to say:
Fowler made a perfect throw to Tulowitzki, and the Rockies' rifle-armed shortstop then fired a bullet to catcher Miguel Olivo, who was waiting for Johnson when he got to the plate. Olivo applied the easy tag on the sliding Johnson, ending the game.
"They made two good plays," Bowa said. "If he makes it, it's a good play. If he doesn't, it's a bad play. I take the blame for it. I don't think you guys [the media] have talked to me [about getting a runner thrown out] in three years, so I must be doing all right."
Torre said Bowa's decision was the right one.
"That was the only play for us," Torre said. "They had to make perfect throws, especially the relay. When Bo sent Reed, that is exactly what I would have done. Unfortunately, they made a perfect throw to the plate."
Well, let's think about that in a bit more detail. I watched the replay a few times and it looks like Johnson is approaching 3rd base as the ball is thrown. The breakeven distance for advancing from 3rd on a fly ball is about 250 feet - the ball wasn't hit nearly that far, but Johnson is also running as opposed to starting from a stop. Based on run expectancy matrices, if they'd held him, the Dodgers could have expected approximately 0.5 future runs starting from 1st-and-3rd with two outs. Some of that comes from big innings, so the Dodgers have maybe a 40% chance of scoring the tying run at the very least. So the question becomes...
Did Reed Johnson have a 40% chance of scoring? I'd argue not. Fowler hit the cutoff man, who threw the ball to the catcher, and Johnson was out by about 10 feet. I have a hard time believing that a mediocre runner had a 60% chance of scoring. It might have been a 50-50 situation, certainly not as cut-and-dried as Bowa and Torre make it seem.