Buxton, who has often appeared overmatched at the plate, bunted for a single and chopped a double past the third baseman (a single for just about anybody else). And in the ninth inning, down two runs and facing the high-velocity Bruce Rondon, Paul Molitor opted to pinch-hit for Buxton to open the inning.
With Danny Santana, not Torii Hunter. It was a move not particularly well-received.
Paul Molitor pinch-hit a backup shortstop with .534 OPS and 67/5 K/BB ratio for Byron Buxton. He grounded out. Hate the move on every level.— Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) September 16, 2015
I know he only gets on base at like a .240 clip, but I wouldn't pinch hit for Buxton in the bottom of the 9th. Because if he gets on...— Phil Mackey (@PhilMackey) September 16, 2015
Yeah, that was a weird decision. I could see Hunter in that spot, but I didn't get Santana. https://t.co/lKoBRq9FSc— Phil Mackey (@PhilMackey) September 16, 2015
I view Molitor's decision as something of a Strat-O-Matic move -- more obviously logical in the simulation game than in real life. Buxton's on-base percentage is .242; Santana's is even worse, .238. And the switch-hitting Santana's OPB as a left-handed hitter this year is .214.
But the pitcher's splits argue strongly for getting a left-handed hitter up. Rondon's OBP allowed to lefties is .404. against righties .333. In Strat terms, Molitor was hoping to get the roll on the pitcher's card.
Molitor knows full well he's not playing Strat, of course, He simply figured a poor-hitting lefty had a better chance of doing something against Rondon than any righty (which is why Hunter was bypassed). As it turned out, Rondon retired two of the three lefties he faced (Mauer doubled) and one of the two right-handed hitters.
The quotes from Molitor about the decision had a bit of the traditional managerial defensiveness to them, something that's been fairly rare from him:
"Have you been watching the games? I mean, Byron's been battling but it's been hard for him to get hits. His speed has gotten him a few and he's really trying to do the most that he can."
Well, yeah. We've seen more than 260 Danny Santana plate appearances this year. It's been tough for him to get hits too. That is really the point of contention.