August 15, 2017
Whether to Waxahachie
Let us take some time to appreciate the Waxahachie Swap. The term was coined by Rob Neyer and describes a maneuver occasionally pulled by a manager, usually in the National League. Suppose you have a pitcher on the mound—a right-handed gent—and the other team has a left-handed hitter on the way up. You’d really rather have that lefty face your LOOGY, but bringing in your LOOGY means that the current pitcher had to go take a shower and can’t come back until tomorrow. And that makes you sad.
But you don’t have to be sad if you have the Waxahachie Swap. Your right-handed pitcher can simply go play left field for a batter and the LOOGY can come in to take on that tough left-handed bat coming up. OK, so it’s a little bit dicey having a guy in left field who isn’t actually trained to play there, but what are the chances that will come back to bite you? You do lose your left fielder for the rest of the day (and will need to eventually plug in your fourth outfielder out there when all the swapping is done), but it’s worth it, right?
This seems like the sort of thing we should see more of. Right?
Warning! Gory Mathematical Details Ahead!
There are a lot of moving parts on this one. Like any strategy, it has to be evaluated both in terms of what might conceivably happen because of it and what might not happen because of it. It’s a maneuver that can work out great, but also one that can go horribly wrong.
Let’s start with a bit of context on how to evaluate. This move is more likely to take place during a situation of higher leverage. No one would bother to do this, or even to play matchups, when the score is 9-1. From 2012-2016, 79 percent of relief appearances that lasted only one or two batters began with the score within three runs (in either direction). We need to keep that in mind.