ATLANTA -- Just like many of his peers, Mets manager Terry Collins routinely leaves himself open for second guessing. Whether it be his lineup construction, or bullpen management or in-game decision making, he has never shied away from cutting against the grain.
After all, Collins is the same man who ordered an intentional walk of Donovan Solano on Monday even after he fell behind in the count 1-and-2. But he is also the man who helped engineer Friday night's dramatic 7-5 victory over the Braves.
Collins made two late-game decisions that proved critical. First, he used closer Bobby Parnell in a non-save situation to squash a Braves rally in the ninth. Then, he sent Jordany Valdespin on an all-or-nothing mission to steal second base in the 10th inning, positioning him to score the go-ahead run.
A look at the moves:
1. Using Bobby Parnell in the ninth: Managers typically shy away from using their closers on the road in non-save situations, preferring to hold them out in case there's a lead to protect. But the problem with that thinking is the flawed assumption that save situations are always the most important when it comes to the outcome of a game.
Consider Friday night's ninth inning. According to Fangraphs' win expectancy data, after Ramiro Pena's leadoff double off Brandon Lyon, the Braves' chances of winning the game jumped to 80.4 percent. Reed Johnson's sacrifice bunt to move Pena to third base upped that percentage slightly to 82.3.
With the Braves on the brink of victory, Collins summoned Parnell. Sure, it was't a classic save situation, but Collins deployed his best relief pitcher for the most pivotal moment in the game. Parnell worked out of the jam and stranded Pena on third. The Braves' win expectancy dropped to 50 percent, well down from 80.4 percent upon Parnell's entry.
The Mets scored twice in the tenth, forcing Collins to give the ball to the relatively inexperienced Jeurys Familia in a save situation. But statistically, Collins had the right guys working the right situations.
Again, when Parnell entered the game, the Braves' win expectancy was 82.3 percent. But when Famila entered with the Mets up by two-runs, the Braves' chances winnning had dropped to just 8.3 percent.
2.) Jordany Valdespin steals second: The following is based on Tom Tango's invaluable run expectancy data, which is based on the historical outcomes of base/out situations.
7.5 percent -- Chance of the Mets scoring a run in the 10th inning with two outs and nobody on.
13.5 percent -- Chance of the Mets scoring a run in the 10th after Valdespin drew a two-out walk.
23 percent -- Chance of the Mets scoring a run in the 10th after Valdespin swiped second base.
Clearly, Valdespin made his presence felt, eventually coming around to score the winning run on Ruben Tejada's clutch single in the 10th. But Collins played a part in getting the Mets to that point.
When Valdespin walked with two outs, that brought up the pitcher, Bobby Parnell. Collins elected not to pinch hit -- at least not immediately. This proved critical. The Mets had already dipped deep into their bullpen and their bench, and hitting for Parnell would have forced Collins to burn two more players in a spot in which the Mets' chances of scoring were relatively low.
So, he gave Valdespin instructions to run on the first pitch to Parnell, who was to bluff a bunt and then pull back. If Valdespin got caught, Collins could send Parnell out to pitch the 10th, thus buying himself another inning from his best reliever. But if Valdespin made it -- thus increasing the Mets' chance of scoring by about 10 percent -- Collins would bring in pinch hitter Mike Baxter.
Parnell took a called strike but Valdespin successfully stole second. With the count 0-1, Baxter pinch hit and was eventually hit by a pitch, extending the rally for Tejada's big hit. Murphy followed with a single that knocked in an insurance run and capped a wild turnaround.
The Mets' win expectancy when Valdespin stepped to the plate in the 10th inning was 40.2 percent. By the end of the inning, it had jumped to 91.7.