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On Showalter's intentional walk of Cano

In the seventh inning of Game 2 on Monday, with Ichiro Suzuki at second base and two outs and the Orioles leading 3-2, Buck Showalter decided to intentionally walk Robinson Cano to face Nick Swisher. On Twitter I wrote, "Let the second guessing begin," referring to the unusual move to put the go-ahead run on base.

It's obvious why Showalter made the move:

1. Cano is red hot and was 9-for-28 (.321) in his career against Matusz.

2. Swisher was 1-for-19 against Matusz and 1 for 32 in his career in the postseason with runners in scoring position.

On Twitter, @andysturgill responded, "Agreed, but with such drastic differences in success against Matusz between Cano and Swisher, you can't let Cano beat you." A reader named @BossOfRenfield wrote, "I guess I was so with Showalter, on that, I never even questioned it."

The runners moved up a wild pitch so at that point all the Yankees needed was a Swisher bloop single to take the lead. He worked the count to 3-2 and then flew out to left, so Showalter's move worked. But was it the right move?

Sabermetricians aren't big fans of the intentional walk, primarily because it increases the possibility of a big inning. In this case, Showalter was willing to assume that risk against the higher probability of getting the one out he needed to escape the inning. Some other numbers to consider: Since moving to the bullpen, Matusz has had left-handed batters to a .179 average (5-for-28, with 14 strikeouts and one walk); on the other hand, right-handed batters had been 0-for-16, with five K's and two walks. You can certainly see why Showalter now trusts Matusz as more than a one-out lefty.

As for Swisher, it's also important to note that his true ability isn't the 1-for-32 with runners in scoring position, or even the 1-for-19 against Matusz. At some point, he will get a hit in the postseason with a runner in scoring position. Studies have also shown that when a hitter or pitcher dominates a matchup over a few plate appearances, it has no predictive value for future results. Nineteen plate appearances is simply not enough data to know that Matusz "owns" Swisher. I'm not saying Showalter made the wrong move here, just that it was far from the obvious move and wasn't without risk.

Surprisingly, this seems to be a new pet postseason move for managers. There have been 73 intentional walks in postseason history where the team giving the walk was ahead by one run. Of the first 46 of these, 40 came with runners on second and third, so the primary reason was to set up a double play since the go-ahead run was already in scoring position. But of the next 27 (which takes us back to 2000), only seven occurred in a second-and-third situation. Of those other 20, 18 came with a runner on second, one came with a runner on third and one came with the bases empty. Let's review the last 10 (before Cano) and see what happened.

2011 World Series: Scott Feldman (TEX) walks Albert Pujols (STL)

The situation: 10th inning, runner on second, two outs

What happened: Lance Berkman singles in the tying run, Cardinals win in the 11th.

2011 NLCS: Chris Carpenter (STL) walks Prince Fielder (MIL)

The situation: 5th inning, runner on second, two outs

What happened: Rickie Weeks strikes out.

2010 ALCS: A.J. Burnett (NYY) walks David Murphy (TEX)

The situation: 6th inning, runner on second, two outs

What happened: Bengie Molina hits a three-run homer. Rangers win the game to take 3-1 series lead.

2009 World Series: CC Sabathia (NYY) walks Jayson Werth (PHI)

The situation: 1st inning, runner on second, two outs

What happened: Raul Ibanez strikes out.

2009 ALCS: Brian Fuentes (LAA) walks Alex Rodriguez (NYY)

The situation: 9th inning, nobody on, two outs

What happened: Fuentes walks Hideki Matsui and hits Cano, but our man Swisher pops out and Angels win.

2009 ALCS: Darren Oliver (LAA) walks Alex Rodriguez (NYY)

The situation: 7th inning, runner on second, two outs

What happened: Earlier in the same game, Matsui singled in a run and then Cano tripled in two runs (off Kevin Jepsen).

2009 NLDS: Randy Wolf (LAD) walks Albert Pujols (STL)

The situation: 4th inning, runner on second, two outs

What happened: Matt Holliday hit by a pitch, Jeff Weaver enters and gets Ryan Ludwick.

2007 ALDS: Kelvim Escobar (LAA) walks David Ortiz (BOS)

The situation: 5th inning, runner on third, one out

What happened: Mike Lowell hits sacrifice fly.

2007 NLDS: Kyle Kendrick (PHI) walks Yorvit Torrealba (COL)

The situation: 4th inning, runner on second, two outs

What happened: Seth Smith hits for the pitcher and loads the bases with an infield single. Kyle Lohse enters and Kaz Matsui hits a grand slam.

2006 World Series: Jeremy Bonderman (DET) walks Aaron Miles (STL)

The situation: 4th inning, runner on second, two outs

What happened: Pitcher Juff Suppan grounds out.

So there you go. Some huge backfires there, notably in last year's World Series. As good as Pujols is, that was an odd move since Berkman had a great year and it set up a lefty-righty matchup instead of righty-righty. The Burnett walk to Murphy in 2009, followed by the Molina, was one of the key plays in the series. Likewise the Kendrick walk to Torrealba, which occurred in the middle game of a three-game sweep.

Look, sometimes the move pays off. In Game 6 of the 2006 NLCS, the Mets' John Maine walked Pujols in the third inning with a runner on second and out. He got Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion and the Mets eventually won the game to force a Game 7. It worked for Buck Showalter on Monday. But it could have just as easily cost him the game -- and, in all likelihood, the series.