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Suicide Solution: How Do We Feel About the Squeeze Play Now?

(Image: Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News)

It’s been a week of squeeze play karma for the Milwaukee Brewers.  In Tuesday’s game against the Texas Rangers, Jean Segura scored a Badger Mutual insurance run in the eighth inning on an apparent failed squeeze attempt (if only all failures in baseball had such an upside).  Segura escaping the rundown was a heartwarming highlight in an otherwise forgettable season.

Of course, a little over one week earlier the Brewers lost a close game to the San Francisco Giants.  That game was one of those "missed opportunities" defeats that is not uncommon in baseball.  One of the missed opportunities was when Tyler Thornburg couldn’t get the bunt down on a squeeze attempt, leaving Scooter Gennett hanging after a one-out triple.

Within a relatively short span, Brewers fans got to experience what the squeeze giveth, and what the squeeze taketh away.  (More accurately, we got to experience what the squeeze taketh away, and how a gifted player can overcome what the squeeze taketh away.)  Adding another layer of karma, Segura making something out of nothing against Texas nicely atoned for his own botched squeeze attempt in April against the Dodgers.  (Taketh.)

Ron Roenicke’s affinity for the squeeze is well documented.  He once went so far as to say that the suicide squeeze isn’t really a gamble.  Granted, he said that right after a successful walk-off squeeze against the Giants in May 2011.  If you don’t remember how exhilarating that moment was, remind yourself by clicking here.

But after a couple of recent botched squeeze attempts – and considering in Roenicke’s third season as manager the play has lost its novelty – I found myself wondering if the squeeze play was still worth it.  I thought it would be a pain to find out how successful the Brewers have been with the squeeze play this year (without a subscription to Baseball Reference or similar service) until I came across a delightful blog called The Squeeze Is On!  TSIO! seems to exist solely for the purpose of documenting MLB squeeze activity, so let’s assume it’s authoritative.

Through August 8, TSIO! finds that the Brewers are indeed the most prolific squeezers in the league.  In 11 attempts, Milwaukee has scored runs seven times, and failed twice (Thornburg and Segura).  One assumes the numbers don’t add up due to bunt attempts that rolled foul, or safety squeezes where the runner at third held, etc.  The next most frequent squeezers are the Astros, with nine attempts and five runs (and the most fails with four).  The Braves have seven attempts/four runs, the Padres have six attempts/two runs, and no other team has more than four attempts.

So the squeeze is definitely a gamble, but with a higher than 60% success rate and less than 20% failure rate, by and large it has been a gamble worth taking for the Brewers.  Even so, it would be difficult to argue there is anything more infuriating than someone missing the squeeze sign.  (Taketh.)