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Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Favorite Manuel Topics: Bullpen Mismanagement

In Part 1, of Mr. Musser’s Manuel Post-Mortem, the focus was on Manuel’s lineup construction flaws.  I know Mr. Musser plans to continue into Part 2 and focus on his bullpen management, but I’m also going to write about it right now.  I’m certain that there is enough data from which to draw, and I know that our memories will likely lead us to different examples.  Just being able to recall some of the things I’m about to mention causes me to laugh at our ridiculous scrutiny of the manager while still being absolutely furious about his mistakes to this day. 


One of my favorite things to criticize Manuel about (and by favorite I mean the most utterly frustrating thing I’ve ever spent time complaining about due to its straightforward nature), is saving the best reliever, AKA “closer”, until an uncertain save situation rolls around in the 9th inning or extra innings.  I’ve written about this time after time on this blog, and it’s just based in such perplexing logic that I can’t understand how any grown man in charge of a baseball team can possibly not see how backwards an idea it is.

The first example that immediately came to mind was from Thursday, August, 28th 2008.  I began typing the post before the game even ended.  The Phillies entered the bottom of the 8th inning at Wrigley Field with a 3 run lead over the Chicago Cubs.  Ryan Madson (obviously), started the 8th inning against the 9-1-2 hitters for the Cubs.  The Phillies entered the inning with a 91% chance to win the game.  Mike Fontenot (!!!) led off the inning with a home run.  4-2 game.  The next hitter, Alfonso Soriano hit a double.  With 0 outs, a runner on second, and the heart of the lineup looming, Manuel should have absolutely gone to Brad Lidge.  Ryan Madson was solid in 2008, but this was still one season prior to his striking out over one batter per inning and becoming truly dominant.  Also, Brad Lidge was perfect in 2008.  Rather than bringing in Lidge, or even warming him up, Manuel stuck with Madson who gave up a single to Ryan Theriot.  1st and 3rd, no outs, and the team’s Win Expectancy was down to 58%.  Manuel then decided to make a pitching change – Chad Durbin.  Durbin was solid in 2008, and Ryan Madson was clearly off that night, but Brad Lidge is the clear solution.  Durbin walked Lee to load the bases.  The Cubs were then favored to win the game with the Phillies up by two and the bases loaded.  Aramis Ramirez then hit a grand slam all but sealing the loss for the Phillies.  Brad Lidge didn’t pitch the 9th, because there was no 9th inning.  Good thing Manuel saved him for the save situation. 

The next game that came to mind was Game 135 of the 2011 season against the Marlins.  Mr. Musser, Mr. Mix (a close relative), and I were in attendance for the final series the Phillies would play in the Dolphins stadium.  The entire game was pretty much ridiculous with Roy Halladay pitching, a fan interference call that had to go to review, and extra innings.  We had to leave the game early to get to the airport, but I remember being furious watching Michael Stutes and David Herndon pitch a combined 5.2 IP (it would have been more, but the Marlins put Herndon out of his misery.  Madson never made an appearance in the 14 inning game and the Phillies had only used 4 relievers to the Marlins 7.  Maybe if Madson had been used, they could have literally outlasted the Marlins pen and Greg Dobbs would have had to come in to pitch. 

Likely the most recent example (and obvious example of just how much this drives me crazy) occurred in game 38 of this season.  The Phils were 17-20 going into the game, and I was already certain just how disastrous the season would be, and this still drove me insane.  The Phillies were up 3-0 going into the 8th inning.  Antonio Bastardo was used to begin the inning.  A walk and a pop out later, and Paul Goldschmidt is due up with one out.  At this point, Papelbon should have been brought into the game.  Instead, Manuel let Bastardo pitch to Goldschmidt who singled.  First and third.  Manuel THEN lifted Bastardo for Papelbon.  If Bastardo isn’t even allowed to surrender a single, then he should undoubtedly not be allowed to pitch to one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League.  What made this situation even worse was the commentary from Wheels and TMac.  I’m going to copy and paste my rant from the game post:

‘You really don't want to use Papelbon for 5 out saves this early in the season.’  Who the HELL said you have to use Papelbon through the end of the 9th inning if he appears in the 8th inning?!  The reason he makes so much money is because he's one of the best relievers in MLB and definitely the best reliever on the Phillies.  Why save him for situations where the Phillies are up 3 or 4 runs in the 9th inning with no runners on base (3 runs = saveeeeee, 4 runs = his appearances on Monday and Tuesday of this week).  He should be used in the most pressing situations in the game almost regardless of the inning.  He DOESN'T need to pitch in the 9th inning.

If he comes into a game in the 8th inning, and throws a lot of pitches, then you can just use the next best option in the 9th to finish the game.  Think about it.  If Papelbon successfully keeps the lead at 3-1 in the 8th inning meanwhile throwing a lot of pitches, just use someone else to pitch the 9th.  If Papelbon did NOT appear in the 8th inning and Bastardo gave up the lead (let's assume a 3-3 score), Papelbon wouldn't be used in the 9th inning for the insane reason that it's not a SAVE situation.  So, Manuel would resort to using a lesser reliever in a tie game with ZERO wiggle room.  If you use a pitcher in a game where he cannot allow even one run, then I'm confident you can use the same pitcher in a game where he has the luxury of allowing 1 or 2 runs.


Enough said.

We’ve used the “saving your best reliever” tag 22 times since the inception of the site (that doesn’t include any other related tags such as “Ryan Madson for high leverage spot”, 5 times).  The majority of which were in 2012.  We didn’t use tags all that frequently and we still were able to use it 22 times in about 6 seasons.  Insane.  Another reason it probably wasn’t used more during the 08-10 seasons was due to the fact that the Phillies had a pretty stacked team including the bullpen.  Even when Manuel used the wrong guy, it was usually at least a competent pitcher.  For example, in 2009 and 2010 (especially in 2010), Ryan Madson was a phenomenal pitcher.  In many instances, the highest leverage situations occur in the 8th inning of baseball games.  During those two seasons, Madson was incredible, and probably was thrown into the correct situations by accident.  By the way, in 2009, Brad Lidge had a 7+ ERA, and he pitched 58.67 innings.  Horrendous.  Anyway… Part of the reason why the team has gotten increasingly worse over time is due to the fact that the bullpen has gotten worse, and Manuel’s managerial blunders could less frequently be covered up by his players proficiencies making his job that much more important, and making his mistakes that much more noticeable.    


Another favorite topic of mine included complaining about Manuel’s use of J.C. (whom we affectionately referred to as Jansas City Romero).  Fact: We tagged “Jansas City Romero” more times (39) than any other explicitly J.C. Romero tag combined (26).  One thing I’ll always remember about J.C. Romero was his wife who was with him on the float at the parade…

Another thing about J.C. Romero was that he always had a seemingly decent ERA with the Phillies.  He ALWAYS outperformed his FIP and xFIP.  In no season with the Phillies did Romero walk fewer than 5.8/9 IP.  That’s pretty insane.  Every inning he would walk 2/3 of a batter.  That’s pretty tough to do literally or figuratively.  One thing Romero always did pretty well was face LHB relative to RHB.  In 2008, he had an xFIP of 3.03 to go with a wOBA against of 0.171 versus LHB.  One thing Charlie Manuel NEVER did well, was use Romero as he was intended to be used: as a LOOGY.  Instead, in 2008-2010, Romero faced the following amount of LHB/RHB, respectively:

2008: 111/144
2009: 32/41
2010: 97/74

It only took Manuel 3 seasons to realize he should be used more against LHB.  It’s not like the Phillies had Brad Lidge, or Ryan Madson, or even a respectable Chad Durbin to face RHBs late in games. 

When thinking back about Jansas City Romero’s time here, I immediately recall several instances where Manuel used J.C. to pitch to Chipper Jones specifically, one of the greatest hitters since I’ve been alive.  Chipper’s platoon splits are better from the left side, but they’re relatively close.  In cases such as these, I’d undoubtedly look to the prospective pitcher’s platoon splits to determine the appropriate matchups, and the answer would almost always be something other than J.C. Romero. 

There were numerous posts where we complained about Manuel’s use of Romero.  He obviously used him incorrectly for many seasons as the batters faced stat (shown above) proves.  I’ll grant a little lee-way as some of those righties were undoubtedly a result of LHBs split up by a RHB.  That’s what makes Manuel’s insistence to keep Utley and Howard back-to-back for so many seasons so frustrating – he could see the exact benefit of breaking up LHBs on a near daily basis.  However, in many of the instances where Manuel preferred to keep Romero in the game so he could face the bookend lefties, the game was on the line during the righties ABs, and Manuel refused to acknowledge the urgency of the situation.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Charlie Manuel Post-Mortem, Part 1: Deceased, Ham Sandwich

The time has finally come to declare that Ruben Amaro has decided, and rightfully so, to start implicitly placing blame where it properly lies. Sure, Amaro has been terrible, but Manuel has been just as bad. The only difference is that their jobs vary wildly in importance (Amaro hurt the Phillies more in one second than Manuel did in 9 years when Ryan Howard signed his contract).

However, Manuel has been so bad, and the Phillies have regressed under his direction to such a tremendous degree, that it became inane and redundant to keep charting Manuel's in-game mistakes. We have a pretty solid sample size of games in our archives from July 2008 - October 2012. That sample size pretty clearly states what's been obvious to non-Gargano disciples for several years: that Charlie Manuel really has no idea what he's doing once the first pitch is thrown. I'm sure he was a hell of a hitter a half-century ago, but the man has looked like he's 80 for the past 10 years, yet he's preposterously still in his sixties (base-10 wise).

He fails in mid-game situations so frequently that we ostensibly wrote a book about it. Over the coming days, or maybe just the coming minutes (I don't know how long this post is going to end up), we are going to review our favorite Charlie Manuel moments, none of which will be positive. "Hey, remember that one time he didn't forget to wait until the batter was announced before making a pitching change?" is not a phrase you will hear, because it simply didn't happen very often in the past 9 years.

Before that happens, we're going to go over the most frequent mistakes made by Charlie Manuel, listed in order of when I think of them:

1) The number of times he batted Utley and Howard back-to-back, with either Burrell or Werth directly behind Howard, is insane. How completely illogical is it to stack those two lefties, especially when the worse of the 2 lefties bats second? If Burrell/Werth always batted 4 and Howard always batted 5 (or Utley 2 - Burrell 3 - Howard 4, but that's coming next, because I just thought about it), then the potential would exist where an opposing manager would burn his best LH-reliever against Chase Utley, and then either let Burrell/Werth (both of whom were deadly against lefties) face that lefty, or remove the lefty for a righty. Then, Howard has one of two possibilities: facing that righty, or facing their second LH-reliever, which would burn 3 opposing pitchers.

Instead, Manuel would make it possible for a lefty to start the inning, retire both Utley and Howard, then face Burrell/Werth with the bases empty and 2 outs. To intentionally create bad matchups in high-leverage innings, while simultaneously reducing the burden of the opposing bullpen, is nothing short of deranged. Failing to realize this in 9 years (HE'S MY CLEANUP GUY, GODDAMMIT) is just sad.

2) Batting an inferior player 2nd. Here is a list of players Manuel has batted second while Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were both on the roster:


Are you kidding me? The man batted second 9 times (Nine. Times.) in Manuel's lineup in 2005. The Phillies lost the wild-card that year by 1 game. His OPS+ is 76 and he was batting ahead of Chase Utley.

Check out this boxscore. Utley batting sixth, Chavez batting second. Incredible


Perez batted 2nd four times in 2005, with Howard and Utley entering their primes, in the middle of a pennant race. Marginal edges such as lineup optimization couldn't possibly have helped in any way. Thanks Charlie! Perez's 47 OPS+ in 2005 really eased the pain though.


This man posted an OPS+ of  47 for the Phils in 2006, yet that was good enough for him to start in the second batting position a few times. Noticing a theme? I was only 16/17 years old at the time and not yet insane enough to chart each of Manuel's mistakes on a daily basis, but looking back on it, it seems certain that Manuel was just as bad as he has been since '08 (the inception of this site) in the 2005/2006 years where he just barely missed out on the wild card.

Nunez also batted 2nd once in 2007, on perhaps the most talented team of Manuel's entire run. It was probably due to Nunez's massive improvement over 2006, posting a 55 OPS+. Also worth noting, Nunez had 35 starts while batting 7th, meaning he was batting ahead of Carlos Ruiz on a regular basis. Insanity.


This list is getting more ridiculous as I go on, and I'm just going in chronological order. I was not expecting to see that Taguchi started many games in the 2-slot in 2008 -- and when I looked it up, I was right. Zero games started at 2.

And then I saw he batted leadoff EIGHT times. What the hell? Take a look at the 2008 roster: I don't care if Rollins isn't playing, literally anybody else on that roster deserves to bat before So Taguchi, World Series Champion.


So Taguchi's biggest fan, because Taguchi made Bruntlett not-the-worst-player-on-the-2008-team (position player, of course, because the answer isn't Adam Eaton). Bruntlett, out of baseball since 2009 (RIP Shovel Slayer), batted second 10 times in 2008, and inexplicably batting leadoff once. That time batting leadoff was the game where Rollins showed up late to Shea Stadium for a day-game because he drove instead of taking the team bus. He showed up about 45 minutes before the game, which is apparently late, and he was benched. Manuel, instead of realizing, "wow, I need to re-organize my lineup so my terrible utility infielder (Bruntlett has a career OPS+ of 65) doesn't have to bat first" decides to bat Bruntlett first.

He just LAZILY plugs Bruntlett into Rollins's batting position. This is objectively and undeniably worse than any decision Andy Reid has ever made. A career 65+ OPS batter leads off against the first-place team in the middle of a heated pennant race, while Shane Victorino was buried in the 6-hole that game. They were tied with the Mets in late July heading into that game, and the Phillies lineup is shut down losing 3-1, partially because they had Bruntlett receive more PAs than more talented hitters. It's sickening to think Manuel was making such obvious mistakes so frequently when they only ended up clinching the division on the penultimate day of the 2008 regular season.

Bruntlett also started in the 2nd batting position three times in 2009, which leads me into my next subject.


This guy posted a meager 83 OPS+ for the Phillies in 2009 as a 33-year-old, yet he was allowed to bat leadoff once, and bat second another time. Ridiculous. Career OPS+ of 77, so it's not even defensible.


HAHA! I didn't even have this guy on my radar when I considered putting this list together (you know how messed up my brain is when I remember Endy Chaves before Wilson Valdez), but Wilson Valdez is probably the ideal player on this list.

Career OPS+ of 59, which is incredible given that his sample size of PAs is significant with 1240. Somehow, he was good enough to bat second in 12 of the Phillies games between 2010 and 2011.

The Phillies lineup got significantly worse between 2011 and 2012/2013, so I'm just stopping my list here. You can see my point. Look at any single one of these batters, and you'll see that Manuel either batted these guys 2nd, or he buried them in the 7th or 8th slot. It's because his line of thinking is this: "hey this guy isn't a good hitter, but he swings a lot and he's fast, so he's a good guy at the top of the order."

Just sickening.


Michael Martinez started 21 games batting 2nd in this lineup between 2011-2013. I understand those were largely while Utley was injured, but god damn, 21 times? In this lineup? I know this lineup is bad now, but obviously they've always had 2 hitters who deserve more plate appearances than Martinez (career OPS+ of 37 [!!!]).

I did not anticipate ranting this much about the Phillies lineups over the past 9 years, because obviously Charlie Manuel built this website on his hideous bullpen decisions. Part 2 will cover the pitching, and I imagine it will be a lot angrier than this one. Even though....So Taguchi, really?


Friday, August 16, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Game 73: Jayson Werth helps Nats take series from Phillies (35-38)

Kyle Kendrick was extremely efficient in the series finale against the Nationals last Wednesday.  He threw 92 pitches in 7.2 innings while only allowing 1 run.  He struck out 6 and walked 1.

In the 8th inning, Chad Tracy was used to pinch hit with 2 outs.  Charlie Manuel used Antonio Bastardo to pitch to the lefty.  However, Davey Johnson burnt Tracy and used RHB Marrero to face the Bastardo.  This move was fairly transparent, and I think it was a good choice by Manuel to choose a fresh Bastardo against Marrero rather than use a 92 pitch, albeit effective, Kendrick against Chad Tracy.  Kendrick has stuggled in his career against LHH.  Bastardo got Tracy out to end the inning.

Jayson Werth beat Papelbon in the 9th to tie the game and send it to extras.

Ian Desmond hit a grand slam in the 11th off of Michael Stutes.

Game 72: Cliff Lee pitches, not much to mention per usual (35-37)

Charlie Manuel doesn't usually get a chance to mess up the games when Cliff Lee starts - that is, after he prepares the lineup card.  Last Tuesday was no different as Cliff Lee took on the impotent Nationals offense.  The Phillies won the game by a score of 4-2 after Lee pitched 8 innings.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Game 71: Papelbon blows save, Phillies win anyway (34-41)

John Lannan pitched decently in his return from the DL, and the Phillies showed minor patience in working three walks off of formerly unhittable, Dan Haren.  Ryan Howard had a home run.  He was also run into an out by Ryne Sandberg on a two-run hit by Delmon Young.  I certainly hope Sandberg is a better manager than he is a third base coach.

The Phillies bullpen tried their best to lose this game for the team as Mike Adams allowed 1 run in the 8th inning to reduce the lead to 4-3.  Papelbon came on in the bottom of the 9th and allowed a game tying home run with two outs to Chad Tracy.  Dom Brown managed to save the Phillies in the bottom of the 9th after Revere and Rollins singled with a walk off single.

Game 70: Cole Hamels pitches, Phillies don't score a run until after he leaves the game (33-37)

The Phillies had six, one-two-three innings in last Sunday's game against the Rockies.  Cole Hamels didn't have his best game, but he certainly pitched well enough to help his team get the win.  The Phillies could only manage to tack on two runs in the 9th inning, and lost the game (5-2) and the series.

Game 69: Phils lose in 1st inning (33-36)

Pettibone gave up 6 runs in the first inning of this game.  I don't think the Phillies have scored more than 3 runs all season... The math tells you that the Phillies had no chance of winning this game.  Oh yea, Ben Revere batted lead off again in this game!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Game 68: Big comeback lifts Phils over Rockies (33-35)

The Phillies turned a 7-2 deficit into an 8-7 win on the road against Colorado, thanks to 2-run triples by Freddy Galvis, each of which were followed by Galvis scoring himself. A truly incredible comeback, and it actually came along with Manuel not screwing up -- he managed the bullpen pretty well.

Game 67: Phils avoid sweep versus Twins (32-35)

The Phillies ended their losing streak with a 3-2 victory to avoid getting swept by the Twins. Cliff Lee pitched 7 innings allowing the two runs, and Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon pitched the final two innings for the victory. Manuel made no obvious mistakes; Revere shouldn't be leading off, but he smacked 4 hits against his former team to bail out his manager.

Game 66: Phils drop game 2 at Minnesota (31-35)

The Phillies have now lost 5 games in a row, including their second straight 1-run loss to the Twins. This is partially because Manuel refuses to use Papelbon in any other inning except the ninth. The Phils blew the game in the 8th inning, allowing two runs while their best reliever was on the bench. It's illogical and borderline insane. Unless of course, Manuel is intentionally saving Papelbon's health for trade value, but I think Manuel is more likely to successfully diagram a sentence than to adopt that strategy.

Game 65: Phils drop opener at Minnesota (31-34)

The Phillies lost this game in the 8th inning, with Antonio Bastardo giving up a hit to Justin Morneau to allow Mike Adams's run for the 3-2 Twins' victory. I didn't have a problem with Manuel's decisions in the 8th inning, but Manuel continues to bat Ben Revere's terrible OBP at the top of the lineup (this time second) and Brown 5th. Switching Brown and Revere would put a right-hander (Rollins) between lefties Brown and Howard. However, this is too complex for Manuel, and the Phillies managed only two runs in the loss

Game 64: Phillies lose series as Brewers beat Pettibone (31-33)

The Phillies dropped the final game of their 4-game set at Milwaukee by a score of 9-1. Manuel never really had a chance to mess this one up.

Game 63: Phillies lose with questionable lineup (31-32)

The Phillies lost their second-straight one-run game in Milwaukee, losing 4-3 partially because of Manuel's awful lineup. There is no rational explanation for batting Delmon Young 4th, ahead of both Domonic Brown and John Mayberry. Young batted with 2 outs and 1 on in the bottom of the first and did nothing. Brown led off the next inning with a home run. Obviously one can't assume Brown would homer had he batted in Young's spot, but he's certainly more likely to homer than Young. This potentially costs the Phillies a run, and the Phillies ended up losing by one run. Nice job, Charles.

Game 62: Biggest inning of the season? Let's use Jeremy Horst (31-31)

Manuel, shockingly, continues to not use his best reliever in a tie game in the 9th inning, and the Phillies lose another game because of it. It would be infuriating, but with the Phillies deep outside the playoff picture, it's just pathetic. Phillies lose, 5-4, with Jeremy Horst pitching to 4 batters in the 9th inning of a tie game and recording only one out. Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, two men who absolutely destroy left-handed pitchers, got the final 2 hits of the game for the walk-off winner. It's unreal that there is a human who thinks this is the optimal way to win the game, but it's hallucinatory that such a human also manages the Phillies.