Charlie Manuel frequently makes poor strategic decisions. The 11-million dollar scoreboard in left field would probably do a similar job. We guarantee a post analyzing Manuel's decisions for every Phillies game. Please click on our aliases below to email us.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Game 26: Halladay does it again (18-8)

Roy Halladay threw 10 pitches through the first 2 innings yesterday afternoon, at which point it was a virtual certainty he would throw all nine. However, Charlie Manuel and the Phils offense nearly let him down. It was a 1-0 Mets lead for most of the game, and in the 5th inning, the Phils had a great chance to tie it for Halladay.

Ben Francisco led off by getting hit with a pitch, and John Mayberry (who was the correct choice of left fielder considering Raul Ibanez has been god-awful) followed with a single. Next up was Wilson Valdez, who was batting 7th because Dane Sardinha (8th hitter) was in the lineup. Normally with first and second and zero outs, a sacrifice bunt is the incorrect decision. However, with Valdez-Sardinha (who was 4 for 38 this year in the minors)-Halladay coming to the plate, you absolutely have to play for one run. A tie game with Halladay on the mound is much more valuable than a tie game with Jon Niese on the mound.

I thought for sure that Manuel would have Valdez lay down a bunt, because, get this: Valdez grounded into a double play in 5.5% of his plate appearances last year. For perspective, Miguel Tejada in 2008 grounded into the most double plays of any player in National League history for a single season. His rate? 4.8 percent. This means Valdez is one of the most likely people (if not the most likely) on Earth to ground into a double play.

Add in the fact that the pitchers was left-handed (more likely to make a bad throw to first base on a sac bunt) and Valdez is actually a good bunter, this was one of Manuel's easiest decisions of the year. Naturally, he butchered it. Valdez swung away, and you can guess what happened next. They intentionally walked Sardinha, then retired Halladay to end the inning.

If Valdez bunts, there's a chance at an error by Jon Niese and a huge inning. If it's a sac bunt, they would likely walk Sardinha to load the bases for Halladay. Halladay probably gets out, and then you have Shane Victorino batting right-handed with the bases loaded with two outs. It is much better than allowing Valdez to bat: even if Valdez just popped out instead of a double play, then you're relying on Sardinha for your clutch hit rather than Victorino (again, assuming Halladay is an automatic out). Valdez swinging there is so obviously wrong, yet Andy Reid gets 100 times more criticism for drafting an offensive lineman, while Manuel gets a free pass.

Thankfully, John Mayberry cracked a home run off the lefty in the two-run 7th inning, and Halladay pitched a complete game (only 107 pitches) to guarantee another series victory for the Phils. With Domonic Brown back in minor-league action, it may very well be time to platoon Brown/Mayberry in left field. But that's a topic for a separate post.

Phils look to sweep the Mets tonight in front of a broadcast team that manages to be more intolerable than Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Cliff Lee faces RHP Chris Young at 8:05pm.

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