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 8, 2011

Game 33: Manuel stacks the lineup with righties against a pitcher who dominates righties (22-11)

The Phils lost tonight, 5-2, to Atlanta. Cole Hamels pitched well, allowing 3 runs over 7 innings, but Jair Jurrjens pitched better. Jurrjens has dominated right-handed batters his entire career (a .649 OPS-against), but he is much less effective against lefties (.762). Charlie Manuel has three defensive positions where he can pretty much choose between starting a left-handed batter and a righty: left field, catcher, and second base. Manuel correctly started Ibanez in left, but put righties in the other two positions (Dane Sardinha and Wilson Valdez instead of Brian Schneider and Pete Orr).

I won't blame Manuel for putting Sardinha behind the plate, because there is no off day tomorrow and Schneider has been catching a lot lately. However, there's no justification for starting Valdez over Orr. They actually have identical OPSs against RHP (.627). But the mere fact that Orr is lefthanded means he is the better offensive weapon against Jurrjens. And, since the Phils always struggle against Jurrjens, they need as many non-righties in the lineup as possible.

Now, let's give Manuel the benefit of the doubt and assume Valdez is vastly superior to Orr defensively. So, Manuel started Valdez for defensive purposes (although I'm not sure Orr has significantly less range than Valdez, anyway).

Even if this were the case, when Valdez came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning, Manuel needed to pinch hit for him, either with Ross Gload or Pete Orr. Runners were on first and third with one out, and the Phils were trailing 3-1 =. Orr would be a good option for three reasons: 1) he's not right-handed; 2) he's extremely fast so his speed could be worth a run at this point; 3) he can stay in defensively for Valdez. Gload is a good option because he's the best lefty available, but he's also more apt to GIDP than Orr.

When you're trailing 3-1 in that situation, a groundball from Pete Orr is not really a bad outcome at all: a run will likely score, and Orr can still steal second base to set up a potential game-tying two-out hit. However, a groundball from Wilson Valdez is the absolute worst possible scenario. He grounds into double plays at an astounding rate. In fact, he grounds into double plays more often than almost every other MLB player (if not all). He's 32 years old, and he's not fast at all.

He grounded into a double play, and the Phils never had a stronger scoring chance for the rest of the game.

The lefty/righty splits from Jurrjens make it pretty clear that Orr should have been at the plate; but the score and the base-out situation combined with Jurrjens tendencies make it painfully obvious that Manuel butchered that inning. Don't worry though, because the blame tomorrow will be entirely on Valdez, as if he were trying to GIDP.

Jimmy Rollins walked in the ninth inning, extending his BB-streak to three games. It was an important walk too, allowing Shane Victorino to come to the plate as the tying run. Unfortunately, Victorino struck out looking on a brutal call, and the Phils never got Howard to the plate. Rollins is now on pace for 98 walks.

The Phils travel to Miami tomorrow, when Big Joe Blanton returns to face RHP Javier Vazquez at 7:10pm.

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