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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Game 107: Raul Ibanez wins game the day after we call for Raul Ibanez's benching (68-39)

Charlie Manuel had a decent game today with his pinch-hitters and bullpen management. Other than stacking Utley/Howard in a row, I don't really have any complaints for the manager.

The back-to-back lefties in the Phils' lineup, which is completely unnecessary with Victorino as an option to bat 3rd, almost came back to haunt the team in the bottom of the 8th. The Pirates, ahead 5-3, brought in a lefty reliever to pitch to Utley and Howard. He retired Utley, but Howard managed to smack a 1-out double to right field. Clint Hurdle then brought in a RHP to face Hunter Pence and Raul Ibanez, which was probably a mistake. Pence has virtually even splits against lefties and righties, but Ibanez is far worse against lefties than righties. That is, the Pirates would much rather have Pence face a lefty than Ibanez face a righty.

Howard erased his double with an outrageous baserunning mistake on what would have been an infield single for Pence. Ibanez then cracked the tying home run off the righty reliever (the Pirates still had another lefty available, as well). I don't have the patience to research the splits of the Pirates' bullpen, but it's very likely that Clint Hurdle cost his team the game today.

Even with Ibanez's huge day at the plate (walk-off double, solo home run, and a two-run tying home run), his wOBA is still lower than Dom Brown's. I know Brown looked awful in right field, but it's nearly impossible for Brown to be any worse than Ibanez in left field.

There is one possibility that we haven't mentioned where playing Ibanez over Brown is the correct decision. Ibanez has been the starter here for 2.7 years. If the Phils were to bench him for Brown, the psychological damage would be greater to Ibanez than any to Brown resulting from his demotion. The Fangraphs' projections for Brown are not too much higher than Ibanez's, and Brown has not shown to be significantly better defensively than Ibanez. So, it may be more important for the Phillies to keep both players mentally prepared for the playoffs than it is to slightly increase the chance of winning each remaining regular season game. In September, then, when Brown is back, Manuel could pretty much have an open tryout for the LF-job in the playoffs. If Brown is significantly outplayed by Ibanez (possible but unlikely) and continues to play terrible defense, then starting Ibanez in the playoffs could be the correct move. However, if Brown plays average-to-good defense and continues his exceptional plate discipline, then Manuel should start Brown in the playoffs.

For this scenario to work, I'm making two assumptions: 1) the Phils already have home-field advantage locked up, and, more importantly, 2) they are going to find a way to get Brown on the playoff roster. It is obvious that Brown will be getting MLB at-bats in September when the rosters expand, but if they leave him off the playoff roster in favor of someone like Michael Martinez (while the inferior Ibanez continues to get the LF starts), then it's a huge mistake.

I'll reserve judgment on the Brown/Ibanez issue until the playoff roster is set, but right now, it doesn't look promising.

The Phils open up a 3-game set in Denver tomorrow night at 8:40 when Cole Hamels faces RHP Jhoulys Chacin. Prepare for 10 million references from Wheels about the 12-11 September makeup game that Chacin started.


Tokar said...

I forgot about that 12-11 wild game. Just re-read about it on the net.

hk said...

Clint Hurdle really blew this game by losing with an inferior reliever while his closer went unused. In other words, he pulled a Charlie (or actually, a Torre) for the second time in a week.