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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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Game 85: Lee left in way too long (53-32)

The Phils blew a chance at a sweep on Sunday, for several reasons. There were bad fundamentals (Victorino's hesitation on the play where he got injured; an immediate throw home would have prevented the Jays' third run), bad luck (how does every Phillies' extra base hit bounce over the fence [Victorino's ground-rule double would have led to a 5th Phils' run if it just stayed in play] while the Jays' stay in play [their first run wouldn't have happened if the triple bounced over the fence]?), and bad strategy.

We're here to discuss the strategy.

First, the big mistake from Manuel: the score was 4-3 Phils heading into the bottom of the 8th, with the 2-3-4 hitters up for Toronto. Cliff Lee was at 90+ pitches at this point, and the bullpen had not been used the day before.

Lee allowed a leadoff homer to Eric Thames. Jose Bautista, who has 1.22 OPS against LHP this year and a higher OPS against LHP than RHP for his career, then came to the plate.

Lee was obviously not on his A-game Sunday. When you factor in the tie score, the late inning, and the lefty/righty matchup, this was an obvious situation for Michael Stutes. He had pitched only once in the last 8 days, and, again, Bautista is a better hitter against lefties. Manuel decided Lee was not to be pulled. Bautista homered.

Even after Bautista homered to make it 5-4, Manuel had a chance to go to Stutes to preserve the 1-run deficit in hopes of another 9th inning comeback. Instead, he stuck with Lee for way too long, and he ended up allowing yet another home run (this time a two-run shot).

Amazingly, with the score now 7-4 and the game virtually over, Manuel then brought Stutes into the game. Are you kidding me? Once it's 7-4, why waste Stutes? You have Worley, Hamels, and Kendrick picthing in the next three games; it's very possible that you'll need your best righty reliever to picth in all three Marlins games. It's incomprehensibly stupid to waste Stutes' arm in a 7-4 blowout but not use his arm in a 4-4 tie.

This is where the Manuel apologists state: "Stutes needed the work! He only pitched once since Saturday vs. Oakland!"; but, of course, they overlook the fact that Stutes could have used the work against Bautista Friday, or even in the 8th inning Friday in a one-run game. Manuel should have realized that Stutes likely wasn't going to pitch on Saturday, a Halladay start.

Speaking of that 8th inning on Friday, Baez pitched in a one-run game, luckily allowing zero runs and eventually ending up with the win. Why does Baez pitch in a one-run deficit while Stutes pitched in a 3-run deficit? Again, just incomprehensible.

At the end of the year when Bastardo or Stutes ends up injured, the Philly beat writers will defend Manuel's use of Bastardo and Stutes by noting the Phils' record in 1-run games and the multitude of injuries to the Phils' bullpen. They will obviously ignore, however, the fact that Stutes was wasted in a 7-4 game with almost no shot of victory, and that Bastardo was wasted in that 10-2 game in St. Louis.

Once the score was 4-4, the Phils probably weren't going to win: but Manuel turned it from a probability into a certainty.


Keith said...

I may be out of line, since I haven't read most of the blog, but it seems like maybe you don't get an important thing about Manuel. Or you get it, but don't like it, or don't think it's good baseball.

Manuel trusts his key players. He's not going to pull Lee at 4-4, or even 5-4, in this game because Lee is his best option. Even if Manuel doesn't think Lee is his best option, it seems to be important to him to act like he thinks it. That way, even if Lee blows it once in a while, Charlie and the Phillies reap the benefit of Charlie's having trusted Lee.

Trust helps create a healthy kind of excellence. There are other, less people-regarding, ways to attempt to create excellence, of course. I could, but won't, risk mentioning the lessons Larry Bowa may have learned in that regard.

I better stop. I'm preaching now. I'm not a Manuel apologist. I do like how he handles his players and clubhouse. And it's possible that leaving Lee in when it was 5-4 and he was not pitching his best will lead to more overall wins than replacing him at 4-3.

Andy Musser said...

Leaving a starter in the 8th inning of a 4-4 game, after he allows a tying lead-off homer, is not a "way to create excellence." It's usually a way to lose a baseball game.