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, August 9, 2011

Game 115: Manuel mishandles bullpen in win; or did he? (75-40)

The Phils defeated the Dodgers last night, 5-3, thanks to a solid start from Roy Halladay and a monster night from left-handed Shane Victorino.

Halladay left the game with one out in the 7th inning and two runners on base. Antonio Bastardo then entered the game to face Andre Ethier, who was the tying run with the Phils ahead 4-1. Tom McCarthy incorrectly stated that it wasn't a save situation, and Bastardo got Ethier to GIDP to end the inning.

Stutes was then called onto pitch the 8th inning, and he struggled. He faced three batters and only got one out. Manuel then pulled Stutes for Lidge, something I won't argue with. Lidge then faced Rod Barajas, who was the tying run, and walked him on a 3-1 pitch that was clearly in the strike zone.

Juan Rivera followed with a single to left field to make it 4-3. The tying run moved into scoring position, and the go-ahead run was on first.

At this point, the new batter (Dee Gordon) and the on-deck hitter (Tony Gwynn Jr.) were both lefties. Since Lidge has lost velocity on his fastball and has been throwing almost all sliders this season, he is probably even less effective against lefties than normal (he has always been stronger against RHB). This is where Manuel needs to go to Madson for a 5-out save. Madson is much, much stronger against LHBs than Lidge, and with two men on, one out, and a one-run lead, you can't leave your best relief pitcher in the bullpen.

However, the Phillies have an 8.5 game lead in the division with seven weeks left to go. Clearly this is not an insurmountable lead, but Baseball Prospectus has their playoff odds at higher than 99.9%. Yes, higher. If Manuel wants to leave his "second-tier" relievers (Stutes, Lidge, Bastardo) in high pressure situations in order to prepare for the playoffs, I suppose that's not something I can argue. However, it's very possible that if this were game 7 of the NLCS, Manuel would have managed the 8th inning the same way. Regardless, Madson must be ready to go 4 or 5 outs in the playoffs, and it would be nice to see him appear in some of these situations before October.

Lidge got out of the inning thanks to terrible baserunning by Juan Rivera (running over Chase Utley while Utley approached a ground ball by Gordon, who may have beaten the play at first) and a strange decision by Gwynn to bunt with the go-ahead run on second base and two outs.

The play by Utley was excellent. Gordon is a super-fast runner who hit a slow grounder to second base. If there were no runners on base, Utley would have sprinted at the ball in order to make the throw as soon as possible, due to Gordon's speed. However, Utley knew that the play at first was going to be close, and he deliberately stopped in the base-line in order to make contact with the baserunner. Utley saw Rivera coming and drew the interference. Before the fielder touches a batted ball, the base-runner must yield to the fielder and avoid all contact.

This is something I always yell at the TV about -- if you are a fielder and the runner is in front of you, all you have to do is run into the runner to get an out. Shortstops almost always stop before the baseline, allow the runner to pass, and wait for the ground ball. Since he has to stop without charging the baseball, his throw to first base is delayed and the batter is often safe at first.

Drawing interference on a baserunner seems like something that isn't taught at the major league level, and Utley perfectly demonstrated last night the value of that strategy.

Tonight the Phils go for yet another series win when Cliff Lee faces LHP Ted Lilly at 10:10 pm.

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