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 30, 2011

Game 130: Victorino, Hamels bail out Manuel (84-46)

The Phillies defeated Cincinnati last night by a score of 3-2. Cole Hamels pitched 6 innings, while Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes, and Ryan Madson each pitched an inning to secure the victory.

Hamels was pulled after 6 innings, presumably, because it was his first start after the DL. No argument here, although it would have been nice to protect his arm before the injury (remember when he pitched in the 8th inning up by 8 runs?) rather than after. Late is better than never, I suppose.

Three mistakes from Manuel last night:

1) In the bottom of the 4th inning, Brandon Phillips led off with a triple because of Hunter Pence’s awful misplay in right-center field. Hamels retired the next batter with a strikeout, bringing Joey Votto to the plate with a man on third and one out.

When there’s a man on third and zero outs, that runner has an 86% chance of scoring, so I won’t fault Manuel for playing the infield at normal depth. However, once Hamels got the strikeout for the first out of the inning, that run frequency falls from 86 to 66%.

Playing the infield at normal depth with a runner on third and 1 out is something I’ll never understand. When there’s a runner on second as well as third base, it makes sense if you’re simply trying to keep the runner from second from scoring. However, with only a runner on third base, it’s more likely that a slow groundball will score a cheap run than it is that a cheap base hit (due to the shallow infield) will lead to multiple runs. It’s unlikely a grounder that would normally become an out turns into a hit, and it’s even less likely that run will score (run frequency of a man on first with one out = 28%).

Manuel played the infield back against Votto, whose specialty is extra-base hits, not slow grounders through the infield. Votto grounded out to second base and the Reds took the lead. If not for Victorino’s homer, this strategy very well could have cost them a victory.

2) With a runner on first base in the top of the 8th inning and the pitcher’s spot coming up, Manuel decided to sacrifice the runner over to second. This isn’t a dreadful decision given the difficulties of pinch-hitting and the possibility of a double play, not to mention the on-deck batter (Victorino) is the best hitter on the team. The dreadful decision was his choice of a pinch-hitter: Michael Martinez.

Martinez has been awful on sacrifice bunts this year, and he failed again last night, popping out on his bunt attempt. Martinez’s only value as a bench player is speed and defense, yet he was used for neither last night. It would have made more sense to pinch-run Martinez for Valdez and use Oswalt as a bunter. Oswalt is about 100x less valuable to this team than Cliff Lee -- Game 4 starters only pitch twice in the playoffs -- so if Lee can pinch-run in a meaningless situation (see below), then Oswalt can certainly bunt in a meaningful spot. Oswalt is one of the best sac-bunters in the league, but Manuel may have been saving him for a pinch-running opportunity if the game went to extras.

3) With two men on base and two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning, score 3-2, Manuel allowed Michael Stutes rather than Ryan Madson to face Joey Votto. Madson’s changeup is perfect against a batter like Votto, and Stutes is probably the fourth-best reliever on the team this year (Herndon has outperformed him). Manuel must be willing to use his best reliever to get 4 or 5 outs in the postseason, and last night was a perfect dress rehearsal for this situation. It was easily the highest-leverage spot in the game, against a hitter who will succeed more often against Stutes than Madson. Manuel got lucky – Votto grounded out.

Tonight the Phillies look to guarantee at least a series-split as Roy Halladay faces RHP Bronson Arroyo at 7:10 pm.

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