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, October 2, 2011

NLDS Game 1: Offense wins it (1-0)

Charlie Manuel once again outmanages an opponent in the playoffs, this time with the Phillies beating the Cardinals, 11-6, after overcoming a 3-run deficit.

Neither Manuel nor La Russa managed all that poorly yesterday -- Roy halladay simply out-pitched Kyle Lohse -- but La Russa seemed to concede the game by not bringing in a lefty to face Ryan Howard while the game was still within reach.

In the 7th inning with the Phillies ahead 6-3, La Russa removed his best lefty (I don't feel like spelling his name) after facing Chase Utley, who knocked a single to load the bases with nobody out for Hunter Pence. La Russa brought in Mitchell Boggs to face Hunter Pence. At this point, I thought it was obvious La Russa would make another pitching change after Pence's AB. Pence hit a weak groundball to the pitcher, resulting in an out at home plate. I was surprised that La Russa kept the RHP in the game to face Howard, as if La Russa figured the game was over anyway the way Halladay was throwing. Howard hit a sac-fly, and the Phils scored 2 more runs after that off Boggs to put the game out of reach.

Why not bring in Arthur Rhodes to face Howard with one out? A strikeout or a double play is a real possibility in that situation, so La Russa either conceded the game in the 7th inning or he made a horrendous managerial blunder. I'm guessing it's both.

Charlie Manuel had a good game, leaving Chase Utley in the two-spot. That move alone caused the above managerial mistake from La Russa. We always said that another reason to split up the lefties is because managers generally don't like to make back-to-back-to-back pitching changes (eg, lefty for Utley, new righty for Pence, new lefty for Howard). Manuel splits up the lefties and it immediately pays off.

It is a very good sign that Manuel removed Raul Ibanez for pinch-runner/defensive replacement John Mayberry in the 7th inning. One of the craziest Manuel moments of the year was when Manuel actually used Raul Ibanez in a game as a defensive replacement in the 9th inning, removing the much faster (stronger arm too) Ben Francisco. I wondered if Manuel actually had a warped judgment of Ibanez, but the fact that he's using Mayberry as a defensive replacement in game 1 (it's possible that he removed Ibanez because it became a blowout; that is, if the score were 4-3 instead of 9-3 he may not have made the move) is a good sign overall.

The only strange thing from Manuel came when he allowed Roy Halladay to bat in the 8th inning with a 6-run lead. At this point in the year, I don't want Halladay at the plate when the Phillies have a 99.9% chance of winning a game. Injury risk is small, but there's no potential benefit to Halladay batting/pitching with a 6-run lead with three outs to go. Once the Phillies stretched the lead to 8 runs, Halladay was removed for Stutes. At least Manuel removed him when it got to 8, but he should be using the same strategy up by 6 as well.

Also, I probably would have left Stutes in the game for one or two more batters. It's possible that Ryan Madson will need to pitch in all four playoff games (that would be four games in five days, something he was unable to do earlier in the year in Washington). Madson should be treated as gold in this bullpen given the relative unreliability around him, so bringing him into the game with an 11-4 lead was pretty ridiculous (the bases were loaded, so it was the equivalent of a 4-run game with the bases empty and one out: a situation where Madson should never appear).

I question the redundancy of having Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, and Vance Worley in the bullpen at the same time. Is it necessary to carry three long-men in the bullpen with this rotation in a five-game series? One of them is certianly expendable (I love Blanton but I would make him the odd-man out), and David Herndon was the perfect pitcher to come into the game instead of Madson. The lead was large enough where you could have used another pitcher before Madson, and Herndon is actually pitching better than Stutes right now. Only one problem -- Herndon was the 26th man, left off the roster for three-long men.

These are small mistakes unlikely to hurt the team, but if Madson has to appear in the next three games (small chance but definite possibility), his Game 4 performance may be an interesting one.

Tonight the Phillies look to put their foot on St. Louis's throat at 8:37 when Cliff Lee faces RHP Chris Carpenter.

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