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Friday, October 7, 2011

NLDS Game 4: Manuel refuses to start (or use) Mayberry, Phils lose (2-2)

I wrote in the series preview that John Mayberry should start game 4 instead of Raul Ibanez despite Edwin Jackson's right-handedness. I also wrote that Manuel would make a mistake by starting Ibanez in game 4, despite having nearly half Mayberry's walk-rate. This is relevant because Jackson walks almost 4 batters per 9 innings, a large number. Manuel started Ibanez, of course, and Raul went out and posted an 0-for-4 line with three strikeouts.

The offense only scored three runs (two off Jackson), partially because Jackson walked only one batter the entire night. Chase Utley, one of the few players with above-average plate discipline on this team, was the one who drew that walk. The other players on this team with high walk-rates are Ruiz, Francsico, Mayberry, and Domonic Brown. Out of those four players, only one appeared in the game. Only three were in the state of Missouri.

It is not shocking that a team struggles to score runs when the lineup is not optimized.

It's also not shocking when the manager misses obvious pinch-hit opportunities; however, given that Mayberry was the one who should have pinch-hit for Ibanez (7th inning) and then Howard (8th inning), it's almost expected that the manager isn't going to make the correct decision.

Let's start with the top of the seventh. The Phillies are down three runs with only 9 outs to go, and Tony La Russa brings in LHP Arthur Rhodes to face Raul Ibanez. Since Ibanez is the first batter Rhodes would be facing, had Manuel used a RHB to pinch-hit in this situation, La Russa would not be allowed to switch pitchers. That is, either Francisco or Mayberry (my choice would be Francisco's plate discipline over Mayberry's power simply because of the 3-run deficit with no baserunners) would be guaranteed to face a lefty in that spot. More important than the potential matchup was the actual matchup -- Ibanez is simply dreadful against lefties this year, with an OBP below .270. Allowing Ibanez to remain in the game at that point is simply asinine managing, and Manuel was rewarded with yet another K from Ibanez.

La Russa then immediately removed Rhodes from the game, bringing in a righty to get the final two outs.

Let's go to the worst decision of the game: two outs, man on second, with the score 5-3. Ryan Howard came to the plate against RHP Fernando Salas representing the tying run. If, at this point, you thought Howard was going to face Salas in this plate appearance, then you are probably new to the sport. La Russa made the easiest decision of his life by bringing in the lefty Rzepczynski to face Howard.

Since Howard's career OBP is only .311 against lefties (this year it's and Ibanezian .286) with a 2011 OPS-vs.-LHPs under .670, and since John Mayberry is probably a better hitter than half the Phillies lineup right now, and since Rzepczynski's splits are HUGE, it's a disgrace that Howard was allowed to hit in that situation.

I understand it's more likely that Domonic Brown is the winning pitcher in a 2011 World Series game than it is for Manuel to ever pinch-hit for "Big Piece," but the fact remains: Rzepczynski has a career .784 OPS-allowed against RHBs, and .573 against lefties. Howard is your worst starting batter against lefties not named Ibanez. Mayberry is a beast against left-handed pitching. This was actually the easiest decision of the game; again, it was a spot where La Russa wouldn't have been able to match a righty against Mayberry.

It clearly would have been unconventional to remove Howard at that point in the game, but it obviously would have increased the Phillies chances of winning. Meanwhile, the fool in the other dugout is about as unconventional as a manager can get, and he's running circles around Manuel this series.

Other than walking Ruiz to face Francisco in game three, La Russa has done just fine this series. If I could say the same thing about Manuel, perhaps there would be no game tonight.

I'd put the Phillies chances of winning tonight's game somewhere between 55 and 60%. Probably closer to 55. It will be Roy Halladay, MD, vs. Chris Carpenter at 8:37 EDT.


hk said...

At what point will the manager be held responsible for some of his decisions? Letting Ibanez face Rhodes was quite possibly Manual's worst move ever when factoring in the importance of the situation.

More importantly, when is someone in the MSM going to start criticizing, or at least questioning, Ruben Amaro, Jr. Our smug, widely heralded GM, took over a World Champion with a $98M payroll and one of the best farm systems in baseball has overseen a team that has gotten progressively worse results (2009 WS loss, 2010 NLCS loss and 2011 NLDS loss). In addition, he signed Howard to what will surely be one of the worst contracts in baseball - and did so almost two full seasons before Howard was eligible for free agency.

I went to bed last night and woke up this morning surprisingly calm about last night's loss and I think it is because I expected it...not because I think the Phillies are chokers or anything like that, but because I came to realize that a line-up with a .245 hitter batting 6th and an old, injured, slap hitting 3B (a position that is supposed to be a power position) batting 7th is a line-up with a lot of holes in it. For that, we have the GM and the manager to thank (or blame).

Robby Bonfire said...

On behalf of the Los Angeles Rams, the Baltimore Colts, the Houston Oilers, the St. Louis Cardinals, the (original) Cleveland Browns, the (original) Oakland Raiders, and the (almost) Phoenix Eagles, I would like to say: "Al Davis, R.I.H." (Rot In Hell).

It is always a shame when someone dies, and that goes double when someone dies 50 years too late.