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Sunday, October 9, 2011

NLDS Game 5: La Russa again out-manages Manuel, ending the 2011 run (2-3)

Let's keep this one relatively short, because even if Manuel did not make the following four mistakes, the Phils probably would have lost:

1) In the bottom of the 8th inning, the Phils had 7-8-9 batters due up (Polanco-Ruiz-Halladay).

Since May1, Polanco's OBP is .304, which is simply dreadful. The only reason why Mr. Graham and I haven't been entirely anti-Polanco for the last four months is because he plays above-average third-base defense, and, just as importantly, Wilson Valdez and Michael Martinez are even more useless offensively.

Ben Francisco, since May 1, has a .337 OBP. Since May 20, Francisco has a .358 OBP. He also hit a ball about 400 feet the last time he was allowed to play, and your team is only trailing by one run in the 8th inning.

Francisco has a much better chance of getting on base to start the inning while clearly possessing a better home run threat against Chris Carpenter (Francisco has relatively even splits; he's not significantly worse against RHPs than LHPs).

Manuel, with only six outs remaining in the entire season, judged that Polanco was the better option instead of Francisco. Shockingly, Polanco did not reach base.

2) After Carlos Ruiz grounded out to shortstop for the second out of that 8th inning, Manuel used Ross Gload to hit against Carpenter. Gload actually reached base on a strikeout. However, the reason this was a poor decision is that Gload has virtually no power. Gload may have had a better chance of reaching base against Carpenter than John Mayberry would have (it's probably a negligible difference, though), but it's obvious that Mayberry has a better chance of hitting a ball over the fence. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th inning and no one on base, trailing by one run, you just have to throw Mayberry up there and hope for a home run. If not, you have the top of your order in the 9th. Gload luckily reached base, the pinch-runner (Martinez) was too afraid to run against Molina, and the Phils didn't score.

3) In the bottom of the 5th inning, Roy Halladay was at the plate with nobody on base and two outs. Carpenter threw a ball on the first pitch. At this point, my immediate thought is that Halladay should not swing for the rest of the at-bat and hope for a walk. Carpenter would certainly be rattled by such a mistake, and it's feasible that Rollins could take advantage of a "mistake pitch" and line it into section 105. However, the coaching staff on this team is so poor that Halladay wasn't told to take the next pitch. Halladay swung at a 1-0 curveball, grounding out to end the inning.

Even if this were opening day in April, I don't want my pitcher swinging at any 1-0 pitch, let alone a breaking ball in the dirt. Had Manuel simply told Halladay to take for a strike (which should be the pitchers' offensive strategy 99% of the time), it would have been a 2-0 count. Carpenter then would have had to throw 3 out of the next 4 pitches to avoid a walk, and the crowd would have been going berserk if they sensed a Sabathia-Myers moment. Unfortunately, Jimy Williams wasn't around to prevent Halladay -- the worst-hitting Phils' pitcher -- from swinging.

4) This is the worst mistake of the game, something that we've been criticizing on this blog for over three years. Bottom 7, only nine outs to go. Ryan Howard leads off the inning and actually manages to take three consecutive pitches. Incredibly, all three of those pitches were out of the strike zone. The Phillies have been shut out for six straight innings at this point, and they never really came close to scoring. Carpenter just threw three straight balls to the leadoff batter -- this should set off a mild celebration in the dugout. Assuming Carpenter's chances of throwing a strike on any given pitch is 75% (which is absolutely high -- the average strike percentage is below sixty percent), the odds of him throwing three straight strikes is .75*.75*.75 = 42%. That number doesn't even account for Carpenter's hesitancy to "stay away" from the biggest home-run threat in the lineup.

What happens? Carpenter throws the fourth pitch out of the strike zone, and Howard swings. It didn't go over the fence, and Howard did not get BABIP-lucky.

It was at this point I gave up on the season.

Speaking of the Sabathia-Myers moment, would Charlie Manuel even have a world championship if the Myers plate-appearance ended the same way as Halladay's at-bat? It's astounding to me that Manuel gets a free pass from this fanbase simply because Brad Lidge threw 48 consecutive successful 9th innings.

The NLDS Review will follow in the next few days.


Robby Bonfire said...

I want to be just a bit kinder to the much-maligned Phillies offense, than most have been, in the aftermath of the 11-run game marking the last big offensive outburst for this team. I say that taking a 4-0 lead in a game represents a lot more offense, relatively speaking, that scoring, say, 7 runs in a 10-7 loss. Sometimes the HP umpire's relatively compressed strike zone, other times wind and temperature conditions will conspire to hold down the scoring, thus we have 2-1 games and 8-6 games in baseball, all the time.

What happened, given the Phillies 4-0 lead? As we know all too painfully, the Cardinals came all the way back against a tiring, struggling Cliff Lee. Why was Lee struggling, when, ordinarily, he would be zipping through the remainder of his starter innings?

Is it possible, just possible, that the 120 + 92 pitches he threw in his two meaningless game starts prior to his playoff outing in the blown 4-0 lead game has EVERYTHING to do with it? Damn right is does. So that this pivotal-game loss in this playoff series served to be the handwriting on the wall for what was to embarrassingly follow.

Look, Charlie Manuel told us that he would have this team "ready for the playoffs." In fact, Charlie Manuel having this team motoring at top speed all the way through September made it virtually impossible for any gas to be left in the tank for the "big chips" showdown. So Charlie, in effect, lied to us, and if he did so from a certain home-spun "innocence" rather than from a deeper motivation, that is just as inexcusable.

While this cannot be documented, I do believe that Charlie Manuel's consistently mis-deployed lineup selection, his constant defiance of the basic percentages of the game of baseball, and probably foremost in this mix of egregious ineptitude - his pulverizing an already infirm, veteran team to the point of physical bone-dead weariness and an emotionally-flat and mechanical-rote caving in to a more spirited and better managed, albeit lesser talented team - which itself had been pushed to the end of the regular season with no time to rest, but which had noticeably more steam left in the boiler - renders this 2011 Phillies season, to my mind, the most-bungled mangerial fiasco associated with a contending team in the history of the sport.

I cannot support this team emotionally, any more, until the current GM and the manager are gone. The regular season doesn't mean spit now, anyway, all that matters is making the playoffs, these days, with something to spare, going in.

Winning upwards of 100 games means nothing, other than making the playoffs, whether you are talking the Phillies of 2011, Seattle Mariners of the 116-win season, etc. The Mets, for Christ sake, made it to the World Series in 1973on the heels of an 82-win(!) regular season, and got as far as game seven, before the bubble burst.

Championship baseball with integrity is dead. The sport needs to find a way to pit the two league regular season champions - this year the Yankees and the Phillies, in the WS and get beyond the "consolation round" mentality of runner-up teams playing for the big prize on Halloween. Maybe back to four divisions and the four divisional winners playing a 12-game round robin for the big prize? That would effectively kill this "wild card" and "runner-up" stigma and blight besmirching the integrity of the game.

Meanwhile I am really tired of phony playoff imposter teams who were crap from April to September, getting the spotlight for superiority over five or seven games in October, on the heels of their pronounced mediocrity over 162 games.

Scott Graham said...

I think they really need to go back to two leagues (divisions), and just have the two best teams from each league play in the Championship series. This will never happen though.

Robby Bonfire said...

The four-divisonal MLB concept, with the four division winners proceeding directly to the World Series, if you think about it, would include 20+ World Series games, quite a departure from the seven we have always had. MLB and the networks would get a really big championship showcase, and the fans who support this game would get a legitimate, not a crap shoot, world champion.

I fashion this idea on the legendary success of NCAA basketball's "Final Four," wherein you have four separate geographical areas and universities excited and involved in the championship mix for several days, and quite a national fever to go with it.

Four cities involved in the World Series - what a bonanza that would be for everyone - MLB, players, networks and fans. And it would put a dent in football's ascendency and popularity superiority compared with baseball in the Super Bowl era.

Scott Graham said...

I'm not exactly sure I follow you. How can 4 teams be in the world series? Could you elaborate?

Robby Bonfire said...

Thanks for asking, Scott.

A "round robin" is a format wherein each division-winning team would play the other three division-winning teams, in my proposed 12-game format, twice at home and twice on the road, for a total of 12 games for each team. So, this year, we would have gotten world championship competition exclusively among the Phillies, Yankees, Tigers and Brewers, with the Phillies playing the Yankees, Tigers and the Brewers twice at home and twice on the road, etc., or until one of these teams clinches it all.

When the competition is down to two teams remaining in contention to win it all,and they are not scheduled to face eachother directly, you would have to have ample financial rewards for the eliminated teams, for each game they win in this competion. This is not ideal, but is much like the regular season in that, in September, you have teams with a losing record playing teams going to the post-season all the time.

So that you would have 20+ World Series games featuring the four best teams in baseball, which is really my point. This format would have excluded the imposter 1973 New York Mets and the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals from the post-season, and would have gotten the deserving 2001 (I believe it was) Seattle Mariners with 116 wins in 162 games into baseball's showcase championship round, that year.

Plus this format gives more meaning to the regular season in that no "wild card" teams are still sneaking in the back door of playoff inclusion. You WIN your seven or eight team division or you go home, period!

This business of downgrading the level of excellence established by highly-skilled teams over 162 games is preposterous, and most of all, self-defeating. Excellence should be rewarded, not cancelled for some kind of short-term network TV payoff incentive, with the complicity of MLB which has prostituted itself to the current disgusting "format."

I am looking at the Philies (and the Yankees) post-season failure this year as a failure of the system, not as any failure on the part of the Phillies or Yankees who played brilliant baseball from April through the end of September.

Same as, in 1973, I looked upon the Cincinnati Reds (99 wins) as merely 16 games better than the New York Mets (82 wins) instead of 17 games better, following their losing three of five post-season games to the Mets, who thereby qualified for the World Series.

This business of 162 games counting for next to nothing, and a five or seven game series counting for everything has got to stop. Except that it will probably never even be addressed as a problem by the powers that run the show and I live in some kind of idealistic dream world wherein the best teams in Major League Baseball are the only participants in championship play, once the regular season has ended.

Scott Graham said...

Well I just posted a comment that was somewhat lengthy. I don't feel like responding again, so I'll summarize what I wrote.

1) I hate the current playoff system, so I agree with you there.

2) I disagree that there should be subdivisions in the conferences because if the Phillies and the Brewers were both in the same division, then only the Phillies would have moved on when the Brewers had the second best record in the NL.

3) I propose two conferences with 15 teams and have the 2 best records from each move on.

4) I disagree with your logic that your playoff system makes games more meaningful in September. While I dislike the current format, it makes more teams relevant allowing more in the playoffs. Again, I agree that the current system usually does not reward the best teams (case in point this post season), but the Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Phillies, Braves, Cardinals, Astros, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks would have had nothing to play for on the last night of the season (or a good amount of nights prior to that for that matter).

Robby Bonfire said...

Scott, let me bring to your attention the real problem with "too few teams having nothing to play for, late in the season." It is not about late September when, deservedly, because of their lack of skill and their inferior organizational management, most teams are going through the motions, with players just padding production number totals. It is about "nothing games" throughout the season, that I lament.

You have a problem with "nothing" games in September? I have a problem with "nothing" games in May, June, July, August AND September, such as, let's say, in most seasons when both the Yankees and Red Sox are going to the playoffs as the two best teams in the American League, and they play a series in Yankee Stadium in July.

It disgusts me that games like this, with sellout crowds, some people paying $2500 for a seat, or a luxury box, mean next to nothing, because both teams will start playing for real in October, rendering the 19 games they play before then merely a dress rehearsal.

I guess people pay that money, and go see these games anyway, because they want to see A-Rod, or Jeter, or just "be there," so they can be the envy of their friends in the office, etc.

Scott, there was a time when the top two teams in a league played a mid-season game, it was always a critical game, because they knew that one of the two teams would NOT be playing following the regular season completion. So these games meant EVERTHING, to the owners, the managers, the players and the rabid fans.

It is shameful and disgraceful that such match-ups today have so little significance, as the teams and their fans are just biding time until inclement football weather conditions roll around, pitchers start blowing warm breath on their nearly frozen pitching hands, and the real season begins in earnest.

So you take exception, if you like, to any total under about eight teams having nothing to play for the final week of the season, and that is your call. But, dammit anyway, how I miss REAL baseball seasons with REAL pennant races. And how I detest the fraudulent "made for TV" garbage playoffs, in freezing weather, of four-hour duration with all the commercial interruptions, at night in the northeast, between teams that don't even belong there, in most cases.

Baseball is SICK, Scott, and like the Titanic, it won't be coming back to the majesty, the beauty, and the hallowed, indispensable place it once occupied in our American culture, all because a bunch of grubby, seedy, vulgar, materially insatiable television and radio network executives, pot-bellied owners, Commissioner's office lackeys, spoiled-rotten players, union thugs, grimy, selfish agents, advertising agency swine, and media pimps have conspired to ruin what used to be the most artistic and structurally sound game ever invented. At least some of us can say..."There was a time in America...."

Scott Graham said...

I can't help but feel like you ignored my comment. I was just citing the fact that having more teams makes the playoffs makes more games meaningful overall (June, July, August... whenever) which I'm pretty sure was your point. If only 2 teams make the playoffs, it's usually pretty clear early on who will make the playoffs. I agree that the playoff system is flawed, but when you say that your changes would make more games meaningful, I can't help but feel like your logic is completely wrong.

Robby Bonfire said...

I would never "slickly" ignore your's or anyone else's comments and observations directed toward me, Scott. I'm here to share my perspective, and I learn a lot from the contributions of others, in the bargain. We appear to have a vastly differing orientation as to how to fix what, I believe we agree, is broken.

Let's back up a bit. First, I want to lament here a big-time jerk who was around in the 60's and 70's by the name of Sonny Werblin, who, as you know, was a partner in ownership of the New York Jets, or New York Titans as they were originally called.

Sonny Werblin is to be remembered and respected as a successful business man, but not as a sports entrepreneur. It was Werblin who originated the disgusting "wild card" concept, when the two football leagues merged. The media (starting with Howard Cosell) and the public just assumed that with the merger of 14 NFL teams and 10 AFL teams, we would get four NFL divisions of six teams each. But Werblin, who was much more gifted at losing $10,000 show bets on favorites at the race tracks he owned, than as a sports structural engineer, just had to establish his "genius" legacy, thus, the puking "wild card" cancerous blight we have today on America's two biggest spectator sports, because, as we all know, bad ideas get copied like a plague going around as the "in crowd" thing to adopt.

So, Scott, even if we don't completely understand eachother's viewpoint, and we're not going to agree on everything, anyway, just know that my primary focus and wish is for baseball to revert to four divisions and a round robin World Series consisting of the four division winners, so that you would have perhaps 8-10 teams in serious contention for a divisional title, and playing highly meaninful games between eachother, deeply into the second-half of the season in any given year. This year it would have been Phillies, Braves, Cardinals, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Giants for while, plus the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, and maybe Angels, all going into the second half of the season with high hopes for glory.

And when the Yankees play the Red Sox, and the Phillies play the Braves in July, nothing is being held back, and you can feel the pennant race tension when they play, not just shrug your shoulders or, as I am want to do so often during the baseball season these days, just skip following the play-by-play of most of the meaningless games we have between top contenders, today, which, is the biggest oxymoron in sports I have ever heard of - relatively meaningless games between top contenders in mid-season. And the "home advantage" they are ostensibly playing for is a joke, see - Yankees, seventh game, 2004, vs. the Red Sox, and see the Phillies just about any given year, now.

What a travesty and charade professional and big-time amateur sports have become in this country, and we are being had, Scott - by ourselves, when we invest too much time, money, and emotion into a sport we love, but also into what has devolved into a sham and a hoax of an entertainment medium, starting with the Phillies having the best record in the National League by five games in 2010, and by six games in 2011, yet having NOTHING to show for their considerable superiority over the entire rest of the league, thanks to "best of five" superseding "best of 162," down at the network think tank.

And thanks to the Sonny Werblin blood-sucking legacy of "shyster the public for all they're worth," this accursed, overly-commercialized businesss diguised as "sports" really isn't worth fighting over or for anymore.

Robby Bonfire said...

Hey, the light just went on and I got what I think is a really GOOD idea for solving the dilemma of the best team in each league not making it to the World Series. It goes like this...

Using this 2011 season as the example, the Yankees and Phillies deserve to be in the World Series, off regular season play, right? RIGHT! But they won't be, to the detriment of all of baseball and the fans who support the game and deserve to see real championship play. OK, here is how you amend this gross injustice to these ballclubs and their fans..

Have one of the four opening playoff rounds feature the two best teams in baseball, one AL, and one NL team, in a best of seven (while there are three other playoff series going on, as well.)

So let's say the Phillies beat the Yankees, in their opening round match-up. The Phillies are then crowned Regular Season MLB Champions. If the Phillies proceed to run the table and win it all, beating the Tigers or whomever in the final round, the Phillies are undisputed World Champions.

BUT, what if the Phillies are eliminated in a subsequent round, after they defeat the Yankees? Say the Tigers win what I would call "The Playoffs Championship."

Ok, you then have the Regular Season champion Phillies play a best of seven World Series with the Playoff Champion Tigers, with the winner becoming the acknowledged World Champion of baseball.

In other words, to win baseball's championship and be considered a valid championship team, a team must win TWO LEGS, either the Regular Season championship plus the Playoffs Round; or the Regular Season Championship plus the World Series; or as in the case of the Tigers, in this example, they would have to win the Playoffs Championship, and then have to beat the Phillies in the World Series to claim baseball's world championship.

To implement this format, all baseball would have to do would be to cut the regular season to 154 games. For this small concession, baseball gets a real championship match-up in the first round; and a truly deserving championship team which won two legs, however it did it, to claim the prize.

If anyone likes this idea, please get it over to Mr. Giles or someone of power and influence in ownership or baseball's Commissioner's office. Thank you.