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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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Game 2: Phils are bad, Manuel is worse (1-1)

The Phillies scored a run in the top of the first inning despite Charlie Manuel, and then scored zero runs the rest of the way partially because of Charlie Manuel. They lost 2-1 in 10 innings to the Pirates tonight, with Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, and Mike Stutes all appearing in a 1-1 game, while the 50-million dollar closer sat and watched the bullpen allow the winning run. 

I counted 5 mistakes from Manuel tonight: here they are, in order from least severe to most.

1) Manuel used Juan Pierre as a pinch hitter to lead off the top of the 8th inning. Not only does Pierre have better career numbers against LHPs (the pitcher for Pittsburgh, Jason Grilli, was a righty), but Jim Thome has a career .428 OBP against RHPs. Also, Thome can actually achieve an extra-base hit, something Pierre hasn't done since 2005. Pierre got ahead of Grilli 3-0, but since he has no offensive talent for any pitcher to fear, Grilli was able to work from behind and strike him out. Had Thome fallen behind 3-0 like that, there's almost no chance Grilli doesn't walk him.

2) In the top of the 7th inning, there were 2 outs and nobody on base for Freddy Galvis, who got ahead 3-0 in the count. He took the fourth pitch for a strike, and then was incomprehensibly allowed to swing at the 3-1 pitch. The pitch was inside, but he fouled it off. Galvis should have just incinerated his bat after he fell behind 3-0 (.321 MINOR LEAGUE SLG%!!!), but, no Charlie "I don't teach Walks" Manuel had better ideas. Somehow, Galvis didn't get on base, which led to the Phils' having to rely on a pinch hitter to start the next inning (see 1) above) .

3) In the top of the 9th inning, after Hunter Pence drew a leadoff walk, Laynce Nix was forced to lay down a sacrifice bunt. He has four career sac bunts in 1803 plate appearances. Shockingly, he popped out and the Phils did not score. Let's go over all the reasons this decision was hideous. Firstly, Nix has a lot of power against RHPs, which is the only reason why he is still in baseball. Any type of XBH probably scores Pence, and since Mayberry-Ruiz-Galvis were due up after Nix, there's not much reason for hope (I know Thome pinch-hit after Nix, but if Thome is the plan, why open up first base for an IBB? Thome's pinch-hit appearance only makes the bunt look dumber). 

Secondly, even a successful sacrifice bunt decreases your chances of scoring in the inning. Obviously, each bunt attempt is not automatic, so the decision to square around to bunt drastically reduces your chances of winning the game.

Thirdly, if the idea was to stay out of a double play, then why not steal the base? Actually, that's exactly what Pence did -- but it was after Manuel handed the Pirates an out. 

Somehow, this lineup was unable to score Pence with only two outs to use.

4) This is a mistake that Manuel always makes, and it almost always backfires. In a tie game on the road in the 9th inning or later, Manuel never uses his closer. Why? Because if the Phillies end up taking the lead, then he wants to have the closer available!

Cliff Lee was lifted after 6 innings; Kyle Kendrick pitched the 7th, and Chad Qualls the 8th. Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo pitched the 9th inning, while Joe Blanton pitched the 10th inning. If you keep trotting out inferior pitchers before your best available reliever, eventually you will get burned. Yes, Papelbon probably only pitches one inning, but if he pitches the 10th inning successfully, and the Phillies score 2 runs in the 11th, then Blanton's run allowed doesn't matter. Once Blanton got the 2nd out of the inning with the pop-out, Manuel had another chance to bring in Papelbon to get the 3rd out (and possibly remain in the game for the 11th). Of course, that would require a manager with a grasp of high-leverage situations, so it didn't happen. The next batter won the game for Pittsburgh. 

5) You pretty much knew the Phils were going to lose after Manuel had Jimmy Rollins lay down a sac-bunt in the first inning with 2 men on base and nobody out. There were men on 1st and 2nd to lead off the game with nobody out, and the pitcher Jeff Karstens is significantly worse against LHBs than RHBs. Rollins, batting lefty, was forced to bunt. A successful sac bunt in this spot increases your chances of scoring A run, but it decreases your overall run expectancy for the inning. In other words, Manuel was playing for one run in the first inning against a pitcher with an .863 OPS-allowed vs. LHBs.

The next batter, of course, is Hunter Pence (Karstens has a .730 OPS allowed against RHBs). He rolled a weak groundball that managed to score one run, and the Phils didn't capitalize further. If Pence's grounder were directly at an infielder, they would have scored zero runs in the inning. 

If you are bunting with your 3-batter after the first two batters reach base in the top of the 1st inning, then either you need a new manager, or a new 3-batter (NOTE: the answer is BOTH)

It is rare that Manuel makes most of his hall-mark mistakes in the same game. It is even rarer  that it causes the first loss of the season. An historic day for CharliesManuel.org, indeed. 

This is going to be a long, long season.

Vance Worley attempts to make it slightly shorter tomorrow afternoon at 1:35 pm when he takes on RHP James McDonald for the series victory, 

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