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.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
LHB Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who has been bad against lefties in his short MLB career (small sample size, yes, but his minor league splits indicate he is much stronger against RHPs), came to the plate against Blanton in the 7th inning with two outs and two runners on base. The score was 4-1 Phils.
Chad Qualls was warming in the bullpen; he was obviously going to pitch to the next batter, RHB David Wright. In other words, Blanton was pitching to his last batter.
If Niewenhuis is much stronger against RHPs, then why leave Blanton in the game? The reasoning is this: there were three LHBs batting behind David Wright, so Manuel needed to save LHP Antonio Bastardo for them. Fair enough. This begs the question -- do the Phillies have another lefty in the pen to pitch to Niewenhuis? The answer is yes -- Joe Savery.
There's no debate that Savery is more likely than Blanton to retire Niewenhuis. There's little difference between a fresh Savery and Blanton on his 103rd pitch (he had 102 pitches entering the Niewenhuis PA). However, there's a significant difference between Niewenhuis against a RHP and Niewenhuis against a LHP, as is the case with most left-handed batters.
Manuel opted for the wrong choice, and it burned them. Niewenhuis singled to make the score 4-2, and Wright followed with a single that tied the game after Pete Orr botched the ensuing run-down.
You can argue that Papelbon should have been used against Wright (who represented the go-ahead run with the score 4-2), but Bastardo is probably the best choice to face the three lefties following Wright. Also, the tying run was only on first base, meaning it would take at least an XBH (or a throwing error) for Wright to tie the game off Qualls. There's probably a negligible difference between the two options.
Savery should not be on this team if he cannot be trusted against Niewenhuis there. And, if he can be trusted there, but Manuel thought Blanton was the better option, then Manuel shouldn't be on this team. And, if there is a discrepancy between Amaro and Manuel as to whom can be trusted, then Amaro shouldn't be on this team.
Out of those three, my guess is Savery is the best at his job.
Here is an excerpt from beat writer David Murphy's mistake-riddled bullpen analysis posted earlier today over at philly.com:
"Hey, blame the manager if it makes you feel better, but the guy is operating in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" in which every adventure ends in certain death."
Even ignoring the blatant condescension, it's disingenious as well. He has yet to "choose the adventure" of using Savery in situations like this (this is twice this season where Savery hasn't been used against a strong lefty -- it backfired both times). He has yet to "choose the adventure" of using Papelbon with runners on base. He has yet to "choose the adventure" of using Papelbon in tie games on the road. He has yet to "choose the adventure" of using Papelbon more than one inng (by this time last season, he had already amassed two appearances of more than 1 inning). He has yet to "choose the adventure" of using Papelbon in the 8th inning.
The Phils look to avoid a sweep tonight when Cliff Lee faces RHP Dillon Gee at 7:05 pm.