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.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
In the top of the 8th inning with the score 4-1, Antonio Bastardo came into the game and faced two batters, retiring one and walking the other. Manuel then went to Chad Qualls to face RHB Starlin Castro -- not necessarily a bad idea. Castro was not the tying run at this point, so even if Qualls allows a homer, the lead is still intact. Castro promtly singled off Qualls to cut the lead to 4-2, bringing cleanup hitter Bryan Lahair to the plate as the tying run.
Lahair is lefthanded. Lahair hit 38 home runs in 129 AAA games in 2011. Lahair has a career OPS+ of 131 in 285 PAs in MLB. In other words, he is the Cubs' best hitter, and he was representing the tying run with only 5 outs left in the game.
Entering last night's game, Chad Qualls owned a .720 OPS-allowed against LHBs with a home run rate of 2.04%. Jonathan Papelbon owns a .561 OPS-allowed against LHBs with a home run rate of 1.72%. Chad Qualls is making 1.15 million dollars this year; Papelbon is making 12.5 million. I understand that these are sunk costs at this point, but we're talking about an organization who allowed David Bell to steal 2 years of PAs from Chase Utley simply because they refused to acknowledge Bell as a sunk cost until mid-2005.
It is entirely unjustifiable to allow Qualls to face the lefty when you have Papelbon available. Manuel is obviously trying to get to the top of the 9th with a 4-2 lead. Why is it okay to use Papelbon with a 2-run lead and nobody on base against the bottom of the order, but not with a 2-run lead with the cleanup batter representing the tying run? Well, the answer is simple: the scoreboard said INNING 8 instead of 9, so YOU HAVE TO USE YOUR SET UP MAN. Forget about maximizing your chance of winning the game, Charlie, just keep making decisions based on asinine labels that didn't exist when you played the game (the experience of which, presumably, is why you have this job to begin with).
We've been saying for years that Manuel should use his "closer" in the 8th inning when the other team has the top of the order due up; the "set-up guy" would then pitch the 9th against the inferior batters. However, Manuel is more concerned with risk-averse strategies to make his post-game press conferences easier, or he just has no idea what he's doing. It's probably a combination of both.
Qualls probably wasn't even the second-best option to face Lahair -- LHP Joe Savery was available to make a LOOGY appearance. [EDIT: reader HK notes that simply leaving Bastardo in the game to face both Castro and Lahair would have been much more optimal than allowing Qualls to face Lahair, which is correct. This means that Qualls vs. Lahair was the fourth-best option Manuel had].
Of course, Lahair hit a homer off Qualls to tie the game, but Manuel got bailed out by Placido Polanco's 2-run double in the bottom of the inning, and nobody will question Manuel's terrible decision -- thus ensuring this website's relevance for another day (NOTE: this website is pretty damned irrelevant).
Somehow, this team is only 3.5 games out of first place.
The Phils start their biggest series of the year tonight in Atlanta. I am fully expecting one of these games to be a close loss aided by the manager. Here's hoping I will be watching the Flyers when it happens, though. Cole Hamels faces RHP Brandon Beachy tonight at 7:10 pm.