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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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Game 23: Papelbon again not used in most important relief inning, Manuel gets lucky anyway (11-12)

We're only going to discuss one decision Manuel made last night, partially because it nearly cost the Phils a victory and partially because Manuel's lineup was more optimized than usual (Ruiz again started for Vance Worley, which is a good sign, and Pete Orr did not bat ahead of Ruiz).

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.


hk said...

While I agree with the whole "use your best reliever in the highest leverage situations" approach, I have resigned myself to the fact that this manager will never employ that strategy. However, having (unfortunately) accepted that, I am interested in hearing your response to my comment following yesterday's post.

hk said...

What I meant in my comment above has more to do with the media than Charlie. I get that neither Charlie nor the media will grasp the concept of using your best reliever in the highest leverage situation. However, having said that, how is it that they continue to give this guy a pass on simple and obvious platoon split errors like last night and letting Thome face Javier Lopez?

Andy Musser said...

Matt Gelb and David Murphy are the beat writers, both are under 30 years old. If they're not under 30, they're early 30s at the most. They're both relatively new, and while I understand that they are not employed by the Phillies, there's almost certainly pressure on them to not bite the hand that feeds them (by not criticizing the manager).

I haven't read too much from Gelb about Manuel's decisions, but it seems like Murphy almost enjoys shooting down anti-Manuel arguments from his readers. His column on how JC Romero was NOT misused last year comes to mind -- it was downright hideous.

The most Murphy ever gets to criticizing Manuel is when he says "...but no/every other MLB manager would do that."

The media members act like vultures on Mondays after Eagles WINS, but these guys refuse to ask Manuel any legitimite questions even after close Phils' losses.

Anonymous said...


I agree 100% with you. It's sickening to see that Charlie continuously gets free passes for simple bonehead moves, whereas Reid would get his ass chewed.

The problem is, most of the Phillies "fans" are just that, and nothing more. They follow a winning team and simply don't know standard, logical baseball moves.

Robby Bonfire / former Phillies fan. said...

Unlike in previous years, when I rooted for the Phillies, I am now an A's fan, thanks to my refusal to suffer the unbearable Amaro - Manuel "connection," any longer.

Having said that, I will share my one wish for the Phillies, for this year, with you, and that is that I now root for them to lose every game they play for the simple reason that if Charlie Manuel is able to finish his MLB "managerial career" without being fired, it will render indefensible the firing of every manager in the history of the game.

Charlie Manuel is a blight, a plague, and a curse upon every vestige of rational, intelligent, logical thinking and behavior. That he would display the arrogance to stick around this long, and be accomodated by Phillies brass to do so, is the biggest travesty in professional sports I have ever been witness to.

Guess one's life is rather inconsequential when it comes to admitting that if this man is fired it will absolutely be one of the 10 happiest days of my entire mis-spent lifetime.

Scott Graham said...

Robbie! Good to hear from you, and I 100% agree. I want them to lose every game until he's fired.

Hk- I understand THAT Manuel and the media don't understand proper use of relievers, I just don't understand HOW. How doesnt someone understand that a tie game is harder to protect than a 1 run game. I've tried to have this conversation with "old baseball men", and they just laugh at me. Yet when I bring this up to most young people, even those who don't follow baseball too closely, they can easily understand the logic. It's infuriating.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Scott.

Certainly bringing in Pap with six-run and three-run leads, and then not bringing him in "Because he needs rest" with games on the line is just one of the many blights on Manuel's legacy.

Manuel should be working in a governmental-bureaucratic position, wherein efficiency and positive results never enter into the thinking or the equation, the only concern is getting a budget increase, next year.