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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Game 37: Bullpen abuse nearly costs team another win (18-19)

Manuel has been using his closers in a cavalier manner for years now, and today it bit him.

We stated before today's game that Manuel's usage of Papelbon last night -- the score was 5-1 in the 9th and Papelbon was pitching for the third consecutive day -- was asinine, because it guaranteed his unavailability for today's game. Manuel seldom uses relievers four consecutive days; he never does it in May.

So, then, when the Phillies were nursing a 3-1 lead into today's 9th inning, they had to rely on Chad Qualls instead of Papelbon. Qualls blew the lead, but thankfully did not allow Houston to take the lead before being removed for Savery2.0 (Diekman), who recorded the final out of the inning. The Phils won the game in the 10th inning after Diekman shut down the Astros again, so Manuel's bullpen management will go largely unnoticed.

We have been saying for 4 years now that closers should never be used in games where you're ahead by 4 runs or more, specifically because a 4-run lead in a baseball game is an effective blowout. Your odds of winning a game while ahead by 4 in the 9th inning is 99 percent.

The Manuel defenders will say this: Papelbon was already warmed up, so even if he sat down after the score got to 5-1, he'd still be unavailable today. I'm almost certain this is nonsense. He threw 14 pitches during the game, presumably at a higher effort than his warmup pitches (if they exceed 14, then he's either throwing too many warmup pitches, or his warmup pitches have a negligible long-term effect). I'm also assuming he threw at least eight warmup pitches after walking onto the field between innings, which is the standard number. Fourteen pitches was certainly not his limit, either. I'm assuming that he would have thrown 40 pitches (or even fifty) had he reached that point before Houston tied the score. Therefore, there's no difference between 8 pitches and 50 pitches in regards to availability. Does this not seem absurd?

If there is truly no difference between actually throwing in a game and just warming up in the pen, then why was Papelbon not used in the 7-2 Arizona victory? He was warming up during the top of the 9th inning, but once the lead was extended to five, he sat down and watched Michael Schwimer pitch (somehow, a professional pitcher was able to hold a huge lead).

There's no reason for Papelbon to pitch in that game last night, just as there's no reason for any closer to ever appear in a 4-run lead. And, for argument's sake, if your closer is going to be unavailable because of warmup pitches, then you probably shouldn't be paying him 50 million dollars.

Tomorrow the Phils look to extend their winning streak when Kyle Kendrick faces RHP Matt Garza at 8:05 pm.


Allan Thornburg said...

If you read the post-game commentary--at Beerleaguer and even the official Phillies site--most of the onus for this near-loss is being placed on Hunter Pence, not Manuel, for his error that allowed the tying run to score in the ninth; never mind that Qualls gave up a double to the next batter that would have brought in the runner anyway. Thus, the idiotic use of Pap last night that forced the use of Qualls in this game is being overlooked by the so-called analysts. Another reason why this blog is badly needed.

hk said...

I don't know what's worse, the extent to which this bumbling idiot reduces the Phils' chances of winning games or the extent to which the mainstream media and certain fans go to defend his decisions. I was listening to WIP last night and the host seemed to be ready to criticize Charlie's usage of Papelbon on Monday, but he steered off to the "well, we warmed him up so we might as well use him" defense. Also, if the media won't criticize Charlie's use of the closer and the bullpen in general, why do they give RAJ a pass on the allocation of bullpen resources? How can they justify spending $12.5M per year on Papelbon while losing games with stiffs and has-beens pitching in the 7th and 8th?