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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Friday, May 18, 2012

Game 39: Manuel manages 9th inning properly, Phils now above .500 (20-19)

The Phillies swept the Cubs last night by a score of 8-7, thanks to 8 innings from Roy Halladay and a save from Jonathan Papelbon. Jake Diekman allowed four runs in the bottom of the 9th inning while only recording two outs, so Paplebon was needed for the final out.

Not only are there no complaints for Manuel today, but some praise is in order, because he did not panic when Diekman loaded the bases with 2 outs in the 9th inning (the score 8-3 Phillies). Once the bases are loaded with a 5-run lead, it becomes a save situation since the tying run is on deck. I assumed Manuel would jump at this chance to use Papelbon to "put out the fire", but he correctly stayed with Diekman for one more batter, presumably in an attempt to preserve his closer. Diekman allowed a 3-run double, and with the score now 8-6, Manuel brought in Papelbon.

The win expectancy for a team trailing by 5 runs with the bases loaded and 2 outs is about 2.5% in the 9th inning (the run frequency matrix agrees with this estimation). This is the situation where Manuel trusted Diekman to stay in the game. 

The win expectancy for a team trailing by 2 runs with a runner on base in the 9th inning and 2 outs is somewhere between 4 and 6 percent. This is the situation where Manuel no longer trusted Diekman, bringing Papelbon into the game.

It may not seem like a huge difference between a 98% chance of winning and a 96% chance, but from a Cubs' perspective, their chances of winning doubled (it may have actually tripled) after the 3-run double. Manuel picked the correct time to go to Papelbon. In fact, he probably could have gambled and used Diekman for one more batter, but it was obvious that Diekman was struggling mightily. I would not have killed Manuel had he gone to Papelbon one batter earlier, but I certainly would have questioned his reasoning (e.g., whether or not he was letting the save statistic dominate his strategy).

Now, let's use last night's scenario as a basis to judge Manuel's other frequent mistakes: most notably, bringing Papelbon into a home game with a 3-run lead.

If you can trust Diekman with a de facto 2-run lead (which is ostensibly what a 5-run lead with the bases loaded is) and the corresponding win expectancy of 97.5%, then why can't you trust Diekman at home with a 3-run lead to start the 9th inning (97.8% chance of winning)? If you can trust Diekman with last night's scenario, then it should be obvious that Papelbon should never be appearing in games with a 4-run lead (99% chance of winning -- both home and away).

We've been saying for years now that Manuel overuses his closer in games with 3+ run leads; last night was simply an affirmation.

Tonight the Phils start the dreaded home series against Boston, and the dread is only exacerbated given the Sixers' performance on Wednesday night. Cole Hamels takes on RHP Daniel Bard at 7:05 pm.

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