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.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
First of all, the plural of hit-and-run should be hits-and-runs, or hits-and-run. It absolutely is not hit-and-runs. Regardless, the strategy is usually a bad idea.
Now, Juan Pierre led off the bottom of the first inning with a 4-pitch walk from Edwin Jackson. Placido Polanco correctly took the next two pitches (pitch 1 was a ball, pitch 2 a called strike). Polanco managed to lay off the third pitch, also out of the strike zone. At this point, Jackson had thrown 6 out of his first 7 pitches out of the strike zone. He is the owner of a career 3.6 BB/9 ratio, which is certainly above average for a starting pitcher. For whatever reason, Charlie Manuel chose to send Juan Pierre in motion and force Polanco to swing at the next pitch, regardless of its location. The pitch was not a good one; it was a high breaking ball that ended up at the top of the strike zone, but a couple inches outside. It most likely would have been a ball, especially since Jackson missed his spot badly.
Instead of taking the pitch for ball 3, Polanco had to swing. He lofted a lazy fly ball to right, Juan Pierre was deked into not returning to first base (his baserunning has not been good this season, yet another reason this is dumb), and the Phillies turned a meltdown from Jackson into a 2-out, nobody on situation.
I love how Manuel accuses his players of "pressing", yet he seems to be the only one forcing the issue (no, Hunter Pence treating the National League like AAU baseball does not count, because he always swings at everything). Certainly, part of the reasoning from Manuel is that he wants to stay out of the double play. Aside from the fact that reasoning is exactly why Polanco should not be batting second, it's absurd, because the hit and run caused the double play last night.
To make matters even more comical, Hunter Pence swung at a 3-0 pitch out of the strike zone to end the inning after the outrageous double play. The starting pitcher threw 11 of his first 12 pitches out of the strike zone (the Phillies actually managed to not swing at 9 of those 11), and he got a 1-2-3 inning simply because of the manager's asinine strategy.
This should have been a blowout from the start, but, unfortunately, it was "only" 3-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th inning. Naturally, Jonathan Papelbon was warming up for the almighty save situation, and with 2 outs, Shane Victorino hit a left-handed home run to make it 4-0. Papelbon came into the game anyway, allowing 1 run while throwing an unnecessary 22 pitches.
There are two reasons for Papelbon's appearance. The first is that it was a save situation when he warmed up, so they'd might as well use him after it gets to 4-0. Secondly, Papelbon had not appeared since May 17, so he "needs the work."
Here's the problem with the first reason: your win expectancy barely changes when you go from a 3-run lead to a 4-run lead at home. Using the win expectancy finder, home teams win 3-run, ninth inning leads at a 98.9% chance; 4-run leads at a 97.9% (for comparison, a 2 run lead is only 94%). We have stated in the past that 3-run leads should not be handed to the closer every time, and 4-run leads should seldom be entrusted to your top reliever. The main reason is this: if he runs into trouble, there is no one left to come in and bail him out. In other words, you're sending your closer into a possible 50-pitch inning just to secure a 4-run lead (yes, Hunter Pence, it is possible to see 50 pitches without scoring 4 runs).
Now, because Manuel had Papelbon throw 22 irrelevant pitches last night, it's very possible that he ends up unavailable at some point this week (there are 7 straight games until an off-day). With the absurd heat in St. Louis combined with the Cards' offense, CGs seem unlikely this weekend -- especially with both Kendrick and Blanton scheduled. If Papelbon needs in-game work in order to stay fresh, then he should not be automatically unavailable after 3 straight appearances. If he needs in-game work and cannot pitch more than three straight days, then he shouldn't be getting 50 million dollars. (Amaro already knew this is how Manuel manages, though, so he has no excuse).
Remember, this is the guy who watched the team blow FIVE late-inning leads in the first month (all ending in defeat) without ever appearing, because the coaching staff didn't want to overuse him. Now, he's throwing 22 pitches in a de facto blowout. It's no accident this team has a positive run differential and a losing record.
I suppose at this point it is irrational to expect anything besides the irrational, but at least we will all be watching the Sixers on Saturday as Chad Qualls allows a walk-off homer to Beltran.
Tonight the Phillies head to baseball's Hell on Earth, as Big Joe Blanton faces RHP Jake Westbrook at 8:15 pm in St. Louis. Brace yourself for Chris Wheeler's over-the-top compliments of that ridiculous fanbase.