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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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Game 53: Papelbon used for 5 outs, universe does not fold into itself (28-25)

The Phillies defeated Florida last night by a score of 6-4, thanks to a 5-out save from Jonathan Papelbon in which he appeared with the bases loaded and only one out in the 8th inning. Don't get too excited, though, because I'm sure the mainstream media will tell you that this is a one-shot deal.

Manuel did well last night by using Papelbon for the 5-out save, but he actually used him one batter too late. This is a step up from earlier late-inning losses this season, when Papelbon was just never used at all because noted relief aces Michael Schwimer, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, and David Herndon were busy losing games for a team with a $170M+ payroll. 

Kyle Kendrick was removed after 5.3 IPs. Chad Qualls recorded the final two outs of the 6th inning, and Jose Contreras was entrusted with the 7th inning with the Phillies ahead 5-2. Contreras, one of the few bullpen arms who Manuel has trusted lately, promptly injured himself. This caused Antonio Bastardo (clearly slotted for the 8th inning in Manuel's mind) to be forced into the game with 0 outs in the 7th inning. Bastardo recorded a 1-2-3 inning in the 7th, and Manuel properly sent him back out for the 8th inning. This is the inning where it gets interesting. 

Bastardo collapsed in the 8th inning, allowing back-to-back home runs to the first two batters to cut the lead to 6-4. He then walked the third batter of the inning, bringing LHB Chris Coghlan to the plate as the tying run. Sensing Bastardo's fatigue, Manuel went to the bullpen again, calling LHP Jake Diekman into the game. This move is fine, and it's one of the 10 billion reasons you need more than one lefty in the bullpen. Diekman struck out Coghlan for the first out of the inning. The next batter was a pinch-hitter for the pitcher's spot, and with switch-hitting Jose Reyes on deck (and the tying run still not on base), it's okay for Manuel to allow Diekman to try to retire PH Donovan Solano. Diekman allowed Solano to single, at which point Reyes came to the plate as the go-ahead run, batting right-handed.

It was at this point in the game where I received a two-word text from Mr. Graham: "Papelbon now."

With  the top of the order coming to the plate and the tying run already on base with only one out, you should only be leaving Diekman in the game to take advantage of platoon splits. So, let's do a quick analysis of the handed-ness of the Marlins' lineup. Batting first is switch-hitter Jose Reyes, who is slightly better as a RHB (career OBP as a righty is .356; lefty is .337; slugging percentages are actually equal). RHB Omar Infante bats second, followed by RHB Hanley Ramirez and RHB Mike Stanton, who recently replaced Lucas Duda as worst-name-in-baseball by changing "Mike" to "Giancarlo." Unspeakable. 

Anyway, there's no reason for Manuel to leave Diekman in the game to face Reyes. Not only is Reyes slightly better against lefties, but Infante, Ramirez, and Stanton are all RHBs. Diekman, a situational lefty, is obviously not going to pitch to anyone after Reyes. Papelbon was actually warming in the bullpen at this point (it is unclear if he would have been warming up had Contreras got injured), so if Diekman is not going to pitch to Infante, there is zero reason for Diekman to pitch to Reyes. Manuel left Diekman in the game for Reyes (the reasoning is no less elementary than "he wanted to turn Reyes around"), and Reyes singled. The bases are now loaded with one out and the score 6-4.

Manuel immediately came out of the dugout to double-switch for Papelbon. Now, because Manuel left Diekman in the game for one batter too long (you know by now that we don't operate on hindsight: I can show you the timestamp from Mr. Graham's text if necessary; oh, wait, we have thousands of examples in our archives where we say the exact same thing), Papelbon has very limited room for error. Instead of coming into the game with runners on 1st and 2nd (run expectancy .97), he had the bases loaded (1.65). Manuel irresponsibly gave Papelbon no room for error, and it is unfortunate that Manuel apologists and critics alike will overlook that fact today.

Papelbon came into the game and retired Infante on a pop-out, thanks largely in part to Infante's swinging at a 2-0 pitch well out of the strike zone (thanks, Ozzie Guillen!). He then struck out Ramirez on a called third strike that was certainly out of the strike zone. This is a pitch that Diekman would never get called, and yet another unintended benefit of using your marquee reliever in a high-leverage spot. Umpires like to call strikes, especially for the home crowd. 

Despite Rich Dubee's and Charlie Manuel's laughably idiotic belief that "the ninth inning is a different animal", Papelbon kept Florida from matching their 8th-inning threat, retiring 3 of the 4 batters he faced to complete the save. 

I'm not sure if the beat writers operate on Saturdays, but either way, I can guarantee you that they will portray Manuel's bullpen usage as a "one-time deal", because of Contreras's injury. This is complete nonsense, because if Contreras was ineffective, or if the rain delay simply occurred one inning earlier, the bullpen dynamic would have been the same. I can only imagine how the beat writers will backtrack today. David Murphy (Daily News beat writer) has been spending all year defending Manuel's asinine treatment of Papelbon from a readership who has basic baseball knowledge, yet enough brains in their skull to understand that a 50-million-dollar closer should not be watching Michael Schwimer pitch the most important inning of the year. 

I don't know if Manuel will continue to use Papelbon in high-leverage spots. The haunting 15-13 defeat in Atlanta, in which Michael Schwimer was forced into a bases-loaded, one-out jam with a 3-run lead, occurred on May 2. Dubee and Manuel defended themselves by saying it was too early in the season to be using Papelbon for more than one inning, which, of course, is insane. However, we are still in the first third of the season, yet Papelbon threw 5 outs last night. At which point did Manuel draw the line? Did he use Papelbon because he finally realized that he's been killing this team's playoff chances with his kindergarten bullpen-logic? Or, did he say "wow, now it's June, which sounds like July, which is the second half of the season"? I truly believe both answers are just as likely to be correct. 

Well done, Charlie. Now don't not do it again.

6 comments:

cheesefondue said...

Every NL East team could have 29 wins by the end of the day.

cheesefondue said...

Nope.

Scott Graham said...

Is there a chart that shows which inning is represented by which animal? Could you share a link?

Francisco said...

When asked why he put in Papelbon in the 8th Inning, Charlie replied: "I wanted to win the game." Hmm...

hk said...

A day after which, Charlie allegedly said on the pre-game show that he wouldn't do it again any time soon.

Francisco said...

"...show that he wouldn't do it again any time soon."

Do what? Win a game? Oh Dear Lord...