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.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
In the same inning, Vance Worley spun around and rocketed a perfect pickoff throw to Rollins at second. This time, Rollins tagged Herrera even farther from the base than the previous play. The umpire, however, called him safe again. The Dodgers ended up scoring two runs in the inning; had the umpire gotten only one of those calls correct, LA would have scored either one run or zero. Again, Manuel did not argue the call.
With the score 2-0 LA in the top of the second inning, Adam Kennedy led off with a double off Worley. Pitcher Clayton Kershaw then sacrificed him to third base, bringing Dee Gordon to the plate with one out. If Gordon isn't the fastest player in baseball right now, then I'd like a Usain Bolt MLB jersey.
For whatever reason, Manuel decided to play the infield at normal depth against Gordon. With Kershaw on the mound and a deficit at 2 runs already, it is simply arrogant to assume that your lineup is going to score 4+ runs against the best pitcher in the National League. I understand that the Phillies have had no problems whatsoever scoring runs this season, but the strategy at that point should be to cut the run down at home plate.
Making this decision even more infuriating is that there was nobody else on base, and there was already one out in the inning. Even if you bring the infield in and Gordon reaches on a cheap single, he still is only on first base with one out, a scenario where the run expectancy is only 0.29. Therefore, Manuel is sacrificing one full run to prevent a scenario where the expectancy is less than one-third of a run.
Making this decision even more infuriating is that Gordon's speed makes you susceptible to infield hits. Playing the infield at normal depth decreases the chances of a "traditional" single where a ground ball finds its way into the outfield, but increases the chances of a cheap infield single in front of the fielders. This is exactly what happened, and it occurred on a ground-ball to shortstop where Rollins would have had a chance to throw Kennedy out at the plate had his manager played the correct infield depth.
The Dodgers went up 3-0 at that point, and Gordon still made it to first base. This is what happens when you have a manager who makes decisions via autopilot, rather than analyzing each scenario (eg, the speed of Gordon, the talent of Kershaw, the lack of talent of your own lineup, the fact you're already down two, the fact that nobody else is on base which decreases the risk of shallow infield depth...). And guess what? Somehow Worley was able to prevent the 29% chance of Gordon scoring from first base with one out, and it was only 3-0 at the end of the inning. The Phillies lost by one run.
Even though the Phillies were robbed of a run in the top of the first inning by the umpires, and even though Worley was the victim of a small strike zone, it was the Dodgers' dugout who was criticizing the umpires all night. This resulted in two coaches' ejections for LA, including manager Don Mattingly.
The Phillies battled back to tie the game at 3-3, and when Papelbon allowed a Dee Gordon triple (who then scored the winning run) to start the top of the 9th inning, Papelbon was irate at the strike zone. There were two pitches where Papelbon thought he had Gordon struck out, but the home plate umpire gave the benefit of the doubt to LA. Is it a coincidence that the dugout who constantly criticized the umpire ended up as the beneficiaries later in the game? Perhaps, but Tony La Russa (see game 5 last year), Bobby Cox, and Sigmund Freud all would disagree.
The only time Manuel came out of the dugout in regards to the umpires yesterday? To prevent Papelbon from arguing with the plate umpire after Papelbon finished the inning (even if he got ejected, it doesn't matter since the inning is over), which is an implicit endorsement of the umpire. Thanks a lot Manuel. This man is not a players' manager.
Regardless of the umpiring, the bigger issue is Manuel's reluctance to play the infield in, especially when the only baserunner is on third. It is understandable to keep the infield back when there are runners on 2nd and 3rd base with one or zero outs, because you're trying to prevent the runner from second from scoring. Keeping the infield back with only one baserunner, with one out, with Kershaw on the mound: that's just completely unacceptable from a team who needs to battle for every run and win.
Tonight Manuel will find another way to ruin this team's playoff chances when Cliff Lee faces RHP Chad Billingsley at 7:05 pm.