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.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Phils were down 6-5 with two outs and nobody on base in the 9th inning. Ty Wigginton extended the game with a base hit, bringing Hunter Pence to the plate. Wigginton is one of the slowest runners on the team, and Mike Fontenot was one of the three players still available for the Phillies. It is a basic move to use the speedy Fontenot for Wigginton immediately: Fontenot can steal a base, and he is much more likely to score on a double than Wigginton.
Well, Manuel missed the obvious pinch-run substitution, and he let Wigginton stay in the game. Incredibly, Pence knocked a double off the left-field wall, and Wigginton was able to score. The only reason why Wigginton scored on the play because he was running on the pitch (it's anybody's guess why he was stealing -- probably because with 2 strikes on Pence, if the catcher receives the ball, the game is likely over). If Pence hit his double with 0 or 1 strikes, or if the slow baserunner did not attempt to steal on the pitch, Wigginton certainly does not score.
Manuel has had a habit of waiting until the slow runner reaches second base before pinch-running, which might be the most illogical thing he does. It's possible this was his strategy tonight.
Let's go back one inning, when the score was tied in the bottom of the 8th inning. Carlos Ruiz led off by getting hit with a pitch from reliever Matt Belisle. Shane Victorino was the next batter. Belisle promptly fell behind Victorino with a 2-0 count, clearly showing control problems. Charlie Manuel decided this was the time to sacrifice bunt.
When the count is 0-0, and you lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance a runner to second for the first out of the inning, you are decreasing your chances of scoring. Of course, when you decide to bunt, you know there is a possibility of failing to sacrifice the runner over. When you consider that possibility, you're automatically decreasing your chances of winning the game when you tell your batter to bunt. When the count is 2-0, you shouldn't even consider the possibility of bunting the ball. Make the guy throw a strike, and then you can still bunt on the 2-1 count if it's that damned important to help the other pitcher complete his inning.
Belisle's 2-0 pitch to Victorino was below the knees and off the plate, inside. Victorino bunted at the ball because that's what his manager told him to do, and he was thrown out at first base. Ruiz, a slow runner (yet another reason you don't sacrifice -- even if you ground into a FC, Victorino replaces Ruiz and can steal second base off one of Belisle's many breaking balls), advanced to second base.
With a base open now, Jim Tracy decided to walk Polanco intentionally, because he knew that the 7-8 hitters for the Phillies (Mayberry, Martinez) are essentially minor league batters against righthanded pitching. If only Charlie Manuel had access to this same information as Jim Tracy.
Somehow, Tracy's strategy paid off, and the Rockies were able to get out of the inning unscathed.
In the bottom of the 9th inning, however, the Rockies were forced to earn three outs to retire the Phillies. It turns out, that's slightly more difficult than only having to get two. So, props to Charlie Manuel for not giving Ty Wigginton the bunt sign in the 9th inning. No word yet on Manuel's early projections for Manager of the Year.
Tomorrow the Phillies look to sweep a three-game series for the first time since 1912 when Vance Worley faces LHP Jeff Francis at 7:05 pm.