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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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Game 123: Manuel hands victory to Reds with worst sac-bunt ever (57-66)

Had the Phillies been anywhere near the wild-card lead for last night's 5-4 loss to the Reds, it would have been the worst loss of the year (or second-worst -- 15-13 in Atlanta on May 2). We are only going to focus on two decisions from Charlie Manuel, because they were so idiotic that this post can write itself.

The first absurd move was actually the lack of calling a sacrifice bunt. In this case, the sacrifice bunt would have been a suicide squeeze. The batter was Juan Pierre in the bottom of the 7th inning. There were runners on 2nd and 3rd with only one out, and the score was tied at 3. Ty Wigginton was the runner on third base. He is slow, yes, but when the infield is playing in (and the batter is Juan Pierre, who cannot hit a flyball), a suicide squeeze can be used in order to make Wigginton's speed irrelevant: all the pressure is on Pierre to get the bunt down. However, inexplicably, Manuel did not call for a suicide squeeze against the left-handed pitcher, Sean Marshall. Marshall is much better against lefties, Pierre bunts more often against lefties, and Pierre is a truly awesome bunter. How can you not call the squeeze? If Pierre demolishes a line drive directly at an outfielder or grounds out directly to an infielder or simply strikes out, then they would simply walk Chase Utley in order to face Ryan Howard.

The fact that Wigginton is a slow runner means fewer of Pierre's swings will generate a run. Speed means little on squeeze attempts, because you're running on the pitcher's delivery to home, well before the bunt attempt makes contact with the pitch (hence the term 'suicide'). 

The most infuriating factor of this situation is not that Manuel failed to call the squeeze, but that he allowed Pierre to bunt without calling a suicide squeeze. The result was a safety squeeze attempt, in which the baserunner waits until the bunt is put in play before heading home. The bunt was mediocre, and Wigginton was thrown out by 10 feet at home plate. If he is running on the pitch, which he would have been had the manager had any ounce of awareness, he almost certainly scores that fourth run. 

Now, fast forward to the bottom of the 9th inning. LHP Aroldis Chapman was brought into the game to save Cincy's 5-4 lead. Placido Polanco managed to get a base-hit off the flamethrower, and Jimmy Rollins -- a right-handed bat followed by 2 straight lefties, Pierre and Utley (Martinez was batting in the 4-hole after pinch-running previously) -- was due up next. Chapman throws about ten thousand miles per hour, and he owns a ridiculous .350 career OPS-allowed against lefties. Yes, this is partially due to a small sample size, but it's also partially due to the fact that his left arm generates a fastball of ten thousand miles per hour (Carlos Ruiz doubled off him once on a 103.5 MPH pitch, which is the fastest pitch that ever went for a hit). Righties own a much more respectable .537 OPS against Chapman. So what does Manuel do? He forces his right-handed batter, so that Juan Pierre -- Juan Pierre --  can go up there and try to hit the fastest pitch in the history of baseball. That sounds like an awesome strategy, right? Because you're more likely to score if you have a runner in scoring position? Wrong. Sac bunts have long been known to reduce run expectancy (and frequency). A stat I saw over at CrashburnAlley this morning is all you need to know: even if that sac bunt was successful (which, of course, it wasn't, because Chapman threw the ball to second base at roughly ten thousand miles per hour), the Phillies win expectancy would have been reduced from about 31 percent down to 25 percent.

The broadcasters during tonight's game actually said that if Manuel had the chance again he'd do it differently. Unbelievable that it took this man over 12 hours to realize his mistake, when the idea of a sac bunt should have last no longer that 12 milliseconds. 


hk said...

One more in the world did he not pinch-run for Wigginton in the first place? He was the lead run on first base in the bottom of the 7th. Martinez might have scored on Rollins's double and he surely would have scored on Pierre's safety squeeze.

hk said...

...and another thing...what in the world was Charlie thinking sending Lindblom out to face Bruce leading off the 8th with the Phils down 1 run last night? With two RHB's to follow, why not use Valdes for one batter and bring in a RHP to finish the 8th? Does he not get or care about platoon splits? Does he not understand the importance of keeping the game at a 1 run deficit? Is he too lazy to take an extra trip or two to the mound?

Francisco. said...

Maybe Charlie is more devious than we thought: He knows Polanco is not the same guy anymore, often injured, not as fast. So he has Rollins bunt because he knows Chapman will throw to second to get the lead out. Now Rollins is on first and closers are notoriously bad at holding base-runners, now Rollins proceeds to steal 2nd base AND 3rd base. Voila, a bunt-sacrifice that puts the tying run on third, only the sacrifice was the runner not the batter.


Robby Bonfire said...

You are correct re bunting the runner over to second base reduces the offensive team's scoring potential in the inning. John Thorn and Pete Palmer were among the first sabermetrics writers to reveal this (if not the first), in their wonderfully insightful book "The Hidden Game of Baseball." So that this knowledge, for students of the game, has been around since at least the 1980's.

So what's the scoop, is this dolt manager out of here or coming back for yet more sadism and masochism directly aimed by Phillies management at those who pay the freight and actually care about this team's fortunes? Someone update me, please.