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.
Friday, October 26, 2012
This is Prince Fielder's terrible slide from last night that would have given his team a 1-0 lead. Had he scored this run, they probably would have scored again in the inning. The final score was 2-0 Giants, so this slide very well may have cost the Tigers the game and their entire season.
Chris Wheeler loves to drone on and on about the DANGERS of sliding head first, especially when a young black player mildly injures himself by diving into a base. He especially hates diving head first into home because of the catcher's equipment. However, Wheeler never explains to the audience the benefits of sliding head first. Usually, sliding head first is a quicker way to get to a base than sliding feet first, due to the fact that head-first slides propel yourself forward rather than downward. Since a proper head-first slide involves a slight airborne dive, there is consequently less friction than feet-first.
Furthermore, on a head-first slide, your arms are almost always entirely outstretched in front of you, maximizing your chances of getting to the base as quickly as possible. Just look at Fielder's slide. His waist is almost perfectly centered at the top of the batter's box, yet the only part of his body that is outside the batter's box, towards home plate, is his left foot, which is still at least 6 inches from the plate. The reason that Fielder and Leyland were convinced that he was safe was because he should have been safe. Prince Fielder, for as much criticism as he gets for his baserunning, actually beat the throw on this play. It was a god-awful slide that completely wiped out his effort. Had he slid head-first and his waist was in a similar area relative to home plate, his hands would have been outstretched far across the plate, possibly even reaching the umpire.
We haven't yet discussed another reason for sliding head first, which is that your hands/fingers are easier to control than your feet, which increases your chances of dodging the tag. Also, your arms are skinnier than your legs, decreasing the surface area for the defender to tag (I mean, Prince Fielder's legs are about the size of Paul Lo Duca circa 2006).
There is no doubt Fielder would have been safe had he chosen to slide head first. However, the first time someone shakes his hand next season after slightly jamming his fingers on a head first slide and Wheeler immediately admonishes the decision to slide head first, there will be about a .01% chance Wheeler will mention this slide. Yes, sliding head first is slightly more dangerous (see Utley's slide at Cincinnati 2010), but I am not convinced it is significantly more dangerous than sliding feet first (Stephen Drew's injury 2011 was extremely gruesome). In fact, if I were the Phillies GM, I would demand that Utley not slide head first until the playoffs (or until regular season games turn into de facto playoff games). With a player like Utley, the risk of injury is probably not worth the slight effect that a head-first slide has on run expectancy in a game that has an even slighter effect on World Series-expectancy.
Perhaps if Wheeler mentioned -- even once -- that deciding to slide head-first instead of feet-first ALWAYS increases a team's chances of winning, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Unfortunately for us, though, we live in a world where a mediocre slide from a Detroit player reminds us of just how condescending our TV announcing team (sans Sarge) truly operates.