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Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Favorite Manuel Topics: Bullpen Mismanagement

In Part 1, of Mr. Musser’s Manuel Post-Mortem, the focus was on Manuel’s lineup construction flaws.  I know Mr. Musser plans to continue into Part 2 and focus on his bullpen management, but I’m also going to write about it right now.  I’m certain that there is enough data from which to draw, and I know that our memories will likely lead us to different examples.  Just being able to recall some of the things I’m about to mention causes me to laugh at our ridiculous scrutiny of the manager while still being absolutely furious about his mistakes to this day. 


One of my favorite things to criticize Manuel about (and by favorite I mean the most utterly frustrating thing I’ve ever spent time complaining about due to its straightforward nature), is saving the best reliever, AKA “closer”, until an uncertain save situation rolls around in the 9th inning or extra innings.  I’ve written about this time after time on this blog, and it’s just based in such perplexing logic that I can’t understand how any grown man in charge of a baseball team can possibly not see how backwards an idea it is.

The first example that immediately came to mind was from Thursday, August, 28th 2008.  I began typing the post before the game even ended.  The Phillies entered the bottom of the 8th inning at Wrigley Field with a 3 run lead over the Chicago Cubs.  Ryan Madson (obviously), started the 8th inning against the 9-1-2 hitters for the Cubs.  The Phillies entered the inning with a 91% chance to win the game.  Mike Fontenot (!!!) led off the inning with a home run.  4-2 game.  The next hitter, Alfonso Soriano hit a double.  With 0 outs, a runner on second, and the heart of the lineup looming, Manuel should have absolutely gone to Brad Lidge.  Ryan Madson was solid in 2008, but this was still one season prior to his striking out over one batter per inning and becoming truly dominant.  Also, Brad Lidge was perfect in 2008.  Rather than bringing in Lidge, or even warming him up, Manuel stuck with Madson who gave up a single to Ryan Theriot.  1st and 3rd, no outs, and the team’s Win Expectancy was down to 58%.  Manuel then decided to make a pitching change – Chad Durbin.  Durbin was solid in 2008, and Ryan Madson was clearly off that night, but Brad Lidge is the clear solution.  Durbin walked Lee to load the bases.  The Cubs were then favored to win the game with the Phillies up by two and the bases loaded.  Aramis Ramirez then hit a grand slam all but sealing the loss for the Phillies.  Brad Lidge didn’t pitch the 9th, because there was no 9th inning.  Good thing Manuel saved him for the save situation. 

The next game that came to mind was Game 135 of the 2011 season against the Marlins.  Mr. Musser, Mr. Mix (a close relative), and I were in attendance for the final series the Phillies would play in the Dolphins stadium.  The entire game was pretty much ridiculous with Roy Halladay pitching, a fan interference call that had to go to review, and extra innings.  We had to leave the game early to get to the airport, but I remember being furious watching Michael Stutes and David Herndon pitch a combined 5.2 IP (it would have been more, but the Marlins put Herndon out of his misery.  Madson never made an appearance in the 14 inning game and the Phillies had only used 4 relievers to the Marlins 7.  Maybe if Madson had been used, they could have literally outlasted the Marlins pen and Greg Dobbs would have had to come in to pitch. 

Likely the most recent example (and obvious example of just how much this drives me crazy) occurred in game 38 of this season.  The Phils were 17-20 going into the game, and I was already certain just how disastrous the season would be, and this still drove me insane.  The Phillies were up 3-0 going into the 8th inning.  Antonio Bastardo was used to begin the inning.  A walk and a pop out later, and Paul Goldschmidt is due up with one out.  At this point, Papelbon should have been brought into the game.  Instead, Manuel let Bastardo pitch to Goldschmidt who singled.  First and third.  Manuel THEN lifted Bastardo for Papelbon.  If Bastardo isn’t even allowed to surrender a single, then he should undoubtedly not be allowed to pitch to one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League.  What made this situation even worse was the commentary from Wheels and TMac.  I’m going to copy and paste my rant from the game post:

‘You really don't want to use Papelbon for 5 out saves this early in the season.’  Who the HELL said you have to use Papelbon through the end of the 9th inning if he appears in the 8th inning?!  The reason he makes so much money is because he's one of the best relievers in MLB and definitely the best reliever on the Phillies.  Why save him for situations where the Phillies are up 3 or 4 runs in the 9th inning with no runners on base (3 runs = saveeeeee, 4 runs = his appearances on Monday and Tuesday of this week).  He should be used in the most pressing situations in the game almost regardless of the inning.  He DOESN'T need to pitch in the 9th inning.

If he comes into a game in the 8th inning, and throws a lot of pitches, then you can just use the next best option in the 9th to finish the game.  Think about it.  If Papelbon successfully keeps the lead at 3-1 in the 8th inning meanwhile throwing a lot of pitches, just use someone else to pitch the 9th.  If Papelbon did NOT appear in the 8th inning and Bastardo gave up the lead (let's assume a 3-3 score), Papelbon wouldn't be used in the 9th inning for the insane reason that it's not a SAVE situation.  So, Manuel would resort to using a lesser reliever in a tie game with ZERO wiggle room.  If you use a pitcher in a game where he cannot allow even one run, then I'm confident you can use the same pitcher in a game where he has the luxury of allowing 1 or 2 runs.


Enough said.

We’ve used the “saving your best reliever” tag 22 times since the inception of the site (that doesn’t include any other related tags such as “Ryan Madson for high leverage spot”, 5 times).  The majority of which were in 2012.  We didn’t use tags all that frequently and we still were able to use it 22 times in about 6 seasons.  Insane.  Another reason it probably wasn’t used more during the 08-10 seasons was due to the fact that the Phillies had a pretty stacked team including the bullpen.  Even when Manuel used the wrong guy, it was usually at least a competent pitcher.  For example, in 2009 and 2010 (especially in 2010), Ryan Madson was a phenomenal pitcher.  In many instances, the highest leverage situations occur in the 8th inning of baseball games.  During those two seasons, Madson was incredible, and probably was thrown into the correct situations by accident.  By the way, in 2009, Brad Lidge had a 7+ ERA, and he pitched 58.67 innings.  Horrendous.  Anyway… Part of the reason why the team has gotten increasingly worse over time is due to the fact that the bullpen has gotten worse, and Manuel’s managerial blunders could less frequently be covered up by his players proficiencies making his job that much more important, and making his mistakes that much more noticeable.    


Another favorite topic of mine included complaining about Manuel’s use of J.C. (whom we affectionately referred to as Jansas City Romero).  Fact: We tagged “Jansas City Romero” more times (39) than any other explicitly J.C. Romero tag combined (26).  One thing I’ll always remember about J.C. Romero was his wife who was with him on the float at the parade…

Another thing about J.C. Romero was that he always had a seemingly decent ERA with the Phillies.  He ALWAYS outperformed his FIP and xFIP.  In no season with the Phillies did Romero walk fewer than 5.8/9 IP.  That’s pretty insane.  Every inning he would walk 2/3 of a batter.  That’s pretty tough to do literally or figuratively.  One thing Romero always did pretty well was face LHB relative to RHB.  In 2008, he had an xFIP of 3.03 to go with a wOBA against of 0.171 versus LHB.  One thing Charlie Manuel NEVER did well, was use Romero as he was intended to be used: as a LOOGY.  Instead, in 2008-2010, Romero faced the following amount of LHB/RHB, respectively:

2008: 111/144
2009: 32/41
2010: 97/74

It only took Manuel 3 seasons to realize he should be used more against LHB.  It’s not like the Phillies had Brad Lidge, or Ryan Madson, or even a respectable Chad Durbin to face RHBs late in games. 

When thinking back about Jansas City Romero’s time here, I immediately recall several instances where Manuel used J.C. to pitch to Chipper Jones specifically, one of the greatest hitters since I’ve been alive.  Chipper’s platoon splits are better from the left side, but they’re relatively close.  In cases such as these, I’d undoubtedly look to the prospective pitcher’s platoon splits to determine the appropriate matchups, and the answer would almost always be something other than J.C. Romero. 

There were numerous posts where we complained about Manuel’s use of Romero.  He obviously used him incorrectly for many seasons as the batters faced stat (shown above) proves.  I’ll grant a little lee-way as some of those righties were undoubtedly a result of LHBs split up by a RHB.  That’s what makes Manuel’s insistence to keep Utley and Howard back-to-back for so many seasons so frustrating – he could see the exact benefit of breaking up LHBs on a near daily basis.  However, in many of the instances where Manuel preferred to keep Romero in the game so he could face the bookend lefties, the game was on the line during the righties ABs, and Manuel refused to acknowledge the urgency of the situation.


Robby Bonfire said...

For me, the "bullpen mismanagement" discussion begins with the Manuel's damnable refusal to acknowledge that Lidge was not the same pitcher in 2009, that he was in 2008.

Lidge's 8-run first half ERA in 2009 did not discourage Manuel from continuing to run Lidge out there in game situations, all year long, so that Lidge racked up a National League worst 11 blown saves that year, and finished the season with a 7-run ERA, meaning that in Manuel's book, Lidge was "hot" with merely a 6-run ERA to show for the second half of the season. This,for a team trying to repeat as world champions.

Charlie Manuel, I figure OWES the people of Philadelphia an apology for screwing us all out of seeing our team win one or two extra championships we should have won with the best collection of players and pitchers in baseball, three or four times during the span Manuel was here.

But, no, he will go into the Phillies Pantheon of all-time greats as the "greatest" manager in club history. Enjoy the ceremony, next spring. Glad I live 300-400 miles away and won't be there.

Robby Bonfire said...

18-inning game, Saturday night, not made any easier by the home team losing. However, more importantly, baseball really should adopt a 12-inning - no decision = tie game rule.

All a marathon game does is completely devastate two pitching staffs, for the next two-four weeks.

All sports, today, detest ties. But you think about it, football and hockey had tie games just until the last couple of decades. Hockey's shootout is one of the most moronic rules in sports, taking the defense out of the equation, as it does.

And football really hates tie games so much they adopted that g trashy 2-point conversion rule, to go with the O.T. tie-breaker, if the regulation play gimmick doesn't settle it.

Baseball can do better, except it doesn't know that and is just focused on network TV ratings, the commercial log, and, of course, selling us wearing apparel until the cows come home, anyway.

Kruksticle said...

You guys are going to blow for a long, long time once again.

Anonymous said...

Kruksticle, you don't have a clue what you're talking about. The Phillies were not good under Charlie Manuel except for a handful of years, and honestly they weren't as good as their records during those years. I watched almost every single game for ten years, 100+ games a year, and did in fact watch every single game from 2004-2010 or 2011. Not once did I ever feel like the Phillies were the formidable team in the series, no matter who they were playing. Larry Bowa turned the Phillies around, not Charlie Manuel. The only thing that improved under Charlie Manuel was the talent level (which he squandered), and that was only because Ed Wade got fired and Pat Gillick got the owners to open their pockets for once, mostly due to real fans like me watching every game and going to the ballpark, lining their pockets long before any of the bandwagon fans did. Then as soon as the Phillies started losing again, those bandwagon fans predictably forgot about the Phillies and stopped going to ballpark.

Unlike Charlie Manuel, who couldn't even crack the MLB level as a player, Ryne Sandberg is a Hall of Fame hitter and fielder, and he did a hell of a job at the AAA level before he came to the Phillies, where many of the players that had such great years under him ended up crashing and burning under Charlie's mismanagement.

Get a clue.

Anonymous said...

How could you not mention Clay Condrey and Geoff Geary? It seemed like every time the game was on the line, Charlie would bring them in. The best part of the Brad Lidge trade to me was that Geoff Geary was finally gone.

Chad Durbin was a great long-man, but he doesn't have the stuff to be a high-leverage reliever, like his heavy fastball that worked in the early innings but got hit later on. Charlie moved him from being a long-man to pitching in every situation there is, and then people wondered why he struggled so much in high-leverage situations and his ERA ballooned the next year. That was really Charlie's biggest problem was his obvious lack of understanding roles. You can't keep yanking guys from role to role in your bullpen and expect to win games.

Robby Bonfire a.k.a. "Donald Trumpet" said...

Charlie Manuel couldn't manage a three unit Laundromat.

Robby Bonfire said...

The above is sports journalism at its highest level. The research diligence and analytical prowess demonstrated here are extraordinary.

Anonymous said...

Scott (or whoever wrote all of this shite),

WTF are you talking about! Manuel has won more games as a Philly manager than any other manager. One of the best manager winning percentages, one of 55 managers with 1,000 wins (the list goes on and on). In 2008 (manager of the year runner-up) he had 20% of the starting lineup and won the world series....not many of those around in the Philly club house by the way! You are obviously in the minority.

You will be saying the same shite about Sandberg in a year. You are lost and the only way you can prove to anyone that you can do better is to find a way to manage the team yourself and show us. Until then you are just another bitter armchair-manager.

Rupert said...

Well said, Anonymous. The "crap" is pretty thick around here. If your analysis and stats don't align with the negative propaganda and venom on these boards, someone will surely go ad hominem on you.

Rupert said...

Hey! Wait!? Where did the HOF Manager Sandberg go??? goes on for days, friends! Trust me.

Surely "Cholly" would have at the least finished the season.