Use That Arm Delicately

The Phillies swept the Braves in Atlanta once again, carried by starter Cole Hamels, who went eight and two-thirds innings, struck out seven and only allowed one run courtesy a ninth-inning, two-out RBI double from Brian McCann. He was one out away from a complete game shut-out, and it was obvious that manager Charlie Manuel was going to let Hamels attempt to get it. Was it a good decision?

We know that managers make decisions based around the ability to achieve a statistic. This is especially evident with the save. Most managers will only use their closers to start the ninth inning with a lead of three or fewer runs per the save criteria in the MLB rulebook. Some managers like to give their pitchers the ability to get that “CG SO” at the risk of throwing more pitches than necessary, putting strain on the pitcher’s arm and increasing the risk of injury.

Cole Hamels has had a colorful injury history, and if he goes the entire 2008 season without getting injured, it will be his first. Last season, Hamels averaged 99.6 pitches per start; it was nearly 102 before he got injured in mid-August. Looking over his 2007 game logs, here are the breakdowns for his pitch counts in his 28 starts:

Fewer than 100: 10 (36%)

100-109: 7 (25%)

110-116: 11 (39%)

Hamels is averaging 104 pitches per start this season. Here are the breakdowns for his 18 starts this season:

Fewer than 100: 5 (28%)

100-109: 6 (33%)

110-119: 4 (22%)

120-125: 3 (17%)

Going into his start in Atlanta, Hamels ranked 13th among all Major League starters in Pitcher Abuse Points, a statistic formulated by Baseball Prospectus that is, based on the title, self-explanatory. The 125 pitches needed in his eight and two-thirds innings against the Braves aren’t going to make Manuel’s use of Hamels look any better.

Thankfully, Manuel was smart enough to remove Hamels once the possibility of a shut-out was gone and didn’t keep him in just because there was only one out left.

Hamels is scheduled to make two more starts before the All-Star break — on the 8th vs. St. Louis and on the 13th vs. Arizona — and we have to hope that Manuel wises up between now and then regarding his use of Hamels. With Brett Myers pitching in Triple AAA and J.A. Happ subsequently taking his place at least for now, a 45-year-old Jamie Moyer, a thus far lucky Kyle Kendrick, and perennial underachiever Adam Eaton in the rotation, the Phillies can’t afford to lose Hamels to injury or to have him pitching at a lower level simply because Manuel wanted him to get some extra notations in his line score.

Fun With All-Star Rosters

I came up with what I think should be the 32-man rosters for this year’s All-Star Game in New York. Feel free to critique mine and/or post your own rosters in the comments.

American League

C – Joe Mauer, MIN
1B – Jason Giambi, NYY
2B – Ian Kinsler, TEX
SS – Michael Young, TEX
3B – Alex Rodriguez, NYY
OF – Josh Hamilton, TEX
OF – J.D. Drew, BOS
OF – Grady Sizemore, CLE
DH – Milton Bradley, TEX

C – A.J. Pierzynski, CHW
1B – Justin Morneau, MIN
2B – Brian Roberts, BAL
2B – Dustin Pedroia, BOS
3B – Evan Longoria, TBR
3B – Joe Crede, CHW
SS – Jhonny Peralta, CLE
OF – Manny Ramirez, BOS
OF – David DeJesus, KCR
OF – Carlos Quentin, CHW
OF – Johnny Damon, NYY
OF – Magglio Ordonez, DET

SP – Cliff Lee, CLE (starts All-Star Game)
SP – Justin Duchscherer, OAK
SP – Felix Hernandez, SEA
SP – Roy Halladay, TOR
SP – Joe Saunders, LAA
SP – John Danks, CHW (replaces SP Shaun Marcum, TOR)

RP – Francisco Rodriguez, LAA
RP – Joe Nathan, MIN
RP – Joakim Soria, KCR
RP – George Sherrill, BAL
RP – Mariano Rivera, NYY

Team Counts… TBR: 1; BOS: 3; NYY: 4; BAL: 2; TOR: 1; CHW: 4; MIN: 3; DET: 1; KCR: 2; CLE: 3; LAA: 2; OAK: 1; TEX: 4; SEA: 1.

National League

C – Brian McCann, ATL
1B – Lance Berkman, HOU
2B – Chase Utley, PHI
SS – Hanley Ramirez, FLA
3B – Chipper Jones, ATL
OF – Nate McLouth, PIT
OF – Pat Burrell, PHI
OF – Jason Bay, PIT
DH – Adrian Gonzalez, SDP

C – Geovany Soto, CHC
1B – Albert Pujols, STL
1B – Mark Teixiera, ATL
2B – Brandon Phillips, CIN (replaces 2B Dan Uggla, FLA)
SS – Jose Reyes, NYM
3B – David Wright, NYM
3B – Aramis Ramirez, CHC
OF – Carlos Beltran, NYM
OF – Corey Hart, MIL
OF – Ryan Ludwick, STL
OF – Xavier Nady, PIT
OF – Kosuke Fukudome, CHC

SP – Edinson Volquez, CIN (starts All-Star Game)
SP – Tim Lincecum, SFG
SP – Ben Sheets, MIL
SP – Dan Haren, ARI
SP – Brandon Webb, ARI
SP – Cole Hamels, PHI
SP – Aaron Cook, COL

RP – Brad Lidge, PHI
RP – Billy Wagner, NYM
RP – Jon Rauch, WAS
RP – Kerry Wood, CHC
RP – Takashi Saito, LAD

Team Counts… PHI: 4; FLA: 1; NYM: 4; ATL: 3; CHC: 4; STL: 2; MIL: 2; PIT: 3; HOU: 1; CIN: 2; ARI: 2; LAD: 1; SFG: 1; COL: 1; SDP: 1.