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.

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3 comments

  1. Ernie

    July 03, 2008 10:36 PM

    wow. I didnt even know that until looking at the stats. Looks like they are trying to turn hamels into a left handed version of Kerry Wood/Mark Prior. Charlie Manuel=Dusty Baker? Although, to be fair, at least he didnt let him throw 150 pitches after coming off the DL. At least he still lets Pat Burrell clog up the basepaths.

  2. Bill B.

    July 03, 2008 11:01 PM

    This was an issue last season, and apparently, either no one talks to Manuel about it or Manuel chooses to ignore the warnings.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call Manuel “Dusty Baker,” at least not until I look at the way he used his other starters (Brett Myers is 8th in Pitcher Abuse Points this season, I noticed).

    You can understand the temptation to ride the arm of a young pitching phenom with the bullpen he had last season, but it’s been really effective this season. Against the Braves in Hamels’ start, only Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero were off-limits, and they just called up R.J. Swindle to take Clay Condrey’s spot. I would have given Swindle his first shot against Major League hitting in the eighth inning and used Seanez in the ninth.

    As for Burrell, it’s annoying how Manuel replaces him as early as the sixth inning with a defensive replacement or a pinch-runner, usually So Taguchi (bad). Tonight, it was Jayson Werth (not so bad).

    All told, though, I think something needs to be said for how much the Phillies like playing for Manuel, so I’m willing to put up with these kinds of faulty decisions, at least until Hamels falls on the same track as Mark Prior.

  3. phanatic74

    July 04, 2008 09:31 AM

    Yeah, all we need is for Hamels to get injured and go on the DL and we mine as well kiss the season goodbye even though the rest of the division is playing so poorly. I agree that seeing Burrell leave the game everyday is wearing on me. They say defensive replacement? Burrell has not made an error all year in left field, how they figure it’s for defensive replacement I’m not sure ??

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