The headline above is a phrase commonly heard by fans of the New York Mets. Lately, it has evaporated from the Philadelphia lexicon given the Phillies’ incredible run of success over the last three-plus years. Most of Charlie Manuel’s poor managerial decisions have been washed away either by the Phillies’ monster offense or — at least in 2008 — covered up by the pitching staff.
The Phillies went into today’s game with a 7-1 record, looking at a series sweep of the Washington Nationals. The offense, of course, had been on fire and the bullpen had been better than expected. However, the team was trying to compensate for the loss of Jimmy Rollins and a subpar opening to the season by the starting pitchers (sans Roy Halladay).
Even as potent as the Phillies are with the bats, they can’t be expected to score eight runs every night, so every now and then Manuel will have to pull a managerial ace out of his sleeve. Unfortunately, he was not able to do so this afternoon. There were several instances of Manuel slipping up and failing to maximize his team’s chances to score or prevent runs.
Bottom of the third inning: Carlos Ruiz led off with a double to left-center, which gave Manuel the no-brainer decision to order pitcher J.A. Happ to sacrifice bunt to move Ruiz to third base. It’s a no-brainer — right? Not so. Using the run expectancy matrix from Baseball Prospectus, we see the following situations yield different expected run totals:
- Runner on second, 0 out: 1.14 runs (Starting situation)
- Runner on third, 1 out: 0.96 runs (Successful sacrifice)
- Runner on second, 1 out: 0.69 runs (Failed sacrifice)
- Runner on first, 1 out: 0.53 runs (Failed sacrifice, Ruiz is thrown out at third)
As luck would have it, Ruiz was tossed out at third on Happ’s sacrifice bunt attempt, effectively cutting the Phillies’ expected runs in half. In fact, they scored no runs in the bottom of the third. Manuel should have let the left-handed Happ take a swing there.
Top of the eighth inning: Manuel seemed to have gotten cozy with the idea of using Madson for more than three outs. Madson got four outs in his first appearance of the season. Today, however, Manuel didn’t have Madson warming up while Danys Baez came in for the eighth inning. Perhaps he was super-confident in Baez. After all, three of his five appearances have been perfect. On the other hand, Baez had already pitched in five of the team’s first eight games while Madson had only appeared in three, and has not yet pitched on back-to-back days.
Manuel stuck with Baez after Adam Dunn led off the inning with a home run to right-center. And after Baez walked Ivan Rodriguez to put a runner on first base with one out and Ryan Zimmerman due up. Madson had not yet been warming up, perhaps a mistake in and of itself. Baez would surrender another home run — and the lead — to Zimmerman, who hit a line drive over the right field fence.
It’s easy to second-guess, but it is surprising that Madson wasn’t at least getting loose in the bullpen while Baez was struggling.
EDIT: As Dash Treyhorn of The Fightins pointed out to me via Twitter, left-hander Antonio Bastardo could have started the eighth inning to face the left-handed Adam Dunn. The pitcher did not bat in the inning prior, so there would have been no penalty to leaving Bastardo in for one more batter.
Bottom of the eighth inning: The Nationals started the inning by replacing right-hander Tyler Clippard with lefty Sean Burnett to face Raul Ibanez. Despite hitting southpaws well last year, Ibanez has typically struggled against them over his career. Right-handed Ben Francisco was available on the bench to pinch-hit, but Manuel chose to let Ibanez take his cuts against Burnett. Ibanez hit a weak grounder to second base for the first out of the inning.
Carlos Ruiz later came up with a runner on first base, this time against the right-handed Matt Capps. The left-handed Brian Schneider was available off the bench, but again, Manuel chose to ignore the bad platoon match-up for his team and let Ruiz hit against Capps. Ruiz grounded out weakly to third base.
Lastly, this may be an indictment more of the coaching staff or just missed opportunities by Ruiz, but the Nationals have run wild against the Phillies. In the three-game series to open the season, the Nats stole four bags. Yesterday, they stole three and another four today. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 11 stolen bases, 10 of them stolen while Ruiz was behind the dish. With a bullpen on the road to burnout, having pitched 40% of the team’s innings thus far, the team can ill afford to be granting free bases to opposing runners.