Manuel Outmanaged

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.

Leave a Reply



  1. phatti

    April 15, 2010 09:58 PM

    Wow, this is a harsh post Bill, especially considering we’re 7-2. There are always opportunities to second guess, but I’m not sure about these.

    For the sacrifice bunt attempt–Happ hit .093 last year, and struck out in 35 % of his at bats. If he swings away, it seems likely that you’re looking at man on second, no out. And of course, you have to consider the possibility that they botch the throw to third, and you’re looking at 1st and 3rd, no out. With a sub .100 hitter at the plate, the sacrifice bunt is probably the percentage play, even though it reduces the run expectancy if it works. The goal with such a weak hitter is to minimize the decline in expectancy, and the bunt probably does that.

    Top of the 8th–you can’t say that Madson wouldn’t also have given up the HR to Zimmerman, especially considering he wasn’t exactly lights out in the ninth. Baez screwed up, let’s blame it on Baez.

    Bottom of the 8th–pinch hitting for Ibanez was absolutely the right move in a table sim game, but telling one of the guys who was a huge part of your team last year (and is slumping a bit right now) that you’re pinch hitting for him to gain a platoon advantage is not a way to endear yourself to that player. If Charlie considered pinch hitting for Ibanez, he probably decided the slight gain wasn’t worth the cost.

    As for pinch hitting Schneider for Ruiz:

    Ruiz’s (career) numbers vs. RHP: .251/.343/.370
    Schneider’s (career) numbers vs. RHP: .254/.327/.388

    More or less a wash. Schneider’s got a slightly higher SLG, Ruiz has a higher OBP. Doesn’t seem like it’s worth using a pinch hitter in that situation, especially considering Ruiz has been hitting well this year.

    We lost a game in which the starting pitcher walked 6 (but amazingly only gave up 1 run) and the relief pitching gave up 5 runs in the 8th and 9th. Blame that, and not some moves that Charlie didn’t make.

  2. Bill Baer

    April 15, 2010 10:51 PM

    Fair counter-arguments, phatti.

    I guess the sacrifice bunt boils down to aggressiveness or passivity. Personally, I prefer an aggressive offensive approach, which the Phillies typically have. But I can understand the conservative approach as well.

    As for Madson/Baez, I wasn’t arguing that Madson wouldn’t have given up the home run, but it was clear that Baez was struggling and wasn’t willing to pitch near the strike zone as the Ivan Rodriguez at-bat shows.

    I don’t buy the argument against pinch-hitting for Ibanez, but I do understand where you’re coming from.

    Great point about Ruiz/Schneider. I should have looked up the splits myself but simply assumed Schneider hit better against right-handers. Thanks for catching that.

  3. Screen Name 20

    April 16, 2010 07:24 AM

    On the sac bunt in the 3rd, I agree with phatti. Happ is such a poor hitter, especially at making contact, that the sacrifice is probably your best option there.

    You can fault a manager for that decision in other instances, but I’m not sure that thinking is appropriate in this case.

  4. Dan

    April 16, 2010 07:54 AM

    Meh, I’m ok with most of the moves. I think Howard’s poor defense allowed 2 of the runs to score, without doubt. That I think made more of a difference, along with Baez and Madson just not having it today.

    Just one of those games where things don’t go right.

  5. phatti

    April 16, 2010 07:59 AM


    Are there stats that show what the average outcomes are for a bunt attempt with a man on second? I was trying to come up with some estimates in my head, and I realize I have no idea what the chances are of each outcome were Happ (or anyone else) to bunt.

    On a different note, I agree with your edit that Charlie should have maybe thought about keeping Bastardo in to face Dunn to start the 8th. Charlie was probably thinking that Bastardo pitched an inning on Wednesday, so he wanted to spare him overwork, but it would have been good to have a lefty to face Dunn.

    On a related note, it will be interesting to see who the Phillies will send down once their three injured pitchers come back. KK has made one decision easy, and Bastardo will probably go down because he’s out of options, but I’m wondering who the third cut will be.

  6. Kevin from Macho Row

    April 16, 2010 08:19 AM

    Amazing to me is the fact that these somewhat questionable managing decisions did not completely take away a chance to win. With the offense this team typically has they are never out of a game, and that was the case again yesterday. While they are winning by an average of six runs per victory they are only losing by 1.5 runs per loss. Each loss has seen the tying run come to the plate, which just proves that no team plays all 27 outs like the Phillies do. Been saying it for a couple years now.

    Losses stink, especially to bad teams, but I won’t waste too much time analyzing every little move as long as they keep winning each series.

    Good points though. I missed part of the game so I can’t give a viable opinion on those instances.

  7. Timmy

    April 16, 2010 11:19 AM

    This post is so nitpicky I will just start with this: saying Manuel got outmanaged by Jim Riggleman is a major insult. Perhaps it’s called “early season” and he just wants to give his bullpen chances to pitch? On the bunt situation, statistics are meant to depict trends and odds, not make decisions. If Happ laid down the bunt beautifully and Ruiz made it to third, I doubt you would be writing about Manuel’s brilliance. It’s a stupid argument.

  8. Jerxton

    April 16, 2010 12:41 PM

    Yah, Bill I thought that post was too snarky. And hindsight of course is 20/20. Manuel has admitted numerous times that he goes by his gut and isn’t neccessarily going to follow the book. Failing to take into account that the batter was Happ with a runner on 2nd and no outs kinda invalidates that fancy run calculator. Those averages are dervived over 1000s of data points, and this is a live game with a live situation where attempting a bunt by a starting pitcher in the 3rd Inning is not going to significantly impact your chance of winning the game.

  9. pounded clown

    April 16, 2010 05:53 PM

    Bunting was absolutely the right thing to do. The best bunters in the game are NL pitchers. As to the the bull pen decisions….While the final decision rest with Manuel we all know that he doesn’t understand pitching…christ he ran Lidge out there 4 days in a row last year. Seriously dumb. He has given Dubee total authority in all things pitching. The real fault lies with him for the pitching decisions.

  10. NYPhilsFan

    April 17, 2010 12:17 PM

    Raul Ibanez Splits:
    vs. RHP .288/.353/.470
    vs. LHP .305/.368/.497
    vs. RHP .267/.342/.517
    vs. LHP .285/.359/.639
    vs. RHP .192/.303/.308
    vs. LHP .200/.385/.200

    Ben Francisco Splits
    vs. RHP .265/.326/.436
    vs. LHP .269/.348/.445
    vs. RHP .260/.326/.464
    vs. LHP .247/.351/.392
    vs. RHP .000/.250/.000
    vs. LHP .000/.000/.000

    Explain to me how pinch hitting Francisco against a LHP pitcher vs. Ibanez is an improvement. Ignoring trends from recent years in favor of using career statistics to support an argument produces faulty conclusions.

  11. Bill Baer

    April 18, 2010 08:42 PM

    Ignoring trends from recent years in favor of using career statistics to support an argument produces faulty conclusions.

    To an extent. Recent data should be favored more heavily than older data, but that doesn’t mean older data should be discarded entirely — especially considering that handedness splits constitutes a small sample size, particularly lefties-against-lefties.

    What evidence is there that Ibanez, at his age, suddenly learned how to hit left-handed pitching?

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