For No Particular Reason

“For no particular reason” — other than to put another notch in the CG column on Roy Halladay‘s Baseball Reference page — describes Charlie Manuel’s use of the star pitcher last night. The Phillies defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks easily by a 7-1 margin in Domonic Brown‘s Major League debut. Everybody’s buzzing, but there was also some grumbling going into and through the top of the ninth inning last night. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that there was no reason for Halladay to be on the mound at that point. To quote Corey Seidman of Phillies Nation on Twitter, “Does Halladay really need a shutout here? Been dominant, 104 pitches, no need to make it 116-120. Bring in [Danys] Baez or [David Herndon].”

It is not the first time Manuel has foolishly and rather unnecessarily left his starting pitcher in too long. On July 21, Manuel chose to allow Joe Blanton to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the seventh inning in a 1-1 game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Matt Swartz of Baseball Prospectus had a series of tweets detailing the lack of logic behind Manuel’s decision. To quote a selection:

I’m sorry, Blanton is at 74 pitches. It’s bases loaded and two out in the 7th inning. You could have a AA bullpen and you still pinch hit!

Diff in run expectancy is >0.5 runs b/w Blanton hitting and any of their PH. You’d need to think Blanton was a lock to pitch a scoreless 7th

What type of ERA does he think his bullpen should have? Unless it’s 5.00 runs worse than Blanton, you PH.

Let’s go back to May 1 when the New York Mets came in to Philadelphia. The Phillies went up 6-0 in the fourth inning and tacked on two more runs in the fifth and another two in the seventh. Halladay, at the most, should have gone seven innings. Instead, Manuel let him go out for the complete game shut-out. While it’s true that Halladay needed only 18 pitches to complete the eighth and ninth innings, he finished the day with 118 total pitches. It’s not about pitch counts or babying pitchers; it’s about not taking unnecessary risks. There is no reason for Halladay to be out on the mound with 100 pitches thrown in the eighth inning with a 10-0 lead.

A week later on May 7, Jamie Moyer was on the bump with the Atlanta Braves in town. The soft-tossing lefty held the Braves to two hits (both to Troy Glaus) in nine innings of work. It was cool because a 47-year-old threw a CG SHO. In fact, it was cool enough to merit the rare game recap here at Crashburn Alley (used as an excuse to post a movie clip). However, the Phillies were up 7-0 after five innings. After the bottom of the fifth, the Phillies’ probability of winning was 98.4% according to FanGraphs. It was 99.1% after the bottom of the sixth. As cool as a CG SHO by a 47-year-old may be, there is no reason for him to be on the mound after the sixth inning, much less the seventh.

Manuel left Moyer out for all nine innings on June 5 when the Phillies were at home playing the San Diego Padres. The Phillies didn’t have as large a lead as the last time Moyer notched a CG, but they were up 6-2 after five innings. When Moyer handily retired the Padres in order in the bottom of the seventh, their probability of winning was 96.9%. Leaving a pitcher out to complete a CG SHO is one thing — it is at least weakly defensible — but leaving the old man out there for all nine innings having already allowed two runs? Unnecessary, even if his pitch count was only at 98 when the game went final. You have a bullpen for a reason. The bullpen has collectively been league average. Use it.

On June 16, it was the same story with Moyer. The Phillies staked him to a 6-1 lead after three innings and the Yankees could only muster one more run through eight innings against Moyer. He was once again very effective, but he was also left in too long. After Moyer retired the Yankees in order in the bottom of the seventh, the Phillies were 96% favorites. Did the extra inning severely damage Moyer, or lead to the current injury that has him on the disabled list? Probably not, but it is about not taking risks if you don’t have to. The Phillies had a four-run lead after seven innings. Manuel must have thought his bullpen was of the 18.00 ERA variety to choose an eighth inning of Moyer over a fresh arm from the ‘pen.

June 24, the Cleveland Indians come into town against Joe Blanton and the good guys. Phillies bash Fausto Carmona for five runs in the second inning and are ahead 12-2 after six innings. Blanton should have been out after six innings, when the Phillies had a 2.8% chance to lose. Instead, Manuel lets him pitch deep into the eighth inning. Blanton tossed an additional 15 pitches in the seventh and 12 in the eighth when he allowed one run on two hits and recorded two outs before being lifted for Nelson Figueroa. The run was scored on an RBI single by Trevor Crowe, who increased the Indians’ probability of winning from 0.0% to 0.1%. Seriously. That game could have been played out one thousand times after Crowe’s single and the Indians would only be expected to win one of those matches. No reason for Blanton to have tossed the additional inning and two-thirds especially since he missed the first month with an injury.

Jamie Moyer again, June 27. The Phillies were in town to visit the Toronto Blue Jays in Philadelphia (yes, you read that right). Our heroes pounded Brett Cecil and Jason Frasor for an 11-2 lead after seven innings. Moyer took the bump for the seventh inning. Relatively harmless, but it was an additional 20 pitches, or roughly one-fifth of the 104 pitches Moyer threw that afternoon. If you compile all the extra pitches Moyer has thrown unnecessarily, it could add up to another start.

July 3, Kyle Kendrick and the Phillies in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Kendrick logged his first career complete game, allowing four runs (three earned) on ten hits, two walks, and two home runs. Yeah, he didn’t exactly pitch a gem. The Phillies scored in six of the nine frames, racking up 12 runs including a 10-1 lead after five innings. At that point, the Phillies had a 99.3% chance of winning. After Kendrick’s seventh inning of work, the Phillies were 100% favorites. Kendrick threw 14 pitches in the seventh, 13 in the eighth (allowed one run), and 12 in the ninth (allowed one run). That’s between 25 and 39 unnecessary pitches.

The struggling Colorado Rockies came to town and faced Roy Halladay on July 23. Doc shut them decisively out over eight innings, logging 116 pitches in the process. The Phillies put up a 5-spot in the fifth inning and were more than 97% favorites after six innings. Halladay is super awesome, so putting him back out there for the seventh isn’t egregious, but it also shows that Manuel thinks his bullpen could allow five runs in three innings, equivalent to a 15.00 ERA. What’s more is that the Phillies tacked on their sixth run in the bottom of the eighth. Afterwards, Manuel opted for J.C. Romero in the ninth inning. Why use Halladay in the eighth if you’re not going to use him in the ninth? That doesn’t make much sense.

Those are just the obvious blunders this season. There may have been several that I missed and there are many more if you go back through the game logs from previous years. It’s true that Halladay has a penchant for CG’s and sometimes subsequent SHO’s but they’re just statistics. Managers shouldn’t be making decisions based on compiling numbers, especially with a pitcher they have locked up through at least 2013 for $60 million. Managers are very guilty of managing to the stats when they bring in closers only when a save situation is present, but the same could be true for complete game phenoms like Halladay and Cliff Lee.

According to Pitcher Abuse Points at Baseball Prospectus, Halladay is the third-most abused pitcher in baseball behind Edwin Jackson and Justin Verlander. Roy Oswalt, by comparison, has a PAP total nearly three and a half times lower in only 33 fewer innings. That’s not smart managing.

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15 comments

  1. mratfink

    July 29, 2010 08:26 AM

    I’m not really defending the decision to leave these pitchers in, but I wonder if this is why players love Manual. After all players don’t see how this increases their likelihood of injury and they do care about their stats. For a guy like Moyer who is on his last legs, he gets to go into the record book as the oldest pitcher to pitch a complete game, Halladay gets to point to a run of years where he led the league in complete games. On the other hand, it is the job of the manager to put his team in the best position to win and if he increases the injury risk to pitchers that decreases the Phillies chances. Still i wonder if there is a tangible benefit to having your players love you as much as the Phils seem to love Manual.

  2. holeplug

    July 29, 2010 08:35 AM

    Meh we’ve known since he got here (double switch anyone??) that Manuel is god awful with regards to tactics. It would be nice if he would make an effort to improve but he isn’t going to.

  3. David

    July 29, 2010 08:50 AM

    The most egregious display, in my opinion, was leaving Halladay in to throw 130+ against Pittsburgh at home (When Charlie should have pinch hit for him in a 2-1 game).

    But 114 pitches last night? Eh, I can live with that.

    Team is starting to click right now. Fun to watch.

  4. dan

    July 29, 2010 09:44 AM

    i’m okay with it. the % chance of winning is far less important to me than winning percentage in the standings. when we blew a 5 run lead in the ninth to the twins, we probably had a 99% chance of winning. hamels was taken out after the 7th that game cause he had thrown over 115 pitches. but if he had only thrown 85-100 pitches at that point, i’d be all for putting him in the eighth and letting him get up to 130 if it meant the win. injuries happen, can’t blame the manager, especially when the pitcher is a seasoned vet like halladay and not a young arm you’re trying to protect.

    watching the phillies is finally bearable again now that we’re hitting and have dropped the werth trade talks… not to mention dominic fuckin’ brown! let’s enjoy!

  5. dejesus54

    July 29, 2010 10:50 AM

    It’s not only whether you think the bullpen is below average and could allow five runs in three innings to blow a 5-0 lead, it’s whether the bullpen has been overworked in the past two-three nights or whether you think it may be overworked tomorrow night (i.e. is Kendrick pitching?). True, Halladay at 130 pitches is probably too much, but the difference between Halladay at 100 and Halladay at 115 may be smaller than the difference between a rested bullpen and an unrested one.

  6. Sophist

    July 29, 2010 11:24 AM

    No doubting the overall conclusion of this article (although I don’t lose sleep over most of his moves; he’s best where his job is most important), but I don’t think his handling of Doc last night was a bad move. Anything under 115-120 pitches in fine. Through his first 22 starts

    09: 165 IP, 2302 pitches (in the DH-AL East)
    10: 171 IP, 2404 pitches (in P-NL)

    He definitely needs to be mindful of how he handles the workload. May was a bad month for this. But I’m not too worried about uses like last night.

  7. bob dee

    July 29, 2010 01:10 PM

    early on in this article you say this is not about babying pitchers, but that is exactly what it is. Roy Hallady knows better than you or me if he can finish a game than you or me. There are times I agree that Manuel makes foolish decisions but this obsession with pitch count is obscene.

  8. bill

    July 29, 2010 02:45 PM

    I agree with the sentiment behind this article but some of the data points are a little weak here. In the Blanton example you cited, he only threw 92 pitches. 92 pitches for any starting pitcher really isn’t that much, and it’s perfectly reasonable to leave a starter who is still building up arm strength in a game like that.

    Obviously it’s not quite the same situation with Halladay, but the point remains.

  9. Gunner Bill

    July 29, 2010 05:13 PM

    With respect to Blanton he needs all the work he can get.

    I’m more upset with Charlie when he does nothing when his starting pitchers seem to lose it. Blanton’s a great ezample — cuises along for 5 or 6 innings and BANG the wheels fall off and Charlie sits in the dugout wathching.

    If you pull pitchers for no good reason in the 6th and 7th innings they will become 6 or 7 inning pitchers.

  10. joe tabak

    July 29, 2010 05:39 PM

    If a pitcher feels complete games are important to his psyche, then let him finish 9 innings if he still has the stuff to do it, Keeping players happy and contended is more important than statistics of possible physical injuriesLETS GO PHILLIES WE ARE ON A ROLL

  11. Kyle

    July 29, 2010 10:09 PM

    I’ve been complaining about Charlie’s abuse of Doc since the second or third week of the season.

    He’s a horse, but he’s also never pitched in the playoffs before, and if we go deep in the postseason he’s on track to toss over 300 innings. That’s absolutely insane.

  12. dino

    August 01, 2010 12:32 AM

    Bravo!!!!!!… fantastic article about Charlie’s repeated overuse and abuse of his starting pitchers. Those 10-15 pitches add up, and there is just no reason to do that in today’s world of baseball. One has to wonder if Moyer’s elbow injry was the result of those recent games where he was left in so long. The macho, and stupid, fans still think we’re back in the 50′s.

  13. Richard

    August 02, 2010 09:05 AM

    “One has to wonder if Moyer’s elbow injry was the result of those recent games where he was left in so long.”

    Ah, but those “recent” games were not the complete games Bill is complaining about. In the CGs, Moyer was cruising, and had thrown very few pitches. There was no reason at all to take him out of either game. Complete games help the bullpen, which needs it (that sort of context, the bullpen-usage in the games prior to these games, is completely missing from this post). However, Moyer was left in too long in some more recent games. The game against Atlanta comes to mind, when it was very hot and he was clearly laboring only in the 6th inning. Remember, it’s not sheer number of pitches, it’s number of pitches thrown while tired. A big difference. In general, I have had little problem with Halladay’s complete games–110-115 pitches for him is no big deal–unless he seems to be laboring! If he’s getting balls up a lot, for example, which has been Blanton’s problem this year when he’s hit that 6th-7th inning wall.

    Also, the win expectancy information is interesting, but not terribly useful when it comes to this kind of argument. It’s the kind of false precision that is to be avoiding in analysis. (In a different category, I’d recommend Colin Wyers’ series of articles on the problems with defensive metrics as a useful corrective.)

  14. Bill Baer

    August 02, 2010 12:52 PM

    It’s absolutely useful. Why use Roy Halladay when you have a 99% chance of winning the game? At that point, the innings are superfluous and you ought to just give the work to Danys Baez or David Herndon.

  15. Richard

    August 02, 2010 01:38 PM

    It’s not “absolutely useful”; that’s exactly what it’s not. Its use is highly limited.

    It is, however, absolutely true that pitchers need to be better handled. Manuel has handled Joe Blanton very poorly this season. Coming off of an injury, you’d think they’d have been more watchful of when his stuff starts to go, which is a much better indicator than pitch counts. But he’s been left in time and time again, to fail. But by pitch-count, in most of these games, you’d think he should be fine (plus his rep as an innings-eater). But he wasn’t, far from it.

    I seriously see no reason not to give Halladay the opportunity to get a 115-pitch shutout–again, unless he’s laboring. In that situation, he wants to finish. That actually matters, and should. Why leave him out there? Because he wants to stay out there; it’s his game. Being able to efficiently finish what you started is both a point of pride with a pitcher like Halladay, but also a big component of his value. If he’s laboring, for whatever reason, yeah, yank him. But don’t take him out simply because the WE is 98%. (That said, Manuel has taken him out a couple of times in recent weeks, once with a shut-out rout going. So it’s not as if he’s staying in all the damn time.)

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