Is Ben Francisco Invisible?

As mentioned yesterday, it is usually not a great idea to make changes just because they didn’t work out in a game or a small set of games. For example, Roy Halladay struggled in the Phillies’ Game One loss. Most people recognize that it was an uncharacteristically mundane start from Doc and that he will likely be better in future starts. Almost every sentient person in the world would not skip him in the rotation because mean-regression is blatantly obvious in this regard.

However, it is smart to make changes based on principles — facts we know to be true. There are two items, among others, we know to be true that should inspire some more tactically-efficient changes from Charlie Manuel:

Francisco, at the very least, should have been a defensive replacement for Ibanez in each of the first two games of the NLCS. As Ibanez’s non-catch of a Pat Burrell fly ball in Game One and his last-ditch diving effort on a Burrell line drive in the ninth in Game Two both indicate, he leaves a lot to be desired defensively. He finished 2010 with a -8.4 UZR/150 and has a career -2.3 career rating. On the other hand, Ben Francisco has a career 3.4 rating.

That Manuel hasn’t subbed Francisco in for Ibanez defensively hasn’t hurt the Phillies… yet. It almost did last night in the ninth inning. But Manuel should start to make the substitution starting in Game Three — especially given the spacious outfield in AT&T Park in San Francisco — before it becomes an issue.

Francisco really should have been in the starting lineup in Game Two against Jonathan Sanchez, and should be in Game Four against Madison Bumgarner. Francisco has the higher career wOBA against lefties, .350 to .330. This year alone, Francisco’s .384 wOBA against lefties way out-paced Ibanez’s .318.

Manuel showed in Game Two that he is willing to make some logically-sound changes. The batting order was as close to optimal as the Phillies are ever going to get under Manuel’s reign. He split up the left-handed hitters by batting Chase Utley second and Placido Polanco third, ahead of Ryan Howard. That forced Giants manager Bruce Bochy to consider allowing Polanco and/or Jayson Werth to face his left-handed relievers, or burn extra relievers in an effort to maintain the platoon split advantage. On the other hand, Manuel didn’t listen to sports talk radio, where there were chants for Wilson Valdez to get the start over Jimmy Rollins.

Manuel isn’t ignorant to defensive replacements as he did it frequently when Burrell was here in Philadelphia. Burrell’s game logs from 2008 indicate that he was lifted for a defensive replacement in 73 games. Ibanez isn’t much better than Burrell defensively, so the lack of a defensive substitution is puzzling to say the least. It would be nice to see Francisco utilized to increase the Phillies’ advantage by another percentage point or two.

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35 comments

  1. Scott G

    October 18, 2010 10:41 AM

    Amen, Bill. You obviously reach a larger audience then I do. Do you ever feel like your efforts are in vain since Manuel does not heed the advice? There is a slim chance he even knows about this blog, but I can’t believe that people close to the source don’t suggest these things. I mean these are logical suggestions.

  2. Dave

    October 18, 2010 10:44 AM

    Wow, I had written a lengthy comment addressing this very topic on your previous post, Bill, but got side tracked by my boss.

    Great minds, I suppose.

  3. Scott G

    October 18, 2010 11:25 AM

    Right. I was just curious if you ever question why you blog as in-depth and painstakingly as you do. There must be some instances like Francisco starting over Ibanez against LHP, or at least becoming a late inning defensive replacement that you know are clearly right. There is really no way to debate what you wrote. My guess is that, like me, you cover some topics over and over and over again on this site. However, since you’re not employed by the Phillies (or maybe even known about by the Phillies), you have no real influence on whether or not these changes get made.

    Since there are glaring instances like this one that exist, I often wonder if there is anyone in the Phillies organization, who wields power, that thinks of these things. Burrell used to be taken out all the time, even through the regular season for defensive replacements. Ibanez is RARELY replaced. What happened?

    My question is this: Do you ever get frustrated in instances where you are fairly certain (if not positive) that you are right, and probably nothing will ever be done about it? While I enjoy the site, and find it informative, isn’t it kind of like you’re talking to a wall?

    Hell, it took Manuel 3 seasons to learn that he can’t use Romero vs. RHB.

  4. sean

    October 18, 2010 11:25 AM

    why would manuel EVER listen to a blogger scott, let alone anyone in the media? why? You listen to them and not trust your own judgement then you’ll soon be a part of them. i’d say manuel isn’t going to sub out raul looking at bbref’s track record for raul. manuel is a players manager and that can either work or backfire but he’ll go down with backing his players

  5. sean

    October 18, 2010 11:31 AM

    it’s pretty simple why raul isn’t switched out. the team doesn’t want to lose face with raul/free agents in the future. he’s under contract for another year and you don’t want to lose a guy you have to control for another year. clubhouse/org reasoning i’d think. next year maybe he’ll get subed more often in late innings because he’s less and less of a sunk cost.

    also bill doesn’t write for other people, he most likely writes for his own enjoyment, so this “wall” doesn’t matter. so long as you put it out, that’s an acopmlishment in and of itself.

  6. Dave

    October 18, 2010 11:39 AM

    Bill, pull out the Ivan Drago line here.

    “I write for me….FOR ME!”

  7. Bill Baer

    October 18, 2010 11:41 AM

    I do write because I get a lot of personal gratification out of it, but it would be meaningless if I didn’t have any interaction with other people whether it’s here in the comments, via e-mail, on other blogs, or via social media.

    I don’t write in the hopes that someone forwards it to Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro. It would be pretty cool if that ever happened, though.

  8. Scott G

    October 18, 2010 12:06 PM

    Thanks, Bill!

    sean,

    Manuel pulled Burrell all the time. Were they not afraid of losing face then?

    They should eat some of Raul’s contract and trade him in the off season.

  9. sean

    October 18, 2010 12:46 PM

    he’s got a no trade, who would reasonably take him in a trade and even if you did that then who is repacing him?

    werth is going to free agency now and there’s really no way that will change. looking at who replaced burrell. my god it was terrible: eric bruntlett and so taguchi were the replacements for defense/pinch runner.

    raul doesn’t really need to be pinch run for like burrell needed to be pinch run for. i think it’s safe to say raul is better on the base paths then Pat who was basically a DH at that point. and to your point of losing face, no i don’t think they cared about burrell since they figured they would not resign him. my god the love people have for burrell i don’t understand it

  10. navah

    October 18, 2010 12:50 PM

    Bill,

    I had the same thought that you expressed in this post prior to the game. Do you think it’s possible that Manuel didn’t replace Ibanez for last night’s game because he wanted to have him as a right handed bat on the bench? Without Francisco, Valdez would be the only right hander on the bench.

    Of course, this doesn’t address the late inning replacement issue, which is just baffling to me.

  11. Sanj

    October 18, 2010 12:53 PM

    So the fact that Raul put the team on his back when Howard and Utley were down means nothing now? Guys are going to have their ups and downs in baseball, you got to let them hit their way out of it. As Kobe says, you aren’t going to get out of a shooting slump by passing.

  12. hk

    October 18, 2010 01:44 PM

    Navah,

    Without Francisco on the bench, they would still have Sweeney as a right-handed PH.

  13. Kate

    October 18, 2010 02:33 PM

    I agree with Sanj.

    Raul Ibanez CARRIED this team and led the charge of utility players and replacements clawing back to second place over the summer. His hot second half is one of the foundations our sweet, sweet September was built upon.

    Without Raul in left field and grinding at the plate ALL SEASON LONG, we’re sitting down watching the Braves play the Giants for the NL Pennant right now.

    Show some respect and thank your lucky stars Manuel doesn’t bow to public pressure.

  14. Richard

    October 18, 2010 03:07 PM

    It’s no disrespect to Ibanez to take him out for a defensive replacement. (Didn’t Manuel do it last year in the post-season?)

    And it’s worth noting that Ibanez’s hitting picked up after he sat a few games against lefties in favor of Francisco. That said, if it’s not what you were doing regularly during the season, it’s not likely a good idea to suddenly do it in the playoffs. Outside of that brief period when he sort of platooned Ibanez with Francisco, he stuck with Ibanez, and it worked out. To move to Francisco in the playoffs would be contrary to everything Manuel does, right or wrong. Defensive replacement, though, does seem like an obvious easy call to make.

  15. Scott G

    October 18, 2010 03:27 PM

    What games are you people watching?

    Ibanez’s OPS by Month: .679, .808, .667, .952, .695, .919

    Werth’s OPS by Month: .987, .913, .884, .877, .895, .969

    Tell me how Raul carried the team in any month besides maybe July, and it’s not like Werth wasn’t there. He OPSed .877.

    Raul has a no trade clause?

    www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10901

    You need to be a member of baseball prospectus to read this article. However, there are smart people out there that believe the Phillies will re-sign Werth. They provide a very logical reason why the recent jump in payroll would act to help Werth being re-signed to the Phillies rather than hurt.

  16. threezerofour

    October 18, 2010 04:30 PM

    I agree wholeheartedly. I have never understood why Ibanez is left out there in field in late innings when Charlie was so quick to replace Burrell.

    What about Howard? Should he be replaced by Ross Gload in late innings. I think this would be a wise strategy, or am I crazy? What does UZR say?

  17. Bill Baer

    October 18, 2010 04:35 PM

    Gload is average, Howard slightly less so. However, the offensive drop-off between the two is somewhat steep compared to Francisco and Ibanez. Gload has also played just 92 innings at first base this season, and 295 last year. I wouldn’t put in a defensive substitute for Howard.

  18. Sanj

    October 18, 2010 06:22 PM

    I think the main point I wanted to make is it is much better to have consistency in a lineup over juggling pieces in and out to play matchups. Humans operate better in an environment of certainty.
    Though I wholeheartedly agree about taking Raul out as a defensive replacement. Dom Brown can cover a ton of space out there and we know he has an arm, are his routes really that bad? I know they look really bad on TV, but he hasn’t made a mistake yet.

  19. Phylan

    October 18, 2010 06:55 PM

    I think the main point I wanted to make is it is much better to have consistency in a lineup over juggling pieces in and out to play matchups. Humans operate better in an environment of certainty.

    There are several assumptions in here that there isn’t even evidence for, much less evidence that it affects baseball output.

  20. hk

    October 19, 2010 07:21 AM

    Sanj,

    You’re basically saying that platooning doesn’t work. Do you have any statistical data to back up your claim?

  21. JB Allen

    October 19, 2010 10:04 AM

    I don’t think Sanj is simply saying platoons don’t work. What’s being proposed is benching Ibanez against lefties after playing full-time for the Phillies for two years. I understand the concern that this could effect Ibanez’s mindset/morale in the immediate future (Torre’s use of A-Rod comes to mind). I’m not saying I buy it, but I think it’s a little different than platooning Ibanez in April.

  22. Scott G

    October 19, 2010 10:14 AM

    Ibanez should have been platooned the entire time assuming there was an adequate replacement.

    It’s also not as necessary if the LHP doesn’t have a huge advantage against LHBs. Raul’s split isn’t too drastic, but it’s safe to say Francisco is better vs LHP and defensively.

  23. sean

    October 19, 2010 11:04 AM

    scott g, from cot’s contracts

    raul ibanez 3 years/31.5 m (2009-2011)
    no trade protection

    if i remember correctly dave cameron said it was a full no trade.

    sanj, platoons DEFINITELY work and should be encouraged more often for hitters, if you know what the player is, meaning don’t platoon prospects. phillies payroll next year if given a 10% increase is in the $150 million zone, and i don’t see how that is unreseasonable, i would just doubt werth is part of that when you have dom brown available

  24. Ed

    October 19, 2010 12:01 PM

    I just found this blog and think it’s great! You guys understand baseball. I have vision issues so was not able to read all of your comments. Although I now reside out-of-state, I grew up in Philly and have a Phils fan for over 60 years – since the days of Shibe Park and the Whiz Kids. I’m told that Manuel is highly respected by Phils fans. While one cannot argue with success, I believe that the Phils do NOT win because of Manuel’s managerial genius. I think he’s a good guy and his players like him. And if they play harder and win as a result, he’s a good manager. But he’s not a a skilled tactician. Ibanez is not good defensively and should be replaced late in the game to preserve a lead or stay close. And he can’t hit good lefties. It’s not about a player’s feelings, it’s about winning games. Same with Rollins. Yes he did double the other night. But he’s not been hitting and batting him before Ibanez and Ruiz puzzles me. Gotta go, eyes wearing out….

  25. Scott G

    October 19, 2010 01:30 PM

    Simon Gagne had a no trade clause as well. He’s considerably younger, and definitely much more skilled. He was also with the team for over 10 years.

  26. Scott G

    October 19, 2010 02:15 PM

    I would personally like to thank Charlie Manuel for reading this blog (or mine?!!?!). He has left Polanco between Utley and Howard today despite having a RHP on the mound, thus accepting the need to split the LHBs with the powerful LH relievers in the Giants pen.

  27. Joe Redden

    October 19, 2010 06:06 PM

    Well now it has hurt us. Ibanez is 0-11 now. We have to get Francisco in there. Ibanez isn’t sen swinging at good pitches anymore. Because of how far he stands off the plate, they are killing him low and away. Every time he comes up to bat the shortstop moves up because he knows he is going to roll it over to him or the second baseman. It’s just looking really sad.

  28. Curtwill1975

    October 19, 2010 06:20 PM

    Yeah, Raul is not doing well at all. It seems the whole offense(save two innings) has been struggling this postseason. Leaving many runners in scoring position, the offense has been inconsistent all season. I know I have defended Ryan Howard but he has not hit a HR this postseason or driven in a run.

    He is NOT doing his job. I am actually worried right now, because SF is TOUGH at home and the pitching has still been good but if the Phillies can’t get timely hits, this season will be over and it will be a lost season.

  29. Richard

    October 19, 2010 07:25 PM

    dude, it’s not a lost season if you lose in the NLCS

  30. pounded clown

    October 20, 2010 12:58 AM

    I would say the only thing that concerns me about Francioso’s fielding is his arm. If Burrel has a cannon. Franciso has BB gun and while Ibanez’s .22 is marginally stronger, it’s more accurate. I swear some of Francisco’s throws have hang time. That said, given that there is no significant drop off offensively and his greater foot speed more of an asset in the cavernous AT&T, Francisco should be playing tommorrow against the rookie lefty. This is not unreasonable like the Valdez for Rollins suggestion floating around and is justified only if Rollins’ performance is injury related . It’s also not unreasonable that Ibanez could light it up tomorrow – one mistake by the pitcher and your the hero – but that could happen to anyone. Even if this were to happen it wouldn’t invalidate the arguments made to bench a player who should have been platooned this season anyway.

  31. Matty B.

    October 20, 2010 05:23 PM

    Shockingly, Francisco is actually starting tonight. Wow. Excellent.

  32. Ed

    October 22, 2010 12:15 PM

    I assumed Francico would be a defensive improvement over Ibanez. But I believe he should have caught that liner that he didn’t get to. However, I still think it was the right decision. I hope a return home will reinvigorate the Phils. They’ve looked sad both offensively and defensively.

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