Bullpen Misuse Leads to Another Loss

Game is tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. You have the following relievers left:

That was the situation the Phillies faced tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Charlie Manuel went with Baez to start the inning. Baez, who has not shown the ability to strike out Major League hitters at an acceptable rate. The first three Cardinals made contact, reaching on three singles to load the bases, something that happens against pitchers that can’t miss bats. If Manuel had not intended to use Madson to start the inning, he should have at least considered using Madson as a fire extinguisher — he should have been warming before Baez threw his first pitch to Ryan Theriot. In a situation where you’re pitching to the home team in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners on first and second with no outs, you want to achieve one of two goals: A) get a strikeout, or B) get a double play. Madson, with his elite strikeout and ground ball rates, can accomplish both better than nearly anyone in baseball, let alone on his own pitching staff.

Baez breathed a sigh of relief when he had the fortune of generating a ground ball from Matt Holliday that was hit directly at Jimmy Rollins, who threw to home for the force out. Lance Berkman, a switch-hitter, was due up next, so of course Manuel went with the most logical option: Ryan Madson J.C. Romero. Romero, who struggles mightily against right-handed hitters. Against Berkman, who has an OPS approaching 1.100 against lefties this season. Naturally, Berkman hit a screaming line drive to center field that went over Michael Martinez‘s head to end the game.

This isn’t just Monday-morning quarterbacking. Matt Swartz (@Matt_Swa) was doling out the strategy on Twitter before the inning even started:

With Pujols due up 3rd, Madson should be pitching the bottom of the 9th regardless of what happens in the top

Manuel’s misuse of the bullpen has been noted previously here, but to add a cherry to the dessert of analysis, check out this graph from Chasing Utley (@Phylan) from last week (click to enlarge):

If Madson is the best reliever in the bullpen (and he is, there is no counter-argument), he certainly isn’t being used as such.

I realize that it’s easy to pick on the manager and it’s even cliche at this point, but these are objective reasons why Manuel’s in-game decision-making has been unsatisfactory. His affable personality and clubhouse management are certainly great attributes to have in a manager; if Charlie would be a bit more discerning with his strategy, he could be a great manager.

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  1. Ken

    May 17, 2011 10:43 PM

    Adding to the fire is that Pujols is 0-11 lifetime against Madson. And Madson hasn’t pitched since Friday, and hasn’t done back to back since about April 23. All I can say is words from about a mere week ago ring in my ears tonight when Charlie brought Kendrick into the 8th inning of a game, and asked the press after the game, “I bet you all wondered why I brought Kendrick in.” Um, yeah. I suppose its at least fair to wait for Charlie to offer an explanation even if we all doubt that no reasonable one is coming.

  2. Jonathan

    May 17, 2011 10:53 PM

    He was saving Madson for the lead that would never come

  3. Cutter McCool

    May 17, 2011 11:05 PM

    Nah he just wanted to get the game over with. Quickly. Only way it would have happened faster was calling out Baez.

  4. Cutter McCool

    May 17, 2011 11:06 PM


  5. RP

    May 17, 2011 11:25 PM

    ‘It’s the offense stupid.’

    If Chase is playing a few innings somewhere then he should be playing a few innings in the majors.

    Get another bat – Baltimore has some good hitters and needs pitching- Phils have pitching to trade – Blanton,Vance,Kendrick,.

    Don’t wait until the end of the season to pull the trigger like they did with Roy. Phils could have made the exact same trade BEFORE they played the Yankees and won that series.

    Don’t get me started on Charlie’s lineups. Gload should be playing instead of Ibanez or Francisco and Rollins is not a lead off hitter and Howard should be moved to fifth.

  6. Moose

    May 18, 2011 12:23 AM

    As I saw Baez warming up, I said to myself “I can’t wait to read Bill’s article after they lose this.” Then when I saw J.C. come in I came to the conclusion that Charlie’s either f-ing with us, or he’s some sort of Zep with a Jigsaw calling all the shots

  7. John K

    May 18, 2011 12:46 AM

    I like Charlie, so it always kills me when he does dumb shit like this

  8. DP

    May 18, 2011 01:01 AM

    Any manager with comon sense, would have not put Baez in the bottom of the 9th. It’s automatic, BAEZ WOULD FAIL! Mason is our best reliever. Charlie Manual most of wanted Baez to get the lost rather then Oswalt seeing Phillies weren’t putting up hits & runs. Get rid of Baez, Herndon, Romero not worthy to wear Phillies uniforms.

  9. Scott G

    May 18, 2011 05:33 AM

    This makes more sense here than on the previous post (I had no other place to put it last night)…:

    How does Charlie Manuel have a job?! It’s absolutely ridiculous. Bullpen optimization isn’t this hard. The two pitchers that pitch in the 9th inning of a tie game are Danys Baez and J.C. Romero!! Ryan Madson didn’t even sniff the field. How the hell can you throw Baez out there against the top of the Cardinals order?! Manuel chose to turn Berkman around to bat RH vs a LHP (Berkman is far inferior RH), but when facing J.C. Romero he is probably equivalent to Albert Pujols.

    He probably still doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Unreal.

    Jonathan, I second that. Did anyone ask Manuel about not using Madson in the post game press conference? I don’t understand how this method of managing has survived for so long. It’s outrageous.

  10. JR

    May 18, 2011 07:38 AM

    I am normally a defender of Charlie, but agree that with a rested Madson in the bullpen you have to break the normal rule of not using the closer in a tie game on the road. It would have been different if we had a better option.

    However, Bill, this is the SAME bullpen you wanted to see in in the forth inning of the previous game?! Who would be eating some of those innings – most likely Baez. I think you may want to rethink that one!

  11. sean

    May 18, 2011 08:06 AM

    it’s how just about every manager manages though, so really this isn’t a big deal. tie game on the road managers don’t use their closer. they manage to the stat just because.

  12. Nik

    May 18, 2011 08:43 AM

    My only hope is that this is sealing Baez’s fate when Contreras and Lidge return.

  13. Leonard Smith

    May 18, 2011 09:16 AM

    I read an article about how great it was to keep the game under three hours and Howard doesn’t want it mentioned. Is that why he takes so many three swings and sits down? For a sure way to keep the game short would be not to not to get any hits that really slow the game down. Does Howard have some place he would rather be or does he need more time to spend his 25 mil.

  14. Mike

    May 18, 2011 09:20 AM

    It is all about the offense–think about the last 10 games–We have no pop–opposing pitchers aren’t the slight bit afraid of our offense–Howard is the most overpaid strike out artist ever–when do you think he will learn to hit a slider–Francisco–Orr–Valdez–I mean really. We scored 2 runs the last two games00when do you think our starting pitching will begin to lose heart–they can’t win if we don’t score runs.

  15. Philfan87

    May 18, 2011 09:31 AM

    Bullpen distractions aside.. 1 run in 9 innings is disgraceful. Yea, madson should have been in the game, but only scoring 1 run? Our Starters are probably getting pretty upset.

  16. sean

    May 18, 2011 09:41 AM

    and if sardinha can block the plate at all and tag berkman, it’s a 1-0 win for the phillies most likely

  17. Scott G

    May 18, 2011 09:52 AM

    I don’t understand all of the Sardinha criticism on that play. Do I think he should have had him? Yes (I actually do think he tagged him if you watch it closely enough
    philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=14907989&c_id=phi stop it around the 0:47 mark). However it’s not because he didn’t “block the plate”. The throw forced him to catch it outside the right handed batters box. It’s not his fault he couldn’t physically block the plate.

  18. KH

    May 18, 2011 10:23 AM

    The Phillies need to get Utley and Brown to the majors as soon as realistically possible and start platooning in right and left field if not giving the job to Brown outright in rightfield. Charlie is a butcher when it comes to the pen but the offense is ridiculous. I’m becoming more and move convinced this team can not win a title unless they can somehow trade for an impact bat or Utley AND Brown can make big contributions for at least half the season. Even taking into consideration injuries I’ve never seen a favorite to win a title trot out so much trash on a consistent basis as the Phillies. Pete Orr, Wilson Valdez, Micheal Martinez and Dane Sardinha. These guys would have been among the worst players on those awful 80’s and 90’s Phils teams.

  19. Nik

    May 18, 2011 10:31 AM

    What are the chances that we see both Utley and Brown in the lineup this weekend?

  20. hk

    May 18, 2011 10:46 AM

    For those who are blaming the offense for last night’s loss, you are all clearly correct that 1 run in 9 innings is typically insufficient. However, that does not excuse the fact that the pitching put the team in position to win the game despite the anemic offense and the manager’s decision-making significantly contributed to the loss.

  21. hk

    May 18, 2011 10:54 AM

    sean, just because every other manager mis-manages their bullpen doesn’t make it okay that our manager does.

  22. Dave

    May 18, 2011 12:17 PM

    Because of Charlie and Danys, I was able to get to bed before midnight. Thanks, I guess.

  23. hunterfan

    May 18, 2011 12:52 PM

    A stategically shaved monkey could optimize the bullpen usage better than Charlie Manuel. Is yesterday a suprise to anyone?

  24. Scott G

    May 18, 2011 01:29 PM

    Are you not surprised that he’s allowed to get away with it? It’s ridiculous. Did anyone even question him, postgame?

  25. hunterfan

    May 18, 2011 01:35 PM

    I’m not suprised he’s allowed to get away with it, because there’s a certain proportion of the Phillies fanbase (the majority?) that think just because he won the World Series Charlie Manuel is beyond reproach or questioning.

    For them, any question of Charlie’s in game tactics boils down to, “The man won the World Series! He is presiding over one of the most winning eras in Phillies history! He knows what he’s doing, so lay off!”

  26. hunterfan

    May 18, 2011 02:30 PM

    Also, I’m suprised there is no criticism of burning up the only long reliever in the ‘pen for a one inning stint in a close ball game (Kendrick).

  27. Scott G

    May 18, 2011 02:43 PM

    I mean Stutes didn’t exactly help out the Kendrick situation. By the way, Charlie Manuel is most definitely not beyond reproach in my book, and never has been (I’m sure you could guess this).

  28. Jim

    May 18, 2011 04:21 PM

    The obvious reason he did it was because he knew there was no way we’d score again, and didn’t want to burn out his bullpen in an extended extra inning game.

  29. JR

    May 18, 2011 04:21 PM

    I would have used Madsen in the 9th especially since he had not pitched since Friday, but I think we would most likely have lost anyway. Anyone really think we score in the 10th – we would have had Sardinha leading off. Even if we did, who pitches the 10th? The same guys that blew it in the 9th! To be honest, I think the Phillies have a pretty good record given the roster that Charlie has had to deal with given the injuries. I will leave it up to someone else for who get the “credit” for minimizing the damage.

  30. JR

    May 19, 2011 07:08 AM

    Sure Madson is capable of 2 innings. However, if he does 2 innings is he availble to save the game like he did last night? A pitching gem by both Hamels and Madson.

  31. Scott G

    May 19, 2011 09:19 AM

    Ridiculous. How can you say that a day later? You don’t even know you’re going to be in the game to win it last night (the next night). You jump on the opportunities when you have them.

    Having not pitched in 4 days? I’m sure he could go 3 innings in 2 days. He might not be able to pitch today, but again, that’s just absurd

  32. JR

    May 19, 2011 04:21 PM

    Why can I say that a day later? I can say it because that is what happenned. I do not know why that is absurd. Just an FYI – if you read my post, I clearly said I would have used Madson (I would have used him for only one inning, though). I think they lose that game in St Louis even if Madson goes 2 scoreless innings, but who knows? My point was that based on known information, it is easy to second guess. In addition, I believe most managers do not use their closer in the 9th of a tie game on the road. Maybe most managers are wrong, but I will leave that to others.

  33. Scott G

    May 19, 2011 06:57 PM


    The point is that as a manager you manage one day at a time, and your job is to give your team the best chance to win. Ryan Madson gave the Phillies the best chance to come back up to the plate. You don’t just sacrifice the Cardinals game and roll the dice because then MAYBE Madson won’t be available the next night (last night). You don’t know the Rockies aren’t going to hit Hamels. If Hamels gives up 3-4 runs (or more), Madson is almost definitely useless in the Rockies game.

    Furthermore, if you really only want to let Madson go one inning, he still probably gives the Phillies another at-bat. Charlie Manuel essentially forfeited by using Baez and then never warming up/bringing in Madson.

  34. hk

    May 23, 2011 06:47 AM

    It seems as though this article could follow every game where Charlie has to make a bullpen decision other than those games where the starter goes 8 and leaves with a lead. Yesterday’s 8th inning is another example of bullpen mismanagement, although it will probably get overlooked because the Phils were shut out. Heading into the 8th down only one run, it is mind-boggling that he would start the inning with JC Romero to face Beltre. Firstly, Romero should never face a RHB, especially a good one, in a medium leverage or higher situation. However, even if Charlie had decided that he was going to use JC and Herndon in the 8th, I cannot understand why he would have JC face the lead-off hitter followed by the LHB as opposed to having Herndon face Beltre, JC face Moreland and figure out who would face Napoli based upon what happens with Beltre and Moreland. The bullpen was rested, so even using Herndon, JC and Baez each for one batter made more sense than subjecting JC to face a good right-handed hitter leading off the inning.

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