Phillies Lose Another Head-Scratcher

The Phillies’ offense made its first appearance of the season, but it was still not enough as the Pirates walked off with a victory for the second game in a row, defeating the Phillies 5-4. Andrew McCutchen was the hero, smashing a double to deep center field, driving in pinch-runner Josh Harrison.

Hunter Pence and Juan Pierre accounted for the Phillies’ offense, driving in two runs apiece. Pence hit the Phillies’ first home run of the year, and had a double to go along with it. Apart from those two, the rest of the lineup had one hit in 23 at-bats and left 11 runners on base.

Charlie Manuel‘s in-game strategy reared its ugly head again, calling for several more bunts and opting to pinch hit Laynce Nix for an otherwise effective Vance Worley in the top of the seventh inning. To that point, the only damage against Worley was a Pedro Alvarez solo home run; Vanimal had struck out five and walked one in his six innings. Nix grounded out, but Pierre salvaged the inning with a two-run single to right field. Michael Stutes replaced Worley and promptly gave the two runs back to the Pirates.

Kyle Kendrick, rather than David Herndon or Antonio Bastardo, came on to pitch the eighth inning. He quickly surrendered a lead-off single to Andrew McCutchen before retiring Neil Walker and exiting the game. Bastardo came in to face the left-handed Nate McLouth, but McLouth was replaced by right-hander Yamaico Navarro, who promptly drew a walk. It looked like Bastardo would end the threat, striking out Clint Barmes, but Matt Hagues hit a game-tying, two-out single to left. Bastardo struck out Michael McKenry to end the inning.

The Phillies went down in order in the top of the ninth, so Manuel sent Herndon to the mound in the bottom of the ninth with the score 4-4. While that is somewhat defensible, Jonathan Papelbon still should have been warming up throughout the inning. He never did. Herndon allowed a lead-off double to Casey McGehee, who promptly moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Presley. Herndon managed to strike Jose Tabata out, bringing up McCutchen.

There was no reason to pitch to McCutchen. He is easily the Pirates’ best hitter and Walker was behind him in the #4 spot. Despite his batting order position, Walker is a significantly weaker hitter, finishing 38 points behind McCutchen in wOBA last year. Manuel chose not to put up his four fingers for the intentional walk, and Herndon went to work going after McCutchen. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, McCutchen smoked a sinker to deep center field to win the game 5-4.

The Phillies’ struggles in Pittsburgh continue, now having won only four of 13 games dating back to 2009, and eight of 14 since 2006. They will put their early-season adversity behind them and look forward to tomorrow afternoon’s home opener against the Florida Marlins, a meeting of two 1-2 teams. Cole Hamels will oppose Anibal Sanchez.

(Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.)

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42 comments

  1. Richard

    April 08, 2012 04:07 PM

    I didn’t really like the early abandonment of potential offense, when he took out Thome after the Phillies had gone up 4-1. Plus there was the simply inexcusable decision to have Victorino bunt with Pierre on 2nd with no outs. Stupid stupid stupid.

  2. Al

    April 08, 2012 04:19 PM

    what is HERDON doing on this team
    I had enough of him last year

  3. makarov

    April 08, 2012 04:22 PM

    Regarding the Polanco-Wigginton for Thome double switch, you have to recall that if Wigginton doesn’t drop that throw down from Schneider, then Stutes likely escapes the 7th unscathed.

    My only other comment is I’m not enjoying seeing our 2nd and 3rd in the lineup bunting to advance a runner early in the game.

  4. Fatalotti

    April 08, 2012 04:32 PM

    I don’t see how Herndon in the bottom of the 9th is even remotely defensible. When the Phillies enter that inning, they have but ONE goal. Get to the top of the 10th. You then ask one question: who gives you the best chance to get to the top of the 10th?

    If the answer to that question is David Herndon, I’ll stop watching baseball.

  5. Bill Baer

    April 08, 2012 04:37 PM

    I know we hate Herndon because he lost the game, but he’s actually decent — better than Stutes and Kendrick.

    Herndon: 4.13 xFIP, 54% GB
    Stutes: 4.23 xFIP, 33% GB
    Kendrick: 5.09 xFIP, 47% GB

  6. Phillie697

    April 08, 2012 04:54 PM

    Papelbon should have been in there in the bottom of the 8th.

  7. Richard

    April 08, 2012 05:10 PM

    Papelbon should have been brought in to convert the last out of the 8th. Normally I wouldn’t mind Bastardo in that situation (he has good splits), but his fastball is down, and he didn’t seem to be super sharp. Once the game was already tied, though, bringing Herndon in didn’t really bother me. Dude is ok. Should have walked McCutcheon though.

  8. hk

    April 08, 2012 05:36 PM

    $50M to watch high leverage situations from the bullpen…a good gig if you can get it.

  9. Paul Boye

    April 08, 2012 06:35 PM

    I do agree with the near-consensus that that’s Papelbon’s spot. The save stat and the thinking behind it continues to plague managerial strategy.

  10. Murray

    April 08, 2012 07:12 PM

    Can we have Papelbon back in Boston, If Philly won’t use him properly, he’s way better than the crap dished up by Boston’s closers

  11. Mike Sanders

    April 08, 2012 07:13 PM

    nothing better than watching an assortment of journeymen, rule 5ers, starters, and 2nd year players come out of the bullpen the past 2 games while the highest priced reliever in baseball waits for a save opportunity that never comes. charlie played the book, but when the book was written, closers didn’t get paid a billion dollars a year.

  12. Richard

    April 08, 2012 07:58 PM

    Actually, Paul, if Papelbon’s brought in when he perhaps should have been brought in–in the 8th, in relief of Bastardo–it’s obviously a “save situation”. So it’s not the save stat in this case… it’s the reduction of relievers to roles, and special innings.

    I think it’s less obvious when Papelbon should have been brought in otherwise.

  13. Fatalotti

    April 08, 2012 08:26 PM

    By Bill Baer on Apr 8, 2012
    I know we hate Herndon because he lost the game, but he’s actually decent — better than Stutes and Kendrick.

    Herndon: 4.13 xFIP, 54% GB
    Stutes: 4.23 xFIP, 33% GB
    Kendrick: 5.09 xFIP, 47% GB

    I get this, but it’s beside the point. Was he the best option to get the Phillies to the 10th inning? That’s really the only question worth answering, and the answer is, unequivocally, no.

  14. Fatalotti

    April 08, 2012 08:34 PM

    And, of course, to your point about Herndon’s numbers, I offer this:

    Papelbon: 2.16 xFIP, 12.17 K/9

  15. Richard

    April 08, 2012 09:13 PM

    Joe, your specific complaints about this game, in your blogpost, are just fine (and no different than what everyone else is saying), but you lose a little credibility with your corresponding digs at guys like Rollins and Thome, and your overall dismissal of the team’s defense thus far. Granted, they have some limited players (cf. Wigginton), but the Schneider/Wigginton strikeout snafu aside, the defense has performed pretty well (and the only time I saw outfielders nearly running into each other, it was Victorino & Pence, so that can hardly be attributed to hacks playing when/where they shouldn’t be, etc).

  16. Fatalotti

    April 08, 2012 09:21 PM

    By Bill Baer on Apr 8, 2012
    Yeah… I never said Papelbon should’ve stayed in his seat.

    I was just responding to your contention that using Herndon was in some way defensible. I vociferously disagree.

  17. Richard

    April 08, 2012 09:27 PM

    He didn’t contend that. He was pushing back against the idea that Herndon sucks.

  18. Richard

    April 08, 2012 09:30 PM

    …it was me who was saying using Herndon was “in some way” defensible. Though my main point throughout is that it was probably the least bad controversial decision Charlie made all day. I can name four things he absolutely fucked up, materially damaging the team’s chances, without even bothering to get to bringing in Herndon. It was that bad a day.

  19. John Murtha

    April 08, 2012 10:03 PM

    The amount of whining is unbelievable for game 3 in to the season. Yes, they are 1-2 and no Charlie opted not to panic and throttle Papelbon on to the mound in the 9th just to get them to the 10th when quite frankly that is way too much speculation for the first series of the YEAR. Bill is right and Charlie is the only manager to EVER lead the Phils to 5 division championships, maybe we should have some faith in the man.

  20. Fatalotti

    April 08, 2012 10:11 PM

    Richard: “…so Manuel sent Herndon to the mound in the bottom of the ninth with the score 4-4. While that is somewhat defensible…”

    From Baer’s article today. Not a big deal, I just don’t think using Herndon was in any way defensible in the 9th inning.

  21. Bill Baer

    April 08, 2012 10:21 PM

    The subtext to that is, “defensible, assuming you have Papelbon loosening up and ready to bring him in very quickly”.

  22. Fatalotti

    April 08, 2012 10:33 PM

    Sorry Bill, I didn’t get that subtext, and even with that subtext I still disagree.

    And I don’t mean to pick on your article or call you out unnecessarily. I really do appreciate your blog, as I read it almost every day. I just can’t understand any context in which your closer hasn’t pitched in 2 days, the game is tied without the ability to surrender any runs, and you have a $50 M closer who is arguably the best relief pitcher in the game sitting on his hands.

    Like hk said, “$50M to watch high leverage situations from the bullpen…a good gig if you can get it.”

  23. Scott G

    April 08, 2012 11:02 PM

    I don’t think it’s defensible at all. If you can count on Herndon to protect a tie game where he can give up exactly 0 runs, you can trust him with a 1 run lead.

    Also, why not walk both McCutchen and Walker (Herndon has awful splits vs. LHBs), and force the pirates to remove hanrahan for Barajas. Worst case scenario we hate Barajas even more.

  24. Fatalotti

    April 08, 2012 11:08 PM

    By Bill Baer on Apr 8, 2012
    Yeah, I think you’re trying to argue with me but I completely agree with you.

    Sorry man, haha. I’m glad we agree. If only Charlie Manuel (and every manager in baseball) agreed with us, baseball would be a lot more fun to watch.

  25. Dan K.

    April 08, 2012 11:53 PM

    Maybe not more fun, but more efficient. I’m sure to everyone else in the world outside of Philly fans, this game was hilarious.

    Also, let it be known, I am in no way worried about the team. I think we easily win the East again and do well in the playoffs (*knocks on wood*). But Cholly’s managing has been, to put it nicely, ridiculous. Why is Wigginton considered a defensive replacement for anyone not in a wheelchair? Hell, I think Howard on his stool would be a better fielder than him… You have Nix and Mayberry on the bench, both of whom offer similar, if not better, offense to Wigginton with VASTLY better defense. Especially Mayberry. WHY THE HELL ISN’T MAYBERRY OUR 1B UNTIL HOWARD IS BACK??? Also, why is almost the entire second string playing on the same day? Can’t Polanco have the day off today and Ruiz have the day off tomorrow (switch the order because Schneider is Worley’s catcher)? Not that Polanco offers much in the way of offense, but he’s better than Wigginton overall.

    My head is spinning right now. I can’t tell how Cholly gets away with this. If someone else did their job this inefficiently they would be fired faster than you can blink.

    /rant.

  26. Evan Schumacher

    April 09, 2012 12:29 AM

    Just a very frustrating weekend, thank goodness we are out of Pittsburgh. We never have played that great in the Steel City.

  27. Jonny

    April 09, 2012 07:34 AM

    What a better way to prove to all the Phills fans whining we need “small ball” out there just how stupid bunting usually is? Against an AL team which will not make the playoffs is probably the best spot to prove that I’d say. And what’s with pulling Thome to let Nix bunt?? And what’s with bunting a man from 2nd to 3rd? Pulling Thome to let Nix bunt had to have been as boneheaded as letting McCutchin swing his bat in extra innings. DUMB.

  28. Tom

    April 09, 2012 08:04 AM

    The worst thing about these decisions is I hate watching this team like this. Bunting is for suckers.

    6 bunts by position players in 3 games is ridiculous. But I don’t even have a problem with Pierre and Rollins bunting to get on with no one on base, or Galvis sacrificing.

    But Rollins and Victorino bunting with runners on? How about they try to do something that might actually score a run? hmm?

    I looked up those numbers on Herndon towards the end of last year and was surprised. But if you just watch the guy his stuff is *fine* at best and he just never seems to deliver when they need him. The only stats that seem to speak to that statement from last year are his .835 OPS against when the Phils are within 4 runs and then his .640 OPS against when the margin is over 4 runs. I don’t know if that says something about him or the opposition.

  29. Bliz

    April 09, 2012 08:39 AM

    I can’t blame Stutes for yesterday. He gets through that inning in order if Wigginton could catch a baseball. Not sure what this guy’s purpose is at this point. If you were going to put Polanco in the game, why would you leave Wigginton in there?

  30. Rob in SJ

    April 09, 2012 10:06 AM

    To me the real problem is they have no one you can feel comfortable about coming in from the bullpen outside of Papelbon. Maybe Qualls, but he was unavailable and I haven’t heard yet if that is serious. The bullpen went from being a strength last year to the biggest question mark (yes even moreso than the offsense) despite the addition of a $50M pitcher and otherwise status quo personnel. I mean, we can all argue that using Papelbon in more than just a strict 1 inning, saves only situation helps some, but they need to be able to get 9 outs from the bullpen, and at least 3-6 need to come from someone other than Pap. I don’t know where they’re coming from right now.

  31. Dan K.

    April 09, 2012 11:30 AM

    @Jonny,

    AL team that won’t make the playoffs…? The Pirates? They’re in the NL Central. The only AL teams we play are all the AL East teams except the Yankees, and the only team among them who I’m even remotely comfortable saying won’t make the playoffs is the Orioles, and even then who can really say?

    @Rob,
    I’m not particularly worried about it. ‘Pen arms are something we do have. Qualls, Stutes, et al aren’t cutting it? Option/demote them and bring up De Fratus, Aumont, Diekman, et al. Although a few of the arms are likely to settle down (Bastardo especially, it’s not likely you can be that much of a beast and just lose it all in less than half a season).

  32. Rob in SJ

    April 09, 2012 11:39 AM

    Dan, good point on the options in the minors. I am just so conditioned by this team to never expect help to come from a callup, since even when they call guys up they don’t use them (Galvis being the exception only due to extreme need). I also think Bastardo will rebound, I’m just not sure how they piece it together until that happens. Not nearly as sure about Stutes.

  33. Phillie697

    April 09, 2012 11:53 AM

    @Rob,

    We have a perfectly fine reliever in the minors who I would have trusted more than Stutes or KK yesterday. I was thinking about it while I made the comment on this board about being uneasy about Stutes. His name is Aumont, and for the love of god, RAJ and Cholly, PLEASE PLAY YOUR YOUNGSTERS BEFORE WE LOSE MORE SERIES TO THE LIKES OF FING PIRATES!!!

    I still cannot get over the fact that our god damn manager likely cost us the series. Anybody can manage a team with 4 aces and avging 4.5 runs a game; it’s when the team has some weaknesses when we REALLY need a good manager, and sadly, we have a BAD one. I mean, starters gave up 2 runs in 20 innings, and we walk away 1-2. Are you kidding me??? Anyone know La Russa’s number?

  34. Rob in SJ

    April 09, 2012 12:07 PM

    Considering they demoted Aumont and kept Savery, despite clearly not trusting Savery to pitch in a close game, what do you think the odds are that they: 1 – call up Aumont, and 2 – use him in high leverage situations? I know they did it with Stutes last year, but it’s just not their way. Which is not a defense of that approach, just trying to stay grounded in reality.

  35. Dan K.

    April 09, 2012 12:33 PM

    I think Aumont is probably the last name on the short list to get the call. He’s got the highest ceiling to be sure, but for that reason they want him to get more time in. He’s still plenty young, so he can work on his control by getting regular work in the minors as opposed to occasional mop-up duty with the big league club.

    However, De Fratus, Schwimer, Diekman, and (to a lesser extent) Rosenberg and Cisco are knocking on the door just hoping for a chance to prove themselves.

  36. jauer

    April 09, 2012 02:38 PM

    @697,

    La Russa will be an expensive option. I mean, we already owe a closer 50 million dollars to pitch only trailing by 3 runs, and we owe the scoreboard 11 million.

    Paying for something valuable? Seems unlikely.

  37. Phillie697

    April 09, 2012 03:19 PM

    @jauer,

    Maybe we can pay La Russa to watch in the bullpen in high leverage situations. Like hk said, it’s a good gig. I figured even in the bullpen, we can just listen to La Russa’s mumblings and it’d be better than Cholly.

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