Cliff Lee Historically Great, Phillies Still Somehow Lose

In this millennium, only three pitchers have completed the tenth inning of a game they started: Aaron Harang, Roy Halladay (twice), and Mark Mulder. That is how rare it was to see Cliff Lee toe the slab in the tenth inning of tonight’s game in San Francisco. Given the complete lack of offense, it was a necessity.

Lee looked the best he has ever looked as a Phillie, as his curve ball was sharp as a knife and his change-up was on par with that of teammate Cole Hamels. The Giants couldn’t touch him — it took until the seventh inning to see more than 12 pitches in a single inning. Matt Cain matched him pitch-for-pitch through nine regulation innings, inducing his usual weak contact. Cain left the game for a pinch-hitter having allowed only two hits and one walk.

Because of his low pitch count — 89 pitches through nine innings — Lee came back out for the tenth inning. Buster Posey led off with a single, but was quickly erased in a ground ball double play off the bat of Brett Pill. Lee wrapped up the inning with a ground ball to second baseman Freddy Galvis, who raced to first base for the unassisted putout in spectacular fashion.

It was at this point that Charlie Manuel got his greasy manager hands on the game and caused it to slip out of the Phillies’ grasp. Carlos Ruiz led off the top of the eleventh inning with a double. Galvis, hitting left-handed, laid down a successful sacrifice bunt rather than swinging at the ball and trying to hit a ground ball to the right side. Jim Thome pinch-hit for Lee, forcing Giants manager Bruce Bochy to bring in left-handed reliever Javier Lopez. In that situation, with a runner on third base and one out, the attribute you want most in a hitter is a high contact rate. Last year, Placido Polanco swung and missed at fewer than ten percent of pitches while Thome swung and missed at 30 percent, per ESPN Stats & Information. As bad as Polanco has looked to start the year, you still have to go with the guy with a good chance of putting the ball in play.

Thome struck out, as was the most likely scenario. With two outs and a runner on third base, Manuel chose to pinch-hit John Mayberry for Juan Pierre, replacing a high-contact ground ball hitter with a low-contact fly ball hitter. Manuel wanted the right-on-left advantage (despite no platoon split for Pierre), but Bochy brought on right-hander Clay Hensley and induced a weak ground out to shortstop to end the inning.

The bad managing continued when baseball orthodoxy dictated Manuel use his non-closers, as opposed to $50 million man Jonathan Papelbon. Lefty Antonio Bastardo was selected to start the 11th inning against the left-handed Brandon Crawford. Bastardo struck him out relatively easily, bringing up left-hander Brandon Belt. Belt singled to center, which should have signaled the end of Bastardo’s night and the start of Papelbon’s, with switch-hitters Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera due up. Papelbon stayed in the bullpen. Pagan hit a ground ball to third baseman Ty Wigginton, who muffed the grab, allowing Belt to advance to second and Pagan to first safely. (Don’t forget, Gold Glover Polanco could have been in the game at third base if he had been used to pinch-hit, or at the very least put in the game as a defensive replacement.) The game ended when Cabrera pushed a single to shallow right-center for the walk-off 1-0 Giants victory.

Due to an impotent offense and terrible decision-making by their manager, the Phillies squandered ten brilliant scoreless innings from Cliff Lee. Since 2000, only 12 pitchers have thrown at least nine scoreless innings with a game score of at least 85 and taken a no-decision. Lee joins the list at #13. The Phillies drop to 5-7 and own sole possession of last place in the NL East.

twitter.com/magelb/status/192837638405885953

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

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28 comments

  1. Magowan

    April 19, 2012 01:50 AM

    Call me crazy, but how bad would it all seem had Wigginton made that play at third and Bastardo retired the side in the 11th?

    Papelbon stays ready to pitch to save a lead in the 12th, or 13th, or whenever.

    I feel like everyone is sour because the two things that went wrong, did. 1) Phillies not scoring in the 11th. 2) Wigginton’s error.

    One of those two things goes right and it’s a tie game going into the 12th.

    It sucks we lost, I know. Under .500 this late in the season doesn’t suck as much as it would in June. Still 150 games to play, and if we’re lucky, Lee can go 10 innings 20 more times.

  2. Brian

    April 19, 2012 04:28 AM

    does charlie not know Pierre has a reverse platoon split? or does he just not care. Also i think the biggest mistake was choosing thome over polanco. especially given thome’s start to the season.

  3. hk

    April 19, 2012 05:52 AM

    Magowan,

    This team has already lost 3 games on the road in extra innings. Why would you want them to hold Papelbon for a save situation that might not come? Why would you even risk losing the game with your $300K relievers while your $12.5M reliever watches? Why is it okay for the manager to pitch the $300K relievers with no margin for error, but be afraid to use them in a save situation with 1 or more runs of margin for error?

  4. hk

    April 19, 2012 06:14 AM

    For years, Bruce Bochy took advantage of Charlie’s lineup mismanagement and used Javier Lopez almost exclusively against LHB’s with Charlie allowing Bochy to effectively use Lopez as a LTOGY (left-handed two out guy). Last night, Charlie finally got his chance to force Lopez to face a RHB and he crapped the bed. In his career, Thome’s K% is 29.2% vs. LHP’s and it’s 34% over the past few seasons. For his career, Lopez’s K% is 20% vs. LHB’s and 10% vs. RHB’s. It is absolutely mind-boggling that Charlie finally got the match-up he wanted and passed on it.

    Compounding the mistake by pinch-hitting JMJ for Juan Pierre made the 11th inning almost comical. What was Charlie thinking? Was Charlie thinking? Did he think that Bochy would leave Lopez in to face JMJ? Did he think JMJ, who has a career .233 BA and .310 OBP vs. RHP’s had a better chance of plating the run than Pierre, who has a career .304 BA and .361 OBP vs. LHP’s? Does Charlie even know that Pierre has been better vs. LHP’s than RHP’s throughout his career? Or, is that just the type of statistic that the Phils like to ignore when they pound their chests and state that they don’t use “them new-fangled cybermetrics”?

    Inquiring minds want to know. Unfortunately, those inquiring minds do not include the mainstream media, who seem afraid or disinclined to question or criticize the beloved manager.

    Forget #freedombrown, I’m more concerned with #freejimywilliams.

  5. TonyM

    April 19, 2012 06:55 AM

    When Cholly brought in Bastardo, I turned off the tv and went to bed. I knew it was over.

    Why not Qualls? Or Stutes? OR ANYONE ELSE? We all know that Bastardo has not had his stuff this year, so why hope he does now? Ugh.

  6. Dan K.

    April 19, 2012 07:01 AM

    TonyM, I can’t tell if you’re trolling (using Qualls and Stutes as your two examples), so I’m just going to ignore that for now.

    What strikes me as really awesome (read: somewhat depressing, but still cool) is that Cain realistically could have gone 10 as well. That would have been a fun statistic to tell the kids. Almost as fun as a clean inning by Wilson Valdez against good hitters.

  7. Drew

    April 19, 2012 08:01 AM

    As much as I’m not thrilled with the team’s record, I know it’s early in the season. And as bad as they’ve looked offensively, I’m confident they can turn it around. And of course I still believe that. But last night’s loss was the only one of the season (so far) to actually make me MAD. Lee pitches that gem and they can’t pull out the win? When a sac fly would have scored Chooch? Man.

  8. DP

    April 19, 2012 08:39 AM

    @ HK -

    You’re right, where was Charlie. That said, where the hell was the bench and pitching coach. The staff has definelty declined over there years where I feel it’s been reduced to a bunch of yes men. Lopes, Jimmy Williams et. all. where in-game tactictians who could guide Charlie. Charlie’s in-game management is the same problem Andy Reid has, they just aren’t good at it. Good coaches, good at mamaging personalities, but bad tactitians. Finally, what’s up with the 5 pitch 4th inning with Vic, Jimmy, and Pence. Where is the hitting coach/Charlie to tell these guys to chill the heck out?

  9. DP

    April 19, 2012 08:43 AM

    Oy – sorry for the many typo’s. Just fired up.

  10. Dan K.

    April 19, 2012 08:53 AM

    Oh yeah, forget Jimmy Williams, #freerynesandberg. In addition to being a superior manager, maybe we can move Galvis over to third and he can play second every once in a while?

  11. Jake

    April 19, 2012 08:53 AM

    Blaming charlie’s game management misses the point of both this game, and this season. This is not a good team offensively. They haven’t been for some time. Last year they were terrible against quality starting pitching. (Great article on crashburnalley about this) They are old, weak and lifeless at the plate. Howard and Utley returning aren’t going to change this fact. Both have seem significant declines and are shells of their former selves.

    Also- We talk about Charlie as being good at managing personalities as if it’s a negative. This is a 7 or 8 month season. It’s a grind. Managing personalities is the most important thing a manager can do. Look at what happens when a team starts infighting and tuning out the manager. (See: Boston Red Sox 2011, and start of 2012 campaign). Was Torre a great tactician? Nope. But he was excellent at managing people and getting them to perform. His record speaks for itself.

  12. Bill Baer

    April 19, 2012 08:58 AM

    Blaming charlie’s game management misses the point of both this game, and this season.

    That’s like saying a particular late-game move in chess isn’t worth criticizing because your opener revolved around the knight. (I don’t know chess very well, so pardon me if the metaphor is silly.)

    Sure, the overall performance could have been better, but they could have been overcome with better late-game decision-making as well.

  13. hk

    April 19, 2012 09:06 AM

    Jake,

    While the mis-management of this team by RAJ and the injuries to Howard and Utley are to blame for the current roster, those reasons do not absolve the manager of blame for making suboptimal decisions that contribute to 1-run losses. While this poor hitting line-up is 5-7 through 12 games, with some better decision making, any or all of the two losses in Pittsburgh and last night’s loss could have been wins and the Phils could be 6-6, 7-5 or 8-4 despite the offense.

  14. JB Allen

    April 19, 2012 09:19 AM

    Following up on Bill’s point, hasn’t RAJ constructed a team that maximizes Manuel’s failings as a manager? Won’t there be a lot more close games than there were in the past? It almost seems like this team has been set up for Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog, or some other early-80′s super-involved manager type. Charlie isn’t that.

    I would be interested in hearing who you all think might be better-equipped to run this team. Who do you think are the best game managers out there these days? Are there many?

  15. yt

    April 19, 2012 09:25 AM

    as a jays fan it is so sad to see great pitchers like lee and halladay wasting their time on a team that is old and inept. imagine how many wins halladay would get if he played for a team with an offense like toronto that would score him some runs. /irony

  16. Jake

    April 19, 2012 09:35 AM

    I should say this-
    Everybody thinks that Charlie should have put a hitter who is MORE likely to have made contact at bat. But guess what. More likely doesn’t mean he will make contact.
    Charlie’s skill is managing personalities. Giving players chances to prove themselves, get some pride going in their game in a late game spot plays out well in the long term. You manage only by the numbers and you are prone to lose your players. For what’s it is worth Charlie’s been able to do that.
    Thome is also a guy whose produce a ton of big hits in his career. And seriously we want Polanco at bat? Dude’s hitting like .170 and is 1 for the season. Really?
    I think my point is we nit-pick some decision like which washed up offensive player would be better at not driving in a run, and miss the point that we are talking about washed up offensive players.

    Charlie has never been, nor will ever be a great tactician. But he’ll also never lose a clubhouse, will have 25 guys that fight for him and play hard for 162 games. I’ll take that over perfect chess every night.

  17. Bill Baer

    April 19, 2012 09:37 AM

    I’m tired of the “he manages personalities” defense of Charlie Manuel. For a team like the 2007 Phillies — a youthful team with no playoff experience (or realistic aspirations, even) — I can see that being important. But the 2012 Phillies are veteran-laden and playoff-tested. There’s very little personality-management that Charlie needs to do.

    Also, Jake, I am sitting here screaming “SMALL SAMPLE SIZE” at my computer monitor at you.

  18. hk

    April 19, 2012 10:00 AM

    Jake,

    As Bill screams SMALL SAMPLE SIZE at you, I ask, why is it that you reference Thome’s career of big hits and compare it to Polanco’s early struggles? If you are going to use the small sample size of this season, why would you want the guy who is hitting .091 – and is actually the guy who is “1 for the season” – over the guy who is hitting .184 or even the guy who is hitting .219 (JMJ)? If you want to use career stats, why would you want the guy who has produced a .239/.341/.426 vs. LHP’s and his K’d in 29% of his AB’s vs. LHP’s over the guy with the .313/.355/.448 triple-slash vs. LHP’s and who has only struck out in < 7% of his AB's vs. LHP's?

  19. Conrad

    April 19, 2012 10:00 AM

    @ Bill: lol

    @ Jake: (I am furious that I have to make this argument) Weren’t the last two teams who beat the Phillies in the playoffs – both who went on to the win the World Series – managed by coaches who were good/great tacticians (or at the very least made good decisions against the Phillies in their respective series)?

  20. Reuben

    April 19, 2012 10:35 AM

    Clearly the blame isn’t solely on late game management, as early game run scoring would have negated it all.

    The question is should Charlie have:
    1. pinch hit for cliff lee (at that point, as much as I wanted to see him pitch the 11th and as much as Bastardo folded, it was the right call)
    2. Should he have used Thome? (no, don’t even like him normally, especially in a position where contact is essential)
    3. Should he have used Bastardo? (Yes, but he should have pulled him when he got into trouble with two switch hitters coming up. You can say that if Wiggs makes the play, this point is mute, but too often we’ve kept our best bullpen arms on the sidelines saving them for a later situation which rarely comes. Not saying to go all Tony LaRussa, but there needs to be some middle ground)

  21. BobSmith75

    April 19, 2012 10:51 AM

    If you go by the old baseball axiom that there are at most really a dozen games a manager really impacts one way or another in a meaningful way, one of those games was last year & Cholly blew it.

  22. Brad

    April 19, 2012 11:11 AM

    Maybe we can all pool our money and buy a billboard near CBP with Pierre’s lefty-righty splits on it.

  23. LTG

    April 19, 2012 12:24 PM

    Me too.

  24. EricL

    April 19, 2012 12:30 PM

    Bill, the personalities thing may have some value.

    The Boston Red Sox are a veteran team that has a winning tradition, but it seems that their clownshoes manager has seemed to disrupt the cohesion in that clubhouse by his inability to act like anything less than a social moron.

    Whether that translates into performance on the field (or, more precisely, a lack thereof), who knows. It isn’t something I’m particularly in a hurry to find out though. That being said, I suppose it’s fair to acknowledge that being a “people guy” and an adept tactician aren’t mutually exclusive traits.

  25. Jake

    April 19, 2012 02:40 PM

    Hey at least we can all agree Cliff Lee isn’t to blame. Right?

  26. NavyJoe

    April 19, 2012 07:18 PM

    How much of Pierre’s production against LHP the result of infield singles or bunts? Enough to make that .300 average look better than it really was (as it pertains to this scenario).

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