Blatant Bullpen Misuse

Posted by Corey Seidman, Mon, May 03, 2010 10:30 PM | Comments: 66

I understand your stance. Charlie Manuel has led this team to two consecutive World Series appearances. Rich Dubee has worked with these pitchers for several years and he knows his personnel better than a sportswriter does. Gotcha.

But World Series appearances do not immunize a coaching staff from ever being criticized. They absolutely should not serve as a protective blanket for a manager or a fall-back for fans who blindly follow that manager.

Should we never question Joe Girardi’s over-managing because the team he coached won a World Series last year? Is Bobby Cox allowed to play Melky Cabrera everyday without public retribution just because the Braves won a bunch of pennants?

Charlie Manuel makes a ton of good decisions. His ability as a manager extends far beyond strategic moves. He is the perfect leader of these men because of his laid-back, consistent temperament.

Even before a corner was turned in 2007, the mantra for Charlie Manuel’s Phillies has been “one-game-at-a-time,” a cliche thrown around often but perfected by this squad. Manuel has a ton of good qualities. This is by no means an article bashing the manager.

This is an article bashing the blatant misuse of the Phillies bullpen since last Friday’s 9-1 loss to the Mets.

Let’s start with the most recent game – Monday night’s loss to the Cardinals – and then work our way back through the Mets series.

The Joe Blanton Debut Game

Kentucky Fried Starter pitched six very good innings before running into a bit of trouble in the seventh. Nick Stavinoha led off with a homer, making it 2-1 Cardinals, but Blanton proceeded to retire two of the next three hitters. Albert Pujols hit a liner to center that dropped in just in front of Shane Victorino, and a call to the pen was made.

For Nelson Figueroa…

Not Contreras, or Romero, or even David Herndon. Not Chad Durbin, either. Durbin was unusable because he pitched two innings in Sunday night’s 11-5 win over the Mets. Two innings that could have been eaten by the guys coming back from injuries.

Durbin’s been one of the better relievers this year. Shouldn’t he be saved for meaningful situations?

In came Figueroa, a Clay Condrey-type whose sole purpose in the major leagues is to eat dead innings in blowout games or avail himself for a spot start here-and-there.

Figueroa is not a late & close reliever. He is not the guy you go to with two men on in a one-run ballgame in the seventh inning. Manuel had long been ejected by this point so you would have to imagine Rich Dubee was the man who made this call.

It didn’t work.

Figueroa threw one wild pitch, almost threw another, walked Matt Holliday, then gave up a three-run double to David Freese. For good measure, Figgy then allowed an RBI single to Colby Rasmus and it was 6-1.

The Phils hit two solo homers afterwards but the game was over as soon as Figueroa trotted to the mound. Blanton finished with a “meh” pitching line that in no way reflected how well he pitched.

The night before, a few bad managerial decisions were overshadowed by a monster nine-run fourth inning. But let’s take a closer look.

The Moyer-Walk Game

Subsequent results do not make a bad decision a great one. Allowing Jamie Moyer to bat with the bases loaded in a 5-3 game against Johan Santana was not a good decision. Before you throw your arms in the air, let me explain.

Johan Santana has walked 2 batters per 9 innings since becoming a full-time starter in the major leagues. Jamie Moyer is the least imposing hitter in the history of existence. Manuel didn’t send Moyer up to the plate in that situation knowing he would walk.

None of us knew he would walk. 99 times out of 100, that situation plays out like this: Moyer makes an out, Phillies strand three; 5-3 Mets after four innings.

It’s not a good decision just because Moyer walked, then Victorino hit a slam, then Polanco singled, then Utley hit a two-run tortata. That’s basing your assessment off of extremely improbable subsequent results. That’s being one of those people that acts like hindsight isn’t 20/20.

Moyer had pitched terribly in the first four innings of that game. He represented nothing at the plate or on the mound. THAT is a situation when you have Nelson Figueroa warming up. Moyer made two awful mistakes to David Wright and Rod Barajas, and about four more to Gary Matthews Jr. and Jeff Francoeur, who each hit mammoth foul home runs.

In that situation, you pinch-hit, no matter if it’s the fourth inning or the eighth inning. If the Phillies didn’t score nine runs and the Mets wound up winning that game, trust me, I would not be the only person writing this article.

What bugged me the most about the decision (even though I thoroughly enjoyed the game itself and watched it twice more on replay later that night,) is that if it were the 5th inning rather than the 4th, Manuel most certainly WOULD have pinch-hit for Moyer.

Why? Because managers have this fetish about the starter going at least five innings. It’s like bringing in your closer for a three-run save – most managers just do it because other managers do it.

The five-inning cutoff is understandable in the sense that a pitcher must go five innings to get a win, but it makes no sense when a pitcher is down 5-3 and pitching like a 47-year-old Kyle Kendrick.

What would have been the big deal about putting Figueroa in to pitch the fifth and sixth? Then you have three innings to kill between a handful of relievers that haven’t been overworked.

Whatever. All’s well that ends well. I am sure I’ll hear a lot of complaints for mentioning this, but please just remember that if it didn’t work out perfectly, I would not be the only one writing about it.

You know what did work out perfectly?

Halladay Goes Complete

Roy Halladay is an abnormal breed of pitcher. He can throw a lot of pitches without losing velocity or effectiveness. He can move the ball and hit spots as well in the ninth as he can in the second. He went complete in a 10-0 game to rest the bullpen. No major problem there.

And, finally:

Baez for Two?

With the Phillies down 4-1 entering the sixth inning last Friday, Danys Baez was called on to replace the legendary Kyle Kendrick. Baez retired the side in order, inducing outs from Jason Bay, David Wright, and the 62nd best prospect according to Baseball America that is a “phenom” according to broadcasters just because he went 11-for-his-first-36. You may know him as Ike Davis.

(In other news, how’s that young phenom Jason Donald doin’ for the Indians organization?) See my point? I digress.

Baez pitched a scoreless sixth and, for some unfathomable reason, was sent out to pitch the seventh. The game was still close. It was 4-1. Jon Niese had been shutting down a dead offensive team, but he was not overpowering in any shape or form and this was not a game out of reach.

Baez hit Jeff Francoeur, who then stole second. Rod Barajas doubled him in. Baez walked the next batter, who just so happened to be the pitcher, Niese. Angel Pagan tripled them both in. Bye-bye, Baez.

Who in the dugout thought it would be a great idea to select Baez as a two-inning pitcher over Nelson Figueroa, Chad Durbin, or Jose Contreras? Figueroa and Durbin both have a ton of experience as long-relievers, and Contreras was a starter up until the middle of last year. But Baez is the guy you go to when you need more than one inning?

Baez has significantly worse numbers in pitches 26-50 than he does in the first twenty-five. The last three times he went more than an inning last year in Baltimore, Baez gave up runs each time and took the loss each time. In his only other one-plus inning outing with the Phils, he blew a save in Arizona.

Plus, Danys Baez has absolutely stunk this year. The only thing he’s done right is induce ground balls, but who cares about ground balls when you’ve allowed nine runs, sixteen baserunners, and two homers in ten innings?

The decision to keep Baez in for a second inning turned a 4-1 game into a blowout.

Moving Forward

The Phillies are 14-11. It’s May 3rd. The team is still trying to get healthy and has yet to hit its stride. This isn’t a “sky is falling” article. It’s just that of these eleven losses, several of them could have turned out different had more reasonable decisions been made.

It is evidently clear that neither Manuel nor Dubee knows yet how to use this bullpen. There are a lot of new faces (Contreras, Baez, Herndon, Figgy,) and injured guys (Lidge, Romero, now Madson.) The only constant has been Chad Durbin.

In looking at possible late-inning solutions, how about Contreras? He’s struck out 12 batters in 6 2/3 innings. He’s allowed one run, a walkoff homer to Nate McLouth in the crazy Momentum Shift Game in Atlanta. He deserves a shot in late & close situations more than Figueroa or Baez.

At some point, the bullpen will become established and guys will settle down into roles. But until that time, we shouldn’t refrain from commenting on dumb decisions just because this team won a World Series two years ago.

(Pat Gallen’s video recap is coming later.)

Avatar of Corey Seidman

About Corey Seidman

Corey Seidman has written 210 articles on Phillies Nation.

Corey is Analysis Editor for Phillies Nation and also writes for CSNPhilly.com.

  • Posts: 0 Bob in Bucks

    Some very good points Corey although some editing might make it a better read – think about it.

    Of course, bullpen issues tend to cascade. With the bullpen in flux it is harder to know what would be right. Charlie is hesitant to put Romero and Lidge in tough situations and he was obviously holding Contreras to close last night. I agree that the situation was set up on Saturday night and I was curious why he did not use others then. However, there may be other things going on we don’t know about.

    Starting pitchers like to get wins – the problem is with the stupid W-L rules. Given his bullpen I don’t think he would take anyone out after 4 innings.

    There are a lot of responsibilities for a baseball manager. Charlie is no great tactician that is true (see last point). However, he does seem to motivate the players and make them all want to work together. These days that is more important (think back to Bowa – great tactician but hated by all in the dugout).

    One more point – Charlie is lucky. Time after time I have seen him make the “wrong” move and it has worked out. I can’t explain it other than to say he is lucky. He bats LH against LH and the guy gets a hit. He leaves a starter in and he completes the game, on and on. At this point I am willing to go with Charlie’s gut simply because it works. I don’t have to understand it.

  • Posts: 0 Heather

    @BFO: Again, that’s your opinion. I think there are other more objective measures of how good a manager is (such as what his peers think of him) that the opinions of a few folks on a message board. And the opinions of his peers do not indicate Charlie is an “elite” manager.

    Regardless, I don’t understand the strong responses I seem to get from folks like you and Chuck when I state Charlie is a decent but not great manager. It’s not like I called him bad names or said he stunk. All I said was that he’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread and there are better managers out there.

  • Posts: 0 Don M

    so we can all agree that …There are “better” managers, with less success than Charlie Manuel in Major League Baseball

    time for a new topic

  • Posts: 0 Brooks

    Heather, I see what you are saying. Let’s take for example a manager who in his first year with a team took them (did he really?) to a WS championship. Since that time, he has won another WS ring, finished in second place 3 times in argueably the most difficult division in all of baseball. Nobody in their right mind should consider this idiot an elite manager.

    Yes, we are talking Terry Francona. He lucked out, going to the team with perhaps the best talent in all of baseball, excellent starting pitching, the best (or close to it) closer in baseball, a terrific hitting lineup. When he managed the Phils, they won no better than 77 games in a third place finish. It seems all Terry had to do was fare well on his video game for the owner..

    Cholly did not fare badly when he managed Cleveland prior to coming to the Phils. He had great talent there, maybe better or at least comparable to what the Phils have now. But this group of players, his cast seem to “get” Cholly and they do perform for him. Elite? probably not. Great? I’d say before it’s all over with, there could (hope!) be at least one more WS ring and that might get him to the promised ground, the HOF.

    But, then again, so might Francona! ** sic **

  • Posts: 0 Chuck

    Heather, I get it. You don’t like Charlie Manuel for some reason. That’s cool. That’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla.

  • Posts: 0 beta sigma delta shag

    where is the pre game post I mean come on it is 6 30 isn’t game time 7:05?

  • Posts: 0 Keith E

    3 games over .500 at this point of the season used to be rare, now it’s fodder for bashing the coaching staff. Spoiled perhaps? Sure things could be better but we’ve all seen the ugly side of a Phillies season.
    My strong belief is ‘lay off Charlie’!
    How about one you complainers tell us what’s ‘going to happen’ instead of showing off your 20/20 hindsight.
    This team will be fine.
    GO PHILS!!!

  • Posts: 0 George

    Anylists seem to always miss a key point or two.

    First, in the Kendrick game, Manuel and his staff wer faced with using a bullpen short of personnel. Madson was out, Lidge and Romero had just returned from rehab and weren’t really considered ready yet. In the bargain, he was faced with a rotation after Halladay of Moyer, who always needs bullpen help, and Blanton, who could only really be expected to deliver 80-90 pitches, as it was to be his first game back. It’s no wonder he used Baez for two innings; he would have burned yet another reliever had he not.

    Again, had he lifted Moyer in the fourth, that too would have required the use of another pitcher. He would have had even fewer options for Blanton’s probable short start. As it was, he still couldn’t rely on Lidge, Romero, or Baez, and Herndon almost always gives up a few hits; bad with runners already on. I’ll grant that perhaps he could have used “mop up” men in the Moyer game, but why risk turning a big lead into a tiny lead with no real closer available? Durbin was the correct choice to keep the lead, the ONLY LEAD they had in any of the three games cited. These are thoughts you never even hinted at in your claims of managerial incompetence.

    Also, just because two Mets hit loud fouls off Moyer does not mean he didn’t fool them. They swung at the wrong time, or those balls would have been fair. Greg Maddux had many such balls hit against him. He regarded a foul of home run distance as just “another strike.”

    It’s easy to second guess. I’ll grant that some decisions may appear in retrospect to have been stupid, but you can’t make such claims in these situations without looking at all the angles, which you failed to do.

  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman


    You completely missed my point about pitching Baez two innings. You claim that I “failed to look at all the angles,” yet you completely missed the clear point that I made:

    Durbin, Contreras, Figueroa, even Herndon: all multiple inning-guys. Baez: not a multiple inning guy. It has nothing to do with burning out relievers. It has everything to do with having four guys MUCH more capable of going multiple innings than Danys Baez, who hadn’t performed well all season up until that point, and quickly turned a small deficit into a large one.

    As far as Durbin pitching in the Moyer Walk Game, it was an 11-5 lead, not a 7-5 lead. Six runs is not a small lead. Six runs is wiggle room. Six runs is loading the bases, giving up a grand slam, and still having a two-run lead. Chad Durbin has been one of the more valuable relievers this year, there were plenty of other people to use in that game. Using Durbin made him unavailable the next night, when they could have used him much more than Nelson Figueroa.

    I can accept criticism, really I can, but I really can’t stand when people make claims like you did in your last paragraph, when you clearly missed most of the points I made in the article.

  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    And Keith E:

    If you even read this, the whole point is that it’s not about 20/20 hindsight. It was about unwise decisions that were unwise at the time and unwise in retrospect. Some of the decisions above worked out, some didn’t. That doesn’t make them better or worse decisions.

    Why do people feel the need to jump up and defend the manager for the sake of defending the manager? I root for the same team you root for. I love Charlie Manuel just as much as you do.

    But that doesn’t mean every decision he makes is brilliant.

  • Posts: 0 zambonirodeo

    Corey, it occurs to me that if you’re someone who believes in stats and probability, there’s no excuse for this:

    “99 times out of 100, that situation plays out like this: Moyer makes an out…”

    In fact, Jamie Moyer has a career OBP of .147, so it’s more like, “85 times out of 100.” : )

    And his OBP so far this season (that walk included of course) is .486!

  • Posts: 312 Corey Seidman

    Avatar of Corey Seidman

    LOL, I knew somebody would mention that. You have to take into account how good Johan Santana is. If Moyer gets on base 15% of the time, and Johan Santana is Johan Santana, that 15% decreases. That 15% was compiled against all pitchers, not top-tier lefties.

  • Posts: 0 zambonirodeo

    Well, yeah, but Johan Santana would still be Johan Santana against Ben Francisco too. Which is not to say Francisco wouldn’t still have been twice as likely to get something done there, just at a lower rate for both of them.

    The ultimately irony there, I think, is not that it worked or that Charlie knew it would work, but that I suspect only a pitcher who didn’t figure he had a prayer of doing anything would have been able to leave the bat on his shoulder like Jamie did.

  • Posts: 0 Andy

    I couldnt agree with you more, Dubee gets credit for being a good pitching coach but if you think about why is he? the last 2 years when we won we have went out and gotten pitchers that were qualified starters. The phillies are going to try and make me believe it was Dubee’s tutelage that made cliff lee dominant Pedro solid and Blanton able to go deep into most of his games? No only one he might get credit for is Cole Hamels but where was he went Cole was struggling? Why isnt he making Kendrick better and remember in spring training when kendrick was good we were giving Doc the credit not Dubee.

  • Posts: 0 DeanH

    Don’t we all wish Charlie was perfect like us? Seriously, I agree with the thoughts but no one is perfect.

  • Posts: 0 coach sling bags

    Thanks for sharing, Such nice infomations. Regards.Welcome to say something about my recent shopping experience:coach handbags outlet ,coach purses.

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