Thursday, October 21, 2010

Charlie Manuel Exposed

Charlie Manuel's faith in his players has always been his upside. Unfortunately, it has also been his downside.

His downside hurt the Phillies greatly yesterday.

The decision to start mediocre-at-best Joe Blanton will haunt the Phillies, their fans and the city for a long time to come, if the Phillies cannot pull off the improbable 3-game comeback. If Charlie knows his players, and he does, Joe Blanton is notorious for giving up first-inning runs. He is also notorious for not going deep in games. His opponents batting average is .311 in his first 15 pitches, and close to .400 in pitches 45-75. It was well known before the series started that the Giants bullpen was superior to the Phillies, meaning the Phillies NEEDED their starters to go deep. But looking at Blanton's stats, it was obvious he wouldn't do that.

So Blanton gives up 1 in the first, thanks to two wild pitches. 1 in the third and as his pitch count gets to that 45 range, and he gives up another in the fifth. Then he's done after 4 2/3 and we still have 4 1/3 of the 'who knows what we're gonna get' Phillie bullpen. None of this is Joe Blanton's fault. He did what he usually does. He even left the game with a lead. But that's not the point. The point is that the Phillies could and SHOULD be at 2-2 right now. Halladay should have pitched (I know damned well Cliff Lee would have pitched, God I miss him) and so what Lincecum has the advantage over Oswalt in game 5, the bottom line is you need to be 2-2 at this point. Halladay would have been on short rest, yes. But this is the time of the year when you have to do what you have to do. And you don't ever HAVE to pitch Joe Blanton in the most crucial playoff game of the season.

With that being said, Charlie Manuel messed up because he trusted Joe Blanton.

Then he messed up again.

The Phillies, for once this post-season, put together a late-game rally. Back-to-back doubles by Howard and Werth tied the game with a runner on second with nobody out. Now is where I seem like I'm going back on what I said in an earlier post, but Jimmy Rollins has to bunt. I know he's on the left side, where is clutch in the playoffs and will pull the ball to move the runner, I know. BUT...the most important thing at that point is getting Jayson Werth to touch home plate. Rollins has been a leadoff hitter his whole career. He knows how to bunt. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. But this was obvious from the start. It was even a possibility that Werth should have bunted Howard over because you need to get 1 run, thats all. Then you need to get 1 run, that's all. You don't need hit after hit after hit. You have to score the runners that are on base. But no Jimmy pops out and Werth doesn't move. Bad move Charlie. But then again, he had faith in Jimmy, against probable baseball obviousness, but Jimmy didn't perform.

And my last point. How can Oswalt come in for the ninth and most crucial inning after only 2 days rest yet Halladay can't come in to start on 3 days rest? I know, who would have thought that the game would require Oswalt in the ninth. There's no way of knowing that. But, if it is an option to put him in, wouldn't there be a bigger and more obvious option to just start Halladay and completely avoid this situation in the first place?

Now the series comes down to the Phillies big 3, Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, H20, whatever you want to call them. But what is being forgotten here is that there will be no Oswalt and Hamels if Halladay repeats his last performance. Which means that there would be a waste of two great arms, when at least one of them could have gotten another start if Halladay went game 4. But it's over, nothing to do about it now. And the Phillies might be on the downswing.

Two years ago they finished first. Last year second. This year, 3rd/4th (if they lose the series.) Their core of Howard, Utley (who?!?), Victorino, Rollins, and Ruiz are all a year older. Werth is gone. There's still no bullpen. This could be the end of the debatable 'dynasty.' Sad stuff, but they had an incredible run for the past few years.

Maybe their luck has run out. But it's by no stroke of luck, that the Giants beat the Phillies in game 4 with Blanton on the mound. No that was strategy. Great on one side, bad on the other.

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