The Blame Game

The moment the Phillies lost last night to the Braves in 11 innings, 15-13, some folks blamed Charlie Manuel.

They wanted Jonathan Papelbon pitching for a five-out save.

There were a lot of reasons that was not going to happen and should not have happened. First, Papelbon had pitched three times in the last four days. It’s May 2. You’re not trying to blow out the guy May 2. The Phillies certainly wanted to stay away from him last night, although Manuel said Papelbon would have pitched the ninth (or later) if they had the lead. Now, this is where people say, “He’s a $50 million closer. He should have no problem picking up five outs.”

Papelbon has picked up five outs or more in save opportunities just eight times in his career, and just once since 2009. He has picked up four outs or more 39 times, but just six times since 2009. He has pitched for an inning or less 218 times.

And that is when Papelbon is his best.

He has four saves (50 percent success rate) in five-out save situations or more.

He has 31 saves (79.5 percent success rate) in four-out save situations or more.

He has 197 saves (90.4 percent) when he pitches one inning or less.

So while just 3.1 percent of his save opportunities have been five outs or more, 13.8 percent of his blown saves have come in those situations.

So how should the Phillies have handled the eighth? We’ll get back to that in a moment. But I think if we’re going to look back on last night’s loss and assess blame, this is how it should go:

  1. Roy Halladay blew a 6-0 lead.
  2. Roy Halladay blew a 6-0 lead.
  3. Roy Halladay blew a 6-0 lead.
  4. Jose Contreras and Michael Schwimer could not stop the bleeding.
  5. Jimmy Rollins‘ error in the eighth. Had he turned a double play, Contreras would have had two outs and nobody on. Instead he had runners on first and second and no outs.

If any of those things do not happen, the Phillies win the game.

Back to the eighth inning. If I would question Manuel on anything I would say he should have had Brian Sanches replace Contreras because Sanches has much more experience than Schwimer. Manuel said they chose Schwimer because has a little bit of a better fastball and breaking ball, and they simply liked the matchup better. But Schwimer entered and promptly walked Michael Bourn on four pitches to get things going to force in a run. A couple batters later the Braves had a one-run lead.

But the real issue is this …

With Chad Qualls unavailable because he pitched three times in the last four days and the Phillies saving Papelbon for the ninth inning, the Phillies only had Schwimer and Sanches to choose from. Phillies relievers not named Papelbon or Qualls have a combined 5.26 ERA this season. That’s not good. That puts Manuel in a tough spot. He needs better options, and right now he does not have many.


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You got this exactly right, Todd. No one should be blaming the manager. The players simply did not execute. Doc blew it, the pen added to the disaster and the Rollins error really set the tone for the loss. Very sad :O(

Disappointed in JRoll with an error in a big spot. Although he got screwed in the ninth on that K after a very good at-bat. That ball was half a foot off the plate, and we should have had two runners on with no outs.
Oh well, the good thing about baseball is that they go right back at it today. Short memories.

If they are spending $50 million on a closer who doesn’t routinely pitch 2-inning saves… then that is just a HORRIBLE investment on the part of Amaro. Maybe Pap couldn’t pitch last night. Agree with you there. But maybe the Phillies also should not have given a lot of moeny to a pitcher that can’t be used that often. The only reliever that deserves 50 million is Rivera because he can routinely pitch the 8th and 9th.

Rivera has only pitched in more then 3 out 4 times since 2010! That is not routinely at all! What the phillies spend THERE money on is up to them, Pap was the best of the lot and will be worth it in the end! J-roll and Doc are the big losers in this one.

Right. Rivera’s only human. Once he hit 40 years of age in 2010, things obviously changed. But what about BEFORE 2010? Pap is only 31 and is earning Rivera-type money. Difference is, when Rivera was 31 he was entering games in the 8th inning quite a bit. Pap is good, but not sure if he’s worth the $$ considering the limited use he will provide. That $$ could have been invested elsewhere. As a season ticket holder, THEIR (not THERE) money is MY business… especially when they waste it on bad contracts like this and have no flexibility on addressing other more crucial needs (like the offense and Cole Hamels). Unless they decide to pay the luxury tax… which ain’t gonna happen under this ownership group.

It was one of those crazy games that belonged in Coors field…the Phils have won their share of those games recently (see W. Valdez, RHP)…oh well.

No closer “routinely” pitches two inning saves, even Rivera. Every manager gives guys mandatory off nights because of how many games out of the bullpen they’ve pitched in a row. Papelbon is not Iron Man. No pitcher is. Goodness, get upset, but get upset about the right things.

Good call Gregg. No closer “routinely” pitches more than an inning. And maybe some people need a reminder of what the Braves did last season to their bullpen, and how it melted down in September due to overuse.
Calling Papelbon a horrible investment because of last night is really short-sighted. He was available for an inning, and he most probably would have pitched the ninth if JRoll doesn’t boot a DP ground ball.

This game belongs in the sh@t happens section. Doc blows a 6 run lead? S happens. The worrying thing is the Pen. This team is going to be in lots of close games. We need a pen who can hold a lead and allow Manuel to remove the SP after 6 or 7 so not to over use them. With all the arms on the farm, perhaps its time to bring up some?

On the bright side, we scored and hit yesterday. Sh@t happens

The answer is only a few miles away. His name is Diekman. I don’t understand why they called up Sanches… I heard the brass say in spring that Diekman needs to “work on things at AAA.” But right now he’s the best reliever they have in the minors. Heck, he’s 2nd on the team in strikeouts!!!! As a reliever!!!! Ask yourself, at this point, who would you rather have coming in… Jake D., Sanches or Schwimmer? I think it’s a rhetorical question.

Yes, s*** happens, but without a doubt, the blame goes to the brass. They keep bringing up the wrong guys when players land on the DL. I’ve followed him all season & seen J.D. pitch twice this year in person at LV, and there’s talk of him possibly becoming the 8th inning guy b/c no one in Philly is stepping up … then why with all the injuries is he still in AAA?

Btw… I agree with Zo… it’s absurd to even ask Pabelbon to get 5 outs in that spot. It’s May 2nd for crissakes. If it’s a September stretch game (and he’s rested) or October… different story.

IMO, you’re missing the point with Papelbon. The game was on the line in the 8th with a 3-run lead and one out. If Pap comes in and gets out of that, then you roll the dice with Schwimer or Sanches in the 9th, starting off the inning with no one on base. Schwimer was obviously nervous and not-ready-for-primetime with the bases juiced. Charlie put him in a bad spot he couldn’t handle. I know it’s unconventional, but if this team is going to win, they’re going to have to think outside the box.

Finally, someone gets it. No one (reasonable) is asking for a 5-out save. And, if you decide Papelbon is getting the night off…fine. BUT, if you think he can pitch an inning, why does it have to be the bottom of the ninth? You should use your best closer at the most important point in the game, and that without a doubt was the bottom of the 8th this time.

Completely agree with this assessment. Charlie (and most other managers) manages to the save statistic, when the most important spot for relievers isn’t always the 9th inning. Saves are a fantasy baseball statistic. I can’t believe that baseball managers still adhere to this inefficient use of their resources. Use the best bullpen pitcher when you need him most, not simply when you have a lead in the 9th inning.

I certainly wouldn’t leave the 9th inning to anybody but Papelbon at that point. Do you remember how long it took a veteran player like Madson to get comfortable pitching the 9th? Schwimer would have soiled his union suit. The only thing I would have done different was use Sanchez in the 8th instead of Schwimer, but the only other guy besides Pap who has experience in the 9th is Contreras and, besides the fact that he had already pitched, he’s still not 100%.

phan52, what exactly did Schwimer do in the 8th? Soil his uni, I’d say. Mainly becaues the bases were loaded. I’m not saying Schwimer or anyone else is the new closer, but last night was a unique situation that called for a unique and creative managing solution.

I agree that it was an upsetting loss, but they scored 13 runs! How the hell do you even lose when you score 13 runs?! I, for one, am thrilled to see that much hitting. Shit happens, indeed… (Although I am really concerned about Doc.)

I am still stunned that Halladay blew a 6 run lead. I agree about J-Rolls at bat. He got screwed and that the bullpen is definitely worrisome.

Todd, very short-sighted, either/or fallacy. Papelbon didn’t have to pitch a 5 out save. He HAD to come in during the 8th with the bases loaded and the Phillies clinging to a 2 run lead. If he gets you two outs there and preserves the lead, you bring Schwimer or Sanches or someone else into the 9th with at least a 2 run lead, and the bases empty.

That is vastly better than having to rely on Schwimer, an unproven rookie, to get you out of a bases loaded jam, and then having Papelbon come into a clean frame. I agree, Papelbon shouldn’t have been asked to get 5 outs, but if he was going to be asked to get ANY outs, it should have been the 8th inning outs.

The 9th inning “save situation” model is just an arbitrary construct. Wednesday night, the actual save situation was in the 8th with the bases loaded and 1 out, and the Phillies still having the lead.

I just want to let you know Todd, it’s okay to question the manager’s moves. You’re not going to get fired. And if you think the only possible way to use Papelbon Wednesday night was for a 5 out save, you’re wrong. Much rather have had Schwimer pitch in the 9th with the bases empty and a lead, than hope that he can preserve the lead in such a high leverage situation while saving our $50 M closer for a much easier situation.

You may think of it as an “arbitrary construct” but the 9th inning save is the way of MLB life these days. It is not like the days of Tug McGraw and Goose Gossage, when they would come in at any time and pitch up to three innings. Bullpens are constructed today with “holds’ and “saves” in mind and the mindset of the bullpen parts are unfortunately part of the deal. It is why, as I stated earlier, that a guy with Ryan Madson’s stuff still took years to be able to handle the supposed crucible, while he was unhittable in the 8th inning. Schwimer in particular just isn’t ready for any parts of MLB late inning relief, and it would have been even worse for him if it had been in the 9th. That’s not an excuse; I think he better get his act together if he wants to stay in The Show. There are guys down on the farm who will be happy to take their shot at it.

Papelbon is ALWAYS going to pitch in the 9th. Charlie and Dubie screwed up when they bypassed Sanchez in favor of Schwimer, as Sanchez at least has some experience in the role.

Here’s the thing: Find me a manager — any manager at any level — that uses their closer to pick up two outs in the eighth inning. Please, find me that manager. You can’t because NOBODY does it. Now, I understand what you are saying. In fact, it makes a LOT of sense. We actually asked Rich Dubee that question yesterday. His response: Say what you want, but the ninth inning is a different animal. In other words, his closer is pitching the ninth inning … just like EVERY other team at every level in baseball. This is not a Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee thing. It’s a baseball thing. And you can wish really, really, really hard the Phillies use their closer this way, but it’s just wasted energy.

I suppose some of us remember when pitchers like Gossage used to pick up 3-inning saves. It wasn’t all that odd then. At some point, the save evolved into a 1-inning thing.
Although, it always strikes me as odd, with pitch counts and such, that $20 million starters are handing games over in the 7th inning to guys making the league minimum. I’d think that teams would want to get the most out of their investments, but it’s gone the opposite way.
Teams are often placed in the position of holding their breath through the 6th, 7th and 8th innings until they can get to the ninth and another pitcher making $20 million takes over.
The game is strange.

This is a very poor response. It’s an argument from authority, which is logically fallacious. So what if every manager in baseball does it the same way? It’s still incorrect, and that doesn’t excuse Manuel and Dubee from criticism.

Dubee claims that the 9th inning is a “different animal”. Unfortunately for him, his staff last year proved that to be wrong, too, as FIVE different pitchers recorded saves for the Phillies last year. Did Contreras, Bastardo and Herndon…yes, friggin Herndon came into the bottom of the 13th and ecord a save with the Phils up just ONE run….magically acquire the “closer’s mentality” last year, only to completely lose it this year? Gve me a break. Pitching is pitching. Like when people claim that closer’s pitch better in save situations than non-save situations. Look at Papelbon’s career: he’s pitched demonstrably BETTER in non-save situations in his career, and he’s pitched incredibly well in save situations. it’s groupthink, all of it.

Even if the 9th inning were actually a diferent animal, wouldn’t that apply to starting the inning? Here’s the thing: coming into the game with the bases loaded in the bottom fo the 8th, with your team up 2 and only 1 out recorded is ACTUALLY a different animal. The pitcher has zero margin for error, as he cannot walk a guy, give up a hit, a deep fly bal, a wild pitch, or a well placed grounder. He has to either strike the guy out or induce a double play ball. This is the very definition of “high-leverage”. That Manuel/Dubee would trust Schwimer in THIS situation, but not to start the next inning with the bases empty is perplexing on the highest level. Why wouldn’t they trust him to start the 9th? For fear that he migh load the bases or give up runs, right? But if they fear that he might load the bases in the 9th inning and be able to work out of it, doesn’t make such sense that they would air-drop him right into the middle of that same situation in the 8th inning.

It’s simply a case of managers managing to the save situation and to bullpen roles. It’s an illogical notion, that has decades of baseball history showing it to be completely unnecessary. Firemen relievers would work whatever inning that was most necessary for decades, and this bullpen specialization is just a system that was broken from the start, and it’s getting worse. As great as Rivera has been, and as great as that situation has been for the Yankees, everyone is trying to emulate it, and unfortunately, it’s the exception, not the rule.

Lastly,let’s not act that Manuel has been the shning star of bullpen management over his tenure here. He hasn’t, and this is just the latest in a long string of poor managerial bullpen decisions he has made.

Dude, you are wasting your breathe (and a lot of typing) and you apparently didn’t get Todd’s point. But go ahead, you keep wishing really, really, really hard that the Phillies, or anybody else for that matter, will pay you any heed.

Maybe not me, but maybe if they had some reporters who pushed them hard enough, they might rethink some of their strategies. If Todd and others agree with this line of thinking, but we are sure that nothing will ever change in any regard to any situation in baseball, then what the hell is the point of commenting on the blog at all?

Either way, I’m confident that within a few years, the closer situation will start to change dramatically. Closers have been getting injured at an historic pace as they place incredible amounts of strength on themselves to retain their roles (since a demotion in the bullpen pecking order means lots of less bucks in the future), lots of front offices are more statisitically savvy now and looking for competitive edges. it’s a matter of time before there is a shift in baseball thought. The acceptance of the shutdown/meltdown statistic will be a harbinger of that change, and I can’t wait until it is, as it is a statistic that puts all relievers on equal footing, regardless of inning pitched.

Not that it means much, but Torre did it a few years back with the Dodgers. I remember him saying the most important out of the game was in the 8th inning…and that’s when he went with his best. Might have been Saito in the 8th, Broxton in the 9th (before he became closer when Saito split). I know it’s only one instance, but it HAS been done.

Too late. For years relief pitchers in general were culled from the ranks of pitchers who couldn’t quite make it as starters. Bullpen parts evolved and found their way to MLB by attrition. Players like Ryan Madson and Antonio Bastardo were always starters in the minor leagues. They became RP’s in th Majors .Even the great Mariano Rivera was solely a starter in the minors The last pitcher for the Phillies before Michael Stutes who was working specifically as a bullpen piece in the minors was Ricky Bottalico.
But there has been a culture change and there is no turning back. Now players are groomed for the bulllpen with certain roles in mind. Stutes is a setup guy. Diekman is a lefty specialist. Aumont is being groomed to close. Some of the guys filling those roles may change, but the roles themselves are written in MLB stone.

I can agree 100% with Todd on that they did not want to bring Papelbon in in a five out situation. I fully agree closers are a one inning or less pitcher and should be used that way.
Though my problem with that game (as well as a lot of other games.) Is that Charlie sometimes takes too much faith in his players at times when he shouldn’t. When a relief pitcher comes in and can NOT throw a strike and walks more than one batter in the beginning of his short stint, then he should be pulled immediately. This having faith in the pitcher and letting them try to work out of it, is where I have a problem. There are only three bases before someone can score and this is NOT a situation you want to play with fire, and see how many missed strikes before one does catch the strike zone of the plate only to explode in your face and lose the game for you. Such as the Brian McCann grand slam. You dig yourself in too much of a hole, and you don’t have your best stuff and sooner or later you need to throw a strike (and with your bad stuff) BAM!!! a hit or home run and now the game is out of reach and sucks all life out of your team. (And grays us fans !)
But I will agree with you that others are to blame as well. But to say Charlie is completely innocent. No! Because he makes the calls on when to pull a pitcher and which pitcher to bring in next. And personally, I would rather have a fielder make one costly error on a good pitch. Then to have a pitcher not able to throw strikes and walk batters and still pitch. That is where more runs are lost. No fielder can save a pitcher not throwing strikes and walking batters. But a pitcher can save a game getting out of hand if he can throw a pitch close enough to the strike zone. And a manager can save the game if he can see as plain as day, that a pitcher he just brought in just does not have the ability to hit the strike zone and pull him, before it gets out of hand.

See! Just as I said above, last night (Friday in Washington) was just another example of leaving a pitcher, who wasn’t hitting the strike zone in too long and BAM!!! it cost us another game.

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