Spread the Blame

Hola, amigos.

The Phillies are 34-40, nine games behind the Nationals (11 behind in the loss column) and 5 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot (check my math on that). Fans are angry with some of Charlie Manuel‘s moves in yesterday’s losses. Should he have tried to squeeze an extra inning from Cole Hamels on a hot day, despite throwing 111 pitches? Should he have used somebody in the eighth inning other than Antonio Bastardo, who had thrown 29 pitches a day earlier? Should he have pinch-hit Juan Pierre for Michael Martinez in the eighth inning?

They’re all valid questions, but let’s be honest here.

The blame for this team’s failures can be spread everywhere.

Let’s look back to the offseason.

The Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to a $50 million contract in November, but did nothing other than sign Chad Qualls in late January to help the bullpen. They essentially bet on Jose Contreras, 41, coming back from elbow surgery and pitching effectively for an entire season and Qualls pitching effectively, despite the fact he had a 5.05 ERA away from PETCO Park last year. It’s not hindsight to say people questioned whether or not the Phillies bullpen would be good enough. Those questions were asked throughout the offseason and Spring Training. But I didn’t have a problem with Manuel using Bastardo in the eighth inning in Game 1 yesterday. Bastardo had thrown 29 or more pitches in an appearance just four times in his career and he had never pitched the next day until yesterday. But so what? Is there a huge difference between 20 pitches and 29 pitches? Are nine pitches the difference between throwing strikes and not throwing strikes? Get real. No, the real problem is this: If Manuel doesn’t use Bastardo, he uses Qualls. And if Qualls blows the lead, everybody is killing Manuel because he used Qualls and stayed away from Bastardo “because he threw 29 pitches the day before.” Manuel is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t because he has a bad bullpen. The Phillies bullpen has a 4.48 ERA, which ranks 25th in baseball. It’s pick your poison.

People are angry at Manuel for not pinch-hitting Pierre for Martinez. I get that. I would have used Pierre in that situation, too. Pierre might be hitting .171 against left-handers this season, but he is a career .303 hitter against them. He also has a track record and has been in big spots before (i.e. World Series hero). Literally the only thing Martinez had going for him is that he is a switch-hitter. He has no track record. He is hitting .125 against lefties this season, and .160 against them in his brief career. But let’s examine that decision a little deeper: We’re debating Manuel choosing from Pierre, Martinez, Mike Fontenot and Brian Schneider. Not exactly Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs, Geoff Jenkins, Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett and So Taguchi, is it? And don’t forget one very important detail of that inning. With a runner on third and less than two outs, John Mayberry Jr. struck out on three pitches. Three pitches. The Phillies bet on Mayberry continuing his development and becoming another late-blooming Jayson Werth, but there is no evidence to suggest he is that player. At best, Mayberry looks like a platoon player with an .852 OPS this season against left-handers and a .553 OPS against right-handers (it’s a .914/.685 split in his career). But an everyday player? Manuel likes to say it takes a special player to be an everyday player. The Phillies were counting on Mayberry to be special. He hasn’t been.

Could Manuel make better decisions at times? Sure. But it’s amazing how a manager’s moves work when he has a strong bench and a strong bullpen, but backfire when he has a weak bench and a weak bullpen.

So let’s look at the 11 highest paid players on the Phillies. They’re making a combined $148.15 million this season. The majority of them have underperformed, been injured or both:

  • Cliff Lee ($21.5 million). He had a 1.95 ERA through his first five starts, but had awful run support and didn’t get a win in any of them. You felt bad for the guy. But he has nobody to blame but himself lately. He has a 5.10 ERA in his last seven starts. He has blown four leads in that span: two three-run leads, one two-run lead and one one-run lead. He has allowed five earned runs in each of his last two starts. He isn’t pitching well. He isn’t holding leads. Think about this for a second: If Lee holds three of those four leads, instead of the Phillies being 34-40, they’re 37-37.
  • Roy Halladay ($20 million). He struggled before landing on the DL. He supposedly is making excellent progress rehabbing from his strained right lat, but we’ll see how effective he is once he comes back.
  • Ryan Howard ($20 million). He has been on the DL all season. He should be back next month, unless there is another setback. But nobody knows how effective he will be once he is back.
  • Chase Utley ($15 million). He has been on the DL all season. He should be back Wednesday. Even if he is the player he was last season, which was no better than an average big-league hitter, the Phillies could use his presence in the lineup and the clubhouse.
  • Cole Hamels ($15 million). He struggled for a stretch recently, but is 10-3 with a 3.03 ERA. He is one of the few guys you could say has done his job.
  • Jonathan Papelbon ($11 million). He is 17 of 18 in save situations. Can’t complain about that.
  • Jimmy Rollins ($11 million). Rollins has been on fire, hitting .343 with a 1.016 OPS since May 28. He was hitting .224 with a .558 OPS before that. He needs to keep doing what he’s doing while the rotation and bullpen continue to struggle.
  • Hunter Pence ($10.4 million). He is hitting .196 with runners in scoring position. A big hit here and there and maybe the Phillies win two or three of those one-run games they lost.
  • Shane Victorino ($9.5 million). He is hitting .252 with a .718 OPS. He hit .282 with a .791 OPS from 2006-11. Manuel gave Victorino a mental healthy day this weekend, so we’ll see if it helps at all. But in a free-agent year, Victorino is performing behind his career averages in terms of on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. They need better from him.
  • Joe Blanton ($8.5 million). He has a 5.04 ERA.
  • Placido Polanco ($6.25 million). He was hitting .196 with a .452 OPS on April 24. He is hitting .298 with a .746 OPS since. The trick is keeping him healthy.

The front office bet on some players performing and it didn’t happen, Manuel has made some questionable moves and the majority of $148.15 million worth of talent hasn’t performed up to its capabilities.

It’s not just one or two things. It’s a whole lot of things from the top down. Spread the blame.

27 Comments

Couldn’t have said it better. The under-performing started late last season and never ended. Anyone who didn’t see last year’s postseason or this year’s first half coming, they don’t pay attention to baseball at all.

Here’s hoping this team can at least save face and have a winning record this season. Realistically speaking, they won’t make the playoffs, but a few more wins would add some fun and excitement.

Why is it all over the Delaware Valley, people were screaming to get Bastardo out of there after the second walk, but Manual and Dubee don’t see it? At this point , I’d bring up every prospect and throw them in the pen, can hardly be worse that Qualls and Bastardo.

Seriously don’t know what the fascination is with Qualls being called in every game. The guy can’t pitch or pull his weight. The entire bullpen needs to be sent down. Bring up the AAA guys – because honestly? I don’t see them being any worse than what we’ve got now. Hell, my CAT could probably pitch better than what we’ve got now.

You’ve already got the AAA guys – Dieckmann, Rosenberg, Savery, Valdes, Stutes (before injury) and none of them have been all that effective to this point. The only way to improve the bullpen, in my opinion, is via trade right now. And really how reliable would that be anyway? Pitchers are constantly getting hurt and going in and out of effectiveness (re: Lee, Halladay…)

Bottom line of your assessment for this team is, the people making decisions on their talent are way off target. The responsibility for these decisions lies with the GM. He has failed and regressed each year he has been in charge. We will not get on the road to reccovery until he is replaced.

I agree, Joe. The Pat Gillick era is long gone. Bring in a young moneyball type who understands contemporary MLB.

Bring back Woody Woodward!!!! (eyeroll)

Reblogged this on The Phanatic Addict and commented:
Couldn’t have said it any better…

Michael Martinez is not a MLB player, and never will be. He was probably the oldest Rule 5 player every selected and has not come close to being worth it. I know he is only supposed to be a backup player but they should have been ready in case Utley wasn’t ready, and the fact that he traded Wilson Valdez in favor of this bust might be the worst move Amaro has made as GM. And leaving him in to hit in the eighth inning yesterday might be the worst move Charlie has made as manager.

Wilson Valdez is hitting .237 with the Reds. I can live a comfortable life without hearing about Wilson Valdez again.
Shane Victorino is on my nerves. Does he lead the league in pop-ups?
Their failures with a runner on third and less than 2 out are frustrating. They have exactly 3 sacrifice fly balls in the last 28 days. Zero in the last 2 weeks. Hitting .237 in those situations – which is where a stiff like Valdez would fit right in.

So you seriously think there is no diffference between Valdez and the drek they’ve been playing at second since Galvis got hurt? Do you even watch baseball? I’ll take the superior defense, the .237 over Martinez’s .133, and also not have to look at true stiffs like Fontenot and Orr ever again.

for all the mistakes yesterday, no one has mentioned J(st)Rolls steal of 2nd to get into scoring position with 2 outs. Heads up play by guy who we all like to slam.

Muleman: Agree about Victorino. Here’s a guy playing for a contract. He has been so frustrating all season. It’s been a tough season so far. It will be nice to Utley back in the line up even though I am not expecting him to ride in on the white horse and save the day.

Victorino is going through the motions. I hope his quitting on the team doesn’t hurt his trade value at the deadline. Maybe they should move him now so it doesn’t have a chance to get any worse.

I love the revisionist history on Wilson Valdez. “Do you even watch baseball?” No, I just watch the commercials. Drek is drek, and I don’t know what they see in Martinez, but having Valdez out there wouldn’t solve any problems. You’re grasping at straws. The bigger issue is the Galvis injury.
On June 14, Valdez was hitting .211. It’s because of his limited playing time that a few hot games can raise his average. THE FACT IS, for the bulk of this season, he was hitting below .200. Do you watch baseball?

karen62: Guys like Victorino and Pence are charming and quirky when the team is winning. When they lose, their fundamental inconsistencies are magnified. Shane has always been a dumb ballplayer, but this is the first time he’s been exposed on a team that isn’t winning.
I believe that players go into defensive slumps just like offensive ones, and Pence seems to be in one.

Todd, agree with what you have written. Except for a few of the players, i.e. Cole, Papelbon and now Jimmy and Polanco no one is really playing up to their potential. To be at the game yesterday afternoon and see the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th and they could only get 1 run across was a disgrace. As well as a few other times before that with men on base they could not score. It is just a shame that Cole did not win that game yesterday. And when is Pence going to stop just swinging at every pitch.

It’s also been interesting to see so many empty seats of late. I really noticed with this series. Guess it shows how poorly the team is playing.

karen: I think a lot of the empty seats at the end of games is due to a couple of factors. One, their inability to mount a comeback win. Two, Xfinity Live across the street. I’d be curious to check and see how many people go straight from the ballpark to that place in the 7th inning.

You are spot on. They do not have that swagger that they had in the past either.

Phil’s need to start total rebuild ASAP. Tweaking here & there just delays the process. Try & keep Cole (good luck on that one) Pence, Worley & maybe Ruiz, everyone else should be available to deal.

Steve: Available to deal — for WHAT? How are you going to unload those big, expensive and lengthy contracts? Let’s see your plan.

Here’s a special treat for all you Wilson Valdez fans:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=valdewi01&t=b&year=2012

Check the lusty .190 OBP for most of the season and his amazing batting average climb from … um, .000 all the way to the high .190s. Write him into your All-Star ballot.

Wilson Valdez is a backup player in MLB. A quality one at that, and Michael Martinez should be playing in an independent league at this point of his career. Kid can’t play. And if you think there is no difference between them, yeah, I have to wonder if you watch baseball.

Eat whatever money you have to & get as many prospects as possible.

Can’t argue with anything said. Pretty much what I said 6 weeks ago or so on here (without this much detail) and got murdered for it. This is not a good team, they made essentially no offseason moves to get better, and they owe way too much money to players who are not helping them. No easy fix, no chance of going anywhere this year, and I really have strong doubts whether they can (or should) resign Hamels. Not because he isn’t an awesome player (he is), but because if they resign him, they probably cannot houseclean like they need to, so you essentially have the same team next year.

I gave up on them 4 weeks ago, the most interesting thing to me now about this team is how they are (if they are) going to get out of this mess. The next 8 months will tell us a lot about the upper management of this team. Hard choices are coming.

To add my two cents about Valdez: he’s a way better fielder also.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 296 other followers

%d bloggers like this: