Monday, April 09, 2007

The Ghost of Frank Robinson Haunts the Phillies

I was listening to the Mets home opener today as they took on the Philadelphia Phillies. It turned out to be quite the game, especially if you're a raving, knuckle-dragging Mets fan (redundancy, I know). But I was struck by how Phillies manager Charlie Manuel transformed into Frank Robinson at the crucial stage of the game.

Phillies phans have been up in arms about their crappy bullpen. They had low expectations coming into the season, and they've performed about as well as the Nats' starting pitchers.

They entered the bottom of the 7th
with a two-run lead. The Mets chipped away, scoring a run with two outs. At this point, with the pitcher's spot due to lead off the next inning, Manual brought on one of his few trusted arms, Geoff Geary. He didn't double-switch him into the game. I know the Phillies bench stinks, but they had options.

Geary got David Wright to fly to right to end the inning, but Manuel let him bat leadoff in the next inning, despite having a meager one-run lead against one of the two or three best offenses in the league. Geary made a quick out, and the team went down without adding an insurance run.

How many times did we see Frank Robinson do the same thing, letting his relievers try and nurse a tiny lead (or even a tie game!), especially when there were opportunities to double switch?

As you could expect, the bottom of the inning (as it usually wasn't for Frank) wasn't kind to the Phillies. Geary started by allowing back-to-back singles before all hell broke loose. The Mets ended up scoring seven runs in the inning off him and Jon Lieber, completely blowing up what had been a close game.

I don't understand why, in high leverage situations, teams let pitchers bat for themselves. Sure, the batters who came up behind him didn't do anything, but it's hard to say that what did happen would've happened had a pinch hitter gotten on base.

Regardless of that, it's just silly to expect that a team, especially one whose bullpen has been as uniformly atrocious as the Phillies was going to milk a one-run lead for six outs. The average home team in that situation ends up winning 30% of those games. Combine a bad bullpen and an elite offense, and the Mets had a much closer to 50/50 chance. What was Charlie thinking?

As we saw with Frank, when the team's struggling, panicked decisions sometimes just serve to tighten the manager's grip around the team's throat. That's not to say a different decision would've won them the game, merely that a different decision would've greatly improved their odds.

I don't believe that managers have a huge difference in the won/loss record, unless they're making huge mistakes. But a manager's job is to give his team every strategic edge he can. And for at least one decision, Nats fans can sympathize with Phillies fans.


  • stunned silence

    Hey, what about those raw hot dogs!?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/10/2007 5:00 AM  

  • At least Frank GOT you to the late innings. Manny has virtually the same quality pitching (e.g., replacement level) and an offense comparable to the one that started last season (no Nick J., but A Kearns and F Lopez, even Guzman helped out and promptly got injured), yet this team looks DEAD from the neck up and the neck down. It takes a Jorge Julio to give this team a chance to win. Believe it or not, the Phillies won't lose more than they win under Charlie Manuel. When the 07 Nats are lagging the 06 Nats by 20 wins, will you STILL be bashing Frank? (Probably. What are you, Imus' favorite blogger?) And BTW, Earl Weaver said a manager can make a 20-25 game difference -- depending on how he assembles his team during the spring. Well, we see what Bowden's Best Friend has produced. Your final scopre, Atlanta 8, Nats 0. Good night everybody!

    Full disclosure -- I'm giving the runs and taking the other team all year. By the time the Lerners are ready to sell, I'll be rich enough to buy!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/10/2007 11:54 PM  

  • Hey, it's hard to defend Manny Acta's results. I can say, though, that he hasn't lost any games with his strategy, which I couldn't say for Frank.

    But to say that these are equal teams is a bunch of bullshit, and you know it. We're missing our two best hitters from last year -- Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson. And despite the crappy pitching last year, at least most of those guys gave innings, which this year's version isn't doing.

    Is it possible that some of that's because Acta isn't lighting a fire under their ass the way Frank did? Sure. I think you'd ascribe a much larger effect to that than I would.

    The Earl Weaver comment is interesting. I can't say that I'd agree with him, and I can't think of any reason why ol' egotistical Earl would stretch that number a bit. ;)

    As for the Imus comment, that's completely uncalled for, and is pathetic of you, especially when you're hiding behind your name. Yes, I must hate all minorities, since I'm rooting for Manny Acta. And that epithet I used to describe Jerome Williams last week? Oh, wait.. I guess that one was in your head. Pathetic.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/11/2007 8:48 AM  

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