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Post Game Analysis: Phils vs. Padres - 7/24/05

The Phils, behind three hits from Ryan Howard and six very good innings from Brett Myers, beat the Padres 5-1 and completed a three game sweep. The theme for today's Post Game Analysis is bullpen usage. There were four decisions made by Charlie Manuel that deserve closer scrutiny so I will address them in turn but first let me send my condolences to Charlie on the loss of his sister. Gary Varsho will manage the next two games while Charlie is with his family.

In the six innings Brett Myers pitched, he threw 95 pitches. In the bottom of the sixth, Myers was scheduled to bat fourth and would have been replaced by a pinch hitter had one of the first three hitters reached base. When no one reached base, Charlie replaced Myers with Ryan Madson to start the 7th inning with the Phils leading 4-1. There really isn't a clear answer to this question. On one side, Myers had only thrown 95 pitches (his season high is 112), was scheduled to face the bottom third of the Padres order, and the bullpen had been used a lot recently with the extra inning game on Friday (Madson, Cormier and Wagner would pitch in all three games of the series) and Tejeda pitching six innings on Saturday. On the other hand, it was a hot day, Myers would almost certainly venture into the 110 pitch range, and Myers had just finished a shaky sixth inning giving up a run on two hits. I won't criticize Manuel for pulling Myers as I think it wasn't clear cut either way and I'm in favor of erring on the side of caution when dealing with 24 year old pitchers.

There's another part to this decision, of course, and while at the game I was pretty irritated with Manuel. When sending Madson out to start the 7th, Manuel did not make a double switch which left Madson as the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the inning. David Bell and Mike Lieberthal had made the last two outs of the 6th and it would have been easy to put Jimmy Rollins in at short moving Tomas Perez to 3rd base, or, if Manuel was determined to give Rollins a full day off, Matt Kata could have been inserted at third directly (Kata ended up leading off the bottom of the 7th as a pinch hitter for Madson). The next inning, Manuel showed he's at least familiar with a double switch when Rheal Cormier relieved Madson and was placed in the 5th spot of the order vacated by Pat Burrell who was replaced by Endy Chavez, batting 9th. I am sure Manuel would say that he had absolutely no intention of letting Ryan Madson pitch two innings given Madson had pitched in all three games of the series. Since that was the case, Manuel could argue, it doesn't really matter that there was no double switch made and I suppose that's true. However, this leads into the original point that Myers probably should have gone another inning since Madson will now, in all likelihood, be unavailable today.

Let's briefly address the appearance of Rheal Cormier. Charlie Manuel likes to use four relievers in close games - Wagner, Urbina, Madson, and Cormier. You get the feeling that Manuel isn't all that enamored with Cormier but he needs a lefthander and he has no better options. Enter Aaron Fultz. Fultz (2.57 ERA, 0.98 WHIP (!), AND 7.5 K/9) has outpitched Cormier (5.55 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 6.1 K/9) this year by a significant margin. Lefties are hitting .250 off of Fultz compared to .276 compared to Cormier. There simply isn't any good reason why Cormier is pitching before Fultz in close games. Let's hope that games like Friday where Fultz pitched great in the 10th and 11th innings against the Padres helps Fultz gain access into Charlie's Circle of Trust.

The last decision seems to be a running joke with Billy Wagner- let's see how many times Manuel can pitch his all-world closer without the game being at a critical juncture. In only 23 out of the 45 games Wagner pitched has the game been within two runs either way when Wagner entered. On first glance, that's awful. However, if I consult the Baseball Prospectus of Relievers Expected Wins Added report(WXRL) , I see that Wagner is 2nd on the Phils in pitching high-leverage (read: important) innings on the staff trailing only Ryan Madson by a small margin. Still, Wagner had pitched in the first two games of the series, the Phils have a critical series against the Astros starting Monday, and the Phils were winning 5-1 in the 9th. There's simply no reason to bring Wagner in to start that inning given he didn't need the work and, in fact, needed the rest.