Say this for Charlie Manuel:
The World Series hasn't even started yet, and he is already making the type of brazen moves that have marked the first couple of rounds of the playoffs. In starting Pedro Martinez in Game 2 -- a move he announced earlier this morning on his weekly radio appearance in Philadelphia -- he is taking a huge risk. Martinez has never started in the new Yankee Stadium. He has never faced this new Yankees team. He will be pitching in weather that is more than 20 degrees cooler than he faced in his only other start of the postseason.
And Cole Hamels?
Say what you will about his struggles this season, he is still the defending World Series MVP, and he has still shown the ability to dominate at times. The easy call for Manuel would have been to cross his fingers and send Hamels out for Game 2. If he falters? Well, that's on him. But now, if Pedro Martinez stumbles in Game 2 and Hamels thrives in Game 3, the Phillies won't be able to pitch Hamels again until Game 7. And they could be forced into a situation where they bring Cliff Lee back on short rest.
But like most of Manuel's moves, this one has firm roots in logic. The Phillies' likely thinking? Trust -- Martinez has built it this season and throughout his career. Hamels has eroded it with both his performance and his body language on the mound. At the first hint of trouble, lefthander J.A. Happ and righthander Joe Blanton will be ready to fill in for Martinez. And if things really implode, Cliff Lee coming back on short rest for Game 4 is an option, giving Blanton or Happ an extra day to prepare for action in Games 5 and 6.
But the Phillies also could be hedging their bet. If Hamels pitches well in Game 3, they could have the option of bringing him back on short rest for Game 6. But if Martinez pitched well in Game 3, he likely still would have to wait until Game 7 to return to the mound. If both pitch well, the discussion is meaningless. Same goes for both struggling.
As I'm sure Manuel will explain to us later today, this was not an easy decision. The cases for Pedro and against Pedro were equally compelling.
Here is a look at some of the things the Phillies likely considered:
I. The case for Pedro
1) Martinez threw seven scoreless innings in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, his only postseason start this season.
2) Cole Hamels has allowed nine hits and three home runs in 15 postseason at-bats against left-handed hitters, not a good omen at Yankee Stadium and its notoriously short right field fence.
3) Hamels hasn't lasted longer than 5 1/3 innings in any of his three postseason starts, and has allowed at least three runs in all three of them.
4) Pitching Martinez in Game 2 will take some pressure off of Hamels, who admitted earlier in this season that he was expecting too much out of himself. Hamels has never pitched a postseason game when trailing in a series, something that could very well happen in the World Series with the Phillies due to face C.C. Sabathia in Game 1.
5) Martinez has displayed the willingness and ability to pitch on both sides of the plate, something that is imperative against a Yankees line-up that needs to be taken out of its comfort zone. Martinez has shown a better ability to pitch a guy like Alex Rodriguez inside, while avoiding the type of mistake that would result in a home run flying out of Yankee Stadium.
6) Martinez has two breaking pitches to supplement his change-up, and has shown a willingness and ability to throw his curveball at any point in the count, which puts him in a position to limit left-handed sluggers like Mark Texeira and Hideki Matsui. Hamels' curve ball is more an accessory than a true out pitch.
7) Starting Martinez will give the Phillies a more balanced rotation. Starting Lee and Hamels in Games 1 and 2 would not only give their opponent back-to-back games against lefty starters, it would open the possibility of throwing lefty starters in Games 4, 5 and 6, should Manuel elect to give rookie J.A. Happ the start in Game 4. New York faced lefthanded starters in back-to-back games 13 times this season, and in three straight games four times. In those instances, when facing a lefty starter for the first time, the Yankees scored 72 runs while hitting .278 and drawing 49 walks. The second day, they scored 74 runs while hitting .303 and drawing 59 walks. And in the four times they played a third straight game against a lefty starter, they scored 26 runs while hitting .327 and drawing 23 walks.
8) Hamels is better suited to start a game on short rest. Although he has not done so in his career, he said earlier this postseason he felt he would be able to. If Martinez falters in Game 2 and Hamels thrives in Game 3, the Phillies could decide to start Hamels in Game 6 on short rest. But if Hamels faltered in Game 2 and Martinez thrived in Game 3, the Phillies would be forced to wait for a potential Game 7 to call on Martinez again.
9) If Martinez struggles early, the Phillies could call on J.A. Happ for long relief, giving the Yankees a much different look. They also have Joe Blanton available to step in.
10) Martinez currently owns a 14-inning consecutive scoreless innings streak in the postseason (Mariano Rivera holds the postseason record with 33 1/3).
11) He has started five postseason games against the Yankees, two in the Bronx, and has lasted six innings in all five. In 14 overall postseason appearances, he is 6-2 with a 3.13 ERA.
II. The case against Pedro
1) His seven scoreless innings came in a pitcher's park, in beautiful weather (mid-80's and sunny), on a day where neither team managed to hit the ball.
2) Lefties hit .276 with 12 extra base hits against him during the regular season. Five of the seven home runs he allowed were hit by lefties.
3) Martinez hasn't thrown more than 87 pitches in a start since Sept. 13.
4) Relegating Hamels to Game 3 could destroy whatever amount of his confidence remains after a shaky regular season and postseason.
5) Martinez went 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in five regular season starts at Citizens Bank Park, compared with 3-1 with a 5.66 ERA in four starts on the road. Now, he is lined up for two starts on the road.
6) Before his NLCS outing against the Dodgers, Martinez's last postseason experience came in 2004, back when he was still in his prime.
7) In his five postseason starts against the Yankees, he has a 4.27 ERA, not including a relief appearance in which he allowed two runs in one inning. And all five of those starts came when he was in his prime.
8) Regardless of Hamels struggles, he has dominated at times this season. And the Phillies best chance for winning this series could lie in him re-capturing that magic. After allowing 17 runs in 21 1/3 innings in his first four starts of August, Hamels pitched eight scoreless innings against the Pirates. Five days after allowing six runs in six innings against the Nationals on May 30, he pitched a five-hit shutout against the Dodgers. And, of course, there was his start at Yankee Stadium on May 24, when he allowed two runs on eight hits in six innings of the Phillies' 4-3 win.
9) Hamels performed well against the Yankee in May, allowing three runs in six innings.
10) If the Phillies elect to start Cliff Lee in Games 4 and 7 on three days rest, Hamels might only get one start this World Series. Then again, depending on your perspective, that could be considered a positive.