The emails are coming fast and furious this morning, one after another after another pointing to last night's 7-6 loss to the Marlins as the perfect evidence of Charlie Manuel's bumbling, stumbling manner of calling a game. The focal point is his decision to pinch-hit for Kyle Kendrick with no out and the bases empty in the top of the sixth inning, despite the fact that Kendrick had thrown just 81 pitches. The Phillies led 6-3 at the time, and it took just two innings for that lead to disappear as David Herndon allowed a two-run home run to Logan Morrison in the sixth inning and Andrew Carpenter allowed a triple to Omar Infante followed by a single to Hanley Ramirez in the seventh as the Marlins rallied to tie the game at 6-6. They eventually won it in the 10th on a solo home run by Mike Stanton.
Kyle Kendrick expressed his frustration with Manuel's decision after the game, and that's understandable, because anybody would be frustrated at being yanked after 81 pitches. But as fashionable as it is to rip Manuel's game-calling, please do so only after considering the following:
1) The Phillies are 47-1 this season when leading after eight innings despite the fact that their top three closing options are currently on the disabled list and their current closer is a 25-year-old kid who as recently as early April did not inspire enough confidence in the coaching staff to be used on a regualr basis.
2) The Phillies are 41-2 when leading after seven innings, and 36-3 when leading after six.
3) Antonio Bastardo and Mike Stutes are good. Damn good. But not good enough that the bullpen has somehow succeeded in spite of Charlie Manuel despite the fact that Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras have spent most of the season on the disabled list, Ryan Madson is there right now, and J.C. Romero was never any good after signing a one-year deal over the offseason. And despite the fact that nobody seems to have any confidence in Danys Baez, leaving a bullpen that behind Bastardo and Stutes currently consists of Andrew Carpenter, Scott Mathieson, David Herndon and Juan Perez, all of whom would be in Triple-A Lehigh Valley in a perfect world, in fact, all of whom were in Triple-A Lehigh Valley just a few weeks ago.
4) Yes, Kendrick had allowed one earned run in five innings to that point. But he'd also allowed nine baserunners, including a leadoff walk to the pitcher the previous inning. The thinking that you let him pitch at least until he runs into trouble? That doesn't fly. Because tell me who in the Phillies bullpen Manuel would have called on to strand runners? Of the 32 runners that David Herndon has inherited in his career, 47 percent of them have scored. Who other than Herndon, then? Carpenter? Perez? Baez? Fact is, all of the relievers that Manuel had at his disposal for the sixth inning are best pitching with a clean inning. So Manuel had a choice: Keep Kendrick in for the sixth, or call on his bullpen. In hindsight, obviously he'd take his chances with Kendrick. But at the time, he was trying to forecast the abilities of a pitcher against the middle of an order in his third time through it. Over Kendrick's career, these are his numbers his third time through the order: .320 batting average, .364 on base percentage, .554 slugging percentage, .918 OPS, 45 strikeouts, 32 walks, 478 at-bats, 26 home runs.
5) The fact is, night's like last night were bound to occur. They started three rookies, including John Mayberry Jr. and Michael Martinez. Their bullpen features a slew of guys with under a year of big league experience. Yet the Phillies have the best record in the majors. Fact is, night's like last night are going to happen, especially when you hand your manager a roster with two utility men on the bench, a corner outfield sitution that is among the least productive in the league, and an aging bullpen that is now without four of the five veterans it started the season with. Stuff like that is going to happen when you invest your money in starting pitching and not in adding depth to the bullpen or offense. Nobody is arguing against that strategy. They've got the best record in the majors. It will take a major injury to Hamels, Halladay or Lee for them not to win 100 games. But they have flaws, and over the course of a 162-game season those flaws are going to result in a loss or two. Last night was one of those nights. But don't blame the manager that he was forced to choose between Kendrick or David Herndon in the sixth inning, or that the pinch-hitter he had to rely on to draw a no-out, bases empty walk or hit was a guy with an on base percentage below .300.
You can definitely argue that Manuel should have left Kendrick in. But every manager in the majors makes a decision that backfires every now and then. To blame Manuel in situations like this when you consider the cards he is playing is ludicrous, in my opinion.
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