Remain calm. All is well. Do not panic!—Alright, Maybe We Should Panic
by Mike Carminati
The Phils abysmal season hit a new low tonight as they lost to the former NL East doormats, the Nationals, 5-4 in 13 innings and are now in sole possession of last place in the National League.
Meanwhile, their manager, Charlie "I Need a friggin'" Manuel, has had quite a day. First, his tirade against Howard Eskin became the top baseball story. Then he decided to use his opening day starter, Brett Myers, out of the pen in some largely undefined middle relief role. Then he helps lose this game by having Aaron Rowand and his hot bat bunt with the Phils trailing by a run, men at first and second, and none out.
The Myers move is especially curious. He ludicrously offered to close in spring training, but I can't imagine he thought he would end up as some sort of seventh inning specialist. The Phils are desperate for relief but I can't imagine the upside of using Myers instead of a Francisco Rosario, Clay Condrey, or Joe Bisenius in that spot could possibly outweigh not having one of their best arms in a starting role.
This is similar to his tinkering with the two best bats in the lineup to start the season. You'll remember he put Ryan Howard in the third spot and Chase Utley in the cleanup spot. Howard started slowly and has yet to attain any sort of consistency at the plate. Utley started hot but has cooled as well. All to try to solve the issue of who would "protect" Howard as if that was their biggest problem. Why cannibalize your strengths to mitigate your weaknesses?
The only way it makes sense is that Pat Gillick has a trade lined up for John Lieber but the potential recipient wants to see him start a game before they OK the deal. They plug Lieber into the rotation for a start or two, trade him, and then move Myers back to the rotation. Still, toying with a pitcher who has proven to be a flake in the past is a bad idea.
I looked at all starters who amassed at least ten pitching Win Shares one season and then moved to the bullpen the next season. On average, they lost just under nine Win Shares due to the move (from 13.51 to 4.67). That translates into three potential additional losses for the team. Of course, if your team is replacing that spot with someone who will produce as well or better, that's fine. That's not the case here.
Here are the pitchers who had the biggest improvement after a shift to the bullpen:
There aren't that many Goose Gossages out there. Now, here are the ones that had the biggest dropoff after a bullpen shift. Note that Spalding was essentially a first baseman in 1877 because of fatigue in his pitching arm.
It seems that Manuel is pulling a Britney Spears and is just asking to be fired at this point. It seems he'll get his wish soon.
Meanwhile, the Phils' 3-10 record is the worst since their abysmal 1997 season. Teams that started 3-10 on average ended up with a .405 winning percentage or a 66-96 record over 162 games. Only five of those teams have ever made the playoffs and many of those (including the 1914 Miracle Braves and 2001 A's) represent the greatest comebacks in baseball history.
It will be interesting to see what Jimy Williams does with this team once he takes over. One of the first will surely be undoing the damage that Manuel is now doing, move Myers back to the rotation, define some roles for the remaining pen mates, and setting the batting order. Maybe another loss tomorrow against the Nats will help kick off the Williams era.