Perhaps the next evolution for Charlie Manuel is to replace Ruben Amaro as general manager of the Phillies.
Perhaps Manuel will head up a brand spanking new analytics department, one the team currently does not have, that would look into the second and third-level statistics that can’t be found on the back of Ruben Amaro’s baseball cards.
Because it sure as heck sounds like Manuel has a better idea of what makes an offense work than Amaro does.
After the Phillies struggled to score runs last night against the walking embodiment of pitching mediocrity, Franklin Morales, Charlie lamented at the team’s inability to wait out Morales’ renowned inability to control his breaking stuff, which usually forces him to throw his very hittable fastball in hitter’s counts.
“…If you noticed,” Manuel said, “we swung at some bad balls, especially when we were ahead in the count. We didn’t use their wildness to our advantage tonight.” – quote per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury
The Phils, as has been their problem all year, are just not getting on base, which is killing their offensive production.
Going into Thursday night’s game, the Phillies ranked 25th out of 30 teams in on-base percentage (.303) and walks (139). That has led to 29 of their last 31 home runs being solo homers. There simply aren’t enough ducks on the pond, and Manuel seems to understand that comes from one of two problems.
A) The Phillies are not putting themselves in good fastball counts and are instead swinging at breaking balls early in the count or too many pitches out of the strike zone.
B) The Phillies are not letting pitchers put them on base for free.
“I used to argue with Pat Gillick because he’d say, ‘You leave more runners on base than any team in baseball,’”, Manuel said last night. “And I’d say, ‘That’s because we get more runners on base than anybody in baseball, and we score more runs than anybody in baseball,’ ” Manuel said. “I’ll take that over what’s going on now.” – quote per Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Ford
The combination of speed and on-base ability is what made the Phillies one of the best offenses from 2007 to 2009. Even though they couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position to save their lives in the 2008 World Series, the Phillies gave themselves so many chances to hit with runners on base that it wore down the Tampa pitching staff, eventually allowing them to scratch out enough runs to win the series in five games.
Yeah, Cole Hamels had a little to do with it, too.
But what’s most interesting is the seeming disconnect between the general manager and the manager on offensive theory. Amaro famously said he doesn’t care about walks, he cares about production, seemingly unaware the two are linked. He also went out of his way to bring baseball players onto the team who were very bad at drawing walks and getting on base. We all know this.
Manuel, unlike his boss, seems to understand what truly makes an offense tick. And he’s painfully aware his players don’t do it well enough.
“Low on-base percentage and the lack of the number of hits. With all the information you’ve got out there, scouting reports and computers, pitchers go to school on hitters, and they know if they go 2-0, they can throw a slow curve or a change-up and, even if they can’t hit it, they’re going to swing at it,” Manuel said. “If you fall behind, you don’t panic, because you know he doesn’t have any walks, and he’s going to swing. It’s not hard to figure out.”
Uh oh. Manuel is talking about looking up stats and numbers on computers. Can Amaro do that from his 2009-era Blackberry?
As Manuel is likely managing his final year with the Phils, perhaps Amaro can pick his brain about what kind of stats he can look for that can’t be found on the backs of those baseball cards he uses to determine whether players are good or not. Because while it’s super sweet that those numbers on the backs of the cards are in bold print and sometimes italicized, letting us all know when someone led the league in something, there just may be more information out there that could help.
It seems odd that the 69-year-old manager would be more aware of what makes for a productive offense than the 48-year-old general manager.
That may be the ultimate reason why the Phils have so much trouble scoring runs.