Not being a sabremetrician the following remarks should be considered hunches rather than hard facts.
It appears that when the Phillies lose they tend to give up a big inning nearly every time rather than be nibbled to death by one or two runs every few innings. If the statistics bear me out in this observation, one obvious place to begin looking for answers would be the manager’s decision on when to lift a starter.
Last night is a case in point. Though he had been sailing along nicely after yielding a first inning home run to Geoff Jenkins, starter Gavin Floyd has a tendency to suddenly and dramatically collapse as his command continues to plague him. Entering the sixth inning last night, Floyd had been staked to a 4 – 1 lead by his teammates. It all came apart at that point as he gave up three hits and a walk in rapid succession. For the evening Floyd threw 81 pitches in less than six innings of work, 36 of them balls. As Larry Andersen is fond of pointing out, that is a lousy ratio.
So, why did Manuel stick with him as long as he did in that fatal sixth inning? Lefty Rheal Cormier, who until last night had not yielded a single earned run this season, had warmed up. Manuel’s response after the game was: "I wanted the kid to pitch there. It was time for him to pitch there."
Sorry again, Charlie, but history, especially Floyd’s personal history, suggests it was actually time to get him out of there about one or two batters earlier. But Charlie is only a human manager, and as such, he goes with his hunches and the percentages. Righties vs. righties. Lefties vs. lefties. It doesn’t matter if the particular righty is imploding right before our eyes if not his.
Of course all of this speculation on my part may not have been necessary if the Cormier who showed up after the horse was out of the barn had done even a reasonable impersonation of the Cormier who had been showing up heretofore. But on this night, lefty Cormier yielded consecutive base hits to lefties Prince Fielder and Corey Koskie en route to 2/3 of an inning pitched, two inherited runners allowed to score, two hits and his first earned run allowed in 2006.
Later, when the Phils rallied to tie the score late, it was lefty Ryan Howard who delivered a key hit against lefty Brian Shouse.
So much for conventional wisdom. And before anyone points out to me why conventional wisdom is conventional, I am talking about when other indicators suggest conventions are not the answer.
Oh, and by the way. The game winning hit by Jenkins, a lefty, came off of Arthur Rhodes, another…you guessed it…lefty.