Did Charlie Manuel Effectively Manage the Phillies' Staff?
Going into the Colorado series, much of the Phillies pitching staff was in flux. While everybody knew Lee and Hamels were going to pitch games one and two, that was pretty much the only known quantity. With everything up in the air, did Manuel pull the right strings in effectively using his staff? Let's look at it decision by decision.
Game 1, 9th inning: With Lee pitching a gem with a 5-1 lead at just under 100 pitches, Manuel chose to keep going with Lee rather than use his bullpen. At this point the probability of winning the game is 99.3%. While Lee could easily finish the game, you're going to need him to be a horse later in the postseason, and there's no reason to tax him with game in hand. If I'm Manuel, I bring in the bullpen, perhaps going with Lidge to build confidence in a non-pressure situation. Manuel's choice was defensible, but not ideal.
Games 3 and 4 Starting Pitchers By his words and actions, Manuel seems to have decided that his strongest starting pitchers were 1) Happ, 2) Martinez, and 3) Blanton. His plan appeared to have Martinez pitching Game 3 and Happ pitching in Game 4, with Blanton coming out of the pen. His ordering is fine enough, but if that's the case, he should have tuned up Blanton with a few relief outings as the Phillies wrapped up the NL East. By not doing so, he threw Blanton into an unfamiliar situation and off of his usual pitching schedule.
Game 2 Relief: If that was his plan, it's curious why he would risk throwing Happ out there for one batter in the 6th inning of Game 2, rather than just going straight to Scott Eyre. Later, with the bases loaded in the 8th, it was very surprising to see Antonio Bastardo (ERA 6.46) come into the game in a high leverage situation (1.61) when both Lidge and Madson were rested and available in the bullpen with an off-day the following day. Bastardo got the job done, but the move was still puzzling.
Game 3 Relief: With the snow day, Happ started Game 3, meaning that Martinez would be available for relief. After Happ was knocked out early, I found it curious that he would go with Blanton and not Martinez in long relief in a close game - after all, he had considered Martinez superior to Blanton just hours earlier. Later in the game, with a 5-5 tie in the 8th (LI 1.83) Manuel strangely went with Chad Durbin, a passable but not great reliever (6.1 BB/9 IP), while he had the superior Martinez and Lidge in the bullpen. Considering the state of the Phillies pen, I probably would have inserted Lidge in the 8th and gone with Martinez for the 9th and beyond. In a huge Game 3, you have to use your best, and Manuel didn't do that here. Of course, it worked out as both Durbin and Lidge got the job done.
Game 4 Relief: Game four was managed rather well, with Lee going deep into the game and Madson, the Phillies #2 reliever, coming in to relieve him. His use of Eyre, the only reliable lefty, was also commendable, using him to face a string of tough left-handed bats in the 9th. Manuel then brought on Lidge to get the final out against the righty.
Overall, Manuel's moves obviously worked and it's hard to argue with success. Still, I think he made some mistakes, especially in not defining his roles for his starters and relievers. Will Manuel come out and say who will be starting in the NLCS, so he can define a clear strategy? Only time will tell.