With the series tied heading into a decisive Game 5, people have begun finding their scapegoats. Chances are most of the blame is pointed toward either Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, the lineup, Roy Oswalt, or the bottom of the order. Some of the blame is justified, some of it isn't.
The biggest mistake by Charlie Manuel isn't the lineup. People tend to think there's some magical lineup that will inherently score a drastic amount of runs better than another, unless you're doing something crazy like leading off the game with Halladay, Valdez, and Martinez. The fact is, most managers do not optimize their lineups correctly all year and do not adjust properly. As for virtually all of fans' lineup proposals I've seen, they make the same mistakes and the difference between what they think is best and what Manuel thinks is best is most likely only the difference of a single hundredth of a run on average, either way.
But the biggest, simplest mistake in my opinion is that for most of the series, Manuel has not put his best players in the field. Some people have been calling for Valdez or Martinez over Polanco, but that isn't it. Even injured, Polanco is the better player. What if I told you he's played an inferior player, both offensively and defensively, three times as much as a better player?
Sadly, that's what Manuel has done with his use of Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry. Sticking with a strict platoon, he's started Ibanez three of the four games played with just Mayberry given the start against left-handed Jaime Garcia. The basic idea of the platoon is very simple. Match the batter up with the opposite-handed pitcher since typically, given equal players, a left-handed batter will do better against a right-handed pitcher and vice-versa. However, some players do not have a very high-split platoon, or are just simply better against a same-handed pitcher than their platoon counterpart. And this is what we have here.
Here's a little quiz. Which player would you rather have:
Player A: .256/.307/.440 with Isolated slugging of .184 and weighted on-base average of .322. Strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.27 to 1.
Player B: .250/.330/.455 with Isolated slugging of .205 and weighted on-base average of .342. Strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.04 to 1.
Player A is Raul Ibanez against right-handed pitchers this season. Player B is John Mayberry against right-handed pitchers this season. This goes against the very essence of having a platoon advantage. When opting for a platoon, your left-handed batter should not bat worse against right-handed pitchers than the right-handed batter you are platooning him for! Not only that, when the manager opts to bring in a left-handed reliever for Ibanez, he's totally inept(.211/.232/.353).
Not only is Mayberry the better offensive player no matter what hand the pitcher throws with, but when you tack on the drastic difference in defensive ability, the decision should be a no-brainer. Yet, Charlie Manuel's loyalty to overpaid veterans has no end.
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