The Phillies’ bullpen presented a host of plots and sub-plots in the loss to the Astros last night. For one thing, there were a bunch of curiosities regarding Ryan Madson’s stint in the eighth and ninth innings.
Let the second-guessing begin.
To start, it was odd that Madson was instructed to intentionally walk Mike Lamb with one out and a runner on second and Willy Taveras on deck. Yes, first base was open and the intentional walk is the “baseball move” in that situation. But no matter if there were a force at second or not, it would have been very difficult for the Madson or the Phillies to coax a double play out of Taveras. Obviously, Taveras is very quick. His 29 stolen bases, leadoff position in the Astros’ batting order, and recent 30-game hitting streak seem to indicate that.
But what about the fact that Taveras has grounded into just five double plays in 519 plate appearances this season. Or the fact that it took me less than 30 seconds to dig up those numbers on Taveras – surely Charlie and his staff had those digits next to them in the dugout.
Yet after Madson struck out Craig Biggio for the second out in the ninth, the right-hander’s night should have been over. With switch-hitter Lance Berkman coming up, surely Charlie knew that the Astros’ slugger was hitting .270 against lefties as opposed to .322 against righties… right? Never mind the fact that Madson has a documented weakness against lefties. Following my long drive which left me a bit wired after dodging trucks and construction on the Turnpike, I dug up a little info before I was finally able to sleep. So thinking back on that hanging curve that Madson threw Berkman with two strikes, two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth, I read this from the annual Baseball Prospectus yearbook:
… The difference between his somewhat lucky 2004 and his slightly disappointing 2005 was that left-handed hitters figured out the tall righty, but he should be able to recover if he returns to throwing his fastball inside to lefties to set up his plus change outside. He also features an average curve with a slurvy break.
Interestingly, here’s what Charlie said when asked about Madson offering that slurvy curve with two strikes to Berkman:
“I would have liked to see him bust him hard in,” Charlie said after the game.
Of course the big question was why was Madson in there to face Berkman to begin with. Why didn’t Charlie turn to closer Tom Gordon? Well, Charlie wanted him to start the 10th inning. How about 21-year-old lefty Fabio Castro or slightly more seasoned lefty Eude Brito?
“I thought about [Castro], but I thought maybe that he would walk the guy,” Manuel said. “I thought it was putting him in a tough situation.”
Lefty Aaron Fultz? He’s nursing nagging shoulder soreness.
So how about 16-year veteran Arthur Rhodes? He’s a lefty and been around long enough to know that the situation was tailor made for him to come in and get the Phillies out of the jam. Besides, wasn’t Wednesday night’s game the perfect example of why the Phillies traded away Jason Michaels to get Rhodes?
So Charlie, why not bring Rhodes in to face Berkman?
“Rhodes told me he couldn’t go… “
“He said his shoulder was sore.”
Let’s get this straight. The veteran lefty specialist couldn’t come into a September game that very well could affect the Phillies’ playoff chances because he shoulder was sore? He’s getting paid $3.7 million this season to pitch in those types of situations and his shoulder is sore?
Isn’t Rhodes the same guy who called out Cory Lidle for eating ice cream after games and pursuing off-field interests like poker and flying airplanes? Forget the fact that Lidle never missed a start during his time with the Phillies, except for the time when he had one pushed back to take care of a family emergency. In the end, it was Rhodes who didn’t answer the call.
If the Phillies fail to make it to the playoffs for the 13th straight October, they can blame the bullpen.