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Charlie Tries Something New

Laynce Nix made just his seventh career start at first base last night. He also laid down only his fifth career sacrifice bunt attempt. There were a number of things in that sequence that made me scratch my head, perhaps the least of which was the actual Nix bunt.

As it played out in real time, I was conversing with Bill Baer (@crashburnalley) of Crashburn Alley. Bill is a man of numbers, truth and justice. I suggested the move that ended up playing out, minus the bunt, and Bill quickly pointed something out:

I was surprised but Bill was probably right: Nix is .253/.296/.450 against righties and John Mayberry Jr. .232/.313/.438. Mayberry gives you a slightly better chance of getting on base if you keep him in while Nix gives you a slightly better chance of hitting a double or HR. Since Nix was in front of Mayberry, the decision should have been predicated on what Nix could do and it should not have been a reactionary decision based on what Nix did. Perhaps the most perplexing decision of the night, having Nix bunt, was made further confusing to have Pence steal, bringing the Phillies to the exact outcome they would have had had they just let Nix take a pitch or two, had Pence run on the slower-than-normal to the plate Hanrahan, and fired away from there.

The result last night was a loss. One that could have and should have very easily been a win with some minor tinkering. The failed bunt attempt left the window open for even further catastrophy: bringing Thome in there forced the Phillies to use one of their last remaining bench players, Wigginton, and lost any defensive pluses they had with Mayberry in left. Nix had made a nice stab at first earlier in the night and looked comfortable there. This move luckily was not compounded by an error in left or at first that really would have driven the point home that this was not the most optimal move.

There were some very questionable stretches of selecting pitchers down the stretch, with instances of high leverage where it may have been optimal to bring in Jonathan Papelbon or keep Antonio Bastardo in versus bringing in Joe Blanton. I’ll let Bill explain that, though.

If the Phils are going to leave Nix in in that situation, you let him fire away. He’s not your biggest power threat but he’ll give you an opportunity against a righty like Hanrahan to hit a double, which may have scored Pence from first. Unfortunately, could haves and should haves don’t register in the standings and thankfully the Phillies have an opportunity to avenge their loss today. This time, Charlie is starting bunting machine Juan Pierre and giving Big Jim a shot at first. If Thome bunts today, Charlie will have some more questions to answer.

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  1. bacardipr05

    April 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

    It seems to me Chalie is over compensating. There is times when to play small ball and times he should just let his guys loose. If he has his whole squad thinking they cant a score a run then they probably believe they cant hit as well. I like the small ball approach in certain cases and Chalie attempts at trying to manufacture runs. However, his ideal way at approaching this might need some tinkering.

    • Jaron B

      April 8, 2012 at 11:01 am

      It needed tinkering well before this. Bad offense was a huge factor in the 2010 NLCS and in last year’s NLDS. The Phils did not work on their plate approach as planned in Spring Training this year. I hope Charlie starts telling those guys to take pitches. Nothing wrong with taking a first-pitch strike.

  2. Jaron B

    April 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Thome’s a natural slugger: it will look silly for Thome to bunt. I prefer that they play small-ball but Charlie has to make a decision whether to bunt a guy over or try for a hit. He does need to make sure that we’re patient at the plate. That way, we make the pitcher throw the pitch our hitters want and not the pitch their pitcher wants. Scouting opposing pitchers also needs to take place. We need to have a different mindset: “Be Aggressive” no longer works – as we saw in Game 5 last season and in yesterday’s loss to the Pirates. We can no longer use Utley & Howard as an excuse for not getting runs across. We need to get every runner across the plate any way we can and we need to get their ace off the mound sooner. The current strategy of “be aggressive” is insanity: doing the same thing and hope to get a different result. It will no longer work.

    • Ian Riccaboni

      April 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

      I think the silliest thing last night was having Nix try to bunt and then having Pence complete the intended result anyways without much trouble the next pitch without the penalty of an out personally. I still can’t wrap my head around that.

      • Jaron B

        April 8, 2012 at 11:05 am

        Would have been better to have Nix take a pitch or two first (as you said earlier) and then decide to hit or bunt. Thome has 600+ career HRs and should not bunt. I feel like going into Charlie’s office right now, pound his desk, and say “I don’t like the way you run your offense.” (that was off of a Ronald Regan quote about communism).

      • EricL

        April 8, 2012 at 11:32 am

        Your 5th batter should not be bunting, no how, no way. It’s a -EV play. You score more runs with a runner at first and no outs than you do with a runner at second with one out. It’s really that simple.

        Sure, if you have someone who can’t hit at all (Martinez, a Pitcher, Galvis, etc) the arithmetic then changes, but not with middle-of-the-lineup hitters. Just an atrocious play in this day and age. You’ve got to have someone in the organization show Charlie that EV runs chart.

  3. Ian Riccaboni

    April 8, 2012 at 11:10 am

    @Jaron – Exactly. Take a pitch and see what Hanrahan’s delivery is like. He’s almost always on the slow slide to the plate and Pence is plenty fast on a slow delivery to the plate. Obviously, Thome is not bunting but then again, I never would have thought I’d see Nix attempt a sac bunt late in any game. Oh well.

  4. Lefty

    April 8, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I’d have held Thome back, let Mayberry bat. And then let Thome PH for Galvis. Wigs or Polly could play second after that of needed

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