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Manuel’s Call For Aggression Misguided

Charlie Manuel was upset with his offense’s lackluster performance Thursday against Dave Bush. They made the low-throwing righty look like Cy Young. Manuel’s reasoning:

“I don’t want to take anything away from him. But I didn’t like the way we hit. I didn’t like the way we swung the bat.

“We swung the bats defensively. We weren’t aggressive at the plate. We didn’t put good swings on the ball. The first ball we hit hard was the one by Stairs.”

Defensively? Defensively? You’re telling me that Jimmy Rollins swinging on the first pitch is defensive?

Listen, I’m not an expert here, but I’m told that if you’re patient, wear a pitcher down and make him throw more than he needs, you’ll give him more chances to make mistakes. Instead, here are how many pitches Bush threw yesterday, by inning:

  • First inning: 10 – Hit by pitch, strikeout, ground out double play.
  • Second inning: 6 – Foul out, pop out, ground out.
  • Third inning: 10 – Fly out, walk, sacrifice bunt, fly out.
  • Fourth inning: 21 – Walk, ground out, fly out, ground out.
  • Fifth inning: 14 – Walk, fly out, strike out, pop out.
  • Sixth inning: 18 – Strike out, ground out, strike out.
  • Seventh inning: 19 – Fly out, hit by pitch, fly out, ground out.
  • Eighth inning: 16 – Ground out, home run, fly out, single.

The Phillies only made Bush throw 26 pitches in the first three innings. In the fourth, the Phils garnered a walk, then Howard – being aggressive with his swing – tried to turn a pitch to deep center. It fell short of a home run. The Phils made Bush throw more pitches in the sixth and seventh, but hitters were either early or late on his pitches. They finally pulled through in the eighth.

The aggressive approach of the early innings allowed Bush to settle in and locate in the middle innings, so while he was throwing more pitches, he could expend himself; moreover, hitters weren’t quite familiar with his stuff, making it easier for Bush to paint corners and induce fouls, since timing wasn’t perfect.

This is why you have to be patient early. You must take pitches. You must feel a pitcher out and make him throw. You may not get good swings early, but if you tire a pitcher, you’ll get those good swings earlier, not in the eighth inning when you’re deliberately forcing anything. A six-pitch second inning against the heart of the order is just unacceptable. Defensive? Yeah, sure, Charlie.

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