That's why this season, or at least the portion played without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, figures to be the most trying of times for the Phillies manager.
We saw in spring training that there was no magic combination Manuel could plug in to make up for the losses of his third and fourth hitters and confirmation of that fact has come in the first two regular-season games at PNC Park.
Roy Halladay and Jonathan Papelbon combined to allow just two hits in the opener and that was good enough to turn one run into the Phillies' first win on opening day.
The pitching was good and the defense was outstanding again Saturday night, but a single run was not enough to account for a second straight win as the Phillies dropped a 2-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Pirates before a sellout crowd that included a lot of the visiting team's fans.
Even when the Phillies did not win the National League East during his first two seasons, they still had the ability to score runs in bunches. And even as the runs have declined in the last two seasons, the Phillies still finished second in the league in that department in 2010 and led the league in runs after July 1 of last season.
In other words, it was never this bad.
Manuel did not have to go bed every night wondering how he could shuffle the deck to make the offense better.
Before Saturday night's game, Manuel pointed out another drawback to not having much power in his lineup.
"You watch sometimes, when some of our guys are hitting, you see how close they play us (in the outfield)," Manuel said. "It's pretty hard for us to score a run from second. It's almost impossible. I noticed that last year. When you look out there and see the rightfielder way up and the centerfielder way in, it's pretty hard for us to score."
Laynce Nix was on second base with two outs in the top of the fourth inning when Carlos Ruiz singled to right field.
The ball was hit hard and Nix is not fleet afoot, but a runner usually scores from second on a base hit with two outs regardless of where the ball lands in the outfield.
Nix was stopped at third base by coach Juan Samuel and he never made it home because Freddy Galvis, who is hitless in his first eight big-league at-bats, flied out to left field, ending the inning.
As much as Manuel is known for his hitting, he threw a curveball with his second lineup of the season. As much as he loves Jim Thome, he decided to start Nix at first base instead. The manager indicated that Thome may get his first start in Sunday's series finale with the Pirates.
Thome did get his first chance to make a difference when he went to the plate as a pinch-hitter for John Mayberry Jr. with a runner on second base and one out in the top of the ninth. Instead, the future Hall of Famer got caught looking at a third strike from Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan and that potential rally ended with Galvis striking out.
The Pirates, who have lacked offense and a lot of other things for nearly two decades, won the game in the bottom of the ninth when former Phillie Rod Barajas, who has done nothing but hurt them since he left, led off with a double against Joe Blanton.
Alex Presley got the winning run home by beating out an infield single on a ball that shortstop Jimmy Rollins fielded in the hole.
The lack of offense the Phillies should anticipate fighting for quite some time is an even bigger issue during the first month of the season because the starting pitchers are still getting stretched out.
Manuel was able to ride Halladay for eight innings in the opener because his ace only needed 92 pitches to get that far into the ballgame. Cliff Lee needed 99 pitches to get through six innings in this game and the one he'd like back most was a sixth-inning wild pitch that allowed Yamaico Navarro to score the game-tying run.
The Phillies' only run had come in the first on an infield single by Hunter Pence. They had three hits in the first and four the rest of the game.
In two games, they have one extra-base hit.
These are going to be trying times for the manager who loves hitting so much even if his team can squeak out its fair share of victories in these close, low-scoring games.
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at email@example.com or @brookob on Twitter.