Sunday, December 30, 2007

Speed Drain

In 2007 the Phillies had the best offense in the National League. The Phils had a variety of offensive weapons, none more potent than their ability to steal bases with ease. The Phightens stole 138 bases but more significantly were caught only 19 times. The Phillies pilfered bags more efficiently than any other team in the Majors. With the Phillies roster set it’s a good time to evaluate whether speed will be weapon in Charlie Manuel’s repertoire.

The Phillies have lost several key speedsters from last season’s team. Michael Bourn, Aaron Rowand, Tadihito Iguchi, and Abraham Nunez stole a combined 33 bases last season. The departing base thieves represent nearly a quarter of the Phillies stolen base total form last season. The new Phillies except for So Taguchi won’t be diving into second any time soon. In addition both Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino set career highs for stolen bases. It’s not unreasonable to expect a drop off in production. Hopefully the Phillies offense will be able to compensate for the downshift in velocity.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Bargain Bin

One lesson the Phillies painfully learned in 2007 is that 5 starting pitchers are not enough. Besides Brett Myers and Cole Hamels the Phils rotation makes me nervous. Kyle Kendrick stuck out only 49 batters in 129 innings. Unless his strike out rate comes up everything I know about baseball says that Kendrick will have a rocky 2008. Jamie Moyer is old enough to be Kendrick’s dad. Moyer’s track record says he will pitch 200 innings for the fortieth season in a row. However, logic suggests that Moyer will eventually run out of gas and spend time on the disabled list. Presumably the fifth starter will be Adam Eaton. I think Eaton is much better than his atrocious 2007 statistics suggest. If Adam is healthy than he could be a useful piece. Unfortunately I would not be surprised if we hear the news in spring training that he will be getting season ending surgery.

That leaves Pat Gillick looking through the bargain bin searching for starting pitching. One option is Josh Towers. Yes the Josh Towers that was non-tendered by the Blue Jays. But wait, ask yourself if you were Pat Gillick and had a time machine and could go back in time and sign Carlos Silva to a cheap one-year deal would you? Because if you would then take another look at Towers. Lookout Landing has a fantastic post on the remarkable similarities between both hurlers. In terms of swinging strike percentage, home runs allowed, and ground ball rate Silva and Towers are the same pitcher. Gillick might also want to sign Towers because he drafted him when he was the general manager of the Orioles. Josh Towers might be the cure to the Phillies starting pitching woes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Should the Phillies go after Otsuka?

As I look over the list of the free agent relievers I am puzzled. Especially given the huge contracts that middle relievers have been signing this off-season. Will someone tell me how Ron Mahay got a two year eight million dollar contract?

The Phillies have certainly improved their bullpen since the end of the 2007 season. Assuming the Phillies carry 12 pitchers they will have 7 spots for relievers. Brad Lidge will be the closer, J.C. Romero will serve as set up man, with Ryan Madson, and Tom Gordon in middle relief. If I had to guess I think the last three spots would go to Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, and Adam Eaton. That’s a solid group but the Phillies could still improve.

There has been great speculation that the Phillies will try to sign reliever Akinori Otsuka. At first I thought Akinori Otsuka would be a great fit as a middle reliever for the Phillies. Otsuka has a microscopic 2.44 career ERA. However, looking into Otsuka it became clear why he was non-tendered by the Texas Rangers. The first issue is the problem of his health. Otsuka spent a lot of time spent on the disabled list last season. If he’s not healthy there’s no reason to sign him. The second reason for concern is his statistics. Each season he has spent in the Majors his strike out rate have gone down and his walk rates vacillated up and down. That’s not good. If healthy and if the Phillies sign him to a one-year contract for a reasonable price then it could be totally worth it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bench Talk

In 2007 the Phillies opening day bench consisted of Abraham Nunez, Greg Dobbs, Michael Bourn, Jayson Werth, and Rod Barajas. With the signing of So Taguchi the Phillies 2008 bench has been set. Eric Bruntlett, So Taguchi, and Chris Coste will take the place of Abraham Nunez, Michael Bourn, and Rod Barajas respectively. These three roster moves mark a huge upgrade to the Phillies bench.

Eric Bruntlett who came over in the Brad Lidge trade is a much better hitter than Abraham Nunez. Bruntlett is a strong defensive player. He has almost no power and hits for a mediocre average but can steal a few bases and will take pitches. So Taguchi is an experienced veteran. He doesn’t have as much raw talent as Michael Bourn but he is an excellent pinch hitter and won’t make any of the rookie mistakes that Bourn made last season. Chris Coste is a good baseball player and Rod Barajas is not. By my count Barajas cost the Phillies 3 wins all by himself.

A strong bench is essential ingredient for any good baseball team. It is unlikely that a baseball team will make it through a whole season without having a position player spend some time on the disabled list. It is a tremendous asset for a team to be able to plug in another player. Having strong pinch hitters and defensive replacements gives Charlie Manuel more weapons late in games.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Phillies Agree to Terms with Jenkins

In the past few seasons Charlie Manuel has chosen to platoon several positions with mixed results. In 2005 Kenny Lofton and Jason Michaels split time in center field and last season third base responsibilities were split three ways between Wes Helms, Abraham Nunez, and Greg Dobbs. To fill the void after the departure of Aaron Rowand the Phillies will move Shane Victorino to center field. The Phillies now plan to platoon right field using Geoff Jenkins against righties and use Jason Werth against lefties.

I don’t think this is a good move for the Phillies. Geoff Jenkins is the very definition of a player in decline. His on base percentage is going down and his strikeouts are going up. Jenkins will hit for a bad average and reasonable power. The Phillies don’t need another left handed hitter like Jenkins who can’t get on base. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are both switch hitters. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Greg Dobbs are all left-handed. Geoff Jenkins isn’t anything special.

I’m a big believer in Jason Werth. Werth can hit for power, steal some bases, and unlike Jenkins will take pitches. In addition he has good defensive range and has a strong arm. The Orioles originally drafted Werth in the first round but he had his career derailed by injuries. The Phillies should give him an opportunity to play. When Victorino went on the disabled list Jason Werth stepped in and played very well. Why not let him play?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don’t sign Rowand

I have come out of my long period of blogging hibernation to send a simple message to Pat Gillick. Bringing back Aaron Rowand would be a terrible mistake. Don’t get me wrong I am a huge fan of Rowand. After “The Catch” how could you not be?

However, I have a few points to make. First Rowand’s last season was a classic career year for a player in the final year of his contract. According to reports Rowand who is 30 wants at least a five-year deal. 30 years of age is about the time a player’s production starts to decline. I don’t believe Rowand will experience a precipitous drop in his offensive output next season. But, my baseball intuition tells me by the end of his contract Rowand will be a huge burden. I’m thinking of Pat Burrell here.

In addition there is reason to believe that Rowand’s golden glove may turn to wood. I can practically hear Phillie Phans yelling at their screens but stay with me for a second. In years past Rowand has played a first rate center field and he certainly deserved his first Gold Glove award. Despite his record of stellar play, age again dictates the end of the status quo for Rowand. Aaron has never had a good arm or good speed. His success as a center fielder is a product of his ability to read balls with ease and his willingness to sacrifice his body. At 34 and 35 Rowand’s average speed will have become sub-par and his lack of arm strength will be become woefully obvious.

Finally the Phillies led the league in runs by a large margin the past two seasons. Therefore they can afford a slight decrease in their offensive stats that would accompany the departure of Rowand. It would also give Pat Gillick the flexibility to bring in another quality starter.

Picture from

Sunday, September 30, 2007

2007 NL East Champions

After 13 years of frustration the Phillies will return to the playoffs. The Phillies are the 2007 National League East Division Champions. I would also like to take the time to thank the Mets for showing their true colors and falling apart. Congratulations to the Phils.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Seriously Jose Mesa?

We can all agree that the Phillies need another reliable arm in the bullpen. But seriously all Pat Gillick could get was Jose Mesa? If this report is true then I am 100% dead set against it. In the twilight of his career Mesa’s WHIP, ERA, B/9 have trended up, and his K/9 have trended down. On top of each one of his indicator statistics moving in the wrong direction Mesa despite being the Phillies all time saves leader had trouble handling the pressure.

Pat Gillick should have been able to sign Troy Percival. I think Percival has a reasonable chance at a comeback. Percival is reportedly signing a minor league deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Phillies should have offered a juicy enough contract to get Percival onto the Phillies. I would rather the Phillies have taken a chance on a minor leaguer than sign an unreliable pitcher like our old friend Jose.

Report: Phillies Sign Mesa
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Jose Mesa from

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Run forest run!

In the bottom of the ninth a glimmer of hope peaked out after Greg Dobb's clutch three-run home run. Pat Burrell stepped to the plate and smashed a single. Burrell was then replaced by pinch runner Michael Bourn. Bourn is a burner. His speed is supposed to allow him to score easier than the average player. What happened next explained why speed isn't everything. Carlos Ruiz hit a ground ball through Conor Jackson's legs. Michael Bourn put the pedal to the metal but while passing second base he turned his head to check on the ball. Bourn's slight head tilt prevented him from advancing beyond third.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me "What does the third base coach do". It might have behooved Michael Bourn to hear my answer. Steve Smith (Phillies Third Base Coach) should have been waving his hands indicating for Bourn to keep running on towards home. Bourn never should have turned around to check on the ball. He should have been focused on Smith. If he had crossed home plate he would have tied the score at five and the game would have gone to extras. Bourn's error cost the Phillies the chance to win the game.

Picture of Michael Bourn from the Reading Eagle

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Phillies young relievers get the job done

After the Phillies opened up a four run lead old man Charlie decided to air out the back end of his bullpen. Michael Zagurski who the Phils called up after they placed Brett Myers on the DL pitched a scoreless eighth and Yoel Hernandez threw a clean ninth. Zagurski rocketed through the minors. Starting at Clearwater and then moving to Reading he caught the attention of the Phillies brass striking out 43 batters in 23.1 innings. Michael was mediocre while pitching in college at the University of Kansas. Despite his weak college stats he has gotten better every year in the Phillies farm system. On top of all that Zagurski the lone southpaw in the bullpen can help get left handers out.

I’m a big Yoel Hernandez fan. He has great minor league numbers and will no doubt help the Phillies in the future. The question is whether he can help out in the present. Without both Myers and Gordon the Phillies the bullpen is in shambles. This will force Charlie to use both Hernandez and Zagurski. The Phillies need someone to step up and maybe that someone can either Zagurski or Hernandez.

Picture of Yoel Hernandez from

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rod Barajas angers me

Last night Rod Barajas nearly lost the game for the Phillies when he pansied out and shied away from covering up the home plate allowing a run to score. Tonight he again looked frightened and sheepish. Barajas tried to tag out Miguel Olivo using only his gloved hand. Olivo ran hard and was able to knock the ball loose and scored. If Barajas had used his none glove hand to secure the ball then the ball would have stayed put and Olivo would have been out.

Barajas was supposed to play solid defense and throw in a few homers. Rod's defense has been appallingly bad. He has thrown out two of eight runners who were attempting a steal. That's below his career average. His offense hasn't been much better. Batting .208 with 2 homers just doesn't cut it.

I didn't criticize many of Pat Gillick’s off-season moves. At the time of the Barajas signing I thought the Phillies didn't need him. Now what I suspected then has been confirmed. Carlos Ruiz is ready to be an every day player and Rod Barajas isn't worth his roster spot.

Picture of Rod Barajas from

Phillies looking at Percival

Former closer Troy Percival who has 324 career saves is considering a comeback attempt. Percival is currently a pitching instructor in Angel’s minor league system and has asked the team for a release from his contract. Percival was a dominant closer but injuries limited him to pitching only 26 games in 2005 and prevented him from pitching in a single game last season for the Detroit Tigers. Percival is no spring chicken at 38 but if healthy could help out the Phillies pitching in a middle relief role.

Pat Gillick who was watching Ryan Howard make a rehab start told Dei Lynam that brining Percival to Philadelphia was a possibility. Gillick prefaced his comments by saying that Troy is a west coast guy. He also commented nothing was final until the Angels released Percival.

Picture of Troy Percival from

Percival to leave coaching and try comeback from AP

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Charlie Manuel is DEAD TO ME

The Phillies won tonight but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Between Greg Dobbs throwing home instead of taking the sure out at first and wimpy Rod Barajas allowing a run to score because he didn’t want to cover the plate the Phils didn’t deserve to win tonight. On top of that Brett Myers left the game with a strained right shoulder. Normally injuries are random occurrences a fan must chalk up to disapproval from the baseball gods. However, in this case the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of Charlie Manuel.

According to the book a closer pitches one inning in the ninth when his team leads by three runs or less. Every rule has its exceptions but Charlie has regularly tempted fate angering the otherwise benevolent baseball deities. Myers has pitched more the one inning five times and two whole inning three times. In addition he has pitched twice including tonight when the Phillies had a four run lead or in a non-save situation. Myers strained shoulder is a result of Charlie overworking his closer.

Tonight the Phillies had a four run lead in the ninth and both Brett Myers and Francisco Rosario throwing warm up pitches in the bullpen. The correct choice would be Rosario and it’s a no brainer. I think Rosario is not a very good pitcher. He has great stuff but can’t consistently throw strikes. However, if Charlie Manuel doesn’t have confidence that Francisco Rosario can’t stop the Marlins from scoring three runs in one inning than he shouldn’t be on the Phillies roster. Brett Myers may not have to go on the disabled list. But no matter what happens this event should serve as a warning to Charlie Manuel.

Picture of Brett Myers from

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Upcoming road trip is key

After a successful 7-3 home stand the Phillies are heading on a six game road trip. The Phillies will battle the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves in two three game series. Even though it’s early in the season the Phillies trip down South will show the stuff they’re made of. The Phils don’t have any hope of making the playoffs if they don’t have a good record against their division. So far this season the Phillies are 3-3 against the Marlins and 1-5 against the Braves and 8-13 against the entire NL East. In the past the Phightens have not done well against the NL East and its hurt them in their quest to make the playoffs. The Phils need to turn that trend around to make a run and the Mets and end their 14-year playoff drought. Two more series wins in Florida and Atlanta would go a long way towards that goal.

Picture of the Phillies from

Sunday, May 20, 2007

No southpaws in the pen

The Phillies optioned left-handed reliever Fabio Castro to AA Reading today. The Phils had brought up Castro last month to replace Matt Smith who struggled at the beginning of the season. Smith had done a fantastic job for the Phillies earning a 2.08 ERA and striking out 12 through 8 and two-thirds innings.

Smith’s problem at the beginning of the season was control. In 4 innings he walked a baffling 11 batters. Now I’m no expert but even I could see that Smith was having issues with mechanics. Up in Ottawa Smith’s statistics say that he has figured out the problem. In 7.2 innings he has walked only 2 batters and struck out 5.

The Phillies have an off day tomorrow and haven’t called up a player to replace Castro’s roster spot. My bet is that Smith comes back to reclaim his role in the bullpen. If effective Smith could be an useful weapon for Charlie Manuel.

Picture of Matt Smith from

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Old man Moyer gets knocked around

There are many reasons why I love to watch the Phillies. One of the reasons is Jamie Moyer. Moyer doesn’t have a blazing fastball or a knee buckling curve ball. He uses brains and finesse to finish hitters. For me there’s nothing better than the frustrated frowns on opposing hitter’s faces after they just swung through a 72 MPH change up.

The downside to Moyer is when he can’t locate his pitches he’s going to get hit. Unfortunately tonight was one of those nights. Old man Moyer got shelled giving up two home runs and seven earned. Every cloud has a silver lining and tonight’s blow out is no exception. This game allowed the Phillies to get a better look at the back end of the bullpen. Yoel Hernandez, Francisco Rosario, Clay Condrey, and Fabio Castro have only pitched 35.1 innings combined in the 2007 season. All of these guys have potential. The one question is who will step up earn the right to pitch in the sixth and seventh innings.

I especially like what I saw from Yoel Hernandez. Last season Hernandez was a top Phillies prospect that was mowing down hitters in the minors until his season was cut short by an injury. Last season at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Hernandez had a 3.40 ERA in 55.2 innings with 52 strikeouts. All he needs is an opportunity. A few more pitching performances like last night and Hernandez might be able to make his stay in Major permanent.

Picture of Jamie Moyer from

Friday, May 18, 2007

Charlie lets Lieber pitch

The back end of the Phillies bullpen is woefully bad. This leaves Charlie Manuel in a difficult situation. To avoid using the bullpen Manuel chooses to let his starters pitch as many innings as possible. The Phillies are winning baseball games now but it won’t last if Charlie doesn’t start trusting his bullpen.

The Phillies starters have been throwing a lot of pitches. Tired starters are bad for the Phillies long-term success for several reasons. In this most recent game Jon Lieber threw 109 times in six innings giving up two innings. That’s a good days work for Lieber. Manuel chose to trot Lieber out for the seventh inning and he promptly gave up a home run to Matt Stairs. Fatigued pitchers have a pension to pitch poorly so it’s no coincidence that Lieber gave a dinger.

Using starters longer also means less pinch-hitting. When Manuel let Lieber lead off the sixth inning he was essentially conceding an out. The Phillies could have much more easily scored a much-needed insurance run if he had pinch-hit.

Picture of Jon Lieber from

I'm Back

I've been neglecting the blog lately but now I'm back and better than ever. As all my fellow college students can attest finals can take over your life. Unfortunately I didn't have time to do anything but school work. Now I'm back home in my couch crease and watching the Phillies take on Blue Jays. Life is good.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The pivotal at bat

After back to back doubles by Abraham Nunez and Carlos Ruiz, Charlie Manuel had to make a game altering decision. Freddy Garcia had used only 77 pitches to work through six innings. Charlie had two options. Let Garcia bunt over Ruiz and hope Jimmy Rollins could bat the run home or pinch hit and play for the lead. Grandpa Charlie elected for the later and the Phillies scored that run tying up the game. That turned out to be the wrong play.

Hind site is twenty-twenty but pinch hitting for Garcia was the wrong move. Garcia can lay down a bunt and can do something that his replacement Antonio Alfonseca couldn't. That is prevent runs from scoring. I can't understand what Manuel was thinking. Garcia was mowing batters at an very efficient rate. Why would you take him out of the game? Charlie put himself in a situation where he had to use the woefully bad Francisco Rosario. Who then lost the game.

Picture of Charlie Manuel from

Sunday, May 06, 2007


To be honored with the title Major League baseball player mean you are a gifted athlete and have a shrewd mind. That’s why I laughed so hard today when I read that during batting practice before Sunday’s game against the San Francisco Giants while chasing a fly ball Freddy Garcia ran in an equipment cart. Fortunately a cart was near by to aid in taking Garcia off the field. Don’t worry he didn’t break anything; he just has a blue spot on his leg and one bruised ego.

Garcia could miss one start. Speaking about the incident Pat Gillick commented, "This is the kind of thing that could get sore and stiffen up overnight, so we have to keep tabs on that.” Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee have yet to decide who if needed will start in his spot. Possibilities include J.A. Happ and Brian Mazone who have both been dominating hitters for the AAA Ottawa Lynx. Zach Segovia who started the season with the Phillies could also get another cup of coffee.

Collision with cart puts Garcia in question for start
By AP /

Picture of Freddy Garcia from

Madson heading the DL

Phillies right hander Ryan Madson is heading to the disabled list weakening an already shaky bullpen. Even though the season is only a month old the Phillies bullpen has undergone major changes. After the Myers-Lieber swap, Gordon injuring his elbow, and now Madson straining his right oblique half of the Phils pen has been overhauled since the beginning of the season.

This has me very concerned. In the last half of the month the Phillies bullpen has stabilized and become a strength of the team. This recent injury bug threatens that stability. Young guns like Yoel Hernandez, Francisco Rosario, and Fabio Castro will have to step up for the Phillies to continue to have success.

Opening Day Relievers
Tom Gordon
Antonio Alfonseca
Geoff Geary
Ryan Madson
Jon Lieber
Matt Smith
Clay Condrey
Current Relievers
Brett Myers
Antonio Alfonseca
Geoff Geary
Yoel Hernandez
Francisco Rosario
Fabio Castro
Clay Condrey

Picture of Ryan Madson from

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I can’t say I’m surprised

The Philadelphia Phillies are traveling to San Francisco minus their struggling closer Tom Gordon. Gordon has pain in his right elbow and will return to Philadelphia to see the doctor and I can’t say I’m surprised. Gordon is a very fine relief pitcher who has recently lost velocity on his fastball and the bite on his breaking pitches. So it makes sense that Gordon isn’t one hundred percent healthy.

This news hastens what seemed inevitable once the Phillies moved Brett Myers into the bullpen. Brett Myers is the Phillies closer for 2007. Alfonseca and Geary are best suited for pitching in a set up role. I think that whether or not Gordon takes a trip to the disabled list Myers will be the new closer. The best move for the Phillies is to let Gordon rest and get healthy. Gordon can’t help the Phillies pitching in any role if he doesn’t have his best stuff to throw. When Tom comes back he can set up Brett Myers.

Phillies send Gordon home to have solder examined
From AP /

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Phils finally beat the Braves

After losing four in a row including a three game sweep at home it must have felt good for the Phils to get their first win over the Atlanta Braves. The Braves had been a pain in the side of the Phillies earning three of their four victories in come from behind fashion.

The Phigten Phils have gelled as a team. I think a big part of the change has to do with Brett Myers move to the bullpen. Starting pitching may be important but you can’t underestimate the importance of strong relief pitching. Tom Gordon and Brett Myers who are both pitching great own the eighth and ninth inning. This shortens games for the Phillies.

The player who made room for Myers, Jon Lieber is doing his best to make Charlie Manuel look like a genius. I’m thrilled Lieber is pitching better but I just can’t believe this is going to keep up. Then again hopefully I’m wrong and the Phillies will ride this move to a NL East title.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Phillies have caught fire

Four days ago the Phillies had the worst record in the Majors and were finding creative ways to lose baseball games. No lead was safe with the woeful bullpen. The offense wasn’t hitting with runners in scoring position. All of that has changed for the better and the Phillies caught fire.

The most encouraging part of the most recent win is the performance of Tom Gordon. Gordon pitched a strong ninth earning the save while striking out Brian Schneider and inducing two ground balls. The only hit he gave up was a sharply hit spinning ground ball that ate up Wes Helms at third base.

More importantly Gordon’s curve ball has reappeared. Early in the season Gordon inexplicably threw his signature pitch sparingly. In this game Gordon used the curve often effectively. Tom is very important to the Phillies success. If the quartet of Gordon, Myers, Alfonseca, and Geary pitch well the bullpen a perceived weakness could become the Phillies greatest strength.

Picture of Tom Gordon

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ryan Howard Mad!

The Phillies are finally playing winning baseball, winning their third in a row over the Astros. Despite that I have a knot in my stomach. The source of my worry is the 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard. Last season Howard looked relaxed and typically wore a big smile from ear to ear. This season Ryan seems to become more frustrated after every strike out. In the Phillies most recent game Howard broke his bat on the ground after slicing his bat over a change up.

To borrow a phrase from a friend Ryan Howard needs to chillax (chill and relax for the uneducated). Despite all of the strikeouts Howard’s K/ABs has actually gone down from 2006 to 2007. In 2006 Howard earned a third strike once every 3.2 at bats. This year that number is down to 2.94. Howard has also walked unintentionally 13 times in 50 ABs. The walks show Ryan still has tremendous plate discipline.

Howard’s swing also appears to be fine. He simply needs to realize he can’t hit a homer every time he comes to the plate and he will swing and miss often. Once he comes to term with this simple truth he might find that his smile has returned and so have the home runs.

Picture of Ryan Howard from

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


The news hit the wire a few hours ago and my jaw dropped. Brett Myers moving to the bullpen and Jon Lieber moving to the rotation. I couldn’t believe it. Todd Zolecki had written an article during the summer speculating that the Phillies could make this move if Lieber remained a Phillie and if the bullpen struggled.

I think that this is a really terrible idea. Brett Myers is in the top echelon of starting pitchers. A player of that caliber doesn’t come along everyday. I know full well that the bullpen is in tatters but this feels like a move of desperation. Having a strong group of relief pitchers is very important but relievers have less value than starting pitchers because they pitch fewer innings.

The Phillies probably made this move because Lieber is better suited to pitch as a starter. However, Jon Lieber isn’t a very good starting pitcher. His presence in the rotation doesn’t help it hurts.

Picture of Jon Lieber from

Phillies move Myers to 'pen; Lieber to start
by Ken Mandel /

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Garcia’s much belated debut

After starting the season on the disabled list and two rain delays the Phillies biggest off-season acquisition Freddy Garcia played his first game in 2007. Garcia’s line 4 2/3 IP, 8 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, six strikeouts, and one home run is pretty ugly. But there is a silver lining to the storm the Mets offense unleashed.

Garcia had two rough spots in a mostly well-pitched game. In the second he gave up a two run bomb to Moses Alou. For Garcia giving up home runs is par the course. Last season Garcia gave up 6.76 home runs per nine innings. Freddy ran into more trouble in the fifth when he gave up singles to Tom Glavine and back up catcher Ramon Castro. He then served up an RBI double to Carlos Beltran.

There are a few things to be optimistic regarding Garcia’s first start. He didn’t pitch far in the game because he ran so many three ball counts. However, this wasn’t due to a lack of command. Garcia was pounding the strike zone. The umpire just wasn’t calling his pitches strikes. Also Garcia probably would have stayed in the game to pitch his way out of the jam in the fifth if it hadn’t been his first game of the season. Next time Charlie Manuel will let Garcia go over the one hundred-pitch mark and finish what he started.

Picture of Freddy Garcia from

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Alfonseca is Charlie’s choice

I began to wonder today watching the game who would Manuel choose to pitch in eighth inning with the Phillies leading by three runs. As the penultimate frame approached I saw a number of relievers warming in the pen. In turn Matt Smith, Ryan Madson, and Antonio Alfonseca prepared for entering the game. Charlie’s choice was Antonio Alfonseca.

As I speculated during the summer what role Alfonseca would occupy, his health was the big question mark. The Texas Rangers cut Antonio because of injury issues and it was unclear whether the 35-year-old reliever was one hundred percent when the season started. After watching him pitch for a few games he looks great. His fastball has good movement and his sinker plummets like a rock when approaching the plate. A pitcher who has a great sinker like Alfonseca can keep opposing hitters from hitting the ball hard even when throwing in Citizen’s Bank Park. I hope I never have to write another post regarding who will be the Phillies set up man because Antonio is the man in the eighth.

Picture of Antonio Alfonseca form

Friday, April 13, 2007

What was Gillick thinking?

Yesterday it was announced that Phillies minor leaguer Hector Made will serve a 50 game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. That news alone filled me with disgust. I have very little tolerance for cheating and personally find using performance-enhancing drugs morally reprehensible.

After I got over my initial revulsion I became even more upset to learn that the Phillies acquired Made in a trade for Sal Fasano last season. Was Pat Gillick high when he made that trade? Made has never advanced above high single A ball and has a career batting average of .269. Hector Made isn’t a prospect. He’s a tool who takes up a spot in the infield and spot in the batting order so there will have enough players for a game for real prospects to play.

Why did this trade happen? Sal Fasano is no Mike Liberthal and that’s saying something but he was an established major league catcher. Fasano wasn’t costing the Phillies a lot of money. Instead Gillick traded for a back up second basemen who will never see the majors and does performance-enhancing drugs. You get no cool points for this move Pat.

Picture of Sal Fasano from

Phillies’ prospect Made suspended for 50 games after positive test
By staff writer /

Thursday, April 12, 2007

On a cold night in Flushing

Everything was cold tonight in New York except for Jimmy Rollins who caught fire hitting two dingers bringing. Rollins who has now hit five home runs is on a power tear and now leads the NL in home runs. The home runs are nice but the number that I find most impressive is .415 OBP. .415 sticks out because Rollins has a career .330 OBP. The one criticism leveled against Rollins has been his inability to walk resulting in that low on base percentage. Jimmy Rollins is the heart of the Phillies offense. Rollins is the motor that starts the Phillies offense. If Jimmy can continue to draw walks the Phillies should have great success in the future.

Jamie Moyer pitched well enough. If Moyer hadn’t struck out Beltran to end the sixth it would have been a lot worse. With the Phillies ability to produce runs they should win the game when their starter throws six innings and gives up only four.

The disappointment in this game came from how the Phillies best hitters preformed. The Phillies had their 3-4-5 batters start off the third, sixth, and ninth innings and have nothing to show for it. The only hit by the heart of the Phillies order was a double by Ryan Howard in the ninth. That’s not nearly enough.

Picture of Jimmy Rollins from


This is a Phillies blog but I need to rant about the screw-ups running ESPN fantasy baseball. For those of you who don’t know the situation, ESPN had been having a myriad of issues with their fantasy baseball service during the first week of the season including not processing waiver claims, an inability to edit your roster, and incorrect scoring. The only way they could solve the problem was to shutdown the whole service for a day, revert all rosters to opening day, and give stats accrued during the week by players not on the bench.

To put it simply on Tuesday I led 3 of my ESPN fantasy leagues and was a strong second in a fourth. Today, I am first in one league, fourth in two, and in infuriating eighth in another! I missed out big time because I had both Pat Burrell and Cole Hamels on my benches because I needed to clear the way for Cardinals and Mets who were playing in the season opener. There I knew I’d get it back to the Phillies somehow. Burrell and Hamels were both great late round values.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The definition of inconsistency

If case you ever wondered what it meant for a pitcher to be inconsistent just look to Oliver Perez’s most recent pitching performance against the Phillies. Perez cruised through the first 8 Phils striking out two without giving up a hit. Then instantly he went from good to bad giving up a single to Chase Utley and walking Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, Wes Helms, Aaron Rowand, and then caped it off by hitting Rod Barajas. Perez handed 3 runs to the Phillies. Not that I’m complaining, the Phillies needed those runs.

Overall the Phightens play was encouraging. Adam Eaton followed up a terrible season debut with an excellent start giving up two runs over seven innings and the Phillies relieving core got the job done. Antonio Alfonseca pitched a perfect inning in the eighth and Tom Gordon followed earning a save in the ninth.

This victory also revealed Charlie Manuel’s philosophy regarding how he wants to use his starting pitching staff. With two outs and a runner on first Manuel elected to keep Eaton in the game instead of pinch-hitting. Manuel’s non-move committed Eaton to pitch another inning after he had already thrown 92 pitches. Manuel could have pinch-hit in that situation if the Phillies had more reliable pitchers in the bullpen. Instead Manuel had to roll the dice and send out a fatigued Eaton to pitch the seventh. Today Eaton got the job done and made Manuel look smart. However, the question of whether to pitch a weary starter or bad reliever has no good answer and will eventually costing the Phillies victories.

Picture of Adam Eaton from

Monday, April 09, 2007

Miscues sink Phils in the eighth

The good news is the Ryan Howard hit his first home run of the year. The bad news is the Phillies lost in abominable fashion. Heading into the bottom half of the eighth inning the Phillies had a one run lead over the Mets and Geoff Geary on the mound. Then the badness started. After a deadly combination of singles, walks, and an extremely costly error by Jimmy Rollins the Mets put up seven runs on the scoreboard and took the lead.

Geoff Geary pitched horrendously giving up two hits, two walks, a wild pitch over two thirds of an inning. Lieber also pitched poorly giving up two runs while giving up two hits and walking in his 2007 debut. To summarize the Phillies don’t have any of those, what do you call them…good relief pitchers.

The Phillies need to rally and start winning baseball games. Poor starts in 2005 and 2006 were the reasons those Phillies teams of old didn’t make the playoffs. This year's Phils seem intent on continuing that losing tradition. There’s an old baseball proverb, “You can’t win a pennant in April but you can lose one.” The 2007 Phillies are doing the latter in glorious fashion.

Picture of Ryan Howard from

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Phillies offense about to explode

I have a prediction. The Phils offense is a volcano about to erupt. Over the past five games they have racked up 48 hits and only 22 runs. That’s a ratio 2.18 hits per run. For this particular offense that number is way out of whack. Last season the Phils needed only 1.75 hits to score a run. While that may not seem like a significant difference the rise from 1.75 to 2.18 would represent about 200 runs over the course of a season. That change would represent the shift from the best to the worst offense in the NL.

I am optimistic as usual for one reason. The lack of run production has a very obvious source, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Utley tallied his first RBI last night and Howard has yet to pop his 2007 RBI cherry. Howard did look pretty terrible yesterday swinging a very slow bat while going 0 for 5. Call me crazy but I believe those guys can rake and will heat up soon.

Picture of Ryan Howard from

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Phew, Phils win their first

The Phillies reminded us yesterday why so many experts chose this team to make it to the playoffs. Jamie Moyer had an excellent start and the Phils offense came alive scoring eight runs. This game writes the script the Phillies will need to follow if they want to win baseball games.

The Phillies need to rely on their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. For the Phils to win games they must take the lead. I swear that’s not as dumb as it reads. The weaknesses of this Phillies team are amplified when they are losing for two reasons. First the bullpen stinks. No lead is safe with Ryan Madson. Second the Phillies offense is very good. However, too many of the Phillies RBIs come from home runs. When the score is tight the Phillies hitters seem to tense up in an attempt to hit a long ball. Ironically trying to hit a home run is a bad way to drive one out of the park and a great way to pop up to the short stop.

The Phillies season will depend on suffocating starting pitching and three run home runs. If this team can’t do either consistently get ready for a long season.

Picture of Jamie Moyer from

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Phils add depth to the pen

Pat Gillick acquired reliever Francisco Rosario from the Toronto Blue Jays to help a beleaguered bullpen. Rosario struggled last season in the majors, but during his time in the Blue Jays farm system Rosario had a 3.38 ERA striking out 8.22 hitters every nine innings.

Gillick thinks Rosario could help the Phils, commenting, “We think he has a power arm. He's had a poor track record, but we think he turned the corner this spring. He has a lot of upside. He's a guy we've watched since last season."

This is a pretty good move for this Phillies. Pat Gillick only had to give up $100K in return for a useful reliever. Getting any useful potentially useful player for that little money is a high-quality move. Rosario is a power pitcher with control problems. If Rosario could learn to master the strike zone then he could contribute to the pen.

Francisco Rosario is a nice addition but this move alone isn’t enough to save the leaking shipping that is the Phillies bullpen. I’m trying not to freak out about how terrible the bullpen has been over the first two games. However, the sky is clearly falling. Gillick needs to acquire a reliever who won’t screw up like Madson. He has the pieces to trade and it’s time to pull the trigger.

Picture of Francisco Rosario from

Rosario expected to bolster Phillies’ bullpen
From AP

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Who is the set up man?

This off-season it was widely speculated that the Phillies would make a trade to acquire a reliever that could pitch in late inning situations. Charlie Manuel has yet to come out and declare any of the current Phillies the set up man, which begs the question. Who will Charlie Manuel pitch in the eighth inning with the game on the line?

The Phillies most recent game against the Braves suggested that no one pitcher would serve in that role. To start of the eighth Manuel chose Matt Smith to face Chris Woodward and Kelly Johnson. Then he brought in Geoff Geary who induced the final two outs of the inning. The way Manuel managed this suggests the Phillies opponents will see Smith, Geary, and possibly Alfonseca pitch in similar situations in the future.

I’m not a big fan of this system. Relief pitchers need to constantly be reminded of their role in the pen. Knowing what inning a pitcher will throw in before hand can help a pitcher prepare. Charlie Manuel knows this and probably wants one of the Phillies to show they can pitch up to that level. No matter what happens someone better distinguish them self from the pack because Tom Gordon looks awful and Ryan Madson is only good for losing games.

Picture of Geoff Geary from

Monday, April 02, 2007

Charlie makes a bold move

Charlie Manuel must have been secretly very excited. The score was tied with two outs in ninth. Shane Victorino stood on second base after slapping a double. Big Ryan Howard came up to the plate and took his intentional walk. It looked like Charlie’s experiment might pay off. Unfortunately, Chase Utley came up to the plate and promptly popped out Chipper Jones in foul territory.

The lineup everyone expected to see had Ryan Howard penciled in hitting fourth and Chase Utley hitting third. The lineup switcheroo was probably a reaction to the criticism that Howard wasn’t protected in the Phillies lineup. Charlie’s experiment went exactly as planned except that Utley couldn’t deliver.

Despite the Phillies loss, I think pushing Howard down in the order is a fantastic idea. Utley has enough power to hit cleanup and more importantly provides more protection for Howard. Stat heads will tell you the idea of protection is a myth. Personally I don’t really trust those particular statistics. I can write with confidence that Chase Utley will knock in the game winning RBI more times than Pat Burrell. Charlie would be wise to continue his experimentation.

Picture of Chase Utley from

Notes: Utley, Howard swtich spots
by Ken Mandel /

Sunday, April 01, 2007

2007 Official Phans Blog Predictions

National League Division Champions:
East: Philadelphia Phillies (NL Champion)
Central: Milwaukee Brewers
West: Arizona Diamondbacks
Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers

American League Division Champions:
East: Boston Red Sox
Central: Cleveland Indians (AL Champions)
West: Oakland A’s
Wild Card: Detroit Tigers

World Series:
Philadelphia Phillies over the Cleveland Indians

Enjoy the first game of the season between the Mets and Cardinals tonight. Baseball has finally returned!

Breaking down the NL East: Washington Nationals

Position Players:
The Nationals will have a terrible offense and that’s a compliment. Ryan Zimmerman is a first class third basemen and also the only quality bat on the team. Besides Zimmerman the Nats have average players Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, and a cast of rejects. The Nationals don’t have enough speed, power, or average in a ballpark that suppresses offense in the first place.

Starting Rotation:
The Nationals may have the worst rotation in baseball. There only good starter is John Patterson who when healthy is a solid number two starter. The Nationals number two starter is Shawn Hill a decent minor league pitcher whose upside is a 4.30 ERA. After Hill the Nationals will field expired prospects and defunct veterans not even worth mentioning. All you need to know is they stink at pitching.

If the Nationals ever get the lead in a game, they will have a solid bullpen to lock that win down. Chad Cordero owns the ninth inning as the Nationals closer. John Rauch and Ray will be solid contributors. Overall the Nats have a solid group of relievers.

The Nationals will lose many many baseball games. This could be a one hundred plus loss team. If I had to choose a number of wins I'd go with 52 but that number could be smaller.

Picture of Ryan Zimmerman from

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Breaking down the NL East: New York Mets

Position Players:
On paper the Mets have the best offense in the National League. The Mets added more firepower to a team that scored 834 runs last season by signing veteran bat Moises Alou in right field. Jose Reyes and David Wright are young super stars that will only get better with age. Carlos Delgado and Beltran will knock in 100 runs each. Complimenting that solid core are productive veterans Jose Valentin, Shawn Green, and Paul Lo Duca. The Mets should have a first class offense and will be tough to out slug.

Starting Rotation:

The Mets rotation is made of youngsters and old men. Well-aged Tom Glavine and the ancient Orlando Hernandez are the Mets only proven starters. Glavine is a future Hall of Famer and will most likely turn in another quality season. El Duque on the other hand is an average pitcher in addition to being a huge injury risk. The last three rotation spots will be filled either by past their prime vets like Chan Ho Park and Aaron Sele or unproven talents like Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine. Pedro Martinez will come to the rescue in July. But that will probably be too late to save the Mets.


The Mets bullpen recently suffered a big blow when it was announced that Duaner Sanchez will miss 3-4 months after he gets a surgery needed to repair a hairline fracture near his right shoulder. To compound the Mets bullpen woes Guillermo Mota will have to serve a 50 game suspension for violating the MLBs steroid policy. Besides those problems the Mets have a strong pen anchored by closer and former Phillie Billy Wagner. Aaron Heilman will serve as the setup man and Pedro Feliciano, Dave Williams, Scott Schoenweiss, and Ambiorix Burgos will pitch in the middle innings. Even after you count the losses of Sanchez and Mota the Mets still have a very strong bullpen.

Winning teams have good starting rotations. The Mets starting will falter and the extra pressure on the bullpen will cause it to break down. The Mets will win games by putting up a lot of runs. However, that won’t be enough to win the division for a second consecutive year. The Mets will finish third in the division with 81 wins.

Picture of Jose Reyes from

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Phillies make surprise cut

The Phillies placed utility outfielder Karim Garcia on waivers opening up a spot on the bench. Garcia has been expected to make the team as a fifth outfielder that would provide Charlie Manuel with a left handed pinch hitter.

This move caught me off guard. Usually teams don’t cut players they recently signed who are having good spring trainings. Garcia had been hitting .305 with 1 homer, 7 RBIs in 59 at bats. Spring training numbers have no correlation with regulation season performance but those stats are nothing to scoff at.

Overall I think this move benefits the Phillies. Greg Dobbs will most likely take Garcia’s place on the bench. Dobbs can play at first, third, and the corner outfield positions providing the Phillies with additional position flexibility. Dumping the veteran Garcia’s salary also saves the Phils a few hundred thousand dollars.

Assuming Dobbs makes the team the Phillies will still have one more spot on their bench. Phan’s Blog favorite Chris Coste could eventually fill that spot but will start the season on the 15 day DL. There’s no clear favorite as to who will occupy that spot during Coste’s period of convalescence. However, assuming that Pat Gillick hasn’t gone insane and forgotten that Coste is still injured he probably has some plan of action.

Phillies release Garcia
By Rob Maaddi / AP Sports

Picture of Karim Garcia from

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Where are all the south paws?

Last season the Phillies bullpen had three reliable left-handers in Aaron Fultz, Rheal Cormier, and Arthur Rhodes. The dearth of southpaws gave Charlie Manuel a lot of options when he needed to get a left-handed batter out late in a game. Today the Phillies sent both Eude Brito and Fabio Castro to the minors leaving Matt Smith as the lone lefty in the Phillies bullpen.

Many analysts point to the lack of a trustworthy set up man as the main flaw of the Phillies bullpen. However, that’s not the case. The biggest problem is that Matt Smith isn’t a great option as a left-handed specialist. There are a number of talented hitters in the NL East who hit from the left side of the plate including Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran. Matt Smith just isn’t going to get the job done. Smith had good numbers last year throwing 8.2 innings with a 2.08 ERA. However, he pitched poorly when the game was on the line.

Pat Gillick could do a lot to help the bullpen by acquiring a left-handed reliever. Another reliever who could hold lefty hitters to a low average would really improve the Phillies bullpen.

Picture of Matt Smith from

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Deep Breaths

The blood pressure of Phillies phan nation spiked yesterday after the news that Freddy Garcia left a game pitching against Toronto Blue Jays with tenderness near his right bicep. Suddenly the Phillies rotation the greatest strength of the 2007 team had melted away. Auspiciously the good news came out today that Garcia is ok and will be ready to pitch by opening day.

Going through this whole situation has made me reconsider my position on trading Jon Lieber. If Garcia’s injury had been more serious and Pat Gillick had already traded Lieber then the Phillies would have been caught pissing in the wind. Upon closer examination the Phightens have an injury risk plagued rotation. Adam Eaton missed much of last season after he needed surgery on his middle finger. Cole Hamels has back problems that he will deal with for his whole career. On top of that the Phils now have to worry about Garcia’s elbow.

The Phillies pitching surplus is a blessing not a curse. If any of the starters go down than the Phillies will need Lieber to stay competitive.

Picture of Freddy Garcia from:
Injuries to Garcia, and Ruiz not serious
By Ken Mandel /

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lieber heading to the pen

Charlie decided today that it would be Lieber not Eaton who would pitch out of the pen in lieu of a trade. No explanation for the decision was given except Charlie Manuel’s comments that, “It was a real tough decision”.

I think the Phillies brain trust made the wrong decision. The reason that Charlie Manuel had to make a “real tough decision” is that Pat Gillick couldn’t trade Lieber. Lieber pitching in the bullpen decreases his value as a trade commodity. Relievers have less value than starters.

The Phillies may have decided to take the less controversial path. Jon Lieber’s contract runs out at the end of the season and Eaton will be a Phillie for at least the next three seasons. Whoever Manuel demoted to the bullpen would undoubtedly be disappointed. It may have simply been easier for the Phillies to upset the pitcher whose feelings they won’t have to consider for much longer.

Lieber moved to bullpen
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Jon Lieber from

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Breaking down the NL East: Florida Marlins

This is the second in a series of posts reviewing the off seasons of the Phillies NL East rivals. This post examines the Florida Marlins chances for success in 2007.

Position Player:
The Marlins have the same excellent infield as last season. Miguel Cabrera is one of the best young players in the game and Hanley Ramirez should be a first rate shortstop. Dan Uggla over preformed last season. His minor league numbers suggest that he should hit 20 dingers but with a lower average. Catcher Miguel Olivo should provide a pedestrian average and chip in a dozen or so homers. The Marlins outfield is peppered with inexperienced and injured players. Jeremy Hermida has the pedigree but has yet to prove himself. Alex Sanchez has never played a full season. Josh Willingham should throw in twenty bombs and 90 RBIs. Last season the Florida Marlins scored 758 runs ranking them eighth in the National League. They only scored that many runs because everything went right. Probability demands that the same thing won’t happen again.

Starting Rotation:
Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis anchors the starting rotation. The rest of the Marlins rotation is green. Young pitchers will struggle. It’s baseball law. Scott Olsen, Annibal Sanchez, and Josh Johnson all have great stuff. However, they will take their lumps like everyone else. Due to their inexperience the Marlins rotation is a huge liability.

The worst part of this team is the bullpen. There is no clear closer, set up man, or even a quality middle reliever. I don’t like to repeat myself but I can’t say it enough. The Marlins young pitchers will struggle. Who would have thought the Fish would miss Joe Borowski?

The Marlins overachieved as a team last season and made no significant moves to improve their roster. On top of all that the Marlins management thought that it would be a good idea to fire 2006 NL manager of the year Joe Girardi. The Marlins could easily lose 100 games in 2007. It’s a tribute to how terrible the Nationals will be that the Florida should finish fourth in the division.

Picture of Dontrelle Willis from the

Five is a rotation; six is a problem

Everyone knows the situation. Six starting pitchers is one too many. If Pat Gillick can’t find a trade partner than one of the six will move to the bullpen. The question is who.

Jamie Moyer doesn’t throw hard enough to throw in relief. Cole Hamels has way too much talent. Freddy Garcia’s greatest value is as a starter because of his ability to throw 200 innings with ease. Brett Myers has offered to close but likely wouldn’t be satisfied with throwing in middle relief.

That leaves Jon Lieber and Adam Eaton. Eaton has also commented that while he would pitch as a reliever he'd rather not. Only Lieber has spent any significant time as a reliever. In 1996 he pitched 36 games for Pittsburgh Pirates in relief with a solid 4.14 ERA. However, that was a long time ago. Two months ago Gillick commented that Lieber couldn’t pitch in relief because his defense was a liability in late inning situations.

Neither pitcher is a good option. However, I think the least bad option is Lieber. If the Phillies let Lieber start and he pitches well, then his trade value will increase. That would allow the Phils to trade Lieber and solve the underlying problem. Eaton can serve as the long man in the bullpen throwing three innings every few days if one of the Phillies starters gets shelled. Five is a rotation and six is a problem that can only be fixed with a trade.

Notes: Which starter will relieve?
By Ken Mandel /

Pictures of Adam Eaton from

Monday, March 19, 2007

Phils say goodbye to Germano

The San Diego Padres claimed Justin Germano after the Phillies placed him on waivers today. Germano came over in the Rheal Cormier trade. Usually it’s difficult to determine the benefits of a trade until years after it’s completion. That’s not the case with the Cormier trade, which can safely be called an unmitigated disaster.

It’s not that Pat Gillick should have held on to Rheal Cormier. The timing of the trade makes Gillick look like a genius. With the Phils Cormier had a sparkling 1.59 ERA and pitching for the Reds he had a mediocre 4.50 ERA. The issue with this trade is what the Phightens received in return.

Justin Germano is a fine prospect but at the time of the trade he had only one option left on his contract, which the Phillies used up last season. So this season the Phillies couldn’t send him down to the minors without having him clear waivers first. This forced the Phillies to put Germano on waivers and in the end receive nothing for Cormier.

The Cormier trade is part of a disturbing trend. The Phillies received seven prospects in return for Rheal Cormier, Ryan Franklin, Cory Lidle, and Bobby Abreu in three different trades. Matt Smith is the only player in that group who will play with the Phillies any time soon and none of the others project to be productive major leaguers. The Phillies farm system is baron of prospects because of Gillick. I think Pat had done a great job putting together a competitive Phillies team in 2007. I just hope that the success of the 2007 Phillies doesn’t end up burning the Phillies squads of the future.

Germano, Simon among Phillies cuts
By Rob Maaddi / AP

Picture of Justin Germano from

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Phillies Drop Simon

The Phillies offered back Alfredo Simon to the Texas Rangers. Simon was one of three Rule 5 draft picks trying to make the Phillies roster. The Baltimore Orioles originally drafted Simon and then traded him to the Phillies during the winter meetings. The Phils paid $50,000 dollars for the rights to Simon and the Rangers will give half of that sum back.

Alfredo was a prototypical flamethrower with control issues. Speaking about Simon Charlie Manuel commented, "He wasn't going to make our big-league team. He has a good arm and a good breaking ball, but he has control problems."

Simon was in contention for making the Phillies major league roster. He will now spend more time developing his control at Triple-A Tucson for the Texas Rangers.

Notes: Moyer gives back
By Ken Mandel /

Picture of Alfredo Simon from

Time to get creative

Despite all of the tough talk of the Phillies taking six starters into the season, Pat Gillick knows he needs to work a trade before the season begins. There should be plenty of demand for what the Phillies have to offer. Almost every team in baseball could use another legit starter on their roster. Still teams don’t want to buy what the Phillies are selling. It’s time for Pat Gillick to sweeten the pot.

The Houston Astros are counting on Roger Clemens to come back and save their rotation. I’m not crazy enough to presume to know if Clemens will play baseball and if he does for what team. Nevertheless if Clemens stays in Houston than the Astros will still have an unproven rookie as their fifth starter. The Astros could really use Jon Lieber to bolster their cause in a division with the World Series Champion Cardinals and a much-improved Chicago Cubs squad.

The Phillies need to make the offer that the Astros can’t refuse by pairing catcher Carlos Ruiz with Jon Lieber. The current Astros catcher Brad Ausms doesn’t have much value if he hits .230 like he did last season. Houston has no good catching prospects and could really use a young backstop with potential upside. Carlos Ruiz has some very solid numbers. In his past two seasons at the AAA level he hit over .300 with both power and speed.

In return the Phillies should ask for much maligned closer Brad Lidge. Two seasons ago Brad Lidge was the best closer in baseball. Last season the Astros yanked him back and forth between the closer and setup roles. Lidge could benefit from the stability of staying in the same role for the whole season. He could also be the hard throwing reliever the Phillies need to get to the next level.

Picture of Brad Lidge from

Friday, March 16, 2007

Helms excelling during spring training

Wes Helms had many options as a free agent this off-season. The New York Yankees were offering more years and dollars to Helms if he would don the pin stripes. The Phillies could offer the thing that the Yankees couldn’t promise, playing time. Wes Helms will get plenty of at bats with the Phillies as their starting third baseman.

Helms owns a paltry .268 career batting average but had a career year last season hitting .329. Helms attributes his success to a change in his approach at the plate. Helms spoke about those change commenting, "I'd be out there trying to crush the ball, pull the ball. I wouldn't think of the situation. I just wanted to hit the ball hard. Now I'm more of a situational hitter. If there's a guy on second, I'm going to get him over.”

So far this spring Helms has excelled batting .394 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs in 33 at bats. Helms will bat out of the sixth spot but if Helms starts out 2007 hot and Pat Burrell struggles than he could find himself protecting Ryan Howard in the fifth spot.

Fortunately for Helms the bar has been set very low. Former Phils tri baggers David Bell and Abraham Nunez represented one giant gaping hole in the Phillies offense. Assuming Helms can not stink as much as those two double plays waiting to happen the Phillies offense should improve.

Helms getting hits in, relearning third
By Ken Mandel /

Helms confident that a big year is in the offing
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Wes Helms from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Rowand Trade Rumors

Another day and another Aaron Rowand trade rumor. Once again the gossip mill turns with news of a trade negotiations between the Phillies and White Sox. This most recent iteration of trade talks has Aaron Rowand going to the White Sox for Boone Logan. That leads Phillies Phans everywhere to ask the question, “Who the heck is Boone Logan?” That’s a very reasonable question given that Boone Logan has logged only 17.3 innings in the Majors and a 5.08 ERA in his minor league career.

On a radio show Tuesday when asked about a trade to the White Sox Rowand responded, “I don't know if I should disclose any of that information.” That’s quite an ominous comment for a player on the trading block.

This deal could happen if the White Sox were willing to part with a different reliever. White Sox setup man Mike MacDougal would fit nicely into the Phillies bullpen. Before the White Sox traded for MacDougal, he served as the Kansas City closer. MacDougal is a former all-star and the owner of a 3.62 ERA in 199 major league innings.

Assuming the Phils get a reliever in exchange for Rowand then a trade will only move the hole in their roster from the bullpen to the outfield. If Gillick can’t get a proven commodity like MacDougal than he shouldn’t move Rowand. A trade for any thing less than a stud would be a move of desperation.

Rowand responds to Sox rumor
From Yahoo Sports

Rowand talk resurfacing
By Joe Cowley / Chicago Sun-Times

Picture of Aaron Rowand from

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gordon has Doc check on stiff elbow

Tom Gordon traveled today from Clearwater to Philadelphia to visit Phillies team doctor Michael Ciccotti. Gordon has been feeling some stiffness in his elbow that the Phillies wanted to check out. The Phils closer was going to pitch today but there was no game scheduled.

The Phillies spin control team is twisting the doctor’s appointment to be completely normal. "It just made sense for him to go up there," commented assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "We want to check him out. There's nothing alarming about this." Pitching coach Rich Dubee shrugged the news off saying, “We are talking about a guy who's 38, 39 years old…It's been pretty much the same thing; the same kind of stiffness," Dubee said. "His shoulder is fine."

Dubee’s right, stiffness is normal for a pitcher of his age. That’s the problem. Gordon is a great but aging relief pitcher. There doesn’t appear to be a problem yet just reason to be very nervous.

This story underscores why the Phillies need to trade Lieber for a reliever. If one of the Phils starters went on the disabled list everyone would praise Gillick for holding on to Lieber. However, if the Phillies did hold onto Lieber and Gordon injured his elbow than the Phillies would be in a lot of trouble without a closer to stabilize the bullpen.

Gordon for Philadelphia for routine exam
By Ken Mandel /

Phillies downplay Gordon’s visit to doc
By Marcus Hayes / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Tom Gordon from

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why $900K

The questions that all of Phillies nation has been asking since the Phillies renewed Ryan Howard’s contract is, Why $900K? The most recent Phillies Phan to join in the chorus of decent is author Mark Bowden. Bowden expressed his opinion in this Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer in an editorial entitled Pay Up, Phillies. To synopsize the article Bowden believes that the Phillies should have paid Ryan Howard more because he is a great player. He believes the Phillies haven’t shelled out the big buck because of the collective bargaining agreement that governs contracts and poor decisions by the Phillies front office.

I have a few issues with Bowden’s article. The first is the contention that Howard has missed out on years of service time because of Jim Thome. Howard advanced steadily through the minors. In his early professional baseball career he spent one season at Batavia, Lakewood, and Clearwater. In those three seasons he played well but not great. That’s because he was developing, learning, and becoming a better ball player. MVPs don’t grow on trees they take time to grow. After that Howard had one superb season at Reading and Scranton and earned a cup of coffee in the Majors. At this point Howard was ready and he did have to wait behind Jim Thome. Fortunately for the Phillies and for Howard, Thome only played in 59 games for the Phillies that season. In retrospect the 61 games Howard played for Scranton that year wasn’t that long a wait after all.

Second the Phillies did pay Ryan Howard a boatload of money; a boatload of money for a player with two years service time. That $900,000 is the most for any player with one year-plus Major League service time. That $900,000 ties him for the highest salary of a non-arbitration eligible baseball player with Albert Pujols. On top of that even if Howard has a sub par 2007 season he will make a lot of money in arbitration.

Now if I may on behalf of the Phillies organization answer the request in the title of Mark Bowden’s. We did pay him Mark, stick to writing books.

Pay Up, Phillies
By Mark Bowden / Philadelphia Inquirer

The $900,000 Man
By Todd Zolecki / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Ryan Howard from

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Madson developing third pitch

Last year the Phillies experimented letting Ryan Madson pitch in the starting rotation. That didn’t work out so well. This season Madson will return to the pitching in the bullpen, where he excelled in his first two seasons.

In preparation for the upcoming season Mad Dog has been developing his pitching repertoire. Ryan has a solid mid nineties fast ball and a plus change up. Last season Madson mixed in a curveball that he couldn’t consistently through for strikes. So Madson is dropping the curve and looking to add a third out pitch. Earlier in the off-season Madson was rumored to be working on a slurve or sliding curve. Now he’s let go of slurve and is working on a slider.

"It's a brand-new pitch.” Madson said, “The big thing is trusting it. My fastball and changeup have been good, so I'm working a lot on my slider. If I can get it, it will give me something between my fastball and changeup." Mad Dog’s comments aren’t exactly the whole truth. He used to throw a slider when he was in the minors but replaced it with the curve when he got to the majors.

Personally I don’t think he needs the third pitch. Pitching as a reliever is very different from pitching as a starter. A starter may face the same batter two or three times in one game. Starters need to pitch strategically mixing up their pitches to show the batter different looks. Relievers need to get a batter out only once; they don’t need to worry about the next time. For this reason relief pitchers don’t need to throw a wide array of pitches. A good example of this is one of the best relievers the future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Rivera throws cutters, cutters, and some times a cutter. He doesn’t need to throw anything else because he can get the job done with one pitch.

Madson dropped the slider the first time because it wasn’t a good pitch. There’s no reason to expect that the slider will be any better the second time. I would suggest that he perfects his fastball and changeup. He doesn’t need a third pitch. In the end two great pitches is better than two great pitches and one bad one.

Garcia’s fastball lags as Madson slings slider
By Jim Salisbury / Philadelphia Inquirer

Picture of Ryan Madson from