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 profantasysports.com

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 yorkblog.com

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 cantstopthebleeding.com

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

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 tsn.com

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 MLB.com

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 foxsports.com

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

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 Yankees2000.com


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 MLB.com

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 MLB.com

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 forums.g4tv.com

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 chrisoleary.com

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 MLB.com

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 scouts.com

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 MLB.com

Notes: Utley, Howard swtich spots
by Ken Mandel / MLB.com

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 ESPN.com