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 MLB.com

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 eurosport2.com

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 beck.mlblogs.com

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 MLB.com

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 MLB.com

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 MLB.com

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 MSNBC.com

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 MLB.com

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 MLB.com

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 / ESPN.com

Picture of Freddy Garcia from comcastsportsnet.com

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 MLB.com

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 / ESPN.com

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.