Philadelphia Phillies: Why Ben Francisco Will Be Valuable in Postseason Drive

June 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Last night, it took 8.2 innings for the Phillies to finally defeat the Athletics. Ben Francisco provided the chopper that brought home Shane Victorino for the 1-0 victory.

Francisco has been the target of a lot of criticism this season. While some of it has been merited, a lot of it has not been. This article is not written purely in response to that walk-off single last night, but a clutch base hit illustrates the value that Francisco adds to this team.

The argument has been made that he is not necessarily a starting outfielder and is better suited for the traditional fourth outfielder role, but that is not what this is about either.

From looking at his statistics through this season so far, I think that Francisco is going to be a valuable member of the Phillies down the stretch because he knows how to come through in big situations.

1. When he comes in as a pinch-hitter, his average is .364 with an on-base percentage of .462.

2. When there are men on base, he is batting .293 with an on-base percentage of .392.

3. When there are runners in scoring position with two outs, he is hitting .304.

While the argument may be made that these statistics are so situation-specific that they do not indicate very much about how well he is playing this season, that explains my point. He may be having a down year, but that fact alone does not preclude him from being able to perform especially well in certain situations as shown by what he has done so far this season.

If the Phillies trade for a new outfielder to add some power against left-handers, I hope that is not at the expense of Francisco being sent away or demoted. I think that even if he is on the bench, his record of pressure situation success will benefit the Phillies on their postseason drive.

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World Series Preview: Philadelphia Phillies VS. Boston Red Sox

June 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Starting Tuesday of next week, one of the most anticipated series of the 2011 season comes to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The majority of MLB analyst believe that the June series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox will be a preview of the 2011 World Series.

Here is how the clubs line up as of June 25: The Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in baseball at 48-29 and the Boston Red Sox rank second and are right on their tail with a record of 44-31.

As far as pitching is concerned, the Phillies rank first in MLB in ERA at 3.06 and quality starts with 51. They are third in WHIP 1.19 and sixth in BAA .242. Also, three of their starting pitchers have over eight wins. Cole Hamels go for a major league-leading 10th win this evening.

The Boston Red Sox pitching staff is having a slightly above average season. They are currently ranked 20th in ERA 3.98, 23rd in quality starts with 38, eighth in WHIP 1.28 and a BAA of .239 which ranks fifth in MLB. Josh Beckett leads the Red Sox pitching staff. His ERA this season is 1.86, which is one of the best ERAs is baseball.

Now for the offense. This is an area that the Philadelphia Phillies must improve if they even want to get to the 2011 World Series. They are getting little to no production from their corner outfielders and find themselves at the bottom of almost every offensive category.

They currently rank 14th in runs scored with 316, rank 20th in BA at .246, 15th in OBP .320 and 22nd in SLG at a weak .375. If the Phillies wish to compete with the Red Sox, one or two runs a game will simply not cut it.

Boston ranks first in almost every single offensive category in all of MLB. They are currently first in runs (401), BA (.279), OBP (.353), total bases (1,178), RBI (378), OPS (.801) and SLG (.448). There isn’t more I can really say. This team is the best offense in baseball by a long shot.

This series will be the classic big arms vs big bats. Tune in starting next Tuesday, June 28 to find out if great pitching can beat great hitting.

Here are the predicted starting pitchers for each game:

Tuesday: Josh Becket vs Cliff Lee 

Wednesday: John Lackey vs Vance Worley

Thursday: Jon Lester vs Cole Hamels

With the Phillies off day Monday, the starters for the second two games could be changed with the recent injury to Roy Oswalt. Spot starter Kyle Kendrick could be thrown into one of those games.

Look for these three games to be as exciting as any regular season game this season. It will be a playoff like atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park. Don’t miss out.

ESPN 2 will be broadcasting the Wednesday night game starting at 7:05 EST.

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With Roy Oswalt Injured Improving the Offense Became Even More Important

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Roy Oswalt‘s been fighting lingering back issues all season long—he already spent some time on the disabled list earlier in the year with the same concerns.

After Oswalt left last night’s game after the second inning, the timetable for his return is indefinite. 

The velocity on Oswalt’s fastball has steadily dipped since his first stint on the DL, and he’s a pitcher that likes to get his fastball up in the zone and blow it by hitters. 

Oswalt hasn’t been able to do that lately—he’s 1-5 with a 4.06 ERA in his previous eight starts.

The back really started to flare up on a road trip in Arizona in April. Before that, in his previous start at San Diego, his fastball routinely hit 93-94 mph.  

Last night, Oswalt consistently hit 90 mph on the radar gun.

He’s had to rely more on command and changing speeds.

Before I was fine with a cheap option like Reed Johnson, but with Oswalt’s future in question, I think it becomes more imperative that the Phillies find a way to add a bat at the trade deadline.

They need to take some pressure off the pitching staff, especially if Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick are going to remain starters for most—if not the rest—of the year.

Joe Blanton is expected back in late July or early August.



Philadelphia 76ers Select Pennsbury Alum Lavoy Allen

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Two Philadelphia Phillies’ Prospects Named to the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies’ propspects Jarred Cosart and Sebastian Valle were named to the 2010 XM All-Star Futures game, featuring 50 of the top prospects in the minors. Cosart, from Texas, joins the United States team while Valle, from Mexico, is one of two catchers on the World team.

Cosart has been decent in his first season at Clearwater, posting a 3.61 FIP to go with 62 strikeouts and 30 walks in 74 innings. He’s not doing as well as last year, due to the decrease in strikeouts and increase in walks (including nine in his last 14.1 innings), but induces ground balls at an exceptional rate.

In their brief writeup for each prospect named to the Futures game, Baseball America touted, “Cosart has as electric an arm as anyone in the minor leagues, with a fastball that frequently sits in the high 90s. If he can stay healthy and refine his command, he can be a frontline starter.”

Valle has gotten off to a hot start, batting .343/.358/.485 in Clearwater, but a good portion of that is BABIP-aided. A .426 BABIP is totally unsustainable. While it’s good to see his strikeout rate remain the same, despite tougher competition, he has been allergic to walks. Just two walks in 173 plate appearances is not acceptable.

Baseball America wrote, “After three nondescript seasons in the Phillies system, Valle has come on like gangbusters in the last two years, and the Phillies have traded away other catching prospects to clear the way for him.”

The game takes place on July 10, featuring a who’s who of prospects, including studs such as Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado and Shelby Miller.

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Philadelphia Phillies Trade Speculation: Cost-Effective Roy Oswalt Replacements

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

What has long been speculated was confirmed last night in St. Louis:  Roy Oswalt had been playing injured.  Since returning from the disabled list, the normally dominant Oswalt had been very shaky, watching his ERA steadily rise while his strikeouts were at career-low levels.  Frankly, he was pitching like a Kyle Kendrick clone. Now he finds himself on the DL again.

With the soon-to-be 34-year-old facing the potential end to his season, it’s time for the Phillies to mull the options on how to best replace him.  For the time being, the rotation will consist of Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick in the back end.  Joe Blanton may return from the DL at some point in the future to help stabilize the rotation, but that is off in the distance as he has yet to start throwing.

The Phillies face more problems than just trying replace an ace in the rotation.  They face financial restraints as well. With a payroll already over $170 million, the Phillies are at the threshold of the luxury tax and ownership seems very reluctant to add significant salaries.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Ghosts of Phillies Past: Michael Stutes and Toby Borland

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Welcome to the first edition of my new feature: Ghosts of Phillies Past. 

I wanted to illustrate the greatness of the current Phillies era, especially when compared to the franchise’s mostly sorry history.  In these days of division titles, four aces and consecutive home sellouts, it might be easy to forget that the team’s outlook was not always so bright. 

So I will take a (hopefully) weekly look at a current Phillie who has excelled, and also discuss a similar player from the past who didn’t quite encounter the same levels of success.


Featured Phillie of the Week

This week’s featured Phillie is relief pitcher Michael Stutes

Stutes has been one of the Phillies most dependable relievers this season.  Despite starting the season in the minors, Stutes has already appeared in 24 games with an excellent 2.38 ERA.  More importantly, manager Charlie Manuel seems to trust him as a late inning option, and he has come through in several high pressure situations.

This past week’s series in Seattle was a homecoming for the Oregon native, and he celebrated by pitching a scoreless inning and picking up the win in Saturday night’s victory over the Mariners.

He was less effective in Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals, as he gave up a run.  However, the Phillies went on to score nine runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, and as a result, Stutes earned his second win of the week.


Ghost of Phillies Past: Toby Borland

In comparison, I’ll take a look at another young Phillies reliever who was once thrust into a key bullpen spot.

Originally called up in the strike shortened 1994 season, right-handed reliever Toby Borland didn’t impress anyone at first.  He seemed to have control issues and could seemingly be counted on for at least one walked batter in every appearance.

The next season, after an ineffective start to the season, he was sent back to the minor leagues.  While in the minors, his coaches worked on improving his control.  One exercise they tried was to place a glove on a post on top of home plate.   Borland was instructed to practice simply hitting the glove with his pitches.

Amazingly, this exercise drastically improved his control.  When he returned to the big league club in 1995, his control was good enough that he became an effective reliever.  By season’s end, he was appearing in late-game situations, often as the team’s main setup man.

In 1996, the team hoped his success would continue, and he began the season as the team’s primary setup reliever.  Unfortunately, the improved control he had shown the year before abandoned him.  Part of the problem may have been that the 1996 Phillies were a bad team, and part of the problem may have been that Borland had simply overachieved the previous season.

Regardless of the cause, Borland’s tenure with the team ended after the 1996 season.  He stayed in the league a few more years, and even wound up back with the Phillies in 1998, but his second stint with the club was even less remarkable than his first.

Fun fact: Borland is the last Phillies player to wear No. 42 before it was retired league wide in honor of Jackie Robinson.


Final Word

With the injuries suffered by Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras, Stutes’ emergence has been a key to the team’s success thus far.  We can only hope that he is able to continue to excel and not quickly flame out like Borland did.

Originally published on my blog: Stranger in a Strange Land

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Have the Four Philadelphia Aces Become Three?

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Pitcher Roy Oswalt was pulled from Thursday night’s game against the Cardinals after only two innings, in which he allowed four runs.

After one out in the second, Oswalt began teetering sideways off the mound after his delivery.  Things got worse as the inning went on, as Oswalt began hopping and stumbling after pitches while grabbing his lower back.

Oswalt was left in to finish the inning.  Afterward, reports were that Oswalt had back spasms.

Later, Oswalt told reporter Austin Laymance, “At this point I’m not really helping the team, I’m kind of a liability more than anything.”

He also added that his back has been hurting lately upon sitting, standing, walking and sleeping.  That is very bad news.  And why Oswalt was allowed to make this start under these circumstances is curious.

However, the back issues are not really a surprise.  Oswalt had a long history of back problems before he came to the Phillies last season.  He has also been on the DL once already this year with the same issue. 

In his last four starts, Oswalt has allowed 15 runs in only 21.1 innings.  And now, it appears he is headed back to the DL, possibly for a long time.

The four aces have essentially been cut down to three without Oswalt, leaving Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels as the remaining top starters.  The original fifth starter, Joe Blanton, is also on the DL and there is no date set for a possible return.

The Phillies can fill the holes with younger pitchers like Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley.  However, the long-term effect on the Phillies season is a big question mark.

And another question is whether Oswalt will be back to pitch this year.  And if he does return, how effective will he be after multiple back injuries?

An MRI on Monday should provide more details, but for now, the Phillies are in a potentially bad spot without one of their aces.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins Looks for Record in Red Bull Event

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins will attempt to break a world record on Monday. Instead of taking a day off, Rollins will take part in Red Bull Ball Park Cranks in an attempt to break a Guinness World Record for longest batted ball, and he is heading to the Ben Franklin Parkway to do it.

The current record stands at 576 feet, which is far out of Rollins’ normal range so he will be making use of advanced equipment to help him out.

“They have some pretty good technology put into it, so why don’t I give it a try?” Rollins said in a report by USA Today. “They spent some money on composite bats and specialized balls. It’s unrestricted. So we’re trying to find out if you could use this ball and this bat, how far can a human possibly hit a ball.”

Red Bull has called on Dr. Lloyd C. Smith from Washington State University’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Dr. Alan Nathan of the University of Illinois Physics Department, both of whom have experience testing bats for little leagues and college-level teams.

“I’ve hit a ball below the third deck at the Vet. I’ve gone to the second deck a number of times at [Citizens Bank Park] and I’ve gone out to center field. So 420 feet is probably about the furthest I’ve ever hit a ball. With technology, if you get another 160 feet out of it, that would be a lot of fun.”

“In all the years I’ve been in the sports science area, it’s the first time we’ve had a professional player willing and able to test the limits of hitting a baseball,” Dr. Smith said. “We’re extremely excited to see what valuable information we can gather from this merging of science and sport.”

This record attempt was supposed to take place a year ago, but an injury to Rollins within days forced Rollins and Red Bull to put the record attempt on hold. Now after a year of anticipation, Rollins will get his chance to go into the record books.

Fans should also be on the lookout for baseballs printed with a special digital code. Scanning the image in your phone will reveal if you found a winning baseball, giving fans a Rollins autograph and more.

Event Info

Date: June 27, 2011

Time: 11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Location: Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Intersection of 20th Street, Philadelphia, PA

Follow updates on Twitter: @redbullphilly @krmcguire

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MLB Rumors: Roy Oswalt’s Career in Jeopardy with Latest Back Injury?

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Cardinals added injury to insult on Thursday night after St. Louis whipped the Philadelphia Phillies en route to 12-2 win.

Starting pitcher Roy Oswalt was pulled from last night’s game when he began to feel soreness in his lower back.

The right-hander gave up four earned runs in two ugly innings before exiting. He issued no walks, but he surrendered five hits and forced only a single strikeout.

The lack of success has been a recurring theme of late.

Heading into Thursday’s game, Oswalt had been roughed up for 21 hits and 11 earned runs in his most recent 20 innings.

Oswalt has a long history of back problems. He spent almost three weeks on the disabled list in late April and early May, and there are concerns that he has worsened the condition by pitching through the pain.

“He’s had trouble for quite a while,” coach Charlie Manuel revealed. “This started back [in April] in Arizona.

“I’m concerned because this has been going on for quite a while,” Manuel said.  “I’m definitely concerned about it.

“He’s close with his fastball, but he’s had to rely a lot on command and hitting spots now. That might be because of the trouble with his back.”

The Phillies are likely to reevaluate the 33-year-old veteran on Friday afternoon before making any roster decisions.

The pain in Oswalt’s back will cause him to miss his next start, and it’s certainly possible that the veteran starter will be headed back to the 15-day disabled list.

Oswalt, though, has a bit more grim perspective. He does not know when he will pitch again, if at all.

“You throw as long as you can and when you can’t throw anymore you don’t,” the 33-year-old pitcher explained after the game. “Hopefully it’s not to the point where I can’t throw anymore. If it’s at that point, you just have to accept it.”

“I’ve had a pretty good one,” Oswalt said about his career, recognizing the possibility that his latest injury could put his career in jeopardy.

Since his previous stint on the disabled list, he has come back to make seven starts, but the back pain has slowed the velocity on his fastball.

“I feel it when I sit down, stand up, walk, pitch, sleep,” he said.

Revealing his reasoning to pitch through it, “I don’t want to be labeled a quitter,” he quipped.

He himself even realized during Thursday night’s brief outing that he was hurting the team.

“I’m kind of a liability more than anything. I was more heaving the ball than throwing it. It was no good keeping me out there.”

Oswalt revealed that he has had a number of cortisone injections in his back throughout his career and that an MRI while still in Houston showed two degenerative discs.

“I don’t know if it’s gotten to the point where it’s bulging,” he said. “Hopefully not.”

“We’ll see where it’s at and if I have to get it fixed, I’ll get it fixed.”

Kyle Kendrick, who allowed two runs in four innings in relief of Oswalt against the Cardinals, appears primed to fulfill Oswalt’s spot in the rotation. He is 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 18 appearances and five starts this season.

Any extended absence for Oswalt would be a blow to a team built around its starting rotation of Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

The Phillies never recovered from yesterday’s early deficit. They finished a six-game road trip split at 3-3, and with one of the four aces out indefinitely, the trip certainly ends on a bitter note.

Oswalt, a three-time All-Star, has a mutual option with the team for $16 million next season. If he walks away or his contract is bought out, he will make $2 million.

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Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Things They Must Do to Stay on Top of the NL East

June 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

As the trade deadline approaches Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel have a lot to talk about in regards to there bullpen and corner outfielders.

The Atlanta Braves are only four games back and show no signs of slowing down.

The Phillies have several players in the minor leagues who can help the bullpen like Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus.

A corner outfielder is imperative, the bottom of the Phillies has been absolutely terrible and a change is imminent. None have the players they currently have are helping the team win games.

It is time for Ruben Amaro to shake things up in Philadelphia.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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