Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Worst-Case Scenarios This Winter

October 31, 2011 by Richard Elles  
Filed under Fan News

An October that couldn’t finish soon enough for baseball in Philadelphia has mercifully come to an end. In winning the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals have reopened the wounds of Phillies fans still tending to broken hearts, but also given the Philly faithful a reason to emotionally reinvest in their team.

Following a thrilling Fall Classic that they played themselves out of, the Phillies now face a string of decisions that will shape both their chance for redemption next season and the direction of the franchise over the next decade. Crucial calls on team personnel and free-agents acquisitions now fall on the shoulders of GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and the front office as the league closes the book on the 2011 season.

While the City of Brotherly Love has confidence in their bold general manager, there is no consensus on which moves will make Philadelphia’s club a stronger threat when 2012 Opening Day rolls around. Only by pulling the right strings in negotiations with returning players and free agents can Amaro Jr. produce a product that will be as feared as last year’s edition of the team.

Having already declined the options on Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge, the front office turns its focus to shortstop Jimmy Rollins and closer Ryan Madson. The two homegrown stars have become mainstays of the organization and fan favorites during their long tenures in the red pinstripes.

As skilled as Amaro Jr. appears to have been over the past few seasons, a wrong decision could steer Philadelphia away from their World Series aspirations, wasting the championship window their pitching staff has opened.

There are many choices that the Phillies can make that would improve their baseball team, but here are five things that could prove to be disastrous for Philadelphia this winter:

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

World Series 2011 Analysis: What Can the Phillies Learn from Cards’ Triumph?

October 30, 2011 by Matt Goldberg  
Filed under Fan News

It would be interesting to know how many members of Phillies Nation watched the World Series (or even the Championship Series, for that matter).

As one of those members, I know that we can be a very provincial town, and not all of our denizens were ready to work through the grieving process by watching more baseball.

Of course, I am way too much of a MLB fan to kiss goodbye to the season just because my team was eliminated. For both of those reasons. I am still grieving about the Phillies' sudden elimination and the end of the baseball season in general. I am also not sure what an October snowfall is doing to my already miserable mood.

So while I am not quite ready to think about all of the moves that should be made for 2012 and beyond, I am ready to put some thought into what lessons may have been learned by seeing the wrong red-clad team win it all.

 

THE BEST TEAM IN THE REGULAR SEASON DOESN'T ALWAYS WIN IT ALL

It is not sour grapes to point this out—it's an easy statement to make, especially when we focus on the last 10 years.

From 2002-2011, the team with the best record in MLB only won the Fall Classic twice.

So, here's to you, the 2009 New York Yankees and the 2007 Boston Red Sox (tied with the Cleveland Indians that year). Only one other team in this stretch even had the best record in its own leagueOzzie Guillen's 2005 Chicago White Sox.

In the last 10 years, four wild card teams won it all: The 2002 Anaheim Angels, the 2003 Florida Marlins, the 2004 Red Sox and this year's St. Louis Cardinals.

 

In 2006, the Cardinals won the whole ball of wax with a middling 83-78 record. That was after not hoisting the ultimate trophy in 2004 (a MLB-best 105-57) or 2005 (100-62, best in the sport once again).

As you may know, the Phillies won a MLB-best 102 games this year after leading the free baseball world with 97 in 2010. In neither case did they even return to the World Series, which they last won in 2008 with a 92-70 record, second best in the NL.

 

SO... TEAMS SHOULD TRY NOT TO HAVE THE BEST RECORDS, RIGHT?

Wrong! This ten-year trend aside, my only conclusion is that the best record in the regular season does not guarantee anything but home field advantage. Of course, home field advantage is not a guarantee of anything other than a home game to both start and conclude the series.

Clearly, it would not seem prudent for a team to kill themselves for home field advantage, but should they specifically play so as not to achieve it?  Of course not.

To be specific, there is no logical reasonbaseball-wise or otherwisethat the 90-72 Cardinals should have had an advantage playing on the road versus the 102-60 Phillies.

The Phillies had clinched early, went through that disinterested eight-game losing streak and then snapped out of it by winning a getaway game versus the Mets prior to sweeping a free-falling Braves team in Atlanta.

AHA... WE SHOULD HAVE LOST TO ATLANTA

 

It was not only said in hindsight that the Phillies should consider blowing a game or two to the Braves to pave their way into the playoffs and keep the Cardinals out.

I rejected that notion then, and I still do. Why?

For one, if you can recall that amazing last day of the regular season, a lot of scenarios were still in play up till the very end. It resembled the last two weeks of the NFL schedule in that respect. If Atlanta got in, the Phils would not have played them in the NLDS: it would have been either the Diamondbacks or the Brewers.

Secondly, after going through the motions during that eight-game losing streak, the wins were a good sign, or certainly seemed to be.

Thirdly? Should the NL and World Series favorites really be scared of anyone? I don't think so.

And it takes nothing away from the Cardinals to report this truth.

They were not that hot coming down the stretch, their bullpen had blown several games in the last week and they had to expend their ace, Chris Carpenter, in the season finale.

 

THE PHILLIES WERE CONSTRUCTED POORLY: Huh?

Does anyone really believe that?

Perhaps changes will and should be made this offseason, but the Phillies were set up quite well to win it all. The pitching rotationespecially the troika of Halladay, Lee and Hamels—really was "all that" and Oswalt had looked good in his previous two or three outings. They were also pitching in their proper order with close to their regular amount of rest.

 

The lineup had a lingering injury or two but nothing dramatic... and I don't say that to minimize what befell slugger Ryan Howard.

As to the lineup's construction, this lineup (with a huge assist from its rotation) was good enough to have amassed the most wins by a large margin. With the midseason acquisition of Hunter Pence, they were loaded and were thought to be close to a lock to win it all.

Much has been written about the team's approach at the plate, and I don't discount all of the analysis.

Of course, when you're going bad, it will seem as if you're constantly taking good pitches and swinging at junk. But once again, this very team won 102 games with this approach (and beat most of the good teams and pitchers they faced).

Perhaps a new batting culture should be implemented for the coming years, but I think this deficiency has been overblown.

Before moving on, it might help to take a look at Jimmy Rollins, who has never (other than his speed or penchant for stealing bases and scoring runs when he gets on base) been the prototypical leadoff hitter.

In the five-game NLDS, Jimmy went 9-20 with a slash line of .450/.476/.659 and six runs scored. Maybe it's just me, but I'd be thrilled to have my leadoff batter score more than a run per game, and post an OPS of 1.126.

Oh yeah—he's pretty good with the leather, too.

By contrast, shortstop and leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal added some much-needed stability to the Cardinals this year, He was also 4-18 with two runs scored versus the Phillies, and his OPS for the postseason was a putrid .569.

 

This is not to say that the Phillies should issue a blank check to Rollins this offseason. This is to say that Rollins more than did his job in the postseason.

 

SO, WHAT HAPPENED?

How do I say this with any measure of elegance? Spit happens, that's what.

The Cardinals happened, and they were not your typical 90-72. Or maybe they were, judging by all the wild cards (lower case) who have won it all.

Game 2 happened, and the Phillies could not win a 4-0 game at home with Cliff Lee on the hill versus a thought-to-be-inept Cardinals bullpen.

This is not to blame Cliff Lee. I'd consider doing so if he walked the stadium, pitched with fear or showed anything but complete class afterward. A desperate Cards' teama team that obviously would go on to show its collective mettlewas able to handle a few pitches, and the Phillies' offense went cold.

I would still take Lee in that situation every single time. Three recent losses in postseason games (after winning his first seven postseason contests with Koufax-like brilliance) would not keep me from gladly handing him the ball in a must-win game.

How about that rally squirrel... ah, give me a break.

Sometimes, you just tip your cap to a team that was just that iota better in the big moments.

 

 

WHY ISN'T THE DIVISION SERIES A BEST OF 7?

Even if it would not have changed the results (and we'll never know, for sure), I would welcome a best-of-seven. You can always sign me up for more baseball, and presumably the longer format is more upset-proof.

Would the Phillies have beaten the Cardinals in a best-of-seven this year? They may have, but who really knows?

 

ONE MORE POST-MORTEM

I had heard at least one sports talk jock expressing the opinion that a team that had won more than 10 games more than its first-round opponent should get more than just one extra home game. Did you even follow that half-baked proposal?

Now, I am all for making regular seasons more meaningful, but I think MLB has it right when it comes to the postseason. I would extend the first round to best-of-seven (and see no compelling reason not to) but coming up with a formula to give a team four out of five, or five out of seven, home games does not seem fair. It also seems rather unwieldy.

And who is to say that if the Phillies would have won this series even if they had played four out of five at home. The Cards came in to South Philly and won two out of three, versus Lee, Halladay and an offense they were able to solve.

 

 

THERE'S ALWAYS 2012

Much as I can use a hot stove, I'm not ready to focus much energy on 2012 yet.

I do see no reason that the Phillies should not be in line for another playoff berth next year, and then we'll see what happens from there.

As for the Cardinals, picturing them with a re-energized (and re-signed) Pujols, a healthy Adam Wainwright and emerging stars in David Freese and Allen Craig is kind of scary.

Then again, they could win 105 games next year and lose in the NLCS to a Philies team that only wins 89.

Stuff happens, whether one calls it karma, destiny, the laws of baseball—or "spit."

 

As always, thank you for reading. Please check out my other books, blogs and speaking information...from (the) TipoftheGoldberg.com

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: 4 Possible Replacements for Jimmy Rollins

October 28, 2011 by Robert Knapel  
Filed under Fan News

Jimmy Rollins is a free agent this offseason and he apparently wants a five-year deal. The Philadelphia Phillies may not be willing to give that type of deal, and it would not be hard to blame them.

Rollins is no longer an MVP-caliber player and he will be 33 years old at the end of November. He has also said that he is willing to leave the Phillies, a team that he has spent his whole career with. It will be very interesting to see how this scenario plays out during the winter.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Cody Overbeck Not First Answer If Ryan Howard Misses Time

October 22, 2011 by Bobby Yost  
Filed under Fan News

If the majority of fans had their way come spring, Cody Overbeck would be the favorite in-house substitute for Ryan Howard.

There's options to choose from—from bringing up Overbeck or Matt Rizzotti, moving Utley to first while plugging in Valdez or Martinez at second or moving Mayberry to first and plugging in Domonic Brown in left.

Yet, the fans' favorite choice could be the worst of the litter. 

There's no doubt in my mind Overbeck would struggle in the majors. Many of his supporters see his .279/.331/.416 line in just under 250 plate appearances in Triple-A as enough evidence that he can adapt to tougher competition and continue his Double-A success(.275/.331/.532 in 257 plate appearances this year).

However, they fail to look deeper.

Two problems quickly jump out when looking at Overbeck's Triple-A "success" last year. The first being his batting average of balls in play. It was a career-high .370.

Aside from a similar fluky half to start the 2010 season in High-A ball, his career BABIP has been a much more appropriate .300.

That begs the question: What would these fans think if his BABIP was more realistic?

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume his true BABIP skill level there is .305 and all of those extra hits were merely singles. His line would come to .235/.290/.371.

That's not as impressive. 

The other major problem for Major League success are his strikeout and walk rates. Guys who strikeout a ton and walk very little don't often reach the majors. If they do, they do not last long.

Last year Overbeck struck out 27.2 percent of the time while walking just 4.9 percent of the time. That strikeout-to-walk ratio was seventh worst in the International League.

Players with those numbers simply do not do well in the majors. Players in the Major League last year (among 150 plate appearances), who struck out five times for every walk had an average OPS of .632.

Their wOBA was an average .276 and wRC+ was 70, meaning they were about 30 percent worse than an average major league player. For Phillies fans, this is the kind of output Wilson Valdez gives you offensively.

Putting such a player at first base, where hitting is at a premium, is a huge mistake. 

It's a common theme in his career that he struggles with plate control and power in his stints at a particular level. In his first season at High-A ball, he walked just under 6 percent of the time while striking out over 27 percent. His power was not there either, with a .169 isolated slugging percentage.

The next year at the same level, he improved dramatically. He increased his walk rate to over 11 percent while cutting his strikeouts to 21 percent with a .251 isolated slugging. 

His two years at Double-A showed the same trend. In his second year at Reading, he dropped his strikeout-rate from 27 percent to less than 23 percent. He increased his isolated slugging from .182 to .258.

Relying on Overbeck to improve or provide adequate offense replacing Howard in the majors, would be a huge mistake. 

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Proposed Fixes GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Should Ignore

October 21, 2011 by Richard Elles  
Filed under Fan News

With one resounding grounder to second base, the Philadelphia Phillies' dream season was stopped in its tracks and hurled into an extended winter filled with questions and uncertainty. Instead of hoisting the World Series trophy, the front office will be mired in the war room trying to find a way to get their hands back on it.

The Phillies were on track to win their third championship before being derailed by the Cinderella St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Failures in situational hitting, baserunning and most surprisingly, starting pitching all led to the downfall of a team that won 102 games in the regular season.

Two weeks after watching Ryan Howard tumble out of the batter's box and put an end to World Series hopes, there is little value in wondering what could have been for the five-time defending NL East champions. Philadelphia is now turning a blind eye to the final series in the Major League Baseball season and setting its sights on an offseason filled with intrigue.

How GM Ruben Amaro Jr. chooses to handle personnel over the next four months will go a long way toward determining the longevity of the team's playoff window. With the bulk of their historic staff under contract heading into the 2012 season, there is reason for optimism among the gloom hanging over the city.

Tweaks, minor changes, adjustments—however you choose to describe what needs to be done to keep the Philadelphia Phillies in position to return to glory, it does not include a fire sale that would change the face of the franchise.

If fans are still bitter from the loss at home in Game 5, it would be wise to hold off before shipping away superstars or selling the farm to push the team over the top. The ballclub is still a talented bunch, a fact Amaro Jr. keeps in his back pocket heading into negotiations.

The Phillies GM still faces a tall task in the coming months and will have to answer for his decisions in a city that is always tough to please. Here are five moves that Philadelphia and its front office should look to avoid making before next season: 

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: 3 Prospects Who Can Make an Impact in 2012

October 21, 2011 by Robert Knapel  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies are looking toward the 2012 season. They have a few prospects who can make an impact in 2012 and help them return to the playoffs.

These young players could play and important role for the Phillies in 2012 and beyond. They need to replace Ryan Howard for the duration of his injury, and the Phillies also have a few other holes that they can fill.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Factors That Cost the Franchise a World Series

October 20, 2011 by Robert Parsons  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies' entered the 2011 MLB season as the favorites to win it all. Throughout the regular season, despite suffering a large amount of injuries, the team plugged away and won 102 games, setting a new franchise record.

Without resting players down the stretch, this team easily could have won 106-108 games. They were the best team in baseball, with the best rotation in baseball.

The talk of the city was who we would play in the World Series, as the NLDS and NLCS were afterthoughts and sure things. The Phillies' had locked up home field advantage through every round of the playoffs. Teams would have to come through Philadelphia, where the Phillies' were 52-29 during the regular season.

Five games later, after a draining emotional 1-0 loss, the Philadelphia Phillies' were out of the playoffs in the first round. How could everything go from a lock to make it the World Series, to a 102-win team knocked out in the first round of the playoffs?

Lets review five of the factors that cost the franchise another shot at the World Series...

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies Top 25 Prospects

October 20, 2011 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

There's something about the Philadelphia Phillies organization that has become the gift that keeps on giving and, no, I'm not talking about former general manager Ed Wade.

However, it would be wrong to write a list about the facet of the Phillies' organization that helped turn the franchise from perennial pretender to annual contender without mentioning Wade, who helped turn a farm system littered with "busts" into one of the best in baseball.

Under the watch of Wade and his cabinet of baseball executives, the Phillies developed the likes of Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, among others. When Pat Gillick took the reigns, he deepened the talent pool with players like Domonic Brown and Vance Worley, and now, it is Ruben Amaro Jr.'s job to keep the Phillies' farm system afloat.

Now after his third draft as the general manager of the Phils (and as we try and put a miserable postseason exit behind us,) what better time to check in on the Phillies' farm system once again? Chocked full of talented, high end prospects, listing 25 distinct players in ranked form is no simple task, but that is good news for the Phillies as an organization—fighting over which highly touted player is better than the next shows just how deep the system actually is.

So this list, by no means, is the be-all-end-all. Please note that the following list is constructed completely from my mind, and is not associated with any other baseball organization. These lists will vary from source to source.

Just a final note before we kick this list off—any prospect in the Phillies' organization on Monday, October 17, 2011 (and is under team control for the 2012 season) will be eligible for the ranking.

So without any further ado, lets take a look at the 25 best prospects in the Phillies' system.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Roy Oswalt: 5 Possible Replacements If Philadelphia Phillies Let Him Walk

October 20, 2011 by Joe Iannello  
Filed under Fan News

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Roy Oswalt would retire after this season due to his lingering back problems and his desire to be with his family. Oswalt's conversations throughout the season with Philadelphia Phillies beat reporters also made it seem as if his mind was made up. 

Oswalt has made it clear since the end of the regular season that he is indeed intent on playing at least another three seasons.

The Phillies have players like Jimmy Rollins, Brad Lidge and Raul Ibanez coming off the books, but the team will need to either re-sign Ryan Madson or acquire another closer via free agency. A new contract for Cole Hamels is also looming.

Oswalt has a club option for next season at $16 million, with a $2 million buyout. It seems likely that the Phillies will buy out Oswalt, but that doesn't mean they will not bring him back at a lesser price.

Oswalt showed at the end of the season that his arm is still lively and he still has the action and life in his fastball that has made him the fifth active pitcher in career winning percentage.

Philadelphia still may have to deal with the possibility that Oswalt may be gone. Here are five possible replacements for Roy Oswalt if he is gone in 2012.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: 12 People Most Affected By Not Winning the World Series

October 19, 2011 by Marilee Gallagher  
Filed under Fan News

Let's face it, the Phillies season was not supposed to be over yet. Most if not all Phils fans expected that they, and not the St. Louis Cardinals would be playing deep into October.

They believed and wanted for the Phillies to be playing game one of the World Series yesterday.

But let's be honest here. Baseball seasons rarely ever go how you expect they will.

For the odds on favorites the Phillies, not meeting these expectations is something that could haunt this franchise for years to come if they can't win a ring in the next few years.

More than players, management has also been affected by the 2011 disappointment.

Now that it is off season, decisions have to be made regarding the makeup of the team and how to make it better going forward.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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