Philadelphia Phillies: Reflecting on Pat Burrell’s Legacy in Baseball

January 31, 2012 by Mike Angelina  
Filed under Fan News

Although seemingly lame on its surface, "Pat the Bat" was the perfect nickname for Pat Burrell. Not only did it rhyme, which of course made it cool, but it did what all nicknames should for athletes: It described their game.

Pat Burrell was as much of a bat as Walter Payton's game was of sweetness, Jerome Bettis was a bus or Ed Jones was tall...too tall. Why? He did exactly what a bat could do...he could hit something hard, while being solid itself. The key word though is could, not would. Bats, and Pat being one of them, could hit something hard.

Burrell always seemed to require someone to swing him, though, otherwise he was like a bat that was not picked up or was just sitting on the bat rack and not doing anything. Something needed to fire him up, in order to whack something. When he did, he did it well. But that's how I will remember Pat Burrell.

I think back to when he was coming up, not paid yet and starting to break into the league. Larry Bowa inserted him into the cleanup spot in 2002 and he took off from that point, going on to hit 37 home runs that season while driving in 116 runs for a very mediocre baseball team.

Then, he was rewarded with a big contract and the team added Jim Thome in the 2002-03 offseason. So with Thome and his MVP season on board swinging away, Pat the Bat went back on the rack.

A few years later, Charlie Manuel came on board as the new manager. Manuel of course was the players' coach-slash-hitting guru. His approach to managing swung Burrell, literally and figuratively.

Instilling confidence in Burrell, he swung him for a career-high 117 RBI. Burrell's average would slip nearly 25 points the next year, all while Ryan Howard emerged and there was no need to swing Pat's Bat.

The bat would sit on the rack until 2007, when the Phillies were starting to crumble with injuries. Chase Utley was among the biggest injuries faced in the second half, and it was around that time Pat would start being swung.

Why? The team was desperate for a 3-hole hitter, so that got Burrell going. He would explode for a .435 average in July and ten August home runs.

They were part of his second-half power surge of 22 home runs. The team needed a nice swing and a long drive to get away from the awful start to which they began the season.

Within that 2007 season were a few of the hardest swings the bat ever swung. Burrell and a former Phillies reliever had gotten into a feud through the papers, with Pat Burrell calling Billy Wagner a "rat."

Twice did the "bat" swing hard and drive one far off the "rat" in big games, twice leading to Phillies victories to complete sweeps against the New York Mets, as they would win the division by one game.

This was the following year after Burrell and Wagner got into it. It's not the only time a Mets closer has caused Burrell to swing hard, as he often would battle with Armando Benitez. Burrell three times burned Benitez with home runs, each of which caused the two to boil even more with each other.

The bat seemed to always swing well when it was mad. I still have the image in my head of Pat Burrell ripping a two-run home run to left field in 2005 against Texas and slamming his bat down viciously.

The cause? Bobby Abreu, at that time the hottest hitter in the world, was plunked by a pitch. That was enough to make the "bat," his protection in the lineup, swing and take one for a long drive.

It's one of plenty images we've seen of Burrell being angry and looking to do something viciously.

Remember his seemingly unnecessary and childish staredown with Roy Halladay in the 2010 National League Championship Series? Well, in the at-bat immediately following that one, Burrell would rip a double to left field and then proceed to later score the last Giants run of the night.

His biggest "Pat the Bat" moment was in the 2008 World Series. His hit in Game 5, his only hit in the series, led to the series-winning run.

But even in a moment that big, he needed to be swung. Jimmy Rollins had barked at him in the clubhouse tunnel right before the at-bat, which got the "bat" swinging.  

In all these cases, he needed something or someone to swing him. He never seemed to do it himself or automatically.

His teammates even used him like a bat. One of his other nicknames around the ballclub was "Bait," because of his ability to get women at bars and clubs.

In a different sense, his teammates were using him to hit something. It was really just like a bat though. Pat the Bat.

Even when he walked around in the gimp outfit as "The Machine" in Brian Wilson's interview, you have to wonder if that was really him doing that automatically. You have to think that Brian Wilson picked up the bat and swung him in that direction to seriously go on national television dressed like that.

This was as silly as the seemingly rehearsed Spring Training home run he hit off former teammate Cole Hamels in an exhibition game at Citizens Bank Park. Burrell homered, leading off, then immediately left the game. There was reason to think this, too, was an act of someone swinging him.

And so that will be Pat Burrell's legacy in my mind: being one of the best nicknames in sports. He contributed to an increasingly weak category, nicknames in sports.

No "Tony Plush" nonsense, just a catchy, rhyming nickname that was appropriate. I will actually think of his nickname more than I ponder the quality of his career.

It is an interesting question: Did the Bat do enough? To do enough, was it swung enough and swung correctly with the first overall pick?

Nicknames aside, Burrell did have a nice career for a No. 1 pick, winning two World Series in three postseason appearances.

Those were team accomplishments, but individually he did well for himself, collecting six 27-plus home runs, 85-plus RBI seasons, and slugging a respectable .472 percentage. But isn't that what a bat should do?

It's the question that his career and legacy will face, being a No. 1 overall pick. Was he not swung enough? And would you have swung this bat with the first overall pick or would you have taken the pitch?

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Philadelphia Phillies: How Phillies Can Gain Leverage in Cole Hamels Talks

January 31, 2012 by Eddie Ravert  
Filed under Fan News

Cole Hamels is as elite of a pitcher as it gets.

All the attention goes to Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee as the aces of the Philadelphia Phillies, but what about the only World Series MVP on the staff?

That's right, I'm talking about the fun-loving, wavy-haired, San Diegoan Cole Hamels. But he is the No. 3 starting pitcher for an already-stacked pitching staff. As dominant as Halladay and Lee are, Hamels is just as vital to the Phils as the two aces.

If Cole were on any other MLB team, he would arguably be the ace. 

So actually it's quite simple for the Phillies: Pay Cole what he is worth. He is more than capable of providing 20—if not more—wins.

But where is this money going to come from? Well, if they can pay the astronomical prices of the two aces and the under-performing Ryan Howard, I'm sure Ruben Amaro, Jr. has enough tricks up his sleeve to dish out the dough to the more than deserving Hamels.

He single-handedly led the Fightins to the 2008 World Series Championship.

What Ruben and the rest of the organization need to do is let him know how important and crucial he is to the club.

If it were not for Hamels, there would be no 2008 World Series Championship. It's as simple as that.

Tell and let Cole know how important he is to Philly. If Ruben does this, Cole will, without a doubt, spend his entire career in Philadelphia and be forced to wear No. 35 for as long as he plays in the City of Brotherly Love. 

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Philadelphia Phillies: 6 Realistic Moves Phils Should Still Consider for 2012

January 30, 2012 by Ben Ringel  
Filed under Fan News

This photo is where we last left the Phillies.

This is Ryan Howard, who, just before the moment of this photograph, was the proud owner of two healthy Achillies tendons.  This was the final at-bat of Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, and even up until the final batter that night, the Phillies still had hope to pull that game out and advance.

That's because the Philadelphia Phillies were, and remain, a very, very good team.  And so, as the Fightin' Phils head into 2012, most of the pieces are already in place for another run at a World Series.

There are, however, a few minor moves the Phillies should still make to bolster their bench and bullpen and a few bigger ones to look into for the continued success of this franchise.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

5 Most Versatile Philadelphia Phillies Prospects

January 30, 2012 by Joe Iannello  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies are already the consensus pick to win the National League in 2012, as they return the best pitching staff in baseball and an improved bullpen. It doesn't hurt that sluggers Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols are playing in the mighty American League, either.

While Ruben Amaro Jr. made a huge splash in free agency at the Winter Meetings with the free-agent signing of Jonathan Papelbon, it seems clear at this point what the GM set out to do to improve this club.

Improve the bench with versatile players that can play a myriad of positions and have some pop in their bat. Charlie Manuel now has much more flexibility in the later innings with the acquisitions of Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome.

A prospect that can play more than one position has a better chance of playing in the big leagues. They can fill different needs that a team may have over a grueling 162-game season.

Here are the Philadelphia Phillies' most versatile prospects.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

25 Most Underrated Players in Philadelphia Phillies History

January 30, 2012 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

With close to 130 years of existence under your belt, giving each and every player his fair share of respect is a challenging thing to do. As the game progresses and more advanced statistics come to light, it becomes even more challenging. Now we're faced with the reality that some of the game's all-time "greats" were actually no more than all-time "goods," and players that often go unmentioned should be looked upon with greater awe.

The Philadelphia Phillies have watched thousands of players don their uniform. We hear stories about the great ones all the time. Mike Schmidt was probably the greatest third baseman to ever play the game, and Steve Carlton was one of history's best lefties. Robin Roberts strung together one of the most successful stretches of pitching in baseball history, while Pete Alexander was purely untouchable.

Those all-time greats provide the horsepower, but some of the organization's most underrated players steered the bus. Baseball is the ultimate team sport. You can't win with just one man, whether or not he's a pitcher who throws a shut out or a slugger who launches three home-runs. Without each other, there's not much to be done.

In a lot of winning seasons, it is that group of underrated players who often do unmentioned and unrecognized, but without them, history would look very different for the Phillies. It's time to give them the proper respect.

For the sake of this article, the word "underrated" will be easily defined. I'll take a look at each player's statistics (and intangibles, if that's your thing) and assess their value to the club against the attention they received for it. Who's value went unnoticed, though invaluable?

*All statistics refer specifically to the player's Phillies' career, unless otherwise stated.

For up to the minute Phillies' information, check out Greg's blog: The Phillies Phactor.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Fantasy Baseball 2012: NL East Sleepers and Prospects

January 29, 2012 by Daniel Wheelock  
Filed under Fan News

The NL East is shaping up to be one of the most exciting divisions in all of baseball in 2012.

The offensively-challenged Phillies will most likely be without Ryan Howard for at least a month, but still have arguably the best rotation in the National League.

The Braves haven't added or lost any major pieces this offseason, but a bounce-back year from Jason Heyward could help bring them their first division title since 2005.

The Nationals are getting Stephen Strasburg back and their trade for Gio Gonzalez indicates that they think they are in position to win now.

The Mets are in rebuilding mode, but they are getting Johan Santana and Ike Davis back from injuries.

The Marlins made some major acquisitions this offseason, adding Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. They're also getting Josh Johnson, their ace pitcher, back from injury.

From a fantasy baseball perspective there are plenty of studs that will be owned by every team, but let's take a look at some of the less heralded players that can help you win your league this year.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies In Love With Idea of Juan Pierre, Not Real Juan Pierre

January 27, 2012 by Matt Hammond  
Filed under Fan News

You ever watch Role Models? You know, that halfway-decent Paul Rudd flick (that’s constantly mistaken for a Judd Apatow joint, when it is pointedly not Judd Apatow joint material) with the Stifler guy? About the two screw ups whose punishment for trashing a statue outside a school calls for the mentorship of a couple of troubled boys from hell?

Remember what Augie (dorky kid in glasses, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who played McLovin in Superbad) says to Danny (played by Rudd) in the restaurant when asked what he wants to drink?

“I like the idea of Coke much better than I actually like Coke.”

(Thank you, commenter Michael.)

Simple humor. Easy laugh.

Except for, he’s totally right. In fact, there’s a lot in life that makes us confuse the idea of something and that something in actuality. People do it all the time with relationships. Scared, stubborn or comfortable, they ride out bad things far longer than they should, chasing the ghost of what their “thing” used to be, and clearly isn’t anymore.

That’s kind of what the Phillies did with Juan Pierre, signed to a minor league deal earlier today.

Believe me, I LOVE Juan Pierre, the Idea. He seems the ideal upgrade from Wilson Valdez, dealt to the Reds yesterday straight-up for Jeremy Horst. He seems the perfect addition of speed. He, a near-lifetime NL guy—he played with the White Sox in 2010 and 2011, his only AL stop in 12 years, seems to get the mutant brand of baseball the Phillies (like all NL teams) play. And given how he enjoyed a renaissance during the Dodgers—his .757 OPS in 2009 was the second best of his career—50 games without Manny Ramirez, you figure he’s a pretty good “team” guy that the Phillies, frankly, could use right about now.

You figure, lop together career averages of a .296 BA, .707 OPS and, more than EVERY other selling point, 50 stolen bases, and you’re set. Right?

Then you realize. You’re talking about the Idea, and not Juan Pierre.

For one, he’s not the utility infielder Valdez was. Checked his Baseball-Reference.com page up and down, and I’m pretty sure Roy Oswalt has spent more time in left field than Pierre has in the dirt.

Which reminds me:

Pierre’s speed doesn’t exactly come as advertised. His stolen base count peaked in 2007, when he slid into 64 freebies. But he’s taken fewer bases every (40 in 2008) year (30 in 2009) since (27 in 2011). And for those of you stoked about the 68 he grabbed in 2010, instead consider that last parenthetical note evidence of his coming down to earth.

If that doesn’t do it enough for you, you can peep his FanGraphs speed rating, which has aligned pretty closely with what you’d expect of aging, 32-year-old legs. A career-high 7.9 in 2009, followed by 6.9 and 5.2 thereafter.

And if not for quicks, why make the move?

And if not for that impending move, why deal Valdez?

That’s the assumption, right? That Pierre’s every-so-often speed in the lineup would more than compensate for the sprinkled-in at-bats you’d inevitably give Valdez. So why not make unmistakably interconnected deals one and two?

Why not? Because your infield is in shambles. Ryan Howard won’t start the season, and who knows what he’ll be able to contribute and when? Jim Thome was signed, you figured, to tap in. Except for now the organization thinks the better idea is a better-suited-for-third-base Ty Wigginton, who, you figured, would make the perfect contingency plan for Placido Polanco. (At least much better than the slower-than-cement Michael Martinez.)

And in case Jimmy Rolllins’ hamstring explodes, a pretty foreseeable scenario on recently made content 33-year-old legs.

That’s why not.

But now? I don’t know.

The team is already stacked at outfield, with promising players, but ones who need repetition. Or, in the case of Raul Ibanez, playing time to justify their ludicrous contracts. Or, in the case of Hunter Pence, proven players who you can't succeed without. (Also in the case of Pence, justification for clearing out the last crumbs of talent from your farm system, Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton.) Or, in the case of John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown, finality on whether or not they’ll realize their potential.

In a non-salary cap sport, you take waivers. It’s smart business.

But bringing in a guy like Juan Pierre feels like the organization is saying something. What?

And it feels like they’re clinging to the Juan Pierre, the Idea, instead of Juan Pierre, the Player.

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Jonathan Papelbon: Did Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jump the Gun?

January 27, 2012 by Ben Ringel  
Filed under Fan News

Since assuming the role of general manager following the Philadelphia Phillies' 2008 championship season, Ruben Amaro has made the team anything but boring.  

Rube's consistent, bold moves have brought the Phillies into the pantheon of such big-market, big-spending teams as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.  

As evidenced by his acquisitions of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence: when Ruben Amaro wants a player, Ruben Amaro gets a player.

While Amaro has proven to be an excellent, merciless tradesman, he does have one recurring flaw as a baseball executive: a lack of patience.

The "I see that toy, I want that toy, I'm going to throw a tantrum until I get that toy/lollipop/middle-reliever" thought process that a five-year-old goes through when taken to the store is the same thought process that afflicts Rube when he goes to the bargaining table with free agents and players with expiring contracts down the road. 

We saw it when he outbid himself super-early on Ryan Howard (back when he still had two intact Achilles tendons), and when he pounced on the elderly Raul Ibanez for more than 10 million a year over three years (when Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu later got deals for two years, $8 million per year and one-year, $5 million, respectively).

You can add this offseason's blitzkrieg signing of closer Jonathan Papelbon to that list.

Don't take that the wrong way, though; Papelbon is one of the best closers in the game right now, and a guy I'm thrilled to know will be wearing a Phillies uniform next year.  

However, Cinco Ocho signed for a guaranteed three years and $41.5 million more than ex-Phillies closer Ryan Madson got just two months later.  

This comparison looks even worse for the Phillies when you consider that closer is a volatile position, where players usually have short peaks, only pitch around 60-70 innings a year and are routinely replaced during the regular season by guys who go on to become the next big thing.  

Case in point, Madson, who entered the offseason as one of the most sought-after free-agent relievers, likely would have entered last season as the set-up man if Brad Lidge were healthy.

Another tidbit to think about: before Papelbon, B.J. Ryan previously received the largest contract ever for a relief pitcher.  It's not a good thing that you're saying "Oh yeah, that guy, whatever happened to him?" 

Exciting as it was that Amaro locked up his new crush early, it would have been more prudent for him—and the Phillies' future financial flexibility—to have waited until the market thinned out.  

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Philadelphia Phillies: Breaking Down the Phillies’ Top 5 Prospects

January 26, 2012 by Adam Wells  
Filed under Fan News

A flurry of trades over the last three seasons have done a number on the Philadelphia Phillies' farm system. It does speak to how well the front office has drafted that they have been able to acquire Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. 

While the major league team is still competing for championships, the system is as weak as it has been in years. There is some quality in the lower levels of the minors, but not a lot of impact right now. That will likely make it difficult for them to trade for an impact player this year to fill any potential holes. 

Nevertheless, here are the top five prospects for the Philadelphia Phillies entering the 2012 season.

 

1. Trevor May, RHP, 22


May elevated himself to the top of the Phillies' system thanks to a combination of his projection and the trade of Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton last year. He has a lot of question marks surrounding him right now, but the upside is there for him to be an impact starter at the major league level. 

 

Strengths

Combining great size—May is listed at 6'5", 230 pounds—and power stuff, May has the makings of a top-of-the-rotation starter. His height allows him to throw on a downhill plane, which will limit the number of home runs the opposition hits against him. 

 

Weaknesses

His two biggest problems are below-average command and his secondary pitches. The command hurts everything else that he does, and could prevent him from reaching his full potential. 

 

Report

The raw stuff is good enough that it is possible to envision a scenario in which he develops into a No. 2 starter in the big leagues. If the command doesn't improve, he will likely be a back-of-the-rotation pitcher. 

ETA: 2013

 

2. Sebastian Valle, C, 21


The Phillies have Valle slotted in as their future starting catcher, and it is easy to see why when you watch him play. He has solid all-around tools, though the results on the field have not always been there for him. He hit just .284/.312/.394 in class High-A last season. 

 

Strengths

Valle is an athletic catcher who already shows good defensive skills. He has a solid arm to go with good blocking and receiving skills behind the plate. He shows tremendous bat speed, which provides hope that his offense will pick up as he gets more comfortable playing full-season ball.

 

Weaknesses

Impressive bat speed aside, Valle does not have a lot of patience at the plate. He also has a big leg kick that makes his swing take longer than it should to get through the zone. 

 

Report

Valle is still learning the catcher position, but by the time he reaches his peak he should be above average behind the plate. For him to live up to his potential, he has to improve with the bat. He needs to get a better feel for the strike zone and use his bat speed to hit for more power. 

ETA: 2014

 

3. Jonathan Pettibone, RHP, 21


Pettibone has gotten better every season in professional baseball. He finished the 2011 season with career highs in innings pitched (161), strikeouts (115) and had the lowest walk rate of his career (1.9/9 IP). He also allowed five fewer home runs than he did in 2010 despite throwing 30 more innings.

 

Strengths

As evidenced by his numbers from last season, Pettibone already displays good command and a solid understanding of how to pitch. His delivery is very easy with no extraneous movement of stress on his shoulder. 

 

Weaknesses

Pettibone is still trying to find a third pitch to complement his fastball and changeup. He has implemented a slider into his repertoire, though he has to start throwing it more often to get a good feel for it. 

 

Report

He is the best bet of all the Phillies' top prospects to live up to his potential. He is going to be a mid-rotation starter if he can find a consistent third pitch to throw for strikes. 

ETA: 2013

 

4. Jesse Biddle, LHP, 20


While the Phillies are trying to figure out how to develop hitters to plug into their lineup, you can see based on the first four prospects on this list that their strength lies in pitching. Biddle is another young, projectable arm that could crack the rotation in a couple of years. 

 

Strengths

Despite being just 20 years old and having one full season of professional baseball under his belt, Biddle has a good feel for all of his pitches. He will throw them at any time in any count, challenging hitters to beat him. 

 

Weaknesses

One major concern for Biddle is the inconsistent velocity he showed with his fastball in 2011. There were times when he has been clocked in the low-90s, but last year it fell down to the high-80s and touching 90. He also doesn't have command of his pitches yet, as evidenced by his 4.5 walks per nine innings pitched. 

 

Report

There is a lot of projection left in Biddle, so if he can get his velocity back into the low-90s and figure out how to command his pitches, he will be a mid-rotation starter. But he has to get back the heat that he lost for that to happen. 

ETA: 2014

 

5. Freddy Galvis, SS, 22


By re-signing Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies told Galvis that they still need to see some improvement in his bat before they are ready to hand the reins over to him. There is no work left for him to do on defense, so he could be a trade chip if the Phillies don't find a spot for him. 

 

Strengths

Speaking of the glove, it is impossible to watch Galvis play and not love what he does at the shortstop position. His two best skills at the position are his range and instincts. He has an incredible understanding of how to play the position. 

 

Weaknesses

His offensive upside is limited. He doesn't have good plate discipline, nor does he project to have a lot of power. 

 

Report

As long as Galvis doesn't get amnesia and forget how to play the shortstop position, he should at least be an average major league shortstop. If he can give anything offensively, it is a bonus.

ETA: Late 2012

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Philadelphia Phillies: Can Cliff Lee Pass Roy Halladay as Staff’s ‘Ace’?

January 26, 2012 by Joe Iannello  
Filed under Fan News

Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay may currently be the two biggest superstars in the city of Philadelphia. There is a good chance that you will see a Halladay or Lee jersey if you walk around the city, and that's even during the offseason.

That's also in a city that features the likes of Michael Vick, Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux Hunter Pence, and to a lesser extent the first-place baby Sixers with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Co.

Who would've thought that Philadelphia would have even half of those names a decade ago? Anyone?

Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee form the most dominant one-two punch in MLB, and even third starter Cole Hamels would be a starter on almost any other in team in the league. Both Lee and Halladay have won a Cy Young in the American League, and Halladay won it for the second time in 2010 while pitching in the NL for the Phils.

Halladay became only the fifth pitcher ever to win the award as a member of both leagues and almost won it again in 2011. This article by Fangraphs does a great job proving why Halladay and Lee were both more deserving of the Cy Young than Clayton Kershaw last season.

Halladay is the consensus best pitcher in baseball, but could Cliff Lee be better in 2012?

Let's take a further look as to why Lee could outshine the "Doc" this season.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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