Philadelphia Phillies: Jim Thome’s Return Doing More Harm Than Good

April 30, 2012 by Ben Larivee  
Filed under Fan News

The Jim Thome experiment isn't going the way the Phillies had hoped.

In a perfect world, a 41-year-old designated hitter, who played first base once upon a time, could field his old position one or twice a week.  In between, he could pinch hit in big spots, and mash right handers like big Matt Stairs used to do.

Then again, in a perfect world, Ryan Howard's Achilles tendon would be intact, and power from the left side would be far less pressing an issue in the early part of the season.

But baseball is a world of imperfections.  And as Howard begins his rehab assignment in Single-A Clearwater, the Phillies have a difficult choice to make with the man he replaced way back in 2005.

Thome left Saturday's game with tightness in his lower back — an injury about which there is no update as of this writing.  It was the fourth game he had started at first base this season, and while his ability on defense may have been a welcome surprise thus far, the durability questions cannot come as a shock.

After all, it's the end of April, and Thome has already played more games at first than he had in any season since he left the Phils for the American League six years ago. 

From this point forward, it would be optimistic to think the five-time All-Star could play in the field at all, and Philadelphia fans may be content if he can fill the "bat off the bench" role as well as Stairs did in his days in red.

Pinch hitting, though, isn't a flip of a switch.  You have to have the ability to come in cold, take a few practice swings, and be immediately mentally prepared to hit.  It's a skill that some have, and others don't.  Ross Gload had it, as did Stairs.  Thome, as great as he has been for 21-plus seasons, just isn't a pinch hitter.

In his career as a starter, Thome has hit .278, slugged .558, and homered about once every 13 at-bats.

As a pinch hitter, he has hit .219, slugged .383, and hit a home run every 42 at-bats, or exactly as frequently as Julio Lugo homered in 2000.  That doesn't sound like the slugger off the bench we are looking for.

(In case you're curious, Stairs hit .355, slugged .581, and homered every 15.5 at-bats as a sub in 2008.) 

So this begs the question — If he can't start at first, and he isn't a good pinch hitter, what in the world do you do with him? 

Well, in the short term, it has to be considered that the Phillies play nine straight games in American League parks in the middle of June.  Even if The Big Piece is back and slugging by that time, there is no reason to believe Thome couldn't DH those games with Howard playing first.

Between now and then, sending the owner of 604 career homers to the disabled list makes sense, or even to Lehigh Valley to work on coming off the bench to hit. It is not as if the team would suffer without the fan favorite, or his .111 batting average through 21 plate appearances.

After that, the issue becomes more interesting.  Would they release him?  It bears considering — he is occupying a valuable roster spot that could be claimed by any number of more capable contributors, especially Howard or Chase Utley when they return. 

One thing is for sure — it isn't 2005 anymore, and as much as well all loved the big guy, he isn't the player he used to be.  Sentimentalism cannot get in the way of winning baseball games.  I know that, you know that, Charlie Manuel knows that, and Thome knows that.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Batting Juan Pierre 2nd Shows How Bleak Lineup Has Been

April 30, 2012 by Ian Casselberry  
Filed under Fan News

The inability of the Philadelphia Phillies to score runs has been one of the prevalent storylines of the 2012 season thus far. 

Just how bad have the Phillies been?

Heading into Monday night, Charlie Manuel's team has scored 70 runs. Even the San Diego Padres have scored more runs, playing in a cavernous Petco Park.

Only the Pittsburgh Pirates have scored fewer, and their 49 runs make the Phillies look like an offensive juggernaut. If the Phillies were in the American League, they would be second-to-last in runs scored, behind the Oakland Athletics.

The lineup has been so bad that Manuel penciled Juan Pierre into the No. 2 spot on Sunday. Pierre signed a minor league deal with the Phillies in the offseason and beat out Scott Podsednik for the fifth outfielder spot. He wasn't added to the major league roster until the end of spring training. 

Did we mention Pierre hasn't batted as a No. 2 hitter since 2009? The Philadelphia Daily News' David Murphy pointed that out on Sunday. 

Pierre actually hasn't done so badly in that spot, however. He has nearly 5,500 fewer plate appearances batting second than at the top of the order. But his .293/.340/.349 slash average is similar to his numbers as a leadoff hitter. 

If anything, batting Pierre second might prevent him from trying to steal bases, something he's become increasingly bad at, judging by the number of times he's been caught stealing.

(He was caught 17 times last season, which led the majors. And he's been gunned down in two out of five attempts this year.) 

Manuel tends to rotate different hitters in that No. 2 spot, but batting Pierre there is quite a step down from the likes of Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino. 

Utley, of course, is unavailable. And because the Phillies need someone to bat in the middle of the order with Utley and Ryan Howard out, Victorino is needed far more there.

Polanco has been the quintessential No. 2 hitter over his career—and he's batting there Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs—but he's struggled with injuries and questions about decreased bat speed.

His numbers have seen a steady decline since 2009, but a .239/.292/.269 slash average is far below what Polanco usually produces. 

Ultimately, this might be more about moving Jimmy Rollins back to the leadoff position, though. Batting him in the third spot was a disaster, so Manuel put him where he's been most accustomed, hoping it provides a jolt to his flagging production. 

That left Pierre to hit someplace else. With the numbers he's gotten from the others he's tried in the No. 2 spot, Manuel unfortunately may have no better option than to put Pierre there. 

 

Follow @iancass on Twitter

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Kyle Kendrick Posts Solid Rebound Start in Place of Cliff Lee

April 30, 2012 by Kenny DeJohn  
Filed under Fan News

With Cliff Lee on the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle, Kyle Kendrick has been asked to take his spot in the rotation.

His first start was a disaster. In three innings, he allowed seven runs on 11 hits in a 9-5 loss to the Diamondbacks.

In Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Cubs, Kendrick was much better.

Even though he was credited with the loss, Kendrick pitched well enough to earn a win. Once again, the Phillies failed to score runs, albeit against a great performance from Matt Garza.

Kendrick tossed six innings of three-run (only two were earned) ball in the loss. He allowed five hits and one walk while matching a career high with seven strikeouts.

This is a good sign for the Phillies, as Lee is unlikely to make his next scheduled start on Friday of next week. With Kendrick pitching well in the loss, the Phillies can feel confident about throwing him out there again.

Even with Lee in the rotation, though, the Phillies have been no better at earning wins. The team is 0-3 in games started by Lee and 0-2 in games started by Kendrick. The offense has not done nearly enough to allow either pitcher to earn victories, though each respective starter has pitched well enough to get the win.

Kendrick's next scheduled start is Friday against the Nationals, and it should prove to be difficult yet again for the Phillies to score against the league's best pitching staff.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Grading All 25 Roster Players After MLB’s First Month

April 30, 2012 by Greg Pinto  
Filed under Fan News

The first month of the Philadelphia Phillies' 2012 season is in the books, and it hasn't been pretty.

All things considered, for a lot of teams, kicking off the season hovering right around the .500 mark isn't a terrible thing. There's still a lot of baseball left to play, and a .500 record means, more often than not, that said team is still in the hunt early on.

But this isn't a team built to play .500 baseball. This is a team with three legitimate aces. This is a team with one of the best closers in the game and a bullpen that has pitched well in front of him.

Sure, the Phillies have their excuses. Any team that has to play with their regular third and fourth hitters on the disabled list is at a disadvantage. People expect the offense to struggle, but this badly? Even without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, three members of the Phillies' offense—Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Placido Polanco—were All-Stars last season.

The Phillies have their excuses, but this isn't a team that makes excuses.

So with a month of baseball in the books, it's time to grade each player's performance from the month of April. Which players played well, and who needs to step up his game to help the Phillies turn this thing around?

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Domonic Brown: 5 Reasons It’s Time to Call Up Phillies Young Slugger

April 30, 2012 by Joe Iannello  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies arrived back home after a lengthy West Coast trip, but they seemingly left their hot bats in Arizona. The Phillies were again ineffective at the plate for Roy Halladay and were unable to improve their record to .500 for the first time this season. 

Where do the Phillies turn to for offense? It's pretty apparent that all of Phillies Nation has given up on the idea of small ball and Charlie Manuel ever coexisting, but this is not the same lineup that just two years ago had four guys capable of 30-plus HR.

Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Co. are proven MLB players, and it was argued all offseason that these players would have difficulty changing their approach at the plate. Well, it again seems like the fans were smarter than the GM and manager and that has been proven accurate thus far. 

With a struggling offense and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard still mending (for the foreseeable future), it's time to see what the player who was once thought of as "untouchable" can do at the MLB level. 

Here are five reasons why the Phillies need to call up Domonic Brown

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Why the Nats Are Bigger Long-Term Threat Than Braves

April 30, 2012 by Matt Boczar  
Filed under Fan News

As the first month of the regular season winds down, first place in the National League East belongs to both the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.

This means that the Philadelphia Phillies, winners of the past five National League East titles, have their share of competition as they attempt to continue their streak this season.

Prior to finishing third in the division last season, the Washington franchise had finished last in the NL East in six of the past eight seasons.  During that time, Atlanta finished first or second in the division four times.

After 22 games this season, both teams find themselves atop the National League East, and ahead of the Phillies.

But between the two, one team has a chance to become a bigger long-term threat to the Phillies than the other.

The Nationals’ rise to the top of the NL East may not be limited to just this season.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Cliff Lee Unlikely to Return Next Friday, Phillies Will Stick with Kyle Kendrick

April 29, 2012 by Kenny DeJohn  
Filed under Fan News

Things seem to be going from bad to worse for Cliff Lee.

The Philadelphia Phillies' co-co-ace tossed ten innings of shutout ball in his last start against Matt Cain and the Giants on April 18.

He was subsequently sent to the disabled list just a few days later with a strained left oblique that he suffered while pitching in the 10th inning of that game.

Initial reports suggested that Lee would be able to return on May 4—the first day he would be eligible to return—but now that seems like more of a dream than a reality.

Lee claimed that his long toss on Saturday did not aggravate his oblique, but he also acknowledged the fact that he may not be ready by May 4.

"Haven’t thrown off a mound so I doubt that’s going to happen," he said before Sunday's game. "But I don’t know."

If Lee wanted to pitch that day in Washington, he'd likely have to pitch a bullpen session on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Kyle Kendrick will continue to assume Lee's spot in the rotation.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, that may not be conducive to winning.

In his first fill-in start for Lee, Kendrick tossed just three innings. He allowed seven runs on 11 hits and one walk, and even saw his ERA jump from 1.93 to 9.39.

Kendrick has been a very effective relief pitcher this season, but he'll be asked to do more until Lee returns.

Hopefully, that'll be sooner rather than later.

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Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies to Honor Highest Scoring MLB Game Ever

April 29, 2012 by James Morisette  
Filed under Fan News

This season, Major League Baseball will celebrate the 90th birthday of one of the coolest, yet least talked about feats in baseball history — the highest scoring big league game ever.

Played between the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs, the slugfest on Aug. 25, 1922, at Cubs Field was a spectacle to say the least.

In this slideshow, I will reveal the best and worst performers in the 26-23 Cubs victory on that hot Chicago day.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Ryan Howard to Start His Rehab Journey

April 28, 2012 by Zak Schmoll  
Filed under Fan News

According to Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Ryan Howard is starting to get back into the swing of things both literally and figuratively.

The power-hitting first baseman has been cleared for baseball activities and will be heading to Florida on Sunday.

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that Howard will begin simply by fielding some ground balls and building up his strength.

"He probably won't start hitting for at least a few days because he wants to get his legs under him and doesn't want to get in any bad habits."

Nevertheless, this is an incredibly encouraging sign.

Last season, Howard hit 33 home runs and drove in 116 runs. Over the six complete seasons that he has played in the City of Brotherly Love, he has averaged almost 133 RBI a year.

Even though his batting average is not the greatest and he strikes out far too much, no one can deny that he's one of the best run producers in baseball today.

The Philadelphia Phillies have been struggling to produce any offense this season, so his return will be especially vital. In fact, only the Miami Marlins and the Pittsburgh Pirates had scored fewer runs than Philadelphia in all of Major League Baseball.

Howard is not expected to be back in Philadelphia for quite a while yet, and Amaro would not even commit to a timeline, but progress is definitely a good thing and a sign of encouragement for a team that is underachieving at the moment.

 

Whether you think I know everything or nothing about Major League Baseball, you should follow me on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook and keep in touch. I love hearing what you all have to say!

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Philadelphia Phillies: Top Ten Drafts in Phillies History

April 28, 2012 by Ben Larivee  
Filed under Fan News

With the NFL Draft underway, much has been made of the difficulty in efficiently projecting how prospects will translate to the highest level of professional football. 

Compared to the same task in baseball, though, estimated impact of amateur players on the football field seems like an exact science.

The Major League Baseball Draft, as it's currently constructed, has fifty rounds of selections, where the NFL Draft has only seven.  In those fifty rounds, finding four players who can contribute at the Major League level is considered a great draft. 

The Philadelphia Phillies, in a manner consistent with their struggles as a franchise over the years, have not been one of the better drafting teams since the Draft was instituted in 1965. 

Every dog has his day though, and even the team that lost 10,000 games faster than any franchise in any sport has found a way to come away with good players once in a while, both at the top of the draft and in the later rounds. 

Here, now, is a look at the 10 best drafts in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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