Is Jayson Werth More Leading Off?

August 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies had won 21 of 28 games between July 22nd and August 22nd.

They did this in large part without their two best position players, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. However, all is not well in Philadelphia. The Phils have just dropped three haphazard games in a row to Houston, in what is shaping up to be the worst series of the year. They have also scored two runs or less in six of their last seven games.

Starting pitching this great can only last so long when you have Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton as your fourth and fifth starters. The resurgence of Ryan Madson has temporarily shored up the bullpen, but Brad Lidge remains a question mark. This team needs hitting, and with the trade deadline passed, it will have to find extra runs from within the organization.

Luckily, that shouldn’t be hard to do. With a few tweaks to the lineup, the Phillies could still run away with the division. The single most important move they can make is to find a new leadoff hitter.

Jimmy Rollins, for all his fielding prowess and clutch hitting, is sporting an inexcusable .336 OBP out of the leadoff spot this season. With each passing game it becomes more apparent; when the Phillies win it is generally despite Rollins, not because of him.

In past years the Phillies have accepted Rollins as a leadoff hitter because there was no alternative. This is not the case in 2010. Jayson Werth has an .390 OBP this season, good for 11th in all of baseball and fifth in the National League.

Since the All-Star break he has been even better, hitting .341 with an other-worldly OBP of .442. Though not nearly as fast or smart on the base paths as Rollins, Werth did steal 20 bases in both 2008 and 2009. In 2010 he has not been quite as successful on the bases, stealing only eight bags in 11 chances so far.

However, the middle of the order is so powerful that speed at the top is not as important as one might think. Manufacturing runs has never been one of this team’s strengths. It is far more important that Werth simply finds a way to get on base, and at this, he is exceptionally proficient.

Stealing bases is irrelevant as long as Utley and Howard are hitting bombs behind him.

The most obvious counter-argument to Jayson Werth leading off is the right handed power that the Phillies would then lose out of the middle of their order. In 2009, when he hit 36 home runs, the argument held weight. In 2010, with Werth on pace to hit 22 home runs while driving in 80, the argument falls flat. For whatever reason, Werth has not been hitting for power this year. However, he is still on pace to score 100 runs.

If he had been leading off since opening day, he might have scored 150. Furthermore, plenty of right-handed hitting has emerged this season that could supplant the void left by Werth and successfully support the big lefties.

The most obvious improvement has come from Carlos Ruiz. He has hit .329 against left-handed pitching this year with more walk-offs than you can shake a stick at.

The other guy who could potentially move up in the order is Shane Victorino. He has hit lefties 117 points better than righties in 2010, and he has hit for power in stretches that could become longer and more frequent if he starts seeing more pitches to hit.

Earlier in the season it would have seemed crazy to move Werth out of the middle of the order. He was presumed to be a powerful right-handed bat in a lineup starved for them.

Since then, things have changed and, if the Phillies want to make the playoffs, drastic in-season adjustments will be necessary. Werth has lost his power, but he has also further developed his already formidable knack for getting on base.

At the same time, Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino have shown that they can hit higher in the order and effectively break up the left-handed trio of Utley, Howard, and Ibanez.

Every time Jayson Werth works a walk, every time Jimmy Rollins swings at the first pitch, and every time a Phillies slugger hits a solo home run, the lack of a lineup shakeup becomes more and more inexplicable.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Brad Lidge Slides Back into Familiar Role

August 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Armed with a shaved head and a devastating slider, Brad Lidge restored the Phillies’ eight game lead in the NL East Sunday night. More importantly, he restored Philly’s confidence in him as a closer.

With each passing day, Brett Myers gets closer to coming off the DL. When that happens, Charlie Manuel will have a decision to make. If Brad Lidge continues embarrassing hitters like he did Sunday night, it won’t be much of a decision at all.

The game-ending strikeout was particularly spectacular. Lidge threw a down-and-in slider on Greg Norton, and Norton literally lost his bat as he tried to hold up.

Hopefully this will finally put an end to the ridiculous closer controversy in Philadelphia. Sunday night wasn’t an anomaly, it was the culmination of what has quietly been Brad’s best month yet. Lidge is back, and he’s been back for quite some time now.

This begs the question: Why was Ryan Madson closing for the Phillies less than a week ago? The answer: Philly swapped sanity for statistics. The Phillies saw the ballooning ERA and ignored the reality of the situation.

An appearance-by-appearance analysis reveals what actually happened.


Aug. 4 and 6
2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, Sv

Aug. 9
1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER
When Lidge came in, the score was already 9-3. He is notoriously bad in blow-outs, but Manuel will still use him from time to time to give him work. This was one of those times.

Aug. 11
1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 R, 1 ER, BlSv
No excuse for this one, but it was his first blown save since coming off the DL.

Aug. 14
1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 0 ER, Sv

Aug. 15
0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 2 R, BlSv
Pin this loss on poor glove work, not Brad Lidge’s pitching arm. Utley and Lidge committed costly errors, but Lidge the pitcher looked fine.

Aug. 16, 22, 23, and 24
3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 R, 3 Sv

Aug. 25
0.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3R, BlSv
This was Lidge’s fourth appearance in as many days.  When a guy pitches that many days in a row, it doesn’t matter who he is, it’s only a matter of time before he gets shelled. Chalk this one up to overwork.

Aug. 28 and 30

2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 Sv

Conventional wisdom says that Brad Lidge had a terrible month of August. That simply isn’t true. There were three bad outings, but one was a result of a couple of costly errors and another was the product of a tired arm. Bottom line, Lidge had one inexcusably poor outing, some bad luck, and tons of saves in between.

That doesn’t seem like such a bad month anymore. The ERA, WHIP, and saves to blown saves ratio are all through the roof, but a game by game breakdown tells a completely different, and far more accurate story.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

The Lidge to Nowhere

August 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Brad Lidge has been bad in 2009historically, consistently, spectacularly bad.

Even so, a big problem could become a crippling one if the Phillies handle it the wrong way. The ugly truth is that although Lidge has hurt the Phillies dearly this season, every replacement seriously being talked about would make matters far worse.

The first candidate to take Lidge’s job: Brett Myers.

Besides the fact that he missed his rehab start Saturday after he injured his eye in what may or may not have been a bar fight, Myers is a terrible replacement for Lidge. His only closing experience came back in 2007, and he was only barely adequate.

For Phillies fans who don’t remember, he looked a lot more like Wayne Gomes than Tug McGraw. He finished the season with a 2.87 ERA in relief work, but a closer look at his work in August and September tells a different story.

In those two months, during which the Phillies staged one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history, Myers blew two saves and amassed a whopping five losses.

Now, after he has spent more than half the season on the disabled list, a still not 100-percent Myers will probably be asked by the Phillies to step in and close right away for a first-place team playing in the pressure cooker that is Philadelphia.

It isn’t an enviable position to be in by any stretch of the imagination.

Scott Eyre is a reliever whose stock went up after he got the first two outs in the ninth inning of the Phillies’ 4-1 win Sunday night.

Eyre’s 1.71 ERA this season has been superb, but at the end of the day, he is still just a lefty specialist.

It’s easy to get outs when you only have to face one or two batters at a time.

If Eyre were to close, nothing would stop teams from sending up three straight right-handed hitters every ninth inning. Now that the rosters have expanded, this is an even more likely scenario.

Eyre would get shelled every other night and the Phillies would be right back where they started, only without one of the better lefty specialists in baseball.

Chan Ho Park is another reliever like Eyre, whose current success would not translate to the ninth inning.

His glory days ended back in 2001. Since then, he has been nothing short of horrendous until he came back to the Dodgers last year.

When he started 2009 with Philly, he promptly went back to his losing ways, posting a 7.29 ERA through seven starts. It seemed that Park was doomed to be one of the bigger busts of the 2008-09 offseason.

That is, until the Phillies turned him into a long-man. With a 2.57 ERA and .231 BAA in relief appearances this year, Park has discovered an invaluable niche for himself in the Phillies’ bullpen.

If Park is made into a closer, there is a very good chance he will lose the confidence that he has built back up over the past several months.

Not every pitcher has the mentality necessary to close. With only two career saves, there is nothing that indicates Park would be psychologically ready for the strain that comes with closing baseball games.

For another reason why making Park a closer is a bad idea, look no further than Ryan Madson’s short stint closing earlier this season.

Lidge had gotten off to a terrible start, and Philly management put him on the 15-day DL even though he wasn’t genuinely hurt. That way, they could try out Madson in the closing role without openly disrespecting Lidge.

The move failed in both regards.

Even before the paperwork was filled out, Lidge saw right through the obvious ploy and voiced his anger to the press. Then, Madson started blowing saves.

During the month of June, he blew three saves in six chances, a percentage far worse than Lidge’s. By the time July rolled around, Lidge was back as Philly’s closer, but the damage had been done. 

Despite being back in a less stressful role, Madson had lost his edge. He followed up his terrible June with an even worse July, during which he put up an appalling 5.11 ERA.

Since then, he has shaken off his closing hangover and held opponents scoreless, but the lesson remains clear. If Madson is used to close, even for a little while, it could potentially have long-term consequences for his future as a pitcher in any role.

Two lesser known pitchers, Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin, have also been considered as possible replacements for Lidge.

Durbin does have three saves this season, but his 4.41 ERA and 1.51 WHIP scream mediocrity.

Condrey has gotten a handful of save opportunities over the years for the Phillies, but the latest report has him coming off the DL on September 1 at the earliest.

Condrey has proven himself as a reliable reliever throughout his career in Philadelphia, but if the Phils do make a change, September 1 would be far too late.

Waiting until the final full month of the regular season to make a decision as big as replacing Lidge would hurt team morale and show vulnerability to the Braves and Marlins.

The waiver wire isn’t a viable option, either.

Sure, the Phils could grab a Chad Qualls, but how much would he really help? Even if he does clear waivers, he isn’t enough of an upgrade over the current situation anyway.

Players who could have an impact like Jason Frasor and Heath Bell almost certainly wouldn’t clear waivers. If the Phillies were going to make a run at Frasor or Bell, then they should have done it before the July 31 deadline.

Besides, the Philadelphia front office already spent a lot of money to get Cliff Lee, so it’s unlikely that they would be willing to open the checkbooks again this season.

Though they may not be able to make any more meaningful pick-ups at this point, a player the Phillies acquired over a month ago could end up being their savior.

Pedro Martinez, as it turns out, is the perfect player to replace Lidge.

His only experience in relief may have been early in his career, but Martinez said he was open to closing when the Cardinals floated the idea back in March.

At this point, a move to closer would help Pedro just as much as it would help the Phillies. He still has a live fastball and great command over a variety of pitches.

Although he doesn‘t have much closing experience, he has more big game experience than the rest of the Phillies pitching staff combined. He also wouldn’t have to log as many innings as he would if he were starting, so his arm would stay stronger.

Moving Pedro to the bullpen would open up room in the rotation for Jamie Moyer. The Phillies would be able to kill two birds with one stone by filling the need they have at closer and appeasing team leader Jamie Moyer.

If Charlie Manuel truly wants to save the Phillies’ season, he is going to have to think outside the box on this one.

What’s being looked at right now would not only make the Phillies worse, it would almost certainly result in a bullpen implosion.

In 2008, the Phillies’ relief pitching was best in the National League and second best in all of baseball. One year later, those ranks have dropped to seventh and 13th, respectively.

Pedro would surely help, but Philly management hasn’t said or done anything to suggest that moving Martinez to the bullpen is even on the radar.

The only other realistic alternative at this point is to sit tight with Lidge. It isn’t a particularly appealing scenario, but at this point, continuing to roll the dice with Lidge is the only thing Philadelphia can do.

Before Philly can win another championship, the city’s troubled closer will have to conquer his demons once and for all.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

The 2009 Philadelphia Phillies: Look Closer…

August 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

“Getting someone like Cliff motivates everyone. Our fans can feel it. They want that swagger…They sure don’t want to see us do a Mets collapse.”

-Cole Hamels

For the first time in many years, the Phillies look comfortable heading into the regular season’s final month. They’ve won 4 in a row, and the Marlins are a healthy 4.5 games back.

On the surface, everything seems fine in Philadelphia. Jimmy Rollins is Jimmy Rollins again, and adding Cliff Lee looks like the steal of this year’s trade deadline. Even so, disturbing problems loom on the horizon. The champs are flawed. The curse of William Penn was lifted in 2008, but the 2009 Phillies still have plenty of demons to go around.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

No Moyer Mr. Nice Guy

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

After Wednesday’s start against the Cubs, it seems that Pedro Martinez does indeed have something left in the tank. That probably means that Jamie Moyer’s long career as a starter has come to an abrupt end.

Though Pedro’s numbers (3 runs on 7 hits through 5) were hardly brilliant, he only got into serious trouble in the last of his 5 innings.  He was not expected to be at full strength quite yet, so it wasn’t surprising that he got sloppy when his pitch count neared 100.

The wind was blowing out, and the few mistakes Martinez did make can be attributed to the huge early lead. Even the fastball looked great, topping out around 92 mph. All Jamie Moyer could do was watch silently and seethe.

Moyer’s frustration is understandable. Taking his frustration to the press behind the Phillies dugout before Tuesday’s game surely was not.

Last winter, fresh off their first Championship in a very long time, the Phillies re-signed Jamie Moyer. Jamie was a fan favorite who had a major role in Philadelphia’s recent string of successful seasons. Put simply, Moyer had a knife to the back of the Phillies front office. Failing to re-sign Moyer would have been a PR nightmare, so Moyer used that leverage to get a fat contract he didn’t deserve.

Now he has gone to the press with the tired “Promises were made” garbage. Two years and $13-million for an inconsistent 46 year old pitcher is highway robbery in itself, but it appears that Moyer expected even more goodwill from Philadelphia.

During the impromptu press conference, Moyer talked about respect. Apparently, a journeyman fossil deserves more than a 3-time Cy Young winner.

I don’t care how nice your story is, the best players play. Moyer might be a great guy, but if he thinks he is entitled to a spot in the starting rotation, he is sorely mistaken. The 2009 Phillies are in great position to win back-to-back World Series. Why should they severely hurt those chances to appease an overpaid crybaby?

Whether you like Moyer or not, there was no acceptable alternative. The Phillies signed Pedro as a starter, the least they can do is give him and his $1-million contract a fair shot. Hamels and Lee are obviously untouchable. Blanton eats up innings and consistently keeps the Phils in games. It also helps that his ERA is hovering around four, while Moyer’s is approaching six.

There was talk of sending Happ back to the pen to make room. Happ started the season there, and the bullpen has been downright awful since he left. Then he turned in a complete game, 4 hit shutout against the Rockies, and reminded Philadelphia just how talented a young starter he was.

A six-man rotation was another possible solution, but it makes little sense. The Phils are rolling right now, and going to six starters would only throw off their rhythm. Besides, if someone else in the East closes down the stretch, it would be unconscionable to take a start away from a Lee or a Hamels or a Happ and give it to Moyer.

In the end, the only thing the Phillies could do was send Moyer to the bullpen. It might not be all bad. Moyer has superb command, and he isn’t easy to run on.  And the Phils have already been successful this season turning a awful starter into a effective reliever(Chan Ho Park). Reinforcements are coming, in the form of J.C. Romero, Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, and possibly Brett Myers. Moyer may be just what the doctor ordered as the pen waits to heal.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

If the Happ Fits, Wear it: Settling the Roy Halladay Debate

July 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Whenever a big-name, inning-eating, top-end ace is suddenly on the market, people tend to lose their heads. The defending World Champion Phillies have tried everything to jumpstart a stalling staff, and that even includes resurrecting Pedro Martinez. So it comes as no surprise that they have shown interest in Roy Halladay.

All I ask is for a little common sense.

It’s no secret that Philly’s starting pitching this season has left something to be desired. Cole Hamels has looked inconsistent and fragile. Jamie Moyer has been consistently awful. The Chan Ho Park experiment failed miserably. Joe Blanton has been Joe Blanton, which means good but never great. In fact, J.A. Happ has been the only starter who produced from day one. Why are we so eager to get rid of him?

Granted, Halladay is clearly the gem of this year’s trade deadline, and adding him would immediately make the Phillies favorites to repeat as World Champs. He’s a power pitcher who keeps the ball down and gets a ton of strikeouts, so the short porches in right and left wouldn’t be as bad for him as you think. He also goes deep into games, so the Phils wouldn’t have to rely on their shaky bullpen quite as often. Halladay would be a great fit, there is simply no denying it.

I wouldn’t mind if the Phillies gave up every prospect they have to get Halladay. Drabek, Taylor, Donald, Marson. I believe the phrase is “Sell the farm.” We have a chance to win now, and another World Series trophy would justify losing potential busts.

But J.A. Happ should be untouchable. If we trade Happ, we are hurting ourselves now and down the road. Happ isn’t a prospect, he’s a proven big league pitcher. He’s also a star, and with a few more starts like the one he had Sunday afternoon, he could be 2009’s National League Cy Young Winner.

Most importantly, Happ has actually been better than Roy Halladay this season. He has a 2.68 ERA to Halladay’s 2.73, and he is a perfect 7-0. He is also heating up, with an ERA of just 1.93 through four starts in July. Halladay has a 3.52 ERA in three July starts. This month, opponents are hitting .214 off Happ. They are hitting 50 points higher off of Halladay. Happ is also younger, cheaper, and he has been doing it all in Coors Field East.

In the very best scenario, Halladay would only be a minor upgrade to Happ, but when you look to the future, things get even worse. We would have to pay Halladay a ton of money if we want to keep him, and he’s not getting any younger. Happ has a high ceiling, and he has already proven that he can survive in this ballpark.

I want to win now, and Happ probably gives us just as much of a chance as Halladay does. Considering the long-term consequences, probably is good enough for me.

Down the road, Happ can only get better, and the window of opportunity isn’t closing on this Phillies team anytime soon. Besides Howard, the core is locked up for a very long time. Why throw part of that away if we don’t have to?

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Vote for Victorino, Just To Watch Him Fly

July 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Shane Victorino may have great numbers, but it’s his approach to baseball that should get him a ticket to St. Louis.

Most teams have a hustle guy, but no one has a player quite like Victorino. What he does every day at the ballpark is not “hustle.” It is not even controlled chaos.

Call it instead an eternal exercise in utter recklessness.

Everybody wants players who hustle. They run out every ball, they lead in the clubhouse, they help your team win. Shane Victorino does all of those things, but he does some other things too.

For instance, earlier this year he tried to steal second in the ninth inning. The only problem was that the Phillies were down two runs, not one.

In 2008, Shane leapt into the stands to catch a foul ball. This wasn’t a “run a couple of steps and flip into the seats ordeal” a la Derek Jeter. This was a superman head-first dive. He didn’t catch the ball, and it wouldn’t have been a legal catch even if he had.

The man gets thrown out, thrown at, and sometimes tossed out.

Victorino plays his way, and sometimes it hurts you and sometimes it helps you. When he gets thrown out stretching that single into a double you shake your head.

When he runs through a catcher and practically knocks him unconscious you can’t help but nod approvingly.

He’s the MLB‘s Juggernaut. When his raw intensity is harnessed, Victorino is capable of great things. If you let him loose too often, he can destroy your baseball team. Isn’t that refreshing?

You never have to ask him to give more; instead, you just need to control him. You just need to coach him.

Like it or not, this is the era of the baseball wimp. We need more than mere hustle players to stop the trend. We need Victorinos—guys who are the true antithesis of laziness and detachment. They care so darn much that their judgment is often dim and their mistakes are always sincere.

Guys who play the game this hard are shooting stars. Victorino is always one ill-advised dive or steadfast catcher away from fading into early retirement.

2009, one year removed from a championship, may very well be our only chance to watch him play in an All-Star game. We deserve more from today’s baseball players, and Victorino playing on the national stage would be a great opening argument.

Vote Shane

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Midseason Report: Philadelphia Phillies

June 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

“We’ll be fine. We’re the defending champs, and we’re not defending champs for no reason. At the end of the day, I’m walking out of this place, and we’re still in first place. That’s how you’ve got to look at it.” Confidence or complacency? Waltzing or wavering? Champs, or chumps? The answer should tell us who’s going to be celebrating in October.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies