Inter-League Play: Top 10 Players Who Played for the Rangers and the Phillies

May 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Texas Rangers are in town to play the Philadelphia Phillies this weekend as Major League Baseball kicks off the first round of Inter-League Play.  

The matchup, of course, pairs Phillies’ pitcher Cliff Lee against his former team, the Rangers, for the first time since Lee (re-)signed with the Phillies this off-season, spurning the Rangers and the New York Yankees in the process.

Lee is not the only prominent player to ever play for these two franchises.  Here is a look at the top 10 players to play for both the Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Derek Jeter and 10 Future Hall of Famers for Whom the End Is Near

May 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

It was easy to pretend that we thought he could still field his position as long as he was hitting.  But now he is not hitting, and it is pretty hard to avoid the conclusion, top-to-bottom, that Derek Jeter‘s days are numbered.

Or, well, his days as a productive major league contributor.  Because, of this you can be sure: whether he is capable of playing or not, the Captain will be playing for at least three seasons as he plays out his contract.

But he will probably be done as a run producer well before he is done playing.

Here is a look at 10 future Hall of Famers for whom the end is within sight.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Roy Halladay and the Lackluster Pitchers of the 21st Century

May 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The second decade of the 21st Century has arrived, and there is something missing from baseball for the first time in a couple of generations.

For the first time since Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton were dominating baseball in the 1970s, Major League Baseball is without an established class of future Hall of Fame pitchers.

Not that long ago baseball fans were being treated to an exhibition of four of the greatest pitchers of all time in Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

After the Big Four, we had the likes of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, four pitchers who were not amongst the greatest of all time but who were deserving of historical perspective and may even have a trip to Cooperstown in their futures down the line.

In 2011, Major League Baseball certainly does not feature eight starting pitchers who make legitimate Hall of Fame candidates, and frankly, there likely are not even four good names.

Let’s take a look at the best the majors can muster at this point.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

2011 Phillies: Victorino Headed to DL, Domonic Brown Makes Triumphant Return

May 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

In the 1960s, the Virginia Slims corporation famously, and some might say infamously, marketed its cigarettes to young professional women using the slogan: “You’ve come a long way, baby!” This slogan springs to mind today as the Philadelphia Phillies have announced that Shane Victorino has been placed on the disabled list, and to fill his place, none other than Domonic Brown has been called up from Triple-A Lehigh.

Phillies fans will not need a recap of the trials and travails of the Phillies’ erstwhile top prospect, but for the sake of completeness, we provide it here:

Spring Training, 2010: Brown is invited to Phillies camp, and names him the 14th ranked prospect in baseball.

April, 2010: Brown begins season at Double-A, where he plays very well, hitting .318 with 15 home runs and 47 RBI in 65 games.

June, 2010: Brown is promoted to Triple-A and picks up where he left off; actually, he improved upon where he left off, hitting .346 with five home runs and 21 RBI in only 28 games.

July, 2010: Brown is named the top prospect in baseball by Baseball America.

July 28, 2010: Brown is called up to the Phillies, where despite initial success, he ultimately struggles. Brown finishes the season with a .210 average, a .612 OPS and 24 strikeouts in 35 games.

October, 2010: Brown bats three times in the playoffs, going 0-for-3 and not factoring into the Phillies postseason plans.

Fall, 2010: Brown hits only .069 in nine games in the Dominican Winter League and is sent home early to rest up for spring training.

Spring, 2011: Brown gets off to a miserable start in spring camp in Florida, going 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts before getting his first hit of the spring and promptly breaking a bone in his hand.

May, 2011: Brown returns from injury with a vengeance, hitting .368 with two home runs in five games at Single-A Clearwater before moving to Triple-A Lehigh and hitting .341 with a .968 OPS and 10 RBI in 11 games.

Which pretty much brings us up to date.

As we can all see, it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Domonic Brown. Nevertheless, here it is, Friday May 20, 2011, and Brown is right where we thought he would be six months ago: Up with the big club, ready to establish himself as the Phillies right fielder of tomorrow.

The move, of course, was somewhat unexpected, with Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro stating, as recently as Thursday, that if Shane Victorino went to the disabled list, Domonic Brown would not be the player to replace him, saying “We don’t think he’s ready.”

Nevertheless, one day later, Victorino goes on the shelf and the Domonic Brown Era gets its reboot, after one false start and lots of bumps along the way.

Brown has, indeed, come a long way, baby. This time, let’s hope he’s here to stay.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

2011 Philadelphia Phillies: A Bad Team with the Best Record in MLB

May 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

In politics, they say that “perception is reality.”

Fortunately, they do not say this in professional sports, because if they did, the Philadelphia Phillies would be in real trouble.

Take, for example, a conversation I had with a Philadelphia friend named Josh and a non-Philadelphia friend named Scott while I was in New Orleans for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival last weekend. 

Scott and I love obscure baseball t-shirts, so while in town I presented him with a “Philadelphia Phillies Opening Week” t-shirt, which had been a give-away at Citizens Bank Park during the first homestand of the season. Scott, a lifelong Cubs fan, put on the shirt and said “it feels strange to wear the t-shirt of a winner.” 

Then we had the following amusing exchange:

Me: “Wanna see something funny?”

Scott: “Sure.”

Me: “Hey Josh, how do the Phillies look this year?”

Josh: “Oh, we’re so screwed.”

Scott: “Wow.”

Now, from where I sit, Josh’s take on the Phillies is pretty consistent with what Philly fans and sports radio talkers seem to think about the 2011 incarnation of the Fightin’ Phils: That despite the amazing rotation, the bullpen is bad and the offense is anemic and even if Chase Utley comes back, we’ve got problems.

But is this fair? Are losing perspective? Are our expectations a bit high?

Forget fair; is it even true?

Never mind the fact that the Phils have the best starting rotation in baseball, and Vance Worley appears ready to be a great major league pitcher. Never mind the fact that, with the exception of Raul Ibanez, most of the Phillies’ hitters are having better seasons than they did a year ago. Never mind the fact that the Phillies sell out every game while the other four teams in our division struggle to turn the stiles.

Perhaps the best indicator of just how skewed our perspective is lies in this tasty little statistic:

The Philadelphia Phillies currently have the best record in baseball.

Perspective can be a funny thing in sports.

Right now in Kansas City, they’re dancing in the streets because the Royals are two games over .500 and in third place in the division. In Pittsburgh, optimism is through the roof because the Pirates are one game under .500 and in third place in the division.

Meanwhile, Orioles fans are ecstatic just to be ahead of anybody, let alone the Boston Red Sox, in the second week of May.

But back here in Philadelphia, the local faithful are phreaking out because the Phillies have merely won two out of every three games.

Do not misunderstand me: I get it. I understand the consternation. This is a once in a lifetime team, and we have gone figurative (and maybe literally) “all in” on this 2011 squad which seems to be showing signing of stress.

With injuries to Chase Utley, Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt, our offense seems overmatched, our bullpen is a real balancing act and our rotation is showing cracks where we did not expect them.

At the same time, though, one has to wonder whether Philadelphia fans shall ever be happy. This is the city, after all, that absolutely loathes Andy Reid, a man who has almost literally had nothing but success in Philadelphia. 

One of the city’s loudest voices, Angelo Cataldi, declares that it is time to run Andre Igoudala out of town after the Philadelphia 76ers—a team that defied odds and overachieved by even making the playoffs, had the audacity to lose to the Miami freakin’ Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

And now the Phillies merely having the best record in baseball is leaving Phillies’ fans disappointed and listless.

Of course, the reason that “perception is reality” in politics but not in sports is that in politics the voters actually get to vote based on how they perceive the country to be doing or their elected officials to be performing. 

In sports, though, the fans do not get to vote, which is a good thing, because if Phillies’ fans were allowed to vote based on their perception of reality, the Phillies might be out of office in a hurry.

Which would be quite the outcome for the best team in baseball.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Chase Utley: Power Ranking the Phillies’ Top 10 Second Basemen of All-Time

April 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies are just over two weeks into the 2011 baseball season, and their superstar second baseman has yet to take the infield.  Unfortunately, at this point there is no guarantee that Utley will take the field this season.

So far the Phillies have done fine without Utley, going 9-4 and sitting atop the NL East division. The pitching staff has, at times, looked as though they might be able to carry this team without anyone at all playing second base.

But let’s talk big picture for a moment: What if Chase never returns?  Or, assuming he does return, what if he is never the same hitter that he was before?  If Chase Utley pulled a Sandy Koufax right now, where would he rank among the Phillies’ all-time second basemen?

Let’s have a look at the top 10 second basemen in Philadelphia Phillies’ history, and find out. 

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Are the Phillies Better Without Chase Utley?

April 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Bill Simmons calls it the Ewing Theory.  Other sports fans have associated the phenomenon with Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez, Tiki Barber and Drew Bledsoe. But in Philadelphia, there is only one player who should come to mind:

Bobby Abreu.

As I will tell anyone who will listen, I moved to Philadelphia the night the Phillies traded Abreu. Being a “stat-head,” I was a huge Abreu fan, and his being traded was, to me, just more evidence of the presence of dolts in major league front offices.

“Yeah, sure, go ahead and trade your best player,” I thought, sarcastically. I was sure I had moved to Philadelphia just in time for the beginning of a low point in Philadelphia Phillies history.

Of course, we all know what happened next.  Immediately after Bobby left town, the Phillies made an unexpected late-season run at the wild card, falling just short.  The following season the Phillies won the NL East, and the year after that the World Series.  

A baby dynasty was born, and we may be in the middle of a full-fledged dynasty that can trace its roots all the way back to that night I sweated my you-know-what off unloading my double-parked U-Haul in front of my first apartment north of the Mason-Dixon Line.

“But Asher, why are you bringing this up now?  And what does any of this have to do with Chase Utley?”

Good question.

The underpinning of Simmons’ Ewing Theory is that, every now and then, a team loses its star player, and for whatever reason the team plays better without their star than it did with the star. It stems from the run that the New York Knicks went on in the 1999 NBA post-season after Ewing tore his Achilles tendon in the first round of the playoffs.

Without their star and future Hall of Famer, the Knicks ran all the way to the NBA Finals.

Other prominent examples include the Tennessee Volunteers winning the national championship the year after Peyton Manning’s epic four-year career came to an end, the Seattle Mariners winning 116 regular season games the season after completing the dismantling of the Griffey-Johnson-ARod triumvirate and the 1999 St. Louis Rams dominating the NFL after losing starting quarterback Trent Green in the pre-season.

“But Asher, what are you trying to say?”


Has anyone around here noticed how well the Philadelphia Phillies seem to play when Chase Utley is not in the lineup the last couple of years?

As of Sunday afternoon’s victory over the Florida Marlins, the Phillies are now 10-4 and are tied for the third-best record in all of baseball behind the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies, two teams on amazing hot streaks.

Last season, Utley missed 47 games due to various injuries, chiefly a thumb he injured sliding head-first into second base. The Phillies went 97-65 overall on the season, for a .599 winning percentage.

With Utley in the lineup, they were 68-47, for a .591 winning percentage.  

Without Utley, the Phillies went 29-18, for a .617 winning percentage.

If these numbers do not shock you, they should.  Because they are shocking.  Utley is roundly considered one of the best players in baseball, and generally speaking the best players in baseball—the Albert Pujolses, the Robinson Canos, the Joey Vottos, the Troy Tulowitskis—should be indispensable parts of their teams.

In a 21st Century sports world in which we are constantly pondering the meaning and measure of overall value and value to the team, how do we quantify the value of a player whose team can not only manage just fine without him, but whose team might actually play better in his absence?

There are a million possible explanations for an up-tick in a team’s performance in the absence of their star player, whether it be the other players taking it upon themselves to step up, to a coach suddenly having to coach better in the absence of his star player, to other personnel changes on the team that would have led inevitably to better performance anyway.

In this specific scenario, Utley’s absence the last couple of seasons seems to have caused a re-ordering of the lineup, which has had positive impacts upon the other hitters. In 2010, Raul Ibanez positively caught fire subbing for Utley in the three-hole ahead of Ryan Howard, and in 2011, the 1-2-3 combination of Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins has functioned well at the top of the order.

And there can be no doubt that, whatever his limitations at the plate, Wilson Valdez’s glove had been a big part of the Phillies’ ability to lose Utley and keeping winning.

For my part, sitting here on a Sunday afternoon having watched the Philadelphia Phillies get out to a 10-4 start on less than the dominant pitching we were all expecting and an offense that got off to a hot start but already seems to be showing signs of being capable of the same streakiness (and slumpiness) as last year’s team, I personally would prefer to have Utley back.

This early in the season, we need all hands on deck, including the hands of one of this generation’s finest second sackers.

Nevertheless, the lessons of the Ewing Theory and of Bobby Abreu loom large in my imagination as I ponder whether this Phillies team may discover that, going forward, the continuation of the Gillick-Amaro Dynasty depends upon not the ability to hold on to Chase Utley, but rather upon the ability to get value in return for him while they still can.

As Phillies fans have learned before, and as the sports world continues to make clear, sometimes getting rid of your best player can be the catalyst for greater success.

And frankly, the longer the Phillies All-Star second baseman stays out and the Phillies keep winning, the more convinced I will be that this has become the case with Chase Utley. 

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Daily Fun Fact for the Astros Series Finale

April 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

If the Philadelphia Phillies‘ first game of the 2011 was a microcosm of how we expect the 2011 season to play out—shut-down starting pitching, clumsy bullpen and just enough offense to win the day—then the second game of the season was a true demonstration of this team’s potential.  

Cliff Lee, making his second first start for the Phillies, made only one mistake all night, a two-run home run to fellow former AL Central rival Carlos Lee. Otherwise, he was impeccable, striking out 11 and walking none in seven innings.

In case Phillies’ fans have not heard, this year’s pitching staff is going to be something special, and through two games the Phillies’ staff has already done something pretty special in its own right


And it leads to today’s Philadelphia Phillies Daily Fun Fact


After Lee shut down the Astros to the tune of 11 strikeouts and no walks, the Phillies’ bullpen kept the party going, striking out two more and walking none.  

Add this to their performance on Friday, during which Roy Halladay struck out six and walked none before giving way to the bullpen, which struck out two more and walked one, and the Phillies have now struck out a preposterous 21 batters while walking only one, for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of (grabbing calculator, doing math) 21-to-1.

For the record, since 1901 only the rarest major league baseball team has finished a season with a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 3-to-1.  

The Arizona Diamondbacks did it in 2002, when they rode Curt Schilling (9.58-to-1) and Randy Johnson (4.70-to-1) to a 3.10-to-1 ratio.

The Los Angeles Dodgers did it in 1966, featuring outstanding performances from Sandy Koufax (4.12-to-1), Don Sutton (4.02-to-1) and Don Drysdale (3.93-to-1). Those guys, of course, are all in the Hall of Fame.

And there was the 2006 Minnesota Twins with their team ratio of 3.27-to-1. 

Of the many measures we will be using to place the 2011 Phillies’ rotation in historical context, this will certainly be one.  

The Phillies chances of catching the ’06 Twins, the ’02 Diamondbacks or the ’66 Dodgers are pretty good, though. Our rudimentary search reveals only a handful of other teams since 1901 with team strikeout-to-walk ratios over 2.80-to-1: the 1994 Montreal Expos, the 2001 Diamondbacks, the 2002 New York Yankees (2.82), the 2003 New York Yankees (2.98) and your 2010 Philadelphia Phillies (2.84).

But wait, there is more.

Since 1901, only 15 major league teams have featured three or more starting pitchers who qualified for the ERA title and finished with a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than 3-to-1.  The two most recent teams to pull this off were the 2010 Minnesota Twins and… wait for it…the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies.

Now for some history: Of these 15 teams, only one featured four such pitchers. It was the aforementioned 2003 New York Yankees, with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, David Wells and Mike Mussina.

(The key to historic strikeout-to-walk ratio is clearly Jose Contreras, who made his major league debut with the 2003 Yankees, pitched for the Phillies in 2010 and is now a member of the 2011 Phillies’ staff.)

As for the Phillies’ chances of joining the ’03 Yankees, you have got to like them. To a team that already had three pitchers qualify for the ERA title and have strikeout-to-walk ratios over 3-to-1, the Phillies have added Cliff Lee, one of the greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio guys of all time.

Is this season really only two games old?

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: Daily Fun Fact for Cliff Lee’s First Start

April 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies are 1-0 after a by-the-skin-of-their-teeth win over the Houston Astros yesterday. Tonight, in what is sure to be a chilly one in the City of Brotherly Love, the Phillies send offseason reacquisition Cliff Lee to the mound for the first time since the 2009 World Series against the New York Yankees.

If the city was abuzz yesterday in anticipation for Roy Halladay’s Opening Day start, Philadelphia is positively ready to explode with excitement at seeing Lee on the mound again—a proposition that seemed simply impossible just a few short months ago.

The city came to love Halladay during his 2010 National League Cy Young campaign—a year in which he threw a perfect game during the regular season and a no-hitter in the postseason. But this is also the city that was lukewarm towards Halladay initially, because his arrival was juxtaposed against the departure of Lee.

As we look back on the season Lee spent away from the Phils—which he began with the lowly Seattle Mariners before joining the Texas Rangers and riding them all the way back to the World Series—we note something that is, at first blush, interesting. But upon further investigation, it is revealed to be historic.

And it is today’s Philadelphia Phillies Daily Fun Fact:

In 2010, Cliff Lee pitched 212.1 innings for Seattle and Texas. In those 212.1 innings, he walked a shockingly low 18 batters while allowing 16 home runs. What’s more, two of his bases on balls were intentional passes, which means he allowed the same number of unintentional walks as he did home runs.

Since 1901, only five pitchers have managed to pitch 200 or more innings, allow fewer than 20 unintentional walks and 20 home runs: Babe Adams (1920), Red Lucas (1933), Bob Tewksbury (1993), Greg Maddux (1997) and Lee.

And of those five pitchers, Lee was the only one to not give up more walks than home runs.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

2011 MLB: Philadelphia Phillies Daily Fun Fact for Opening Day

April 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Philadelphia Phillies opened the season today with an awe-inspiring bottom of the ninth, come-from-behind 5-4 victory, after a less than inspiring first eight innings of the season against their old nemesis, the Houston Astros.  

To make matters worse, the Phillies got shut down for most of the day, which was lost to one of their own: former Phillies pitcher Brett Myers.

Add to that the fact that former Phillie Michael Bourn drove in two runs and scored another, and it was looking like a down day for the old hometown teamuntil the Phillies reminded us all that this is still a pretty awesome team.

And who was that driving in the tying run?  Mr. Double Play himself: Wilson Valdez.

Not that this all means anything, because it is only opening day, and, as we have all learned, anything can happen during the course of a baseball season (just ask Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes).

Nevertheless, after the special sting that comes from debuting your once-in-a-lifetime rotation and getting shut down by a guy you got rid of to make way for that rotation, it was certainly a nice way to end the first game of the year.  Though, know this:

If the Phillies are going to play like this all season, we will all be dead by August!

Putting the exciting victory aside for a moment, something interesting and incredibly novel happened during today’s game, back when the Phillies looked like the 1962 Mets.

On his way to shutting down the Phils for most of the day, Brett Myers pitched 7.0 innings, allowing three hits, three walks, and one earned run.  But Myers did not strike out a single batter.

And so here is today’s Philadelphia Phillies Daily Fun Fact:

In all of 2010, only 10 pitchers managed to pitch seven or more innings without striking out a single batter.

Of those ten pitchers, only one managed to pitch seven or more innings without striking out a single batter and while allowing only a single run.

It was Johnny Cueto, of the Cincinnati Reds, on June 28, 2010.

And it happened against the Phillies.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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