Philadelphia Phillies: What Signing Jonathan Papelbon Means for Phillies

November 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The Jonathan Papelbon signing has significant effects for the Philadelphia Phillies. GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. brought in a high-profile closer near the beginning of the free-agency period, ensuring that the team will have a lights out pitcher in the ninth inning for the next four years.

Papelbon’s signing also has adverse effects on the future of Ryan Madson in Philadelphia but will benefit the young arms—Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes—in the bullpen.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: What Does Ruben Amaro Need To Do This Offseason?

October 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies rolled through the regular season, winning 102 games —more than any other team in baseball by a full five wins — and spending every single day in first place in the NL East.

Then came a quick playoff exit, as the Phillies lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, seeing their World Series aspirations end prematurely.

A long offseason is ahead and GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. should have the following six priorities on his list of offseason goals:

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies: How Will Charlie Manuel Get by Without Ryan Howard?

October 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies begins next season.

The only problem? Howard won’t be ready for the start of the year following a torn Achilles tendon suffered on the final play of the game in the Phillies 1-0 Game 5 NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s not easy to replace a slugger who has averaged 44 home runs and 132 RBI per year since 2006, but here are four potential options for manager Charlie Manuel.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Five Right-Handed Bats Who Would Help the Philadelphia Phillies Down the Stretch

July 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Fan News

Anyone who has watched the Phillies this season knows the starting pitching has carried the team this year and while the Phillies could be just like the San Francisco Giants from last year and ride a no-hit offense to a World Series title, a right-handed bat would also go a long way. 

GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has gone on record as saying he will not be getting such a player, while manager Charlie Manuel has said he would love some help from the right side of the plate. The Phillies have a lefty-laden offense with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Domonic Brown, and both Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino as switch-hitters. 

John Mayberry, Jr. probably has the most power of any right-handed hitter on the team, but he’s also an incredibly streaky hitter who strikes out a ton, and he was demoted to Triple-A earlier in the season after struggling as an everyday player—although he has since rejoined the major league Phillies.

Ben Francisco has 15-home run power at best, but he’s just best suited as a pinch-hitter off the bench, and while both Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz are fine hitters, they’re not power hitters.

With that in mind, here are five hitters who would help the Phillies down the stretch.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Madson Leads Strong Phillies Bullpen To Playoffs

September 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

For Phillies‘ fans, it’s that time of year again. A fourth straight division title is all but clinched following 11 straight wins. Giving the Phillies the momentum of a team that is the odds-on favorite to make its third consecutive appearance in the World Series.

It’s been a season of highs and lows for Charlie Manuel’s bunch. For a great majority of the season, it seemed the Phillies couldn’t buy a run. Every offensive player but Jayson Werth spent time on the DL. And the Braves seemed to be in good position to capture the NL East.

Highlights of the year include the acquisition of the two most talented pitchers ever named Roy, another great September comeback, and a bullpen that rivals that of any in the National League.

The outstanding H2O combination of Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt has combined to be one of the best 1-2-3 pitching staffs in the history of major-league baseball.

Hamels is a proven veteran who put the Phillies on his back in winning both the ’08 NLCS and World Series MVP awards. Oswalt has an unblemished 4-0 record in seven career postseason starts.

And Halladay? Well, the man has never had the privilege of pitching in October baseball but there’s no denying he’s a gamer. He wants to go all nine innings every time he sets foot onto the mound. It speaks volumes about Halladay that fully one-third of his career shutouts were pitched in the pivotal month of September. His lifetime ERA in the month (2.53) is nearly a full run lower than his ERA in other months (3.49).


Lights Out Lidge may never recapture the magic of a miraculous 2008 season in which he converted all 41 save opportunities. Plus seven more in the postseason. Lidge has quietly regained his abilities to be a quality closer for a team destined to make a deep playoff push.

Perhaps the most underrated contributor of a championship-caliber baseball team has been The Bridge to Lidge, Ryan Madson. A true setup man in the days when most great relievers are converted to closers. Madson isn’t flashy but he has consistently turned himself into one of the game’s best relief pitchers.

With a 2.24 ERA for the season, Madson has put together a fourth consecutive quality season pitching primarily in the seventh or eighth inning. His 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings is a career best. As is his 5.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Madson struggled to find his form in the beginning of the season and missed two months to an injury. Since July 22, Madson has pitched 36 innings, posting an 0.75 ERA during that span. He hasn’t given up a home run and opponents are slugging just an anemic .190 against him. He’s held the opposition scoreless in 17 consecutive appearances and 31 of his last 32. What more could a team want from a setup man?


It seemed hopeless for Madson several years ago when a failed stint as a starter left him with an ERA in the mid-5.00s. He’s improved his velocity, topping out in the upper 90s with his fastball while perfecting an unhittable changeup.

Middle relief in baseball is like kicking in football. You never know what you’re going to get. When you have a great setup man, he’s normally converted to closer, a la Francisco Rodriguez or Mariano Rivera. A setup man that stays in the role is rare and valuable to a baseball team. There aren’t too many guys who put together as many good seasons as Madson has done for the ’07-’10 Phillies.

With the postseason looming close by, pitching will likely make or break the Phillies’ season. And with the way the pitchers have done this year, expect make more than break.

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Why the Philadelphia Phillies Appear on the Verge of Three-Peating in the NL

March 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Fan News

Every year as a Phillies fan, I’ve grown accustomed to saying “wait until next year.”

Next year we’ll pick up a big-name player in free agency. We’ll overtake the Braves or Mets in the division race. We’ll get a couple of good breaks, stay healthy all season, and win it all.

Guess what?

It happened.

2008 was a year to remember for Phillies fans. And I have a feeling that won’t be the last I’ll see of this championship team.

Even after watching the Phillies capture a division title in 2007 against all odds, nothing could have prepared me for a World Series Championship in 2008.

Everything came together that season. Brad Lidge and his the slider from hell converted all 48 save opportunities, putting together an unprecedented year that ranks up there with the greatest in history by a closer. The big bats—Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins—were hot when it counted the most.

And who can forget the team’s cool as ice left-hander Cole Hamels, who mowed down the Brewers, Dodgers, and Rays in the playoffs like they were a bunch of Double-A teams?

I wasn’t sure what to expect heading into last year, but I was impressed by this team.

The Phillies didn’t miss a beat, capturing a third consecutive NL East crown (this one by a solid margin) while becoming the first National League team since the 1995-96 Braves to appear in back-to-back World Series.

Sure, the World Series didn’t go as planned, but taking two out of six against a team with a payroll the size of Bill Gates’ bank account isn’t too bad.

I have high expectations for 2010. Really high.

There is absolutely no reason in my mind why this team shouldn’t capture a third consecutive pennant and second World Series title in three years.

Everything is there. Everything is in place.

Here are four main reasons why I think the Phillies are in prime position to win the 2010 World Series:


The Nucleus of the Team

How many World Series titles does a team need to be a dynasty? Three? Two titles and three appearances?

Either way, the Phillies have the talent to make it happen.

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins comprise three-fourths of one of the greatest infields in baseball history. The outfield is composed of several blossoming stars in Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth. And Cole Hamels—when he wants to be—is one of the most unhittable lefties in the game.

Say what you want about his batting average or high strikeout totals, but there are few players in baseball more feared than the 6’4 inch slugger. In fact, outside of superhuman MVP Albert Pujols, Howard is probably the most dangerous hitter in the game.

In just four seasons as a full-time starter, Howard has never failed to hit at least 45 home runs or drive in at least 135 runs. After seeing alarming drops in his slugging percentage from ’06 (.659) to ’07 (.584) to ’08 (.543), Howard put up a .571 mark last year that ranked fourth-best in the league.

Utley represents everything good about the game of baseball. He can hit, run, field, and he is one of the most intelligent men in the game. At the rate at which he is performing, he will go down as one of the greatest second basemen to ever play the sport.

Last year, he hit .282 with 31 home runs and 93 runs batted in. He reached base in almost 40 percent of his plate appearances, set a major league record by stealing 23 bases without getting caught, led the league in hit by pitches, and started in his fourth straight All-Star game.

How Utley has never finished higher than seventh in the MVP voting remains a mystery to me. Other than Pujols, Utley is probably the best player in baseball.

Rollins had a down year compared to his normal standards, struggling to stay above .200 for the first three months of the season. The former league MVP hit just .250 and his .296 on-base percentage was by far the lowest of his career.

It seems almost a certainty for Rollins to bounce back this season. Rollins brings with him a boatload of leadership, experience, and a Gold Glove at shortstop that might be the best in the business.

Victorino and Werth are two of the game’s top all-around outfielders. Each is superb defensively, a fine hitter, and a speedster who would give Usain Bolt a run for his money in a footrace.

And although he certainly wasn’t the Cole Hamels we hoped for last season, Hamels is still an elite pitcher in an era when hitters dominate.

Hamels’ numbers dropped from 2008 to 2009. After posting a 14-10 record with a 3.09 ERA, Hamels was just 10-11 last year with a 4.32 ERA.

The main difference? Bad Luck.

Hamels’ strikeout, walk, fly ball, line drive, and ground ball rates all remained the same. The only difference was his batting average on balls in play, which rose from .270 to .325.

Hamels has been pitching all offseason. And rumor has it, he has added a pretty good cutter to his pitch repertoire. I expect a big year from him in 2010.

And don’t forget Charlie Manuel.

While he may not speak the clearest form of English, and while there weren’t too many supporting him when he was hired as Phillies’ manager, it’s safe to say Manuel has earned his wings following three consecutive NL East titles, back-to-back World Series appearances, and a championship.


Roy Halladay:

You think Cliff Lee was special? Wait until you see The Doc.

He’s that good.

Prior to joining the Phillies, Halladay spent his entire 12 year career in Toronto. And for more than half of those, he was in the discussion for the best pitcher in baseball.

His credentials speak for themselves six All-Star selections, a Cy Young award, and a reputation as a guy you don’t want to face.

Halladay is a workhorse. He’s a guy who wants the ball. Halladay has averaged 16 wins, over 200 innings pitched, and a 3.13 ERA over the last eight years. Those are phenomenal numbers.

During that span, Halladay ranks first among all major league pitchers in wins and complete games, second in earned run average, fourth in innings pitched, and ninth in strikeouts.

In an era when most pitchers are content to go five or six innings and let the bullpen take care of the rest, Halladay wants to finish what he has started. He has led the AL in complete games in each of the previous three seasons and five times in his career.

With all due respect to Colbert Richard Hamels, Halladay threw nearly as many complete games (four) in September 2009 as Hamels has in his career (six).

Initially, when the Phillies pulled off the three-team trade that sent Lee to the Mariners and brought Halladay to the Phillies, I wasn’t sure it was much of an upgrade.

It is.

Comparing Lee to Halladay is like comparing Donovan McNabb to Drew Brees. Sure, both are good players. But one is the best in the business, while the other is with a class of ten or so in the second tier.

Halladay has no postseason experience, you say. Lee was a machine last season for the Phillies. He was responsible for the club’s only two World Series wins. How could Halladay possibly duplicate that?

All valid points.

Just give Halladay a chance. After 12 seasons in postseason-less Toronto, Halladay must be itching to pitch in the playoffs.

He is a gamer. While Lee posted a 6.13 ERA in his seven starts down the stretch for the Phillies in ’09, Halladay very quietly went 4-3 with a 1.96 ERA for the fourth-place Blue Jays.

As mentioned, Halladay tossed four complete games in the final month of the season. Three of those were shutouts. His only two losses came when his team scored just a single run in each game.

Halladay’s career numbers in September are mind-boggling.

His 2.36 ERA is nearly a full run better than any other month (3.21 in May). His 3.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best of any month, as is his 1.062 WHIP. His .272 opponents on-base percentage is the same as what Hamels posted in the 2008 season, a figure that led the league.

You think Doc tires in September from a long season?


Six of Halladay’s 15 career shutouts have come in September. His 13 complete games are four more than any other month. Simply put, this is a guy you want on your team in crunch time.

Halladay has five pitches he feels comfortable using in any situation—a fastball that tops out around 95 miles per hour, a sinker, a cutter, a changeup, and a curveball. He learned his sinker from Derek Lowe, turning Halladay into a ground ball pitcher, yet still a 200-strikeout guy with pinpoint control.

Halladay led the American League in strikeout-to-walk ratio each of the last two seasons, posting astronomical totals (5.28 in 2008 and 5.94 in 2009). He’s the type of guy who will pitch a complete game and not walk a batter. In fact, since 2002, Halladay leads all pitchers with 54 games of seven or more innings pitched and no walks.

The transition to the NL should only benefit Halladay, who spent the last decade-plus pitching to nine real pitchers. With the pitcher hitting at the bottom of the lineup, Halladay should shine like never before. He already posts a 2.88 career ERA in NL ballparks.

The sky is the limit for Halladay in 2010. He threw two scoreless innings in his spring training debut, and followed that up with three more scoreless innings in his second outing.

He has loads of talent around him —both offensively and defensively. His team has appeared in the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, and there is no reason to suspect it won’t soon be a fourth.

Expect Halladay to play a major role for this team.


The Phillies are no fluke. You can’t make two consecutive World Series and be a fluke.

No one had a career year for the Phillies last season. That is exciting. This team isn’t a one-year wonder. It is a talented group of 25 ballplayers.

Ryan Howard hit 45 home runs and drove in 141 runs last year, but those aren’t unusual numbers for Howard. That is just a typical season for the big man.

Utley didn’t set a career-high in any statistic. In fact, of the five years he has been a full-time starter, Utley actually posted career lows in doubles (28), runs batted in (93), batting average (.282), slugging percentage (.508), and OPS (.905).

Rollins couldn’t keep his batting average above .220 until the All-Star break, and finished the year with by far the lowest on-base percentage (.296) of his career.

The entire outfield —Raul Ibanez, Victorino, and Werth —made the All-Star team, but then again, all three are All-Star caliber players. Ibanez started the season on fire, but cooled off to the point that he wouldn’t have made the team if the voting was conducted at the end of the year.

Victorino probably didn’t deserve the final spot (San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval was a little better), but he is a guy who is going to be a .292 hitter with 25 steals for years.

And Werth? Well, he’s as good as his numbers (36 home runs, 20 steals) indicate. He’s one of the game’s top five-tool players, even though he doesn’t get a lot of credit.

In the rotation, Hamels struggled to find his groove all season. Jamie Moyer lost his starting spot late in the year. Brett Myers missed extended time with an injury.

With the possible exception of J.A. Happ, a Rookie of the Year candidate who won 12 games while posting a 2.93 ERA, no one exceeded expectations. And it is too early to tell for Happ, a first-year starter in ’09.

After a lights out season that propelled the Phillies to the World Championship in ’08, the ’09 Brad Lidge put together the worst season by a closer in the history of major league baseball—by far.

His 7.21 ERA is the highest ever by a closer with at least 20 saves. He lost all eight of his decisions and yielded 11 home runs in just 58.2 innings pitched. Oh, and he blew 11 saves in just 42 opportunities.

And the Phillies made the World Series.

That’s how good this team is.

Rollins slumped for half the season, Hamels couldn’t regain any sort of the form he displayed in ’08, Myers spent most of the year on the DL, Moyer lost his starting job, and Lidge turned an entire city against him —and the Phillies still reached the World Series.

As long as everyone does what it is expected, the Phillies are in good position for 2010.



Experience helps in October. And the Phillies have it.

All eight starters in the field have played in a World Series. All but Ibanez and Placido Polanco have played in each of the last two World Series.

These aren’t guys who are new to playoff baseball. Utley hit five home runs in a single World Series last year. Howard would have won the World Series MVP in ’08 had it not been for Hamels’ dominating performances on the mound. And Rollins had the biggest hit of the playoffs last season, when his two-out two-run double in Game Four of the NLCS gave the Phillies a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

Other than Halladay, the pitching staff is loaded with guys who have experience in the postseason. Hamels earned both the NLCS and the World Series MVP award in ’08.

Blanton has started five games in the playoffs over the past two seasons. Moyer, although he was left off the postseason roster last season, played an instrumental role in the Phillies’ championship run in ’08.

And don’t forget Lights Out, who has still yet to blow a postseason save as a member of the Phillies, converting all ten since ’08.


Breaking Down The Competition:

When you win the division three years in a row and appear in back-to-back World Series, it adds some pressure. People follow you more closely. You’re expected to do well.

That’s okay. The Phillies are this good.

In Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and Tim Hudson, the Braves have a pretty solid pitching rotation. In fact, I would put their rotation up with almost every team in the league but I can’t see their lineup producing enough to keep this team going into October.

The Mets finished just 70-92 last year. They were decimated with injuries. I would be surprised if that makes the difference between a fourth place finish in the NL East and a run at the playoffs.

The Marlins, unfortunately for them, don’t have the money to keep around their best players. While they finished 87-75 last season, they were only projected to win 82 according to Baseball Reference. I can’t see them competing.

And the Nationals? No comment needed.

Now that’s not to say some other team from the NL couldn’t overtake the Phillies.

The Giants return a top-notch pitching staff with Matt Cain and reigning Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum. The Cardinals, last year’s NL Central champions, boast the game’s best player (Albert Pujols) and two elite starting pitchers (Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright). The Dodgers have been to the NLCS two straight seasons.

And don’t forget about the Yankees or the Red Sox in the AL, two teams who seem certain to represent their respective league in the World Series. These teams —especially the Yankees, with their limitless payrol l—pose a serious threat to the Phillies.

At worst, I see the Phillies winning their division and losing early in the playoffs.

And at best?

Well, it certainly looks like this team has what it takes to return to the World Series. I wouldn’t count out 100 regular season games. As long as the Doc pitches like the Doc, the hitters hit, and Lidge returns to some form between his ’08 and ’09 seasons, this team is the team to beat in the National League.

Maybe all of baseball.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Reviewing the Importance of Playoff Closers, Part Two

October 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

A week ago, I wrote an article detailing the importance of an elite closer for a team looking to win the World Series.


This article, “Does a Team Really Need a Dominant Closer to Win the World Series?” reviewed the major league playoffs since the establishment of the wild-card format and compared the efficiency of the closer for the team that won the World Series to the team that lost the World Series.


My results were predictable, but nonetheless significant, as my data showed that closers for a team that captured the World Series championship saved 68 of a possible 72 games in postseason opportunities, a pretty nifty save rate of 94.4 percent.


Meanwhile, closers for teams that lost the World Series didn’t fare so well, blowing more games in fewer chances, an overall save rate of 87 percent. My research concluded that for a team to win the World Series, it needs an elite closer.


After watching the 2009 Division Series matchups, I am only further reminded just how important the role of the closer is to a playoff team.


All four teams that lost their playoff series suffered a blown save from their closer. These closers – Joe Nathan of the Minnesota Twins, Jonathan Papelbon of the Boston Red Sox, Huston Street of the Colorado Rockies, and Ryan Franklin of the St. Louis Cardinals – combined for an 0-4 record, four blown saves in five opportunities, and a horrific 10.13 ERA.


The only one of the bunch to earn a save was Street, who saved Game 2 against the Phillies, but he couldn’t hold a two-run lead with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning of Game 4, a game that would have forced a decisive Game 5 for both teams.


Nathan and Papelbon are probably two of the top three closers in all of baseball (the other being Mariano Rivera), and both uncharacteristically coughed up a lead in a game their team couldn’t afford to lose.


And Franklin put together a superb season, shocking the baseball world with a sub-2.00 ERA to go with his 38 saves for the NL Central champion Cardinals, but he blew his only save opportunity of the postseason.


Meanwhile, the four teams that won their postseason series all received flawless contributions from their closers—Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees, Brian Fuentes of the L.A. Angels, Brad Lidge of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Jonathan Broxton of the L.A. Dodgers.


These four pitchers saved all six of their combined save opportunities, with Lidge and Fuentes each earning two saves apiece. Together, the four closers pitched 10.1 innings without allowing a run.


Rivera is probably the greatest closer of all-time, and his success was no surprise, but Lidge was a pleasant surprise for we Philadelphia fans who had grown accustomed to his painful blown saves this past season.


It’s gotten a reputation as a position that is very overrated, but I think this year’s playoffs thus far have shown just how important a closer is to a baseball team.


Closers for the winning teams: 0-0 record, 6-6 SV, 0.00 ERA in 10.1 IP

Closers for the losing teams: 0-4, 1-5 SV, 10.13 ERA in 8 IP


The League Championship Series puts the defending World Champion Phillies against the Dodgers, the N.L.’s best team in terms of wins this past year.


In the AL, the Yankees—the majors’ only 100-win team—square off against the hot-hitting Angels in what should be a series to remember.


These four teams are very evenly matched and I could easily see both series going the distance.


And I can virtually guarantee one thing.


There series are too short and too competitive to afford a blown save. All four closers better be on the top of their game for their teams to advance.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Does a Team Really Need a Dominant Closer To Win the World Series?

October 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

Baseball playoffs are starting next week, so I figured I would take a break from Brett Favre for a little while to address a major concern for many Phillies fans like myself.


The closer position.


Last year we had the luxury of perfection.


This year, we haven’t been so fortunate. With Brad Lidge sporting a 7.21 ERA and 11 blown saves, the closer job is between Ryan Madson, J.A. Happ, Pedro Martinez, Brett Myers, or possibly even old Jose Mesa himself out of retirement.


So I thought to myself: Do teams even need an effective closer to win a World Series?


I went back through the last 13 World Series—every one since the wild-card format was instituted in 1995—and checked the performances of each closer for the team that won the World Series.


I added up all their save opportunities in the wild card round, the league championship series, and the World Series, and then checked how many of those opportunities were converted.


I was surprised at what I saw.


Closers are good. Very good. Since 1995, closers of the World Series champion team have been given 72 save opportunities.


They have converted on 68 of them, a pretty impressive 94.4 percent save rate.


Two of the four blown saves were by one man in a span of 24 hours, as Arizona’s Byung Hyun Kim gave up two-out, two-run home runs on back-to-back nights against the Yankees in Games Four and Five of the 2001 World Series.


Bobby Jenks blew one for the White Sox in the ’05 World Series, and Robb Nen blew one for the Marlins in the ’97 NLDS.


And that’s it.


Other than that, these closers have been top notch for their teams.


The Phillies wouldn’t have won the World Series without Brad Lidge, who was called upon seven times in last year’s playoffs, and came through all seven times. Same with the Angels in 2002, who used Troy Percival seven times, and got seven saves.


It should be noted that the Angels also had Francisco Rodriguez in the year he emerged as the unhittable K-Rod, proving a great overall bullpen is even better than just a great closer.


Mariano Rivera was probably the single most valuable piece of that Yankees dynasty that won three straight titles, four out of five, and qualified for six World Series in eight seasons.


And before Rivera was John Wetteland, who saved four straight games to bring the Yankees back from a two games to none deficit in the World Series, while securing a World Championship.


Each of the last five World Series champions had their closer on the mound in a save situation in the clinching game, and it was fitting that these guys could throw the final pitch for the title.


Here is a complete breakdown below of each World Series champion closer’s performance:







World Series



2008 Phillies



Brad Lidge










2007 Red Sox



Jonathan Papelbon









2006 Cardinals



Adam Wainwright










2005 White Sox



Bobby Jenks










2004 Red Sox



Keith Foulke










2003 Marlins



Ugueth Urbina










2002 Angels



Troy Percival











2001 Diamondbacks



Byung-Hyun Kim










2000 Yankees



Mariano Rivera











1999 Yankees



Mariano Rivera











1998 Yankees



Mariano Rivera











1997 Marlins



Robb Nen











1996 Yankees



John Wetteland











1995 Braves



Mark Wohlers






















I wanted to check how much better the closers for the teams that won the World Series performed than the closers for the teams that lost the World Series.


Obviously, the teams that lost the World Series still had great closers—you don’t make it that far without a great closer—but I wanted to see if there was a significant drop-off.


There was, to a certain extent.


Closers for the team that lost the World Series saved 54 of 62 opportunities, a save rate of 87.1 percent. That is still a great rate, a percentage any manager would take for his team, but it is seven percent less than the World Series champions.


And too often, those blown saves are the reason why the team lost the World Series.


Brad Lidge in 2005 blew a monstrous save in the League Championship Series against Albert Pujols, a pitch that set Lidge’s career back three seasons. Lidge followed that up by giving up a walk-off home run to Scott Podsednik in Game Two of the World Series.


Though it wasn’t technically credited as a blown save, because it was a tie game when Lidge entered the game, Podsednik’s home run—the only one he hit during the entire 2005 regular and postseason combined—certainly helped the White Sox capture their World Championship.


Mariano Rivera in 2001 blew an opportunity in Game Seven of the World Series, giving up a rare ninth-inning single to Luis Gonzalez, ending the Yankees’ bid for four straight titles.


And Jose Mesa in 1997 made a living blowing saves for the Indians, blowing three of his seven chances that postseason, including a 2-1 lead in Game Seven of the World Series that would have won it all for Cleveland.


See the accompanying chart for a complete breakdown of the closers of the losing team in the World Series:







World Series



2008 Rays



Dan Wheeler








2007 Rockies



Manny Corpas










2006 Tigers



Todd Jones










2005 Astros



Brad Lidge








2004 Cardinals



Jason Isringhausen








2003 Yankees



Mariano Rivera










2002 Giants



Robb Nen











2001 Yankees



Mariano Rivera










2000 Mets



Armando Benitez











1999 Braves



John Rocker










1998 Padres



Trevor Hoffman











1997 Indians


Jose Mesa











1996 Braves



Mark Wohlers










1995 Indians



Jose Mesa






















Simply put, if a team wants to win a World Series, it is going to need a top-notch performance from its closer. Not good. Not great.




Brad Lidge did it last year. For the Phillies to repeat, Lidge will need to repeat.

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies Near Playoffs: Who Will Close Games for the NL East Champs?

October 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

As the 2009 regular season comes to a close, the Phillies have secured their third consecutive NL East title. Coupled with a devastating lineup that features four 30-home run men and a pitching staff loaded with the game’s top southpaws, the Phillies appear to be in prime position to contend for a second straight World Series Championship.




Possibly. It all depends on the closer.


Last season, the Phillies were able to win their division and advance through the playoffs with relative ease due in large part to Brad Lidge’s historic perfect season.


This season?


Not so much.


Lidge’s 11 blown saves leaves him three short of the single-season major league record.

His 7.34 ERA ranks dead last among all closing pitchers in the major leagues.


In fact, in the history of baseball, only four pitchers have pitched in as many games as Brad Lidge (63) and posted an ERA higher.


Those three pitchers would be Jesse Orosco (7.75 ERA in 2003 for two teams), Alan Embree (7.62 in 2005 for two teams), Javier Lopez (7.52 for the 2004 Colorado Rockies), and Mike Munoz (7.42 for the 1995 Colorado Rockies).


The difference between those four pitchers and Lidge?


Orosco, Embree, Lopez, and Munoz were situational lefties. Lidge is a closer. The Phillies rely on Lidge when it counts the most. He’s not a guy who comes in to face a power-hitting lefty with two on and two outs in the seventh inning.


The first three finished a combined 57 games all season. Lidge has finished 54. That means Lidge is being put out there with the game on the line, and he has failed over and over again.


Lidge has frustrated an entire fan base who handed him the key to the city after his amazing performance last season.


In 2008, his first season with the Phillies after an up-and-down roller coaster ride with the Houston Astros, Lidge converted all 41 of his save attempts in the regular season. He was then seven-for-seven in the postseason, while leading the Phillies to the team’s first World Championship in 28 seasons.


The image of a triumphant Brad Lidge kneeling on the ground – arms raised in the air – following his winning strike is one that will live in Philadelphia lore forever and ever.


That makes Lidge’s 2009 struggles all the more painful.


We as fans know he is better than this. Heading into this year, we didn’t expect a repeat of his 1.95 ERA from last year. I envisioned Lidge posting an ERA in the mid-threes while converting close to 90 percent of his saves.


An ERA nearly four times last year and a save percentage (73.8) that ranks dead last among all regular closers is absurd.


Lidge has struggled with his pitch location, his control, that once-devastating slider, and his head. Lidge is a mental pitcher—as are most closers—but this season has really gotten to him.


Last year, I loved watching Brad Lidge pitch. Those slim one-run ninth inning leads were where Lidge established his dominance. Sure, he might get into a little bit of trouble, but he always escaped unharmed.


In the division-clinching game, Lidge loaded the bases with one out but escaped the jam with a miraculous game-ending double play, keeping his perfect season intact.


This year?


Lidge just hasn’t had it.


I remember my reaction after Lidge blew his first save, back in mid-April. It was almost relief. I knew Lidge wasn’t going to be perfect again, and it was shocking to see our World Series hero fail (especially in the way that he did, yielding four runs on two hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning).


However, I figured Lidge would settle down and regain his form that made him one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers last season.




His second blown save didn’t come for nearly a month after the first, but when he blew back-to-back saves once in late May and again in early June, Phillies fans like myself began to feel resentment to Lidge.


Lidge plodded along, racking up the blown saves while we campaigned for his closer role to be revoked.


Along the way, Ryan Madson—perhaps the most underrated setup man in baseball over the past several seasons—had his opportunity to close games, but Madson couldn’t get it done, converting just eight of 14 opportunities.


As we head toward the playoffs, the role of closer becomes all the more a pressing issue for a Phillies team that—barring a historic collapse—is destined for its third straight National League East division title.


Who should close games in the postseason for this club? Lidge? Madson? Someone else?


Teams do not win in the playoffs without a reliable closer. Look at the Yankees when they were winning three straight titles and four out of five.


Mariano Rivera was arguably the greatest pitcher alive during that run. He was untouchable in the playoffs, and the Yankees absolutely would not have won those titles without him.


Same with Lidge last season. I highly doubt the Phillies would be reigning World Champions had Lidge not enjoyed a season for the ages.


He isn’t getting it done though, so who should close? Let’s break down the bullpen:



Ryan Madson: He seems like he would be the best option. He can throw the heat (97 miles per hour), which coupled with a devastating changeup, makes Madson a top-notch relief pitcher. There are few setup men in baseball better than Madson (26 holds, 3.18 ERA)


But he has proven he can’t close games either. In his brief stints as a closer, Madson has failed 38 percent of the time—actually a significantly higher percentage than Lidge.


Madson as a closer: 7.91 ERA

Madson as a setup: 2.26 ERA

Madson in 2009: 3.18 ERA


Madson is one of the more valuable setup men in the game, as evidenced by his 2.26 ERA in non-save situations. Just don’t count on him to get the final three outs.


Brett Myers:
Brett Myers has experience as a closer. He served as our primary closer in 2007, converting 21 of 24 attempts (88 percent), including the final strike to win the NL East title. He has the stuff to make it happen for the Phillies, and I think he is our best option.


If he can get healthy.


Myers has been injured for the majority of the season. He has returned briefly but as of now is unable to pitch. He would be the ideal option for this team but it depends on his health.


J.C. Romero:
Romero is one of the best left-handed relief pitchers in all of the major leagues. He was vital down the stretch for the Phillies in their NL East championship in 2007 and the winning pitcher in Game Five of the World Series last season before he missed most of this season due to a suspension and subsequent injuries.


That being said, even if he were healthy, I wouldn’t want Romero to close out ballgames for the Phillies. He is a great left-handed specialist but I don’t think he has the mentality or the stuff to close out ball games.


Scott Eyre:
Another left-handed specialist in the Phillies’ bullpen. Eyre is one of the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball. Since the start of May, Eyre has pitched in 25.2 innings for the Phillies and yielded just one run – an ERA of 0.35!


Again with Eyre, he is much more valuable as a left-handed specialist, and Eyre’s current injuries will prevent him from pitching for a little anyway.


Chan Ho Park:
I never would have thought I would consider him—especially after he couldn’t even hold onto the No. 5 starting spot early in the season—but Park has settled down and really become a dependable relief pitcher for the Phillies.


Park has a 4.43 ERA for the season. As a relief pitcher, his ERA is 2.57 and he has registered 13 holds. Park strikes out a high percentage of hitters, doesn’t walk too many, and hasn’t given up a home run yet since his move to the bullpen.


Definitely a candidate.


Tyler Walker:
A very very plausible option. Walker is a veteran relief pitcher with closing experience. He saved 23 of 28 opportunities for the Giants in 2005, filling in for injured closer Armando Benitez.


This season, Walker has posted a 3.24 ERA for the Phillies in 33.1 innings pitched. He strikes out a high ratio of batters (7.0 per nine innings) and has a near-3:1 strikeout to walk ratio.


Walker is also the only pitcher in major league history to enter the ninth inning with the bases loaded and no one out, strike out all three batters, and not allow a run.


Clay Condrey:
Condrey is a very dependable relief pitcher, serving as one of the Phillies’ primary middle relievers. He has posted a 3.02 ERA in 44 games this season.


Condrey has never been used in save situations, and I don’t think he is the solution. He is a solid reliever but I wouldn’t want to pitch him with the game on the line.


Chad Durbin:
Durbin is a solid middle relief pitcher, like Condrey, but he just hasn’t been as effective in 2009 as he was in 2008.


Durbin 2008: 5-4, 2.87 ERA, 1.80 K:BB, 1.323 WHIP

Durbin 2009: 1-2, 4.46 ERA, 1.32 K:BB, 1.485 WHIP


Durbin just hasn’t been the reliable pitcher in 2009 that he was in 2008, and I wouldn’t put him in save situations.


Jack Taschner:
Just a left-handed specialist. Taschner has a 5.08 ERA for the season. He allows nearly two baserunners per inning and he has no experience as a closer. I’ll pass…


Sergio Escalona:
A rookie with a 5.25 ERA and just a dozen career innings pitched. Not who I want to see facing Albert Pujols with the game on the line in the NLDS.


Pedro Martinez:
Now onto the starters. Pedro was signed by the team after the All-Star break and has filled in admirably as a low-risk signing. Martinez’s ERA in nine starts is 3.63 and he has posted a 5-1 record for the defending World Champions.


Moving him to the bullpen wouldn’t be too bad of a move. Martinez is an 18-year veteran who knows what it takes to win. He’s turned into a smart finesse pitcher who gets hitters out with his mind.


The only problem is his age and durability. I can’t envision Martinez being able to warm up too quickly and pitch every day. He is a starter, even at this point in his career, and moving him to the bullpen would not be the best option.


J.A. Happ:
Happ is just a rookie, but it’s difficult for me to believe that. He has handled everything thrown at him this season with class and a whole lot of poise.


This season alone, Happ lost his fifth starter spot, moved to the bullpen, moved back to the rotation and became arguably the team’s most reliable starting pitcher, dealt with trade rumors all of July, overcame an injury, and now is being rumored to move to the bullpen to be the team’s closer in the postseason.


Happ is one of the top lefties in the game, as evidenced by his 12-4 record, 2.85 ERA, and league-leading two shutouts.


Cole Hamels/Cliff Lee/Joe Blanton:
Our No. 1, 2, and 3 starters in the playoffs. No way any of them moves to the bullpen.


My Verdict: It’s not an easy decision.


I don’t think Madson is ideal to close out games. I like him way too much as a setup man. Park just isn’t quite good enough. Walker might have been a solid pick, but he gave up a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning of a tie game last week, and now I have my doubts about him.


That leaves Myers or Happ.


Too very possible options.


Myers is probably my initial choice, but his injuries have prevented him from pitching consistently for a little white. He has experience and he has proven he can handle the job. It’s tough to argue with that.


If he can stay healthy.


If not, I say go with Happ. Happ might be a rookie by MLB’s standards, but he sure has played up to his potential this season. With a rotation that is most likely to feature Hamels, Lee, Blanton, and Martinez, Happ might be the odd man out.


Putting Happ in the rotation would be an overkill of lefties and I don’t see Martinez as much use in the bullpen. I think leaving Martinez as our No. 4 starter in the playoffs and converting Happ to closer might be the wisest choice.


That is, unless Charlie Manuel decides to stick with Brad Lidge.


We’ll find out in less than a week…

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Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

Phillies’ J.A. Happ Making Strong Case for N.L. Rookie of the Year Award

August 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Fan News

There remains just over a month to play in the 2009 baseball season, and it is time to start looking at the potential candidates for major league baseball’s most prized individual awards.


Albert Pujols seems to be a lock for the MVP award and the Cy Young award will most likely come down to a battle of Giants (Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain) or Cardinals (Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright).


The Phillies’ own J.A. Happ seems to have the edge on the rest of the National League for the Rookie of the Year award.


Happ currently leads all rookies with 10 wins and his 2.59 ERA is fifth best among all major-league starters, first among rookies by close to half of a run. His .833 winning percentage and two shutouts are tops among all NL pitchers.


And this is a man who wasn’t even supposed to be a starter when this season began.


For the Phillies during their World Championship season of ’08, Happ hurled 31.2 innings as a relief pitcher and occasional spot starter. He posted a solid 3.69 ERA with an adjusted ERA of 117.


There were rumors that Happ would be given a chance to start in ’09, and he was given every shot to win the job.


Happ lost a well-publicized battle at the beginning of the season for the Phillies’ fifth starting spot. The competition seemed to be among Happ, Chan Ho Park, Carlos Carrasco, and Kyle Kendrick.


Kendrick appeared to be the favorite, with 24 big-league wins under his belt, including a key role in the Phillies’ 2007 NL East division championship, but he never got it together like the club wanted. Kendrick struggled to pitch consistently in spring training, which led to his demotion to Triple-A.


Same with Carrasco.


A once promising prospect with a strong future ahead of him, Carrasco has been inconsistent in Triple-A this season, posting a 10-10 record with a so-so 4.80 ERA thus far.


Park, a former starter with 15 years big league experience and 117 wins to his credentials, beat out Happ for the spot.


Park pitched poorly however in his seven starts, posting a 7.29 ERA and .311 opponents’ batting average. He failed to pitch consistently and after getting rocked for five runs in one and one-third innings in a May 17 start against the Nationals, Park lost his job to Happ.


And Happ pitched to keep his spot.


The young left hander has been arguably the Phillies’ best starting pitcher this season, far outperforming the two veteran lefties, Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer.


Happ has been dominant this season, pitching a quality start in 11 of his last 12 starts. He won his first seven decisions of the year. And he appears to be a key factor for a Phillies team looking to contend for a second straight World Series title.


If Happ wins the Rookie of the Year award, he will be the second Phillie—Ryan Howard in 2005—to win the award in the last five seasons.


Happ’s main competition appears to be either pitcher Tommy Hanson of the Atlanta Braves, outfielder Dexter Fowler of the Colorado Rockies, or outfielder Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Hanson is having a fabulous year himself, although he is not quite in Happ’s class.


Since being called up to the majors in June, Hanson has a 9-2 mark with a 3.12 ERA for the Braves. He has been vital to the Braves’ hunt for the wild card spot, as he has pitched a quality start in each of his last four starts.


Fowler leads all rookies in at-bats, hits, doubles, runs scored, stolen bases, and walks. He has swiped 26 bases this season for a Colorado ball club that is hanging on in the N.L. wild card race.


McCutchen is a speedy center fielder who looks to be a future All-Star for years to come for the Pirates. At age 22, he is already a five-tool player and a .284 hitter with 14 steals in 15 attempts in his first taste of big league action with the Pirates.


McCutchen is also a talented fielder, with just two errors in 69 games in center field for the Pirates and a solid .988 fielding percentage.


While those three players have been excellent for their teams this season, they haven’t been Happ. And barring a sudden drop in his performance, Happ appears to be the prime contender for the N.L. Rookie of the Year award.

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Philadelphia Phillies

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