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Archive for June, 2006

Wagner Has the Last Laugh on Tuesday

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, June 13, 2006 07:58 PM Comments: 0

The Phils lost a heartbreaker last night to the Mets by a score of 9-7.  It was a wild one which featured eight homers all combined and culminated in Billy Wagner’s first save in Philly since he left for the Mets’ money. 

Ryan Madson started for the Phils and pitched decently for the first five innings.  In the third though, he took some notes out of the Ryan Franklin school of pitching and gave up back-to-back home runs to Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado.  I just realized they are both named Carlos, so I’ve asked Jayson Stark to send us some useless information on when the last time two guys with the same first name went back-to-back.  I’ll let you know what he says.  Anyway they were his only big mistakes in an otherwise good outing early on – only one walk.  Once the sixth inning hit, though, there was trouble.  But before that, things were looking up for the good guys.

Rollins, Rowand, and Abreu connected on long balls themselves and Dellucci hit a 3-run shot later in the game as well.  This included a leadoff homer by JRoll extending his Phillies record (16) in that category as well as a second one to tie the game at 4 in the fifth inning.  It was also the first time in Jimmy’s career he hit two homers in a single game and it appeared to put the Mets on the ropes.

It was at this point that Tom Glavine’s streak of 27 consecutive starts lasting at least six innings ended.  He had thrown 110 pitches and just walked the bases loaded after a double by Chase Utley when Mets Manager Willie Randolph yanked him in favor of Chad Bradford.  Despite the chance to improve on the dismal RISP stats, Rowand popped up on the first pitch he saw and David Bell grounded out to quickly end the threat.  This was precisely where the Phillies had to break the game open because with the way the ball was flying out of the park the Phils could ill afford a close game. 

Sure enough, the next pitch from Ryan Madson to David Wright in the top of the sixth left the park and the Mets regained the lead and momentum.  This was then parlayed into a double, a bunt single (actually scored a sacrifice with an error charged to Ryan Howard – his ninth of the season), and a hit-by-pitch to chase Madson.  Brian Sanches came on to pitch to the ageless wonder, Julio Franco, and got him to line out to Utley, but the relay to double off the runner at first went wide and allowed the Mets sixth run to score.  A infield single brought another run in.  Two more runs crossed home thanks to an error by David Bell and with the score now at 9-4, the Phillies learned first hand why the Mets are a better team.  Besides the Phils practically giving the game away with three errors in the inning, the point was demonstrated as both teams were faced with the same opportunity in consecutive half-innings and yet only the Mets took advantage.  That said, the Phils are 2.5 games back in the wild card standings; but before we start that campaign, remember what your disgruntled Uncle Charlie said, "I’m not here to win no damn wild card."

In other news, left-hander Randy Wolf was struck in his pitching hand by line drive last night while working a rehab assignment in Clearwater.  X-rays turned out to be negative and he will continue his rehab as scheduled with the goal to rejoin the club before the all-star break.

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An International Perspective

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, June 13, 2006 08:36 AM Comments: 0

Since it’s World Cup season and I’m living in Europe, I feel obliged to drawn in some Phillies story lines from the tournament’s excitement (or disappointment if you’re a US fan).  The best opportunity so far comes from London’s The Observer and involves Bobby Abreu’s ex-fiancée, who you might remember from a post last May.

Costa Rica have expelled all media from their training sessions after former Miss Venezuela Alicia Machado, 28, used her press accreditation to ‘distract players with her body.’  Machado – ‘The Breast Queen’ – shouted ‘Hola, Hola’ to players; coach Alexandre Guimaraes had the media area cleared after players ‘lost their focus.’  Machado now says she’ll move on.  "I’m here to do this for Mexican TV.  It’s a wonderful job!  Next I try the Germans."

Classy.  Since it seems Machado will flaunt herself for money, perhaps Bobby could hire her to replace the Phanatic in his voodoo-atop-the-dugout routine.  If it worked on Costa Rican footballers I’m sure the Mets would take notice.

Speaking of Mr. Abreu, phillies.com featured an biographic article of our not-quite superstar.  Besides tracing his roots from Venezuela, the piece focused on how Abreu is underrated when compared to other stars.  Teammate Jimmy Rollins makes a good point in saying:

"People think [Philadelphia] is a big market, but it’s not when you are between Boston and New York, then Chicago out west. That’s who we are really competing against. Bobby does what he does in New York, like he has been doing all this time, and he’s a superstar. But in Philly, he’s just Bobby Abreu. That’s too bad."

Even the man himself has wondered why he has not reached superstar status in Philadelphia, "I don’t know why I am underrated and my name does not ring here the way it does for other players. I have the same numbers every year."  I see two reasons why Abreu is not on level with the Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, etc.  First, as the article alluded to, he hasn’t won a championship with the Phillies (like the aforementioned) nor broke any major records (like Bonds).  Second, the Phillies have not marketed him as a superstar.  Sure fans are keen on the young fresh faces of Utley, Howard, and Hamels and the organization exploits this well; yet Abreu is treated more or less as a member of the old guard, a stale relic from the Terry Francona days.  Although Bobby does receive a lot of flak for his defense – and justifiably so – I do think a majority of Phillies fans appreciate him.  Yet for him to be catapulted to superstar status would take either a World Series MVP performance or some intense public relations support by the Phillies front office.  Unfortunately, I don’t see either scenario playing out.

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Batting Disorder

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, June 12, 2006 08:29 AM Comments: 0

The Phillies have off today and they sure need it after a rough weekend in the nation’s capital.  Although the Phillies Nation crew provided some luck on Saturday (a full report of the festivities coming later this week), the Phils dropped 3 of 4 after winning 8 of their last 11.  Cole Hamels recorded his first loss yesterday as the team could only muster three hits and were shutout for the first time this season after 62 games.  That stat was bested only once in the past 80 years when the 1993 team went 158 games before being shutout. 

As suggested by all too often by our faithful commenters, the Phillies lineup is in need of a shakeup.  They are 11th in the league in batting average, 10th in K/BB (despite Bobby Abreu leading the league in walks), and 14th in singles.  They do have some good numbers though as well:  sixth in total bases (but 10th in hits), fifth in slugging, seventh in OBP, and fourth in home runs.  All this adds up to – you guessed it – the Phils live and die by the long ball.  While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the problem is the Phils do not get enough hits.  Looking at the rankings, the teams that are in the top of the league in hits – not home runs – are the ones that are leading their division or a close second. 

Burrell, Bell, Rollins, and the catching platoon are all batting below .260.  I can live with Burrell – a power hitter -, Bell, Liebs and Fasano – all have low expectations – but for JRoll to be hitting so poorly is inexcusable.  He always says he loves he spotlight, well now we’re putting it on you Jimmy.  Maybe Charlie Manuel can dim it a bit by moving him back down in the order, but this lack of production I believe is the key to the Phillies season.  Sure the starting pitching needs help (and another arm for Saturday’s game), but the Phils do have offensive potential to overcome their pitching deficiencies.  They’ll certainly have to fulfill it this week when the Mets, winners of their last five, come to town led by Tom Glavine on Tuesday.

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DC Trip Recap

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, June 12, 2006 06:41 AM Comments: 0

The morning of the trip to Washington I was reserved and content on how I thought the day would end up. I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never organized such a mass undertaking with being responsible for a large group of people. Also, this is the first time Phillies Nation has ever participated in conducting a roadtrip to a Phillies game in any capacity. By the end of the night I couldn’t believe what had transpired over the course of Saturday June 10th, 2006

It was truly a learning experience for me. I was nervous and sweating bullets the entire time pondering the "What ifs" any given situation which may or may not occur. What if members of the group go missing? What if someone is stabbed? What if Aliens land in left field? Thankfully, only one of the three actually occurred.

The bus arrived around 8:35ish at Lot P of the Phillies Parking Lot and the bus ride down was fun yet uneventful.  We arrived to R.F.K. stadium’s parking lot at 12:15 and a bunch of us went inside to check out the stadium and to receive our Chad Cordero bobble head dolls. For those of you who haven’t been to R.F.K. , you aren’t missing anything. It is absolutely the worst stadium you will ever go to. It makes The Vet look like the Sistine Chapel. When walking though the gate I was expecting to be handed a box, instead a voucher that told me that I had to go to the PNC ‘funzone’ to pick up my doll. Just for kicks I headed over there to expect a quick retrieval. To the contrary I was standing at the end of a line that rapped around 5 sections and up a ramp to the next tier of the stadium. I immediately abandoned my plans and went straight to my seats. Handing out a voucher and having thousands of people clog up a concourse to receive bobble heads is the absolute dumbest thing I ever seen. Hey, that’s the Nationals for you. Though the stadium’s amenities were bad and the game day direction was equal horrendous, the view from Section 513 wasn’t that bad. Despite being up top in the Yellow Seats their were great sightlines with no obstruction of the field.

For the first couple of innings it was a really, really boring game. So, we supplemented our boredom by making our own fun. Screech, the eagle mascot of the Washington Nationals, was walking around the sections up top attempting to get the Nats fans hype. When he was approaching 513 he was greeted with boos from our group to the dismay of Screech and the Nationals fans around us. an impromptu chant of "The Phantic Is Better" rang from around us which hurt Screech’s feelings. He flipped us the bird – yes ironic that he did that – and then proclaimed that he had "his eye on us."
I attempted to make a peace offering by screaming down to him to come up and take a picture with us but he was to scared to climb the 11 rows and take the time for a photo.

Up until the 8th inning, the only real action of the game for the Fightin’ Phils was when Cory Lidle drew a walk then eventually scored on a Chase Utley sac fly to left. Lidle also had a no hitter going into the 5th until Marlon Anderson’s double down to left, which could of been more bases if it wasn’t for the ball hitting the edge of the wall that protrudes toward the foul line.

Every time the Phillies started gettin’ something going we got up a "Let’s Go Phillies" chant, which was immediately booed down by the Nationals fans. In retaliation a "Let’s Go Nationals" chant was starting in the section next to us, but it wasn’t loud enough to take notice or even feel threatened by it. Even when the Nationals took the lead for in the 5th it wasn’t a detractor to our enthusiasm for the team. All of our cheering and bashing of the fans took flight when the Phillies dropped a 5 bomb in the 8th.

By this time, every Phillies fan around our sections gravitated toward us to cheer the team on with us. Our group magnified itself 200-percent and they all went crazy went Burrell hit a drive into the Phillies bullpen. By inning’s end, the departing Nationals fans who wanted to beat traffic were serenaded with "Hey Hey Goodbye" song and a chant of "Still The Expos" over and over again.

Flash Gordon retired the bottom of the 9th and we put another one in the win column for the Fightin’ Phils.

And there it was, the first ever Phillies Nation trip. The only real excitement we had group wise was having a couple stragglers come 20 minutes late to the bus. They were lost and we understood, it’s a huge stadium that is confusing to navigate.

Everyone had a great time. I personally believe it was one of the best baseball experiences I have ever been apart of. Hopefully the word of the time Phillies Nation puts on grows and we can get even more people next time around.

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Phillies Nation Bus Trip – RFK Stadium

Posted by Brian Michael, Sat, June 10, 2006 10:01 PM Comments: 0

Click for slideshow

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The Weekend Edition

Posted by Brian Michael, Sat, June 10, 2006 08:04 AM Comments: 0

Last night, in the Phillies extended rain-delayed extra-inning game against the Nationals, Brett Myers experienced his worst outing of the season.  Things went pear-shaped in the second inning after consecutive fielding miscues by Bobby Abreu and David Bell.  At this point Myers lost his composure and his command.  After giving up three more runs in the third, he was pulled for his shortest start of the year.  His line:  3.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO, 1 HBP.  But the Phils lineup was determined not to let down the one guy on the pitching staff who has been a consistent force all season.  In the seventh, they rallied to support the ace behind huge home runs by Chase Utley and Pat Burrell.  Ryan Howard also smacked his 22nd in the third (which put him in a category with the elite home runs hitters of our generation).  The score was tied 8-8 and went into extra innings where the Phils eventually let it slip away in the 12th despite holding Alfonso Soriano to a 0-for-6 night with three strikeouts and nine men left on base.  The Phillies record in extra-inning contests fell to 2-3.

Prior to the game Eude Brito was sent down to Scranton and Chris Roberson joined the club in his place.  He batted for Cormier in the eighth inning last night and grounded out.  Brito was scheduled to start in Wednesday’s nationally televised game against the Mets, but it looks as if Ryan Franklin may now get a chance.  As mentioned earlier, Tom Glavine will be on the hill for the Mets.  There is a chance that since the Phils have an off day Monday, Brett Myers could get the nod after a full rest period.  Another possibilty would be to give a new minor leagure a chance, perhaps Brian Mazone?  It is likely another roster spot will open for one as the optimism surrounding Mike Lieberthal’s hit injury has gradually turned into a stint on the 15-day DL

Finally, the I’ve found myself asking the question, does Bobby Abreu walk to much?  This of course is a natural progression after the ‘does Jon Lieber throw too many strikes?’ post a few weeks ago in our too-much-of-a-good-thing theme.  We all know walks are great – our Moneyball lessons have taught us anything that offense is avoiding an out.  Yet, one of the main criticisms of Abreu (besides defensive apathy) is his lack of clutch hitting.  I don’t think that is entirely true, but I have noticed him walking a lot in key situations and thus putting the pressure on Pat Burrell.  It’s one thing if the pitches are not there to hit – and Bobby would know because he sees the most in the NL – but it’s often said Bobby isn’t getting paid $13.5 million for his ability to not hit a ball.  I figured a good way to determine if Bobby is walking too much in key situations would be to compare his numbers with runners in scoring position against some other league leaders.   Have a look:

Player  AB H HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG

Bobby Abreu

54 19 5 37 21 7 .352 .506 0.759

Albert Pulojs

44 23 7 30 22 5 .523 .662 1.045

Andruw Jones

74 19 4 37 11 18 .257 .333 0.446

Carlos Lee

58 16 4 27 15 3 .276 .410 0.552

Jason Bay

63 17 5 35 16 20 .270 .398 0.571

What we see here is that while Bobby does walk more than most comparable hitters with RISP it doesn’t have an adverse effect on his other stats.  However before we completely let Bobby off the hook, one should keep in mind that the walks negate 21 ABs, so Abreu’s number numbers could be higher.  Thus in a relative sense, Abreu’s walks are not much of a concern, but in absolute terms he could be producing more in these key situations.  Still though, he has a .352 AVG which is excellent and up .032 points since we reported it last week.  Therefore for the time being, I can be satisfied that the answer to the question ‘does Bobby Abreu walk too much?’ is no.

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Let’s All Go to DC!

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, June 09, 2006 04:04 PM Comments: 0

Tomorrow the day is finally upon us, the Phillies Nation bus trip to DC!  For those of you who are going, please make note of the information below.  For those not going, check out all the fun you will be missing.  There is still a chance to secure a seat though, we do have two spots left; so if you want to join the fun, I suggest emailing us asap or calling Rob at 215-313-8196. 

The day will begin tomorrow morning between 8 and 8:30 at the P-lot across from the first base gate at Pattison Avenue and Darien Street.  We intend to leave before 9 o’clock.  If you are late, we probably won’t leave without you, but it will severely limit the amount of free Phillies memorabilia we will give you.  Which reminds me, I would like to send a big thank you to the nice folks at the Phillies for providing the merchandise.  Barring any major traffic delays, we should arrive at RFK between 11:30-12:00 at which time stage two of the tailgating will commence.  For those in the DC chapter of Phillies Nation that are going to the game on your own, please give us a call if you’d like to pre-game with us or at least stop by and say hello to the crew - our seats are in Section 513, rows 10, 11, 12.

That should be all you need to know.  For those craving some Phillies phodder, check back after the game for a recap as well as the start to a debate on Bobby Abreu and his base-on-balls fetish.

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Phils Bite the Diamondbacks

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, June 08, 2006 07:26 AM Comments: 0

The Phils completed a three-game sweep of the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday and finished 5-2 on their west coast swing.  They also improved to 8-1 on getaway day – the last game of a road series.  Sal Fasano lead the team to the 7-3 victory by going 4-4 and missed only the elusive triple to complete a cycle.  His offensive breakout helped to raise his average by .034 to a respectable .281.  Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard also homered and the Phillies record now stands at 14-4 when Ryan Howard hits at least one home run in a game.  David Dellucci, Shane Victornio and Abraham Nunez all got starts yesterday but went just 1-10 with Shane recording the only hit. 

The best news however was the quality start put forth by Ryan Madson who pitched 7 and 2/3 innings allowed three run while walking none.  Madson took his time on the mound and for the first time all season approached the game with a starting pitcher’s mentality.  He explained, "I’d throw three innings and go out there for the fourth and it would be like, ‘God, it feels like I’ve thrown eight innings, nine innings already.”’  To combat this mental fatigue he divided the game into chapters lasting 3 inning apiece.  "Little thoughts like that help me pitch deeper in the ballgame. They keep my mind off every little detail that makes it seem like a long game," Madson said. "I’m kind of weird that way."  Yea you are, Ryan, but if that helps you pitch better, by all means do it.  He’ll definitely need to be sharp next time out as he will oppose the Mets’ Tom Glavine – the league’s first nine game winner - in Philly this Tuesday.  Tonight, though, the Phils are in DC as Eude Brito gets another chance to make his case for a regular rotation spot.

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Youth Movement

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, June 07, 2006 08:29 AM Comments: 1

Following on yesterday’s and today’s draft theme, Cole Hamels reminded us of the impact a quality draftee can make.  Cole shook off any remnants of his shoulder discomfort and in 5 and 2/3 innings allowed three hits, one run and two walks, striking out two.  He threw 90 pitches, 64 for strikes.  The Arizona announcers were repeatedly amazed at Hamels’ control as they several times referred to how Sal Fasano hardly ever had to move his glove to catch a pitch.  His first big league win propelled the Phillies to a 7-3 record in their last 10 games and they are now within 3.5 games of the division leading Mets.  Ryan Madson takes to the hill this afternoon as the Fightins attempt to sweep Arizona before heading back the East Coast.  Opposing him will be Dustin Nippert who has yet to see action this season.

With all the talk of youngsters, it’s best we take a look at the results from Day 1 of the MLB draft yesterday.  Below is a recap of the Phillies’ selections.

Pick Player Name Position Year of Birth Notes
  18 Kyle Drabek RHP 1987

Doug Drabek’s son, throws heat, off-field liability 

  37 Adrian Cardenas SS 1987

Likely will be converted to 2B, power hitter

  65 Andrew Carpenter RHP 1985

Fastball, slider, and splitter 

  97 Jason Donald SS 1984

Great defensive ability, not as good at the plate.  Represented by Scott Boras

127 D’Arby Myers CF 1988

Likely going to USC

157 Quintin Berry CF 1984

Speed is his strong point, contact hitter 

187 Daniel Brauer LHP 1983

Strikeout pitcher, pitched a no-hitter this year, Big 10 Pitcher of the Year

217 Theodore Yarbrough 1B 1984

2006 Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year

247 Terrance Warren OF 1988

Youngest player selected by Phils

277 Andrew Cruse RHP 1984

Decent long reliever, SEC player of the week honors

307 Samuel Walls RHP 1983

Closer with 94-mph fastball, elbow injuries in past

337 Jarrod Freeman RHP 1987

Likely to go to Utah

367 Darin McDonald OF 1987

Likely to play football at Idaho St.

397 Zachary Penprase SS 1985

Got speed, lots of triples and SBs in college

427 Gus Milner CF 1984

Went back to Kansas after being drafted last year, picked 33 rounds higher this year.

457 Riley Cooper CF 1987

Will probably play football for Florida

487 Cody Montgomery 3B 1983

NCAA Player of the week, Bible Study leader for his team.

517 Jay Miller OF 1983

Cotact hitter, Pac-10 Player of the Week

547 Michael Dubee RHP 1986

Son of Phils’ Pitching Coach, Rich Dubee

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A Rough Draft

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, June 06, 2006 08:17 AM Comments: 0

Today is draft day in the world of major league baseball and the Phillies have picks number 18, 37, 65, 97, 127, 157.  Now I cannot not think of a better exercise in futility than to sit around and try to predict who the Phils will select – so I’m not going to waste your or my time.  If you cannot resist the urge and need a fix, then by all means scour the pages of Baseball America.  The team over there has the Phillies projected to pick "Louisiana high school outfielder Jared Mitchell, a Louisiana State-bound wide receiver with raw baseball skills," even though this year’s draft is supposed to pitching-heavy.  In general though, most predict that today’s draft class is the weakest since 2000, which makes my enthusiasm for the day drop even lower.  Tomorrow, though I’ll give an update on who the Phillies actually chose and maybe in a few years we can report with some confidence a proper evaluation on the Phillies’ 2006 draft.

Today should be reserved as a day of remembrance for Eric Gregg who passed away last night after suffering a stroke Sunday.  Eric was a great guy.  Born in West Philly, Gregg worked as an NL umpire for 23 years.  Despite his long career he is likely most remembered for his wide strike zone in the 1997 NLCS allowing Liván Hernández to record 15 strikeouts in Game 5.  In 1999, his umpiring career ended in a failed attempted to bargain with the league through a mass resignation.  Some of the umpires were eventually rehired, but Gregg received some compensation and spent the last few years pouring beers and bouncing at the Chickie’s and Pete’s franchises around the city.  This is how I remember best.  On the day of my college graduation a contingent of friends and family headed up to the boulevard Chickie’s and Gregg was there.  Upon telling him of the momentous day, he offered his congratulations and bought me a pitcher of Yuengling.  Later that year during the Labor Day Red Sox-Phillies matchup, Eric added to the holiday spirit by keeping a friend and I supplied with free beers throughout the game (don’t tell Pete).  But Eric was more than just about free beers, he was an all-around great guy - funny, friendly and genuinely kind.  For some more memories, check out this interview in the City Paper from a few years back.  He will be missed.

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