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Archive for August, 2006

Playoff Baseball

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, August 13, 2006 03:48 PM Comments: 0

This weekend saw a playoff-like atmosphere surrounding Citizen’s Bank Ballpark as the Phillies battled with the Reds for a chance to play in October; ultimately though, the Phils came up short.  The Reds took the series which saw all three games decided in the final inning.  In the end, it was the Reds’s new-and-improved bullpen that out peformed the Phillies.  Tom Gordon blew a save and took a loss over the weekend and Ryan Madson gave up three runs yesterday.  But the games were in Philly so the Fightin’s had chances to come back in the bottom half of the final innings but failed to seal the deal.  Specifically, Pat Burrell and Ryan Howard both had opportunities in the Phillies losses but struck out.

It is hard to place blame on Howard who is now tied for the most homers in the majors.  He drove in the tying run last night in the bottom of the night as well as hitting his 41st home run in the sixth.  Twice he came through in the clutch as Chase Utley inexplicably slumped throughout the weekend.  Yesterday he went 0-6 yesterday with three strikeouts, which followed a 0-4 Saturday and a 2-6 Friday.  Chase, representing the tying run, also ended Sunday’s game with a weak dribbler back to the pitcher.  Still, Utley and Howard are young guys, and I find the Phillies’ reliance on them a bit disproportionate.  Eleven months ago, I pondered this same issue as the then-rookie Ryan Howard was leading the Phillies late season resurgence.  Veterans Pat Burrell and Mike Lieberthal certainly do not hold a reputation for late inning heroics, and Jimmy Rollins – who had an excellent weekend – is inconsistent at best. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have become leaders by default.

The pitching this weekend was concerning. If this team decides that they really want to become legitimate contenders in this wild card race they better not have repeat performances of this weekend.

Scott Mathieson going 3 1/3 innings?

The bullpen’s job is to bridge a lead into the ninth, not to to pitch 5 2/3 to stop the bleeding. Since Gillick and Manuel are showing faith in this kid. Scott better start going deeper into games while keeping the team in them. These games are far too important to give away. If not, we may see the ongoing sequel known as Gavin Floyd take his place in the rotation for the stretch run.

On deck, the Phillies start a four game series against the New York Mets. Tonight, the Phils send Steve Carlton Jr. to the mound, Cole Hamels, against 3 time Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez. Pedro has been stellar since coming off the DL with a bum hip. He has gone 2-0 with a 3.26 ERA.  Cole  has been hot over his last three starts. He has only given up 5 runs since allowing 7 runs against the Braves on July 24th.

I’d like to see good crowds for all four games this series. There is nothing worse then having your stadium taken over by Mets fans.

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Burrell’s Bum Wheel

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, August 11, 2006 01:45 PM Comments: 0

ESPN.com highlights the Phillies chances this year:

Why they can win it: The pressure is off now that GM Pat Gillick unloaded Bobby Abreu and four other veterans before the deadline. This is now Ryan Howard and Chase Utley’s team, and they’ve responded to the challenge.

Why they won’t: Cole Hamels has been terrific. But with fellow rookie Scott Mathieson in the rotation and Randy Wolf still finding himself in his return from Tommy John surgery, the starting pitching could be a concern in September. The bullpen, which has logged a ton of innings, might not have much of a finishing kick.

Injuries: Pat Burrell’s foot is giving him problems, and Aaron Rowand has been bothered by nagging injuries to his hand, back and calf.

Schedule: Unless things change, the Phillies will not face a team with a winning record once they complete a three-game series against the Mets in late August. God bless the National League.

X factor: Outfielder Dave Dellucci, welded to the bench for the first four months of the season, is taking advantage of increased playing time to make a free-agent push. He’s hitting .478 in August.

Outlook: If the Phillies make the playoffs for the first time since 1993, Howard could inject himself into the Most Valuable Player race and Charlie Manuel won’t have to endure those Lou Piniella rumors this winter. Our guess is that the Phillies fall short.

I think a big question mark they mentioned is Pat Burrell – not just for this season but next as well.  Charlie Manuel had this to say about his left fielder:

To me, the biggest thing about Pat is the speed getting to the ball.  That comes from the foot. It’s not like he limps, but he kind of gets his foot real high and then puts it down. I think sometimes the way he sets it down, you get flat-footed in the outfield, the ball kind of moves on you. His foot speed is what dictates what he can do.  The doctors or somebody has got to find a way to get his foot better.  I don’t know what the answer is, but whatever it is, I think he needs to do it.

Yes, he does need to do it, whatever it is.  Either that or Pat Gillick needs to unload him for some more prospects.

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Nunez and Coste, Coste and Nunez

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, August 09, 2006 08:34 AM Comments: 0

The Phils and Cole Hamels lost a tight one last night to the Braves as Tim Hudson broke out of his two month pitching slump to shut down the Fightins’.  Hudson scattered six hits over seven innings and fanned eight Phillies, while helping his cause by laying down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt in the fifth.  Hamels pitched well himself, allowing one run off six hits while walking just one and striking out six. The rest of the Phillies though looked thoroughly uninterested in winning.  The pitching duel ended as soon as Geoff Geary and Aaron Fultz came in and surrendered two key insurance runs.  Jimmy Rollins struck out three times and Abraham Nunez continued his impotence at the plate by striking out twice, including one looking with a runner in scoring position to end the second.  Ryan Howard was thrown out unwisely attempting to stretch a double into his second triple of the season.  In the field, Shane Victorino had a tough time in right as he had two fly balls bounce off his glove.  To be fair, they were both difficult catches and he was not charged with an error for either.  David Dellucci recorded the Phillies only RBI on the night with a deep sacrifice fly that came within inches of a grand slam.  With the two remaining runners still on base, Chris Coste capped off his 0-4 night with a very unclutch strikeout.  I was real disappointed with that at bat, not only because it was the Phillies best chance to rally, but because Coste swung at ball out of the strike zone after he impressively laid off the same pitch twice before.

All season we have been patiently waiting for personnel turnover at third base and catcher, and our prayers have been answered – Nunez is now the everyday third baseman and Coste catches about two or three times a week.  It’s clear however that these are not long term solutions.  Nunez, while excellent defensively, is simply a mess at the plate and offers no advantage over Bell in that category.  In fact, with a -2.5 VORP, he’s actually worse offensively than most anyone else.  Coste meanwhile has been a pleasant surprise ever since Spring Training.  He’s batting .341 with four homers and 19 RBIs, which means his average is .100 higher than Lieberthal while recording similar number in 50 less at bats.  Yet the rookie Coste, a minor league lifer, is only one year younger than Lieberthal so it is suspect as to how long he can continue behind the plate. 

If you recall, Coste did come up as a backup infielder which would lead one to ask, why not have him play third?  Well, Nunez is the better fielder, but also he has the unwavering support of Charlie Manuel.   "I haven’t seen Coste play a lot of third," Manuel said. "But we just traded David Bell. This is supposed to be a chance to let Nunez play. If you say you’re going to let somebody play, you’re going to play this guy. It’s important to win games, but if you want to give a guy a chance, you have to give him a chance."  Oh Charlie, have you not been paying attention during Scott Palmer’s ‘how to talk to the media’ lessons?  You never ever start a sentence, "It’s important to win games, but…"  I mean what possible phase can you attach to the end of that sentence to justify something better than winning games?  "It’s important to win games, but I had to rescue a drowning puppy."  Nope.  "It’s important to win games, but I had to diffuse the Middle East crisis."  Maybe, but I don’t forsee that coming out of Manuel’s mouth.  I’m really tired of questioning Charlie Manuel but sometimes it’s just too easy.

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Walks and Wins: Will the Phils Miss Abreu?

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, August 08, 2006 07:46 AM Comments: 0

Coming off the news of Ryan Franklin’s departure, the Phils beat the Braves last night 9-6.  It was a sloppy game that the Phillies should have dominated but one Atlanta could have easily stolen.  Brett Myers fell behind more batters than usual, but for the second time in two starts the offense provided him with the run support he needed.  Fortunately for Myers, Charlie Manuel pulled him after the fifth inning and did not allow him to completely meltdown; instead he earned his eighth win of the year.  Abraham Nunez, despite still failing miserably at the plate, came up with some very nice diving grabs to rob the Braves of base hits.  Pat Burrell, on the other hand, let another fly ball drop at his feet, after thinking Jimmy Rollins would come out and play his position for him.  The clincher tough was the five spot the Phils put up in the fifth inning, even though they surrendered three runs right back in the bottom of the inning. 

The big news out of last night was that Ryan Howard recorded his 39th home run of the year, along with RBIs number 100 and 101 in the fourth inning.  As you might know, Mike Schmidt holds the team record for homers in a season with 48.  This means Howard has 51 games to hit 9 home runs.  With an average of one home run in every ten at bats, he is on pace to hit 18 more (double what he needs to break the record) for a total of 57.  Still the 18 predicted home runs are more than his tally of 15 homers hit in August and September of last season. 

One factor that might prevent Ryan from breaking the record would be intentional walks, one of which he received last night in the fifth.  As a team the Phillies took six bases on balls last night to the Braves’ three.  Based on a recent Baseball Prospectus report on the correlation between walks and wins, the Phillies were expected to win last night.  Below, the chart on the left shows the winning percentage of teams based on how many walks they drew in a game since 2004.  The chart on the right displays the winning percentage of teams based on how many more walks they drew compared to their opponents in a game.  (apologies on the formatting)


Walks per game
BB W L PCT.
------------------
0 257 602 .299
1 670 1223 .354
2 1116 1429 .439
3 1180 1172 .502
4 1105 881 .556
5 851 562 .602
6 543 279 .661
7 336 162 .675
8 188 67 .737
9 98 24 .803
10 45 9 .833
Walk difference per game
Diff W L Pct. ----------------- 0 926 926 .500 1 947 694 .577 2 895 549 .620 3 642 324 .665 4 510 160 .761 5 301 93 .764 6 165 33 .833 7 96 9 .914 8 34 8 .810 9 24 3 .889 10+ 9 1 .900

As you see, drawing 6 walks per game (as the Phillies did last night) corresponds to a .661 winning percentage and outdrawing your opponent by 3 walks corresponds to a .665 winning percentage.  So all the Phillies have to do is play like they did last night and they’re on pace for 87 wins.  Unfortunately though, last night was an anomaly for the Phils who normally average just 3.37 walks per game – and that’s with Bobby Abreu’s season numbers.  Minus Abreu, the Phils average a paltry 2.52 walks per game as he represented 0.85 of a walk per game.  Phillies pitchers meanwhile surrender on average 3.36 walks per game which ranks them 9th in the NL.  That means with Abreu the Phils had a predicted 50/50 shot at winning games, without him the odds are reduced to 43/57.

Of course walking more than your opponent doesn’t guarantee a win; in fact, a team that out-hits or out-homers its opponent is more likely to win a game than one who records more walks.  This just simply shows that walks do make it easier to win.  But now with Abreu in New York, unless the Phillies continue to be patient at the plate, they will likely find it a bit more difficult to win games.

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Baseball in London

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, August 06, 2006 09:15 PM Comments: 0

Last weekend I attended one of the rarest of treats here in London – a live baseball game.  Now for those who didn’t think baseball existed over here, have I got news for you.  Not only does Great Britain have a national team that competes in European tournaments, there are even amateur baseball league with full schedules.  Most of my baseball experience here stems from Channel Five, which broadcasts most ESPN games that are nationally televised in American (i.e. Sunday night and Wednesday night games).  Of course here the programming begins at 1 am, but it’s only a minor inconvenience in exchange for live baseball on TV and the enlightenment of Joe Morgan.  In fact, I’m watching the Scott Mathieson get knocked around on the tele right now.  What’s odd about baseball on a federally subsidized television channel is the fact that there are no commercials.  So when American stations would normally cut to a word from their sponsors, the UK broadcast kicks it to two dudes in a studio who provide analysis of the last half-inning.  The two dudes, Jonathon Gould and Josh Chetwynd, are actually minor celebrities in the close-knit baseball world over here.  The team also responds to viewer emails, of which I’ve had a few read live on air – mostly coming in defense of Philadelphia fans and their distorted reputation (go figure).  Anyway, the point of telling you about baseball on TV is because the broadcast clued me into a big international friendly that was to be played here in London which saw Great Britain lock horns with it’s cross-channel rival, Ireland.

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Judging by the below-average performance of the European teams (Holland, Italy) in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, one wouldn’t expect much from two teams that didn’t even make it that far.  But that doesn’t matter, baseball is baseball and I’ll take what I can get.  The Irish team has an interesting Cinderella subplot going for it:  although it’s only been competing internationally for 10 years, it has seen tremendous success.  I was first informed of their story through our MySpace page, when we became friends with “Irish Baseball Movie.”  The movie, entitled The Emerald Diamond, tells the story of how the rag-tag Irish National Team team was formed with hardly any experience or equipment but with more than enough excitement for the game.  The movie was released to wide acclaim and for those in Philly there is a screening scheduled in the city on November 21.  On to the game.

The game was played as a friendly, but more so as a warm-up match for Ireland who was slated to play this past week in the Pool B Qualifier for the European Championships in Antwerp.  Great Britain had already qualified for the 2007 European Championships which was to be held in Spain.  Not surprisingly given Ireland’s progression of success in international competition, the team from the Emerald Isle won the silver medal in Belgium.  But prior to that, they had a triple-header against Her Majesty’s team on her home turf.

The game was played at the Finsbury Park Cricket Ground in Finsbury Park, north London.  The cricket grounds have two baseball diamonds carved out, one for the amateur leagues I mentioned earlier and the other is home to the Little League London Mets.  I arrived that Saturday afternoon just as the second game was ending.  Ireland took the first one and Great Britain came back to tie up the series; both games finished 6 to 5.  I found my seat on the grass just next to the Ireland bench as the players were returning from their between-games hot dogs and hamburgers.  The third and final game, besides being the day’s rubber match, also held special significance for the aforementioned Josh Chetwynd.  Josh, who is American, also happens to play for the British National team and this was his final game.  He is a solid ballplayer, I’d have to say, and graciously ended his career with a hit in his final at bat.

The rest of the game was a bit uneventful.  Ireland took an early lead, but as their pitching wore down in the seventh and final inning, Great Britain made a daring comeback.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUltimately, though the home team fell short and Ireland won the game (6-5 again) and the series.  Although the quality of play was well below MLB standards and aluminum bats were used, it was a well-contested match with very few fundamental errors.  Like with minor league games in the States, one of the best reasons to go to a game such as this is the inexpensiveness of the outing:  a hot dog cost a pound (approx. $1.80), a hamburger 2 pounds, a 440 ml can of Fosters 1 pound and a pint of refreshing Pimm’s just 2 pounds. The fans in attendance were mostly ex-pats like myself and were treated to a little slice of Americana.  Among the Yanks (as we’re referred to here), the New York team of the same name was the most well-represented among those wearing baseball merchandise followed by the Red Sox, Nationals, and Dodgers.  I was the only one sporting Phillies gear.  No matter, though, the weather was beautiful, a cold beer was in-hand and a live baseball game was unfolding in front of me - no matter what country you live in, what more can you ask for?  I mean, just look at these pictures.

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New York: The Team. The Time. The Toilet

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, August 06, 2006 05:09 AM Comments: 1

[pictures pending]

A New York State Of Mind.  It’s more than a Billy Joel song and more than a national perception of an entire demographic of people. It’s a way of life.

The People

New Yorkers are a tough breed who don’t take crap from anyone. Though these characteristics of living in the ‘big city’ are seen as essential, it is nothing further from the truth. A New Yorker is a person who feels they are better than everyone else because they are from "New Yawk." They are wrapped up in their 2 teams per sport, ‘city that never sleeps’ motto and are quick to never let you forget it. It doesn’t excuse them for being complete jackasses.

  • Who talk’s crap to a group of 18 year old kids dressed up as Super Heroes?
  • What people are proud to live in a vast area of space filled with landfills, chopshops across the street from their stadium and are proud to sing "Meet The Mets" when other people are in an ear shot?
  • Who thinks that by chanting  "Get To .500" , "Terrell Owens" or "Chase Utley Sucks" in both Spanish and English will even bother a Philadelphia fanbase?

Ladies and Gentleman, meet New York Mets fans.

They were quiet throughout most of the game until the Mets’ offense decided to wake up, to the delight of the home crowd. In an attempt to explain that the only reason the Mets won yesterday was not because they are good, it’s because ours is bad, it was to no avail.

The highlight of my afternoon was at the end of the game. Departing the stadium along with Flash’s Followers we were greeted by a woman in her 40′s who looks like the female twin of Danny DeVito. The inspiration that spewed from her lungs was classic:

"Thanks for spending your money here. Buh-bye see ya later."

Remember, while she is saying this she sounds like Fran Dresher from "The Nanny".

Trust me lady, In retrospect I am glad I spent 18 dollars on my ticket. You live in a cesspool of urban plight and decay mixed with illegal immigration and topped with the sensation to never return. I feel sorry for your cause: You can use all the help you can get.

The Place

To me, Manhattan is New York. Everywhere else, is just that. Queens is the largest of 5 New York boroughs and hosts the most ethically diverse population in all of New York. It is evident driving around. Queens reminds me of what Castor Avenue would look like if it were it’s own small country (Northeast Philly joke).

It is a Mecca of sporting complexs, hosting the N.Y. Mets, The U.S. Open and Aqueduct race track. That is where the love affair with this place ends.

The Game

The game was very boring and uneventful early on. A 3-run homerun by Ryan Howard gave the Phillies an early lead and fired up the visiting crowd. Until the 6th inning the game was a snoozefest.

It is good to see Pat Burrell own up to not making a play in the outfield.

"I should have caught the ball," Burrell said. "It was my play, and I didn’t make it."

I think the idea of having Dellucci as the new leftfielder is the only way to go. It’s obvious that Pat Burrell can not play defense anymore. The guy has cost the Phils games with his bat and now with his glove. When do you say enough is enough?

The Recap

Queens is an awful place besides for that sphere from Men In Black. It is truly a namesake of its section, Flushing. Except the toilet of Queens is backed up and its contents flow all throughout the borough infecting everything and everyone it touches.

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Saturday’s Trip to NYC

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, August 04, 2006 07:09 AM Comments: 0

Revenge is a dish best served cold – I think four months should do it.  The Phillies returned the favor of being swept at home to start the season to the Cardinals last night with another impressive win over the NL Central leaders.  Cole Hamels pitched brilliantly, striking out 6 of the first 9 batters, and finishing with 12 total.  In each game of the series, the Phillies starting pitching did not allow a first inning run and each earned themselves a win – a recipe for success I’d say.  Well, it also helps that Chase Utley brought his hit streak to 35 games, and I believe now 23 of those games have been multi-hit ones.  That’s impressive.  Utley isn’t just squeaking by with a hit a game – he is literally hitting everything, everywhere.  Could it be that Pat Gillick’s comments about not contending until 2008 has served as some motivation the supposedly lame duck team?  I doubt Gillick intended his words to have an audience with the 2006 squad – although I wouldn’t put it past him – but he was right in saying that young pitching is inconsistent and may need time to develop to full potential.  Either way, things are working well now and the Phils are down just 2.5 games and 4 teams in the Wild Card.  With New York next on the itinerary, you can be sure there’s nothing more those fans would like to see this weekend than Utley’s hit streak snapped and the Phillies brought down to life.

In an effort to bring some fun and creativity to the morose confines of Shea, Phillies Nation will be holding court Saturday in Flushing.  If you have the day free and want to see one of the hottest teams in NL take on one of the best, join us for another awesome road trip.  This one will be co-sponsored by Flash’s Followers so don’t forget to dress up as your favorite superhero (or at least pack it and change at Shea).  This will show Billy Wagner that, despite his constant recollections of Philly, we have since moved on to better things.  Tom Glavine, who has allowed six home runs to the Phillies in just two games this season, is scheduled to pitch for the Mets.  Jon Lieber takes the mound for the Phils.

The plan is to take the R7 SEPTA service north to New York Penn Station.  Since there are several stops you can pick up the R7 in Philly, we’ll leave you to decide where to start the day.  At Trenton, transfer to the NJ Transit train on the same track as your SEPTA one and head up to Penn Station.  The plan is to meet at New York Penn Station around 10:30 to give us enough time to get to Shea and purchase tickets.  If you can’t find the crowd of Phillies fans at the station, give Rob (215-313-8196) or Nick (215-208-3459) a call and they’ll sort you out.  From there it’s an easy ride on the Long Island Rail Road or subway once you get to the 7 line.  Upon arriving you will be free to enjoy all the sights (concrete) and sounds (LaGuardia) Shea Stadium has to offer.  This is an important series for the Phils, and like I said before, one of the few remaining against teams over .500, so come out and show your support.  Go Phils!

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Hey Everybody "Let’s Go Streaking!"

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, August 03, 2006 06:08 AM Comments: 0

Top of the eigth.

Zero Hits.

Chase Utley stands in against Randy Flores with his streak of 33 games of consecutive safe hitting on the line. Utley cracked a bouncing dribbler to the 3rd base side of the mound which was fielded by pitcher Randy Flores. His momentum from fielding the ball threw him toward third base where he considered making the second out of the inning. Quickly he changed course.  Flores threw wide of first stretching Albert Pujols off the bag. Utley’s hit : a fielder’s choice.

A Fielder’s Choice?

Since Flores never actually committed to getting Victorino out by attempting to make a play at third a fielder’s choice was obviously a bad call by the official scorer. I was irate after the play and went to check the official ruling for a ‘fielder’s choice’ in MLB’s official rules. I keep it handy in case situations come about.

As quickly as I went to check the rules, the scorer had change the FC to a 1B. 34 games and counting.

We are all caught up in this hitting streak , but why? What is the significance of being able to hit safley on base every game you play? Is it a showcase of skill? Or calm and the ability to perform under pressure?

These are qualities that we do not just find admirable in a baseball player but also in a good human being.  Since Chase Utley has been a player we all have been rooting for since his call up in 2003 we have all always known what kind of player we would hope him to be.

It had me thinking. What are some of the more memorable hitting streaks in all of baseball?

Joe DiMaggio
May 15th – July 16th, 1941
56 Games

Considered one of baseball’s unbeatable marks, Joltin’ Joe hit .408 over the span of 2 months while also collecting 15 homeruns and 55 RBIs. In the midst of "The Streak" Joe endured an early slump by the team in the standings trailing Ted Williams and the Red Sox. With the streak as a catalyst for offense the Yankees eventually overcame the Red Sox and beat the Chicago White Sox for the 1941 A.L. pennant. DiMaggio would lead the Yankees to victory in the World Series in 5 games and be named the M.V.P.

Pete Rose
June 16th – August 1st, 1978
44 Games

Rose’s streak was the first serious threat to DiMaggio’s streak since Tommy Holmes hit safely 37 times during the 1945 season for the Milwaukee Braves. A month prior to starting the streak Rose recorded his 3,000th hit on May 5th. Rose compiled 66 hits during the span of his streak and endured 3 double headers.

Jimmy Rollins
August 23rd – October 2nd 2005 , April 5th – 6th 2006
36 Games Consecutive, 38 Sequential

Going into the 2006 season a debate raged through the baseball world wondering if Jimmy Rollins’ hitting streak from the previous year carried over to the next season? What if he beat Joe D.? The Elias Sports Bureau, the official statistician for Major League Baseball said it would count only as a ‘lifetime’ streak, not consecutive.

The player who hit in the most games over a multi-season span was "Wee" Willie Keeler, who hit in 45 in 1896 and 1897.

 Whatever anyone else wanted to call it, the fans of Philadelphia cheered Jimmy on through the first 2 games of the season until he flied out to centerfield in his final at-bat. Through the 36 games Jimmy raised his average from .261 to .290 as the Phillies fell 1 game short of the N.L. Wildcard.

Benito Santiago
August 25th – October 2nd, 1987
34 Games

His 34-game hit streak is a National League record for Rookies and also for Major League catchers. The well traveled catcher had his finest season as a rookie batting .300 for the season and .346 over the span of the remainder of the season.

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What Could Have Been

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, August 02, 2006 07:19 AM Comments: 0

Don’t look now, but the Philadelphia Utley-Howards are slowly creeping back into this wild card race.  Last night against the Cardinals, the three big Phillies storylines all came out positive:  Chase extended his hit streak to 33 games, Howard smashed homerun number 36, and of course the Phillies won.  Scott Matheison garnered his first big league victory by allowing just 3 runs and 3 hits over 5 innings.  The Phillies have now trimmed their Wild Card deficit to 4.5 games and 6 teams.  "Shhhh.  We are going to just stay below the radar and just try to keep on winning games," warns Howard.

Staying below the radar is probably the only option the club has with its current roster.  The moves made at the deadline seemed to put people on notice that they can look forward to the Eagles season if they so desire.  But what if Gillick made some big trades that put the Phillies on the map, would they now have a real shot at the playoffs?  Here are a few trades that could have been:

Perhaps only that first trade one would have been of any significance.  Losing Abreu while gaining Ichiro would have been a big improvement in my eyes.  Both players have above-average on-base percentages (career – Ichiro .377, Abreu .411), but whereas Abreu’s OBP is supplemented by a record-breaking amount of walks, Ichiro tallies anywhere from 30-80 more hits per season than Abreu.  Simply put, hits move baserunners better than walks.  But with Ichiro batting lead-off and Abreu batting third, both players might be more formidable if they swapped places in the lineup.  But I digress.

All of this is of course just wishful thinking on my part.  The Phils with their current squad still have chance to make the playoffs (though Baseball Prospectus lists it at just 2.5%).  After starting the season by being swept by St. Louis the Phillies dug themselves a little hole in the standings.  This series would be a prime opportunity for some revenge on the Cards and also a chance to show the Phils can beat quality teams.  Once they depart St. Louis, the Phillies only have 13 remaining games against teams above .500 (all versus the Mets and Reds).  So while the Phils might not have landed any immediate impact players over the weekend, it could be that for the rest of 2006, they really don’t need any.

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Phillies Nation Writing Contest

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, August 01, 2006 02:03 PM Comments: 0

This weekend changed the Phillies in a way that has not been seen in quite some time.  Seeing this many minor leaguers on the roster prior to September speaks to how dramatic the Phillies have reformed.  Pat Gillick clearly stated he does not think the team can contend for a couple years, so where does that leave the Phils for the remainder of the 2006 and the whole 2007 season?  crossroadsThere are a lot of holes the club needs to fill during that period and there are many ways to go about it.  The next 18 months have the potential to radically alter the Phillies as an organization.

With these questions in mind, we would like to propose a writing contest to our readers.  We want to hear your predictions for what the Phillies will look like just prior to the 2008 season.  There are so many possibilities and I fear racking my brain to think of them all might cause damage.  Perhaps the answer lie in the pages of  MiLB or Baseball America or maybe these new minor leaguers will be flipped for proven starting pitching this time next year.  Anything’s possible and we would like to hear it.  Please email us your ideas through our Contact Us page and our editorial board will narrow down finalists and post them on Phillies Nation.  The post receiving the most comments will win two free Phillies tickets for a game this year – a pretty sweet deal for writing a few paragraphs.  So get those thinking caps on and send us your thoughts.

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