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Archive for January, 2007

Deja Vu

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, January 28, 2007 10:50 AM Comments: 0

Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams has just given Gavin Floyd the kiss of death.
Yesterday, Mike Gonzalez added this three line tid-bit at the end of his article in The Tribune after profiling what condition Juan Uribe will be in after his much publicized shooting incident:

Williams said newly acquired Gavin Floyd would have the inside track on the fifth spot in the Sox’s rotation if he "comes in throwing like he [did] in the [Arizona] Fall League."

With the completion of the Arizona Fall League, Floyd was his usual Jeckyl and Hyde self with numbers to prove it. In the six games he pitched in, he tallied 19 1/3 innings, 17 hits, 12 runs – all earned – for a grand total of a 5.59 ERA. Despite that, the numbers indicate that when hitters got to Floyd this winter they hit him around pretty good. Williams must be banking on the Sox’s offense and Floyd’s ability of holding ASL hitters to a .223 average to promote such confidence.

His GO/AO(ground ball/fly ball hits against ratio, excludes line drive and bunt hits) numbers are at an even 1.00.  Out of the 17 hits he surrendered, we can surmise from the GO/AO ratio that he gave up eight fly ball and eight ground ball hits. Two of those flies managed to find their way over the outfield wall.

Floyd’s curve ball has been his money pitch throughout his career. It often found him success through his AAA career K-ing 549 batters in 117 games. On the rare starts that he has found success in the big leagues he used it effectively to keep hitters from locking in on his flat , mid to low nineties fastball.

Hitters would dare him to consistently throw his curve for strikes knowing that the only other pitch he could get over was the fast ball. When this happened, he began missing with the curve, putting him behind in counts. As a pitcher, when you keep allowing hitters to get up in the count , they will be seeing green lights all day long.

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Rowand Rumors Continue To Surface

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, January 26, 2007 02:21 PM Comments: 0

ESPN’s Buster Olney has announced on his blog the possibility of Aaron Rowand being swapped for some much needed bullpen help. For those of you who do not have InSider here is how the excerpt reads:

The Phillies and Padres have kicked around a possible Aaron Rowand trade, a discussion that could continue after spring training begins. The two sides could have a natural match: The Phillies are looking for bullpen help, and the Padres would like to add a veteran outfielder, and a defense that included Rowand and Mike Cameron and Brian Giles could be exceptional.

What Olney fails to mention is that the ‘perfect match’ is hardly that for the Phillies. I would jump at the chance for lefty stalwart Alan Embree  or perennial stud  Scott Linebrink. There could be possibilities for me to do cartwheels down 95 South if Cla Meridith was on the other end of that deal. After seeing Ryan Franklin and Arthur Rhodes appear in a combined 101 games too many last season, we would all like to see someone put ‘relief’ back into relief pitcher.

We wouldn’t even be sweating the prospect of this deal if some things were different over the winter. While solidifying the starting rotation, Rowand’s departure would then expose the front office’s failure of addressing the inexperience and shallowness of the bench . Despite his inexperience, Chris Coste came up with big hits last year to score runs in the deep innings of games. All the reports coming from the team show that Coste may not even make the team next year. Who will 2007′s Chris Coste be?

Moreover, with the proposed summation of acquiring Embree, Linebrink or Meridith, the Phillies have only Geoff Geary, Ryan Madson, Matt Smith(after Abreu trade) and Flash Gordon as their remaining full time relief pitchers from last season.  With Ron Villone, Matt Herges and Vinne Chulk as the only serviceable free agents still available, it will be an interesting audition for the invitees during spring training.

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Utley Signs Extension

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, January 21, 2007 11:16 PM Comments: 0

Over the weekend Chase Utley secured plans for the next chapter of his life.  After getting hitched to the woman formerly known as Jen Cooper, he went and agreed to a 7-year, $85 million contract with the Phillies.  The deal breaks down as follows:  a $2 million signing bonus with salaries of $4.5 million 2007, $7.5 million in 2008, $11 million in 2009 and $15 million in 2010, 2011, and 2012 (not sure the specifics of the seventh year, but it seems another $15 million season).  There are no reports of a no-trade clause, but having the contract backloaded at at least 3-years, $45 million will make it difficult to trade Chase if it ever comes to that - let’s hope not.

Chase’s agent, Arn Tellem (also CEO of SFX Sports Group) explained the move.  "When the Phillies came to us with a multiyear deal of this length and magnitude, it made it very easy for Chase to accept, given that he loves Philadelphia, wanted to stay in Philadelphia and is hoping to retire in Philadelphia.  He is excited about the team’s prospects and nucleus and feels they can be competitive for the term of this contract and beyond, He was very appreciative of the security this early in his career, and he was willing to give the Phillies a break in the free-agent years."

It is interesting to note that the Phillies approached Chase with the deal.  We all knew a long-term deal has been in the works for the Phillies’ All-Star second baseman for the past year, but the timing is questionable.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic the Phils locked up Chase, but perhaps the Phils should have signed a quality bullpen pitcher or two - if such a person is out there - before committing the money to Chase.  Between the lines, it reads as if the Phils might not make that move to solidify the pen prior to Opening Day.  It also must be remembered that the Phils still need to lock up Brett Myers, and eventually Ryan Howard.

Back to Chase…After coming off a career-year its hard to say Chase doesn’t deserve every penny of this deal.  Statistically, he is the most valuable second baseman in the league.  Only Alfonso Soriano – who has taken leave from second base – can compare, but with his name on a 8-year $136 million deal, Chase is definitely a better value.  The new contract also means that 3/4 of the Phillies infield is locked up through the end of a decade.  Now the question remains, how will Chase react to the deal.  Will he go the way of Pat Burrell and, dare I say, Donovan McNabb who have not lived up to their monster deals?  Or will he continue to be the archetypal hard-nosed and hard-working baseball professional and role model of kids across the Delaware Valley?  I know we’re all rooting for the latter.

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Phils’ Bullpen Coming Into Focus

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, January 15, 2007 06:48 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies took another two steps towards bolstering their bullpen yesterday with the signing of Antonio Alfonseca and resigning of Ryan Madson.  Madson avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1-year, $1.1 million deal.  The new season is likely to see the end of the "Ryan Madson Experiment" – his flirtation with a starting rotation spot – and a move to full-time setup man duties. 

The bigger news of the day comes from the acquisition of Alfonseca.  He was mentioned last year as a possible signing, but only yesterday did he inked a 1-year deal that could potentially be worth $1.1 million.  The veteran righty reliever saw only 52 games (43+ innings) over the past two seasons with the Texas and Florida.  Last year, it was a sore right elbow that did him in.  In 2004, he compiled a 2.57 ERA in 79 games with Atlanta in 2004, his last full season.  In 2000, he won the NL Rolaids Relief award while saving a league-leading 45 games.  Baseball Reference compares him to Ricky Bottalico in several categories.

It must also be mentioned for those that do not know that Alfonseca has 6 digits on each hand and foot.  Now one would think this would make for a wicked curve ball, but apparently the extra finger after his pinky does not come into contact with the ball while pitching.  Because of this trait, he has been nicknamed (whether spitefully or playfully, I do not know) "El Pulpo", "The Octopus", and "Six-Fingers."  Sportscenter anchors once celebrated one of his saves by offering each other high-sixes.  Someone better think of a fan group soon, just be nice; that is, as long as he doesn’t go the way of Ugueth Urbina and Arthur Rhodes.

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Phillies Announce Schedule for 2007 Winter Tour

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, January 11, 2007 01:12 PM Comments: 1

Do you feel that chill in the air?  It really could only mean one thing: it’s time for the Phillies annual Winter Tour!  That’s right, if you’re tired of always having to trek into Philadelphia to see your beloved Phillies, then now is your chance to sit back and let them come to you. 

The Winter Tour is a great chance to get some free autographs as well as to interact with your favorite players and give them a piece of your mind.  I had the good fortune of riding on a Winter Tour bus with the Phillies caravan once when I was about 12.  I recall Harry Kalas, Mickey Morandini and a few others playing poker at the back of the bus on top of a cooler of beer.  Later in the trip, Bill Giles walked into a McDonald’s and walked out with 60 cheeseburgers for everyone on the bus.  Good times were had by all.

The dates of selected stops on the Winter Tour are below.  The players in attendance will be announced in early January and they vary from event to event.

  • Thursday, January 18 – From 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., players will serve as guest bartenders at McFadden’s at the Ballpark, prior to attending the 7:00 p.m. Flyers game vs. the NY Islanders at the Wachovia Center.
  • Saturday, January 20 – Autographs at the Freehold Raceway Mall (3710 Route 9, Freehold, NJ 07728), from noon – 1:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 20 – Autographs at the King of Prussia Mall (160 North Gulph Road, King of Prussia, PA 19406), from noon – 1:30 p.m.
  • Monday, January 22 – Philadelphia Sportswriters Banquet, Crowne Plaza Hotel (Route 70, Cherry Hill, NJ). Among the numerous sports celebrities at the head table will be Ryan Howard, Chris Coste and Charlie Manuel. Tickets are available by calling 609-702-7473.
  • Tuesday, January 23 – Players will take part in “Phillies Night at the 76ers,” 7:00 p.m., at the Wachovia Center (76ers vs. New Orleans/Oklahoma City). Tickets can be ordered at www.sixers.com.
  • Thursday, January 25 – Reading King of Baseballtown Banquet & Fundraiser, Sheraton Reading Hotel (1741 Papermill Road, Reading, PA 19610), 5:30 p.m. Tickets ($55.00) are available at www.readingphillies.com, by phone at 610-375-8469 or at the FirstEnergy Stadium box office. Proceeds benefit Reading Phillies Baseballtown Charities.
  • Saturday, January 27 – Autographs at the Lehigh Valley Mall (Route 22 and Route 145 (MacArthur Road) in Whitehall, PA 18052) from noon – 1:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 27 – Autographs at Park City Center (142 Park City Center, Lancaster, PA 17601) from noon – 1:30 p.m.
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Phils Acquire Reliever, Anderson Garcia

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, January 05, 2007 06:46 PM Comments: 0

Today the Phillies claimed right-handed minor league reliever, Anderson Garcia off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles and added him to their 40-man roster.  The hard-throwing 25-year old will compete for one of the many available spots available in the bullpen this spring training despite not yet playing in a major league game.  Last season, Garcia posted a 4-6 record with a 3.84 ERA in 42 appearances for five teams in the Mets’ and Orioles’ farm systems.

The move comes as talk about trading Jon Lieber for a reliever seems to be dying down.  Perhaps the Phils will keep Lieber on staff and let the six starts duke it out in spring training along with the relievers.  I am a strong proponent of keeping Lieber, if for no other reason than to have a legitimate backup starting pitcher.  Last year, the Phils were killed by ineffective spot starter and did not solidify their rotation until late in the season (too late in the season, that is).  This is not to say, though, that the Phillies are not still interested in bolstering their bullpen.  Talk of bringing Tomo Ohka to Philadelphia has surfaced, but if you listen to Marcus Hayes, "The Phillies have no interest in any of the available, healthy free-agent relievers as setup men, including Rick White, who pitched for them last season." 

Regardless, there is no question that the Phils need more help in the bullpen department – just look at Baseball Prospectus’ Pen Support index.  This statistic calculates the number of additional runs charged to the starting pitcher that his bullpen allowed to score after he left the game, compared to an average bullpen.  The Phillies as a team had a 1.9 Pen Support index which means the ERA of the starters look worse that what they really are due to poor bullpen performance.  So the question du jour is:  can Anderson Garcia bring that number down significantly?  In my opinion, the answer is no, but with some more bullpen help he can certainly provide a little relief.

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Howard’s Agent Search Raises Salary Questions

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, January 02, 2007 01:17 AM Comments: 0

The news over the New Year on the north side of Pattison focuses on NL MVP Ryan Howard and his search for a new agent.  At first glance, the move seems more dramatic than it really is.  The change in representation will most likely not result in a long-term deal for Howard, since Ryno is not up for arbitration until after this season and won’t become a free agent until after the 2011 season.  Also, Chase Utley ranks higher on the Phillies’ priority list when it comes to signing multi-year deals.  Still, the Phils’ front office would be wise not to string Howard along with one-year deals as they have done with Brett Myers.  An early commitment to Howard will guarantee he does not hold out on signing a long-term contract and choose to test the free agent market.  Perhaps the change of agents is a sign that Howard is simply seeking to capitalize on his breakout season through endorsements and other extra-curricular activities and felt former agent Larry Reynolds could not keep pace.  No matter how the Phils choose to play the Howard deal, the next two months will see the Phillies dole out some hefty paychecks.

$65 million is already committed to the 2007 Phillies squad.  This does not include the five arbitration-eligible players who are likely to receive the bulk of the upcoming salary payout, namely, Chase Utley, Brett Myers, Aaron Rowand, Geoff Geary and Ryan Madson.  As said before, Utley should receive a long-term deal and so should Myers.  More money will be needed for retooling the bullpen and even more potentially for bringing back players like Shane Victorino, Fabio Castro, Jose Hernandez, Rick White, Chris Coste, or Arthur Rhodes – some of whom are free agents.  David Montgomery has always said there is no official limit on the Phillies’ 2007 payroll but that it would not be far off the 2006 number of $88 million.  Don’t forget this does not include the $11 million going to the White Sox to subsidize Jim Thome, which has another installment due this season. 

The point is that - as we seen thus far - the Phillies are unlikely to make a splash bigger than Adam Eaton in this off season’s free agent market.  The money will instead be used to lock up a few young stars and pay for some bullpen arms.  Let’s hope that’s good enough.

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