Archive for March, 2007

Spring is Over

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, March 30, 2007 10:45 AM Comments: 0

After finishing 11-16 in Florida, the Phillies have returned home for a couple of exhibition games against the Red Sox.  I really think the Phillies need to win at least 1 of these 2 games if they hope to start the season hot.  We can only say "it’s just spring training" for so long.  These two limbo games will be taken seriously by the players and managers so I hope to see the Phillies competitive against a playoff-caliber team.  I especially would like to see a good game tomorrow against Daisuke Matsuzaka since I will be in attendance.  (That of course means free Howard-Utley t-shirts if you happen to find me in the parking lot).

So there are high expectations for the weekend and there are high expectations for the seasons.  It’s Playoffs or Bust in 2007.  For what it’s worth, Baseball Prospectus has the Phillies’ chances of winning the World Series at 34% – the highest in the National League.  Their 42% chance of making the playoffs also tops the NL.  However, BP only projects them winning 88 games.  That might not be enough for the playoffs, it wasn’t in 2005.  So with that, I ask the question, how many games do you think the Phillies will win this season?


Lieber’s Opportunity

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, March 28, 2007 08:17 AM Comments: 0

According to the poll to the right, most people believe that Jon Lieber will not be starting this season for the Phillies.  Of course it’s likely many of you heard the news straight from Charlie’s mouth that the right-hander will indeed start the season in the bullpen and Adam Eaton will be in the rotation.  Lieber has pitched well this spring.  He has started 2 games and has appeared in 3 total giving up 10 hits in 8 innings.  His 1.13 ERA is tops among Phillies pitchers with more than one inning pitched.  In his first relief appearance he strained his right oblique, but since received the green light from Dr. Ciccotti.  But unlike the past two Opening Days, Jon Lieber will not be watching this game from the mound.  Although this move represents a demotion for Lieber professionally, in other ways it could be seen as an opportunity.

Trotting out to the bullpen everyday gives Jon Lieber the chance to prove his commitment to winning at any cost.  In accepting the new role, he has shown great selflessness. "I’m disappointed, but I’m going to give it my best," said Jon upon hearing the skippers decision.  But also, more importantly, this move affords Lieber the opportunity to take a leadership role on the team.  As an above-average career starter who has been to the playoffs with the Yankees, I would hope he fancies himself a solid reliever.  I mean all this guy does is throw strikes.  With this experience and confidence, he is in a prime position to help solidify the bullpen – both by leading by example, as well as by mentoring the younger members of the staff.  Matt Smith, Zack Segovia, Clay Condrey, Scott Mathieson and Jim Ed Warden all still have a chance to make the team and could benefit from Lieber’s wisdom.  This will ultimately increase his value come free agency at the end of the season.  There’s little chance Jon will retain the $7 million price tag for his services, but for a pitcher that can still throw and is a positive influence in the clubhouse he is guaranteed to always have a spot on a Major League roster.  Just look at Jamie Moyer.


Howard’s Hole

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, March 26, 2007 10:04 AM Comments: 0

Don’t look now, but the Phillies are quietly having an awful spring.  Although they looked strong against the Yankees last week, they certainly have not been playing quality baseball as a team.  Going into Monday the Phils are 9-15-2 this spring, which is good enough for the third to last spot in the Grapefruit League standings.  If it helps any, the Mets have an even worse record at 9-18, but the Braves are cruising along at 15-9.




























































Most everyone agrees that if the Phillies do not get off to a hot start (or at least not a cold start), there will be a slim chance of making the playoffs.  This is precisely why it troubles me that the team is doing so poorly in Florida.  If my memory serves me correct, the Phillies have had only one Spring Training above .500 since in 1993.  But although there is no direct correlation between a successful Spring and playing in October, there is no denying the fact that this does not bode well for the start of the season. 

In particular, the lackluster performance of a few key players this March might be a cause of concern.  Here are the team’s stats prior to Sunday’s 10-2 victory over the Twins; one in which Chase Utley hit 2 home runs in a Cole Hamels win. 

The first three batters in the lineup have put up some impressive numbers thus far, and last week’s scouting session confirms this.  Rollins, Utley and Victorino have been making good contact, moving each other around the bases, and scoring runs.  The concern lies in the next three batters, Howard, Burrell and Rowand.  Ryan Howard began Spring Training hot but has since fizzled out (e.g. his recent 0 for 17 slump) while piling up the Ks.  Last week, after another 0 for 4 game with two strikeouts, Howard stayed late for some extra BP.  Everyone seems to think his numbers will drop this year, let’s just hope Spring is not an indication of how far.  As for Burrell and Rowand, well, they are Burrell and Rowand.  So far this March they share 24 strikeouts in 100 combined at bats.  Should we be worried?

Phillies Nation Fantasy League Update:  Thanks to everyone who has signed up so far, there are over 70 participants in 6 leagues.  If you have received an invite but have not yet signed up – you must do it today or your spot will be lost.  There about a dozen people still waiting for invites and rather than open another league, we’d prefer to make sure the current ones get filled.  If you’re one of the people waiting, don’t worry, you’ll get your invite tomorrow.  Links to all the leagues can be found on our Fantasy Baseball page.  Finally, don’t forget this Thursday, March 29th is draft day, check your league to find out your exact time.


Pitching, what pitching (City Line???)

Posted by Jim Amato, Wed, March 21, 2007 10:36 PM Comments: 0

Wasn’t the starting pitching finally supposed to be strength for the Phillies in 2007? Well the past two days have seen a few events that could make people think otherwise. Yesterday Cole Hamels had a bad game against a minor league team giving up yet another HR while trying to "work on his mechanics" (read boost his ego) and massage his ERA of over 7.

He is on schedule to be the #2 pitcher right now as Charlie Manuel wants to break up the Phillies righties and lefties.

Hamels himself said he has NEVER had to pitch in a cold environment before; well it can be cold in Philly in early April…

Are we sure we can pencil him in as a 13-15 win pitcher?

And then the sunset and a new day of drama began. Today was the day that Charlie officially announced that Jon Lieber was going to be the starter sent to the bullpen. Needless to say Jon was not pleased with this decision and was headed to the buffet to feed his sorrows.

But wait a second, not so fast Jon. In tonight’s game prized off-season pick up Freddy Garcia gave up 5 hits and 3 earned runs (including a mammoth HR to Troy Glaus) in an inning. He was pulled after 1, not because of his poor outing, but instead because he had soreness in his right bicep. He will be examined tomorrow in Clearwater to determine the damage, if any, but there are talks of possibly starting the season with Freddy on the DL. The bicep was not the first thing Freddy was fretting about this Spring either. He had noticed a decrease in his velocity.

Well at least there is still Jamie and Brett…


Phillies Nation Interview on 610 WIP

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, March 20, 2007 08:22 AM Comments: 0

Last night – more like early this morning – I was a guest on the Brian Startare show on 610 WIP. We had originally scheduled our discussion for the Saturday night show, but Brian thankfully let me off the hook to enjoy the St. Patty’s Day festivities on offer in Clearwater. In case you missed the live broadcast, it is available below for your listening enjoyment.

Click on the play button below to play the clip. If no bar appears or you have issues, use the link below to download or stream it.

Listen to Brian talk about the Phillies and Phillies Nation on 610.



Phillies-Yankees Spring Training

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, March 19, 2007 09:31 AM Comments: 0

Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day game against the Yankees was a blast.  The Phils and more than half of the almost 10,000 fans in attendance were decked out in green Phillies gear.  Best of all, the Fightins’ prevailed over the Evil Empire by a count of 3-2.  The Phillies got to Carl Pavano after he came on to relieve an impressive Andy Pettitte.  Aaron Rowand had the gamewinner as he singled in the two runs in seventh.  Jamie Moyer gave up just a single run in four and a third innings work – lowering his Spring ERA to 2.51.  Matt Smith looked solid in relief and despite an ERA of 12.00 is making a good case to lock up one of the two remaining spots in the bullpen. 

Even if the pen is finalized soon, there would be no guarantee of its performance.  As of today, Phillies relievers have a combined 6.19 ERA this Spring.  Brett Myers pitched masterfully yesterday in a split-squad game against the Rays only to have his lead squandered by Antonio Alfonseca and Tom Gordon.  Since it is becoming less and less likely that Pat Gillick will be able to bring in a new arm before Opening Day, the Phillies need assistance.  Perhaps the starters can help. 

Of course this can be taken to mean one of the six starters (Jon Lieber) can could move to the bullpen, but also it could mean having the starters pitch more innings.  The Phils had just four complete games last year (2 by Lieber, and 1 each by Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd) and no starter pitched more than 200 innings.  However this year, Freddy Garcia brings to the mound an average of 222 innings pitched per year; Adam Eaton over 201.  If Cole Hamels and Brett Myers can stay healthy, there is no reason they can’t put up similar numbers.  Myers dropped 30 pounds in the off season and looks lean and in shape.  So even though the Phillies bullpen is their weakest link, there is a good chance this deficiency can be mitigated if the starters go deep into games.

Programming Note:  Tune in to the Brian Startare show on 610 WIP tonight at Midnight where I will be talking Phillies and recapping the Spring Training trip.


Last Night’s Spring Training Game

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, March 16, 2007 12:49 PM Comments: 0

Last night we made the pilgrimage to Bright House Networks Field to watch the Phils take on the Blue Jays in a rare night Spring Training game.  It was great to see the place packed with fans, though many Jays supporters made the short trip south from Dunedin.  The Phils ended up losing the game 11-6, but by the time the game ended, most people were out in left field at Frenchy’s bar rooting on VCU.

Cole Hamels started the game, but was rocked for 2 runs in the first and another 2 in the third off 3 home runs.  Fabio Castro didn’t perform much better in relief as he struggled to find the strike zone and gave up another four runs himself.  The Phils though made a valiant comeback in the seventh led by home runs by Aaron Rowand and Jayson Werth.  Werth’s 3-run shot nearly left the park and traveled at least 430 feet.  It was interesting that Rowand was still playing in the seventh after most other starters had been pulled and were signing autographs in foul territory.  Most likely the packed house included a score of scouts and the Phils wanted to give him another AB.  The home run probably helped his trade value, but his .147 average this Spring does not.

Other notes from the game include Ryan Howard going 0-3 with 3 strikeouts.  Chase Utley had errors on back-to-back plays in the third, although one wasn’t recorded because it was a double-play ball.  But in true Utley form, he redeemed himself in the bottom frame with an RBI single.  JRoll hit the ball well, roping two singles, but was caught stealing after one.  This year’s Chris Coste, Greg Dobbs had an RBI single in his only at-bat of the night.  For as good as he’s played this March (.371 AVG), he’s still deep on the 3B depth chart behind Helms and Nunez so he will likely start the season in Ottawa.  Also, everyone’s favorite ex-Phillie catcher, Sal Fasano made an appearance for the Blue Jays and was treated to a rousing ovation by the Phillies fans.

All in all it was a good game but the club certainly showed signs of rustiness.  I’m not worried, though it’s only Spring.  Saturday’s game against the Yankees should be a decent test in the face of quality pitching.  We’ll be there and will have pictures to share if you can’t make it.


Howard-Utley ’08 Merchandise

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, March 13, 2007 10:12 AM Comments: 0

For too long Phillies fans have suffered without a championship.  It’s time for a change and Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are here to bring it.   The plan is to win the World Series this year then take over the White House next.  So join us in supporting the Howard-Utley ’08 ticket - for the good of the Nation.  

Buy this cool stuff now


Phils Luke Warm in Florida

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, March 12, 2007 09:58 AM Comments: 0

Interested in a quick recap of this weekend’s games?  That’s whats on tap for today along with an update on some exciting Phillies Nation promotions.  Of course, we start with baseball.

In yesterday’s game, Jamie Moyer pitched five scoreless innings but was let down by the bullpen, namely Fabio Castro who gave up 4 runs in the seventh in a 5-3 loss to Detroit.  The Phils offense was powered by a Chase Utley home run and a show of speed from the top of the lineup.  With two outs in the fourth, Jimmy Rollins made it to first, stole second, and was subsequently driven in on a Shane Victorino single.  On the radio, Sarge mentioned that, "Two-out runs are what separate men from boys."  Still, it was the Phillies’ second loss of the Spring to the Tigers and they now stand at 5-7 in the Grapefruit League.

On Saturday, the Phillies medium-term catching prospect, Jason Jaramillo, hit a 3-run home run to propel the club to a 6-4 victory over Tampa Bay in a split-squad game.  Elsewhere that day, the rest of the team dropped a 3-2 decision to the Astros in 10 innings.  Houston (7-4) travels to Clearwater today to take on the Phils.

Regarding the fantasy leagues, everyone who signed before 9 am on Sunday should have received an email invite.  If you haven’t but think you should, please email us.  The rest of the invites will go out within the next couple of days.  We have also added two new leagues.  In addition to the Schuylkill and Delaware divisions, we now have Poquessing and Cobbs Creek.  If you still would like to request an invite, submit your email in the box below or to the left.

Finally, a friendly reminder that Phillies Nation will be broadcasting live from Clearwater starting on Wednesday.  We’ll bring you first hand accounts of the rotation controversy, prospects for improving the bullpen, and up-and-coming Phillies, including an answer to the question, who is Greg Dobbs?  But even before that, another big Phillies Nation announcement comes tomorrow, so make sure you stop by again.


Phillies Nation Fantasy League 2007

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, March 09, 2007 02:15 PM Comments: 0

Phillies Nation Fantasy Baseball is back again for the second year.  This time around we’ll be organizing it through ESPN.com.  The system is a bit different in that you have to be specifically invited to join a league.  We got plenty of spots, so you’re all invited.  However, to get your official email invite, you will need to enter your email in the form below and on the following page make sure to check the "I want a Phillies Nation fantasy invite" box when finishing your submission.  It’s kind of a process, I know, but it’s worth it – this year there will be prizes.

Join the Phillies Nation Fantasy League 
As of now, there are two leagues set up, just like last year: Delaware Division and Schuylkill Division.  There will likely be more.  When you sign up you will be randomlly assigned a league, but if you want a specific league for yourself or your friends, just send me an email and I will send you the appropriate invites.  You can get all the rest of the details when you sign up.  This should be a lot of fun, so sign up now.
In other news, the Phils are battling with the Red Sox down in Clearwater today, and they’re currently down 4-3 in the third.  The Phillies 3-run first inning was capped off by a Wes Helms homer run, his second of the spring.

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