Archive for April, 2007

Moyer Not Riding the Rotating Rotation

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, April 30, 2007 10:26 AM Comments: 0

On Sunday afternoon a sellout crowd of 45,107 witnessed another masterful performance by Jamie Moyer.  The 44-year old went seven-and-a-third innings allowing just two hits and no runs in the Phillies 6-1 victory over the Marlins.  With each start, Moyer is showing that he has a well-defined role in the Phillies rotation – he is the stopper.

Moyer, 3-1 on the year, is now 8-3 since joining the Phillies last summer.  His consistent performance has solidified an often changing rotation.  Looking at the starters now compared with their expectations coming into the season, there is a sea of contrasts.  Starting at the top, the Phillies ace and Opening Day starter, Brett Myers, is now pitching out of the bullpen.  This of course was to make room for Jon Lieber who moved from the ‘pen to the rotation.  Then there is Cole Hamels who, coming into his second season still wore the hat of the young phenom, but has since been catapulted into ace position and leads the league in strikeouts.  This past month has also seen Freddy Garcia move from the disabled list back to the rotation, albeit not yet at top form. 

But more than the rotating rotation, the prospects of having a stopper like Jamie Moyer is a huge benefit to the Phillies – losing streaks stop dead in their tracks.  Already this season that is precisely what Jamie Moyer has been doing.  All three of his wins have come after Phillies losses:

  1. His first win was also the team’s first after starting the season with a 3-game sweep by the Braves. 
  2. Moyer’s second win came after 2 Phillies losses – an afternoon gem in Washington.  
  3. Sunday’s seven-inning no-hitter helped to take a series against a divisional foe after a losing the previous night night.

Yesterday’s victory also came at an ideal time in that it was a getaway day.  The Phillies are now faced with a 10-game road trip beginning tonight in Atlanta.  Moyer also brought some much needed relief to the bullpen.  In his five starts this season, Moyer has averaged six-and-two-thirds inning per appearance.  He also contributes on offense, batting .231 and yesterday going 2-3 with a double.  To sum it up, Jamie Moyer is an enormous asset to the Phillies ballclub and a model for pitchers everywhere.


Better Know A Ball Club : Florida Marlins

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, April 26, 2007 11:08 PM Comments: 0

Note: In light of Stephen Colbert’s successful segment ‘Better Know A District’ on the Colbert Report, I thought It would be neat to incorporate this great idea into terms of Phillies baseball. I hope you enjoy.

Home to such great musical talents as 2 Live Crew and Gloria Estefan, Miami, Florida is the second largest city in the state, shadowed only by Jacksonville. Florida itself was first discovered by the West when Ponce De Leon of Spain landed his ship in Biscayne Bay in 1513. The name Florida encapsulates the season he arrived , Pascua Florida, or Easter season of flowers.  Miami’s first name was Chequescha, later changed by English settlers who arrived in 1842 after the Spanish fled due to a small pox outbreak.

Overview of The Series (2-1 Marlins)
The Fightin’s are victorious in four of their last five games backed by strong offense (5.2 runs/G) and quality starts by the pitching staff. The move to put Brett Myers in the bullpen hasn’t backfired yet and its making Charlie Manuel look like a closet genius. 

Meanwhile, the Marlins are winners in four of their last five games as well. Wednesday night, they rallied for four runs to spoil Tim Hudson’s 12 strikeout game, scoring on a wild pitch thrown by Bob Wickman to end the horror.

The Phils are looking to build on their recent success by quelling the Marlins hot streak over the weekend. The Phillies are currently 4.5 games back from first, though only 1 game back from taking over third place held by the Fish. Taking two of three would put them in a tie for third place and evening the season series at three games. Of course, we are all hoping for that elusive victory sweep which has yet to happen this season. This series is pivotal for both clubs as they look to try to erase early April woes and climb out of the N.L. East basement.

On the Mound
Anibal Sanchez
Promotion : College Night and Military Hats, Men 15 and Over
Sanchez , who threw a no-hit game last season, looks to improve his 2-0 record by taking on Freddy Garcia in the series opener. Sanchez hasn’t given up more than 4 earned runs in an outing this season while only giving up a total of 4 runs in his last two starts (10.0 IP). His K/9 isn’t impressive(3.74) but fails to compare to his inflated batters against average, .307, and an almost 5.00 BB/9. If the Phillies stay patient against Sanchez they can lock in on mistakes and knock him out of the game early.

Dontrelle Willis
Promotion : Watching Dontrelle Pitch In Person
Willis leads the club with a 4-1 record, with two wins over the Braves. Digging deeper into his numbers , Willis has four wins despite a high 5.28 ERA. The reasons? Dontrelle has given up four home runs in five of his outings. 13 percent of the fly balls he induces seem to find their way over the fence for home runs. Facing Adam Eaton on Saturday may turn The Ballpark into a launching pad for NASA.

Home Run Figures - D. Willis and A. Eaton

Along with inflated home run numbers, he is leaving 10 percent less runners on base then last year. For his career he leaves almost 75 per cent of batters who reach base stranded. This year those numbers are at 65 percent.  Despite these calculations, Willis is still a pitcher to fear. His K/9 is at 7.04, the highest its ever been since his amazing 2003 season. It’s definitely a indicator of his early success so far in 2007.

Wes Obermueller
Promotion : Phanatic Bobblehead and Birthday, 14 and under
Obermuller isn’t a fancy guy who tries to nibble the corners or paint the black like his scheduled pitching counterpart Jamie Moyer. He will throw pitches in the strike zone and dare you to hit it. His career 10-19 record with a 5.59 ERA will tell you he is usually on the losing end of this battle. In his only start this season against the Nationals, he threw six solid innings giving up two earned runs on four hits. He also fanned five batters. One quality start will not convince me that Wes Obermuller has somehow found the secret to pitching. It only indicates that beating up on the Nationals seems to be the cool thing to do for opposing N.L. East Teams.

Better Know A Blogger
Craig at  fishstripes.com, a top Marlins blog as rated by striketwo.net.

What is the status of Miguel Cabrera?

Cabrera injured an oblique muscle a few days ago, he claims it doesn’t bother him when he hits but it does when he runs.  Cabrera in pretty much station to station on the base path at the moment.
Cabrera does own a career .324-14-54 line against the Phils. Should they stockpile a supply of Kryptonite?

 It is true Citizens Bank Park is a good hitter’s park but actually he is more prolific in Turner Field and RFK. All of that said, I would keep the Kryptonite handy.

Does it matter this early in the season that the Marlins do not have a solidified closer?

No, I don’t think it will matter at all.  The Marlins have at least three young members of the bullpen, depending on the situation, who can close a game.  Probably most the closing duties will be handled by Henry Owens, but that is a guess.  Eventually one of the young guys will emerge as the closer, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Do you think the Marlins – Phillies rivalry will continue to be as heated as it was at the end of last season? If you recall, Josh Johnson came out and said he ‘hated’ the Phillies and would do anything to make sure they didn’t make the playoffs.

The Marlins – Phillies rivalry has been heated for some time now.  Shoot, I remember a series a few years ago when the two teams spent most of it throwing at each other.  Not to mention the history of [the] empty benches brawls.  Last season I thought it would come to an end with so many new players on the Marlins team but for some reason there seems to be an institutional memory for both teams. So it continued.  Will it persist? [If it did] it wouldn’t surprise me.

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, April 26, 2007 11:06 AM Comments: 0

It’s the same thing every year, the Phils start off slow then string together a five-game winning streak to maintain some respectability heading into May.  I’m not buying it….yet.  I can’t lie though, it’s exciting to watch them play again - Jimmy Rollins’ power, Chase Utley’s 5-5 performance, Michael Bourn flying around the bases, even Ryan Howard got his groove back last night.  But we must remember as the Phillies look for their first series sweep of the season this afternoon, they are playing the Nationals.  So while the confidence boosting should help, I am still concerned about a few things.

First obviously is the bullpen.  The Phils are 6-2 since moving Brett Myers to the bullpen.  But one man is not the answer; especially when he is used sparingly.  Last night, despite leading the entire game, five pitchers trotted out on behalf of the Phillies.  Which begs the question why Brett Myers – the former starter - has not been used for more than one inning in any of his four relief appearances?  I thought last night would have been the perfect opportunity to let Myers close out a game.  If Charlie really intends Myers to have the secondary role of backup closer, I feel he should have at least let him stay out there another inning.  But perhaps the real intention is to eventually bring Myers back to the rotation and Manuel wants to limit his innings early in the season.  I would like them to commit one way or another soon because although Brett is a better pitcher than Ryan Madson, Gavin Floyd or Ryan Franklin, the Phils have been known setup pitchers for disaster.

The second concern I wanted to express today is uncertainty at third base.  Last night Abraham Nunez and Wes Helms combined to go 0-5.  Nunez is batting .136, Helms .290.  Wes Helms has gotten more starts at the hot corner this year, despite starting just 22 games at third over the past two years for the Marlins and Brewers.  The common distinction between the two is that Nunez is the better fielder and Helms is the better hitter; but in this case better surely does not mean great.  My keen eye in scouting has told me that Nunez is completely clueless at the plate and Helms is uncomfortable at best at third.  But for those who prefer stats, here are their career averages over 162 games.


ml service









fp @ 3B



10 years












  8 years











Neither of the two holds the ideal solution, but I wonder what is more important to this Phillies squad: a solid-fielding third baseman or another bat in the lineup?  Looking more longer-term, Helms is signed through next season with an option/buyout for 2009, while Nunez’s contract expires at the end of the season.  Perhaps then Abe will handle enough grounders to make him attractive to other teams before the trading deadline.  Better yet, if the Phillies could work out something for a middle reliever before July, both of these problems would be solved.


If it smells like funk

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, April 24, 2007 07:46 AM Comments: 0

Ryan Howard has not hit well since Spring Training.  So far this season he is batting .218 with 2 home runs and 20 strikeouts – although he maintains a .413 on-base percentage due to his league-leading 19 walks.  Still, he is on pace for an astonishing 216 strikeouts on the season.  This would break Jim Thome’s Phillies record of 182 Ks set in 2003, the last year of the Vet.  Of course, just because A-Rod is "on pace" for a hundred million home runs this season, doesn’t mean players can’t turn it around.

The 27-year old Howard has experienced only one April in the major leagues.  Last year he just five home runs in the season’s opening month, but then exploded for 13 in May.  Similarly, the aforementioned Jim Thome also was a notoriously slow starter.  Maybe that’s something you just have to live with when dealing with power hitters: strikeouts and slow starts.  If it is though, it’s something the Phillies can no longer afford.  Slow starts as individuals lead to slow starts as a team and slow starts as a team lead to golfing in October. 

Fortunately, Jimmy Rollins has stepped up his game and provided power from the lead-off position.  His seven homers rank tops in the NL and he is making a strong case for player of the month.  Chase Utley has finally begun to turn the corner after his own slow start as seen in last night’s offensive display.  As the team collected 11 runs on 20 hits (every starter had a hit) in Charlie Manuel’s 400th win, Ryan Howard struggled with three strikeouts.  Hopefully the winning and RBIs will continue in the upcoming series against the Nationals; meanwhile Ryan Howard will be presented with good opportunity to break out of his funk.  Tonight in South Philly, Jamie Moyer (2-1) takes to the hill against the Nats’ Jason Bergmann (0-1) on schedule magnet night.  Go Phils!


Moyer Gives Bullpen a Rest

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, April 20, 2007 09:15 AM Comments: 0

Click for slideshowThe Phillies eeked out their fourth win yesterday afternoon thanks to a brilliant pitching performance by Jamie Moyer. The bullpen which was so heavily taxed in Wednesday’s 13 inning affair (and generally unreliable on the season) got the day off.  That is, except for Tom Gordon who nearly blew the save by allowing two runs in the bottom of the ninth.  For a slideshow of game photos, click here or on the picture to the right.

So could yesterday’s win in rainy Washington, DC catapult the Phillies to a hot streak to end the first month of the season?  Well, the club has 11 games left in April, there is a chance they can go 8-3 over those 11 games.  Here is how it would work:     

  1. Win 2 of 3 in Cincinnati this weekend
  2. Win the make-up game on Monday vs. the Astros
  3. Sweep the Nats at home
  4. Win 2 of 3 from the Marlins at home
  5. Lose the last game of the month in Atlanta.

Of course, Ryan Howard is now listed as day-to-day with a strained leg ligament, the bullpen is in shambles and runners on base, stay on base; but the Phillies are not a bad team.  They can turn it around, and they will.  The question now though is: is it already too late?


Breaking News (City Line Edition)

Posted by Jim Amato, Wed, April 18, 2007 05:56 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies have made it know that they will be sending Brett Myers to the pen in order to make room for Jon Lieber in the starting rotation.  There have been no comments from either Myers or Lieber, but Charlie Manuel has said that Myers will be the eighth inning set-up man and the guy who fills in for Gordon as closer if Gordon needs a day off or gets hurt.  This seems like Charlie’s way of making this move sound better to Brett Myers.

Now this is just an opinion, but this move reeks of desperation.  I understand the team is 3-9 and something had to be done, but was this the right move or was it really the only move that could have been made short of firing Charlie to try to get the team’s attention?  The Phillies made this move b/c Myers has expressed a willingness to go to the pen to help his team while Lieber pouts about coming out of the pen.  Myers also has the luxury of having just signed a three year deal while Lieber is a free agent after this year. 

We all know what the issues have been for the Phillies in the first twelve games.  They can not hit with runners in scoring position and the bullpen has been a mess to say the least.   In fact they rank last in the NL in ERA and last in batting average against; therefore it would not be too much of a strecth to say the entire pitching staff has been a horrid.  Its not like the Phils can bench Howard or Utley in order to solve the lack of clutch hitting.  Is bringing in Nunez to play third every night or playing Ruiz over Barajas going to fix anything?  I think not.  So how does the Myers/Lieber move help the Phillies?  I contend that Pat Gillick and friends believe that if Lieber goes out and has a few good starts his trade value will go up.  That of course means that Lieber better pitch well, which is not a sure thing.

Even if Jon does pitch well, and the Phillies are able to get a good bullpen arm in return for him, then what?  Bring Myers back to the rotation after he has spent a month (or more) in the pen.  Seems a lot like what they did with Madson last year.  Its going to be a complete disaster no matter what happens.  Is this the beginning of the end for the 2007 Phillies? 


Everyone is Mad at the Phillies

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, April 18, 2007 09:29 AM Comments: 0

Last night the Phillies lost it then Charlie Manuel lost it.  After witnessing his team limp through an 8-1 loss to the Mets, Charlie Manuel had enough.  It started when Howard Eskin asked Manuel why he wasn’t more aggressive with his players and during press conferences.  Manuel disagreed and said that we don’t always see the aggression and that if Eskin wanted a display he would be happy to show one.  Manuel – taking a page out of Joey Crawford’s book – challenged Eskin to follow him back to his office.  They went, there was plenty of yelling, but it never came to blows.  Eskin was just doing what he does best – getting under the skin of a sports celebrity, usually when they’re most vunerable.  All in all, the press conference was not on quite on the Cheney-Calipari level but it was explosive for the skipper who usually maintains a passive demeanor.  After witnessing last night’s game, it would be hard for any manager to just sit by idly.

In typical frustrating fashion, the Phillies beat themselves last night.  Tom Glavine was certainly not overpowering in allowing 6 hits and 5 walks over 6 innings.  The Phillies left 13 runners in scoring position, with 26 total left on base.  They grounded into three double-plays and allowed the Mets to roam the basepaths freely.  Ryan Howard’s deep fly to center field with two runners on which ended the game was indicative of the Phillies night – close but not nearly close enough.  To their credit, the Mets took full advantage of the Bad News Phillies and played stellar defense.  Not the least of which came by the glove of Moises Alou who also smacked two homers – including the game winner in the second.  Alou can drive in runs, but the Phillies can’t.  Maybe the Fightins should adopt his secret to hitting.

Hopefully a series against the Nationals will turn things around…is it too early to say these are must win games?  But if anyone is planning on attending Thursday’s businessperson’s special in DC or thinking about going, I have extra tickets.  Email me if you’d like to go.


Rain, Rain, Go Away

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, April 16, 2007 02:45 PM Comments: 0

rainThe Phillies ended up playing only 2 games against Houston this weekend, splitting the rain-shortened series and today’s game has been cancelled.  In Saturday’s win, Francisco Rosario made his debut with the Phillies throwing one inning and recording a strikeout and hit batter.  Jimmy Rollins added to his major league-leading home run total which now stands at 6 and Chase Utley hit a homer as well.  Even with the win, the Phillies only barely crept ahead of the Nationals - who with the Royals are the only teams with worse records than the Phillies at this point.  I’m sorry to say but the fast start we all hoped for this season is not gonna happen.

The Phils dropped Friday night’s game by a count of 9-6 in front of 44,336 spectators bolstered by the College Night crowd.  Again, things got a little out of hand and it’s becoming a cause for concern with the Phillies.  The papers briefly have documented round 1 and round 2 of the troubles at the games, but it basically comes down to common decency and learning how to handle alcohol (which is what high school is for).  One of the things I always try to remember – no matter how many cans of Beast I have hidden in my cargos – is that there are always children present.  You don’t want to be setting a bad example for future fans.  I mean the only rebuttal Philly fans have when faced with their national reputation is that we’re passionate because we have high baseball IQs.  Acting stupid on College Days only perpetuates our false meathead rep.  So on April 26 and 27, the next two College Nights, please stop acting like Mets fans.

Before then however, the Phillies will take on said Mets tomorrow in what will now be a one game series.  Hopefully the bizarre weather will calm down to allow the Phils to then travel to Washington for another mini-series against the Nationals on Wednesday and Thursday.  I of course will be there as the teams slug it out for fourth place.  Freddy Garcia is scheduled to make his Phillies debut tomorrow against the Mets.  In his only career start against New York, Freddy allowed just one run on six hits while striking out seven in a complete-game victory.  Eaton and Moyer are probables for the DC games as the Phils look for some more wins against divisional opponents.


Phillies Temperature

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, April 12, 2007 03:26 PM Comments: 0

A week-and-a-half into the season and the Phillies stand five full games back of the Atlanta Braves.  The Braves have the best record in baseball thanks to a sweep of the Phils in the opening series.  Yet most of the talk this off-season had been about the Phillies jarring with the tonight’s opponent, the New York Mets.  The Braves’ hot start adds a new dimension to this equation.  I wonder if the Phils have the stamina to battle in a three team race for the division?  Last year the Dodgers and Padres squeezed our boys out of a playoff spot.  Of course they are currently 2.5 games back of the third-place Marlins , but let’s assume the Phils pick up the pace over the next couple of months and make this season interesting – can they overcome both the Braves and Mets?

One player that has been a little warmer than the rest of the Phillies has been everyone’s favorite drinking buddy, Pat Burrell.  Pat the Bat has put up .357/.486/.536, 5 runs and 5 RBIs going into tonight’s game.  The usual nine strikeouts still mar his line, but he has definitely started to live up to the high expectations we set for him in the off-season.  Last night was the first time all season he failed to hit safely in a game – he drew two walks though.  An interesting stat from the Spring Training guide in Clearwater mentioned that Pat was close to the league lead in pitches per plate appearance last year.  Of course we all know his tendency to take the wrong pitch (inside fastball), but his patience at the plate will give the batters behind him opportunities to score runs.  The only problem is that last night, the batters after Burrell left 18 men on base.

A few housekeeping notes.  First off, my apologies to anyone who’s been experiencing trouble with the Fantasy Leagues.  I hope the emails from the ESPN execs over the weekend calmed any frustration.  If not, tough, we’re at their mercy until we make our own system (which is not out of the question). 

Second and most importantly, go to tomorrow’s Phillies game.  We will be hosting our first tailgate party of the season in honor of Rob’s birthday, College Night and Dollar Dogs.  Now, I heard the last College Night got a little outta hand with the drinking and fighting.  There were rumblings out of 1 Citizen’s Bank Way that future College nights would be cancelled or at least heavily policed, but nothing drastic has happened yet.  College Nights are a cheap and exciting way to have a little fun, let’s not ruin it.  Seriously, it’s the only fun Villanova kids have to look forward to.  So, if you’re planning on coming to the park tomorrow, hang out with us, stay out of trouble, and Go Phils!



Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, April 09, 2007 12:53 PM Comments: 0

Last week I was asked offline about the title of Jim’s last column - the old "it’s a marathon not a sprint" line.  I was told it was too cliché, especially this early in the year.  I disagreed.  It was totally appropriate because the more I think of it, the more I see the Phillies as one big cliché.  The team has this uncanny knack for self-fulfilling jokes.  They’re very reflexive in how they lose games and break hearts – almost like they are a parody of themselves.  Does that make sense to anyone?  I’m just trying to wrap my head around another poor start and my annual nervous breakdown.  Maybe a sweep of the Mets is the cure.

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