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Archive for July, 2007

A Bunch of Phillies Phodder

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, July 31, 2007 09:37 AM Comments: 0

As the Phils were pulling off a nice win yesterday over the Cubs on national television, many ancillary news stories broke.  Here’s a synopsis. 

  • Shane Victonio came up limping with a strained right calf in yesterday’s game after trying to beat out a double-play ball.  He left the game and is scheduled for an MRI today.
  • Michael Bourn took a vicious header into the Wrigley Field bullpen after twisting both ankles attempting to reach a foul ball.  He finished the inning but soon after was removed from the game with a sprained right ankle.  This could hurt his chances of being traded, which in my opinion is a good thing.
  • Ryan Madson who injured his shoulder on Sunday is not expected to be out as long as Brett Myers was.  This means there is a chance he could return in 3-4 weeks.
  • The Phillies acquired right-handed starter Kyle Lohse yesterday in exchange for Reading’s Matt Maloney.  Lohse – who is 6-12 with a 4.58 ERA on the season – is expected to take J.D. "The Real Deal" Durbin’s spot in the rotation starting Thursday.
  • The Phillies’ NL East rivals Braves and Mets also made moves on Monday.  Atlanta traded for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay and are currently working on a deal for Octavio Dotel.  The Mets meanwhile picked up All-Star Luis Castillo.
  • The MLB trade deadline is 4pm EST today.  Keep it here for breaking news…or Standing Pat silence.

Trading Deadline Update:  The Phillies picked up righthanded reliever Julio Mateo from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Reading infielder Jesus Merchan.  Mateo, who is expected to start his Phillies career at AAA Ottawa, reminds me a lot of Brett Myers – and not in the good way

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Making Charlie Look Good

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, July 29, 2007 11:46 PM Comments: 0

When Chase Utley went down with a hand injury, it undoubtedly left a huge hole in the lineup.  It can even be argued that Chase’s production in the three hole – driving in runners (82 RBIs) and getting on base (.414 OBP) – has been the linchpin in the Phillies offensive dominance.  Yet in the three games since his injury the Phils have scored a total of 23 runs:  it seems as if Charlie Manuel’s reshuffled lineup doesn’t miss Utley one bit.

The new scorecard showcases Bourn, Victorino, and Rollins at the top of the order.  I attended Friday’s game and witnessed the trio consistently on-base, including two bases loaded situations in the first three innings.  But that may be more due to the individual player performance rather than their spot in the lineup.  JRoll himself has claimed with all his swagger, "It doesn’t matter where I hit in the lineup, it never has."  Besides the top of the lineup, other players have been picking up the load.  The often-maligned Pat Burrell has hit .529 with an astounding 1.449 OPS including eight RBIs in his last six games.

Although the innovation of the lineup change was bred out of necessity, Charlie Manuel has handled the task well thus far.  But before we crown Charlie Manuel the next Jim Leyland or Connie Mack, we must realize the small sample set of games were played against the last-place Pirates over the weekend.  This coming week will see a much more serious test against the NL Central leaders Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field and Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park.

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Huge Terrible News

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, July 26, 2007 10:17 PM Comments: 0

Phillies All-Star Chase Utley suffered a broken hand when Nationals rookie John Lannan hit him with a pitch in the fifth inning of this afternoon’s 7-6 loss.  Specifically, he fractured the fourth metacarpal on his right hand.  Immediate reports from the Phillies indicated that the injury would be season-ending but both Utley and the team now deny that possibility.  What is certain at this point is that the best second baseman in baseball will be placed on the the disabled list.  Chase has an appointment with a hand specialist on Friday to determine what options, if any, are available.  Surgery is a possibility and that would likely put Chase out for the season.  But knowing Chase, he will opt to play through the pain – he already has been quoted saying he could be back on the field in less than a month.  That seems optimistic in my opinion so a lot will depend on which disabled list the Phils place him.  At best, it will be an extended stay on the 15-day DL, as we’ve seen with Brett Myers.  But like Myers, the Phillies need Chase Utley back now if they hope to make a playoff run in the 2007 season.

UPDATE:  Utley is planning to have surgery which means he will be out 4-6 weeks.  The Nation is depressed.

UPDATE 2, FROM THE PHILLIES:  Second baseman Chase Utley was placed on the 15-day disabled list today after having successful surgery on the fourth metacarpal in his right hand.  He had a pin inserted into the hand during the 20-minute surgery that was performed this morning by Dr. Randall Culp at Methodist Hospital.  Utley’s expected recovery time is up to four weeks.

To replace him on the roster, the Phillies purchased the contract of infielder/outfielder Joe Thurston from triple-A Ottawa.  Thurston, 27, hit a combined .278 with three home runs and 44 RBI in 105 games between double-A Reading and Ottawa.  He was named Phillies Minor League Player of the Week twice this season.  Thurston played mostly second base but also made appearances in left field and center field.  He will wear #10.

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A Must Win Game

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, July 26, 2007 10:17 AM Comments: 0

Awesome game last night.  Jimmy Rollins’ expedient trip around the bases in the ninth was just the beginning of an amazing finish.  A finish that was ultimately capped by a walk-off home run by Ryan Howard.  His 28th homer of the season scored Chase Utley who started the 14th inning with a walk and the Phillies won 7-5!  The 2-2 pitch to end the game was served up by none other than Chris Booker, the Phillies 2006 Rule 5 draft pick.  Things didn’t work out and he ended up back on the Nationals, much to the appreciation of Phillies decision-makers. 

It was quite the box score. Chase Utley went 1-for-3 and walked in his last 3 consecutive at bats.  The Phillies vaulted offense consistently got on base but the bottom of the lineup was repeatedly unable to score the baserunners.  In the end, the long ball won it and so did the Phillies – for fifth time in five games.  Go Phils!

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Injured Pitcher Updates

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, July 24, 2007 07:22 AM Comments: 0

Brett Myers took another step towards returning to the Phillies bullpen yesterday.  He threw 25 pitches in a single-A game against the Tampa Yankees – three of his four outs were strikeouts and he only allowed one hit.  His pitch speed hovered around the low 90s.  Incidentally, Clearwater went on to win the game 7-1 behind Josh Outman who is 10-4 on the season for the Threshers.  Myers meanwhile has been sidelined since May 24 with a strained right shoulder but is due for another rehab start on Wednesday in Tampa.  He is expected to be back anchoring the Phillies bullpen on Friday, but we’ve heard that claim several times in the past two months.

In other Phillies injuries news, rehabbing pitchers Freddy Garcia (shoulder soreness), Francisco Rosario (more shoulder soreness) and Scott Mathieson (Tommy John surgery) all are tentatively scheduled to take to the mound within three weeks though it is unlikely any of them will return to the club this season (or ever).  Also, in case you missed it, Phillies prospect and number one draft pick last year, Kyle Drabek, will have Tommy John surgery.  His 19-year old elbow simply could not keep with his power pitching style under the rigors of a professional schedule.  Finally, to prove that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for these guys, Tom Gordon is showing signs that he can effectively cope with his injuries.  In two appearances since returning from the 76-day DL, Gordon has allowed just a single hit while recording five straight outs.

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Phillies Nation on the BBC

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, July 19, 2007 07:27 AM Comments: 0

Hey did you hear the Phillies lost 10,000 games as a franchise? Yes, it happened on Sunday on national television but apparently it had an even bigger audience. The World Today, a radio show on the BBC World Service, picked up the story and interviewed yours truly for the piece. Hopefully this means, that the year I spent in London preaching the Phillies gospel around the European continent has piqued some interest in the Phillies worldwide. More likely though, they just like to laugh at Americans.

To listen to the interview click on the play button below. If no bar appears or you have technical issues, use the text link to download or stream it.

Brian discusses the Phillies’ 10,000 losses on the BBC The World Today programme.

[quicktime]http://www.philliesnation.com/Brian_Michael_BBC_Interview.mp3[/quicktime]


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Power Hitting Leadoff

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, July 17, 2007 08:32 AM Comments: 0

Jimmy Rollins is a power hitter.   On Saturday he launched his fifth leadoff homer of the year, 22 on his career.  Yet although JRoll has a good chance to become a member of the 30-30 club, he’s certainly no A-Rod.  As we discussed last week he doesn’t even have the best power numbers among NL shortstops.  Still no one is confusing him for Ricky Henderson or Lenny Dykstra either.  JRoll is a hybrid of sorts but also a product of an evolving idea of the leadoff hitter:

The disappearance of the classic leadoff hitter — smallish, pesky players with the patience to make pitchers work, then create havoc once on base — has been gradual, but otherwise entirely predictable given the game’s evolution.

Smaller ballparks have been built over the past decade, with turf fields (where speed is more important) replaced by grass fields. In the weight room, bigger bodies are constructed. The results: stronger players, hitting the ball farther, and being rewarded for their power.

It seems Jimmy Rollins’ power numbers really exploded after his 38-game hitting streak ended early last season.  Before the streak, the big complaint about JRoll was that he would swing at too many pitches, especially the first one, and tend to pop up high fastballs rather than letting them whiz by.  Nonetheless, he categorically refused to chance his approach at the plate.  Now it seems the stubbornness is paying off.  Last season he accumulated career-highs in HR (25), RBI (83), SLG (.478).  Now in 2007 Jimmy is on pace to surpass those records with 32 homers and 102 RBIs, plus he’s already pulling a .294 average with a .538 slugging percentage.

So then how do you judge a leadoff hitter?  Walk Like a Sabermetrician has a great article with various statistical methods.  But I prefer for the moment to just see what would happen if Charlie Manuel moved JRoll in the lineup and let a prototypical leadoff hitter take over the duties – someone like Shane Victorino or Michael Bourn.  In 56 at bats in the three spot, Jimmy has batted a measly .196 wtih zero homers and 7 RBIs.  Perhaps then it could be argued that a source of Jimmy’s power actually comes from batting from the leadoff spot.

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Phillies Nation…Almost There

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, July 15, 2007 12:20 AM Comments: 0

One Nation, Under PhilliesOne of the main driving forces behind Phillies Nation is to help organize Phillies fans around the world.  We all know how annoying it is when Mets fans and Red Sox fans come to town and think they own the place.  It’s my dream that Phillies fans will one day have such presence across the country.  That’s why I’m dismayed at reading the Phillies have ranked just 18th in a poll of America’s favorite teams (link via 3 Girls With Heart).  The Phils have dropped significantly since 2004 when Citizen’s Bank Ballpark opened and our hometown nine was baseball’s sixth most popular team.

UPDATE:  On Sunday the Philadelphia Phillies lost their 10,000th game as a franchise to the St. Louis Cardinals 10-2 on national television.  Phillies fans barely notice.

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Fantasy Update

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, July 12, 2007 06:32 AM Comments: 0

Being that we are at the halfway point of the baseball season, I thought it would be appropriate to give an update on the fantasy baseball season.  As you remember we have six divisions and here are the first-place teams and their owners:

  • Schuylkill – Shadyside Swingers, Julie Michael
  • Delaware – Mark the Shark, Mark McClure
  • Poquessing – Chevy Chase Hill Raiders, Hank Park
  • Cobbs Creek – Kruk and Nails, Parker Dixon
  • Pennypack – Let’s Play Two, Larry Beckler
  • Wissahickon – Flatutory Apes, Rocco Qatar

The Chevy Chases Hill Raiders lead the entire league with a score of 108, though the Flatutory Apes are not far behind at 107.5.  Remember the overall winner will take home a Phillies grab bag of merchandise.  So stop neglecting your team like I do and get those injured players out of the starting lineup.

Speaking of injuries, the second half of the season has got to be more favorable to the Phils when it comes to the disabled list.  Jon Lieber, Matt Smith and Freddy Garcia are already done for the season; but Brett Myers and Tom Gordon should be back by the end of the month.  Although Jayson Werth is the only current casualty of the lineup, there’s always a chance Ryan Howard would have to return to the DL – same with Rowand and Burrell.  Baseball executives sometimes like to say that having a player return from the DL is as good as a trade in the second half of the season.  But with Myers and Gordon slated for the bullpen, the Phillies will still need to make a move for a starter.

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All-Star Break

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, July 06, 2007 10:53 AM Comments: 0

Heading into the weekend series in Colorado, the Phillies are battling to stay above .500.  After an ugly April and a hot May, the Phils spent most of June treading water.  With this mediocrity in mind, I wondered how the Phillies record at the midway point correlated to their final results.  In recent history of course no All-Star break record of any sort has produced a playoff team so we should eliminate that from any preliminary prognostications.  Here are the records heading into the break and at the end of the season:

Year All-Star Break End of Season
2002 39-47 80-81
2003 52-40 86-76
2004 46-41 86-76
2005 45-44 88-74
2006 40-47 85-77
2007 43-42
(3 games remaining)
??-??

Jumping off the chart is the 2003 season, when the team took it on the chin from the Marlins in the final weeks.  But looking closely, that is the only season out of the six in which the Phillies did not have a better second half.  Baseball Prospectus has calculated that if the rest of the season were played a million times, the Phils would make the playoffs in 10% of the seasons.  There are plenty of games throughout a 162 game schedule that could help beat those odds.  A series win against the Rockies might be the difference between an 88 win season and a 90 win season.

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