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Archive for February, 2010

Beerman’s Report Card: Jose Contreras

Posted by Nick "Beerman" Staskin, Tue, February 16, 2010 11:25 AM Comments: 30

PHILLIES SIGN JOSE CONTRERAS TO 1YR/$1.5 MILLION DOLLAR DEAL

Last off-season when the Phillies brought in Chan Ho Park it raised a lot of questions. Park was originally signed to be the number 5 in the rotation, but wound up excelling out of the bullpen.  Personally, I would have loved to see him back in the red pinstripes, but he obviously priced himself out of the budget asking for close to $5 million and stating his desire to start.

This winter, Ruben Amaro brought in Jose Contreras to fill that role out of the bullpen with the understanding that he might be an insurance policy for some spot starts.  Yet for the most part, he will be starting games in the bullpen.

Prior to getting traded to the Rockies late last season, Contreras struggled mightily in the White Sox rotation. It is no secret that his best days are behind him; however he should still prove to be a solid arm out of the pen.

The sample size is too small to garner any real ideas of what we can expect to see out of the bullpen from the righty; nonetheless, he did manage to strike out 106 batters in 131.2 IP.

Beerman's Grade - BThe main reason this deal works is the length. A one-year deal at close to pennies on the dollar for an experienced arm gives you extreme low-risk, high-reward potential – much like the Pedro signing last season. If Contreras can’t hang, it’s easy to release him and cut your losses. However, should he manage to provide a spark out of the pen for an inning or two at a time – like Park did – then for $1.5 million you found a real contribution to the team that you can reevaluate after the season.

I might have higher hopes than I should for Contreras, but I’m expecting something along the lines of 3.75 ERA with about 80 Ks over about 100 innings or so.

BEERMAN’S GRADE: B

  • 30 Comments
 

The Three Biggest Concerns

Posted by Amanda Orr, Mon, February 15, 2010 01:26 PM Comments: 44

That time of the year is quickly approaching, folks.  Pitchers and catchers report in just two days.  On paper, the 2010 Phillies look better than they did at this point in 2009.  The lineup is set, the bench is improved, but there are still a few question marks headed into spring training. 

It’s unsure how Placido Polanco will transition to third base.  It’s also unknown who will be the left-handed specialist if J.C Romero is not ready by the beginning of the season.  But here are the three biggest concerns headed into spring training:

Brad Lidge

By now, we know his 2009 numbers — an earned run average over seven and eleven blown saves.  He had one of the worst seasons as a closer, ever.   Lidge had two surgeries this off-season, and his status for Opening Day is unknown.

Lidge may not be ready by the start of the season, but he should not miss a significant amount of time.  In the occasions that Lidge had an off year, he followed it up with a decent year.  If the pattern continues, Lidge is due for a good season.

Cole Hamels

Last year, Hamels pitched average  for a major league pitcher.  For Cole Hamels, it was a subpar season.  As the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, Hamels had plenty of off-season distractions last off-season.  It’ll be interesting to hear how Hamels prepared for the 2010 season.  Hopefully, he had more time to focus, but the biggest concern is improving his curveball.

Hamels’ curveball problems were easily noticed in last year’s division series.  If Hamels is unable to improve his curveball, he should immedietly switch to a slider or cut-fastball.  As a two-pitch pitcher, it is important for Hamels to develop a third pitch.  Adding another pitch will make him that much scarier of a pitcher.

Jamie Moyer 

Ruben Amaro Jr. already proclaimed that the fifth spot in the rotation is Moyer’s to lose.  However, Moyer had multiple surgeries and health problems this off-season.  The 47-year old remains optimistic that he’ll be ready to pitch this spring, and was also open to the idea of pitching in 2011!

If Moyer does not win the fifth starter’s job, it’ll be interesting to see who wins it: Kyle Kendrick? Andrew Carpenter? Or somebody else?

  • 44 Comments
 

The Dip: Pretzel Logic

Posted by The Dipsy, Sun, February 14, 2010 11:19 PM Comments: 67

This is The Dip, a column penned by our regular commenter, The Dipsy.

Contrary to popular opinion, I happen to be a big Phillies fan. But, perhaps my type of fandom flies in the face of the traditional method of rooting and team support; in that tend to criticize, loudly and resolutely, the very team that I have pledged my undying love to. Today I return to one of my cause célèbre, that being the absolute necessity that Ryan Howard be dropped to sixth in the batting order against left-handed pitching. The fact that this has not been tried already, never mind discussed, just boggles my mind.

Below is a sampling, and I seriously only went through half the teams, of how NL first basemen fared against left handed pitching last year:

Player HR/RBI/AVG
Fielder -  13/47/.292
Dunn – 7/28/.268
Helton -  1/28/.311
Votto – 7/27/.329
Howard – 6/33/.207

Joey Votto? .207! And all those mentioned above are lefties. Quite simply, Ryan’s numbers against lefties have progressively gotten worse each year to the point where his spot in the order is now the place where baserunners go to die when a left handed pitcher is on the mound.

Look, Ryan is a stud. A once-in-a-generation power hitter – an institution maybe. But the fact remains that while he is lethal against righties, he is horrible against southpaws. The disparity of performance is so marked that the whisper “he’s great but he has trouble with lefties” is one bad month away from morphing into the dreaded “can’t hit lefties” (because he can’t) moniker, and that’s hard to shake. Anyone with two eyes and watches games knows that Ryan has the plate discipline of a six-year old at a piñata party. Consequently, he sees a steady diet of head high fastballs and off speed slop that breaks five feet off the plate. So that’s what he swings at. Frankly, now that I think about it, I’m tired of analyzing the “whys”.

Just make the move. No excuses. “Ooohhh, you’ll take away his aggressiveness”. “Oooooh, who’ll drive in all those runs?”. “But, we’re paying him 20 million dollars”. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Baloney. Drop him to sixth. Let Jason and Raul hit 4-5. Jason kills lefties and Raul hits them. It will be a better lineup. We will score more runs. So, why not do it? I haven’t the faintest idea. All one needs is the courage to change.

  • 67 Comments
 

The Truck is Loaded; Spring Training is Down the Road

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, February 11, 2010 10:38 PM Comments: 27

19153_323578797572_7737967572_4492763_1013886_nA large moving van was filled to the brim with gum, helmets, cups, and the spirit of Spring Training.  It will travel 1,089 miles from Citizens Bank Way to Old Coachman Road in Clearwater, Florida. They will unload the contents upon arrival at Bright House Networks Field and with that a new year will commence.

There will be no snow, no shovels, no digging out from Snowzilla, or whatever they called it.  What there will be is sun, plush grass, and a fresh opportunity to once again reign supreme.  There will be a Halladay, a Hamels, and a Happ.  There will be a skinnier Charlie, a wealthier Shane, and a healthier (hopefully) Lidge. There will be baseball.

And baseball begins in just six days.

  • 27 Comments
 

Milestone Watch: 2010

Posted by Paul Boye, Thu, February 11, 2010 11:00 AM Comments: 15

The football season is over, hockey and basketball are only now approaching the final quarter of their regular seasons, and pitchers and catchers are mere days from reporting to their Spring Training camp sites.

Oh, it’s time for baseball, all right.

With all due congratulations to the New Orleans Saints, the conclusion of the Super Bowl is usually just a signal that, yes, baseball really is that close. Well, to some of us it is, anyway. One thing I like to do prior to the start of every year is look for potential milestones; numbers that, despite being arbitrary and really no different from any other number, are nice, round, shiny checkboxes to mark off on a player’s career resume.

There aren’t too many historic or overly glamorous plateaus for members of this team to reach, as a great deal are still in their very early thirties or younger. They simply haven’t had the career length to compile 500 homers or 3,000 hits.

So, what Phillies players have milestones to reach in 2010? Let’s take a look at some numbers the players might reach in the coming season. Of course, injuries are always a possibility, so assume I note that caveat each time. These are all in no particular order:

  • Chase Utley, 1,000 hits (currently at 978)

This one’s almost too easy. Utley got his 22nd hit on April 27 last year, a mere 18 games into the season. All with a sore hip, too. Then again, that was one torrid start he got off to. I’ll expect something slightly more conservative, and look for hit No. 22 a little later.

  • Jimmy Rollins, 1,000 runs scored (currently at 945)

Even with an OBP as low as Rollins’s was in 2009, he still managed to cross the plate 100 times in 155 games. While it’s unlikely to think Rollins will hit as poorly again in 2010, it’s also worth contemplating Charlie Manuel’s new supposed conviction to giving the studs a few extra days off. With the great hitters behind him, he’ll cross 55 before the season is too old. He crossed 55 runs in his 80th game in 2009, back on July 20.

  • Raul Ibanez, 1,000 RBI (currently at 887)

Hitting behind Chase Utley, all things are possible, especially when it comes to RBI. Raul will need 113 ribbies in 2010 to cross this plateau, but if Ryan Howard has a bit of a power outage, Ibanez could easily scoop up his collateral RBI. A total of 113 would be his second-best total, trailing only his 2006 season in Seattle.

  • Jimmy Rollins, 100 triples (currently at 95)

Rollins hasn’t hit fewer than five triples in any season of his career, save a 14-game stint at the very beginning of his career back in 2000. Even though he’s aging, he sure doesn’t show many signs of slowing. Even though five triples really aren’t that easy to come by, Rollins should almost certainly get No. 100 here in 2010.

  • Roy Halladay, 150 wins (currently at 148)

Laughable. Halladay will start opening day against the Nationals, then likely faces the Astros, Nationals again, Braves and Mets in the four starts to follow. Even with the bit of uncertainty lingering in the air above the Phillies’ bullpen, I’d feel pretty good about Halladay notching at least two wins in his first five starts. You should, too.

  • Jamie Moyer, 4,000 innings pitched (currently at 3,908.2)

With the announcement earlier Wednesday that Moyer would be the fifth starter in the Phils’ rotation entering the 2010 season, this milestone seems a bit more feasible for Jamie to reach. Should he lose his grip on that spot to Kyle Kendrick, Drew Carpenter or any other number of viable candidates, things may get a bit murkier. Until then, though, it looks as if Jamie will get the remaining 91.1 innings onto his record after17-18 starts, if not a bit sooner. Remember: the man is 47.

Less glamorous milestones:

  • Jimmy Rollins, 5,000 outs made (currently at 4,532)

A by-product of leading off so often is that with more at-bats come more outs. During his MVP campaign in 2007, Rollins actually led the Majors in outs made with 527. He fell one short of that ignominious mark in 2009, all in 53 fewer plate appearances. Obviously, we can probably write off Jimmy’s 2009 as a blip; he shouldn’t perform that poorly again, you’d expect. However, Rollins needs 468 outs to crack 5,000 for his career, and has exceeded that 468-count figure in eight of the last nine years. The only exception, of course, was 2008, when Rollins played in just 137 games.

What would Jimmy need to do to postpone reaching the 5k peak? Well, assuming he gets the 717 plate appearances he’s averaged since his first full season, he would need to reach base 250 times for an OBP of .349. Funnily enough, that’s exactly his career high, a mark he achieved in 2008.

  • Raul Ibanez, 1,000 strikeouts (currently at 906)

Ibanez has only recently morphed into a high-strikeout player. Reasons for this are something I don’t know and am now interested in finding out (it could just be age), but it makes reaching 94 strikeouts for this season much more likely than it would in, say, 2002. Ibanez has had no fewer than 97 Ks in each of the last five seasons, but if he puts up power numbers even somewhat comparable to 2009, we’ll gladly accept that, I’m sure.

  • Ryan Howard, 1,000 strikeouts (currently at 878)

Sadly, Ryan Howard hasn’t played long enough to soften the blow of reaching this milestone. He needs 122 punchouts to hit No. 1,000, and has struck out at least 181 times in each of the past four years. We may yet see both Howard and Ibanez cross the 1,000 mark here in 2010.

Milestones to keep an eye on for 2011:

  • Jimmy Rollins, 2,000 hits (currently at 1,629)

He’s not getting 371 hits in one season – boy wouldn’t that be something – but as his 2011 option has already been picked up, it seems Jimmy will have a good shot to get his 2,000th hit in red pinstripes. He’ll need an average of 186 hits in 2010 and ’11, but he’s passed that four times before. He’ll certainly come close and definitely reach 2,000 by 2012.

  • Chase Utley, 150 HBP (currently at 107)

It’s a wonder the man hasn’t developed a Notre Dame-like hunch of bruising on his right shoulder, turning “away” from pitches that come too far inside. Hey, it’s part of his strategy. I’ll live with hits to the back and shoulder, so long as they stay away from his hand.

Looking at you, John Lannan.

  • Ryan Howard, 1,000 hits (currently at 750)

RyGuy just isn’t a 250-hit player. He’s just not Ichiro. But he does hit enough to get to 1,000 sometime in 2011, for sure.

  • Cole Hamels, 1,000 strikeouts (currently at 686)

Needing 314 Ks, Cole could be at 1,000 strikeouts before he turns 28. That doesn’t put him on pace to challenge Nolan Ryan or even have a likely shot at 3,000, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Hamels is currently second on the Phillies’ all-time leaderboard for strikeouts per nine (albeit in a shorter amount of time). The man he trails? Curt Schilling, who didn’t reach his 1,000th K until he was ten seasons into his career and 30 years old.

Am I saying Cole is the next Curt? Nope. I can’t possibly know that, but Schilling finished his career with 3,116 strikeouts, and Cole is (technically) ahead of his curve right now. It’s at least fun to think about.

  • Chase Utley, 200 home runs (currently at 161)
    Chase will need a huge power surge to break this in 2010. Sitting 39 dingers away, he’s a near lock to hit number 200 by 2011, at worst. I do not, however, see him swatting all 39 of those homers in 2010, though the usual 30 or so will more than suffice. Prediction: 2011.

Chase will need a huge power surge to break this in 2010. Sitting 39 dingers away, he’s a near lock to hit number 200 by 2011, at worst. I do not, however, see him swatting all 39 of those homers in 2010, though the usual 30 or so will more than suffice.

Chase will probably play in his 1,000th game in 2010 (he’s 109 away), and among second basemen who have played 1,000-plus games since 1901, only twelve have ever hit 200 homers. Jeff Kent holds the second base record at 377, a mark Utley could challenge in the latter stages of his career.

Any milestones that I’ve missed? Do you think any current Phils have a shot at greater benchmarks? Let’s hear what you have to say.

  • 15 Comments
 

Beerman’s Report Card: Placido Polanco Signing

Posted by Nick "Beerman" Staskin, Thu, February 11, 2010 07:00 AM Comments: 31

Beerman’s Report Card will be a biweekly series that will run up to Spring Training. We will look at the signings, resignings and trades that were orchestrated by Ruben Amaro, Jr. this off-season. They will be no particular order; however check back every Tuesday and Thursday for new entries.

PHILLIES SIGN PLACIDO POLANCO TO 3YR/$18 MILLION CONTRACT

Peter Gammons kind of stole my thunder with this one: Where was the market for a 34-year old second baseman with a .727 OPS to play third base on a multi-year deal?

With one of the first free agent signings in baseball this winter, Ruben Amaro jumped the gun to get his man. Seemingly outbidding himself (much like he did last year with the Raul Ibanez signing), he threw three years at a player on the decline of his career. After a hot start, we remember how quickly Ibanez came back down to Earth. And for those who don’t, just wait until Jayson Werth explores free agency after this season…but that’s another story.

Having looked at Polanco’s batting average in years prior, many people were quick to welcome him back to the City of Brotherly Love. However, those numbers may cause those same people to overlook Polanco’s rapid decline the past three seasons in Detroit:

- 2007: .341 BA .388 OBP .458 SLG .846 OPS

- 2008: .307 BA .350 OBP .417 SLG .768 OPS

- 2009: .285 BA .331 OBP .396 SLG .727 OPS

Compare those numbers to Pedro Feliz, the man who held down the hot corner for the last two seasons. The man who was given his walking papers almost immediately following this year’s World Series.

- 2009: .266 BA .308 OBP .386 SLG .694 OPS

Did Polanco really deserve a three-year deal with a $5.5 million dollar option for a fourth? The deal guarantees $19 million total to Polanco and seemingly shifts Shane Victorino down to either the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup. A spot where not only could his speed be wasted, but the bat could be taken out of either Vic’s or Ibanez’s hands for a lot of intentional walks to get to Carlos Ruiz.

That doesn’t even scratch the defensive side of this contract. Feliz manned a very solid third base, while Polanco hasn’t played the spot since 2005. This isn’t first base where old men go to pasture when they are moved from their natural spot. This is one of the most demanding positions in baseball.

During his tenure in Philadelphia, Feliz had an UZR rating (the number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined) of 5.3 in 2009 and an NL-high 7.2 in 2008. Easy translation: he was well-above average at third. Can we expect anything more than an average glove out of Polanco? Polanco’s glove has never been an issue at second, but how smoothly will that transition go moving over to third?

Beerman's Grade: C-It really comes down to two simple questions: Do you think Polanco can rebound to his 2007 and 2008 years? Or do you think as he gets older, his numbers will continue to slide?

One week later, former Phillies GM and collector of Phillies-past, Ed Wade signed Feliz to a one-year, $4.5 million dollar deal.

Personally, I’d take another year of Feliz at less than $5 million, than three years of Polanco at what amounts to at least $19 million. Especially after all we’ve heard about working under a budget, and the elephant in the room in right field that is set to explore free agency rather quickly.

BEERMAN’S GRADE: C-

  • 31 Comments
 

Amaro Tabs Moyer as 5th Starter

Posted by Amanda Orr, Tue, February 09, 2010 06:27 PM Comments: 115

General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Fox 29 News that Jamie Moyer will be the fifth starter headed into spring training.

Moyer, who had two surgeries this off-season, told Amaro that he would be ready to pitch once the season starts.

“It’s his spot to lose,” Amaro also said.  If Moyer is unable to keep his job, Kyle Kendrick, Andrew Carpenter, or another minor leaguer could win the job.  Moyer, 47, is in his last year of his contract.

If your still thinking about how awesome the Phillies rotation would be with Cliff Lee, then you should know that Lee just had minor surgery on his foot.  Lee should not miss a significant amount of time, however.

  • 115 Comments
 

Beerman’s Report Card: Carlos Ruiz Signing

Posted by Nick "Beerman" Staskin, Tue, February 09, 2010 09:39 AM Comments: 17

Beerman’s Report Card will be a biweekly series that will run up to Spring Training. We will look at the signings, resignings and trades that were orchestrated by Ruben Amaro, Jr. this offseason. They will be no particular order; however check back every Tuesday and Thursday for new entries.

SIGNING CARLOS RUIZ TO 3 YR/$8.85 MILLION EXTENSION

When details of this contract extension first sprung, I really thought Chooch had parlayed a solid postseason into a three-year deal. To the initial eye, it looked like Amaro might have bid against himself, something he has done during his GM tenure before. However, like any responsible blogger/columnist/beerman, whatever you want to call me, I did my homework. Broke down some numbers. Compared some stats. Examined some contracts.

Ruiz will never be Joe Mauer. Hell, Carlos will never be Brian McCann. However, his on base percentage ranked third among full-time catchers in the National League at .355. Did you know that his .355 clip ranked higher than Raul Ibanez last year? Factor in the mere 39 strikeouts that Chooch accounted for and it is clear to see that the Phillies bottom of the order had a bat that could get the ball in play and help turn the lineup over.

Beerman's GradeHowever, it wasn’t Ruiz’s bat that garnered his new multi-millionaire status. Not many catchers in baseball can command a pitching staff like Ruiz can. Chooch can block the plate with the best of them, allowing only one ball to pass by him last season.

When it comes to holding runners, Ruiz allowed the fewest stolen bases of any catcher who started 100 games with 61 swipes allowed. He managed to throw out 23 attempted base runners as well.

In an era where the top catchers are seemingly going nowhere, and after trading away any and all catching prospects that they might have had, the Phillies locked up a very solid piece of the team at a very fair rate.

BEERMAN’S GRADE ON RUIZ RESIGNING: A-

  • 17 Comments
 

All-Pro Chase Utley

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, February 08, 2010 12:20 PM Comments: 40

In anticipation of the Super Bowl, Buster Olney mused in his ESPN Insider column yesterday about baseball players that could potentially make it in the NFL. Number 5 on the list was The Man, Chase Utley.  Buster said, “You could see him being a possession receiver who is willing to go over the middle and take the hit in order to get the first down.”  True, but we all know Chase would excel in any position on the field. 

Who else would make a good footballer – maybe Raul at linebacker or Ryan Howard at fullback?

  • 40 Comments
 

Phillies Sign Japanese Players to Minor League Deals

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sun, February 07, 2010 01:50 PM Comments: 12

Originally published Feb. 5, 2010.

According to Daily Sports Online, the Phillies signed Shigetoshi Yamakita and Naoyo Okamoto to minor league deals.  They each spent 2009 with the Shonan Searex, a minor league team of the Yokohama Bay Stars.  Both players are left-handed pitchers.

Yamakita, 32, posted a 2.47 ERA in 27 innings.  Okamoto, 26, had a 5.28 ERA in 15.1 innings.

UPDATE (Feb 7, 1:50 PM): Todd Zolecki tweets “Contrary to reports, the Phillies haven’t signed any Japanese pitchers.”  Basically, the Phillies haven’t officially announced any form of signing.

In other minor league signings, the Phillies added veteran outfielder Freddy Guzman.  Guzman is currently playing in the Caribbean Series and made highlights when he stole home.  The switch-hitter spent most of 2009 in different Triple-A affiliates, however he played in ten games with the New York Yankees, and stole four bases.

  • 12 Comments
 
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