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Archive for March, 2010

Chicago Cubs Preview

Posted by Paul Boye, Mon, March 29, 2010 09:00 AM Comments: 4

Chicago Cubs: (83-78, 2nd Place in the N.L. Central in 2009)

The Cubs are a tragic story. It’s difficult to type a sentence like that and not worry about coming off as derisive and condescending, but it’s truly difficult for me to view the Cubs over the past ten years as anything but one missed opportunity after another, fortified by more than their fair share of bad breaks.

How often do we hear about a team’s “window” of opportunity, wherein they’re perceived to have their best shot at contending for a title? Well, the window for the Cubs has all but passed them by. Promises of 2003 with sugarplums and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood dancing in Cubs fans’ heads are long gone. Derrek Lee did rebound to have a stellar year and post a .306/.393/.579 slash line with 35 homers and providing 5.3 wins above replacement, his highest total since his ridiculously good 2005 season (7.5). Aramis Ramirez played well in the time he was healthy, but played only half a season. Geovany Soto, the much-hyped catcher from 2008, had a major regression and never really provided anything of note.

In the outfield Kosuke Fukudome and, yes, Milton Bradley had nice seasons. Both OBPed .375-plus, but only hit 23 homers in a combined 1,076 plate appearances. That, plus Bradley’s rather public feelings of isolation and resentment, led to his being shipped out to Seattle for…Carlos Silva. A mind-boggling trade of a productive player that was, essentially, forced by the fanbase. It isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time such a thing happens, but it left the Cubs off worse heading into 2010, whether they rid themselves of a distraction notwithstanding.

What the Cubs did get out of their staff was adequate, perhaps even a fair bit above average at points. The five most frequently used starters all posted ERA+ figures of 110 or better, and a few relievers put up some nice numbers. Sadly, whatever the pitching contributed, the offense counteracted with its poor play, and a defense that posted a -19.8 cumulative UZR. In other words, their run prevention did anything but prevent once a pitch was put in play.

2010 Season

Besting 100 years since their last title, the Cubs have teased baseball fans with the possibility of breaking their storied curse with season after season of renewed potential. Unfortunately, things aren’t exactly looking up as the Cubs enter their 102nd championshiplesss campaign.

The core is aging. The rotation is full of question marks from top to bottom. The bullpen will provide anything but a relief, especially since the loss of Angel Guzman to major shoulder surgery leaves the ‘pen with only Aaron Heilman and David Patton backing up Carlos Marmol with right arms.

Is Carlos Zambrano going to return to primo form, or will he continue to only talk a big game? Can Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster stave off the inevitable power of aging for another season? It’s not as if they’re old, but they’re beginning to reach a point where their stuff will begin to decline.

Marlon Byrd is a nice signing, but will likely not replace Bradley’s on-base skills, though he should remain on the field a bit more. And Alfonso Soriano, for all he’s being paid, looks as though he’s cooked and will continue to be an albatross in left field.

The bench isn’t much to speak of, either. Only Jeff Baker, acquired from Colorado, posted a decent line, and even that came with a .374 BABIP draped across his neck; he’s likely due to regress, as well.

The Cubs are a decent team. In the N.L. – and the Central to boot – they always have a shot at the division crown. But with the Cardinals looking solid and the Brewers featuring a far more potent offense, their window seems to close a bit more as the days go by. I speak pessimistically about their chances, but they will be far from a pushover in 2010. In fact, I like them to be a few games above .500, unspectacular though the season might be.

Prediction: 84-78

  • 4 Comments
 

Los Angeles Dodgers Preview

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sun, March 28, 2010 08:00 PM Comments: 19

Los Angeles Dodgers: (95-67, 1st place in NL West in 2009)

For the second consecutive year, the Phillies ended the Dodgers’ season by winning the National League pennant.  The series was highlighted by Jimmy Rollins’ walk-off against Jonathan Broxton, one of the league’s premier closers.  The Dodgers may not have advanced to the World Series, but they had strong combination of offense and pitching to build a very good team.

Manny Ramirez received a 50-game suspension, leading many to think that the Dodgers’ season would be in jeopardy.  However, players like Matt Kemp and Andre Eithier stepped up and led the Dodgers to the postseason.

Chad Billinsgley was not the ace he was in previous years, but the Dodgers still had one of the league’s top pitching staffs.  At just 21 years of age, Clayton Kershaw proved that he can be a dominant Major League pitcher.  In addition, the Dodgers had one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.

2010 Season

During the off-season, the Dodgers did not make any significant moves to improve their team.  After a 95-win season, did they really need to?

The Dodgers’ lineup will look exactly  the same.  Ramirez, Kemp, and Eithier make up a star-studded outfield, and will provide much of the offense.  The Dodgers are hoping catcher Russell Martin can rebound  from 2009, when he batted .250 with a .680 on-base plus slugging percentage.

At this time, the fifth spot in the rotation is undecided.  Kershaw and Billingsley will be the Dodger’s one-two punch.  If Hiroki Kuroda remains healthy for the 2010 campaign, the Dodgers could have one of the strongest rotations in baseball.

George Sherill, a former closer, will be the set-up man for Broxton.  While Sherill and Broxton are the biggest names in the ‘pen, relievers like Ramon Troncoso, Ronal Belisario, and James McDonald are ones to keep an eye on.

The Dodgers have the talent to reach the postseason once again, but can they avoid the heartbreak ending?

Prediction: 93-69

  • 19 Comments
 

Last Chance to Vote for “The Phield”

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, March 28, 2010 05:53 PM Comments: 1

Hey all, wanted to send this out to those of you who have not had the opportunity to vote for us in the tournament-style bracket of the best Phillies blogs, “The Phield.”  We have until 8 p.m. tonight to get all votes in.  We hope you’ll vote for Phillies Nation and we also hope you’ll pass this along to friends and fellow Phillies fans you’re close to.

Give us your support and get us to the Final Four.  Thanks so much!

VOTE FOR PHILLIES NATION HERE!

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Vote for Phillies Nation in the Elite Eight!

Posted by Brian Michael, Sun, March 28, 2010 07:00 AM Comments: 32

UPDATE: Please help by emailing the people in your contact list (gmail, yahoo, aol, etc.) to help get the vote out. Click here to send a message to all your friends.

In case you haven’t heard, Phillies Nation is currently competing in a bracket to determine the best Phillies blog in the world. We were thankful to get a 1 seed, but have our eyes set on winning the whole thing.

Today, Phillies Nation takes on one of its biggest rivals in the blogging game, “The Fightins.”  Meech and the Boys over at Fightin’s have a huge following and have used it to their advantage through the first few rounds, garnering some high tallies. BUT, with YOUR support, we can move on to the Final Four today!

RIGHT NOW, VOTING FOR THE ELITE 8 is OPEN!!. Please take a few seconds to visit The Phield and cast your vote for Phillies Nation.

Vote for Phillies Nation by clicking here

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Fifth Spot: Moyer or Kendrick?

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sat, March 27, 2010 03:42 PM Comments: 33

Entering spring training, Ruben Amaro Jr. said that the fifth spot in the rotation was Jamie Moyer’s to lose. While Kyle Kendrick has made his case for the fifth spot, Moyer has done nothing to lose it.

In 19.2 innings this spring, Kendrick has a 1.37 earned run average. In that span, he has given up 12 hits, walked four and struck out seven. He has yet to allow a home run.

Kendrick made his last start against the Astros. In 5.2 innings, he allowed one earned run on five hits.

On the other hand, Moyer has a 0.77 earned run average in 11.2 innings. The 47-year old has only allowed six hits and has yet to walk a batter. He has also struck out 12.

Moyer spent a majority of spring pitching in “B” games, but perhaps he sealed the deal with 6.2 shut out innings against the New York Yankees. Tossing 74 pitches against the Bronx Bombers, Moyer struck out six.

Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee have yet to name the fifth starter.  So, who will the fifth rotation spot belong to? Kyle Kendrick or Jamie Moyer?

  • 33 Comments
 

San Diego Padres Preview

Posted by Michael Baumann, Sat, March 27, 2010 10:19 AM Comments: 7

San Diego Padres: (75-87, 4th Place in the NL West in 2009)

Look back to about mid-September 2007. The Phillies, mired in a 13-year playoff drought, were still trailing the defending division champion Mets, and 3,000 miles away, the San Diego Padres, coming off two straight division titles of their own, had a comfortable division lead over the Colorado Rockies and, if that didn’t work out, over the Brewers in the Wild Card. The Padres had two top-line starting pitchers, one of whom, Jake Peavy, was one of the top two or three in baseball. Their bullpen, led by all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, featured a young Heath Bell and a host of young, effective relievers. Life was good. Then you know what happened next. The Phillies overtook the Mets and kept going all the way to the top of the National League. The Padres, on the other hand, went into a tailspin, famously losing in the last weekend of the season to the Brewers, then to the Rockies in a 13-inning one-game playoff that must be the single least entertaining extra-inning playoff game in history.

They’ve never been the same. Milton Bradley and Khalil Greene went crazy and are now gone. Greg Maddux and David Wells have retired, and Brian Giles might as well have. Peavy’s gone, as is Kevin Kouzmanoff. From that those 2005-07 Padres teams, the only real contributors who are still around are Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell.

The Padres have lived a truly bizarre and (I’d speculate) cursed existence. Only two World Series appearances in their 41-season history, neither of which were even competitive. Worst uniforms in baseball. Gimmick ballpark. They parlayed some of the best years of Tony Gwynn, Kevin Brown, Rickey Henderson, and others into a long series of disappointments. The 2005 edition of the Padres holds the dubious distinction of the worst playoff team ever. They’re the only team to never have had a player thrown a no-hitter or hit for the cycle.

In 2009, Adrian Gonzalez was the only above-average position player, leading the team in batting average, home runs, walks, hits, runs, OBP, slugging percentage, RBI, and total bases. No one else had an OPS+ above 105. Tim Stauffer, with only 73 IP, posted a 104 ERA+. No other Padres starting pitcher put up even a league-average ERA. The Padres, in 2009, were a team that couldn’t hit or pitch. Bad as they were, it’s a miracle they weren’t worse.

2010 Season

The Padres are really the only team in the division without any reason to be optimistic. The Dodgers and Rockies can expect to contend for the pennant this season, and the D-Backs and Giants have enough exciting young players to give the fans hope to contend soon. The Padres? Well, they’ve got a great closer, Heath Bell, who might get traded. They’ve got one of the best first basemen in the game, Adrian Gonzalez, who might get traded, though I’m not quite sure why everyone’s assuming he’s going to get traded to the Red Sox.

Everth Cabrera’s a solid player, putting up a near-league-average OPS at shortstop in 2009, and at only age 22. Another young player, Kyle Blanks, is expected to put up huge power numbers if the Padres can ever find somewhere to hide him defensively. Scott Hairston hit for some power and, like his brother, can play multiple positions. The Padres als0 have a slew of low-minors prospects who might be worth something down the road, including a personal favorite of mine, a fire hydrant-shaped 20-year-old outfielder named Jaff Decker.

But this is a team that, in all likelihood, is set to bottom out in 2010 and remain irrelevant for the foreseeable future. Until then, the good folks in San Diego will just have to keep the faith.

Prediction: 63-99

Phillies Nation’s Season Previews Will Resume with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • 7 Comments
 

Saturday Morning Phodder: The Life and Times of Lenny Dykstra

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sat, March 27, 2010 08:00 AM Comments: 13

In 1981, the New York Mets drafted a young man from Garden Grove, Ca. in the 13th round of baseballs amateur draft. When one is selected that late, they often toil in the minor leagues for their career. Yet, sometimes a player can surprise the experts and scouts and have a cup of coffee in the show. For Leonard Kyle Dykstra, that cup of coffee became a helluva career. Perhaps it was the toughness and grit that he brought to the ball-yard everyday that allowed him to excel. He certainly had natural ability, but determination was ultimately the key to Dykstra’s success. It was this toughness and determination that earned him the moniker,”Nails.” 

For those of us that were privileged enough to see him don Phillies pinstripes, “Nails” put on quite a show. Who can forget the clutch moments he provided in the 1993 NLCS and World Series? Dykstra was revered by Mets fans after batting .300 in the 1986 postseason. Lenny was the catalyst that helped New York win their first World Series since 1969. In 1993, Dykstra batted near .350 in the fall classic, bringing the Phillies to the brink of tying the series against Toronto with a clutch, late-inning bomb. He finished with six homers in the ’93 playoffs.

Dykstra’s hard-nosed, balls to the wall mentality may have also been his kryptonite. In his eight seasons with the Phillies, he played full seasons only twice, including 1993. Injuries plagued the “Dude” throughout his tenure in Philly. Some injuries were the result of playing hard, some, like the drunk-driving accident that cost him two months of baseball in 1991, were the result of living hard. However, for better or for worse, that was Lenny K. Dykstra. Is it a surprise that he carried his tough as nails mindset into the professional world, upon retiring?

Dykstra struck gold in 1993, but not in the baseball world. This was the year that Lenny opened up his first car-wash. The success of this venture led him to an empire in the realm of car-washes. It just so happened that the dirt-mongrel Dykstra also liked to get things squeaky clean. Through his car-washes, Dykstra began to build a financial empire that extended far beyond cleaning cars. Using his hard-nosed mentality, Dykstra started to invest in stocks, real-estate, cars, and new personal business ventures. His success(a self-proclaimed 98%) in trading stocks, earned him a friendship and great acclaim from stock “guru”, Jim Cramer, of CNBC’s Mad Money.

The beginning of Dykstra’s end came when his magazine, “The Players Club” started to flounder. Many articles have been written, chronicling the many guffaws committed by Dykstra. Eventually all of his missteps in the financial world came to a head when Dykstra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. During this time Dykstra faced a litany of law-suits, a divorce, and a foreclosure on a home purchased from hockey great, Wayne Gretzky. Despite the bankruptcy filing, Dykstra readily admits that his net worth exceeds 100 million dollars.

In the latest round of Dykstra news, it was learned that Lenny was being sued, again, by a former employee who claims she was sexually harassed by Dykstra. With-in a week of this story’s release, Dykstra announced that he would be filing suit against JP Morgan, whom issued Dykstra his 18 million dollar mortgage on Gretzky’s house, for 100 million dollars for predatory lending.

The man who once had the Midas touch has fallen hard from grace, but grace was one thing the Dude never had. Multiple encounters with Dykstra portray him as rude, brash, sexist, racist, and a whole slew of other -ists. Dykstra was quoted as saying “Nobody can call me a racist, I put three”darkies” and a bitch, on my first four covers.”(referring to his Players Club publication.) For the record, those covers included Derek Jeter, Chris Paul, Tiger Woods, and Danica Patrick. He went on to describe the three gentlemen as “spearchuckers.”

It was this rhetoric that likely got Dykstra’s publication banned from locker rooms across professional sports, thus leading to the downfall of The Players Club. Perhaps it was his abrasive personality that led to his divorce and alienation from his mother and brother. One thing is certain, Dykstra finds himself in a very lonely place in this world.

  • 13 Comments
 

Colorado Rockies Preview

Posted by Paul Boye, Fri, March 26, 2010 11:00 AM Comments: 16

COLORADO ROCKIES: (92-70, SECOND PLACE, N.L. WEST [Wild Card] in 2009)

Our team preview series continues with the Colorado Rockies, a team profiled in the Total WAR Project a few weeks back. Stocked with young talent and an improving pitching staff, some see the Rockies as the favorite in the West, rather than second fiddle to the Dodgers. In 2009, the Rox finished three games behind L.A., but five games up in the Wild Card race, firmly entrenching themselves among the upper echelon of N.L. teams last season.

Troy Tulowitzki proved his 2008 was a fluke and re-established his position among the game’s elite shortstops, both offensively and defensively. Rookie Dexter Fowler and sophomore Carlos Gonzalez look to round out a young core that the Rockies may be able to contend with for years to come. It will certainly help the Rockies in the playoffs, knowing that the Phillies simply will not be able to retire Gonzalez if the Phils and Rox have a grudge match.

The less heralded portion of the roster is a solid, if unspectacular, pitching staff. Three returning starters – Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hammel and Jorge de la Rosa – were each worth 3.7 wins or better, and relievers Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt enjoyed great successes of their own.

2010 SEASON

Colorado’s biggest question lies in its pitching staff’s depth. Jimenez looks to be a stud, but can Hammel and de la Rosa replicate their ’09 production? Can Manny Corpas, Jeff Francis, Taylor Buchholz and Franklin Morales provide enough quality innings and recover lost production?

Folk hero and star first baseman Todd Helton is aging and won’t be able to stave off decline forever. Can he and the rest of the offense rally around the trio of Tulo, Fowler and CarGo to provide a pennant-worthy offense?

Right now, this team is primed to be the team of the future in the West and, perhaps, the N.L. For this year, though, questions remain, too many questions to think that this team can be considered a pennant favorite. Make no mistake, though, plenty of players are primed for breakout, and the Rockies could pull off an upset and unseat the Dodgers to claim the West crown. They will be plenty good still this year, division title or not, and will likely make a return to the postseason.

Keep an eye on Seth Smith, Colorado’s version of our Ben Francisco. A solid bench bat and fourth outfielder that could start for many MLB teams.

PREDICTION: 93-69

  • 16 Comments
 

Is Ben Fran Next in Line?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, March 25, 2010 09:22 PM Comments: 44

Quick thought tonight as I watch the tournament and the first ever match for the Philadelphia Union.

The Phillies have to like what they have in Ben Francisco.  Do they seem him as the successor to Jayson Werth and/or Raul Ibanez? I think we could very well be seeing this guy as a starter in the next year or so.

Of course, it’s too early to tell what will happen and playing Nostradamus was never my strong suit, but Francisco fits this lineup well.  The 28-year old has only been in the league for three seasons, so he’s young in the sense that he’s not had much major league experience.

His 14 steals with just 455 plate appearances proves he has some wheels. In his first two full season, he’s ripped 15 home runs per year.  Don’t expect 30-plus, but his peripheral numbers appear very Jayson Werth-esque at the beginning of his career. I also like the defensive ability Francisco brings, and we should certainly see more of him this year as he gives Ibanez a breather.

Werth had the same late start (due to injuries) as Ben Fran and blossomed as he neared 30.  Could we be in for the same with Francisco?  Something to think about while many ponder the future of Jayson Werth.

  • 44 Comments
 

Odds and Ends: The Phield, MLB, Bay, Myers

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, March 25, 2010 12:05 PM Comments: 13

-The committee over at “The Phield” has alerted me we will be up on Friday against fellow blog “The Good Phight”.  Should be a Phight, no doubt about it.  TGP garnered 395 votes in the second round.

We here at Phillies Nation are happy to report that we amassed the third most votes in the second round with 558.  However, there is still work to be done.  Make sure you vote for us on Friday.  We’ll let you all know the day of!

-The Toronto Sun is reporting that a few games in June, when the Phillies will be at Rogers Centre to take on the Blue Jays, could be rearranged for the annual G-20 summit.  This could include a day-night doubleheader.

It will be Roy Halladay’s first time back in Canada following his December trade to Philly.  It’s expected there will be plenty of buzz surrounding his return, but wow, that, plus a huge political forum happening that same weekend? Big stuff up in Toronto from June 25-27.

-This is just a side note, and a Mets one at that.  I’m an avid Fantasy Baseballer, as I realize many of you are. When you take part in a league with many Phillies fans, sometimes the value of certain Mets players becomes skewed.  Those of you who know the ins and outs of the draft process will understand that getting Jason Bay at 73 overall is a steal.

We’ll have our own fantasy drafts coming up soon here on PhilliesNation.com, so make sure you study.  But in ESPN leagues, Bay is going 45th, and I happened to get him nearly 30 spots later.  New York hatred on the part of my cohorts?  Or will he really struggle at Citi Field?  I believe the former.

-Our dear old friend Brett Myers is back today as the Astros visit Clearwater today.  Yesterday, the Phils were smacked around by the Braves 8-0, so they’ll have to show a little bit of life against their former teammate.

Yesterday, Charlie Manuel spoke to the media about how much he misses Myers and his presence in the clubhouse.  ”I wish him luck, as long as the Phillies whip him,” said Manuel.  Spoken like a true Phillie.

Use this thread today for the Spring Training matchup which begins at 1:05 p.m.

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