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Archive for March, 2010

San Francisco Giants Preview

Posted by Nick "Beerman" Staskin, Thu, March 25, 2010 08:39 AM Comments: 11

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: (88-74 THIRD PLACE, NL WEST in 2009)

Last season, the San Francisco Giants put together their first winning season since 2004, posting an 88-74 record. Unfortunately for them, that was only good enough for third in the suddenly deep National League West.

With the reigning back-to-back Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum heading the front of a very deep rotation, the Giants could be poised to challenge the Dodgers and Rockies atop the West.

The emergence of the “Kung Fu Panda,” Pablo Sandoval made the Giants more than just a one trick pony. Sandoval hit .330 with 25 HR and 90 RBI to finally put a bat in a lineup that has needed one for a very long time. Former Philadelphia fan favorite Aaron Rowand helped contribute to the lineup, but has failed to show the offensive prowess that earned him his big deal in San Francisco.

2010 SEASON

Matt Cain provides a solid number two that could anchor many staffs in MLB. Coming off a 14-8 season with a 2.89 ERA, imagine if he continues to improve? Behind Cain are Barry Zito, off a rebound season of his own, Jonathan Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter last year, and newly acquired Todd Wellemeyer.

If Zito continues his comeback, the Giants have a top four that goes further than almost anybody in the National League, our Phillies included.

The signing of Mark DeRosa should add a little more pop to SF’s improving lineup as well as some depth as there isn’t a position that he can’t field.

There are a lot of ifs that come with the Giants, including closer Brian Wilson, but what it really comes down to is –  they’ll go as far as Lincecum, Cain and Sandoval can take them.

PREDICTION: 87-75

  • 11 Comments
 

5 Parks in 5 Days – West Coast Trip

Posted by Brian Michael, Wed, March 24, 2010 10:45 AM Comments: 32

For all baseball-lovers out there, have we got a trip for you. Phillies Nation is partnering with Creative Travel to bring you a 5 Parks in 5 Days tour of California ballparks. From June 25th to the 30th we will be making stops in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles & San Diego.  Although the Phillies will not be in town for this trip, it’s sure to be an awesome time.

AT&T ParkWe will start in San Fransisco, California with the Giants vs Red Sox and stay the next 2 nights in Oakland area with breakfast all mornings. The next game will be Oakland vs Pittsburgh. We will then head to Los Angeles for the next 3 nights and watch Dodgers vs. Yankees, then Padres vs Rockies and end with the LA Angels vs Rangers.

You will have time on your own to enjoy the areas. We are including an all-you-can-eat hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn and soda night at one game and a single hot-dog and soda at another game. The trip includes hotel accommodations, transportation to each game, airport transfers, 7 meals, tickets to each game and a trip to San Fransisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

The cost is $990 per person for double occupancy.  This does not including transportation to/from California but that can be arranged for an additional fee.

If you are interested in attending and would like more information please email us using the Contact form.

  • 32 Comments
 

Schneider Provides Sac-Fly Walk-Off Over Rays

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, March 23, 2010 05:22 PM Comments: 56

Gotta love it when the backups pull through.  Brian Schneider was the hero in today’s Spring Training affair against the Rays.  His sac-fly walk-off in the 9th inning have the Phillies a 4-3 victory in Clearwater.

Ryan Howard smacked two home runs, Shane Victorino added another.  Joe Blanton did his usual thing, going 5 1/3 innings while allowing two runs, with two walks and two K’s.  Blanton continues to be a model of efficiency.  Basically, nothing new to see there.

Back to Howard; the guy has been pretty spectacular.  His average is up to .357 and I’m glad he isn’t waving at anything and everything. Yes, he still has 14 strikeouts, but with an OPS well above 1.000, it’s good to see him finding his stride early.  But, again, it’s just Spring Training.

Chad Durbin hasn’t allowed an earned run yet, like David Herndon, although today he gave up one of the unearned variety. Jose Contreras even got into the act with a scoreless frame today.   Can’t say much more about this pitching staff.  It’s looking solid.

  • 56 Comments
 

Week in Review: A Trip to Clearwater

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, March 23, 2010 01:00 PM Comments: 9

It began on St. Patrick’s Day in the parking lot adjacent to Bright House Field on Old Coachman Road in Clearwater.  It ended late Sunday night on a flight from Tampa to Philadelphia, the culmination of what had been a very good week at Phillies Spring Training.

If you didn’t see the pictures of the Phillies Faithful that came out to the tailgate on March 17, take a look. We thank everyone who joined the celebration with a Guinness, a hot dog, and a picture or two.  Phillies fans packed the house to beyond capacity, just as they have been doing all spring, against the New York Yankees. Clad in their green jerseys made famous by Tug McGraw, the Phils came away with a 6-2 victory behind five solid frames from Joe Blanton.

Offensively speaking, Jayson Werth nailed a three-run home run into the Tiki seats in front of Frenchy’s.  The sun was blazing (so much so, I left Clearwater with sun poisoning – but that’s another story for another day), although it was just about 65 degrees .  It was a beautiful game day and game itself.  It was amazing to see the fans supporting the team here in their glory years.

After a day by the pool on Thursday, complete with a Corona and the Villanova game at the Bar, it was back to Bright House for our second game of the trip.  Baltimore was in town for the Friday night affair, one that became rather chilly as the sun escaped behind the third base gate.

Staying cold were the Phillies bats throughout the game, as they mustered up one measly base hit en route to a 2-0 loss.  It wasn’t until the 8th inning when John Mayberry saved the no-hit bid from becoming a reality.  Mayberry is one of several young Phillies who have looked solid thus far.  Thankfully, he spared the team embarrassment.  Of course, those who posted up by Frenchy’s bar were blissfully unaware of the work being done on the field, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Everyone is in Clearwater to live it up and it certainly looked like the masses were enjoying themselves fully.

The pitching was not the issue that Friday night, or any night prior for that matter.  The Phillies hadn’t given up more than four runs in a game in nearly two weeks.  But, again, it’s hard to take stock in everything you see in ST.

Saturday was a somber day, as Villanova went down in flames, losing to St. Mary’s.  Well, somber for a few minutes as the Pool Bar continued to flow, and the pool itself stayed a refreshing 82 degrees.  All was well again – almost.  Over in Lakeland, the Phillies – led by Roy Halladay on this day – fell to Detroit 3-0, running their scoreless inning streak to 20 innings.

Sunday, the final leg of the nearly-week-long jaunt, wouldn’t it rain?  We missed out on the Sunday 1 p.m. game against the Orioles so we would not miss our flight home.  The game eventually began around 3 p.m., but it was too late; we were on our way to TPA.  The Phillies lost 5-4, anyway.

Still, there’s no complaining about any trip to Clearwater.  Was the weather perfect? Far from the usual Florida standard in March.  Did I get burned beyond belief? Yes, and I should know better due to my ghostly white appearance.  However, you can never go wrong with a nice week of relaxation with Phillies baseball in the background.

THE GOOD:

  • Domonic Brown: He hung out by Frenchy’s during one of the games, and stood out like a sore thumb in what looked like a velour coat.  He signed autographs as the fans embraced.  Cool scene.
  • Brad Lidge in Target: We ran into him just before our flight on Sunday.  Didn’t appear anyone else realized who he was.  Coincidentally, I let the man be as he purchased his items and (hopefully) headed back to Bright House Field.
  • Pitching Staff:  Can you really say anymore about the arms? They’ve been superb for two weeks.
  • The Pool Bar: Friendly staff.  Cold drinks.  All good.

THE BAD:

  • My forehead: It looks like I placed a hot iron on it.
  • The Offense: Up until yesterday’s nine-run explosion against the Yankees, it had been a a rough weekend.
  • Length of Trip: It sucks having to go home, doesn’t it?  I wish I could have stayed an extra day or four.  If you’ve never been to Clearwater on a Phillies trip, make it happen next season. You will not be let down.
  • 9 Comments
 

Who the H is David Herndon?

Posted by Corey Seidman, Mon, March 22, 2010 11:23 PM Comments: 36

There is no such thing as having too many groundball pitchers.

Not for a team playing 81 regular season games at Citizens Bank Park, a place that led the National League in 2009 with 2.56 homers per contest. Over 10% of the big flies served up at the Bank last season would NOT have left 25 other major league parks, including five that wouldn’t have been home runs in any other city.

Common sense dictates that a successful way to combat the unfriendly elements of a bandbox would be to compile a group of groundball pitchers, because, well, it’s hard for a ball to leave the yard on the ground.

Enter David Herndon: a 6’5, 230 lb. righthanded pitcher from Panama City, Florida. Before the Phillies selected Herndon with the 17th and final pick of the Major League portion of December’s Rule Five draft, the 2006 fifth round choice had spent the last four seasons touring the various levels of the Angels’ farm system.

Herndon worked as a starter during his first two assignments in Low-A, but struggles at High-A Rancho Cucamonga resulted in a common change for a 22 year-old pitcher — a shift from starter to reliever. Herndon responded by posting 17 saves, enough to warrant a promotion to Double-A Arkansas.

Pitching a full season out of the bullpen in 2009, Herndon compiled a 3.03 ERA in 65 1/3 innings. As he had done throughout the entirety of his minor league career, Herndon exhibited tremendous command, walking only fourteen batters total — or, in reliever terms, about one per five innings. In four minor league seasons at four different levels, Herndon has walked 60 batters in 387 innings pitched — a 1.4 BB/9 rate. For contextual purposes (not comparing the majors to the minors) Chad Durbin walked 47 batters in 69 innings last year.

Herndon is not overpowering and strikeouts have never been part of his repertoire – he whiffs about five batters per nine innings. The avoidance of walks and home runs, however, as well as the ability to produce grounders, has helped him avoid danger. Granted, his ’09 home run rate (9 allowed in 65 innings) represents an unimpressive total, but for his career, he’s served up only one longball per eleven innings. This would be equivalent to roughly five homers allowed during a typical relief season.

His locker bordering only the exit of the team clubhouse, Herndon appeared a longshot to make the Phillies 25-man roster five weeks ago. But an impressive Spring (eight scoreless innings,) combined with lingering injuries to key relievers (Brad Lidge and JC Romero,) have changed things quite a bit.

As it stands now, Herndon will likely make the team as the twelfth and final pitcher. Assuming Jamie Moyer wins the “competition” for the fifth starter’s job, the Phillies opening day staff will look as follows:

Rotation: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ, Moyer.

Bullpen: Ryan Madson, Danys Baez, Chad Durbin, Jose Contreras, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Herndon.

If Lidge is able to come off the Disabled List in early April it is quite possible that all of Herndon’s success will be for naught; barring time on the DL, Herndon’s Rule Five status requires that he remain on the Phillies 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Angels. Herndon could very well be the 2010 version of Tim Lahey.

If he keeps pitching well, though, the sinkerballing Herndon will be a tough pitcher to give up on. In two scoreless innings during Monday’s 9-7 win over the Yankees, he gave the Phils six stabilizing outs in relief of “last year’s Cole Hamels.” Herndon cruised through the fifth, throwing only five pitches, and dispatched of Nick Swisher with two men on to end the sixth.

The key stat? Four of his six outs were of the groundball variety.

“I’m trying not to think about stuff that is out of my hands,” Herndon responded after the game, when asked about his uncertain future with the Phils. “Pitch, get outs, let it all take care of itself.”

Up to this point, he has done everything possible to make the decision easier (or harder, depending on how you look at it) for Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee, two men who know that a team can never have enough groundball pitchers. As stated in yesterday’s piece, they knew it when they welcomed Danys Baez, and both now recognize it with Herndon. Success on the ground is hard to ignore.

David Herndon is proving it more and more each day.

  • 36 Comments
 

Phillies Walk Off Against Yanks

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, March 22, 2010 04:13 PM Comments: 38

-Wilson Valdez, come on down.  The utility man went deep in the 9th inning today to give the Phillies a 9-7 victory over the Yankees in Clearwater.  Ben Francisco, Dane Sardinha, and Placido Polanco also homered for the team, but the real story was the showing by Cole Hamels.

He bombed today, going just four innings, allowing six earned runs on nine hits against a lineup that was missing most of the regulars.  Hamels has looked very good so far this Spring, but it’s hard to take much stock in everything that happens in March.

David Herndon has been a very solid Rule 5 pickup from the Angels as he has yet to allow a run yet in ST.  He went two frames, allowing two lonely hits as his ERA sticks at zero.  David Murphy of the Daily News thinks we’ll see Herndon on the roster at the beginning of the season. He’s clearly a darkhorse and if he makes it, it’s a huge find for the Phils.

-Did anyone watch the game today on ESPN?  Could they have bowed down to the Yankees anymore by interviewing their entire team (so it seemed) during the game?  I believe it was Howard and Moyer who were the only Phils who Karl Ravech, John Kruk, and Rick Sutcliff talked to.

  • 38 Comments
 

Arizona Diamondbacks Preview

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, March 22, 2010 10:36 AM Comments: 24

Arizona Diamondbacks: (70-92, Last Place – NL West in 2009):

What was supposed to be another stellar year in the supposedly-easy NL West turned into a wreck for the Snakes. Brandon Webb, their co-ace along with Dan Haren, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury just four innings into the season.  It was an uphill climb from there, and the D-Backs forgot their hiking boots.

The stumbles continued throughout the lost season, which included the firing of manager Bob Melvin on May 7, and the hiring of 35-year old, former Phillies backup A.J. Hinch.  The switch was an effort to toss the team a life-raft, but it did not take and the Diamondbacks found themselves dead last in the West by October.

Chris Young, a former 30-homer guy, hit just above .200 and was sent down to the minors for a minute. It got so bad for ARZ that outfielder Conor Jackson, a .300-type hitter with decent power, was diagnosed with Valley Fever.  Don’t know what it is? Look it up – it’s not your everyday illness.  Even the Phillies got their shots in at the Snakes by taking 5-of-6 from the hapless Diamondbacks.

In a year of mistakes and misfortunes, Arizona had a few bright spots. Mark Reynolds became one of the premier power hitters in the National League by swatting 44 home runs and knocking in 102 runs in the middle of a bad lineup.  Justin Upton just recently signed a six-year contract to stay in Arizona after he hit .300 with 26 bombs in 2009.  At just 21, he’s one of the blossoming gifts of the game and has the tools to get better.  In the pitching department, it was all about Dan Haren once again.

The perennial all-star was what he always is – solid- forcing his way into 14 wins and an ERA in the low-three’s.  The guy struck out 223 while walking just 38, so control is his specialty.  However, there was no controlling the awfulness of the D-Backs in 2009.

2010 Season:

Here in Mid-March, not much looks different out in Phoenix.  The biggest move was nabbing power righty Edwin Jackson from Detroit as the Tigers purged their roster, giving the D-Backs a formidable 1-2-3 top-of-the-rotation. That is, if Webb can get healthy.  They did move developing fireballer Max Scherzer to get Jackson, who by the way was an AL All Star last season, but they got a bit older and wiser with the trade.  Jackson should do quite well in the spacious NL West.

The offense looks the same, save for the pickup of Adam Laroche to play first base.  He jumps in where Chad Tracy, Josh Whitesell, and Brandon Allen failed a year ago.  Reynolds and Upton are the centerpieces, while Stephen Drew could use a nice bounce-back and new second baseman Kelly Johnson needs to provide some stability at another below-average position for Arizona.

The fact of the matter is, this season hinges on the health of Brandon Webb.  If he can return to his all-star form, then the Diamondbacks could have just enough offense to go with the outstanding rotation.  If not, they’ll be in for yet another downer in the desert.

PREDICTION: 79-83

We continue our MLB Previews with the Colorado Rockies coming up next.

  • 24 Comments
 

Fantasy Baseball is Back!

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, March 22, 2010 08:24 AM Comments: 14

With Opening Day just days away, it’s time to start another Phillies Nation fantasy baseball season, where it’s free to enter and winners of each division get prizes at the end of the season!

If you are interested in playing this year, sign up below and we’ll email you an invitation.

  • 14 Comments
 

The Strange Journey of Danys Baez

Posted by Corey Seidman, Sun, March 21, 2010 11:51 PM Comments: 4

A man gets called into his boss’ office. The boss tells the man that he must take a paid leave of absence in order to make room for a returning employee. “That’s ridiculous,” the man says, “you should just get rid of someone.” Several days later, the man is shipped off — relocated from Los Angeles to Atlanta.

The man was Danys Baez; the boss was (Dodgers GM) Ned Colletti; the returning employee was journeyman Brett Tomko.

“How did it come to this?” Baez surely wondered, three days before the 2006 trade deadline, (two before Bobby Abreu was traded from Baez’ future home.) The previous year, Baez had put together his best season as a major leaguer, saving 41 games and compiling a 2.86 ERA during an All-Star campaign in Tampa Bay. The year before that, he saved 30 games in 33 chances. But Tampa Bay viewed him as an expendable commodity, trading him to the Dodgers for then-prospect Edwin Jackson before the ’07 season. That’s how Baez made it out west.

“You never know when you are going to be traded,” Baez told LA reporters after the trade to Atlanta was announced. “I am going to a new team and a new organization and I am just going to keep working hard.” Working hard to get back to his high watermark, the period between 2003 and 2005.

With the Dodgers, Baez simply didn’t do his job. He arrived in southern California prior to the 2006 season to serve as the team’s interrim closer until Eric Gagne was healthy. The experiment did not work; Baez blew seven saves in 16 opportunities. Gagne’s health was still an issue by the time Baez was traded – Gagne only made two appearances in ’06 – but it was clear that Baez was not the ideal replacement.

Why did he struggle so much in LA, or in the National League? Up until that point, his numbers had been compiled in the AL, a tougher league for pitchers to build and sustain success. Moreover, in the immediate two years before his departure to Los Angeles, Baez was saving games for a team in the AL East, a perenially hard-hitting division which unsurprisingly housed the two best offensive teams both seasons — 2004 and 2005.

Was it the pressure? Could have been. Even though Baez was successful as a closer in the AL East, those seasons took place when the Rays were the Devil Rays, a shoe-in for ninety losses per year. And before he got to Tampa Bay, Baez was on two very bad Cleveland Indians teams. In the four seasons from 2002 to 2005, the teams he played for went a combined 269-368 and never finished closer than twenty-one games out of first place. The pressure of finally pitching for a contender may have prevented him from closing games in LA.

Oddly enough, Baez’ peripheral numbers in Los Angeles were all right in line with his career numbers. His command was better than it had ever been, his strikeout rate was only down slightly, his velocity remained the same, and hitters swung and missed more against him in the NL. His 1.28 WHIP wasn’t significantly high, and it’s not as if the three homers he allowed in fifty innings were worrisome. Could’ve been pressure, could’ve just been bad luck.

Regardless of the reason, Baez, a Cuban defector who arrived and stayed in Canada for the Pan American Games in 1999, had already experienced the peaks and valleys of a major league career. He was only 28.

Baez should have refrained from even unpacking once he got to Atlanta, as he only made eleven appearances in the final months of the 2006 season before signing with the Orioles, back home in the AL East. The Orioles actually gave him a pretty hefty chunk of change despite his struggles, signing him to a three-year, $19 million deal.

He did a whole lot of nothing in 2007, his first year with the Orioles, posting a 6.44 ERA in fifty of the worst innings of his career. Then, when nothing else could go wrong, Baez went under the knife for elbow surgery that kept him from taking the hill once in 2008.

He returned in 2009 and finally put together the year the Orioles envisioned when they cut the check, pitching 71 innings with a 4.02 ERA and a very impressive 1.13 WHIP. His 61% ground ball rate was absolutely bonkers. Nope, not a typo. Sixty-one percent (137 of 225) of balls in play against Danys Baez in 2009 were on the ground. Think Ruben Amaro took a look at that number?

Despite a successful 2009 campaign, the Orioles showed little interest in retaining Baez. It isn’t hard to see why — if you paid someone $19 million for one good season, one horrible season, and one spent on the DL, would you be jumping to the front of the line to bring him back?

The Phillies swooped in and signed Baez to a two-year/$5.25 million contract over the holidays. The team hopes they found a pitcher that can bolster the back-end of the bullpen. Baez hopes his strange, up-and-down journey has reached a “settling down” phase. He surely hopes the injuries and ineffectiveness are gone, and both parties hope the groundballs are here to stay. They could sure use some grounders in the not-so-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park.

At 32, Baez doesn’t have to prove he can close anymore. He doesn’t have to prove he’s worth nineteen million dollars, either. All he has to prove is that he can pitch for a winner.

  • 4 Comments
 

The Pricey Mitt of Mauer

Posted by Corey Seidman, Sun, March 21, 2010 06:10 PM Comments: 37

Twenty-one years and nine days ago, Carlton Fisk signed a one-year/$1.3 million contract, making him the highest-paid catcher in American League history. Sunday, the sports world took a brief detour from a wacky NCAA tournament when word surfaced that the Twins’ Joe Mauer did the same.

Only, Mauer’s record-breaking deal is worth $184 million and spans eight years. The average annual salary of the agreement is $23M, which Mauer will reportedly earn in an equal amount each season, with no front-loading or back-loading. It also includes a full no-trade clause.

The length and salary of the deal are unprecedented. It will make Mauer the highest-paid catcher in the history of Major League Baseball, with the next-closest competition being nearly one-hundred million dollars less – Mike Piazza earned $91 million with the Mets from 1999-2005.

Before Sunday, Jorge Posada was the game’s highest-paid backstop, earning $13.1M per season in a pact that ends after the 2011 season.

The Twins, a notoriously frugal organization, have allowed stars like Johan Santana and Torii Hunter to walk in recent years via free agency and an inability to open the checkbook. Since 2000, the team’s highest payroll in a single season was $71 millon; the Phillies have topped that number six times over the past nine years.

However, extending Mauer, a Saint Paul product, was a necessity. All things considered, he will likely go down as the best player in team history. Prior to 2006, no catcher had ever won an American League batting title. Since that time, Mauer has won three.

At his position, Mauer is an incomparable offensive threat and an above-average fielder in terms of holding runners in check. He has thrown out 38% of would-be base stealers in his career en route to two Gold Gloves (if you’re into meaningless defensive awards that only truly go to good offensive players.)

Eight years/184 million dollars is a huge investment for any team to make and it carries significant risk, given the rapid deterioration and decline that catchers face. In the crouch, knees take a beating, which, more often than not, results in worse baserunning and offensive output. Mauer, though, is built differently than most catchers – his 6’5, 225 lb. frame gives him the look of a player who could succeed anywhere on the diamond.

Keep in mind, this is the American League we’re talking about. Mauer can potentially be DH’ed on occasion for protection, and if, by year eight of the deal, he can no longer effectively field his position, a move to first base (if Justin Morneau is no longer a roadblock) or full-time designated hitter would be likely.

Simply put, Mauer’s other-wordly offensive prowess makes the record-breaking contract a sound investment, whether or not he mans the plate for the duration of it.

Chooch > Mauer

The lone flaw of Mauer’s game is his average-to-below average ability to block balls in the dirt, an area in which our beloved Chooch excels, as evidenced by his 2nd and 3rd place finishes found here. (Courtesy of Beyond the Boxscore, with an additional thanks to Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley for the link.) Defensive metrics which measure a catcher’s ability to block balls are few and far between, with these lists being an early attempt. While they appear valid in terms of results, this is not a “be-all, end-all” compilation.

(Just kidding on the sub-head…or am I?)

  • 37 Comments
 
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