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Archive for September, 2010

Ken Burns' Baseball: The Tenth Inning

Posted by Brian Michael, Thu, September 30, 2010 01:35 PM Comments: 0

Last week I attended a screening and panel discussion for Baseball: The Tenth Inning by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick at The George Washington University’s Listner Auditorium. We saw clips of the latest documentary in the Baseball series which airs September 28 & 29 at 8 p.m. ET on your local PBS station. It chronicled the period from 1994 to 2007 and touched on subjects including the ’94 strike, Cal Ripken, the ’98 home run race, steroids, and the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. ESPN senior sports writer Howard Bryant also joined the discussion that covered the film and the current state of Major League Baseball. Here’s a video of the hour-long event.

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For more videos about baseball and American culture, see Ken Burns: The Tenth Inning Series.

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Ben Fran and the Backup Boys Clean House, 7-1

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, September 29, 2010 11:09 PM Comments: 0

It’s turned into a waiting game, basically. Everyone is looking ahead to the postseason, which starts next week. The reserves stepped in once again on Hangover: Day 2, pushing the Phillies to a series win over the Nationals with a 7-1 victory. Ben Francisco jacked two home runs, John Mayberry and Mike Sweeney each added one and even though the game was rather meaningless (again) it gave the bench guys some good swings heading into the playoffs.

Francisco and Mayberry each knocked in three runs and Joe Blanton pitched seven solid innings. Blanton ends his year on a high note, one that started fairly ugly. He struck out six and allowed just three hits while tossing 107 pitches. He likely won’t pitch in the NLDS, so Charlie Manuel allowed him to go deeper than Roy Oswalt went last night.

As for the few regulars who saw time, Shane Victorino went 0-for-4 as did Jimmy Rollins who has scuffled at the plate the last two games. Wilson Valdez, if you want to call him a regular, played second base and finished 0-for-3 with a walk.

In his quest for a spot on the NLDS roster, Greg Dobbs went 2-for-4 with a couple of singles. Out in the pen, Romero, Madson, Lidge tossed two scoreless frames to end it.

Just one week. But before the playoffs, enjoy the final moments of what has been an awesome regular season. Let it last.

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Gameday: Phillies (94-64) at Nationals (68-90)

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, September 29, 2010 04:53 PM Comments: 0

Philadelphia Phillies (94-64) at Washington Nationals (68-90)

NationalsJoe Blanton (8-6, 4.94 ERA) vs. Ross Detwiler (1-2, 2.52)

Time: 7:05, Nationals Park
Weather:
Rainy, 66
TV: CSN
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Nationals Park is where it all began this season, where the division was won, and, tonight, the Phillies will say goodbye to Washington until next spring. That is, if the rain holds off.

With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs sewn up, the Phillies can afford to take their ease a little bit, as Charlie Manuel proved last night. Last night, Adam Dunn’s walk-off homer helped the Nats to a 2-1 victory over the Phillies’ reserve squad. Tonight is no different, as the Phillies make seven changes from their Opening Day lineup. John Mayberry gets his first start of the year, and Hero of the People Wilson Valdez returns to the lineup in relief of Chase Utley.

That patchwork squad will face lefthander Ross Detwiler, a 24-year-old making his 19th career major league start. Detwiler was picked 6th overall in 2007. In recent years, the Nats have done well drafting pitchers in the high rounds, netting Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Chad Cordero, and Jordan Zimmermann in recent years. Detwiler has not been so fortunate, struggling with his control this year. At his best, he’s a finesse lefty in the Cole Hamels mold, mixing in a decent fastball with a change-up for an out pitch, but so far, despite a nearly-even K/BB ratio, Detwiler’s gotten away with it, posting a 2.52 ERA in 25 innings. Pay attention to this guy, because when the Nationals finally put it together in a couple years, Detwiler could be one of their good young arms, along with Zimmermann and Strasburg.

There’s not a whole lot else to say about tonight’s game. Hardly anything is on the line, so sit back, relax, and be glad you’re not out there in that rain.

Today’s lineup: Rollins SS, Valdez 2B, Victorino CF, Sweeney 1B, Francisco LF, Mayberry RF, Dobbs 3B, Hoover C, Blanton P

Nugget NectarYour Gameday Beer – Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest

Today is the 60th birthday of Milwaukee Brewers owner Ken Macha, and in his honor, we’ll give you a seasonal beer from the best of the Milwaukee brewers, Jacob Leinenkugel. Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest is not as highly-touted as, say Sam Adams, but it’s a malty beer that makes you think of football, terrible weather, and pumpkin pie. Enjoy. -Michael Baumann

GO PHILLIES!

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Wilson Valdez's Historic Season

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, September 29, 2010 12:14 PM Comments: 0

I don’t know how it was where and when y’all were growing up, but my high school pretty much stopped teaching new material around Memorial Day, even though we didn’t get out until the end of June. The last three weeks of school were dedicated to watching movies, sitting around chatting, and playing cards. My senior year, I took band and four AP classes, so after the AP tests and our spring concert were over in early May, I did nothing for the last seven weeks of school in five of my eight classes, to say nothing of the overwhelming force of senioritis.

With seven of the right MLB playoff spots locked up, this week has a definite “Last Month of School” vibe to it: we’re all just sitting around, happy to have the chance to relax, but looking forward to what’s to come even more. So in the spirit of end-of-the-school-year distractions, here’s one: Wilson Valdez could have done something historic this season.

Now, Exxon hasn’t been as bad as I had feared this season. When the Phillies replaced their injured offensive sparkplug and informal captain, Jimmy Rollins, with a man who had slugged .292 in 369 major league plate appearances, I feared the worst, but Valdez, mostly on the strength of his glove, has been pretty good. In 107 games, he’s hit .257 with four home runs and seven stolen bases. Don’t get me wrong: these are terrible offensive numbers, but considering his rock-bottom expectations and solid glove, I’ll take them. In fact, Baseball-Reference rates him at 1.3 WAR this season, and FanGraphs at 0.5 WAR–not ideal starter numbers, but satisfactory from a player like Valdez.

There is, however, one offensive category in which Exxon is putting up record numbers: double plays grounded into. Wilson Valdez grounds into double plays the way Weezer puts out new albums nowadays–often, indiscriminately, and sometimes with disastrous results.

Wilson Valdez is tied for 14th in the major leagues in GIDP, with 20. That might not sound so bad, but consider the following: the league leader in that statistic, Kansas City’s Billy Butler, has exactly 300 more plate appearances than Valdez (655 to 355). It’s not that Valdez is grounding into so many double plays–it’s that he’s doing it in so few at-bats.

In the DH era, a player has grounded into 15 or more double plays while not qualifying for the batting title 290 times. 29 of them have grounded into 20 (including two Hall-of-Famers: Tony Gwynn and Jim Rice). One needs 502 plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, and most of the players on the list came to the plate 400 times or more. Again, Exxon has only 355 plate appearances. So how many players have had 20 GIDP in 375 PA or less in the DH era? Two. Wilson Valdez this year and some poor sap named Eddie Williams who grounded into 21 in 325 PA for the Padres in 1995.

Let’s extrapolate, and place Valdez’s absurd GIDP rate in historical context. The single-season record for GIDP is 36, set by Jim Rice in 1984. Rice put up that remarkable stat in 708 plate appearances, almost exactly twice Valdez’s total. For those of you without a calculator handy, that’s one double play every 19.67 plate appearances. The career record is held by Cal Ripken, Jr., who grounded into 350 in 12,883 career plate appearances–that’s one every 36.81 PA. Valdez this season grounds into a double play every 17.75 plate appearances. Given adequate playing time, Valdez would demolish both of those records.

And how about this–he’s come to the plate with a runner on first and less than two out only 82 times this season. In those plate appearances, he has 20 GIDP, and only 18 hits. I’ll repeat that for the cheap seats: with a runner on first and less than 2 outs, Wilson Valdez is more likely to ground into a double play than he is to get a hit. “Dreadful” hardly does that statistic justice. I’m reaching into my bag of adjectives and coming out with words ordinarily used to describe war criminals, livestock rapists, and “We Built This City” by Starship.

Of course, he has turned 35 double plays in the field this season, so he’s making up for it at least somewhat. I guess the takeaway lesson from this is that when Wilson Valdez is in the lineup, expect outs to come in bunches. Just thought you might like to know.

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Rotation is Set; Who's Excited?

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, September 29, 2010 08:57 AM Comments: 0

A week or so ago, Dave Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News mapped out the Phillies possibilities for the NLDS. Open door #1 and you’ll start the divisional series on Wednesday October 6 with two off days during a five game series. Door #2 gave you a later start, but with less off days in between. The choice was clear.

We now know that Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee, among others, have chosen to go with the early Wednesday start. It’s was really the only call because it allows the Phillies to use Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt throughout the five games without using a fourth starter. Manuel has said all along that his strength is pitching, so he’ll ride with what got him here.

Here is a look at the schedule from here until the postseason. How can that not get you excited? Three pitchers who combined to go 20-7 in 33 starts since Roy Oswalt’s acquisition in July get to pitch over and over and over again.

NLDS

Oct. 6 – Game 1 – Halladay
Oct. 7 – Off
Oct. 8 – Game 2 – Hamels
Oct. 9 – Off
Oct. 10 – Game 3 – Oswalt
Oct. 11 – Game 4 – Halladay (Normal Rest)
Oct. 12 – Off
Oct. 13 – Game 5 – Hamels (Normal Rest)

NLCS

Oct. 16 – Game 1 – Halladay
Oct. 17 – Game 2 – Hamels
Oct. 18 – Off
Oct. 19 – Game 3 – Oswalt
Oct. 20 – Game 4 – Blanton
Oct. 21 – Game 5 – Halladay
Oct. 22 – Off
Oct. 23 – Game 6 – Hamels
Oct. 24 – Game 7 – Oswalt

World Series

Oct. 27 – Game 1 – Halladay
Oct. 28 – Game 2 – Hamels
Oct. 29 – Off
Oct. 30 – Game 3 – Oswalt
Oct. 31 – Game 4 – Blanton
Nov. 1 – Game 5 – Halladay
Nov. 2 – Off
Nov. 3 – Game 6 – Hamels
Nov. 4 – Game 7 – Oswalt

It also appears that we’ve seen the last of the Big 3 in the regular season. Halladay last pitched on Monday in the clincher meaning he’ll get eight days to rest. You have to wonder, and this is not a push of the panic button by any means, but will that throw Halladay off kilter? He’s a creature of habit, perhaps more than any other Phillies player. Will an eight-day layoff hurt him or help him? Just playing devils advocate.

If you watched any baseball last night, you’ll know that the Cincinnati Reds are now in after their division-clinching victory. San Francisco also won to take a two-game lead in the NL West over the Padres. In the race for second place, the Giants are a half game up on wild-card leader Atlanta. Cincinnati is a game back.

So, if the playoffs ended right now, the Reds would be the Phillies first round opponent. During the regular season, the Phils went 5-2 over Cincy, including a four-game sweep at Citizens Bank Park in July.

Cincinnati or San Francisco? Who would you rather see? The Reds have a potent offense with a middle-of-the-road rotation. The Giants have great arms at the top – one of the only teams that can rival the Phillies – but lack offense.

UPDATE, 9:25 am: A comment from a Phillies Nation fan on twitter sparked this. If Hamels were to pitch Game 2 of the NLCS, he would be doing so on short rest. If Oswalt were to stay in the Game 3 NLCS slot, He’d be pitching on eight days rest. The solution: flip Hamels to a possible Game 3 start in the NLCS and Oswalt to Game 2. However, that point would be moot should the Phillies wrap up the opening series in less than five games. This layout is simply to say that each pitcher could get a maximum number of starts throughout the postseason.

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Phils Lose to Nats on Hangover Day

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, September 28, 2010 11:31 PM Comments: 0

There was a game played today? How dare they. After the champagne was cleaned up (although Matt Gelb of the Inquirer said there was a candle lit in the clubhouse and it still smelled of bubbly and stogies) the Phillies and Nationals got together for game two of a now-meaningless series. The Nats won 2-1 tonight on an Adam Dunn walkoff blast in the ninth, causing a celebration of sorts for the cellar dwelling neighbors to the south.

Roy Oswalt got the start and didn’t last very long before Charlie Manuel pulled the plug on his outing. He was stopped at just 66 pitches in an effort to keep him fresh for either Game 1 or Game 2 of the National League Division Series which begins next Wednesday. The over/under set by myself was at 70, so whoever had the under won nothing. For the playoffs, Slot #1 is reserved for Mr. Halladay, but beyond that, the order is not known.

Anywho, Oswalt was nice again tonight, throwing five innings and allowing no earned runs. Washington scored in the first inning after a Jimmy Rollins error on an attempted run-down play. Rollins threw the ball past Greg Dobbs as they tried to get Nyjer Morgan between second and third. Morgan would score a batter later on a ground out by Dunn.

Dunn would strike early and then again late with his 38th home run off Jose Contreras, an absolute missile well into the second deck.

Now on to more important things, such as the health of their shortstop Jimmy Rollins. J-Roll made his return to the starting lineup for the first time since September 8, going 1-for-3 with a few weak ground outs to first base. He said later that he probably wouldn’t be healthy until February, noting that legging out infield singles will have to wait until then. But as long as Rollins can maneuver in the field and give the Phils some clutchness in the postseason, it’s all you can ask for.

Few other notes: Dom Brown stole two bases tonight, flashing some speed that we hope to see next year. Placido Polanco got the night off and likely will have every night off until next Wednesday. He’s expected to have another cortisone shot in his bad elbow, which should help him get through October. Greg Dobbs went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts – he did not make a case for a spot on the postseason roster with another ugly performance. If it comes down to Brown and Dobbs, who do you take?

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Gameday: Phillies (94-63) at Nationals (67-90)

Posted by Pat Gallen, Tue, September 28, 2010 05:34 PM Comments: 0

Philadelphia Phillies (94-63) at Washington Nationals (67-90)

NationalsRoy Oswalt (13-13, 2.80 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (2-9, 7.18)

Time: 7:05, Nationals Stadium
Weather:
Cloudy, 68
TV: CSN
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They call it “The Hangover.” Not the movie, the lineup. No Zach Galifinakis making funnies, but a lineup short the normal starters. Utley and Howard are still in there, with nothing really to play for. It’s obvious Charlie Manuel wants to keep his guys fresh.

Plaicdo Polanco is out, and you may not see him for the rest of the season as he’ll rest that bum elbow. So the good news is he’ll get more than a week to heal. Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, and Jayson Werth are the other regulars to get a blow tonight.

It’s also official: The Phillies will begin their playoff schedule on Wednesday, October 6 at Citizens Bank Park. Going with that start date (the Phils had the choice between Wednesday the 6th or Thursday the 7th), they’ll be assured normal rest for Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt until Game 4 of the NLCS (not getting too far ahead of ourselves). That means Joe Blanton is your long man in the pen and we’ll get to see plenty of the Big 3. Nothing wrong with that.

Tonight is a fine opportunity to take a look at the bench the Phillies will have in the postseason. Greg Dobbs, Dom Brown, Brian Schneider, and Ben Francisco will all get some hacks as they get prepared for the playoff run. More importantly, Jimmy Rollins is back in the order. He’ll get some at bats before the regular season ends. He hasn’t started a game since September 8.

Today’s lineup: Rollins SS, Ibanez LF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Francisco CF, Brown RF, Dobbs 3B, Schneider C, Oswalt P

Nugget NectarYour Gameday Beer – Rouge Dead Guy Ale
It was named one of the five best beers in America by Food and Wine Magazine. This is a darker, more intense style of ale (technically, it’s a German style called a Maibock). It’s a bit higher in alcohol — 6.5 percent — with a toasty, malty character and real texture to it. This is my go-to for big, spicy foods: sausages on the grill, barbecued ribs, that kind of thing. -Pat Gallen

GO PHILLIES!

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Videos from Last Night's NL East Clincher

Posted by Brian Michael, Tue, September 28, 2010 04:54 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies clinch the 2010 NL East crown in Washington, DC before a crowd of die-hard Phillies fans.

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Division: Clinched. Business: Unfinished.

Posted by Michael Baumann, Mon, September 27, 2010 11:36 PM Comments: 0

Carlos Ruiz after the Phillies clinch the 2010 NL East titleI’ve always been awed by the ability of major league ballplayers to keep things in perspective. Consider Roy Halladay. Halladay signed what was then the richest contract in Phillies history in terms of annual salary, replaced a fan favorite, and, like Atlas, lifted the hopes and expectations of a city of 1.6 million on his shoulders. Tonight was his 33rd appearance of the year, and he was perhaps as stunning this evening as at any other point in his six months in red pinstripes (his perfect game in May notwithstanding). 97 pitches, 65 strikes, no walks, two hits, six strikeouts, no runs allowed. Methodical is the word that comes to mind.

Pitch no. 97 was a fading 84-mph split-fingered what-the-hell-was-that?-ball low and on the outside corner to a befuddled 23-year-old Nationals infielder named Danny Espinosa. I was sitting in Mac’s Tavern on Second and Market when that ball hit Carlos Ruiz’s glove. Mac’s is not really a sports bar, and it was only half full, but its patrons celebrated pitch no. 97 with appropriate pomp and circumstance: the Rocky theme was played, strangers were hugged, fists pumped, and high-fives exchanged. This fourth straight division title is an unprecedented occurrence for this team, so we were pretty jazzed. Imagine how Roy Halladay, a veteran of 13 major league seasons with nary a playoff appearance, must have reacted!

Methodically. Halladay, veteran of 13 major league seasons, none of them ending in playoff runs, pumped his fist, walked off the mound, and gave his catcher a peremptory hug. The eight position players on the field, seven of whom has played in a World Series in the past five years, were similarly nonplussed. Jayson Werth, whose two extra base hits and four RBIs paced a Phillies attack that methodically hung eight runs on five Washington pitchers, jogged in from right field to join the party. The ordinarily effervescent Shane Victorino couldn’t be bothered even to do that–he walked.

The fracas on the mound (if you could call it that) seemed staged, a display no one really wanted to bother with and only put on for the benefit of the TV cameras. The Phillies looked, for lack of a better word, bored with the division title. They expect to have another shot at this pitching-mound-orgy-and-champagne-shower business in a couple weeks. Considering recent events, that might be a reasonable expectation.

Here are some photos from tonight’s game courtesy of Brian:

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Gameday: Phillies (93-63) at Nationals (67-89)

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, September 27, 2010 05:50 PM Comments: 0

Philadelphia Phillies (93-63) at Washington Nationals (67-89)

NationalsJohn Lannan, LHP (8-7, 4.58 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (20-10, 2.53 ERA)

Time: 7:05, Nationals Stadium
Weather:
Chance of rain, 66
TV: CSN
Follow Phillies Nation on Twitter

The Phillies 2010 season began in Washington, DC with Roy Halladay squaring off against John Lannan. It could for all intents and purposes come to a close tonight under the same scenario. A Phillies win or a Braves loss will clinch the fourth consecutive division title for the Phillies.

Rain is expected tonight, so there is a chance the game will be postponed or even canceled. For the latest on how the weather will affect tonight’s game, follow Twitter:


After a brief appearance in yesterday’s game, Jimmy Rollins will not be starting.

Today’s lineup: Victorino CF, Polanco 3B, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Werth RF, Ibanez LF, Ruiz C, Valdez SS, Halladay P

Nugget NectarYour Gameday Beer – Nugget Nectar
This brew by Troegs (out of the PA capital) is a mix of Red and Amber Ale; and as a result, it pours a vibrant orange color in your glass. The taste hits you right away with piney hops then gradually fades into tropical fruit flavors. It’s a tasty beer worth trying, especially alongside a roasted chicken. – By Brian

GO PHILLIES!

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