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Archive for October, 2010

2010 Year in Review: Wilson Valdez

Posted by Kieran Carobine, Sun, October 31, 2010 01:00 PM Comments: 24

It is almost fitting that the Wilson Valdez review would come on Halloween.  Valdez dressed up all season for the Phillies wearing a lot of different hats.  In one way or another Valdez saw action in over two-thirds of the Phillies games this year.  He started 59 games at shortstop, 42 at second and eight at third with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco all seeing time on the DL.

It really is amazing to think back and Valdez was just a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.  He had major league experience and could play a lot of different positions so it seemed plausible the Phillies could hold onto his services.  And when Rollins went on the DL just the second week of the season, those services were needed.

Now at the end of the season, Valdez was Mr. Everything for the Phillies.  No one expected Valdez to come in and hit .300 and 20 home runs.  We all know that did not happen.  Before this season, Valdez never hit over .256 and never amassed 150 at bats in a season.  The Phillies asked Valdez to swing the bat over 300 times and play three different positions.  He responded with a line of .258/.306/.360/.667.

As a fan of Valdez and his bleached blonde goatee, I was very impressed with his defensive consistency throughout the year.  He had over 400 chances in 108 games, and Valdez committed only three errors.  One of the big things throughout the season was Valdez’s ability to hit into double plays (20), but on the other side he was involved in turning 55 of his own in the field.

When looking at Valdez’s value compared to other replacements he was above average in my opinion.  His WAR was not that high at 1.7 but when you think about a standard starter having a WAR of +2, Valdez definitely filled in beautifully.  In all the categories for numbers above replacement Valdez had positive numbers.  So it could have been worse.

When you insert a guy like Valdez in a lineup with the likes of Ryan Howard, Jasyon Werth and Utley it is easy to say he is an inferior player.  The Phillies knew there was no way he was going to go in and put up numbers similar to those he was replacing.  And that is not what he was brought in to do.  So with that said, my grade for him might be a little higher than a lot of people expected but I am extremely happy with the way he came off the bench and performed.  Personally, I hope he is on the bench again next season.

KIERAN’S GRADE:  7.1/10

PAT’S GRADE: 6.4/10 – Valdez was a great fill-in for the better part of the season at multiple positions. He stepped up when needed, however I graded him slightly lower because of the 275 double-plays.

PAUL’S GRADE: 6.0/10 – His defense proved to be better than a lot of people were expecting (mostly, I’m sure, because no one knew what to really expect), but to grade a .258/.306/.360 line in 363 PA on the same level as Utley and Howard would just be silly. Nice season, Wilson, but you’re still a backup.

  • 24 Comments
 

2010 Year in Review: Jimmy Rollins

Posted by Brian Michael, Sat, October 30, 2010 10:00 AM Comments: 29

What could have been?

Let’s go back to April, a month that had never seen Jimmy Rollins post early-season success. After the opening road trip, J-Roll was hitting .391/.516/.739 and was raking the ball. Then the home opener came around, Rollins pulled up lame during warm ups, and the early promise that he had shown was gone.

Jimmy’s season from Hell was upon us. Rollins missed 74 games due to injuries, and not surprisingly posted career lows in nearly every offensive stat. Fans kept hoping that Rollins was going to turn his offensive slumps around, but he just never got going.

Rollins slashes of .243/.320/.374 rivaled that of his backup Wilson Valdez and even led some to foolishly wonder who would be the better option in the postseason.

One thing that didn’t leave Jimmy during his struggles was his always stellar glove. J-Roll posted a 6.9 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), the second highest number of his career. Despite the strained calf that lingered all season, Rollins still seemed to make almost play that came his way.

The scary thing is this, do we overvalue Jimmy Rollins because we see him on a nightly basis. The last three years have not been kind to the 2007 MVP. Since winning the award, Rollins has had an average season of .256/.322/.411. Was 2007 a fluke? Or did Jimmy Rollins just get old really quick? Keep in mind 2010 was the tenth year in a row that Rollins was the everyday shortstop.

Rollins has always been a favorite of mine that I defended to all ends, but after this year it’s hard to defend him. It’s tough to be a weapon as a switch-hitter when you hit .218/.297/.360 against righties.  J-Roll made a name in Philly by putting extra-base hits together at will, however this year he managed just 27 in 350 at bats.

2011 will be an interesting season for Rollins. It is the last year he is under contract, and at this point Ruben Amaro would be foolish to extend him without first seeing, what Jimmy has left in the tank. Can Rollins find the form that has been lacking for nearly two seasons, or will we see the end of Jimmy Rollins in red pinstripes?

NICK’S GRADE: 3.0/10

Tomorrow: Wilson Valdez

  • 29 Comments
 

2010 Year in Review: Placido Polanco

Posted by Brian Michael, Fri, October 29, 2010 11:30 AM Comments: 90

Placido Polanco’s first year back in red pinstripes was definitely an interesting one.  And after taking this assignment to recap Poly’s first year back, I left myself wondering how to sum it up.

While his average didn’t drop much from the beginning of the season, Polanco lost any and all power he had before getting plunked on the elbow. Over the course of the season, Polanco missed 30 games, causing us to see a little too much of the now departed Juan Castro, and the new fan favorite Wilson Valdez.

Polanco peaked in mid August, sporting numbers like .325/.357/.430, however over the final six weeks of the season those numbers dropped to .298/.339/.386 as Polanco nabbed just nine extra-base hits after July 31st.

The one aspect of Polanco’s game that didn’t fade over the course of the season was his glove. Coming into the season, many, including myself, were very worried about the transition from second base to third base. Poly was the fourth best defensive third baseman in the NL, sporting a UZR/150 of 11.3. Not bad for a guy just turned 35 years old.

But how would you describe Polanco’s year to somebody who didn’t see him play one game. What is the first word that comes to mind? To me, I’d sum him up as: there. He was just kind of “there” this season. Unfortunately, the first comparison that comes to my mind is Raul Ibanez’s 2009 season. Polanco started off very hot before fading big time down the stretch after an injury.

Hopefully next season, Polanco can find the form he had earlier in his 2010 campaign, because if not, the Phillies will have a two full years of a slow third baseman who has absolutely zero power and struggles to draw a walk. Polanco will be the definition of a replacement player.

NICK’S GRADE: 6.2/10

PAUL’S GRADE: 7.0/10 – His defense was good, not great, and he made more outs than we’d like to see (just a .339 OBP with his .298 AVG), but I give the guy credit for playing a huge chunk of the season with an elbow rearranged by Tim Hudson. Hopefully he regains form for the last two years of his deal.

Tomorrow: Jimmy Rollins

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Moyer Will be Missed

Posted by Pat Gallen, Fri, October 29, 2010 11:04 AM Comments: 19

Didn’t get a chance to chime in yesterday on the news that Jamie Moyer had elected for free agency – along with Greg Dobbs – and would be gunning for a chance to pitch as a 48-year old next season. That likely won’t happen in Philadelphia, unless he wants to take a minor league deal and attempt to beat out the likes of Kyle Kendrick, Vance Worley, and others for the fifth starter spot.

Moyer will certainly be missed as both a pitcher and mentor should his tenure in Philly come to close for good. In five seasons with the Phillies, Moyer accumulated 56 wins and 40 losses despite an ERA in the mid-fours. His numbers were aided by a powerful offense for much of his time here, however, the dude was a gamer and for pitching well into his 40′s, there’s not much bad you can say about him.

The one gripe anyone may have with Moyer was the way he handled his demotion to the bullpen late in 2009. He appeared sullen in a newfound role, but complained little and tried to produce when called upon. Moyer is clearly a passionate performer but during that time his game was not suitable for the rotation.

In 2010, he came back and was relatively outstanding early on before another injury derailed his season. He finished the 2010 year with a 9-9 record and a 4.84 ERA – numbers that don’t really scream fifth starter material.

In any case, Moyer will rehab his elbow injury by pitching in the Dominican League this winter, seemingly uncharted territory for a man who has made a lot of money for a lot of years. His passion is to continue pitching until no one wants him or he can no longer do so – his love of the game cannot be questioned. And when we questioned his ability following the 2008 title year (many said he should hang the cleats up then), Moyer came out and won 21 more games. You can tell me until you’re blue in the face that wins are overrated, but that’s still a remarkable feat at that age.

His calling will pitching coach once he decides to retire – that’s a given. For now though, Moyer will give it another try in Benjamin Button-like fashion. He’ll have to think and act like a rookie again at the ripe old age of 47 (he turns 48 next month). The odds are against him, but they have been for some time. Will we see him in a Phillies uniform again? Unlikely. Still, wherever Moyer ends up, it was a hell of a ride here in Philadelphia.

  • 19 Comments
 

Arizona Fall League a Hot Spot for Future Talent

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, October 29, 2010 07:48 AM Comments: 2

This is the latest post from our minor league writer, Jay Floyd of PhoulBallz.com

The Arizona Fall League is a place for aspiring Major Leaguers to go to work on their baseball skills in the Autumn months. As the weather begins to cool elsewhere, the diamond stays hot and for many of baseball’s most promising young talents in Arizona.

Rosters in the AFL are a mixture of different organizations’ prospects, with each Major League club sending 7 players that combine to fill up the 35-man rosters of the league’s six teams.

With many of the sport’s top prospects playing in the league annually, the AFL has become a virtual launching pad to the big leagues. Several players from last year’s AFL rosters made their MLB debuts in 2010. The likes of Ike Reese, Mike Leake, Domonic Brown, Starlin Castro, Stephen Strasburg and Buster Posey all made their names known in their respective organization’s cities and around MLB this year.

Certainly not all of this year’s AFL players are gearing up to be playing on their sport’s biggest stage within the next 6-11 months, but it’s a lock that some of them are.
This year, the Phillies’ players are merged with individuals from the Mets, Angels, Pirates and Cubs to complete the Mesa Solar Sox roster.

Mark Parent, a man who has quickly become well liked throughout the Philadelphia organization is the Solar Sox hitting coach. Parent, who in his first season managing affiliated ball, led the Phillies Class A team the Lakewood BlueClaws to a second consecutive South Atlantic League championship in 2010. The former big leaguer has some people close to the organization thinking he is on the fast track upward in the Phils’ system as a coach. Early in the season, Phillies brass mentioned the coaching assignments in the AFL to Parent, who stuck by something he stated when he was hired for the Lakewood job. Upon joining the Phillies organization, Parent told general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. that he would do whatever the Phillies asked, and Parent excitedly took the AFL assignment.

“It’s cool. It’s certainly a job I haven’t had. The more jobs you have, and building a resume of some sort, it’s a good thing,” Parent said in an exclusive interview recently.

So, not only is the AFL a place for players to sharpen and develop their skills, it also works as a platform for coaching personnel to do the same.

Catcher Tim Kennelly, first baseman Matt Rizzotti and outfielder John Mayberry Jr. are the offensive Philadelphia properties that Parent is working with closely out in Mesa.

Also on the team are pitchers BJ Rosenberg, Tyson Brummett, Justin De Fratus and Chris Kissock.

Mayberry Jr. saw some action at the Major League level in each of the past two season with the Phillies, but which of the other six Fightins hopefuls would be likely to make a splash with the big club sooner than later? With Matt Rizzotti’s .500 OBP through 7 AFL games, his .343 avg. and .985 OPS in 125 minor league games during the 2010 regular season and a roadblock at his position named Ryan Howard making Rizzotti resemble a delicious trading chip, the best candidate to make his debut in red pin stripes next year is righty reliever Justin De Fratus.

De Fratus, who turned 23-years-old last week, posted a 3-0 record, 21 saves and a 1.94 ERA with 71 strike outs and 16 walks in 65 innings combined at High-A Cleawater and Double A Reading in 2010. De Fratus, who sports a fastball that registers around the 93 MPH mark, was assigned the honor of having best control in the Phillies’ system last off-season by Baseball America. De Fratus, a California native, was an 11th round draft selection in 2007 and is primed to be the hurler that makes big moves in 2011.

Check back for updates and exclusive interviews from the Arizona Fall League in the coming weeks.

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2010 Year in Review: Chase Utley

Posted by Paul Boye, Thu, October 28, 2010 01:33 PM Comments: 45

Getting eliminated from the playoffs sucks.

In the moments immediately following elimination, it’s hard to stave off feelings of bitterness, anger and disappointment. It’s hard not to run with the overwhelmingly negative emotion and rail against the closest thing. For some, that opportunity arose when Ryan Howard stared at strike three. For others, their ire was directed toward Chase Utley and his disappointing postseason. Hey, everyone copes in his or her own way, but it’s important to maintain some perspective (especially when it comes to a franchise cornerstone).

Chase Utley played in 115 games, in large part because of a thumb injury that required surgery, and, as a result, recorded some stats that were not what we’ve become accustomed to seeing. All of these stats were Chase’s fewest since 2004, when he played in just 94 games:

  • 117 hits
  • 20 doubles
  • 2 triples
  • 16 home runs
  • .275 batting average
  • .445 slugging percentage
  • 124 OPS+
  • 3.5 oWAR

So the guy is human after all, huh? No one will argue that Chase had one of his typical years, just as I’m sure few will argue that injuries and fatigue probably had their fair share of effect.

What is most certainly arguable is the notion of trading Utley. One “subpar” season – or, microscopically, one bad postseason in which Chase hit just .182/.333/.227 in 27 PA – after a run of historically good ones is no cause to call for Utley’s head.

I won’t derail this post into a defense of Utley against the trading hordes, so instead I’ll just say this: in the land of arbitrary stat endpoints, Chase Utley has had six seasons with .275/.375/.445 or better, with a 120 OPS+ or higher to boot. Only Charlie Gehringer (11), Rogers Hornsby (10) and Eddie Collins (8) have ever had more seasons meeting those criteria as a second baseman than Utley (Utley registered his sixth such season of those numbers in 2010, too, for what it’s worth), and all three of those gentlemen are Hall of Famers.

Utley didn’t have a great season, be that because of injury, fatigue, aging, slight skill decline or demonic possession, but he’s signed to an affordable deal for a player of his caliber, and he’s a face of the franchise. We can be disappointed in 2010, but we can be assured of Utley’s dedication to returning to top form in 2011.

PAUL’S GRADE: 7.3/10

PAT GALLEN: 7.2/10 – Yes, the injury injured his chance at a productive season, however the writing was already on the wall for a down year before his thumb gave out. His not-so-good playoffs didn’t help, either.

NICK STASKIN: 7.1/10 – A down year for Utley, is almost an up year for any other second baseman in baseball. If you compare this season to almost any other second baseman in MLB, it still measures up…just not to the production we are used to.

Tomorrow: Placido Polanco

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Salisbury Talks Werth, Lidge & More

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, October 28, 2010 10:12 AM Comments: 21

Jim Salisbury joined “The Sports Bash with Mike Gill” on our partner radio station 97.3 ESPN in South Jersey yesterday. He talked about what went wrong for the Phillies in the NLCS against the Giants, but also had interesting things to say about the dynamic of the team.

Salisbury talked about Jayson Werth and whether or not he would be back, but he also touched on some other surprising topics. Brad Lidge was one of them, and he believes there’s a chance he’s moved (or at least the attempt will be made). Also, he says that Ruben Amaro will be on the horn to Cliff Lee’s agent.

Take a listen to the entire interview here -it’s a good one.

JIM SALISBURY OF CSNPHILLY.COM ON 97.3 ESPN FM in SOUTH JERSEY

  • 21 Comments
 

Polanco to Have Elbow Surgery Friday

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, October 27, 2010 07:39 PM Comments: 14

Third baseman Placido Polanco will have surgery on his left elbow on Friday morning, General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. announced today.  The surgery will be performed by Phillies Team Physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti.

Polanco will have bone fragments removed from his elbow, in addition to having his extensor tendon repaired.

“The recovery time for this procedure is typically eight to 10 weeks and we fully expect Placido to be ready by spring training, but we’ll know more after the surgery,” said Amaro.

Polanco hit .298 during the regular season with six home runs and 52 RBI, but struggled in the playoffs, most of the Phillies did. In the postseason, Polly hit .206, but did knock in five runs in the NLCS against the Giants.

Looks like he’ll be OK for the spring. Gotta give it up to Polly for the way he played this year – he was injured for a better part of the season, but took multiple cortisone shots and fought his way through it, all while giving exceptional defense at third base.

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The One That Got Away

Posted by Michael Baumann, Wed, October 27, 2010 02:35 PM Comments: 35

This evening, in a ballpark that will haunt Phillies fans at least until February, a skinny, 31-year-old Arkansan will take the mound in Game 1 of the World Series. This man, despite appearing in only 12 regular season games in a Phillies uniform–by the way, that’s exactly 2/5 as many appearances in Phillies red as Mike Timlin had–has captured our discourse and imaginations on the way to becoming one of the most beloved Phillies of recent memory. There are, no doubt, many Phillies fans who will be rooting for Texas in this World Series for no more complicated reason than “Cliff Lee is starting Game 1.” This despite the Rangers’ addition of Jeff Francoeur, a former Met and Brave who is reviled in these parts, and the presence of Pat Burrell–who was, during his long tenure, a well-liked Phillie in his own right–in the Giants’ lineup.

Of course, Phillies fans adore Lee for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with his 12 regular-season starts. Lee, in the 2009 playoffs, was 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA, 33 strikeouts, and a .460 opponent OPS in five starts and 40 1/3 innings pitched. He twice beat the Yankees in the World Series when no other pitcher could (despite not exactly being possessed of his best stuff in Game 5: 7 IP, 5 ER). Lee appeared out of nowhere and, as much as only one starting pitcher can, carried his team to within two games of a world title. By that measure, he earned every ounce of Phillies’ fans undying and blind admiration.

But remember–just the year before, Cole Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 30 strikeouts, and a .525 opponent OPS in five starts and 35 innings–not quite as good as Lee, but spectacular in his own right, and remember that Hamels left Game 5 after only 75 pitches when torrential rain and freezing cold made Citizens Bank Park unplayable–there could have been a few more strikeouts and another win on that line had the game continued. Hamels, for his part, not only won the World Series, but collected both NLCS and World Series MVP awards. What’s more, he had been a household name in Philly since he’d been drafted in 2002. But less than a year after he put up that Lee-like performance in the playoffs, Hamels was being assailed by all sectors of Philadelphia sports society. So what’s the difference?

Just about every guy out of high school–girls might be this way too, but, as you might have inferred from the fact that I write for a baseball blog, I don’t know very much about girls–can tell you about the one that got away. Now, in most cases this isn’t the kind of tragic, Patrick Dempsey-movie-fodder it sounds like. In short, there was a girl he had a crush on at some prior point in his life, and he didn’t get to explore a romantic relationship with her to its full conclusion. This could happen for one of a variety of reasons–one of them might have moved away, or they were dating other people and the timing wasn’t right, or maybe he never even got up the courage to ask her out. Whatever the reason, he’ll look back fondly on her and wonder what could have been. It most likely won’t keep him up nights and cause him to write heartbreaking songs for solo acoustic guitar, but there might, from time to time, be a nagging wonder.

In many cases, he’s better off where he is, as I’m certain the Phillies are with Roy Halladay (and if you’re still angry the Phillies couldn’t have had both Lee and Halladay at the same time, well, this metaphor only allows that kind of thing for the very, very lucky, or the very, very 19th-century Mormon). But because he never experienced the rough patches in the relationship, only the highs, he still wonders from time to time.

That, I think, is why Phillies fans have this fixation on Cliff Lee. It’s the wonder of infatuation without the danger of actually having to get to know someone. Who knows? Maybe things would have worked out with Cliff Lee in the long term, but we’ll never know. And maybe it’s better that way–after all, nothing’s more alluring than the unattainable.

  • 35 Comments
 

2010 Year in Review: Ryan Howard

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, October 27, 2010 09:50 AM Comments: 50

Three balls. Two strikes. Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. One run down. You’ve played the scenario out in your head hundreds of times as a kid. Maybe you were Ken Griffey Jr. Maybe you were Michael Jack. Hank Aaron. Brooks Robinson. Whoever. You know the situation – we all dream of being in that spot as a kid and launching a longball deep into the lights like Roy Hobbs once did. It didn’t happen that way.
San Francisco Giants

Ryan Howard had an opportunity to send the Phillies to a Game 7 with the swing of a bat. It didn’t come off his shoulder.

Howard’s 2010 season will always be remembered as a disappointment because of that moment, fair or unfair. Overall, it was a huge disappointment, even before he was unable to come through when they needed him the most.

Check these numbers out: .276 avg, 47 home runs, 138 RBI, .944 OPS

That’s Ryan Howard’s career average over roughly six seasons in the league. Needless to say, he didn’t come close to those power numbers in 2010. Really, it was a product of a dysfunctional offense from head to toe, although Howard didn’t help the cause much himself.

Howard’s .276/31/108/.859 stat line was by far the worst of his short, but illustrious career. At one point during the season, Howard went 15 games without a home run. He had only two (two!) multi-homer games. His OPS crept above .900 for just a short period before spiraling into the mid .800’s.

A freak ankle injury took Howard out of 16 games, but lets face it; he wasn’t the same guy before the DL stint.  Save for a super hot start to the season, he was unable to put together stretches of brilliance like we’d seen in the past. Even his normally fantastic September was sub-par by his standards. Howard hit only seven homers during Sept/Oct, a month in which he previously hit 52 through his first five-plus years in the league.

Something just was not right. Then the postseason came.

Howard’s playoffs were forgetful, to be nice. Everyone points to his .303 playoff average, but come on. Don’t be blind. Howard was downright awful with the stick and the glove. He did not have one RBI in the postseason. He struck out 17 times in 33 at-bats. He had only four extra base hits. All unacceptable.

Then came that final at-bat when he could have re-written the story of his season, and to a certain degree, his entire career. It didn’t work out that way. And in summation, it was by far Ryan Howard’s worst season start to finish.

PAT GRADE: 7.4/10

NICK “THE BEERMAN” STASKIN: 6.9/10 – Howard just never seemed to hit a groove this year. The power numbers weren’t really there, and in the blink of an eye he forgot how to take a walk. It is alarming to wonder what kind of production awaits us as he has already cashed in one a megadeal that could be crippling.

Tomorrow: Chase Utley


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