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Archive for February, 2011

Howard’s Power Revisited

Posted by Paul Boye, Fri, February 18, 2011 01:30 PM Comments: 29

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer has an interesting post up today on his blog, wherein he drops some quotes from Ryan Howard on his perceived (or real) lack of power production in 2010.

“It’s funny to me because everyone talks about my power numbers,” Howard said. “‘Oh, Ryan, your power numbers were down.’ I think everybody forgot I was out for a month, that I was hurt. I was right there with everybody on the leaderboard in home runs and RBIs. I don’t really think that was an issue.”

Gelb notes in the next paragraph Howard’s drop in slugging percentage from before (.528 in 407 AB) and after (.441 in 143 AB) the injury that cost him time.

Was Howard just unlucky; victim of a one-off fluke that shouldn’t hamper him in 2011? Is it a result of being pitched differently? Or, pessimistically, is Howard just declining, as early-30s sluggers are wont to begin doing? Dissection after the jump.

Continue reading Howard’s Power Revisited

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All in the Family

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, February 18, 2011 12:05 PM Comments: 0


22-year-old pitching prospect Nick Hernandez’s father helps him stay fit during the off-season

 

Phillies pitching prospect Nick Hernandez spent much of the 2010 regular season on the disabled list with an injury to his throwing shoulder. The 6’4″, 215 pound lefty, who was named a mid-season South Atlantic League all-star with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, attempted comebacks twice during the season, making rehab outings for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, but experienced setbacks that curtailed his return to the mound and kept him from helping his teammates lock down a second consecutive league championship for Lakewood.

In 8 starts with the BlueClaws last season, the 12th round draft pick from 2009 posted a 3-1 record with a 1.61 ERA and averaged 7 innings per start.

Hernandez’s strength is throwing a lot of strikes and he owes some of his success to his father, also named Nick (Dad’s full first name is spelled Nicolas, while son’s name is spelled Nicholas). The elder Nick was drafted in the first round by the Brewers, as a catcher, back in 1978.

Papa Nick is long retired from baseball, but that doesn’t stop him from helping his son strive to excel by working out during the off-season as his personal bullpen catcher. Whether it’s a day of long toss or a bullpen session, father and son propel one another. The older Nick benefits from the workouts nearly as much as his son. Nick finds that his duty as his son’s Winter battery mate motivates him to stay fit both physically and mentally.

“What Nick’s doing now (in the minors), I did 30 years ago. I’m 51 years old, but when I put on the mitt and the mask, I pretend I’m back when I’m 20 years old,” the older Nick said.

He adds that he’ll go as long, and as frequently, as his son needs him to, in order to get his work in.

“I don’t let him let up. I tell him to do his thing and not to worry about me,” said the senior Nick.

Dad’s own dream unfortunately fell short, as he never played higher than Double A. However, the elder Nick now has new hopes. Nicolas would love to see Nicholas reach heights that he didn’t, but his son’s achievements are not something that Dad will use to live vicariously through.

“I don’t look at Nick’s career, or his success through my eyes. This is his dream. It’s what Nick puts into it that will determine what Nick gets out of it. I push him a bit, but he works hard already. He’s a kid who’s really focused. He knows that hard work and dedication is what’s going to help him reach his goals,” Nicolas stated.

Papa Nick tries to be a motivator for his son and realizes there are limitations to what he can teach him at this point. The older Nick stopped teaching and offering baseball tips to young Nick when he was about age 15. He never wanted to interfere with any of his coaches’ teachings or curtail anything he has worked on.

The senior Nick feels as though his son Nick’s learning skills have greatly improved, since he has been with the Phillies. He points out a noticeable increase in younger Nick’s maturity and credits the Phillies organization with helping him grow as a pitcher.

“I’ve seen a big change in that- in his attitude, in his demeanor, the way he approaches things. It’s definitely 100 percent better than he was when he was in college at the University of Tennessee,” Nick stated.

The Nicks have another relative that officially qualifies the sport of baseball as something that runs in the family. Major League umpire Angel Hernandez is brother to Nicolas. Papa Nick says of his son, “He comes from a good breed.”

During the season, Nicolas keeps the family unity going and makes time to see his son pitch, thanks to his job. Papa Nick works as a truck driver and incorporates his son’s playing schedule into his own itinerary. He traveled from south Florida to Lakewood, NJ three separate times and was able to see Nick pitch on the road in three different road cities during the 2010 season. Having that support there to steadily back him helps the less ripe Nick bear down and really display his talents.

Going forward, younger Nick, who feels that his shoulder is currently at 100 percent, is focused on having a full season, free of injuries, in order to make the most progress and learn as much as he possibly can. Dad feels that is just what this year holds in store.

“He’s focused on having a healthy year and giving the Phillies a whole season. Baseball is definitely his biggest priority in life right now, so 2011 should be a good year for him.”

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Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can read more from Jay by checking out his site, PhoulBallz.com.

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Top Moment #1: Doc’s Playoff No-Hitter

Posted by Pat Gallen, Fri, February 18, 2011 09:15 AM Comments: 11

Well, we’re finally, finally done. We’ve gone through Opening Day, when Phillies Nation, along with Roy Halladay, rocked Nationals Stadium in D.C. We’ve passed along our stories on the perfect game, the Oswalt trade, an incredible J-Roll walk off, and another division title. We’ve presented to you the best moments from the postseason: the Fistpump, Oswalt running through the stop sign, and the “Groin Game.” But this is #1.

Roy Halladay’s playoff no-hitter is the #1 Moment of 2010, according to the contributors here at Phillies Nation. Beating out the perfect game by one measly vote – which seemingly was because of the postseason importance over the PG – Doc’s no-hitter was an amazing display of guts, guile, and confidence. Only one other person in MLB postseason history was able to do what Halladay did against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS.

I was there. Lucky enough to witness the special moment from the press box – my first season and playoffs as a media member. Even that couldn’t stop my heart from thumping, my pulse from pounding as the ninth inning began. If someone had nails left in the building, they either had no rooting interest in the game or had fake nails. Even the vast array of writers, reporters, and whomever else they let in the box, were buzzing. I recall smiling to myself after out number one, like ‘is this actually happening?” It was. And it did.

Continue reading Top Moment #1: Doc’s Playoff No-Hitter

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ProspectNation 2011: #6 Trevor May- RHP

Posted by Jay Floyd, Thu, February 17, 2011 11:30 AM Comments: 12

Washington state native Trevor May appeared to be on an extremely fast track to the big leagues after two season in the Phillies’ system. However, a rough patch in High A ball followed by a demotion seemed to bring May back down to Earth a bit and served as somewhat of a reality check. Now, following improvements in the second half of his 2010 season, May seems to be back on the rise.

A 4th round draft choice in 2008 out of Kelso High School, May has won minor league championships in each of his three seasons as a pro in the Phillies system.

After signing with Philadelphia, May helped lead the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies to their league title in 2008. In 5 regular season games in the GCL, May went 1-1 and had a 3.75 ERA.

The right-handed May began the 2009 season in extended spring training then later was assigned to Class A Lakewood and swiftly became one of the Phillies top rated pitching prospects by blazing through opposing batters with a 4-1 record and a 2.56 ERA in 15 starts. May also struck out 95 batters in 77 1/3 innings pitched en route to the BlueClaws’ South Atlantic League title.

May began his 2010 campaign with High A level Clearwater, but struggled with his grip in Florida’s humidity and had great difficulty throwing strikes, which resulted in an uncharacteristically high 61 walked batters in 70 innings. Overall with Clearwater, May posted a 5-5 record with a 5.01 ERA in 16 games, 14 of which were starts.

Phillies assistant general manager in charge of player development Chuck LaMar chose to return May to Lakewood, where he quickly bounced back and received a boost in his confidence, returning to excellent form. In 11 regular season games, May went 7-3 with a 2.91 ERA. On July 27th at Delmarva he struck out 14 batters to tie a team record for strike outs in a game.

May again helped lock down a Sally League title for the BlueClaws. In the 2010 postseason May was strong, whiffing 13 and walking 1 in 6 2/3 shutout innings against the Hickory Crawdads in the opening round to earn a win. In Game 1 of the championship round against the Greenville Drive, May gave up a run and struck out 8 over 5 innings and took a loss. The BlueClaws locked down the SAL title before May was needed in game 5.

Combined in two postseasons with Lakewood, May, who stands 6-feet-5-inches tall and is listed at 215 pounds but likely weighs more, allowed just 1 run in 22 2/3 innings.

The 21-year-old’s pitch repertoire consists of a heavy fastball that steadily reaches the mid-90′s, a sharp curveball and a change up that has come along nicely since May began throwing it in 2009. Considered a power pitcher at times, May has tried to work some finesse into his game with placement and by using each pitch in any given count. Despite that though, his strike out rates have stayed high throughout his three pro seasons, as May has averaged 11.55 strike outs per 9 innings in his minor league career, and he averaged 12.13 strike outs per 9 innings in 2010.

The Phillies could wish to take their time moving May upward in the system, but it will ultimately depend on May’s drive. If May continues to mature and learns to cope with the varying climates he’ll have to deal with at higher levels, he could be in consideration to break into the big leagues in a couple years.

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Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league contributor.  You can read more from Jay by checking out his site, PhoulBallz.com.

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Utley Excited to get 2011 Season Under Way

Posted by Pat Gallen, Thu, February 17, 2011 10:11 AM Comments: 2

Chase Utley spoke to the media this morning and reiterated how excited he and his teammates, many of whom showed early to camp, are to get going. Ryan Lawrence of the Delco Times got this great up-close video of Utley during the media session and he had some promising things to say. Take a look:

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Just How Good Is This Phillies Rotation?

Posted by Michael Baumann, Thu, February 17, 2011 08:00 AM Comments: 9

How do the Phils' starters compare to the rest? Mike Baumann tells us with a scientific formula. (Photo: Eric Gay, AP)

Anyone who knows baseball knows that the 2011 Phillies will have an outstanding starting rotation, with four top-quality starting pitchers. Of course, there are a number of hyperbolic statements being tossed around about the Phillies’ starting pitchers: comparisons to the mid-90s Braves and 1971 Orioles or the expectation that all other NL teams need not even bother trying to win the pennant for the next two years.

I’ve been interested in the title question of this post pretty much since the moment the Cliff Lee signing was announced. After all, the Giants have a great rotation themselves, and if they can stay healthy, the Red Sox can throw out five very good veteran starters too. There was a lingering doubt in my head as to whether the Phillies even had the best rotation in baseball this season, so I decided to put the assertion “the Phillies have the best starting rotation in the game” to the test. Explanation and results after the jump.

Continue reading Just How Good Is This Phillies Rotation?

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Aussie Prospect Schoenberger Ready For Spring

Posted by Jay Floyd, Wed, February 16, 2011 06:45 PM Comments: 4

Keeping the rust off during the off-season is a struggle for some players. Phillies infield prospect Alan Schoenberger didn’t have that problem.  The switch-hitting Schoenberger spent his North American off-season in the Summer heat, down under, playing in the inaugural season of the new Australian Baseball League.

Schoenberger, who is 22 years old, returned home to his native Queensland to take part in the Australian Baseball League as a member of the Brisbane Bandits. The ABL had previous incarnations that failed. The current version debuted in 2010 as a new entity that is jointly owned by Major League Baseball (75%) and the Australian Baseball Federation (25%).

Australian players all learned of the reinvention of the ABL back in June, while many were playing for their Major League affiliated clubs in the United States. Schoenberger and others were all very excited to learn about professional baseball in this capacity returning to their homeland. It gave them all something to look forward to for the off-season. Continue reading Aussie Prospect Schoenberger Ready For Spring

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Green Opens up on Arizona Shooting

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, February 16, 2011 05:22 PM Comments: 0

If you watched this already, then you know its a tough clip to get through. You can feel the pain that Dallas Green is going through after a senseless act of violence crushed his family recently.

Green fought back the tears as he spoke to the media today in Clearwater, opening up about the death of his granddaughter, nine-year old Christina Taylor Green. She was shot and killed in the Tuscon, Arizona supermarket shooting that left U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition.

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Top Moment #2: Perfection

Posted by Nick "Beerman" Staskin, Wed, February 16, 2011 11:00 AM Comments: 15

Halladay tossed a game few of us have ever witnessed. Perfection. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

27 batters.

27 outs.

No runs.

No errors.

No base runners.

Perfection.

[Watch all 27 outs here]

Roy Halladay was perfect on May 29th. Matched up against Josh Johnson, Roy Halladay threw one of baseball’s greatest games in a 1-0 win against the Marlins and vaulted himself into Philadelphia history.

Halladay’s masterpiece included 11 strikeouts,  115 pitches, and 72 for strikes. Doc was so efficient that after the first inning, Halladay only threw more than 12 pitches once more in any given inning.

The 1-0 score really makes you wonder what would have happened had Cameron Maybin not botched Chase Utley’s line drive that scored Wilson Valdez. The way Doc was dealing, he probably could have thrown another nine perfect innings.

What would have happened if Juan Castro wasn’t at third base? Would Placido Polanco been able to get to the soft hit chopper that Ronnie Paulino bounced over to end the game? That’s the thing about baseball. There are so many questions that come with such a rare occurrence.

Now for the rest of our lives, we have questions, where were you during Roy Halladay’s perfect game? When did you hear that Doc was flirting with perfection? Who were you with during this amazing night in Phillies history?

Where were you when perfection struck?

NICK: I was at Landmark in Glassboro to watch the Phillies and UFC that night. Not being a hockey fan, I had to beg the bar to put the Phillies on a small television due to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup being on.  On the smallest TV at the bar, the game was on and we took notice of what was going on after Halladay had made it through the Marlins lineup once through. By the sixth inning fans started taking note of what was happening, and by the 8th inning half the bar had gathered around our table. A night I won’t forget.

PAT GALLEN: How incredible is technology? Myself along with my girlfriend and two other friends were racing to a bar in Fenwick Island, DE, while on vacation. We listened to Scott Franzke giving the play-by-play on my iPhone using the MLB At Bat app, praying that the signal wouldn’t be lost in the car. We came to a stoplight just in front of the bar (which is a Philly bar, by the way – it’s owned by family friends and it’s called Slainte, look it up!) when the final pitch was being thrown and we went insane, high-fiving in the car.

As soon as we walked in, the place was filled to the brim with Phillies fans still going nuts; people hugging and rejoicing and giving cheers with fresh beverages. It wasn’t an ideal way to celebrate one of the finest performances ever, but it’s one of those nights you’ll never forget because of how odd the circumstances were. Me, three friends, a car, and an iPhone. All you need to listen to perfection.

MICHAEL BAUMANN: I’ll be honest: I didn’t watch it. I went to the USA-Turkey soccer game at the Linc that afternoon, and between tailgating and the game probably spent six or seven hours in the scorching heat with little to no shade and nothing to drink but cheap beer. The result? As bad a case of sunburn and dehydration as I’ve ever had. That night, I went to a friend’s house to watch Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, and he turned off the Phillies in the third inning for the Flyers game, even though (and I swear to God this is true) I said, “But Halladay’s got a perfect game going!”

Anyway, I fell asleep on his sofa halfway through the second period and missed not only what was (I’m told) a very exciting playoff hockey game, but a historic moment the likes of which I was sure I’d never see again.

DASH TREYHORN: For most of us, we didn’t realize the gravity of the situation until the sixth inning or so. It wasn’t until he set down a solid enough lineup the second time that we thought, hey, this just might be something. And when that feeling hits you, it hits you like a sack of bricks. From the seventh inning on, I sat in front of my computer, listening to Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen, afraid to move, afraid to breathe. And when you rely on your ears for the action, the routine plays can become less routine because you can’t see the action. A grounder in the hole at short might look like an easy out on television, but it certainly doesn’t sound that way.

When MLB Network cut in during the bottom of the ninth, I actually had to force myself out of my seat in front of my computer so I could watch the game. And you have to understand, as someone who firmly believes in the ridiculous nature of baseball jinxes, that was a tough choice. But even then, I couldn’t force myself to record the final inning, because I was so freaked out that I would somehow have an impact on the outcome. It’s like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: Objects under observation will behave differently than when not under observation. I already thought that I was tempting fate by watching the final inning, but recording it, too? No way would I mess with history. I suddenly turned into a theoretical physicist.

In my baseball loving life, I’ve never actually been part of a perfect game. I’ve seen the final innings of them a lot, but I can honestly say that I’ve never watched or listened to a perfect game, soup to nuts. So it was kind of a big deal for me. It was like watching Game Five, Part B of the 2008 World Series again. It was just one game that was sort of insignificant, but at the same time, it was everything. But that’s what baseball, and the Phillies, do to us.

KIERAN: Living in Virginia Beach the only times I really get to watch the Phillies is at the bar, while they are playing the Nationals, or on the nationally televised Sunday night games. We were at a friend’s house watching Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals and had the grill on and the corn hole boards out. We were all over the place in this house; the kitchen, living room, back yard.

I remember watching the hockey game and continuously checking my phone for the Phillies score. After around the fifth inning I can remember my brother peaking his head out the window and saying ’12 more outs, sssshhhhh.’ We kept doing this for the rest of the game. The broadcast of the hockey game was actually interrupted to show the final inning of the Phillies-Marlins game. In our group of friends, my brother and I are the main baseball fans except for one Yankee kid. But when Roy Halladay got that final out, the whole place erupted. Everyone was dishing out high fives and even some hugs. People were congratulating me as if I did something. All I did was witness history. And that’s just fine with me.

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Expectations for Cole’s Next Contract

Posted by Paul Boye, Wed, February 16, 2011 08:15 AM Comments: 27

Cole Hamels enters the 2011 season as the youngest of the heralded Phillies starting rotation, having just turned 27 this past December. He’s already pitched four full seasons – plus the majority of a fifth – in the Major Leagues, and has established himself as a premier pitcher entering his prime.

The problem that comes attached to every premier player is, of course, money. There’s no sense of panic in Hamels’s case, as he and the Phillies still maintain an arbitration-eligible year of control in 2012, but as Cole continues to perform, his price continues to go up. Among a roster that already features multiple large contracts that go beyond 2012, will the Phillies have room in the payroll for Hamels, and still be able to field a full, competitive roster?

These and other concerns discussed after the jump.

Continue reading Expectations for Cole’s Next Contract

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