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Utley Receives Cortisone Shot; Panic Time?

Posted by Paul Boye, Sat, March 05, 2011 11:48 AM Comments: 17

If you weren’t worried before about Chase Utley’s lingering patellar tendinitis, well, this may change your mind.

Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that Utley’s condition has not improved in the five days since its initial diagnosis, and the team has upped the ante, administering a cortisone shot to the ailing knee. Just like Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt and Placido Polanco before him, Utley now has a corticosteroid trying to soothe his wound.

As Salisbury notes in his article, no improvement in five days isn’t good. It’s not necessarily catastrophic or even indicative of Utley missing regular season time, but it’s certainly not encouraging.

Talks of Michael Young are sure to kick up again, but at $16M annually through 2013, he’s not a fit unless his salary is paid nearly in full. And maybe not even then. What seems most likely is more playing time for Wilson Valdez, should Utley miss time.

Does this latest news set you to worrying yet? Were you already there? Or are you still confident that Utley will be fine in 2011, and that this will prove to be nothing but a small nuisance, a speed bump?


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


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


Top Moment #14: A Near-Perfect Pitchers’ Duel in Series of Walk-Offs

Posted by Paul Boye, Tue, February 01, 2011 01:32 PM Comments: 1

Roy Halladay and Travis Wood each went nine innings, but neither pitched a complete game. Neither allowed a run, but neither recorded a win or loss. They combined to strike out 17 batters – and allow only six total hits – while Wood came within one Carlos Ruiz double (in the ninth, no less) of a perfect game.

I suppose it was only fitting that, in a Phillies/Reds series populated by walk-off wins, this one would need a couple of extra frames to be decided, too.

Through eight innings, Travis Wood had absolutely baffled the Phils. His performance seemed to be the latest in a string of average-or-worse lefties throwing gems against Philly hitters (at least, that’s how it looked. Whether the Phils really struggled so mightily isn’t really known for sure), but another perfect game in 2010 on top of Halladay’s and Dallas Braden’s? That seemed a bit excessive, and Ruiz seemed to agree.

With Wood’s perfecto/no-hitter attempt neatly filed away in the trash, the Phils turned their attention to actually winning the game and getting Halladay his 11th win of the season. Alas, a curious strategic decision (having Wilson Valdez bunt) failed, and Chooch would not score.

At least, not in the ninth.

In the 11th, Chooch hit another double, this time with one out. After an intentional walk to Valdez (thanks, Dusty) and a fly out from Ross Gload, Jimmy Rollins came to the plate looking to give the Phils their third straight, extra-inning walk-off win against Cincy. And he would deliver. Chooch had no problem scoring from second base here (nudge, nudge, Cholly), and the Phils prevailed. They would cap off a four-game sweep the following day, and head into the all-star break on a roll. Fitting bit of symmetry that we near our own half-way point of this countdown on a bit of a roll ourselves! Keep your eyes peeled for TM #13.


Cole Hamels and Approach

Posted by Paul Boye, Fri, January 28, 2011 08:40 AM Comments: 8

(Originally posted Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 4:05 pm.)

Cole Hamels’s bouncing back from a rough 2009 was one of many welcomed surprises in 2010. While a few different things were to blame for Cole’s rough ’09 – be it his slow, injured start to the year or plain old bad luck at times – there seems to have been a noticeable change in his approach and, consequently, a change in his pitches’ locations.

That’s a statement that seems sort of obvious in its elemental nature; Cole had a better season and, at its core, that was because he made better pitches. That’s something we saw throughout the 2010 season, but not something we could tangibly see in detail. Well, until now, anyway.

After the jump, let’s take a look at two of Cole’s pitches and how they differed in 2009 and 2010.

Continue reading Cole Hamels and Approach


Brown, Singleton Make MLB.com’s Top 50 Prospect List

Posted by Paul Boye, Thu, January 27, 2011 07:40 PM Comments: 3

(Originally posted Jan 25 at 10:40 pm.)

In case you missed it….

Furnished by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com’s Top 50 Prospects list features two Phillies farmhands this season.

Top Philly prospect Domonic Brown comes in at No. 4 on Mayo’s list, behind the Angels’ Mike Trout, Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson and Nationals’ No. 1 pick Bryce Harper. First baseman Jonathan Singleton, who burst onto the scene with a strong first half in 2010, came in at No. 30.

Across Double-A and Triple-A in 2010, Brown, 23, hit .327/.391/.589 with 20 HR in 389 plate appearances. Brown retains his “prospect” – and rookie – eligibility by accruing fewer than 130 at-bats and 45 days of service before the September 1 roster expansion date. Singleton, 19, hit .290/.393/.479 with 14 HR in 450 plate appearances for Single-A Lakewood in 2010. Singleton will reportedly see time in left field this season.

Full top 50 list after the jump.

Continue reading Brown, Singleton Make MLB.com’s Top 50 Prospect List


Top Moment #17: Fair? Foul? Either way, a Win in Florida

Posted by Paul Boye, Fri, January 21, 2011 05:48 PM Comments: 5

For eight innings, things were mostly uneventful on August 5. The Phillies were trailing the Marlins, 4-2, in South Florida, and the Phillies’ three-game winning streak was in some hot water. Roy Oswalt had a middling start turned into a deficit by J.C. Romero, while Chris Volstad and a pair of Marlins relievers held the Phils at bay.

The, the ninth inning rolled around, and things began to get interesting. Placido Polanco led off by reaching on a Hanley Ramirez error. Ross Gload followed with a single off Marlins reliever Leo Nunez, and Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth chipped in with their own RBI hits to tie the game.

So, with runners on first and third with no one out, the Phillies looked primed to take the lead. A series of baserunning gaffes, however, curiously ended the threat. If you don’t want to subject yourself to the highlight video, the blow-by-blow was as follows:

  • Raul Ibanez is caught between third and home on a grounder to first, one out.
  • Jayson Werth is picked off second, two out.
  • Domonic Brown, who reached on Ibanez’s fielder’s choice, is caught stealing second with Chooch up, three out.

So, with a combination of two mental errors and a suspect strategic decision, the Phillies had squandered a chance to take the lead in the ninth. The Marlins, looking to capitalize, had Hanley Ramirez leading off against Ryan Madson. Madson plunks Hanley, strikes out Logan Morrison as Hanley steals second, and settles in to face Marlins rookie first baseman Gaby Sanchez. Then, on a 1-1 pitch, Madson threw a fastball that Sanchez appeared to pull a should-have-been game-winning hit down the third base line.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The “hit” was deemed foul, Sanchez proceeded to strike out, and Madson escaped trouble. Fittingly, Ruiz, still at-bat after being at the plate when Brown was caught stealing, led off the tenth with a laser home run, a solo shot that proved to be the deciding margin in a wacky late-inning affair. Some saw it as karmic payback (albeit a month-and-a-half late) for a Braves win against the Tigers in June that had its own curious circumstances.

Whatever the case, with a little help, the Phils had stretched out a four-game winning streak, and remained hot on Atlanta’s heels.


Top Moment #18: Roy O. Shags a Fly, Howard Goes Off, Phils Lose in Extras

Posted by Paul Boye, Thu, January 20, 2011 12:54 PM Comments: 12

This was a wild one. There’s really no better way to put it.

It started out innocently enough, with the pesky Astros coming to town to pit Bud Norris against Cole Hamels. Cole entered the game looking to bounce back from a subpar start against the Giants in his last outing, and the Phillies were just hoping to keep pace with Atlanta in the East.

As has been common throughout his career – at least, it seems – Cole had a great outing with no run support, throwing seven innings of two-run ball with eight strikeouts, but left the game trailing 2-1. The Phils had opportunities in the eighth and ninth to tie the game, but a bad caught stealing by Jimmy Rollins and a RISP flyout from Carlos Ruiz ended those chances. Things looked bleakly frustrating as the Phillies entered the bottom of the ninth, still down 2-1 with Ruiz, a pinch-hitter and Jimmy Rollins due up. Chooch and PH Mike Sweeney both grounded out to short, leaving J-Roll as the last hope.

Jimmy made up for his baserunning error by delivering a game-tying homer to right field on a 3-1 count, tying the game and kicking off what would become an epic string of extra innings.

Jose Contreras escaped a jam in the eleventh by getting a pop fly double play with two on and one out. Madson escaped similar trouble in the twelfth, retiring Michael Bourn with two on and two out. Ryan Howard struck out with the winning run on third in the fourteenth.

Well, there’s a little more to the story than that.

Howard was called out on the swing by third base umpire Scott Barry – remember him? – and was ejected right after that for tossing his bat, sending the Big Man into a frenzy. It was difficult to blame Howard for this. Sure, he probably could have stood to not toss his bat away, but Barry was obviously on a short fuse for whatever reason, mimicking Howard’s hands-on-hips initial reaction, then wasting no time in ejecting him despite the situation.

With Howard gone and the bench empty, Charlie Manuel had to get creative. He moved Raul Ibanez in from left field to play first, a position he hadn’t played since 2005, and brought in Roy Oswalt to play left field. It was pretty obvious where the balls in play were going that inning, wasn’t it? Oswalt made the most celebrated, routine fly catch in history. Ibanez made a great play at first on a Bourn bunt, and the train kept on rolling.

Unfortunately, with the bullpen and bench exhausted, Oswalt was pressed into duty with the bat in the sixteenth, after the Astros took a two-run lead in the top half. The Cinderella story ends with a weak grounder to third, but the legend lives on, as this game goes down as one of the strangest in recent memory.


Phillies, Francisco Agree to Deal, Avoid Arbitration

Posted by Paul Boye, Sat, January 15, 2011 04:21 PM Comments: 16

The Phillies and outfielder Ben Francisco have agreed to a $1.175 million contract for the 2011 season, avoiding an arbitration hearing in the process.

Francisco hit .268/.327/.441 in 197 PA in 2010, and has a .272/.323/.471 line in 301 Philly PA since coming over with Cliff Lee from the Indians in July 2009. He is arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2011, and his signing leaves Kyle Kendrick as the lone unsigned arb-eligible player. Francisco figures to see a bump in playing time this season, being a right-handed complement to both Raul Ibanez and top prospect Domonic Brown in left and right field, respectively.


Utley or Cano?

Posted by Paul Boye, Fri, January 14, 2011 03:30 PM Comments: 18

Thursday, Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley responded to a quote from an article at Beyond the Box Score comparing Chase Utley and Robinson Cano, two of baseball’s elite second basemen. The BtB article’s conclusion straddled the fence rather nicely.

Robinson Cano is a very good player. Chase Utley is a very good player. If you want the second-baseman who will put the ball in play more and make flashier looking plays with the glove, then you take Cano. If you want the second-baseman who will make fewer outs and save more runs defensively, then you take Utley.

If Utley doesn’t bounce back at the plate – while Cano maintains his production from 2010 – then we’ll need to revisit this and perhaps give the Yankee the edge. If someone wants to take up the banner for Cano right now though, I’d be glad to hear the arguments.

And Mr. Baer’s conclusion rings out resoundingly in favor of the Philly.

Right now, I take Utley without hesitation. Last year in what was a career year for Cano, he was worth 6.4 fWAR. Utley, in a career-worst year, was worth 5.2. Utley at his worst is still very close to Cano at his best — that’s just how good Utley is.

Advanced metrics favor Utley by a fair margin, especially when defense is factored in. Cano has built a reputation of making plays with a splash, flashing a strong arm or quick pivot. Utley, meanwhile, has recently been maligned for a couple of poorly timed playoff errors, but has been about as reliable a second baseman as you could find in the game today.

Really, this is a comparison of two different styles. Cano is a contact specialist with improving power, while Utley is a disciplined hitter with established (some may say declining) four-corner power.

Both players have contracts that could run as long as through the 2013 season. Here’s how they break down.

  • Cano: $10M in 2011, $14M in 2012 (club option), $15M in 2013 (club option)
  • Utley: $15M in 2011, 2012 and 2013 (all guaranteed, with partial no-trade and award incentives)

The biggest edge Cano has is that he’s about four years younger than Utley, so if asked which second baseman they would prefer to start a franchise with, I’m sure plenty of executives would pick Cano. Given his age and combined $6M in savings over Utley through their concurrent contract years, there’s probably enough there to sway votes.

But for one year – namely, 2011 – who would you rather have? Would you rather have Cano’s contact, and hope his power makes up for his lack of elite on-base skills, or Utley’s eye and defense, banking on a rebound from an injury-shortened 2010?

Given this is a Phillies blog, I expect the answers to lean a certain way. All the same, who’s your pick?

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