Commentary: We are all crazy

Posted by Pat Gallen, Fri, July 24, 2009 08:25 AM Comments: 106

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay watches from the dugout during a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Toronto on Friday, July 17, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)Crazy can be good, crazy can be bad.  But lump us all into the same boat right now. What I mean by that statement is, Phillies fans, generally speaking, are getting into crazy territory.

On one hand, fandom is at an all time high, and I couldn’t be happier for this city, this franchise, this great group of people who follow this team inside and out everyday.  We pack the house nightly, spending our hard earned money on a team that knows how to entertain.

On the other hand, we’ve become unhinged over a player; a man who plays in country just north of here.  The Roy Halladay Extravaganza has nearly reached its fever pitch, and people everywhere are constantly refreshing their browser waiting, hoping, for an update.  I’m just as guilty as the rest, perhaps because my “job” is to write about all things Phillies, and I’m somewhat ashamed of my actions.

As far as being a fan, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed myself more than I have over the last year.  As I walked into Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday for game two of the Cubs series, the stadium appeared to be a giant magnet.  People were being sucked through the gates by forces foreign to them.  Forty-five thousand strong all pulled in by a team that gives us reason to care.

But do we care a bit too much?  The constant trade proposals by armchair GM’s has hit a new level that may be unparalleled.  It certainly shows that the fan is immersed in the day-to-day happenings of the organization, but it also reflects the relative obsession over one player.  Over and over in my head, and occasionally on a pad of paper, I’ve written down Halladay’s name and below it the names of rotating Phillies farmhands that may be involved.  Sickness? You betcha.

Do I want to see Roy Halladay in red pinstripes?  Who doesn’t.  But, do I spend far too much time on the subject? Guilty as charged. Only a few more days until the madness subsides and we get back to breaking down spray charts and how Chan Ho Park fares with runners on and two out in high leverage situations in the month of August.

We might all be crazy, but at least we’re crazy together, rooting for the same craziness in the same crazy ballpark.


Removing Lidge Would Cause Great Concern

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, April 29, 2009 10:28 AM Comments: 55

LidgeCurrently we’re being told Brad Lidge should be fine and just needs a few days rest. He could be ready to pitch tonight against Washington. Still, there is a sense of paranoia surrounding Lidge, since this knee problem isn’t anything new (it was the body part that received surgery before 2008).

If we remove Lidge from the bullpen, here’s the composition:

Closer: Ryan Madson
Setup: Chad Durbin
LOOGY: Scott Eyre
Middle: Clay Condrey
Middle: Gary Majewski/Mike Koplove/Tyler Walker
Middle Lefty: Jack Taschner
Long: JA Happ

Scared? You bet I am.

It’s nothing against Durbin (who was fantastic in 3.2 innings yesterday) or Condrey (currently ninth in the ESPN Cy Predictor), but their quick overuse has me paranoid. Moreover, while Madson has the physical stuff to save games, does he have the mental stuff? His trial run against the Nationals was a nice preview, but that was the Nationals. What about this weekend against the Mets, a team who knows Madson very well (though he does have a 2.89 ERA against New York)?

Point is, the Phils are already down one reliever (JC Romero) and can’t afford to lose another high-leverage specialist. It might suffice for a week. But a DL stint? No thanks.

So how could the Phils remedy things if Lidge had to hit the DL?

Maybe bringing up a young fireballer (Jason Knapp?) could be the crazy idea that might work.


PN 2009 Season Preview: Issues – Injuries

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Mon, March 30, 2009 01:00 PM Comments: 0

Now, let’s look at the first of five major issues concerning the 2009 Phillies: Injuries.



5th Starter’s Opener Might Be Weeks Away

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, March 25, 2009 10:16 AM Comments: 17

For all this talk about a fifth starter, there may not even be one announced until mid April.

David Murphy brings up a solid point in his latest blog post: The Phillies can work with a four-man rotation (even with Cole Hamels returning April 10) until April 15 in Washington.

Here is Murphy’s designed predicted rotation:

March 26: Carlos Carrasco.
March 27: Brett Myers
March 28: Jamie Moyer and J.A. Happ
March 29: Joe Blanton and Cole Hamels
March 30: Chan Ho Park
March 31: Myers
April 1: Carrasco
April 2: Jamie Moyer*
April 3: Joe Blanton*
April 4: Cole Hamels*
April 5 (Braves): Myers*
April 7 (Braves): Moyer*
April 8 (Braves): Blanton*
April 10 (Rockies): Hamels*
April 11 (Rockies): Myers*
April 12 (Rockies): Moyer*
April 13 (Nationals): Blanton*
April 15 (Nationals): Happ/Park*

* Projected

That means Happ can start the season in triple-A, starting the IronPigs season opener April 9. That would make the Philadelphia pitching staff look like this: Hamels/Myers/Moyer/Blanton/Lidge/Madson/Durbin/Eyre/Condrey/Park. That makes 10 pitchers. The 11th?

Gary Majewski.

Murphy thinks the right-handed veteran will make the team soon enough, and I agree – he’s pitched well enough to make it (3.27 ERA this spring). Once April 15 comes, Happ moves up and a hitter moves to Lehigh Valley (or either Matt Stairs or Geoff Jenkins is traded by then).

The moral of the story? Nothing will be completely determined yet.


Stairs Might Be Unfortunate Victim Of Roster Clog

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, March 19, 2009 07:11 AM Comments: 20

There are two types of players stirring in the Phillies outfield logjam. One is the older and brutish player (Raul Ibanez, Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs); the other is the younger and speedier (Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, John Mayberry Jr.). It’s evident the Phillies have room for just five of these players, and the final spot will go to either Jenkins, Stairs or Mayberry.

The finalists’ spring totals:

Jenkins: 26 AB / .231 AVG / 2 2B / 1 HR / 5 RBI / 7 K
Stairs: 22 AB / .318 AVG / 3 2B / 0 HR / 4 RBI / 1 SB / 4 K
Mayberry: 51 AB / .275 AVG / 5 2B / 3 HR / 10 RBI / 1 SB / 16 SO

Clearly Stairs has lived up to his professional hitter mantra. Jenkins and Mayberry have performed similarly at the plate, but Mayberry has exhibited a bit more versatility with his hitting. Defensively, Mayberry has been the best of the three, making just sporadic rookie mistakes. Jenkins has been his usual self, limited slightly in coverage and holding an average arm. Stairs has been a notch below, but has mostly seen designated hitter time.

Yesterday I wrote Mayberry and Jenkins should make the roster, leaving Stairs out as a potential trade chip. That argument has garnered the most attention, considering Stairs’ fan-favorite status. But the fact remains the Phils have too many outfielders, not enough bench options against left-handed pitching and Jenkins’ exorbitant contract. Leaving Stairs out of the final roster would actually be unfair, but ultimately necessary.

The Phils can keep Stairs with the club and give Mayberry more time to work on his discipline — with 500 at bats he’d have 165 strikeouts, but at some point the move will be made. At some point the Phils will choose to go with youth and speed over age and brute. If they don’t, opposing managers will have an easy time navigating through the Phillies bench.


Roster Evaluation: Promote Mayberry, Demote Happ (For Now)

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, March 18, 2009 03:30 PM Comments: 25

This weekend I witnessed three of the more telling spring games featuring our favorite Phillies. Sunday it was an all-cameras, filled-to-the-brim venture against the Cardinals that shone the spotlight on Chase Utley and almost all the regulars. Monday it was a Bronx Bomber beatdown in the concrete calamity that is Steinbrenner Field. And Tuesday it was a shamrock-shake of a blowout against the Red Stockings, back at the House.

Usually St. Patrick’s Day is the right time to take stock of the spring messages, cull some sort of argument about the team’s 25-man roster and its goals for the year ahead.

The goal is very simple: There was nothing in these three days that indicated the Phils couldn’t be a heavyweight contender in 2009. Yes, Virginia, there is a certain chance the Phils can successfully defend their commissioner’s trophy. And anything less than a third-consecutive playoff berth is failure.

But the roster isn’t simple. There are mixes and mashups flung all over the place. Could this guy return? What about his status? Oh, and then there’s the ace, Mr. Everything’s OK … but we might not make it for Jon Miller, Joe Morgan and Steve Phillips. He might need a couple days more.

Still, as I wrap my head around an exhausting and thrilling four-day sojourn through the land of grapefruit, I come to my — as of March 18 — conclusive Phillies roster idea.

The 25-Man Roster

Carlos Ruiz
Ronny Paulino

Ruiz is the everyday starter, a shoo-in for a 25-man spot. Paulino is another story. The 27-year-old has performed OK this spring (.350 OBP, .471 SLG) while incumbent Chris Coste has yet to record a GFL hit. Moreover, Coste poses some trade bait for a team seeking veteran catching. Paulino seems ready to step in behind Ruiz.

Ryan Howard
Chase Utley
Pedro Feliz
Jimmy Rollins
Greg Dobbs
Eric Bruntlett
Pablo Ozuna

Howard is bashing but still swinging and missing. Utley and Feliz both look on point for April 5, and that’s more a miracle than if Howard were to creep back into the .280 neighborhood. Rollins may be having the best spring of any Phillie, as he’s regularly providing big hits and defense in high-pressure situations for his USA WBC team. Dobbs is Dobbs and has a cemented spot. Bruntlett has performed well (.449 OBP leads eligible Phils) in all facets. Ozuna makes the team as a 14th hitter — he’s tearing it up this spring, has power and eye and can play multiple positions. Might be interesting to see which of he or Bruntlett can hang longer.

Raul Ibanez
Shane Victorino
Jayson Werth
Geoff Jenkins
John Mayberry Jr.

Ibanez has been a nice change of pace at the plate, and I love his hit-to-all-fields style. Victorino is a shoo-in. Werth, too, and he looks ready to go. I still hold faith in Jenkins and think he’ll provide the power necessary off the bench. Mayberry makes the squad out of all the utility battlers — he has power and speed, glove and size, and no more time in triple-A will cut down on his strikeouts. He’s too toolsy to keep down.

Starting Pitchers
Cole Hamels
Brett Myers
Jamie Moyer
Joe Blanton
Chan Ho Park

Hamels should be ready by mid-April at the very latest. And that’s fine. Myers has been tremendous and his latest start was outstanding. Moyer: Steady as she goes. Blanton, too. Park beats Happ because he’s a focused and experienced righty with rejuvenated stuff (the changeup courtesy Mr. Moyer) and a real sense of place. He’s the right guy to start 2009.

Relief Pitchers
Brad Lidge
Ryan Madson
Chad Durbin
Scott Eyre
Clay Condrey
Gary Majewski

Lidge, Madson, Durbin, Eyre and Condrey seem poised to start in the bullpen. I’m going with carrying 11 pitchers, and Majewski (not Happ) is my final piece. So far Majewski has shown to be an experienced out-creating pitcher who can rattle off multiple innings if necessary. Look for more Condrey to start the season, too. Happ will be on the 25-man, but should get starters’ innings in Lehigh Valley until one of the starters east breaks or fails (which will happen).

Optioned/Assigned to Lehigh Valley

Lou Marson

Marson hasn’t show much offensive prowess this spring, but he’ll be ready for a 2010 starting competition. This is the year he acclimates himself to big-time pitching, improving his power along the way.


Jason Donald
Mike Cervenak
Marcus Giles
Miguel Cairo
Andy Tracy
JJ Furmaniak

Cervenak, Furmaniak and Tracy already received the cut. They could be released at any point. Giles might want to scout other clubs, too, but so far this spring he hasn’t brought his best. Cairo has been fantastic, and I’d hope the Phils retain him because he could come up large later in the season. Donald has had a fantastic spring (.333 AVG, .434 OBP, .422 SLG). He needs to play nine innings a day, and will do that in Lehigh Valley. He might be your future third baseman.

Jeremy Slayden
Jason Ellison

Slayden is a nice power bat but isn’t quite forecast for the majors. Ellison might prove worthy in a coffee cup situation, much like Brandon Watson last season (who I thought would get time, but never did). They’ll likely join Javon Moran in the Allentown outfield.

Starting Pitchers
Carlos Carrasco
Kyle Kendrick
JA Happ
Andrew Carpenter

Carrasco needs a little more time to work before he heads east. He’ll be with the Phillies proper by August at the latest. Kendrick really needs to develop that changeup; his performance this spring indicates he won’t touch Philadelphia anytime soon. Happ is the odd-man out to start but will be the first up if/once pitching falters. One could see a final-day rotation of Hamels/Myers/Blanton/Happ/Carrasco. Carpenter could go to the bullpen, could stay in the rotation, but one thing’s for sure: He isn’t ready for the show.

Relief Pitchers
Scott Nestor
Dave Borkowski
Mike Koplove
Yorman Bazardo
Blaine Neal
Joe Bisenius
Justin Lehr
Jake Woods

Some of these pitchers will not be in the system this season. I’d keep Nestor (already cut), Borkowski, Koplove and Bisenius. Borkowski and Koplove have shown the most this spring, but compared to the experienced Majewski, they fall short.


Chris Coste: Trading block. A team looking for a veteran might dangle a little more than organizational filler for him.
Matt Stairs: Trading block, or if he doesn’t mind, triple-A. But if Mayberry makes the team, Stairs isn’t.
Brad Harman: Could even go down to double-A.
Sergio Escalona: Wouldn’t be surprised if he reached double-A, as well.
Antonio Bastardo: Ditto.


While Donald Turns Heads, Keep Time In Mind

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, March 12, 2009 05:52 AM Comments: 33

While a lot of young hitting talk has centered on John Mayberry Jr., in three weeks Jason Donald has made quite a splash. The 24-year-old infield prospect had three hits yesterday, raising his Grapefruit League average to .379.

Add these numbers (plus his 1-for-3, HR line against Team USA) to his recent U.S. Olympic team and Arizona Fall League totals and Donald is hitting an oustanding .395 (57-for-144) with 7 HR and 26 RBI. Since being called up to Reading, Donald is hitting .332 (168-for-506) with 21 HR and 80 RBI. Sure it’s double-A and triple-A pitching he’s facing most of the time, but one can’t deny the steady – and often dominant – bat Donald is carrying.

As we all know, Donald’s roadblock is the talented infield at the major league level. And now that Pedro Feliz has returned from back surgery, it’s hard to think Donald would get regular time at the MLB level. As it stands, the best bet is to keep Donald at AAA Lehigh Valley – giving him another chance at 500 at bats – then letting him take the regular third base job in 2010, denying Feliz his club option.

If this situation seems familiar, it is. Back in 2003, the Phils had another 24-year-old prospect itching to be a regular in the majors. He too was blocked by an established infielder with a substantial contract. Thanks to injury, the prospect – Chase Utley – received some time and paid it off with his raw hitting talent. Yet he still couldn’t break through. After spending much of ’03 in AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Utley was part of the Phillies roster in 2004, but platooned with that established infielder, Placido Polanco.

The good thing for Donald is he should start playing regularly in the majors by age 25, not age 26 like Utley. That’s something to remember for those wondering if Donald will ever make the show. Donald himself knows it takes time, and no matter what, he wants to improve his game:

“I’d rather be in the big leagues. That’s the ultimate goal for anybody who signs a contract. If they feel like I’m ready to do that and take on that role, I’ll gladly accept that. If they feel like I need to play more in Triple-A and get more at-bats, then I’ll do that, too.”

That sounds eerily like Utley, who in 2003 said he wanted to be in the bigs, but understood how things worked and knew triple-A could be beneficial for his training. What also sounds eerily like Utley is Donald’s current scouting report. Again in 2002 and ’03, Utley was considered one of the team’s top-five prospects. He was an infielder without a true position, but with amazing work ethic, and he could just plain hit.

Now look at Utley.

Don’t doubt the progression of Jason Donald for one moment.


Good Players Under 25? Not Quite The Phillies’ Forte

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, March 10, 2009 01:52 PM Comments: 16

Project Prospect has posted their list of the top 50 hitters under age 25 (and their top 10 for each position). Interestingly, not one hitter in the Phillies organization is listed.

Then again, who would be? John Mayberry Jr. (he would’ve just made the list, as of Nov. 1, 2008)? Michael Taylor? Dominic Brown? Lou Marson? Jason Donald? Sorry, but none of these players were good enough to crack the top 50 – moreover, there’s only one player on the major league roster under age 25, and that’s Cole Hamels.

Hamels, meanwhile, is ranked fifth in the pitchers list. Of course, the ranking already hints at dropping because his strikeout percentage has dropped the last three seasons (despite his WHIP and ERA falling, too). Joba Chamberlain is ranked higher.

It does bring up the question of how good the Phillies under after their foundation players; that’s still remain to be seen. For now, everything is constructive.


Majewski Leads Current Bullpen Race

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, March 10, 2009 09:00 AM Comments: 17

A bunch of players are competing for seemingly the final bullpen spot (at least until JC Romero returns from his 50-game suspension). While only one candidate is a left-hander, that doesn’t mean the Phillies are in a bad spot. My opinion: It’s not necessary to carry two situational lefties out of the pen if you have pitchers who can get all hitters out. The Phils have those pitchers.

So far one can handicap Gary Majewski as the favorite after a few weeks. He’s been almost dominant, and he’s the subject of Jim Salisbury’s piece today.

Majewski, 29, had his share of shoulder woes in the last few seasons, but has a pedigree. His 79-game, 2.93 ERA season of 2005 stands out even today. Since he has seen success in triple-A but failure in the big leagues. Splits don’t reveal anything (except lefties had trouble producing off him in 2008), but Majewski says his slider is feeling and looking great. And his sinker, which he throws against righties, is in great shape too.

Dave Borkowski
The 32-year-old was last with the Astros, where he saw limited time and recorded a 7.50 ERA. He’s never had success in the majors, which is working against him. He’s having a fine spring, striking out a lot of hitters; then again, he’s always had pretty decent K/9 ratios.

Mike Koplove
Local product Koplove, 32, had his best seasons in the early 2000s with Arizona, but has since found it tougher to reach the big leagues. He’s a solid control pitcher who can get outs if balls are hit to his fielders; otherwise, he’ll be in big trouble. Think Kyle Kendrick.

Scott Nestor
You’d think the Marlins product was a major leaguer at some point, but no. His last very successful year was in high-A ball, so he’s nothing special. Still, he’s a great strikeout pitcher, K’ing close to 10 per nine innings every season. So far he’s seen little time and has walked more than K’d. His chances remain slim.

Blaine Neal
The former Marlin and Marlton, N.J., product had small success years back, but has recently been bouncing in the minors. He was a star in the International League last year, recording a 1.21 ERA for Toledo. He’s also seen very little time and remains a slim hope.

Antonio Bastardo
The only prospect with hopes of reaching the pen this way, Bastardo has had a mixed spring. The normally strong strikeout pitcher has continued that trend, K’ing four in three Grapefruit League innings. He also gave up a couple longballs, which remains his Achilles heel. In a sixth-inning role he might be passable; right now he still needs work if he wants to become a late-innings threat.

Currently I’d say Majewski can pitch his way to the 25-man roster. Borkowski and Koplove have their shots, but if Majewski can continue his steady performance, he’s in. And I’m happy with that.


Jayson Werth’s Absence No Issue, Phillies Say

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, February 27, 2009 09:42 AM Comments: 16

Jayson Werth hasn’t played an inning yet, and won’t do so until at least Saturday. But according to the Phillies, it’s not an issue. From Charlie Manuel, via David Murphy:

“He’s just not ready to go. He’s just not ready to go yet. Swinging, running, everything. That happens a lot. It’s no big deal. He’s not a whole lot out of shape, just the way he’s been going through it.”

So Werth is training awkwardly? It’s slightly off-putting that Werth wasn’t ready to start playing games. Is he aching? Is he tired? I don’t quite understand how someone who’s supposedly not injured is having trouble playing simple Spring Training baseball. Even if he was “out of shape,” he could still play.

It’s interesting to note that Werth experienced some growing pains last spring. He scuffled for the first few weeks of play; still, he came out of the gates strong in 2008. For now this whole “issue” isn’t an issue, and we can take it with a grain of salt. But that fishy smell isn’t too far away.

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