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Ladies and gents, the first ever Phillies Nation mailbag!
I took some of these questions from our comments over the past few days. But please, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in on the action. Here we go:
“Tim, do you think the league caught up with Durbin or something else that made him get hit late in the year?”
It wasn’t so much that the league “caught up,” but more the success of advanced scouting. I’m sure early in the season National League teams had trouble determining his stuff, but as the season wore on, teams knew what he had — pretty average stuff. Moreover, a lot of his worst outings came the day after pitching well against the very same team. For proof, he had a 4.58 ERA with no-days rest, while pitching much better with more rest. Batters were ready for him the second time around. That doesn’t bode particularly well for 2009.
“Utley in left, or first base? Is the time now?”
The idea made me think for a moment, but there’s no way I’d do it now. If you go back to that Beyond the Box Score piece about second basemen, you’d see Utley was worth 21 runs at second base — meaning, he likely saved 21 runs with his glove. Considering probably no left fielder will save 21 runs, losing Utley’s glove at second isn’t worth the experiment. I understand you want to keep him healthy, but it’s too early to make a move like that. Wait another two or three years.
“Does [Charlie] Manuel call the games, or does he let [Carlos] Ruiz?”
Ruiz and his pitchers call the games, but there’s much more to it. Pitching Coach Rich Dubee works with the pitchers and Ruiz to strategize opposing hitters throughout the season. Manuel will offer his opinions, but I’d assume he stays away from calling much of the games. If anything, he makes more long-term adjustments.
“If Pat doesn’t return who would you prefer: Milton Bradley or Garrett Atkins? I know you are high on Bradley but to me Atkins seems to be the more attractive option. He could fit in nicely platooning with the lefties or completely take over the corner outfield spot just as Werth did this year based on performance.”
Atkins is attractive, but Bradley is simply more proven as an everyday outfielder and offensive player. Atkins has decreased his productivity in the last few years, though it still remains solid. But I’m more worried about Coors Field — he slugs .527 at home, but just .424 away from Coors. Sure he’d be fine in a platoon role with Jenkins and/or Stairs, but the Phillies need a top right-handed producer. I’m not so sure Werth will take that fully; I’d rather see something concrete out there, and Bradley remains the best option for the best price (remember, Atkins would cost a prospect or two).