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Philadelphia Phillies 2010 Preview

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, April 05, 2010 07:30 AM Comments: 11

Philadelphia Phillies: (93-69, 1st place – NL East)

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.  But before we get into the year that will be, let’s remember another fine year that was.

Maybe it wasn’t always pretty throughout 2009, but whatever they did, it got the job done.  Sure, Jimmy Rollins struggled for a good part of the season. Yes, Cole Hamels was a shell of his former-self

the entire year.  We know, Ryan Howard strikes out too much.  Brad Lidge? Let’s not even go there.  Through it all, the ups and downs, the Philadelphia Phillies reached yet another World Series, solidifying this cast and crew as the makers of the new Golden Era in Phillies History.

The good far outweighed the bad.  All-stars? We got ‘em (try five of ‘em). The entire Phillies outfield made the trip to St. Louis for the festivities last July, and with them went the regulars, Howard and Chase Utley.  Charlie Manuel went too, he was the skipper.  All was good by mid-season with all of those All-Stars.

Offensively speaking, you can’t ask for much more out of this lineup.  The Phillies paced the National League in runs with 820, home runs with 224, and OPS with a .781 mark. Davy Lopes, the astute forefather of running helped the Phils to an 81 percent stolen base rate, by far the best in the senior circuit.  Top to bottom, it’s just as feared as an American League lineup.

In the arms race, there were many ups and downs, but if you’re a student of the game, you understand that’s just the way it is.  Injuries always seem to take their toll over the course of 162 games.  In ’09, Jamie Moyer was shut down later in the season, the now-departed Brett Myers shuffled back to the bullpen after another failed stint in the rotation, and then, there was Cole.

Our 2008 savior fell flat on his face in 2009, admittedly coming in out of shape and out of focus.  His ERA ballooned, his confidence sunk like a brick, and his work ethic became a joke.  He was unable to emulate the very thing that won him the World Series MVP.  Confidence.  It was lacking from the first pitch and never seemed to reappear.

Then came Cliff Lee.  He energized this town mid-year and ripped through the NL, become a folk hero of sorts. His stay was short, but the memories he provided will linger on forever.  And then?  NLDS, check. NLCS, easy. World Series? Not so much.

The Phillies ran into the buzzsaw that was the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic.  It was a hell of a year, there’s no denying that.  However, there will always be a sour taste after a defeat at the hands of the evil empire.  But that’s what “next season” is all about.

2010 Season:

And, here we are.  The calendar has turned to April – spring is upon us.  That means all 32 teams have a chance at achieving immortality on the diamond.  Some have a better chance than others.  Right now, the Phillies are one of those teams that stand above the rest.

In the offseason, two moves signified a new way of thinking in Philadelphia.  It’s something never before seen in these parts.  In December, Ruben and the Boys figured, let’s go get the best arm in the American League and plop him down in the NL East.  Roy Halladay, you’re now a Phillie.  On the other hand, there’s no more Cliff Lee, but I think we can get past that.

Halladay WILL be a beast.  His work ethic is legendary, his performance on the mound speaks for itself.  After years of stymying the likes of the Yanks and Sawks, it’s now on to a league where the pitcher bats for himself.  The results could be, and should be, mindblowing.

On the offensive side, the Phillies sent Pedro Feliz packing and brought in a familiar face; Placido Polanco.  Polly brings a stabilizing force to the top of the order, making an all-world offense even more efficient.  He won’t burn the bases with his speed, but he has a high baseball IQ and rarely strikes out. Perfect.

The rest of the names you know.  Raul Ibanez will need a bounce-back after a lousy second half and a throwaway spring.  Does he have it in him?  Jayson Werth is in a contract-year situation, so many eyes are on where he will head after the year.  For now, let’s cherish what we still have: a 30-homer, 90-RBI, balls-out type player.  Shane Victorino might be sliding down to 7th in the lineup, but he’ll still have his smile on.  He’ll now be called upon more as a run-producer than at any time in his career, as he’s sure to see a lot of Howard, Werth, and Ibanez on the basepaths ahead of him.

Ryan, Chase, and Jimmy – you know what you’re getting every single game, every single inning.  The pitching staff is lacking without the arm of Joe Blanton, however, Kyle Kendrick can now prove he’s a new man after emulating Doc all spring.  J.A. Happ will need to continue his maturation, and the bullpen is a liquid that quickly needs to become a solid, even with the question marks that are Brad Lidge, JC Romero, and Antonio Bastardo.

The main focus will be on Cole Hamels and whether or not he can prove ’08 wasn’t a fluke.  He has the stuff, now he needs to put it all together once again.

In conclusion, this team is great.  Can greatness be achieved one again? The NL East is improved from a year ago, meaning the competition is stiff.  Everyone on this club knows what to do with the opportunity presented to them.  They can become one of the greatest teams ever to reside in the National League.  They can turn this into a dynasty.

Enjoy the next 162 games. It should be a hell of a ride.

PREDICTION: 94-68

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Phillies Walk Off Against Yanks

Posted by Pat Gallen, Mon, March 22, 2010 04:13 PM Comments: 38

-Wilson Valdez, come on down.  The utility man went deep in the 9th inning today to give the Phillies a 9-7 victory over the Yankees in Clearwater.  Ben Francisco, Dane Sardinha, and Placido Polanco also homered for the team, but the real story was the showing by Cole Hamels.

He bombed today, going just four innings, allowing six earned runs on nine hits against a lineup that was missing most of the regulars.  Hamels has looked very good so far this Spring, but it’s hard to take much stock in everything that happens in March.

David Herndon has been a very solid Rule 5 pickup from the Angels as he has yet to allow a run yet in ST.  He went two frames, allowing two lonely hits as his ERA sticks at zero.  David Murphy of the Daily News thinks we’ll see Herndon on the roster at the beginning of the season. He’s clearly a darkhorse and if he makes it, it’s a huge find for the Phils.

-Did anyone watch the game today on ESPN?  Could they have bowed down to the Yankees anymore by interviewing their entire team (so it seemed) during the game?  I believe it was Howard and Moyer who were the only Phils who Karl Ravech, John Kruk, and Rick Sutcliff talked to.

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Phils Win in 10; End Season on High Note

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, October 04, 2009 05:29 PM Comments: 53

Well that’s all she wrote.  The Philadelphia Phillies 2009 regular season has come to a close, and as a team they’ve dealt with the ups and downs that come with a 162-game schedule.

In the finale, the regulars were strapped to the pine for the most part, as all of the starters, save Jayson Werth, sat down.  In what was clearly a meaningless game to both teams, the Phillies and Marlins decided to extend the already lengthy season by just one more inning.  With the two men on and two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, Paul Hoover singled in John Mayberry Jr. to give the Phillies a 7-6 victory.

J.A. Happ began the game but threw just 39 pitches over two innings as Charlie Manuel gives him some rest to prepare for the postseason.  Seven other pitchers combined to finish off the game for the Phillies, with Chad Durbin getting the win.

The Phillies finish the 2009 campaign with a 93-69 record, the most wins for the franchise since 1993 when the won 97 games.  They jump into the postseason with a victory, however insignificant that may be.  Now all that is left to do is set the postseason roster and start the run back to the World Series.

In the NLDS, the Phillies will face off against the Colorado Rockies, the same team that swept the Phils in the opening round in 2007.  The Rox started the season off with a dud, causing them to fire manager Clint Hurdle.  Jim Tracy took over and the Rockies never looked back, going 74-41 since his promotion.  Two seasons ago, Colorado was hot going into the postseason and used that to catapult them into the World Series, where they were swept by the Red Sox.

It was a hell of a year for the Phillies, as they again eclipsed the 90-win plateau.  But now, with a World Championship already in the bag, the expectations are higher than they have ever been.  Anything less than another title will be considered somewhat of a disappointment for fans who long to see a dynasty built in Philadelphia.  The second season starts Wednesday here in Philly.  You have two days to rest, and then the fun begins once again.

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Phormula: June Swoon

Posted by Corey Seidman, Tue, June 23, 2009 11:37 AM Comments: 0

Why does this happen every June?

Since 2007 ushered in this current era of over-the-hump, successful Phillie-dom, the inaugural summer month has been one to forget.

In ’07, they entered the month two games under .500 and left one game over. But they floundered in the middle of the month and spent the last three days of June getting beat by the Mets.

Last season, the Phillies suffered their only sub-.500 month in June, going 12-15 and struggling to do anything offensively after a 20-2 victory in St. Louis on June 13.

This June? How about four straight wins followed by back-to-back crushing blown saves that possibly derailed the Phillies from running away with the NL East very early in the season. Due to poor play and devastating injuries, the Mets could have been deemed irrelevant had the Phillies not slowed down to take a detour.

Obviously, the one commonality every June is interleague play.

We all know the Phillies have struggled in recent years when facing the junior circuit. But do we really know just how awful they have been?

Can’t Hit

Excluding the series at Yankee Stadium in May, the Phillies are 1-8 against the AL, averaging four runs a game while giving up close to seven.

Their team batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage in June are all lower than April and May, and the Phillies already have more strikeouts at the plate this month (142) than they did in all of April (118.)

Four regulars have compiled on-base percentages under .300 in June (Rollins, Feliz, Ruiz, Ibanez.) No Phillie has walked more than he has struck out in the month. Jimmy Rollins is hitting .205 with one stolen base and three GIDP’s.

While these may seem like cherry-picked numbers, atrocious plate discipline and lack of production from the leadoff spot have been two key factors during this pathetic run of losing winnable game after winnable game.

Can’t Pitch

Let’s not place all the blame on the recent woes of the starting lineup, though, because that would be unfair to the pitching staff.

Four guys have pitched well this month: Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.C. Romero, and Chan Ho Park. That’s it. Hamels and Blanton have been the only starters to man the mound past the sixth inning twice in June.

Romero continues to get himself in and out of jams with consistency and Park has finally gotten accustomed to the bullpen by using his plethora of movement to confuse hitters.

But the compliments end there.

J.A. Happ is starting to look human (14 BB in his last 17 IP) and Jamie Moyer continues to show that he is just as capable of giving up six runs in three innings as he is of giving up three in six.

Antonio Bastardo followed his first poor outing with a decent one against the Orioles, mixing in more offspeed pitches and throwing many more strikes, but took the L due to a lackluster offense.

With the starting rotation struggling to get deep into games, the bullpen has been taxed. Injuries and ineffectiveness have been the results. Clay Condrey has come crashing back to Earth, which could have been expected. Chad Durbin and his middling stuff haven’t been able to secure the late-inning role vacated by Ryan Madson, who, after pitching brilliantly for the first three months of the season, has hit a snag in the closer’s role.

Why the June Swoon?

In trying to figure out why the Phillies play so poorly in June, you must first understand that all three June’s are completely independent of one another.

In 2007, the Phillies were 6-6 against the AL in June. They lost two of three to the Tigers, Indians, and the lowly Royals. But that team struggled out of the gate and sputtered until mid-August. They did not yet have the confidence or swagger of a playoff team, nor the identity that developed in the later months.

Last June, the interleague struggles were mainly offensive, as the entire lineup stopped hitting at the same time. They batted .232 for the month, a season low, with less homers and total bases than any other month. And as it usually goes, once a team starts to struggle at the plate, bad luck rears its ugly head. The Phils’ .266 BABIP in June was seventeen points lower than its season average.

This year, it’s been a combination of injuries and players regressing to their true skill set (Happ, Condrey, Durbin.) Entering June, the Phillies were the least injured team in all of baseball, with Brett Myers being the lone Phillie injured for an extended period of time and Carlos Ruiz being the only regular to take a trip to the 15-day DL.

Then June hit, and two big pieces of the bullpen went down, as did Raul Ibanez. Then Ryan Howard went down for two games of the Orioles series. When a team not known for manufacturing runs is forced to play without its two biggest power threats, the results are not pretty. Since Ibanez went down, the Phillies are 0-4 with a .223 BA and .297 OBP.

But the Phils haven’t been merely beating themselves, they’ve been facing viable competition.

AL Beast

To the common observer, the Blue Jays and Orioles are inferior to the Phillies. The Jays lack a big-time power threat and have been ravaged by injuries to the starting rotation. The Orioles have the third-worst ERA in baseball and only Texas, Washington, and Pittsburgh have struck out fewer batters.

But the flaws of these teams are enhanced by the fact that the Blue Jays and Orioles play in the best division of the superior league. The Orioles have already faced the Yankees nine times this season. Think their high ERA/low strikeout numbers have anything to do with that? Think those numbers would look any different if they played four series’ with the Nationals?

On its standings page, Baseball Prospectus features a stat called Hit-List Rank, which ranks teams 1-30 based on a combination of three different Pythagorean formulas that help to determine the overall quality of a team:

  1. Runs scored vs. runs allowed
  2. Equivalent Runs scored vs. allowed (this takes stats such as hits, walks, total bases, stolen bases, etc. to determine how many runs scored and allowed a team SHOULD have.) This also factors in the dimensions of stadiums and league scoring levels.
  3. Adjusted Equivalent Runs scored vs. allowed (this is the same as #2, except it includes strength of schedule.)

The Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays, and Yankees rank 2, 3, 4, and 5 respectively. Enough said.

Last year, the blame was on the Phillies. They couldn’t hit and lost two of three to the A’s and Rangers, teams they were clearly superior to.

This June, it was moreso the timing of injuries and unsustainable effectiveness of members of the pitching staff.

Or just blame it on the AL East.

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