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Posts Tagged ‘Woes’

Washington Nationals Preview

Posted by Amanda Orr, Sat, April 03, 2010 10:30 AM Comments: 8

Washington Nationals (59-103, last place in NL East)

There were not many positives for the Washington Nationals in 2009.  Their below average offense and pitching resulted in the worst record in baseball. 

Manny Acta managed 87 games before getting the boot.  Jesus Flores, Christian Guzman and others suffered injuries.  Adam Dunn looked lost in the outfield. The woes were endless.  Heck, they couldn’t even spell their name right.

The one bright spot for the Nationals was Ryan Zimmerman, who earned a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2009.  The 24-year old third baseman batted .292 with an .888 on-base plus slugging percentage.

Although it was very painful to watch the Nationals last season, there is reason to believe that the Nationals won’t be as terrible as they were in the past.

The 2010 Season

It’s so easy to write off the Nationals.  They aren’t going to contend this year, and perhaps not for a few more.  However, the Nationals always seem to be that pesky team that doesn’t quit and gives up a good fight — at least it seems that way when the play the Phillies.

The Nationals are young, but they added a veteran presence.  The Nationals signed Jason Marquis, Ivan Rodriguez, Chein-Ming Wang, and Adam Kennedy.  While none of these moves are hugely significant, they could change the vibe of the clubhouse, which no longer include Lastings Milledge or Elijiah Dukes.

The new veterans could certainly help out some of the younger and talented players.  Ian Desmond has a lot of potential, and earned the starting shortstop job this spring.  In addition, the speedy centerfielder  Nyjer Morgan is capable of stealing 50 bases, or more.

Although Stephen Strasburg did not break camp, there’s a great chance that he could be in the Nationals’ starting rotation by June.  Strasburg impressed this spring, and many said that they’ve never seen the ball explode out of a pitcher’s hand like Strasburg.

As of now, the Nationals’ one-two punch is Jason Marquis and John Lannan, who has improved throughout his career.

While Strasburg is the organization’s biggest pitching prospect, Drew Storen should not be overlooked.  The reliever has closer potential and could be called up this season. 

For now, the Nationals will go with Matt Capps as their closer, who will attempt to rebound from a poor season with the Pirates.

The Nationals aren’t ready for contention this year, but may in about two or three years.  And if they draft Bryce Harper in this year’s draft — look out!

Prediction: 69-93

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Top Moment No. 24: Utley’s Corner in NY

Posted by Pat Gallen, Sun, December 06, 2009 05:52 PM Comments: 8

Throughout the month, Phillies Nation will be counting down the Top 25 Phillies Moments of 2009.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_EcBfXMyQha4/SkWQ9O7ZLuI/AAAAAAAACok/CwOMSthcPJ4/s320/chase+utley.jpgTop Moment #24: Chase Utley’s 2 HR’s down the Mets at Citi

Before we really knew the extent of the Mets woes, the Phillies locked horns with their neighbors to the northeast during a seemingly important three-game set in mid-June.  At that point, the Phillies sat just two games ahead of New York for the NL East lead.  This game would serve as a back-breaker of sorts for the Mets, who would end the month 20 days later nine-and-a-half games out of first.

For six innings, the Mets offense played small ball, giving right-hander Mike Pelfrey a 4-1 cushion to work with. Pelfrey helped his own cause in the fourth by singling in a run, the first of three to cross the plate for NY in that frame.  Names like Omir Santos and Alex Cora were doing damage with the bat, while Pelfrey held his own on the hill.

Going into the seventh inning on June 10, Pelfrey stymied the Phils, going six strong while allowing just one lone run on a Chase Utley solo jack in the fourth. In that fateful seventh, Pelfrey would get lifted after the first three Phillies reached base, all via singles. They would all touch home, locking it up a four apiece.

The bullpen’s then combined to take the game into the 11th, paving the way for a spot in right field to be adorned with a new moniker.

New York turned to Bobby Parnell in the 11th, following two shutdown innings by Francisco Rodriguez.  On the second pitch from the new reliever, Chase Utley smashed the delivery about six rows deep into the bleachers for his second shot of the game.  The homer put the Phils up 5-4 and in the process, “Utley’s Corner” was born.

Two weeks later, with the Yankees visiting Citi Field, Brett Gardner blasted a ball into the same section as the Utley home run, prompting Mets announcer Gary Cohen to say: “Gardner lifts one down the right field line, back toward Utley’s Corner, near the wall…it’s outta here!” The rest is history.

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A Look Ahead: Phillies Return East

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Tue, September 08, 2009 08:00 AM Comments: 14

Well, that was a less than spectacular week in Phillies baseball. This week the Phillies will look to turn the tides on their misfortune as they return to the east coast to play the two worst teams in the N.L. East.

The Phillies, coming off of a week that saw them go 2-5, will head to Washington, for a three game set against the last-place Nationals. The Phillies will look to get their offense back in line after managing just 13 runs in their last seven games. They were shutout twice during that stretch and also beat the Giants by a 1-0 score, on a Cole Hamels complete game shutout.

In their last ten, the Phils are just 4-6, not the way you want to start the last month heading into the postseason. They remain in first in the East with a dwindling six game lead over the Marlins. The Braves are still eight games back. The Nationals meanwhile, have already been eliminated from playoff contention and are all playing for their 2010 employment in the Major League.

In their last ten, the Nationals are just 2-8, and a dismal 47-90 overall. Although they are this seasons version of baseballs laughing stock, do not take a team playing for pride lightly. The Nationals despite their pitching woes can still hit the ball hard and this past weekend was proof as they scored 16 runs in a three-game shootout with the Marlins.

The Nationals will send John Lannan, Garrett Mock, and Livan Hernandez to the rubber to face the Phillies. The Phils will counter with Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton.

The Phillies have had trouble with Lannan in his career, and Lannan has been responsible for injuring two Phillies in his career, Chase Utley(broken hand), and Cole Hamels(sprained ankle). Lannan has been decent this year, toting a 4.09 ERA into the final month.

Garrett Mock was recently rocked by the Marlins, giving up six runs over three innings in a loss to Florida. Long balls are what hurt Mock the most, which should play into the Phillies hands. Hernandez also gave up six runs in his last start, giving up four in the first.

Pedro Martinez’s last outing was by far his best since returning to baseball as he out-dueled Cy Young Award candidate Tim Lincecum. Martinez has shown flashes of brilliance in his short time with the Phillies, but it is way too early to tell if this kind of success can be duplicated, let alone sustained.

Cliff Lee has gone the opposite direction of Martinez, giving up six runs in each of his last two starts. Lee lasted only three innings in his last start and looks to regain his winning form heading into baseballs home stretch.

Blanton, despite giving up three runs in his last outing still kept the Phillies in the game. The Phillies eventually took the lead in that game against the Astros just to have it blown in the ninth by closer Brad Lidge. Blanton remains the team’s most steady starter this season and looks to maintain his solid work.

After three games with the Nats, the Phillies finally return home to face the much maligned New York Mets. It’s no secret that the Mets have had a rough season, losing key players such as Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, and David Wright for significant amounts of time. Although Wright has returned to the line-up, the rest are still out.

If you want to feel sorry for the Mets, don’t. There is nothing more that New York would love to do than come to Philadelphia and help to spoil our shot at the post season. If there is anything left for them to play for, this is it. Make no mistake, these four games against the Mets ARE their playoffs and believe that whatever “A” game is left in that clubhouse will be brought to Philly.

The Mets enter the series 62-75 and are seemingly out of playoff contention at 16 games back. They are an even 5-5 in their last ten, and recently took two of three from a quickly sinking Chicago Cubs. Just like in the Nationals series, pride is in play here so the the Phillies would be mistaken if they take this four game series lightly.

The Phillies should finish this week with a 5-2 record. Period. Anything less than that and fans have a legitimate reason to be concerned. Despite the pride factor, these are two terrible teams and the Phillies need to beat up on them for a few reasons. They need to get back on track, first. Second, they need to put more space between them and the division ankle-biters known as the Marlins. Lastly, the Phillies took a small hit to their own pride last week and they need to regain some pride of their own.

A good week could lead to a wonderful September. A bad week could spell the begin of a miserable one.

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Lidge Loses Control; Phillies Streak Snapped at Four

Posted by Jason Bintliff, Sat, August 15, 2009 08:14 PM Comments: 83

When the Phillies started their title defense, the more reasonable fan predicted that although Brad Lidge had a season for the ages in 2008, the perfection would likely end, and we as fans could look forward to a blown save throughout the season. Or two. Maybe three. At most four, but absolutely no more than four, right?

Starting pitcher Cole Hamels finally had put the pieces together to pitch a decent game. Despite a third inning mistake to the Braves catcher Brian McCann, Hamels soared through six innings, allowing just two runs. McCann’s two-run shot was the only damage allowed by Hamels who allowed just three hits.

Hamels wasn’t dominant, but he was effective. He struck out only two and walked four, but his ability to work out of jams was refreshing. The Hamels we have become accustomed to would have folded under the pressure of frustration. This game was different.

Hamels pitched well enough to win, and despite his season long infection of lack-of-run-support-itis, when he exited the game, he had a 3-2 lead.

The Phillies offense had plenty of wasted opportunities. Overall, they were 1-12 at the plate with runners in scoring position but only left six on base. The Phillies twice left runners stranded at third base that reached third with no outs.

Despite their woes at the plate, they managed seven hits off of Braves starter, Kenshin Kawakami, including triples from Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz.

In the seventh, Jayson Werth gave the Phillies the advantage when he belted his 24th long ball of the season to left-center.  The Phillies looked as if they may be on the way to winning their second consecutive series.

The Braves bullpen came in with one-out in the seventh and proceeded to shut the Phillies line-up down, allowing  just two walks in 2.2 innings of work. The Phillies middle-relief wasn’t bad either, allowing just two base-runners in the seventh and eighth innings.

Into the ninth the Phillies went clutching a 3-2 lead. Fans watching across the Delaware Valley were clutching their chests as Brad Lidge entered the game and promptly surrendered a lead-off single. To be fair Chase Utley should have been able to make a play on the ball, but watched the ball scoot under his glove as he was playing deep in the over-shift position.

What happened next caused fans to clutch their stomachs.

With Garret Anderson on first-base, Atlanta’s Matt Diaz layed down what was a routine sacrifice bunt. Overly anxious to make the play, Lidge failed to field the ball cleanly and then proceeded to air-mail a throw to first in which he had no play on. Anderson scored and Diaz went to third as Lidge earned himself not only the blown save, but two errors as well.

With no one out and a runner at third base, Lidge walked the next two batters, one intentionally. He then got Ryan Church to strikeout swinging, leaving him just a double-play away from reaching extra-innings.

With one out and the infield playing up to prevent the run from scoring, Omar Infante singled through the hole at short, past a diving Jimmy Rollins and the Braves completed the come back.

It was Lidge’s eighth blown save and his fifth loss of the season, wasting what was a quality outing from starter Cole Hamels and the opportunity to bury the Braves a little deeper in the division race.

The Phillies will try to get the series win tomorrow in the rubber match.

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Embarrassing Effort in Near No-No

Posted by Amanda Orr, Fri, June 26, 2009 10:34 PM Comments: 43

The Phillies have made mental mistakes. Their pitching has given up key runs. But like the last 11 of 13 games they have played, they have found a new way to lose.

Ricky Romero no-hit the Phillies for six innings before Chase Utley broke up the no-hit bid with a single in the seventh. He pitched seven shutout innings allowing only two hits and one walk. He struck out seven.

Cole Hamels struggled and was ejected for arguing balls and strikes after he left the game in the fifth inning. In 4.2 innings, Hamels allowed four earned runs on eight hits and two walks.

The bullpen continues to have its woes. Chan Ho Park left the game with a knee contusion. Brad Lidge gave up two earned runs in 0.1 innings.

The Phillies ended their streak of 97 straight games with an extra base hit. They scored a run on a sacrifice fly in the ninth, however, this loss is on the offense. Tip of the cap to Ricky Romero who pitched a terrific game by keeping the Phillies off-balanced, however, it is always embarrassing when a potent lineup like the Phillies is no-hit for six innings.

The Phillies lose 6-1, but are lucky that the Yankees won, therefore remaining a half game above the New York Mets.

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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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