Posted on: October 29, 2009 12:31 am

Game 1 to the Fightin's

The Phillies have just wrapped up Game 1 of the 2009 World Series (World Series CV in NFL-speak) with a 6-1 win over the Yankees in New York.  Cliff Lee was dominant once again for the Phils, scattering 6 hits and striking out 10 while going the distance, giving up his only run in the 9th inning on some sloppy play when the Phils had the game in hand.  And yes, for anyone who's followed this blog over the course of the season, I got over my disappointment about getting Lee instead of Roy Halladay about 2 months ago (

Chase Utley hit 2 solo home runs early on (leading to the voice of Harry the K echoing in my head with his "Chase Utley, you are the man" call).  The Phillies tacked on 2 runs in the 8th, and 2 more in the 9th, to put the game on ice.  Considering that the Phillies had seven runners LOB, it could've been a lot worse for the Yankees.  With everyone except Ben Francisco (7) and Pedro Feliz (8) getting a hit, the Phillies proved once again that there are no easy outs in this lineup.  They drew 6 walks, and worked CC Sabathia deep into counts, running up his pitch count early like they did in the NLDS last year when he was pitching for the Brewers.

With the win, the Philies now have home-field advantage in the Series, and they have been dominant at Citizens Bank Park in the postseason, going 11-1 in the past 2 years, so saying that Game 2 is a must-win for the Yankees really isn't a stretch.  The Yankees are going with A.J. Burnett, while the Phillies will counter with Pedro Martinez, who has a colorful history when it comes to pitching against the Yankees.
Posted on: October 15, 2009 2:52 pm

NLCS rematch preview

The Phillies and Dodgers open the NLCS at Dodger Stadium tonight.  Cole Hamels, who was the MVP against the Dodgers in last year's NLCS, takes the mound against 21 year-old Clayton Kershaw, who is quickly developing into the ace that he was pegged as.  After a rough 2009 season, Hamels pitched once against Colorado in the NLDS, when he allowed 4 ER in 5 innings in Game 2.  Kershaw went 6 2/3 innings in his only start against St. Louis in the NLDS, allowing just 2 runs.  He struggled against the Phillies in the regular season though, losing both starts and posting a 5.23 ERA.

Former Dodger Pedro Martinez will start Game 2 tomorrow night, while former Phillie Vicente Padilla will start for LA.  Both joined their respective teams late in the season due to unsettled rotations, and they both pitched well for their new teams.  When the series comes to Philly for Games 3, 4, and 5 (if necessary), the Dodgers will throw Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3 on Sunday, and former Phillie Randy Wolf (who had his own fan section, the Wolf Pack, in his Phillie days) will start Game 4 on Monday.  As in the NLDS, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has yet to name any starters beyond Game 2, although I'd say that it's a safe bet that Cliff Lee will start Game 3.  Game 4 would be J.A. Happ or Joe Blanton, depending on whether Charlie decides to use them in relief in the first two games like he did against Colorado, which could've been disastrous but for the snow day.  (And yes, I got a sickening feeling when I saw Lee come out to pinch-run).  The Brad Lidge of 2008 made a comeback in the clincher against the Rockies, and hopefully he'll stick around for at least the next few weeks.

Offensively, the Phillies lead MLB in almost every hitting category in the postseason, and Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Raul Ibanez tore apart Colorado pitching in the NLDS, combining for a .364 BA, 4 home runs, and 17 RBIs in 4 games.  The Dodgers weren't hurting for offense against the Cardinals, though--Manny Ramirez (.308/0/2), Andre Ethier (.500/2/3), and Rafael Furcal (.500/0/2) all beat up on the Cardinals.

The Dodgers have home-field in this series, unlike last year, but the Phillies tied the Angels for the best road record in MLB this season, so that shouldn't be a huge factor.  Admittedly, I'm biased, but I'm going with the Phillies in 5...maybe 6, but no more.
Posted on: October 1, 2009 11:18 pm

Do the Phillies play for home field and other ???

Last night, the Phillies clinched their third straight division title.  The question now before Charlie Manuel is whether the team should rest their starters and get the rotation set for the playoffs next week, or try to finish with the best record in the National League and get home field advantage for the NLCS? 

As of now, they're only a half-game behind the Dodgers for the # 1 seed, and the Cardinals and a game and a half behind the Fightin's.  As it stands now, they'll most likely face Colorado in the first round (even if the Dodgers finish with the best record in the league, they can't play the wild-card winner in the Division Series if it's a divisional rival), although they could face the Dodgers if Colorado was to come back and clinch the NL West, leaving the Dodgers as the wild-card team.  They could also face the Dodgers if the Cardinals finish with a better record than the Phillies.  The worst-case scenario would probably be going to LA for the first 2 games of a 5-game series, and run the risk of coming back home down 2-0, although the Dodgers don't pack the 1-2 punch that the Cardinals do with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.

For some teams, this can be a major factor in their postseason success.  Since baseball doesn't have standard field dimensions and grouond rules like other sports do, you'll see teams tailored for their home park.  While dominating on the road, teams like this tend to struggle, especially once you get into the postseason where you're facing strong opponents.  However, this doesn't apply to the Phillies, who have the best road record in baseball (at 15 games over .500), and who were actually struggling at home earlier this season. 

Obviously, Charlie's number-one priority at this point will be to get the rotation set for the playoffs, with the bullpen situation a very close second.  Bringing Brad Lidge in last night to symbolically close the game was a nice move, but with a 7-run lead, it wasn't exactly a situation where the game was on the line.  I haven't heard anything official, but I'm assuming that the first 3 spots in the rotation will be Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Joe Blanton, all of which are no-brainers.  The fourth spot gets a little interesting.  That spot is now occupied by J.A. Happ, who has without a doubt earned it.  But that would leave Pedro Martinez as the odd man out.  While Pedro broke into the majors as a reliever with the Dodgers, he was moved to the rotation in his second year, and hasn't pitched a major league game in relief since 1999.  Happ started the season in the bullpen (although he should've been the fifth starter coming out of spring training instead of Chan Ho Park), and Charlie said last week that Happ might be sent back to the pen during the playoffs because of the problems they've been having due to injuries and ineffectiveness. 

Brad Lidge?  I don't think anything else needs to be said.  There are people (including myself) who have been saying from Day 1 that his knee injury (his pushoff knee) has been affecting his velocity and location all season long, and that could still be the case.  When handed the closer's role when Lidge went on the DL, Ryan Madson didn't live up to the task, although he's been better when called on in save situations during the stretch drive.  Maybe he can perform fine in the role when called upon, but he can't handle being tagged as "the guy".  Brett Myers, Scott Eyre, J.C. Romero, and Park have all been injured.  My guess is that the Phils will wind up going with a bullpen by committee, with Charlie playing the hot hand and using relievers situationally.

And those were nice tributes that the Angels' players paid to Nick Adenhart, who was killed in an accident earlier this season, and the Phillies' players paid to the late, great Harry Kalas.  Both teams had placed tributes to their fallen on their outfield walls, and the players went out and sprayed champagne and beer on the walls and paid their respects.  Classy.
Posted on: September 17, 2009 11:21 pm

The Magic Number is down to 10....

...and the Phillies' bullpen situation is still cloudy.  Brad Lidge has been removed from his role as the full-time closer, with Ryan Madson being used in the role several times in the past week.  Lidge has been brought in to close in a few situations, including tonight against the Nationals, but still hasn't been the dominant closer he was in 2008.  Injuries have decimated the bullpen all season, with Lidge, Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero, Clay Condrey, and Scott Eyre, among others, all hitting the DL at some point this season, and now Chan Ho Park, who has been great since going to the pen, is hobbled by a hamstring injury.  It appears that at this point, Charlie Manuel is going with a bullpen-by-committee approach with the hope that it will allow Lidge to finally get it together in time for the postseason.  If Lidge doesn't get it together, and no one else catches fire and assumes the closer's spot, Manuel does have options in the closer's role besides Lidge if he does take the committee into the playoffs.  Madson has handled closing this week better than he did earlier in the season, Brett Myers is back from hip surgery and closed for the Phillies in 2007, and there is even the possibility of having Pedro Martinez close in the playoffs since he will not be in the rotation (barring injury).

On a much more encouraging note, the starters have pitched great since the All-Star break.  With the acquisition of Cliff Lee from Cleveland, along with the emegrence of J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton overcoming his usual slow start, Pedro showing he can still pitch at a high level, and Cole Hamels finally shaking off his World Series-hangover, the Phillies' rotation looks like it's peaking just in time for the playoffs.

One question that remains to be answered is if the end of the regular season will spell the end of Jamie Moyer's career as an active major league pitcher.  It seems doubtful at this time that the Phillies will put Moyer on the postseason roster, but we'll know for sure in a couple of weeks.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 16, 2009 12:18 pm

Time to put the "Lights Out" for good?

Due in large part to committing 2 throwing errors himself, Brad Lidge blew another save yesterday, his 8th of the season and 2nd in 5 days.  While his struggles earlier in the season can be at least partially attributed to his knee injury, this doesn't appear to be a issue anymore. 

The big question is who closes if Lidge doesn't?  Ryan Madson was less than impressive filling in as the closer during Lidge's DL stint earlier this season.  Brett Myers was effective as a closer in 2007 (and didn't want to go back to starting), but he's still rehabbing after his hip injury.  And now there's the issue of his eye being injured, and how it actually happened.  He at first told the Phillies that it was from playing catch with his 4-year-old son; now he's saying that he slipped while getting out of his truck.  Aside from the fact that this has delayed his rehab, it raises questions of what REALLY happened, and why he felt the need to lie about it.  J.C. Romero experienced tightness in his forearm during a rehab outing on Friday night and will get an MRI, so he's out of the equation.  There's no one else in the bullpen who is a closer.

Looking outside the 25-man roster, I don't see them getting a closer who'd be an improvement over Lidge through a trade as I'm sure they'd never get anyone of that caliber through waivers.  According to Jim Salisbury's column in the Inquirer this morning, Reading pitcher Scott Mathieson, who had two reconstructive surgeries on his elbow in 2007, has gotten his velocity back in the 92-98 MPH range, and is just working on his location.  Could he be an answer?

There is one other option that might be considered: have Pedro Martinez close, and put Jamie Moyer back in the rotation.  For now, that's a move that would appear to weaken the rotation, but his demotion to the bullpen might put a fire into Moyer that we haven't seen from him.  Right now, Moyer is wasting away in the bullpen, and let's face it, if it had been someone BESIDES Jamie Moyer in that situation, he probably would've either been waived or sent down to the minors.  The move would also cut down on the amount of innings that Pedro would have to work.  It might not be the ideal solution, but it might have to be done come October.

Category: MLB
Posted on: August 6, 2009 7:35 pm

A 6-man rotation for the Fightin's?

The big news out of South Philly today is that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that pitcher J.A. Happ will remain in the rotation for the rest of the season.  Happ, who pitched his second complete-game shutout of the season last night against the Rockies, will be the 4th starter, behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton.

That does raise the question of the 5th spot in the rotation.  Jamie Moyer currently holds the spot, but he's struggled this year, posting a 5.55 ERA (second highest in the NL among qualifying starters).  Pedro Martinez pitched another rehab start at AA Reading last night and posted the following line: 6 !P, 5 H, 4 R (3 ER), 0 BBs, 11 Ks.  The team's position has always been that they signed Pedro as a starter, not as a reliever.  Moyer's been a starter nearly his entire career, and I don't see him going to the pen.  So what does the team do then?  I don't see Moyer being traded.  There's a chance that they might designate him for assignment or give him his outright release, but i think they'd rather just let him retire at the end of the season.  At this point in the season, it'd be nice to keep him around in case of injury, if they need a spot-start due to rainouts, or they want to line up the rotation for the postseason as we get into the middle or end of September.  In the meantime, Amaro says that the team might consider going with a 6-man rotation.  While that could mean that the 4 postseason starters (Hamels, Lee, Blanton, and Happ) won't throw as many innings and could have better-rested arms for the playoffs, it could also backfire and cause them to lose a little bit of their edge.  Blanton especially is one guy who you want to keep in the rhythm he has going.

Amaro is looking at a timeframe of a week to 10 days before they feel they have to make a move, so i guess we'll all find out then.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 27, 2009 9:06 pm

Cliff Lee over Doc? SERIOUSLY???

There are rumors going around that the Phillies will go after Indians LHP Cliff Lee if they can't get Roy Halladay from Toronto, and there have been Phillies fans who have been saying that they should give up on Halladay and go for Lee.  Some of them feel that Lee is just as good as Halladay, which I find completely laughable.  How can I say that?  Look at the career stats:

Halladay:  142-69, 3.45 ERA, 1410 Ks, 440 BB, 44 career CG
Lee:  83-48, 4.01 ERA, 826 Ks, 322 BB, 10 career CG

Yes, Cliff Lee won the Cy Young Award last year in a career year, but so did John Denny when he had a career year in 1983, and I wouldn't have chosen him over Nolan Ryan if I was making a deal in 1984.  Halladay is only a year older than Lee, and both their current contracts expire at the end of the 2010 season.  And need I remind everyone that Halladay's numbers are as good as they are despite pitching in the AL East, which has arguably been the best division in baseball this decade (Doc is 59-30 vs. the AL East, BTW).  Cleveland is reportedly seeking the same type of package for Lee that Toronto wants for Halladay, which is insanity, as Toronto's asking too much for Halladay. 

Now, would I give up everything that Toronto's asking for to get Doc?  No.  Personally, I'd rather keep Drabek over Happ.  I'd package Happ and Carrasco, along with Michael Taylor or Dominic Brown.  (I honestly don't know which OF I'd rather keep, as I've heard great reports about both.)  If J.P. Ricciardi thinks that he'll get more for Halladay by waiting until the offseason, or the trade deadline next year, I want some of what he's smoking, cuz it's gotta be good.  The only possible way that he gets more by waiting is by agreeing to trade Halladay contingent on his forgoing free agency to sign an extension with his new team, which means that it'd have to be a really big contract--Yankee or Red Sox-big.

I understand people's fear of trading good prospects away--after all, who's had moves like that blow up in their faces more than the Fightin's?  And I'd also feel a lot better if the Phillies signed him to an extension rather than lose him at the end of next season.  Like I said, I wouldn't give up everything for Halladay (or anyone else for that matter), and I'm generally against trades like this as the best way to build an MLB team that can win championships and be a contender year-in-and-year-out is to build through the farm system, and plug holes through trades, waivers, the Rule 5 draft, and free agency.  But this isn't 2005 anymore, where the core pieces of this team are just falling into place, and we were in the middle of like a 5-year stretch of just missing out on a playoff spot by a couple of games.  The Phils' time is NOW.  They're the defending champions, and the core of this team is in its prime and under contract for the next few years.  The one glaring weakness on this team in 2009 (aside from Jimmy Rollins' ugly first half) has been pitching.  Yes, they've pitched a lot better over the past few weeks, but which is the REAL staff: the pitchers who have come alive during the last month, or the pitchers who couldn't make it through the 5th inning during the first quarter of the season?  Hamels has said that he's felt the pressure to step up and be the stopper, and it's affected his pitching in a mostly negative way.  Getting Halladay here would not only take the pressure off Hamels to be the stopper, it could let him learn how to become an ace.  As much as Jamie Moyer has helped Hamels develop as a pitcher, that's one area that he can't help as Moyer has never been that guy.

But if the Phillies DO decide to give up on Halladay because the Blue Jays want too much, yes, I'd go after Lee to help shore up the pitching staff--but at a much lower price than what I'd give up for Halladay.  I'd say Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Taylor or Brown.  No more.

P.S.  Thank God Erik Bedard is back on the DL and not coming here.  That would've been worse than Adam Eaton (since they would've been giving up players instead of just money).  Bedard doesn't have the mental makeup to pitch in Philly.  Not to mention the fact that part of the reason that Toronto's asking so much is that they want to fleece the Phillies the same way the Orioles ripped off Seattle in the Bedard deal (getting Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, and 2 other pitchers).
Posted on: July 21, 2009 7:36 pm

Doc and more help for the pen? and ESPN are both reporting that Blue Jays' GM J.P. Ricciardi has set a deadline of July 28th for teams to trade for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, saying that at his point, it's unlikely they'll trade him.  He also said that the deal would be so complicated, it wouldn't be able to get done in a couple of days. 

This appears to be a move to ratchet up the pressure on the teams bidding for Halladay's services (including the Phillies).  While there might or might not have been serious negotiations between Toronto and other teams, it's clear that there have been talks over the past month about what it would take for a team to acquire Halladay.  Halladay is under contract through the end of next season, which means that the Blue Jays could still deal him this offseason or next summer, but it makes sense for them to trade him now, as his value will never be higher.  While they had a nice run early on this season, they do play in the best division in baseball, and with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays already ahead of them, and the Orioles with a lot of young talent in the high minors or breaking into the majors, aren't the Blue Jays better served moving their 32-year-old ace who can only go every 5 days for prospects to help them compete?

So what does this mean for the Phillies?  It's time for Ruben Amaro and the rest of the front office to decide how serious they are about getting Doc, and making a serious offer if they want him.  Phillies president Dave Montgomery said on 950 the other day that "money is not an option" when it comes to tweaking the roster, a welcome sign for people who feared that the team would settle for adding Pedro Martinez.  While the Phillies can win the division without Doc, having a 1-2 punch of Halladay and Hamels at the top of the rotation come October would be a huge boost for the Phillies' chances of defending their World Series title.

A welcome bit of good news that would also help in their title defense is that Brett Myers could return as early as August.  Myers, whose season was feared over after hip surgery in early June, is ahead of schedule and could return and pitch out of the bullpen. is reporting that the Phillies also sent scouts to check out D-Backs closer Chad Qualls.  With Qualls under contract through 2010, is saying that Arizona could expect to get good prospects in a trade.  If the Phillies do acquire Halladay, with the prospects that they'll be giving up to get him, does it really make sense to give up more to acquire another reliever?  With the potential return of Myers (who closed in 2007) to the bullpen, what does the possible addition of ANOTHER closer say about the team's confidence in Brad Lidge?

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or