Posted on: July 11, 2009 2:22 pm

Doc Could Cure the Phils' Pitching Ills

Rumors continue to swirl about the Phillies acquiring Roy Halladay from Toronto.  Blue Jays' GM JP Ricciardi said earlier this week that he would listen to offers for Halladay, whose contract expires at the end of the 2010 season.  The pitching-starved Phillies are reportedly one of the favorites to land Halladay.  Yes, the same pitching-starved Phillies who watched Pedro Martinez (37-years-old and last seen getting knocked around the majors) throw 2 simulated games this week.  Toronto would be looking for a bunch of prospects, and the Phillies have said that the only untouchables are pitchers Kyle Drabek and Jason Knapp, and OF Dominic Brown.

The most consistent rumors seem to be along the lines of Halladay for P J.A. Happ, who as pitched well in the majors this season for the Phils; and minor-leaguers among Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Michael Taylor

While normally I'm opposed to giving up young talent for a veteran player, the Phillies as they are constituted at the major-league level are built to win NOW.  The core players on this team are around 30, which gives them another 3-4 year window as a contender.  Halladay is 32, and with the exception of a tired arm in 2004 (which he attributed to a heavy preseason program), he has been healthy throughout his career.  The only time he has missed in the past few years was due to freak occurrences (appendicitis, a broken leg from a line drive off his shin, and a liner off his head).  After pitching for a non-contender in Toronto his whole career, he'd probably welcome the chance to come to Philadelphia and compete for a World Series (now THERE'S a sentence I never thought I'd write).  Joe Blanton has been pitching much better of late, and even Jamie Moyer has been pitching better after his rough start.  Ace Cole Hamels has been uncharacteristically inconsistent, but a 1-2 punch of Halladay and Hamels, with this offense and a bullpen that looks like it's getting back into its 2008 form, would make the Phillies a strong contender to repeat as World Series champs.  Halladay has been one of the best--and arguably the best--pitcher in baseball this decade, and they could do no wrong to add him to their roster.

The one thing I'd want before I'd pull the trigger on this deal is a conract extension though.  I don't want to give up that much talent out of the farm system (which isn't as deep as other teams) in order to rent Halladay for a year-and-a-half.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 13, 2009 12:01 am

Matchup: Phils vs. Red Sox

I was thinking of things to write about, and I thought that every so often I'd do a post featuring a position-by-position breakdown between the Phillies and a team they're playing in a key series.  Since they're playing the Red Sox this weekend, I figured I'd start with them.

Catcher:  Carlos Ruiz vs.  Jason Varitek
They both have World Series rings, so no one gets an advantage there.  Varitek hits for more power (10 HR to Ruiz's 3), but Ruiz's BA is 50 points higher, and his OBP is 80 points higher.  Despite hitting 7 more HR than Ruiz, Varitek's slugging % is only 20 points higher.  The clincher is on defense.  While both are good defensive catchers, Varitek has allowed 47 SB this year to Ruiz's 17.  While a given pitcher's delivery time to the plate can have an effect on the number of SB a catcher allows, this difference is too big to blame on the Red Sox' pitchers.  Edge: Phillies

1B:  Ryan Howard vs.  Kevin Youkilis
Youkilis is hitting 100 points better than Howard, but Howard has the better power numbers (18 HR, 48 RBI to Youkilis' 10 and 37).  In the field, they've both each made one error, but Howard has had 200 more chances, and his defense is greatly improved this year over last.  Slight edge: Phillies

2B:  Chase Utley vs.  Dustin Pedroia
Even though Pedroia is coming off an MVP season, Utley is the best 2B in baseball.  Their BA are about the same, but Utley is a much better power hitter (15 HR to Pedroia's 2).  They both have similar fielding stats, but the Utley-Rollins DP combo is one of the best--if not THE best--in the game.  Edge: Phillies

3B:  Pedro Feliz vs.  Mike Lowell
Feliz is hitting 20 points better than Lowell, but Lowell has better power, which is key at a corner position (although Ruiz's lack of power isn't as much of a factor in this lineup).  Feliz is a better fielder, but not enough to say that he's the better player.  Slight edge: Red Sox

SS:  Jimmy Rollins vs.  Julio Lugo
Even though Rollins has been in a well-documented slump this season, Lugo isn't even starting full-time.  Offensively, their stats are similar right now, but Rollins' numbers will be up by the end of the season.  J-Roll is also a much better fielder.  Edge: Phillies

LF:  Raul Ibanez vs.  Jason Bay
Ibanez was the best free agent pickup of the offseason, and he's been everything the Phillies had hoped for, and more.  While Bay might win this battle against most LF, he doesn't win it here.  Edge: Phillies

CF:  Shane Victorino vs.  Jacoby Ellsbury
Victorino has developed into an excellent CF, and is the spark plug for the Phillies' offense.  Ellsbury hits for a better average; Victorino for more power, but Ellsbury's lead in SB (23-10) gives him the offensive edge.  Defensively, both players are pretty equal.  Edge: Red Sox

RF:  Jayson Werth vs.  J.D. Drew
Both players have similar offensive stats; the one area they differ is in SB, where Werth leads 10-1.  They've each only committed 1 error this season but Werth has had over 40 more chances.  Edge: Phillies

Rotation: After Cole Hamels, the Phillies starters, while pitching better over the past month, are inconsistent, being world-beaters one night, and seemingly getting knocked around the next.  Boston has five starters who range from solid to All-Star, future Hall of Famer John Smoltz working on a rehab assignment, and a pitcher in the minors (Clay Buchholz) who is dominating and would already be in the majors for most teams.  Edge: Red Sox

Bullpen:  Despite the struggles of Brad Lidge, the Phillies' bullpen has done pretty well this season, especially considering that they've been forced to throw a lot of innings due to the troubles of the rotation.  They lost Lidge for a few weeks right after getting J.C. Romero back from his drug suspension.  Setup man Ryan Madson moves into the closer's role.  The Red Sox have one of the best closers in the game in Jonathan Papelbon.  Slight edge: Red Sox

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 9, 2009 3:27 pm

Lidge Goes on DL

The Phillies placed closer Brad Lidge on the 15-day DL today (retroactive to June 7).  Lidge who has been pitching with pain in his right (pushoff) knee all season, has been far less effective than he was in 2008 (0-3, 7.27 ERA this season).  He has converted only 13 of 19 save opportunities, and opponents are hitting .306 against him.  Lidge blew 2 saves this past weekend in Los Angeles (the Phillies lost both games), after telling David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News that his knee was still bothering him before the series began.  Presumably Ryan Madson will step into the closer's role while Lidge is out, and J.C. Romero will take over Madson's role as the setup man.

The Phillies filled Lidge's spot on the 25-man active roster by recalling 36-year-old catcher Paul Bako from Reading (AA).  Bako hit .357 in 10 games at Reading, and his recall might help solidify the Phillies' bench, was has struggled this year, by giving them an extra catcher and allowing them to use Chris Coste as a pinch-hitter.

If the reports about Lidge's knee are true (no tears or serious damage, just inflammation), then hopefully a couple of weeks of rest will allow him to heal without needing more surgery.  The best thing the Phillies could do would be to let him rest now and come back at 100% for the second half of the season, as I wrote three weeks ago:


Who says that CBSSports.com's team bloggers don't know what they're talking about?
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 3, 2009 6:33 pm

Should the Phillies take a flier on Glavine?

It's just been announced that the Braves have released P Tom Glavine.  ESPN is reporting that in a meeting with Glavine, they told him that his velocity was down, but it's viewed as primarily a financial move, as Glavine would receive a $1 million bonus if he was added to the active roster, and another $1.25 million if he was on the roster after 90 days.  Between that and ace-in-waiting Tommy Hanson, the Braves sent Glavine packing.  Glavine, who insists he can still pitch, and has pitched well in his last few rehab starts, is now a free agent.

So it poses this question: should the Phillies, who are in need of help in their rotation, go after Glavine?  Right now, after Cole Hamels, there's no one currently in this rotation who shouldn't be considered for an upgrade, and due to Brett Myers' hip injury, the back end of the rotation is currently staffed by 2 unproven pitchers in J.A. Happ and Antonio Bastardo.  Glavine, who has won 305 games in his career, also has an extensive postseason history, having started 35 postseason games, going 14-16, with a 3.30 ERA.

It makes sense for the Phillies, who are in a win-now position, to approach Glavine with an incentive-laden contract.  With that type of contract, they won't pay unless he reaches certain performance standards, it won't cost them any players (especially prospects) in a trade, and his experience (especially in the postseason) makes him more appealing than the inexperienced Happ and Bastardo in September and October.
Category: MLB
Posted on: May 31, 2009 3:20 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2009 11:00 pm

Phillies 1st quarter report card--Pitching, etc.

As bad as some of the Phillies hitters have started this season, the pitching has been the team's downfall so far.  The entire staff ranks 27th in MLB in team ERA, and they were ranked even lower until the pitchers have turned in good performances over the past week.


Cole Hamels:  The ace has gotten off to a slow start.  He missed most of spring training and his Opening Day start due to an elbow injury which he attributed to going off his normal offseason throwing program.  He also suffered a couple of freak, but minor, injuries.  He got roughed up a little bit last night against Washington, and had one really bad start early in the season, but for the most part he's been pitching better each time out and is rounding into form.  Q1 grade:  B-

Brett Myers:  Make no mistake, the Phillies suffered a big blow when Myers went down with a hip injury last week which will most likely sideline him for the season.  The injury, which has affected him all season, could explain his ineffectiveness this season.  While not a superstar, he's a solid major-league pitcher who could give you 190-200 innings a year.  Q1 grade:  C

Jamie Moyer:  Moyer has struggled all season, and had a 7.42 ERA heading into today's game against the Nationals.  He got lit up in his first 3 starts in May (2 vs. the Mets, 1 vs. the Dodgers), but he's pitched better in his last 2 starts, and is looking good so far today.  You have to figure that he's going to turn it around at some point, as he wouldn't forget how to pitch overnight after 20 years in the majors, but he's gotta get it going SOON.  Q1 grade:  D

Joe Blanton:  Blanton's been inconsistent all season.  When he's been on, he's been ON.  When he's off, he's getting rocked.  In 9 starts this year, he's been lights out in 2, brutal in 2, and so-so in the rest.  Especially now with Myers out, Blanton has to step up.  Q1 grade:  D+

J.A. Happ:  Since Chan Ho Park pitched himself into the bullpen (where the Phillies really wanted him all along anyway), J.A. Happ was tabbed to take his spot.  He's pitched well in 2 starts, but it's too early to grade him.  Q1 grade:  incomplete


Clay Condrey and Ryan Madson have been great so far.  Scott Eyre, Jack Taschner, and Chad Durbin have pitched all right.  The big problem in the bullpen has been the back end, with Brad Lidge.  He's definitely not the "Lights Out Lidge" of 2008.  He's had a nagging knee injury all season, but insists that it's not affecting his pitching.  In the bullpen's defense, the ineffectiveness of the starters has forced them to pitch a lot of innnings, and they're without one of their key members in J.C. Romero, who will return soon from a 50-game suspension.  Q1 grade:  Condrey and Madson get A's; Eyre, Tashcner, and Durbin get C's; Lidge gets a D+. 


Having shed the "Charlie from Mayberry" tag placed on him by one of the crappier sports radio hosts in Philly with the World Series championship last year, Charlie Manuel has managed to keep the Phils in or near first place most of the season despite slumps by players like Jimmy Rollins and pretty much the entire bench except for Matt Stairs, and the problems with the pitching staff.  And in what has to be a first for ANY coach or manager in Philly, he said last week that the fans are being "too easy" on the team.  That's not really a problem; if the bottom falls out, the boobirds will be back.  Q1 grade: A

Front Office

June will provide the first real tests for rookie GM Ruben Amaro Jr.  He needs to find more pitching (especially now with Myers gone for the season), as well as more help for the bench.  He'll also run his first draft, which is critical with the loss of assistant GM (and former director of scouting) Mike Arbuckle.  The Fightin's farm system is pretty depleted, especially at the higher levels, and needs help.  But right now, you have to give him insane props for letting Pat Burrell go and bringing in Raul Ibanez.  Q1 grade: A-
Category: MLB
Tags: Phillies
Posted on: May 28, 2009 5:27 pm
Edited on: May 31, 2009 11:04 pm

Phillies 2009 Offensive Report Card: 1st quarter

We're just over a quarter of the way into the season, so let's review how the offense for the defending champion Phillies has performed out of the gate...

C:  Carlos Ruiz:  Ruiz has played well this season, making some key defensive plays and quietly having a steady season at the plate, hitting .280 so far.  A Hall-of-Famer he's not, but the Phils could be a LOT worse off.  Q1 grade:  B

1B:  Ryan Howard--If there were any knocks against Ryan Howard, it was that he strikes out too much, and he's weak on defense.  He worked hard on his defense during the winter, and it's shown, with a .998 fielding percentage and making some nice plays in the field.  The Ks are still high though, with his 54 putting him 3rd among NL hitters and 6th in the majors.  His .263 average is also 15 points below his career average, but his power stroke is still there, with his 12 home runs so far.  Q1 grade: A-

2B:  Chase Utley:  Chase has continued to prove that he is "The Man", as the late, great Harry the K would refer to him.  While other 2B (namely Ian Kinsler) have become great players in their own right, Utley is still the best 2B in baseball.  A slump has dropped his average to .289, but he still has 11 HR, 31 RBI, and 32 runs scored.  One thing Utley needs to do, however, is learn to get out of the way.  No one's going to question his toughness, or willingness to take one for the team, but the tradeoff of getting a pass to first base in exchange for possibly being injured and missing a significant amount of time is not worth it.  Q1 grade: A-

3B:  Pedro Feliz:  Arguably one of the Fightin's 2 weakest positions (along with catcher), Feliz has been quietly been having a good season.  While he has only 2 HR so far at a traditional power poistion, with the rest of the power in the lineup, he doesn't need to hit HRs.  He's currently batting .307, 50 points above his career average, and has been solid defensively, committing only 2 errors so far. 
Q1 grade: B+

SS:  Jimmy Rollins:  Rollins got off to a brutally slow start, being unable to keep his average above .200 on a consistent basis until his recent hot streak.  Even now, he's only hitting .223, with an OBP of only .271, which is really low for a leadoff hitter.  His failure to produce in the leadoff spot led manager Charlie Manuel to drop him in the order a couple of weeks ago, which Rollins voiced his displeasure about.  Q1 grade: D

LF:  Raul Ibanez:  I think the only negative thing you could say about Raul Ibanez so far this season is the fact that for some reason, he's only 6th in NL All-Star voting.  The stat line he's posted so far (.339/17/44/38) puts him at or near the top in all hitting categories, and he hasn't disappointed in the field either, being the defensive upgrade over Pat Burrell that everyone expected him to be.  While he has gone on torrid tears like this throughout his career, and he will eventually cool down, he deserves all the praise he's earned so far.  I'm giving him the top grade Buddy Ryan would give people--an A double plus.  Q1 grade: A++

CF:  Shane Victorino:  The Flyin' Hawaiian has started to get hot after a slow start.  He continues to make plays at bat and in the field, and has been one of the spark plugs for the Phillies' offense, helping them to overcome Rollins' slow start.  His numbers are OK right now (.280/4/25/31), but they'll really start to improve now that he's on a tear.  Q1 grade:  B-

RF:  Jayson Werth:  A self-proclaimed "streaky" player, Werth has definitely been that this year.  He's either tearing the cover off the ball, or not producing at all.  He's on pace for a 30-30 season, with close to 100 RBIs thrown in, and the .255 BA will come up.  Werth has also been perfect in the field, and thrown out 4 runners so far.  Q1 grade:  B

Bench:  Could be a lot better, and GM Ruben Amaro has made it clear that upgrading the bench is one of his goals.  The only one who's produced in a pinch-hitting role is Matt Stairs, who's hitting .300 with 3 pinch-hit HRs on the season.  Greg Dobbs is slumping horribly, only hitting .135.  Eric Bruntlett is hitting even worse (.118), meaning if Chase Utley goes down for any length of time, the Phils are in real trouble.  Chris Coste is a borderline major-leaguer.  Newcomer John Mayberry hit a home run in his first game last weekend at Yankee Stadium, but won't see regular playing time ahead of Ibanez, Victorino, and Werth.  Q1 grade:  D-

That's my review of the offense so far.  Up next: pitchers, Charlie Manuel, and Amaro.

Category: MLB
Tags: Phillies
Posted on: May 21, 2009 12:45 pm

Should the Phillies try for Jake Peavy?

It might be too late for this to be an option, as the Padres have reportedly agreed to trade Jake Peavy to the White Sox.  However, the trade has not gone through yet as Peavy has a no-trade clause, and has not approved the deal yet.  He has made it clear in the past that he'd be willing to waive the no-trade so that the Padres could deal him, but he's also stated his preference to go to another National League team so that he can hit. 

If I'm Ruben Amaro Jr., i'm on the phone with San Diego until the trade goes through.  I don't know how well the Phillies and Padres match up, though.  San Diego would reportedly get 4 pitchers in the deal, including Clayton Richard, who has pitched in the rotation and bullpen for Chicago this year; Aaron Poreda, a AA pitcher who was Chiacgo's first round pick in 2007, and one or two other pitchers. 

The Phillies can make a comparable offer as far as Richard and Poreda go by offering J.A. Happ and Carlos Carrasco.  However, they might be hard-pressed to match the other pitchers involved (at this point unnamed).  Kyle Drabek has pitched well since coming back from Tommy John surgery, and was recently promoted to Williamsport, but is still several years away from the major league level.  The only other Phillies minor-league pitcher ranked in their Top-10 prospects (according to Baseball America) is Jason Knapp, the Fightin's second-round pick in the 2008 draft, who is currently at Single-A Lakewood. 

For this to work, the Phillies would HAVE to trade Carrasco, which is something that they haven't been willing to do in the past.  He's gotten off to a rough start this year after getting promoted to AAA Lehigh Valley, but they still love him as a prospect.  It also will be a test to see how much of Pat Gillick's teachings have sunk into Amaro, in this case Gillick's dislike for long-term contracts for pitchers, and no-trade clauses.  At this point, Peavy still has 2 and 1/2 years on his current contract.

I'd love to see them try to make this trade, as the rotation has been killing them this year, and putting Peavy and Hamels 1-2 at the top of the rotation could be killer once you get to the playoffs.  It just might be too late.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 16, 2009 3:31 pm

Should Brad Lidge go on the DL?

After watching Brad Lidge blow another save last night, you have to wonder if the "knee inflammation" he was diagnosed with a few weeks ago is more serious than reported.  Going into today's DH at Washington, his numbers for the season are this:  0-1, 9.19 ERA, 5 saves, 2 blown saves.  He's also allowed runs in 6 straight appearances.  He's gone from "Lights-out Lidge", to "Light 'em up Lidge" as one of my buddies put it last night.

Lidge did develop a rep as a closer who was "damaged" (for lack of better words) by the home run he gave up into Albert Pujols in the playoffs a few years ago, and definitely struggled for the Astros after that, becoming a prime example of a player who needed a change of scenery.  He got it with the trade to the Phillies last year, and he responded great, going 38-for-38 in save opportunities. 

Watching him pitch rght now, i don't think it's mental.  I think that his knee is still bothering him and affecting his ability to pitch.  Lidge himself said that it's most noticable when he pushes off from the rubber.  If that's the case, it's gotta be affecting the speed on his fastball, and probably him being able to locate his slider. 

This is the same knee that he had surgery on twice last year.  An MRI he had a few weeks ago revealed no major damage, just inflammation, but maybe a couple of weeks on the DL will give him a chance to rest and let it heal.  With the way he's pitching, they might as well put him on now, but if they can hold out for a couple of more weeks, they could put Lidge on the DL, have Ryan Madson close, and make J.C. Romero (back from his supension) the setup man.  I think the best thing they can do right now is put Lidge on the DL, get him healthy, and bring him back at 100% for the second half of the season.
Category: MLB
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