Friday, September 21, 2012

What's in a third baseman ...

Prior to Friday night's game against the Braves the Phillies were honoring Chipper Jones for a career that certainly will qualify him for a plaque in the Hall of Fame.
Let's look at his numbers broken down by position:

That's a career .401/.537/.938 OBP/SLG/OPS slash line for Chipper as a third baseman. That not only compares favorably with Mike Schmidt, it's actually better than Schmitty's .380/.526/.906. Granted, Schmidt was a better fielder and played in a less-juiced era. But let's face it: If you count baseball's all-time great third basemen on one hand, Chipper deserves to be one of the fingers.
Chipper did spend a couple of seasons in left field, moving there so the Braves could bring in Vinny Castilla to play third base. You might remember that Castilla STUNK as well.
But for most of his 18 seasons in the majors, Jones has been a staple at the hot corner for the Braves. It has been less stable for the Phillies in that span.
Since Jones became Atlanta's everyday third baseman in 1995, here is the list of starting third basemen the Phillies have had:

Charlie Hayes (one year, .340/.406/.746)
Todd Zeile (one year, .353/.436/.789)
Scott Rolen (six years, .373/.507/.880)
David Bell (four years, .331/.385/.715)
Abraham Nunez (one year, .310/.277/.587)
Pedro Feliz (two years, .306, .393, .699)
Placido Polanco (three years, .330, .356, .686)

Toss an honorable mention to Tomas Perez, who started 66 games at third over the years, mostly when David Bell's brittle back would fail.
That's a list of third basemen of varying skill levels, with Rolen and Polanco earning All-Star nods during their tenures. And let's point out two crazy factoids: 1) Zeile was the second-best third baseman they had during that time (offensively, that is -- defensively he was hideous); 2) Feliz, an absolute piƱata for many fans (especially the SABR crowd), had a higher OPS in his two years than Polanco has had in his second turn with the Phils.
Perhaps what played a role in the level of disgust Philadelphians have had toward Chipper is that he was everything people longed for the Phillies to find at the hot corner when Mike Schmidt rode into the sunset. The Phils had that for a while in Rolen, but his discontent has led to another decade-long meandering in the desert for the next iconic third baseman.
Looking at that list should make fans appreciate what Jimmy Rollins has meant to this team. His production at shortstop has made it possible for the Phillies to thrive in the past decade with a pretty big bag of blah at third base.
And while we're on that subject, I'll give you a tip for tomorrow morning: Check out Jack McCaffery's column. He goes to bat for Rollins as someone who ought to be in the Cooperstown conversation.
For those who want to check out all of Chipper Jones' stats, here they are, minors included:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Here it is ... opening in Atlanta, home opening series against the Royals. I think the toughest stretch is right after the All-Star break, with a 9-game road trip to New York, St. Louis and Detroit. The last 15 games of the season are NL East tilts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Phillies: In it, But Not In It

The big debate concerning the Phillies is this: Are they, or are they not, in the playoff hunt?

The answer is, yes and no.

More than at any time this season the Phils are capable of putting together something more than a stretch of above-average play. They have the heart of their lineup back and beyond the "scraping off the rust" period. They have four healthy starters pitching at or close to their best ball of the season, and a fifth guy who seems capable of keeping them in games. They have a revamped bullpen that has talented arms and is far more dependable than the mess they had in the first half. And they have a schedule that features seven games against divisional cellar-dwellers this week.

However, it's one thing to be capable of a big run. It's another to rip off six wins in seven games against the Marlins and Astros. And in reality, that's what the Phillies have to do. Not 4-3, not 5-2. They need six or seven wins here.

Then there are the teams they much chase down -- St. Louis and LA.

While the Phillies have a chance to smack around Houston for four games, the Dodgers and Cardinals -- really, the only two teams with which they must concern themselves in this wildcard chase -- play each other for four games. That could work for, or against the Phillies. They need to root for a split, or at worst the Dodgers taking three out of four of those games. The reason: St. Louis goes into the series with three games against the Padres, then follows it up with six games against Houston bookending a three-game set against the Cubs.

As for the Dodgers, they definitely are the less stable team. They lost 11 of 12 earlier this season, and despite loading up on skilled veteran players, LA hasn't exactly taken off over the last six weeks. The Dodgers have a much tougher schedule, and even when they catch a six-game break against San Diego and Colorado later this month, it isn't as if they have done very well against those teams (16-14 combined vs. SDP & COL).

Truly, this is mostly about the Cardinals and the Phillies themselves. They have practice zero margin of error -- one more meltdown like two Sundays ago in Atlanta, and forget it.

That said, it would be nice if they at least close this season gone awry with a fight. And, say, four or five homers by Darin Ruf.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Phillies take Game 1

It wasn't the weirdest ending ever ... but it was pretty weird just the same.
After Colorado catcher Wilin Rosario committed his fourth -- FOURTH! -- passed ball of the game to force an intentional walk of Ryan Howard with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Colorado reliever Matt Belisle got ahead of John Mayberry Jr. 0-2 in the count before Mayberry hit a ball off the end of his bat to left.

Carlos Gonzalez charged, dove and the ball landed in his glove. Then he hit the ground. For a moment everyone stood around waiting for a call.

It turned out the ball squirted out. And the Phillies had a walkoff 3-2 win.