Thursday, December 12, 2013


By DENNIS DEITCH, @DennisDeitch

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Phillies did not leave the Winter Meetings empty-handed.

The question is whether they left with a hand much better than the one with which they arrived.

Although the organization wasn’t ready to make it official, a source confirmed a report by that the Phillies have agreed to a one-year contract with right-hander Roberto Hernandez, who spent most of last season in the Tampa Rays’ starting rotation.

In 24 starts with the Rays last season, Hernandez was 6-13 with a 4.98 ERA before he was moved to the bullpen when Matt Moore came off the disabled list in late August.

Until January 2012, Hernandez was known as Fausto Carmona. That was when a bizarre arrest in the Dominican Republic took place that led to revelations that his family had changed his age and identity as a youth. The legal trouble and a three-week suspension levied by MLB over the controversy cost the then-Cleveland pitcher most of the 2012 season. It also revealed he was three years older than believe. Hernandez’s listed age is 33.

After the Phillies selected Arizona minor-league reliever Kevin Munson in the Rule 5 draft, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. spoke vaguely about Hernandez without naming him.

“We’ve gotten close to acquiring a starter to give us a little bit of depth,” Amaro said. “We’ll see. We’re still working on it. Hopefully within the next week we’ll be able to get something done.

“It’s someone who will join our rotation … more of a depth guy, someone who can slide into the bottom of our rotation. We need some depth. We’re trying to get the best bang for our buck, and in this marketplace, it’s tough because the prices have soared significantly.”

The money wasn’t stated, but Hernandez made $3.25 million last season, so the figure should be in the $4 million range. The Phillies have about $10 million remaining in their budget, although there remains plenty of time to make a trade and change that dynamic.

Until a trade can drop, however, Amaro thinks this might be the last 40-man roster addition he makes as far as starting pitchers go. The Phillies’ rotation at the moment consists of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Hernandez and either Jonathan Pettibone or Cuban signee Miguel Gonzalez.

“I don’t know if we’ll be adding another guy,” Amaro said. “We've talked internally about some of our options. We’ll likely have Pettibone and Ethan Martin stretched out. Hopefully that will create enough depth for us. We’re going to try to continue to look for some depth there.”

Hernandez’s best season was his first full season in the Indians’ rotation in 2007, when he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. In the six seasons since, he is 39-64 with a 5.03 ERA.

Amaro hinted that he didn’t think Hernandez’s talent was as far removed from some of the pitchers commanding $10 million-plus per season on the free-agent market.

“Some of the big names, for us, are probably more names than they are talent,” he said. “… what they are seeking, I don’t think it matches up with the level of talent. That’s my take on it.”

The Phillies also added Munson into the fold. The right-hander, who turns 25 in January, was 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA and 14 saves in 53 games between Double- and Triple-A for the Diamondbacks last season. Although he had a 5.09 ERA during his stint with Triple-A Reno, it is a notoriously hitter-friendly stop in the Pacific Coast League, and his other numbers (27 strikeouts, seven walks in 23 innings) led the Phillies to believe he could be ready to compete in the majors.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What Ruben? You want to do what? WHAT? WHAT?!?!

Desperate times call for desperate measures.
The problem is, when the desperation is coming in flailing fits from the general manager of a franchise with one of the biggest payrolls in baseball, it makes you wonder if there’s a plan in place.
The second full day of the MLB Winter Meetings got off to an interesting start with rumors that Ruben Amaro Jr. has been asking around for teams interested in acquiring either Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels in a trade to make the Phillies younger.
There are a few problems with this fanciful thought.
 If what Amaro wants in return is a big-league ready, controllable, young player, that isn’t going to happen because teams do not accept contracts with $62.5 million over two years (which is what is remaining on Lee’s) or $112.5 million over five years (which is what remains on Hamels’) and offer anything generous in return. Sure, the Phillies could cough over $30 million to a team interested in Lee or $40 million to one interested in Hamels to make it work … but why would you spend $17 million in 2014 on Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz, then dump that much money to unload an established starting pitcher and wreck an already thin starting rotation?
The only logical reason the Phillies could have for even tossing those names out there is to get a temperature check in case they want to deal either southpaw at the trade deadline. Lee was discussed in each of the last two Julys and Augusts, but teams weren’t buying what they were selling.
However, once another $15 million has evaporated from Lee’s contract in the first half of 2014 … now the price is starting to get to a manageable place for a contender.
At least it seems the Phillies have learned from the last time Lee was traded and are more focused on getting one solid young  big-leaguer or near-ready prospect, as opposed to the trio of raw, B-graders they got from Seattle (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez).

The most frightening thing about the Lee/Hamels talk is that it speaks to a general lack of a plan for the Phillies this winter. When they re-upped Chase Utley (who turns 35 next week) and signed Ruiz (turns 35 next month) and Byrd (36), they closed the door on making a push for a younger team. This will be an old, rickety Phillies team in 2014. There is no way around it. All Amaro can do at this point is try to add enough depth to cover for the inevitable physical breakdowns waiting to happen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bob McClure named Phillies pitching coach

After a search that lasted nearly eight weeks, the Phillies finally named Bob McClure as their pitching coach for 2014. 

If you judge a pitching coach by the success of his staff...well, McClure isn't going to wow anyone. He spent six seasons as Royals pitching coach (2006-11) and five months of the 2012 season as Red Sox pitching coach. None of those teams had a winning record, and his last job ended with an in-season firing after a pretty public rift with manager Bobby Valentine.

Clearly, the Royals were at a huge competitive disadvantage during his tenure because of budget restraints, but there was a large body of work for the Phillies to investigate as it pertained to McClure's ability to groom young pitchers like Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar and Joakim Soria. The organization considers the capability of preparing their inexperienced relief prospects to be consistent performers in the majors a top priority. 

The Phils also announced that bullpen coach Rod Nichols and bullpen catcher Jesus Tiamo would return in those capacities. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Marlon Byrd Returning To Philly

According to multiple reports, the Phillies have agreed to terms with veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd on a two-year deal to be the right-handed-hitting outfield bat with pop they needed after Delmon Young and John Mayberry Jr. failed miserably at providing it in 2013.

Byrd, 36, seemed to have his career come to a dubious end in 2012 when he struggled, then received a 50-game suspension for PED use. Yet somehow he revived his career in 2013 with a standout season with the Mets he parlayed into a deadline trade to the playoff-bound Pirates, where he helped them end a two-decade-long postseason drought. Byrd hit .291 with 24 HR, 88 RBI and a career-best .843 OPS.

The commitment to another aging veteran indicates a belief that some younger player — Darin Ruf or, if the Phillies commit to a position switch, top hitting prospect Maikel Franco — will be capable to filling that need on a regular basis at some point in 2015. The report, first mentioned by WYSP, is that the contract will be for two seasons.

The Phillies remain on the prowl for a starting pitcher who can serve as a workhorse behind Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and a set-up reliever.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Larry Bowa back as Ryne Sandberg starts filling coaching staff

Larry Bowa is back, nearly a decade after he was fired as manager.
Pete Mackanin, who was dismissed a year ago, is back.
Steve Henderson is back — but he never left.
Wally Joyner was asked back, but declined.
Rod Nichols and Juan Samuel are in limbo.

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg named Bowa, a man who influenced his Hall of Fame career significantly when the pair was a double-play combo for the Cubs, his right-hand man as bench coach. Bowa was the Phillies manager for four seasons prior to Charlie Manuel's reign and all but confirmed when he was in Philly last month that he would like to be on Sandberg's staff if and when the interim tag was removed from his job title.

“Put it this way: If I ever did come back, I’m not going away from the East Coast," Bowa said last month. "I just like the style of play around here, I like the atmosphere out here. It’s a different atmosphere. I know the Dodgers are playing good, but I’ve seen them play bad and there’s no one in the stadium. The atmosphere is always good. New York it’s good, Boston it’s good.”

Mackanin's return comes as a slightly bigger surprise, considering he was the bench coach from 2009-12 and was fired a year ago during a shakeup to Manuel's staff. Mackanin will serve as third-base coach.

Henderson returns as hitting coach, but Joyner — whom Dom Brown described as "a gift from God" in spring training, prior to a breakout seasons for the outfielder — declined to return in a shared role as hitting coach with Henderson.

Nichols is said to be on the short list for the pitching coach position made vacant when Rich Dubee's contract was allowed to expire. Nichols was brought up from his developmental position to serve as bullpen coach an last season and has been well respected by homegrown pitchers like
Cole Hamels for years, but there has been a conversation inside the organization to make significant changes to the way the Phillies groom pitchers from top-to-bottom. The Phillies relieved minor-league pitching coordinator Gorman Heimueller of his title in August, and the choice of his successor could play into how the Phillies choose Dubee's replacement.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Change is in the air for Phillies

By DENNIS DEITCH, @DennisDeitch
ATLANTA – Ruben Amaro Jr. said Saturday that the first order of business for the Phillies upon conclusion of their most disappointing season in more than a decade was to get Ryne Sandberg’s coaching staff in order.
That process began with a significant, yet unsurprising decision to part way with pitching coach Rich Dubee after nine seasons, five of which resulted in postseason appearances, with one coming with a world championship.
The change hardly comes as a surprise, considering the Phillies have a new manager in Sandberg and are coming off a season where the pitching staff ranked 14th in the National League in ERA, with some of the decisions and lack of progress focused on the pitching coach.
Dubee was backed stridently by veteran pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. In Halladay’s case, it’s no wonder: Dubee was complicit in keeping Halladay’s back issues last season from view, and this year Dubee continued to give an overabundance of leeway to the right-hander as he pitched with a hurt shoulder and stomach problems. Halladay had four starts in the opening 32 days of the season where he was pummeled so badly the team had no shot to compete behind him. That deference showed a wiliness to put Halladay ahead of what was right for the pitching staff and the team, and even if the front office wrongly supported that decision, Dubee had the tenure and expertise to be the one to have the organization reconsider it.
Dubee’s other fatal flaw was his inability to get much out of the young relievers the Phillies banked on filling out their bullpen entering this season. Not one of the young relievers showed a great deal of promise during spring training, with hard-throwing right-hander Phillippe Aumont becoming completely unraveled in the process. By the time guys like Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and B.J. Rosenberg started to have their talents begin to pay dividends, the season was long lost.
Those are the reasons Dubee is out. However, he deserves credit for being there as Halladay won a Cy Young and finished second another year, Cliff Lee continued to thrive into his mid-30s, and Hamels remained one of the top left-handers in the game. He also took a mediocre starting rotation and unheralded bullpen in 2008 and helped it delivered a World Series title to the city.
A replacement for Dubee must be determined, but Rod Nichols, who had been a longtime and well-regarded minor-league pitching coach in the minors for the Phils, kept a low-profile as the bullpen coach for the Phils this season and will be under consideration for the gig.
While Dubee joined Charlie Manuel as a casualty of 2013 and there are certain to be more coaching changes in the coming weeks, the general manager is getting one more shot to correct a roster that he has allowed to go astray each of the last two winters.
Amaro is aware he has two strikes on him. And during a lengthy discussion at Turner Field, he said he accepts both the responsibility for his part in causing the mess and for making some quick corrections. After all, the signing of Chase Utley and retention of several other veterans were indicators that there won’t be a rebuilding just yet. The Phillies remain in reloading mode.
“I don’t listen to a lot of it,” Amaro said of the calls for his head. “But listen, I’m the G.M. of the club, so I fully expect to take heat for it. I’m the one who is making the decisions on player personnel. I’m accountable for the things that have happened.
“I have not had a very good year; our team did not have a very good year. I think we win as a team and lose as a team. The fact of the matter is that I should take a lot of heat. I need to be better, and our guys need to be better.
“We need to evaluate better, we need to make better decisions and make better mojo overall.”
The Phillies finished 73-89, which landed them the No. 7 overall pick in the June 2014 Draft. By virtue of being in the top 10, Amaro can be aggressive on the free-agent market and sign a player without sacrificing a first-round pick. With starting pitchers like Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Tim Lincecum likely hitting the market, that might be his best option for filling that need.
Another area in question in the outfield, where the Phillies again lagged well below the MLB average in production, despite Dom Brown coming into his own in the first half. Amaro said that Brown might switch back to right field from left, depending on how the team addresses the issues. As for Darin Ruf …
“Ruf is not a right fielder,” Amaro said. “I think he can fill in for us. I think he can fill in in certain areas, but I can’t sit here and tell you that he’s an everyday player for us … It’s hard to say that he’s an everyday player in the outfield. I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice, because we just need to be better in the outfield defensively.”
The best outfielders on the market are Red Sox sparkplug Jacoby Ellsbury (.298 average, 52 SBs, 92 runs) and Reds on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo (.423 OBP, 21 HRs, 107 runs in 2013), both of whom are Scott Boras clients and are left-handed hitters. Neither of those aspects are appealing to the Phils, although Amaro seemed ready to completely tilt his team to the left side of the plate if needed.
“We might even have to go more left-handed,” he said. “If the quality of the player needs to be left-handed, and he’s a quality player who can play the outfield and play defense and play the way we need him to do, then we might have to go with a left-handed hitter.”
 The quality drops hard after those two, so Amaro might have to get creative and bold with trade offers.
“As far as the free-agent market is concerned,” Amaro said, “it’s maybe a little bit better (than last winter). But we have our internal options that will be better. We have some guys who have grown up a little bit. They've had an opportunity to grow up. I won't anoint Cody Asche as the third baseman, but he is a viable option. I frankly hope there is a great competition in spring training between Maikel Franco and Cody. That can create a heck of a situation for us. They are both very, very good young players. A lot of it depends on how they handle it.”
The player decisions are destined to start with Carlos Ruiz, and a source said the organization has begun an attempt to preemptively get the veteran catcher off the market. After struggling with production at the plate until late July, Ruiz hit .281 with 17 extra-base hits, 28 RBIs and a .789 OPS in his final 46 games (41 starts). With top catching prospect Tommy Joseph’s progress stunted by concussion problems and Cameron Rupp at the moment a safer bet as a backup, the position is a priority.
Amaro also mentioned Roy Halladay as a “concern,” but it seems ridiculous to think that the fallen ace will have a team before January. Odds are strong teams will want to see the 36-year-old throw off a mound and see if his recovers both weight on his gaunt frame and velocity on his dying fastball.
“As far as monetizing his contract, I have no idea where to go there yet,” Amaro said of Halladay. “It's going to be something that is south of where he is now ($20 million) clearly, but the question is how far south do you go without embarrassing the player? How far south do you go risking what he will be for us? … But we have some time. It's not a pressing issue.”
As for the payroll, there wasn’t a team that spent as much to be as bad as the Phillies. So, while there will be a discussion about a possible increase of the $165 million Amaro spent in 2013, he doesn’t think it should be necessary to succeed. 
“I really haven’t talked to David (Montgomery) about that,” Amaro said of the team president, who was in Atlanta last weekend with the team. “Obviously we had a lot less people coming to the ballpark this year. We have to be cognizant of that. We have been greatly supported – our payroll was, what, $165 million? That should be enough to put a contender on the field.
“We didn’t do it for a variety of reasons – some from the decisions that we made, some were because we just didn’t have the health that was necessary to have success. We have to make better decisions.”

And if that change in the tides hasn’t already started, it better soon.

Phils stub out a Dubee

The Phillies have brought an end to Rich Dubee’s nine-year tenure as pitching coach.
They made the announcement Monday morning that Dubee would not have his contract renewed. It comes hardly as a surprise considering the Phillies have a new manager in Ryne Sandberg and are coming off a season where the pitching staff ranked 14th in the National League in ERA, with some of the decisions and lack of progress focused on the pitching coach.
Dubee was stridently back by veteran pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. In Halladay’s case, it’s no wonder : Dubee was complicit in keeping Halladay’s back issues last season from view, and this year Dubee continued to give an overabundance of leeway to the right-hander as he pitched with a hurt shoulder and stomach problems. Halladay had four starts in the opening 32 days of the season where he was pummeled so badly the team had no shot to compete behind him. That deference showed a wiliness to put Halladay ahead of what was right for the pitching staff and the team, and even if the front office wrongly supported that decision, Dubee had the tenure and expertise to be the one to have the organization reconsider it.
Dubee’s other fatal flaw was his inability to get much out of the young relievers the Phillies banked on filling out their bullpen entering this season. Not one of the young relievers showed a great deal of promise during spring training, with hard-throwing right-hander Phillippe Aumont becoming completely unraveled in the process. By the time guys like Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and  B.J. Rosenberg  started to have their talents begin to pay dividends, the season was long lost.
Those are the reasons Dubee is out. However, he deserves credit for being there as Halladay won a Cy Young and finished second another year, Cliff Lee continued to thrive into his mid-30s, and Hamels remained one of the top left-handers in the game. He also took a mediocre starting rotation and unheralded bullpen in 2008 and helped it delivered a World Series title to the city.

A replacement for Dubee has yet to be determined, but Rod Nichols, who had been a longtime and well-regarded minor-league pitching coach in the minors for the Phils, kept a low-profile as the bullpen coach for the Phils this season and will be under consideration for the gig.


The bad news: The 2013 Phillies were absolutely awful.
The good news: They were awful enough that the Phillies have the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 June Draft, their highest pick in a draft since they took Gavin Floyd with the fourth overall selection in 2001.  
So, what should fans expect out of Mr. Seven?

 “What’s in the booooooooox?!?!?!”

Actually, what has been in the box at the No. 7 pick in the baseball draft since the turn of the millennium is some pretty sweet stuff.
Matt Harvey (Mets) and Mike Minor (Braves) were No. 7 picks and likely will be tormenting the Phillies on the mound in the N.L. East for years to come.
The best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, was the seventh pick in 2006. Homer Bailey (Reds) ain’t shabby. He was No. 7 in 2004.
Some hitters you might have heard of also were Lucky Sevens: Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies in 2005), Nick Markakis (Orioles in 2003) and Prince Fielder (Brewers in 2002) are All-Stars, and Yonder Alonso (Reds in 2008) has become a solid, if unspectacular, pro with time to improve.
As with any draft hole, you get the occasional dud. Matt LaPorta (Brewers, 2007) has had injuries and a terrible glove make him a dud, and one of the most infamous draft losers ever, Matt Harrington, was taken seventh by the Rockies in 2000. He turned down seven-figures from them and again the next season from the Padres and never signed a pro contract with a major-league franchise. The last time he was heard from, Harrington was changing tires in a Costco garage.
However, all in all, No. 7 has been a game-changer for franchises. Heaven knows the Phillies could use some of that.
As for which players to track over the next nine months before that pick reaches gestation, here are a few guys projected to go in the first half of the first round and have a Phillies profile:

  • Braxton Davidson: He’s a big left-handed hitting prep outfielder from North Carolina with major power.
  • Michael Cederoth:  The lanky San Diego State right-hander rolls it up there close to 100 mph and has a hard slider and changeup (and some control issues, so the Phils will love that).
  • Alex Jackson: He’s a right-handed-hitting catcher/outfielder from SoCal with loads of pop.
  • Trea Turner: The N.C. State shortstop/third baseman has the type of skills that could make him a speedier, right-handed-hitting Chase Utley.
In case you’re wondering, the last time the Phillies had a No. 7 pick, it was 1986 and they drafted one Brad Brink. And if you’re asking, “Who is Brad Brink?” … yeah, that didn’t go so well.

Sometimes what’s in the box is Gwyneth Paltrow’s head.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cliff Lee: 2016 is it, won't be "struggling and fumbling through the end"

By DENNIS DEITCH, @DennisDeitch
ATLANTA – Cliff Lee had a month that no pitcher, in terms of strikeout and walk dominance, had ever matched or surpassed.
He also lost his last two starts of 2013, Friday night’s defeat a 1-0 loss to the Braves at Turner Field. He won’t pitch in October, again, this season. And although he has pitched terrifically in each of the last two seasons, and absolutely brilliantly in the last two Septembers, he is 35.
He wants another shot at a championship – but he isn’t going to pitch beyond his usefulness to get it.
“Yeah. I am getting up there in age,” Lee said after he worked eight stellar innings, striking out 13 Braves and walking none to make him the first pitcher in major-league history to have more than 50 strikeouts and allow one or no walks in a calendar month. “I’m 35 years old now and when this contract’s over I plan on going home, so I’m running out of opportunities.”
Barring injury, Lee has three more years on his contract, and when asked if he really planned on those three years being his final three years, Lee said yes.
Before speaking to the media after the game, the southpaw was speaking to his family via FaceTime on his iPhone. He was looking into the eyes of his children. He has grown weary of being limited to that view for six months every year.
“There are a lot of things that can happen between now and (the end of his contract in 2016),” Lee said, “but I just know that my kids are 12 and 10 and I’ve basically missed the first half of their lives. I’m financially able to shut it down, so … that’s how I feel right now.
“But when they time comes I might look at it differently.”
As Lee spoke about his future, he stood next to the locker of Roy Halladay, who went from a struggling season in 2012 to a miserable one in 2013 that included shoulder surgery, weight loss and a startling decrease in velocity.
Maybe that didn’t influence what he had to say next … but it’s tough to imagine it didn’t.
“I also want to finish being good,” Lee said, “not struggling and fumbling through at the end. I want to finish strong and take it to the house. Next year I want to win a World Series, then another one, then another one and take it to the house. That’s what I’m wanting to do.”
Lee finished September with an astounding 54 strikeouts and one walk in his five starts covering 39 innings. Two pitchers in history had ever had 50-plus strikeouts and two walks in a month, both of them former Phillies – Curt Schilling in May 2002 (62 K, 2 BB) and Pedro Martinez in August 2000 (51 K, 2 BB).
In his last two Septembers, Lee has a 1.63 ERA, 105 strikeouts and just four walks in 12 starts.
This start ended in a loss when Atlanta third baseman/fun cop Chris Johnson golfed a two-strike, ankle-high slider into the first row in left to lead off the bottom of the eighth. That was enough to give the Braves and Kris Medlen – who took a no-hitter two outs deep into the sixth inning – the victory.
There is a chance the Phillies will end the season with their first 90-loss season since 2000. They might have the money to turn things around quickly, but it will mean making some wily and aggressive decisions this winter.
Lee might want to be holding his children instead of looking at them on a smart phone screen, but he assured that he will be watching Ruben Amaro Jr. closely as well.
“I’m always curious to what they are going to do, no matter what,” Lee said. “When you know you’re going to be a part of an organization for years … it’s just the natural thing to do.
“What gives me hope is the fact that this has been a winning organization for quite a while, and you’ve got to expect the front office to make moves and do everything they can to keep that going.”
What Lee expects most is for his best efforts to no longer go to waste.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

An epic night

By DENNIS DEITCH, @DennisDeitch
PHILADELPHIA – It would be one thing if Casper Wells had a tough night at the ballpark.
The problem for the struggling outfielder is that his tough night turned into a tough morning. And instead of his going 0-for-7 with four strikeouts and seven runners left on base being the roughest part of his night, it was the five runs he gave up.
As a pitcher. In the 18th inning. Until he was relieved by another position player.
So it went for Wells and the Phillies in a 12-7 loss to the Diamondbacks in an epic, 7-hour, 6-minute marathon that was the only downer in an otherwise wild week of walk-off wins. And thanks to the bizarre happenings that led to the Phillies using 10 pitchers and the teams tying a major-league record with 20 pitchers total, Roy Halladay will return to the mound for the Phils Sunday afternoon instead of making one more minor-league rehab start at Double-A Reading as planned. Among the pitchers burned was Tyler Cloyd, who was supposed to start Sunday’s game, but instead threw five shutout relief innings. Cloyd also had a leadoff double in the 16th, only to get stranded there.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who was not at the ballpark Saturday night, had to be contacted and give the OK for Halladay to come off the disabled list. Halladay has made two mediocre starts for low-level teams as he tries to discover what type of pitcher he needs to be after having his shoulder surgically repaired in May.
As for the game that created this startlingly unexpected return for Doc, it was filled with oddities.
The time of game was a franchise record. So was the fact that two position players pitched, as John McDonald had to come to Wells’ rescue when things got ugly with two outs in the 18th.
The only reason this became two games’ worth of innings in one was due to the Phillies erasing a six-run deficit after their starting pitcher didn’t make it through the first inning.
By the end of the night, eight Phillies pitchers had longer outings than Ethan Martin. Among them was B.J. Rosenberg, who, pitching for a third straight day, labored through a scoreless top of the 17th. After he escaped trouble, manager Ryne Sandberg had Wells warm up in the bullpen while the Phils batted in the bottom half of the inning.
When the Phils went down quietly, Wells – who pitched a scoreless inning with the White Sox earlier this season – took the hill. And it went pretty well at first. Wells, showing a 91 mph fastball while pitching from the stretch with rudimentary mechanics, got Cliff Pennington to ground out and Tuffy Gosewisch to line out to McDonald in left.
Things soon got ugly. A string of hits and started by Tony Campana made for a painful end to a game the Phils had no business being in.
“I think it was 16-10 at that point when I came into that game,” for the White Sox, Wells said, “so it was definitely different circumstances.
“I was just trying to throw strikes. They hit it. I pitched when I was younger and when I was in college a little bit. I take it seriously. I try to compete.”
For a while it didn’t seem like the Phils would be competing at all on this night. They trailed 6-0 through 4 ½ innings, 7-1 after Arizona got another run in the top of the sixth to negate Ruiz’s fourth homer of the season in the bottom of the fifth.
Then things started getting freaky.
Roger Bernandina, batting leadoff as Sandberg continues to play with the batting order and give players opportunities to bring life to the lineup, hit a long solo homer to open the bottom of the sixth. Jimmy Rollins followed with a double and later scored on a wild pitch to cut the D-Backs’ lead to 7-3.
But it was in the eighth when the game got turned on its ear. Arizona brought Joe Thatcher in relief, and Bernadina (walk) and Rollins (single) again got a rally started. After Utley’s sacrifice fly plated Bernadina, Heath Bell was called in. John Mayberry struck out for the second out, but Carlos Ruiz singled to left, scoring Rollins and bringing Darin Ruf to the plate as the potential tying run.
Then he turned that potential energy into kinetic.
Ruf, who led the planet in August home runs last year with 20 at Double-A Reading, hit his N.L.-leading ninth homer of August, bringing a roar to the ballpark – even if only a fraction of the fans who used to fill the place were present.
“It’s been a lot of fun the last couple of days, watching people get clutch hits,” McDonald said. “We didn’t feel like we were out of it when we were down early in the game. We felt like we had a shot.”
When Ruf’s home run landed several rows deep in the left-field seats, it made moot one of the more bizarrely bad starts you’ll see by a pitcher.
Three hours earlier, Martin was one pitch away from doing what he had done in each of his first four big-league starts: Put away the opponent in the opening inning without allowing a run.
The Phillies’ young right-hander had retired the first two Diamondbacks he faced, then had National League MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt frozen with his fastball and curveball, both thrown for strikes.
Then Goldschmidt fouled off a pitch. And another. And another. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Martin threw ball four.
That brought to the plate Martin Prado, who likewise worked a long count, and on the eighth pitch of that showdown he mashed a two-run homer.
You could see the rest of the air leave Martin’s balloon. A walk, two singles and another walk, and his night was over.
But the Phillies’ night wasn’t close to finished.
The last time a starting pitcher in the majors got the first two outs of his outing and didn’t survive the first inning was June 15, 2012, when Blue Jays pitcher Drew Hutchison had his elbow ligament tear in a start against the Phillies on a 2-1 pitch to Hunter Pence.
As for the last time a starting pitcher not only got the first two outs of an inning, but also had the third hitter in a 0-2 hole in the count before failing to finish the frame … that will take more research. Put it this way: You probably could count the members of that group on one hand.
It was a night during which a lot of unusual things were going down. The Phillies wished they weren’t among them.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Charlie Manuel Will Live On, Probably In a Better Condition Than The Phillies

This isn't a eulogy for Charlie Manuel.

Charlie didn't die. He knows what death is because he went nose-to-nose with it when his colon considered handing in its resignation to him more than a decade ago. He rejected that notion, because Charlie Manuel doesn't quit anything, and he sure as hell isn't going to let any of his major organs get away with it, no matter how much abuse he put them through while mashing baseballs as a fiery, young ballplayer on both sides of the Pacific.

Charlie Manuel is a manager. He might not be the manager of the Phillies any longer, but he isn't out to own any job descriptions that involve "special," or "senior," or "assistant." If the job doesn't have "manager" or "coach" in the title, he will pass. He won't be one of those old guys who shows up at spring training for a week or two in uniform to serve as a living statue of nostalgia for those in the stands. When he was a coach and manager in Cleveland, Hall of Famer Bob Feller used to put on that octogenarian dog-and-pony show every spring training in Winter Haven, Fla. To Charlie, that was about as relevant to the work at hand as Max Patkin's act, and he didn't have time for that baloney. (Speaking of which, Charlie had a more serious bone to pick with Feller, but that is one of countless confidential stories that makes you leave a rap session with Chuck grateful your ears were there to pay witness.)

The 2013 Phillies have been a disaster, and there were pretty clear signs of the mess in spring training. The ridiculous attempt to create a false narrative about Roy Halladay ignored clear-cut signs that the veteran pitcher needed surgery. Instead of that happening, say, March 1, and offering him a chance to make a comeback in the second half of the season with a repaired shoulder, Halladay will make a so-what September return for a team that wins once a week. It was every bit as short-sighted and overly deferential to a player because of "He's A Veteran Syndrome" as the Chase Utley/Ryan Howard mess the previous spring. The consequences in Halladay's case still aren't as damning as the haunting decision to push Howard back onto the field for the second half of 2012 with a atrophied leg and unsightly gait following his Achilles' tendon reconstruction. That not only resulted in Howard returning to the field a shell of himself, but it likely inflicted the damage to his knee that left him wounded this season and in need of more leg surgery. As much as everyone likes to assume Howard's natural hitting skills have eroded, the fact that he hasn't been permitted to heal properly and be in a physical condition to prove otherwise has been a crime by the organization that has devastated the offense.

The bullpen. The bullpen. When you have reached the final week of spring training and not one of your young arms - and there were a half-dozen of them in camp - has done a single thing to stand out as a reliable relief pitcher, that is not an unfortunate coincidence. That is a sign that, if you plan on competing, you need to find a trade for a veteran reliever who has shown dependability, and make it fast. The Angels, who aren't exactly a shining example of front-office acumen, got Dane De La Rosa (5-1, 3.62 ERA in 55 games)  from the Rays a few days before the season for a younger, borderline big-league reliever named Steve Geltz, who is from a similar prospect realm as the half-dozen guys who weren't cutting it in camp. So they were out there. They did nothing about it, instead handing the ball to a gaggle young pitchers who did not earn their keep in what was supposed to be a heated spring competition.

The Nate Scheirholtz-versus-Laynce Nix debacle is well chronicled. The Phillies have been willing to throw tens of millions of dollars at guys who have almost no shot of earning their keep in the sunsets of those contracts, yet their sphincters get tight over the thought of shrugging off $1.35 million poorly spent on a fifth outfielder. It's pound-dumb, penny-moronic.

No manager was turning what Charlie Manuel was given into anything more than it turned out to be. Veterans like Jimmy Rollins are too smart for their own good sometimes. If you can evaluate the situation when Michael Martinez is still getting big-league opportunities and Phillippe Aumont - the most obviously messed-in-the-head pitcher the Phillies have employed since Joe Cowley - actually gets called back to the majors after stinking it up for the Phils, then stinking it up for Lehigh Valley, don't you think Rollins does? Don't you think that Rollins' lack of hustle is an act of physical preservation from a guy who knows this team isn't winning anything? Jimmy Rollins is a baseball player, but he's also a businessman. If one of the singers he has signed to his label is playing a show in front of 500 people in Reno tonight, but a crowd of 15,000 in Vegas the following night, do you think he wants that singer to put her vocal chords on full-blast for that show in front of 500?

That isn't making an excuse for Rollins, it's trying to open a door to his soul.

Almost everyone knows Ruben Amaro Jr. is the one who let this team down. Even Ruben Amaro knows it. The problem is this: David Montgomery is the person who has to judge Amaro's performance, and since it doesn't seem the general manager is going to lose his job, it means Montgomery has to judge Amaro's plan to fix this mess. And, frankly, that isn't David Montgomery's strength. Dallas Green is a wonderful baseball guy, but the art of running an organization has changed a lot since his full-time days doing it. Ed Wade actually helped the Phillies get to their glory days, but he is a strip-it-down-and-start-over specialist working as an adviser for a team pot-committed to reloading.

There is one guy employed by the Phillies with the credentials to listen to Amaro's plan and give it a brutally honest assessment. That is Pat Gillick. And if Pat doesn't want his legacy sullied by having "he told the Phillies to hire Ruben Amaro Jr. as his successor, and that was a disaster" as his final act, then he better give Amaro some good advice.

As for Charlie, maybe he'll get a big-league gig managing next year, maybe not. He has a huge supporter in Jayson Werth in D.C., but the Nationals would be trading one 70-year-old manager for another. That would be strange. However, the Nats have this undeniable love of tweaking the Phillies, and what better way than to have Manuel in the visiting dugout at Citizens Bank Park with Bryce Harper at his disposal?

If Charlie doesn't get a job as a manager in the majors, an organization would do themselves well to ask if he'll manage a Double-A team. Maybe his good friend Jim Leyland gets an opening on his staff for him. What seems certain is Charlie won't warm up to becoming a relic whose opinions are politely and lightly taken a senior special adviser assistant emeritus blah blah blah.

That sounds like zombie work, and Charlie Manuel ain't dead.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

If I were GM: A Reality Check On Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay Wednesday reacted to the news about his right shoulder the only way a pitcher who isn't ready to close the book on his career should react to such news: With optimism.

Halladay went to Los Angeles orthopedist Neal ElAttrache, who from the background I've seen about him is sort of the Pat Croce of surgeons -- very optimistic, very "yeah, you can do it!" when it comes to timetables. What Halladay took from that meeting was that with a little arthroscopic blasting of a bone spur, a little cleaning up a itty bitty labrum tear and ... BOOM! He's back before the 2013 season is over, feelin' like it's 2010 all over again!

Personally, I like realists for doctors. Because that sounds ... I won't say delusional, but I'll put the word delusional in this sentence so that you can imagine something just barely below delusional.

Even if by some miracle Roy Halladay's surgery and rehab go so well that he is, indeed, pitching in minor-league games come August, there are only two ways the Phillies should even consider pitching him in the majors again this season: 1) They are out of the playoff hunt come September, or 2) they have wrapped up a playoff spot in September.

There is no way anyone with respect for the game and the entire point of playing the game -- winning, that's the point, to win -- can offer Halladay anything more than that in 2013. Yes, he has been an elite pitcher with Cy Youngs and a likely trip to Cooperstown in his future. But as it pertains to winning -- again, the point of playing, the thing I'd hope Roy Halladay loves more than anything about the game -- there is no rationale that allows you to assume he can be a part of that this season.

The Phillies already have squandered time and success on this. Roy Halladay went out there against an absolute joke of a team in the Marlins knowing he was hurt and basically gave one of the worst teams in history a blowout win, gift wrapped. Forget the fact that the organization stupidly and needlessly insisted on letting Halladay open the season on his regular day when he was obviously behind and struggling massively in spring training -- at least that was their choice. Sunday, however, was Halladay's choice. He chose to go out there hurt and get bombed by a Miami squad that left Philly to play three games against San Diego and scored all of one (1) run in those three games.

Yes, we can rationalize that Halladay was a competitor for going out there at all. Except that the Phillies went through this last year. They hid the fact (lied, really they lied) that he was having back problems, which they said led to his shoulder soreness. Then they gave him great latitude in going out there in the second game of the season to get bombed by a Braves team that has been just abusing him brutally the last two seasons. So there was a history of the Phillies letting Roy be that competitor and having it blow up in their faces.

Halladay owed it to them not to play the macho card again. He did, and if the Phillies somehow end this season a game short of a playoff spot -- and let's not act like it's folly, because teams fall a game short all the time -- that Sunday start will stand out like an ugly welt.

If Halladay plans on resurrecting his career off this surgery, that is for 2014 and beyond. Sure, the Phillies can do him a solid and let him show his wares in September -- if the games don't matter to their fate. Otherwise, Roy can get an incentive-laden deal from either the Phils or another squad for next season and see if he can buck the odds and become a 36-year-old pitcher who can be effective after shoulder surgery.

They don't owe him anything, they've already paid enough of a price.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My thoughts on Roy Halladay

Sometimes it's useful to sleep on an event before you really try to figure it out. So, after witnessing Roy Halladay's opening start of the 2013 season, then getting a chance to watch a video replay of it while downing a few pints of Sam Adams' spring seasonal draft (very tasty) and playing Japandroids on a jukebox in the Black Horse (which has an great sound system, BTW), here are the things that come to mind:
1) Chase Utley was right. In Halladay's first interview in Clearwater, he mentioned that Utley had told him it might do him good "to hit a few guys." It was meant as a joke ... sort of. The truth is, I didn't see one Atlanta hitter have to spin out of the box, flinch, or even tilt backward Wednesday night. Not one.
I don't care how hard you throw or how good your stuff is, unless you are a knuckleballer, you HAVE to back hitters off. Halladay did throw inside, but he was throwing to the inside corner. He needs to, on occasion, throw to the inside of a hitter's rectum -- especially with this Braves' lineup, which is unashamedly aggressive and has the muscle to be that way.
2) The guy really has been unlucky. Look, I'm not going to get too technical here, because I'm trying to write for everyone. However, there is a SABR stat called BABIP that figures out the ratio of balls put in play that go for hits. For his career, Halladay's has been .295, and that's pretty standard. About 30 percent of balls in the field of play go for hits.
Against the Braves, Halladay endured an .800 BABIP -- four of the five balls in play went for hits. It's a crazy-small sampling because HE STRUCK OUT NINE GUYS, but it is worth mentioning that in his last two spring starts, Halladay had a similarly insane amount of balls in play that fell for hits. (Like I said, I'm writing a blog, not a textbook. But if my memory serves me right the opposing BABIP in those two starts was around .700.)
Here's the point: Halladay might not be the same, but he is not THIS bad. If you overhand tossed balls to big-league hitters they wouldn't hit more than .500 on balls in play. And his strikeouts do show that he has pitches that guys can swing through. But what he needs them to do is start hitting them weakly into play. He broke Freddie Freeman's bat on his single in the first inning, so again ... kind of unlucky.
3) He has to control his frustration better. After the game, Roy kind of threw Erik Kratz under the bus when discussing a pitch he wanted to throw to Justin Upton. He said he wanted to go up with it, while Kratz gave him a low target. Upton went down and crushed it in what really was an impressive display of power and plate coverage.
Meanwhile, in the same postgame interview Halladay spoke of the need to get the ball down and get groundballs. In fact, he said that after I asked him about the bad luck dealio in No. 2 above. Halladay needs to realize Kratz is trying to stress a low target because he keeps getting his cutters up, and they are getting hit for line drives and bombs. So, if Roy Halladay wanted to go up on Upton there and stop him from leaning over the plate to hit balls below the knees on the outside corner 450 feet, then I'm pretty sure Halladay has the means to say "screw the target, I'm going to give this guy a shave."
The shots of Halladay in the dugout after he was removed were kind of wild. He looked like he was waiting for the sheets to his bunk to get changed at Supermax. I am a HUGE fan of anger -- huge -- but the intensity can be crippling to a baseball player when he's struggling (I know this, ask anyone who ever had to duck my bat after a strikeout).
Roy needs to cool off. Yes, it rained and the mound got gummy. Yes, he can't catch a break. Yes, Chooch is your preferred catcher. Yes, slick balls, for whatever that's worth. But until you can control the weather, control gravity, control Carlos Ruiz's crazed obsession with Ritalin, and control who is rubbing what on your balls ... these are things that must be allowed to roll off one's back.
Roy needs some Zen. What's Phil Jackson up to? Someone give Roy his number. And let's see if his start against the Mets Monday brings a little more balance to the guy. It would make it easier to figure out how much, exactly, he has left in the tank.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hey, sometimes I know things!

The Phillies played a waiting game, but when the time came where they could claim Indians outfielder Ezequiel Carrera off waivers, they jumped at the chance. They acquired the speedy 26-year-old Tuesday and designated Rule 5 OF Ender Inciarte for assignment, which begins a process that likely will return the 22-year-old to the Diamondbacks.
A little Koala Paw Pat here since I mentioned Carrera a couple of weeks ago as a guy the Phils had to consider.
Carrera essentially is a more polished version of Inciarte -- strong and versatile defensively, nothing special (but more advanced) with the bat from the left side, and a very good baserunner (Carrera had 11 SBs this spring, 8 SBs in 9 attempts with Cleveland in limited duty last season).
Carrera hit .272 with 11 extra-base hits in 147 ABs for the Indians last season, but got caught in a squeeze when the Tribe got aggressive this winter. He hit .279 in spring training and .286 in the Venezuelan Winter League.
This creates more of a threat to either John Mayberry Jr. or Laynce Nix, as someone has to go from the outfield when Delmon Young is ready for duty. Young played right field for the first time Tuesday in an extended spring game, as he continues to progress from offseason ankle surgery. While it would seem Nix is more at risk (since the Phils are crowded with left-handed bats in the everyday lineup), Mayberry could be a big April in Triple-A by Darin Ruf away from being expendable if his lackluster Grapefruit League effort spills into April.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Delmon Young's secret debut

The Phillies were very good at being very vague about when, exactly, outfielder Delmon Young would take part in game action after having offseason microfracture surgery on his ankle.
Friday morning, Young was quietly sent to Dunedin, where he took at-bats in a minor-league game against the Blue Jays. It so happened R.A. Dickey started for Toronto's minor-league team. And it just so happened Young hit an opposite-field homer off Dickey in his second plate appearance.
Comments from Young on his secretive debut coming soon...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Roy Halladay is as sick as you are about Roy Halladay

So, this was to be the Big Answer day about Roy Halladay. Is his shoulder dead, or was he the victim of a little tiredness in his disastrous start against Detroit last week?

You were supposed to find out on St. Paddy's Day. However, after one scoreless inning, Halladay left Sunday's game against the Orioles.

The official word was a stomach bug. Jonathan Papelbon was a late scratch Sunday because of illness. But whether Halladay left because of illness or whatever, the Phillies are two weeks from the start of the regular season and Halladay doesn't seem close to ready to compete on the mound. His velocity is down -- scouts insist he's pitching like a guy with a dead shoulder -- and his fastball has been up in the zone as he struggles to hop it up there in the upper-80 mph range.

This is not good. Even if he is sick, he needed to go out and have a productive outing. He's down to two more spring starts. To think he'll get to 100 pitches next time out is silly. So at best, he's behind. At worst, he's a shell of the guy you used to know.

Yes, you can panic.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Roy Halladay was not good today

Yikes. Roy Halladay had a rough outing his last time on the hill, and thought he was dealing with a little dead-arm. Well, this must be a deader-arm period, because the Tigers Tuesday rocked him for seven runs. He also walked four batters and hit another. The lunacy was capped by Ramon Santiago -- who batted .206 last season with 2 HRs in 228 ABs -- hitting a grand slam off Halladay. His velocity didn't get out of the upper-80 mph range on his fastball.

Halladay came into camp admitting that a back problem last season was behind his struggles, which included lower velocity, a lack of command and a D.L. stint with a sore shoulder. This will be updated when Roy speaks postgame.

Phillippe Aumont Has Goon Selections For Team Canada

Unless you were under a rock the last few days, you know that Canada and Mexico threw down like hockey goons during their World Baseball Classic game. Phillies reliever Phillippe Aumont, a member of Team Canada, might have been the size of Andre The Giant in that Battle Royale, but he said it's "not his thing to start shaking up people." (Of course, as GIF guru Dan McQuade shows via Zoo With Roy's bolg, it is TOTALLY Phillies minor-league outfielder Tyson Gillies' jawn.)
But Aumont is Canadian, and thus, as he put it, a "failed hockey player." So when asked which former NHL player he would have liked in uniform for the brawl with Mexico, his response was:
"D'oh, Georges Laraque. Either Georges or Darcy Hordichuk."

Apparently those are good choices, judging by their awesome YouTube fight montages. Why don't you watch them and decide this important decision for Aumont?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Delmon Young not excited by much, folks

Delmon Young slept through his red-eye flight from California. That helped him be nice and
peppydour when discussing the
excitingdull news that his ankle is healing nicely and that he will
aggressively prove he's more worthy than Dom Brownbe sure to take the keys to right field, oh, whenever.

So, glad to move on from thrilling activities like "throwing a ball" and "yawning while watching the other guys play," Delmon?

"No, not really," Young said. "I just do what the doctor says. I saw him yesterday and he said I could do some other activities, so that’s what he told me to do."

Young took swings in the the cage before Wednesday's game against the Nationals. Been a while, hmm?

"That was the first time I had someone throwing to me since the last World Series game," Personality Plus said.

That had to feel good, right?

"It’s batting practice," Young said with all the enthusiasm of Morrissey on quaaludes. "I really don’t care too much to hit on the field."

So, there you have it folks! Your right fielder for 2013!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chase Utley scratched Tuesday ... but don't worry

It rained like mad in Clearwater this morning, so Utley likely was told to take the day off just to be safe. Slick fields and balky knees don't go well together.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mike Schwimer traded to Blue Jays for 1B Art Charles

The Phillies traded RHP Mike Schwimer to Toronto for young, raw 1B Art Charles. The Phils have a glut of young relievers on the 40-man roster, and Schwimer, 27, became the odd man out. He went 2-1 with a 4.46 ERA in 35 games for the Phils last season, but had his season end oddly when he and the organization had a difference of opinion over an injury he believed was responsible for some struggles before he was sent to the minors.

Charles, 22, is a 6-6 left-handed hitter who had 13 HR in 212 ABs last season between Rookie ball and low-A. He also struck out 74 times, but drew 46 walks and had a .381 OBP despite a .236 average.

Location:US 19 N,Clearwater,United States

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mike Schmidt and Domonic Brown after 500 plate appearances

Click on the statistics to the right. Those are the career hitting totals for Domonic Brown in the big leagues, courtesy of Kind of disappointing for a big-time prospect, right? In fact, some people call him a failed prospect, a bust.

Next up are nearly the same amount of plate appearances for Mike Schmidt at the start of his career. Take a look.

Not all that different from Dom Brown, are they? In fact, in some ways they are worse.
Schmidt eventually figured it out at the plate and merely became the greatest offensive third baseman in MLB history. So, it begs the question: Why in the hell does Dom Brown have so many people around writing eulogies to his career after 500 plate appearances?
"The difference between me and Domonic Brown in that analogy," Schmidt said, "is that I was an infielder. I didn't really have any competition as a third baseman. I guarantee I would've been in the same boat as him if I were a left fielder or right fielder. They expect more out of you, you have to assert yourself more as a hitter in order to win a job in the outfield ... From a hitting standpoint, even now he might be ahead of where I was at that time, a little better idea of hitting. I couldn't hit a ball to the opposite field to save my butt back then. I couldn't hit a curve ball, I couldn't hit a slider. But I sure could hit a long home run down the left-field line and play third base. I was afforded the time to make adjustments and sort of become an everyday, consistent major-league hitter. He doesn't have that luxury."

In a way, it makes sense. The outfield allows for a little more defensive liability in exchange for offensive readiness. And there is a far larger stockpile of capable outfielders around (which is why the Phillies can enter this season with question marks out there, since acquiring outfielders in trades isn't all that difficult).
Schmidt then said something interesting about his career:
"When you talk about my career, it would've been very, very mediocre if I were a left fielder. You would be comparing me to a lot of guys you don't compare me to right now. I was an infielder, not an outfielder."

That's quite a statement from a Hall of Fame member who never has been reluctant to admit he's the cock of the walk, and it's probably an overstatement. The guy hit 548 home runs when you could fit 500-homer members on standard-width horizontal poster. The Steroid Era forced the landscape version needed today.
Schmidt seemed to indicate that 2013 will determine whether Brown will be a Phillie in 2014. What he didn't question was Brown's potential.
"It's about time that Domonic does the things that everyone thinks he can do. And not does them over a day, but does them over a month, then two months. And that's when he gets his name inserted in the lineup every day. Who knows who it will be with? I hope it's here, when he's in a Phillies uniform. But sometimes young kids like that, the opportunity comes with another team. I don't know. But it's getting to that time where Domonic needs to become the player everyone believes he can be. And hopefully it will be soon, hopefully this year."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mike Schmidt is in camp. His mustache, however...

(This is Daily Times photographer Eric Hartline's fine handiwork.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Citizens Bank Park Food News

Forget about who is going to be the Opening Day starter, or who will be the leadoff hitter for the Phils this season (although Jimmy Rollins says he doesn't mind if it's Ben Revere -- more on that coming in the Daily Times). The real buzz in the press box Tuesday was this:

Federal Donuts has a stand in Citizens Bank Park this season.

For those in Delco who have no idea what Federal Donuts is, well you have been missing out. The South Philly staple -- originally at 2nd & Federal, with a second store opening late last year at 16th & Sansom -- serves outrageously awesome hot donuts, as well as "fancy" donuts with such flavor bombs like Maple Bacon and French Toast. (Just writing those words makes me want to fly home and stuff my face.) Then, in the late morning, the store switches gears and starts making twice-fried chicken that is like crack in fowl form.

Anyway, they are coming to the ballpark. And it's probably the best offseason signing the Phillies made.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Ryan Howard needs (and deserves a chance to) stay healthy

As I wrote in a column Wednesday, the Phillies' lackluster offseason won't really matter unless their high-paid veterans figure out how to stay active -- specifically Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay.

In Howard's case, this need to stay on the field uninterrupted has more to do with the type of player he has been throughout his career: A power hitter who gets better as the dog days pile up.

In the column I mentioned that he needs "400 uninterrupted plate appearances" before he reaches his peak of productivity. Clearly, a switch doesn't instantly switch at 400 plate appearances. But historically, it has been around that point -- 400 plate appearances that come without a DL stint bifurcating them -- when Howard hits another level.

Here is the breakdown, year-by-year, of how Howard produced in at-bats before reaching that point and afterward. I stayed true to that stance in 2007, when he spent the minimum 15 days on the D.L. with a quad strain. That's why his plate appearances that year were so high before he arrived at the magic 400 mark (and in truth, he started heating up before that ... but he still was even better in those final 121 plate appearances).

Before 400 consective PAs (BA/SLG/OPS)

2005 (143 big-league PAs): .280/.488/.845 6 HR, 21 RBI
2006 (399 PAs): .282/.593/.947 32 HR, 80 RBI
2007 (527 PAs): .270/.573/.960 36 HR, 110 RBI
2008 (399 PAs): .231/.493/.816 25 HR, 80 RBI
2009 (401 PAs): .259/.534/.880 24 HR, 69 RBI
2010 (400 PAs): .299/.538/.895 21 HR, 74 RBI
2011 (401 PAs): .254/.471/.822 18 HR, 72 RBI

After 400 consecutive PAs

2005 (205 PAs): .294/.620/.976 16 HR, 42 RBI
2006 (305 PAs): .361/.762/1.280 26 HR, 69 RBI
2007 (121 PAs): .260/.635/1.049 11 HR, 26 RBI
2008 (301 PAs): .278/.608/.967 23 HR, 66 RBI
2009 (304 PAs): .306/.619/.998 21 HR, 72 RBI
2010 (51 PAs): .233/.442/.795 2 HR, 7 RBI
2011 (243 PAs): .256/.516/.854 15 HR, 44 RBI

In 2010 Howard suffered that ugly ankle injury at the beginning of August that cost him nearly a month. Ironically, that had been one of his most consistent performances in the first half of a season, and he never really got back to that when he returned.

It's worth noting that in 2011 Howard's numbers after the magic 400 mark only took a modest gain, and are strikingly lower than any of his other post-400 PA surges. However, when you look at his OPS+ -- the SABR stats that adapts your OPS to the rest of the league -- for that season (see below), his overall performance wasn't much different from his 2008. Oh, the magic of the post-Steroid Era!

The bottom line is this: Howard is a creature of habit. He needs plate appearances. He needs them in spring training, he needs them regularly during the season. And if he can make it to mid- to late-July without missing any time, the expectation should be that his production starts to lift. Granted, it probably never will return to the heights of 2006-09, but this is a pitcher's league these days. If he can be the hitter he was in 2011 -- ok, maybe a tad better -- the Phillies should be much, much better for it.