I could put down 1,000 words about how great Cliff Lee is and how amazing he has been, especially lately, but you already know it. I dont need to tell you that Lee finished August 5-0, just like he was June, which was one of the most incredible pitching spectacles ever witnessed.
There is really no need because when Cliff Lee is on, like he was Wednesday night against the Reds in the Phillies 3-0 win, his actions speak for themselves. As awesome as Roy Halladay is, and as fantastic as Cole Hamels has been, there is something more enthralling about the way Lee dominates other teams. Halladay seems to do it quietly, without notice. Lee’s domination is louder, more pronounced.
In this game, he was unable to finish as he ran into trouble in the ninth, likely running out of gas. Still, 8 2/3 with seven strikeouts is plenty. He did his job and the Phillies are now one win away from a sweep. It was their 18th shutout of the season.
Hunter Pence provided another offensive spark with an opposite-field home run to right center field that had to reach 400 feet. It was basically the same spot as Tuesday’s nights bomb, a sign of pure strength.
With Atlanta’s win, the Phillies stay 7.5 up in the division, and with Milwaukee’s loss, it’s the same margin in the NL.
Philadelphia Phillies (85-46) at Cincinnati Reds (67-68)
Cliff Lee (14-7, 2.71) vs. Dontrelle Willis (0-3, 4.10)
After a close win Monday and a laugher Tuesday, the Phillies look to win a four-game series in Cincinnati early tonight by riding Cliff Lee to victory.
Lee is on a roll again, a winner in each of his last five starts and holder of a 0.58 ERA in August. This Reds team, though, could present some problems.
Combined, this collection of Reds have hit .345/.373/.571 off Lee. Miguel Cairo, batting fifth tonight, is 8-for-16 against Lee with two doubles and a triple.
One Red who has killed Lee won’t be in the lineup, though. Scott Rolen (8-for-17, four XBH) has been limited to 65 games this year due to shoulder problems.
The Phillies used to see Willis a ton, but haven’t since 2007. During that year, they lit him up to the tune of a 7.00 ERA and .331 opponent’s batting average in five starts. Willis has bounced around from team-to-team, between the majors and minors largely due to psychological and mechanical control issues.
But he’s been a little better this year, reducing his walk-per-nine rate to the level it was at in 2006 and 2007, when he was only slightly ineffective.
This lineup hasn’t hit Willis particularly well at all (.217/.276/.328), but Ryan Howard has had some success in a small sample.
Hopefully Howard can have another big night, it would be nice for him to experience one of his patented hot streaks before 2011 ends.
Lineup: Victorino CF, Polanco 3B, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Pence RF, Mayberry LF, Ruiz C, Valdez SS, Halladay P.
Your Gameday Beer: Kalik.
This is the King of Beers in the Bahamas. The brew was designed by Heineken for the Commonwealth Brewery based on the tastes of the islanders. As you can imagine, it has all the qualities of an ice-cold Bud or Corona – fizzy, yellow, and way too easy to drink on a hot summer day. Fortunately you can find the beer in America and even at some supermarkets. Make some fancy mac-n-cheese with ham or bacon in it. -By Brian
Let's all agree on one thing: To date, James van Riemsdyk has not done anything to warrant earning $4.25 million per year. He's slowly grown as a player since making his full-time debut with the Philadelphia Flyers at the start of the 2009-10 season, and the 11 games he put together in the 2011 postseason made us all extremely excited for what the young power forward has in his future.
He's shown that the hype -- you know, the whole No. 2 overall pick thing -- is true and he can be a star in this league. We all want that to happen, and sooner rather than later would be nice given the fact that half the team was traded this offseason. But as of right now, he's not a $4.25 million a year player.
I'm not sure anybody even disagrees with that. What kind of 40 point player (deservedly) gets that kind of money? The list isn't a long one, we can guarantee you that. No, this deal is all about potential. The hope is that in three or four years, van Riemsdyk will be so above and beyond that dollar amount that the deal will be viewed as a steal.
This could certainly be true. We all hope to God it happens, and quite honestly, I'm one that thinks it will happen. But there are definitely questions about what exactly JvR will become over the next six years. Will he be the monster we all saw in the playoffs last year, will he be the underwhelming player that many wanted traded just as recently as the middle of last season, or will he fall somewhere in between?
Because of these questions, we can't yet judge the contract that was handed to Young James yesterday. It's a contract that's based solely on his potential, not one that's based on what he's done during his NHL career thus far. What he does in the next six years will be the judge of whether or not the deal is a victory or a failure for the team.
What we can agree or disagree on now, though, is the philosophy behind giving an unproven player the kind of money that the Flyers did yesterday.
Another thing we can agree on: Giving $4.25 million per year to a 22 year old that's played two years in the NHL is a risk. That's the crux of the argument both for and against the deal for JvR. If you like the deal, it's a risk that's worth taking -- and it could pay off handsomely in the end. (Or, it could turn in to an albatross...)
If you dislike the deal, however, you feel that it's an unnecessary risk. He's a restricted free agent right now, and thus under Flyers control for the foreseeable future. As an RFA, the Flyers would hold every possible bit of leverage over van Riemsdyk, and they'd certainly have a clearer picture of his abilities after his third NHL season then after his second NHL season.
Of course, there's some risk in that as well. Those in favor of the contract signed on Monday say that if JvR has a great year this year, the cost is only going to go up. Fair point. But again, the Flyers have the leverage, and Reemer would have to have an unreal season to earn more than $4.25 million per year in RFA negotiations next year.
There are certainly positives and negatives to signing this deal, and I don't think anybody who dislikes the deal is planted firmly in the "I f*cking hate this thing" category. Regardless of where you stand on the subject, there's risk involved. It's just a matter of which risk you'd rather take.
Where do you stand?
For more on the subject, check Geoff's story over at SB Nation Philly.
The Phillies have acquired left-handed batting outfielder John Bowker from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Details released on Wednesday state that the Phillies will send a player to be named or cash considerations to complete the deal at a later date.
The 28-year-old Bowker had gone 4-for-17 (.235 avg) in 19 games this year for the Pirates. In 106 games with Triple A Indianapolis this season, Bowker batted .306 with 15 homeruns and 76 RBI. Bowker, who has played in parts of five Major League seasons, is a former 3rd round draft pick by the San Francisco Giants.
Bowker’s career Major League batting line (.237/.289/.390) is not an improvement over the numbers produced by current Phils lefty hitting reserve outfielder Ross Gload (.280/.325/.408).
Bowker will wear number 16 for the Phillies and will be eligible for the post-season roster.
In an effort to clear a 25-man roster spot, the Phillies optioned Michael Schwimer to Triple A Lehigh Valley following Tuesday night’s victory over Cincinnati. The 25-year-old Schwimer is expected to return to the big league roster at some point after the rosters expand on September 1st. Jose Contreras, out for the year with a right elbow injury, was moved to the 60-day disabled list, to make room on the 40-man roster.
Biddle’s season ends early with knee injury-
In game 1 of the Lakewood BlueClaws’ Tuesday night double header against the Hickory Crawdads, lefty pitching prospect Jesse Biddle left a tied contest in the 5th inning with a right knee injury.
In the midst of a battle with division leading Hickory, whom the ‘Claws trailed by 4 games entering the day, Biddle served up a 2-run game tying double to highly-regarded Rangers prospect Jurickson Profar, and quickly grasped his knee after feeling the area tighten when he backed up home plate. Biddle, the Phillies’ 1st round draft selection last year, was tended to by the team’s training staff and limped off the field under his own power.
According to Biddle, he’ll return home to Philadelphia and visit a Phillies team doctor on Wednesday or Thursday. Biddle explained that the knee was causing him some discomfort through the entire outing, but the pain worsened in the 5th.
“My knee locked up on me out there,” Biddle stated. “It just didn’t feel good the whole game and running home to cover behind home plate really made it stiffen up and it didn’t really loosen that well for a while, so I just had to come out of the game.”
Biddle, 19, was named to the South Atlantic League Post-season All-star team on Tuesday. In his first full season as a professional, Biddle was deserving of the nod, sporting a 7-8 record, a 2.98 ERA and a .219 batting average against in 25 outings this year with Class A Lakewood.
The start for Biddle, who was already on a 5-innings-per-outing limit, was likely going to be his last of the season. A source stated that if the club missed the post-season, which seems likely, Biddle would not have taken his next turn in the rotation in the team’s final game of the season on Monday in Hagerstown.
Biddle is slated to spend time in the month-long Fall Instructional League, but that assignment could be in jeopardy, depending on the severity of the leg injury.
Another Lakewood All-star goes down with injury-
The BlueClaws’ other Post-season All-star representative, first baseman Jim Murphy, was also sidelined with an injury on Tuesday night. In the night cap of the double header, Murphy experienced pain in his left hand after fouling off a pitch. Murphy, who played in two games with the big league club in spring training this year, was unable to continue.
Murphy will also see a team physician. Early assessment of Murphy’s pain suggested that his issue was in the area of the hamate bone.
The BlueClaws split the Tuesday twin bill, to stay 4 games behind first place Hickory, with 5 games left to play in the regular season.
Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can read more from Jay by visiting his site, PhoulBallz.com.
This is not an article to try to sway anyone in an argument for or against Ryan Howard. Those who like him, like him…and those that don’t, don’t. Of course there are things he could improve upon, but all too often we focus on the shortcomings of our Philadelphia athletes instead of enjoying then for what they are.
Not every player can be Albert Pujols, or Alex Rodriguez, players who, when they call it a career, will be considered among the greatest to ever play the game. Baseball is a game often measured by milestones. Whether they are season marks or career achievements, reaching certain numbers has always been the barometer against which we measure success. Only in recent years have we seen the measuring stick include new categories with the shift from “baseball card stats” to “saber stats,” as sabermetrics gain popularity and credibility.
When did the 30 HR, 100 RBI season become something unappreciated in Major League Baseball? Only 15 players tallied those totals during the 2010 season. How is it that a player who joins that club can be said to have a bad season, or that they are not a good player?
For a long time, such numbers were the benchmarks of a prolific season, then we got into the smaller ballparks, and the steroid-era… and it has now become clear that the years of multiple player hitting 40, 50, 60+ home runs have passed. Ryan Howard likely isn’t ever going to hit the 45 HR, 145 RBI plateaus that some people think he should reach again, so what does it take to be consider to be a great home run hitter anymore?
Let’s go back to the 30 home runs. Ryan Howard now has 29 – after two on Tuesday night – with a month still to play, and his RBI total eclipsed 100 last night with his two-run home run in the fourth inning. He has these totals through 128 games. Baring injury, Howard is a lock to reach 30 homers soon, with a chance to make it 35-110, 35-120, etc, before the end of September. If Howard hits one more homer, it’ll be six consecutive seasons in which he has reached 30-100 (58-149 in 2006, 47-136 in 2007, 48-146 in 2008, 45-141 in 2009, 31-108 in 2010). For decades, this would have been enough to tell you that the player had a very solid season, a notion that has seemed to change as “not making outs” has become the flavor of the week, instead of “driving in runs.”
There are currently only nine players in Major League Baseball with 30 or more home runs this season: Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Mark Texiera, Matt Kemp, Albert Pujols, and Mark Reynolds, Mike Stanton, Lance Berkman, and Dan Uggla.
A few more should reach that mark before the season ends, having 25 home runs already: Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki , Paul Konerko, Jay Bruce, Nelson Cruz, David Ortiz and Ryan Howard, Joey Votto, J.J. Hardy, Justin Upton and Ryan Braun.
That’s only 20 or so players in Major League Baseball that have 25 or more home runs as of August 31st.
Of those players:
- Only one has more RBI than Ryan Howard (Granderson; Fielder and Howard are tied at 102).
- Only Orioles 3B Mark Reynolds, has a lower WAR (0.7 to Howard’s 1.0).
- Only Paul Konerko is a worse base runner.
- Only Mark Reynolds, Dan Uggla, Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun, Curtis Granderson, and Matt Kemp rate as worse defensively than Ryan Howard (according to Fangraphs).
The point is, we know the player that Ryan Howard is, and we know the player that he is not. Likewise, the Phillies knew what they paid for when they resigned Howard, a power hitter that plays below average defense, doesn’t run the bases well, and strikes out a lot. But because they have the rare ability to add a run to the scoreboard with one swing of the bat, power hitters always have, and always will, demand bigger contracts than guys that can’t drive the ball out of the ballpark.
We can argue all we want about if that’s “fair” or “smart,” but power hitters draw fans to the ballparks, and keep eyes glued to the TV. They get paid just the same way NBA scorers get more than assist leaders, and NFL running backs get paid more than the blockers that allow them reach the end zone. It’s the guy that puts the points on the board that gets paid the most money.
Regardless of how much his paycheck is, Howard produces the power numbers that the Phillies knew he could contribute. If they were overly concerned with having a 1B that “gets on base,” they wouldn’t have signed Ryan Howard to his contract extension. They paid for him to hit home runs, and drive in the runners that are on base when he comes to plate, and he does both of those things well.
*(Among my theories for Howard’s excessive contract extension is that the Phillies may have looked at their closest NL competition – viewing the Brewers and Cardinals as teams that could challenge in the coming years; teams that do not have overwhelming resources, nor the ability to add unlimited payroll, and decided to force their best players out of those cities – or at least to handcuff the complementary pieces they could add around them. Ruben Amaro’s aggressive contract offer to Ryan Howard forces the Brewers and Cardinals to choose if they want to spend some 20-30% of their team’s total payroll to extend Prince Fielder, and Albert Pujols, respectively. Fielder can now demand that he be paid as much, or more than Ryan Howard – a player that he is younger than, and likely better than. The Brewers would have to decide if it’s worth $25-30 M per season to extend one player, or if they would be better served spreading that money around to fill multiple spots on their 25-man roster. Again, a theory.
A Brewers team without Prince Fielder is much less of a threat to the Phillies than this 2011 club from Milwaukee. The same can be said about the Cardinals, a team that has often gone with “replacement level players” at many of the spots around Pujols and Matt Holliday in the batting order. The Cardinals 2011 payrolls is $98 M, the Brewers payroll is $85.5 M. The Phillies have forced them to decide if $30 M per season for 7-10 years of Albert Pujols is a wise move for the Cardinals organization. According to Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman, Prince Fielder is thought to be seeking a $200 M contract- and many in baseball would be shocked if the Brewers were the team to offer that cash. Brewers catcher, Jonathan Lucroy was a guest on the Tony Bruno radio show, “Into the Night” (97.5 FM,) on Monday night and said, ”I don’t see any reason we couldn’t (continue to compete next year, even though), everyone knows we’re probably going to lose Prince next year.”
So do we still have such big issues with an “overpay” of Ryan Howard that can actually help ensure that the Phillies weaken the core of one of their top competitors? If Fielder leaves Milwaukee, I think Amaro will have proven once again that he’s multiple steps ahead of most other organizations in baseball.)
Throughout his career, Howard has obviously benefited from the fact that he hits with runners on base, but let’s give the man credit where credit is due. He’s not in the lineup to walk; he’s in the lineup to drive runners in, and to hit the ball over the fence when it’s possible.
If Howard had 39 home runs instead of 29, would that make a difference in the way people perceive him? If Howard was currently 3rd on the home run totals instead of 15th, would people show him more love? And if so, why aren’t those same fans satisfied that he’s 3rd in MLB in runs batted in?
Love him or leave him – he is what he is, and he’s on the verge of yet another 30+ HR, 100+ RBI season. Ryan Howard does the job the Phillies want him to do. Historically, he’s considered a very good player, but that’s not always the case when you play here in Philadelphia, or in this Sabermetric era.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
- James van Riemsydk was signed to a six-year extension: [BSH] [Philly Sports Daily] [CSNPhilly] [delcotimes.com] [Flyers Faithful] [Frequent Flyers] [NHL Hot Stove] [Broad Street Buzz] [Puck Daddy] [USATODAY.com] [Philly Reign]
- van Riemsdyk says he's ready to handle the pressure that comes with the contract: [Philly Sports Daily]
- Since it got bumped down the page, here's Teemu's translated Jaromir Jagr interview. Well worth the read: [BSH]
- BREAKING NEWS - NHL teams allow non-Captains to speak and be leaders in NHL locker rooms, says Danny Briere. Full story at 11, but first, a dog chasing his tail: [CSNPhilly]
- Pondering ways Sean Couturier can make the team, including a mutual buyout and a popular player being waived: [HockeyBuzz.com]
- Could Kimmo Timonen be named Captain? [Flyers Faithful]
- Sergei Bobrovsky is a lot more comfortable now than he was last year: [NHL.com]
- Why he should be a big piece in next year's plans: [Philly Reign]
- What happens to the Atlanta Thrashers fans? [Raw Charge]
- The results of NHL.com's fantasy re-draft are in, and the Flyers didn't do so hot: [NHL.com]
- Ian Laperriere became a U.S. citizen yesterday: [NHLFlyers]
- The Kings didn't get rid of purple, even if Travis wishes they did: [SBNation.com]
- Luc Robitaille is apparently in charge of the Kansas City ice hockey arm of his ownership group, and he wants to bring hockey back to K.C.: [Puck Daddy]
- Why Moneyball matters to hockey fans: [The Copper & Blue]
- The five best and worst moves of the NHL offseason: [Driving Play]
- Winners and losers of the offseason: [Down Goes Brown]