If you had Hector Luna hitting the first home run of the spring for the Phillies, then you’ve won something. The well-traveled infielder slapped a 2-run jack in the Phillies 6-1 win over Florida State University.
During the game, Domonic Brown went 0-for-1, but was hit by a pitch on the same hand he broke during Spring Training last year. Brown says it’s fine. He stayed in the game a while longer and even stole a bases, so everything sounds good there.
Outfielder Scott Podsednik, who is vying for that 25th man spot, singled home a run.
Next up, the Grapefruit League opener on Saturday against the Yankees.
We're back with another edition of BSH Radio, and we had a lot of catching up to do. Of course, none of that catching up had anything to do with the Philadelphia Flyers. Nonetheless, if you missed our voices, you can listen to us babble on for nearly an hour about Geoff's Thin Mints addiction and my apparent bewilderment that there are Washington Nationals fans in Washington, D.C.
We tried to get this episode up on Tuesday before the Sharks game, but we had editing issues (appreciate that, crashed hard drive). You'll have to excuse the talk of "looking ahead" to the San Jose game, then. Don't worry -- hockey talk was certainly secondary this week.
- Download this week's program: right click here, save file as... (50.95 MB)
- Subscribe to BSH Radio via RSS feed. [RSS]
- Recommended: Subscribe to BSH Radio via iTunes. [iTunes]
As a No. 2 overall pick, James van Riemsdyk's development has been heavily scrutinized over the years. After last year's playoff run, people had very high hopes for him, and most of the comments I hear this year are from people who are disappointed that he hasn't had a 70-plus point breakout superstar season.
That's a shame, because he has quietly taken a very nice step forwards in just about every measure.
Goals scored is the product of two statistics: shots on goal and shooting percentage.
Both are related to a player's talent -- a player can be good at getting shots off and/or good at getting high-percentage shots. However, as we often emphasize, shooting percentages are particularly subject to random fluctuations.
A year seems like a long time, but players just don't take all that many shots per year, nowhere near enough for the bounces to even out. If we program a robot to take 200 shots per year and randomly make 10 percent of those shots, over a 10-year career that robot will probably have a season with double the shooting percentage of its worst year. So unless you expect a player to be more consistent than a robot, it's probably best not to give up on Scott Hartnell for shooting 8.2 percent in 2009-10 or give him a big extension for shooting 17.6% percent this year -- that's just how the small sample sizes work.
This year, van Riemsdyk's shooting percentages have been down from last year, and I don't want to hold that against him. But let's look at what he can control.
At 5-on-5, last year he averaged 9.0 shots on goal per 60 minutes played; this year he's up to 11.0 SOG/60. That's a 22 percent increase, which is very good -- even among young, improving forwards, not many players increase their shot rate that much in a single year:
Not only has van Riemsdyk improved his shot rate as much as we could reasonably hope for, but those shots are coming from slightly more dangerous locations as well. Last year his average shot distance was 29.7 feet; this year it's down to 28.2 feet.
Yet even though his shots are coming from closer in, random variance has him shooting at a lower percentage -- last year he scored on 11.1 percent of his shots on goal at even strength, but this year only 7.9 percent. That is a huge drop in shooting percentage, enough to completely outweigh the improvement in the underlying numbers -- his even-strength goal-scoring is actually down 13 percent from last year.
We might be disappointed that the Flyers have not reaped the benefits of his improvement yet this year, but the underlying numbers are encouraging. Even though he has not scored more goals this year, he has developed into a better scorer.
In the multi-year long run, a player's shooting percentage is determined by his talent, although it is heavily influenced by variance in the short run. In contrast, even over the long run the shooting percentage of a player's teammates is almost completely out of his control -- even Sidney Crosby scarcely elevates his teammates' shooting percentage at all.
Yet the shooting percentage of a player's teammates will affect the player's assist totals. Last year, the Flyers shot 9.54 percent when van Riemsdyk was on the ice at 5-on-5, and this year that number has dropped to 7.75 percent. That alone would be expected to suppress van Riemsdyk's assist total by close to 20 percent. Yet despite the headwind created by his teammates' poor shooting, van Riemsdyk has actually increased his assist rate by 28 percent.
This is a sign of real improvement in playmaking skills.
This year, van Riemsdyk is taking on somewhat tougher competition (his Corsi Rel QoC is up from 0.663 to 0.789). He is doing it with weaker linemates -- no offense to Wayne Simmonds or Jakub Voracek, but last year van Riemsdyk's most common linemates were Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux.
And yet despite those added challenges, if van Riemsdyk were getting the same luck on his own shots as he had last year, his goal-scoring rate would be up by about 20-25 percent. If he were getting the same luck on his teammates' shots as he had last year, his assist rate might be up by 40-50 percent.
That would put him on pace for something like 29 goals and 60 points over an 82-game season, which certainly shouldn't be a disappointment -- in fact, it's awfully good for someone who's only playing 15:20 per game.
James van Riemsdyk has improved quite a bit this year. Don't let unrealistically high preseason hopes color your judgment; he's shown a lot of progress this year and only a drop in shooting percentage luck is holding him back.
According to Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan (*compliments of the congregation of beat writers currently in Clearwater, including Ryan Lawrence of the Delco Times), Ryan Howard has an infection in the area of the achillies where the surgery occurred. However, structurally, the achillies is sound and there is no issue. Howard will go on a series of anitbiotics to combat the infection and will sit for an unspecified period of time.
The good news is, the achillies is healing. So this should not be looked at as much of a setback other than the infection, which is normal in an area like the foot. The Phillies are not calling it a setback, either. The sutures were taken out, so the new wound will have to heal, which is why there is no timetable yet.
Progress had been made by Howard prior to the infection in the area of the surgery, so if he needs to take a week off, that’s fine. Really no sense in rushing him.
Look at this, overall, as positive news for The Big Piece.
Below is video from our good friend Ryan Lawrence of the Delco Times – check out his blog, Phollowing the Phils.
It's rare that the NHL puts a controversial hit in their highlights package. Ahem:
That's Marc-Edouard Vlasic hitting Danny Briere from behind in the most hitting-from-behind way possible: Pushing right into the numbers. Briere's head/neck/shoulder went right into the boards, and the play ultimately had to be stopped because Briere couldn't get up. (Of course, he failed to miss a shift despite admitting after the game that the hit made him feel woosy. Nice concussion protocol, guys.)
Vlasic said post-game that Briere turned into him. Ummmmm right let's talk about that.
This is the last second before Briere turns his back to Vlasic. In fact, Briere's already begun to turn here.
If Vlasic is saying that he's already begun his hit here, well, that's interference at best, boarding at worst. Neither player is at the puck, and slamming a guy into the boards from five feet out isn't exactly legal.
Briere does indeed turn his body, but again, he's so far away from the boards that it doesn't really make sense why Vlasic would be pushing him. In my eyes watching the video -- and I'm biased and all, obviously -- there's a subtle yet visible pause there for a split-second between the time when Briere stops in front of Vlasic and the point at which the hit was delivered.
It would be one thing if Vlasic began the hitting motion while he and Briere were side-to-side, battling for the puck. It's pretty clear to me that Vlasic began the hitting motion after Briere turned his back, but what do I know? I have really, really thick orange glasses on this one. That these two players have a history doesn't help matters for me, either.
All in all, let's add it up: No penalty, no apparent injury, NHL.com published the video in their highlights package. Vlasic will probably be fined $2,500 and we'll all move on. Maybe.
Former Phillies shortstop and manager Larry Bowa joined The Sports Bash with Mike Gill on 97.3 ESPN FM on Tuesday. Bowa had some strong remarks about the makeup of the current Phillies roster when comparing them to the Phillies teams of the late-70′s and early-80′s.
Bowa said that he gives the advantage to Jimmy Rollins when it comes to the two shortstops, but he did mention that if his squad had the pitching depth of the current team, they’d be unreal.
The interesting quote came when asked about the popularity of the teams. Bowa said his club had their trials and tribulations with the media, which often portrayed them in a negative light to the fan base. “If you want guys who played with a chip on their shoulder a little bit, then you want the team that we played on,” said Bowa. “But if you want guys that…wanna look good in the eyes of the media, then you probably go for this group.”
If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, Bowa could be saying this team is soft compared to the group he played with. Is he right or wrong? Interesting debate. Either way, it’s a great interview.
As exhilarating as finding out you’re starting the first game of the preseason schedule might sound, there was nothing overly dramatic about the way Austin Hyatt learned he’d be the guy who gets the 2012 campaign rolling for the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon in Clearwater, FL. The right-hander found out he would be pitching in Philadelphia’s exhibition opener against the Florida State Seminoles via a list posted on the clubhouse wall. It was just another day of work for the 25-year-old Hyatt.
Hyatt, an Eastern League All-Star last year, is excited to get a brand new season of Phillies baseball rolling. Expected to throw 2 innings, followed by a lengthy list of other pitchers that includes lefties Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, and Joe Savery along with right-handers J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont and B.J. Rosenberg, Hyatt expressed his high level of enthusiasm for the outing, despite the dull manner in which he discovered he’d be making the start.
“It’s an honor to start that game and launch a new year,” Hyatt said in a phone interview this week. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s exciting. I haven’t pitched on the Brighthouse Field, there, since I was in the Florida State League a couple years back, so it’ll be fun to get back on that mound.”
As a member of the Class-A Advanced Clearwater Threshers in 2010, Hyatt was named the Florida State League’s Pitcher of the Year, when he posted a 12-5 record with a 3.32 ERA and 181 strike outs in 146 1/3 innings pitched.
Typically, the Phils use younger pitchers and a few individuals that are in big league camp for the first time for their initial annual exhibition game against the FSU team. Knowing those facts, news of the start did not catch Hyatt by surprise.
At times, Hyatt, a 15th round draft selection out of the University of Alabama in 2009, has been in awe of his surroundings at big league camp, with all the Phillies established star power. One well known major leaguer that is no stranger to drawing the attention of younger players is Roy Halladay, who has made a considerable impression on the Georgia native, Hyatt, as part of his group for daily workouts.
“(Halladay) is all business in between the lines,” Hyatt stated with an inflection of wonderment. “He goes out there and works hard. He runs every drill full-speed and he’s in there, in the weight room, all the time just getting after it and working hard. Just seeing a guy with that much big league experience and success still that hungry to go out there and work the way that he does is just a really cool thing.”
And despite the great levels of exhilaration from being in camp among the elite talents of the Phillies’ roster, the 6-foot-3-inch 205-pound Hyatt has been able to relax and enjoy his time among teammates that he considers close friends away from the game.
“It’s great to be here with so many guys I played with last year. Phillippe (Aumont), (Jake) Diekman and (Justin) De Fratus were all my roommates, so we’re really close. And then with guys like J.C. (Ramirez) and (Freddy) Galvis, a lot of guys I’ve played with, it makes it a lot easier and makes coming to camp a lot more comfortable, knowing you get to share it with these guys,” Hyatt said.
Overall, Hyatt may be behind the likes of Kyle Kendrick and Joel Pineiro as alternates for the big league starting rotation, in case injuries or other needs arise, but Hyatt is simply focused on absorbing as much as he can from the established names around camp for as long as he can. Beyond that, Hyatt just wants to do his job well and wait his turn for that first real big league start.
Jay Floyd is PhilliesNation’s minor league insider. You can check out more from Jay by visiting his site, PhoulBallz.com.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news...
- Thank God that trip is over. Those late games are fun, but not when a) the Flyers lose and b) they're on Tuesday night. Yes, the Flyers lost last night. [BSH]
- A very good story regarding Matt Carle's future. Not that we needed to point this out, but I think this story makes it official: BSH commenters > Philly.com commenters. Hoooooly crap. [Frequent Flyers]
- Matt Read is trying to beat the rookie wall: [Daily News]
- What's going on with Eric Wellwood and waivers? [The Hockey Guys]
- Take a wild guess at what CBJ turned down for Rick Nash... [Puck Daddy]
- "Organizational success at developing goaltenders." Ugh. [The Copper & Blue] And a similar story here, too. [The Copper & Blue]
- Did Dale Tallon improve the Florida Panthers? [Arctic Ice Hockey]
- Capitals GM George McPhee is on Facebook. This was his wall on Trade Deadline day. (Not really). [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
- A 6-year-old beat cancer last year. He scored a hat trick on Saturday morning in his hockey game. On the way home, he and his father died in a car accident. Terribly sad. [London Free Press]
- Flyers Faithful is holding a Pub Quiz at Fado (1500 Locust) next Monday night. All proceeds benefit the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. [Facebook]
- You should subscribe to the SB Nation YouTube Channel. Like, yesterday. [YouTube]
Someday, the Flyers will know what it's like to score first. That day is not today.
For the eighth straight game, the Flyers allowed the first goal -- this time, less than two minutes in to the first period -- and that goal would be all the San Jose Sharks needed to get the 1-0 victory. It wasn't for the Flyers lack of trying.
We could say this game was another lost opportunity -- another "bad game" in the back-and-forth between quality performances and duds for the Flyers. But that wouldn't be accurate. Tonight was one of those nights where the Flyers certainly seemed like the better team throughout -- plenty of puck possession, plenty of zone time, plenty of chances.
Where they failed was in getting quality second-chance opportunities on Antti Niemi, who was brilliant all night in seeing the puck and collapsing on it, eliminating a number of potential scoring chances for the Flyers. The Sharks defense was particularly good in helping out their netminder as well, and it was likely the difference in the game.
Ilya Bryzgalov was very good yet again, and dare I say he might be settling in a bit? Putting aside that first period in Calgary on Saturday, Bryz has put together three really fine games in a row here and just seems more comfortable in the crease. Let's hope he keeps it up once the Flyers return home on Thursday to face the Islanders.
- Danny Briere had a pretty interesting night tonight. Started on the fourth line, took shifts on the first line by the third period, and was decked from behind by a giant Pickle in the third period. He got up slowly after hitting his head/neck/shoulder/or something into the corner boards, but he didn't appear to miss a shift.
- How the Flyers didn't score in the final two minutes of the game is beyond me. They deserved it, but that's the way it goes some times.
- Claude Giroux didn't have a shot on goal tonight. First time all year that's happened. Didn't have any missed shots, either. Weird.
Questions with Answers
- How's Ilya Bryzgalov play tonight? Bryz was great. Kept the Flyers in it.
- How do the Sharks look coming off of their long road trip? Not as sluggish as I thought they'd be, but you could tell the Flyers definitely wore them down by the third period. Sucks they couldn't get a bounce, though.
- From my recollection, the ice is not that good in San Jose. Any impact on tonight's game? I didn't notice it, but it's 1 in the morning.
- Top line is reunited. What do they do? Lines were shuffled all night.
Comment of the Night
There's always next leap year.