Trade more than just a rumour now.

It is looking more and more like the Phillies will acquire a new pitcher.

With Victorino, Rollins and Utley on the DL, and Moyer apparently done forever, the Phillies are trying to shore up a roster that looked a lot deeper and stronger at the beginning of the year then it does now.

Roy Oswalt may be the missing piece.   Oswalt has not yet waived his no trade clause but appears very unhappy with his standing as the staff ace for the Houston Astros, who, at  42-59 look to have no chance at the post season for 2010.  Oswalt, a very capable pitcher has seen his numbers drop to match the team, with a 6-12 record and a 3.42 ERA so far this season.

OswaltSince breaking into the big leagues in 2001, Roy Oswalt has 143 victories — 28 more than any other NL pitcher. And his 1,593 strikeouts are the most for any NL pitcher with 100 starts since 2001.  The combination of Oswalt and Halladay would give the Phillies their first authentic 1-2 punch in a generation.

Halladay held similar records in the AL prior to the trade to Philadelphia and despite a lack of run support in all his starts, he still is second in the league in ERA and 3rd in victories, and in both these categories he leads the Phillies.

The Astros, in turn, are looking to acquire Happ and Singleton as well as a prospect to be named later from the Phillies.   While Happ has not yet lived into his potential, Oswalt is a proven commodity.  And Singleton IS a hot prospect for the Phillies at a farm league level, but right now, if the Phillies are going to stay in it for the rest of the year and make a run at the Braves, they need pitching.

Wow.  It seems like every time we evaluate this team, it needs pitching.

Fielding is covered; the hitting; comes and goes, that is the nature of the game.   Pitching, has long been the area in which the Phillies have lacked world championship caliber players.  Consider 2008, their World Series winning season.  They had 4 pitchers with 10 or more victories. 

Moyer led the team with 16, then came Hamels with 14, Kendrick with 11 and Myers with 10.  The team ERA was 3.88 and the lowest ERA by a starting pitcher was Hamels at 3.09.   So when the possibility exists the Phillies may end up with 2 pitchers who can record 20 wins with an ERA in the 2′s, fans can sense the excitement.   If we can win the world series with the above rotation, imagine how much better we can be with a starting group including Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, and Kendrick 

Missing man is Joe Blanton who had several strong years but is posting a 4-6 record with a 5.86 ERA after 16 starts this year.   If we can’t trade back for Lee, I say let Happ go and acquire the veteran that has proven he can fill the staff ace role.  Let the 2 Roys, Halladay and Oswalt fight it out to determine who will be ace #1, and who will be ace #2.



Down goes Moyer

Maybe Kyle Kendrick’s trip to the minors won’t be so permanent after all.

Phillies Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer strained his left elbow and was removed after one inning of Wednesday night’s game against St. Louis.

The 47-year-old Moyer threw 18 pitches in the first inning Tuesday night. When I hear the words “elbow strain” I don’t think short-term injury. Ye another trip for a Phillies player to the DL looks imminent.

Newly recalled Andrew Carpenter replaced Moyer in the second inning. He went on to pitch three unimpressive innings, allowing three runs.

So now the Phillies really need an arm. Halladay, Hamels and pray for rain just won’t cut it.
And I don’t see fans clamoring for Nelson Figueroa to be back in the rotation.

So who will the Phillies go after? I don’t think Oswalt is a realistic option and the picking after that are not great. You hear names like Jake Westbrook Kevin Millwood and Ted Lilly floated around all the time in trade speculation, but could any of these guys really change the fortunes of this team?

Likely not, which means the Phillies may have to move an asset such as Jayson Werth if they want to get any real pitching help.Of coarse, the way Werth’s stock has been declining you may not be able to get a Pirates castoff.

Or the team can sit back an let Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick and Andrew Carpenter lead the way. If that isn’t a blueprint to getting back to the World Series, I don’t know what is.



Happ back soon, so who goes?

A forgotten man in the Phillies’ rotation is working his way back.

J.A. Happ, on the DL for almost the entire season, is set to make his fourth rehab start on Wednesday. After that he may be heading back to Philadelphia. Bellow is a report from philly.com:

Lefthander J.A. Happ (strained left elbow) said he will make his fourth rehab start Wednesday at double-A Reading.

Happ, who threw 71 pitches in his last start, said he is aiming for 90 to 95 pitches this time around. He said Phillies officials who charted his last outing for Reading told him he averaged 88 m.p.h. with his fastball, an improvement from before.

Happ has been on the disabled list since April 16.

In three rehab outings, Happ has allowed 10 earned runs in 101/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .304 off him.

“Just looking for a little more crispness to the arm,” Happ said.

The issue at hand when Happ does return will be which starter gets sent to the bullpen. Baring any injury, the decision will come down to Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick.

Of that group the smart money would be on Kendrick, but would that be the right move?

Kendrick has pitched moderately well, going 4-2 with a 4.48 ERA,  and is coming off his finest start of the season, throwing seven innings of one-run ball in a win over the Yankees.

Meanwhile Joe Blanton has continued to struggle. The Phillies most reliable pitcher last season, Blanton has yet to find a groove. He is currently 2-5 with a 6.96 ERA.

Jamie Moyer is the third choice, but I wouldn’t expect the Phillies to do the same thing to Moyer that they did last year when the team acquired Pedro Martinez.Jamie wasn’t too happy about that move the first time.

Plus Moyer’s seven wins and 4.76 ERA are well ahead of Blanton’s numbers.

I still believe Kendrick will be the one shuffled to the ‘pen as his contract is much lighter than Blanton’s, even though he deserves to stay in the rotation. Sadly money usually talks in these situations.

If you were Phillies management, what would you do?



Halladay Loses Rematch

In what was a rematch of his perfect game, Roy Halladay came out on the losing end Thursday, but mostly due to no offensive support. Philadelphia fell 2-0 against Josh Johnson and the Florida Marlins for their third loss in four games. The Phillies seemed to break out of their recent offensive slump, defeating the Marlins 10-8 Tuesday, but the team was only able to record four hits against Johnson last night.

Despite the loss, Halladay looked sharp. The ace set his team up nicely, allowing only one run in 8.0 innings, and striking out eight. Florida scored on a sacrifice fly from Jorge Cantu to take a 1- lead in the top of the 1st, but Halladay would shut them down over the next seven innings hoping that Philadelphia could break through offensively.

Ryan Howard tried to get something going with a double in the bottom of the 1st, but no one was able to drive him home. Another double from Shane Victorino in the 3rd was for not, sending Philadelphia into the 9th down 1-0.

In Halladay’s relief, Danys Baez allowed a homerun to Dan Ugla, putting Florida up 2-0. Another double would come from Placido Polanco, but his last ditch effort in the bottom of the 9th was not enough to get the Phillies on the board, giving the Marlins and Johnson a shuthout.

Up next, Philadelphia will travel to Boston when they take on the Redsox. Jamie Moyer and John Lackey will go head to head at 7:10 PM.



Moyer spits in face of Father Time

Chipper Jones — or Larry Jones, as his birth certificate reads — hasn’t been too thrilled with his team’s offense lately.

One day after being no-hit by bellow-average pitcher Scott Olsen and the Nationals, Jones watched the Braves offense stink the joint up again.

This time they couldn’t hit the oldest man in the league, Jamie Moyer.

Just how old is Moyer?

It depends who you ask. Jones, for example thinks he’s pretty old.

“Jamie carved us tonight,” Jones said, after Moyer pitched a complete -game shutout in the Phillies 7-0 win. “The guy is 87 years old and he’s still pitching for a reason. He stays off the barrel. He changes speeds, changes the game plan and keeps you guessing.”

Jones was exaggerating Moyer’s age of course — Moyer is a young 47 — but who could have saw this coming?

After his first couple of starts it looked like Moyer would be the weak link in the rotation, but since the opening month of the season Moyer has been more than respectable. He improved to 4-2 and lowered his ERA to a manageable 4.38. With this offense, 4:38 is good enough from a No. 5 starter.

Moyer has thrown a two-hitter before. In fact his first came in 1986. I can’t quite recall who that game was against.

Maybe that’s because I was 2.



Phillies offense on a tear

The Phillies put an exclamation point on their quick start this season by loading up early and often on the Nationals in their fifth meeting and winning 14-7.

Amid concerns that with the loss of Jimmy Rollins and Jaysen Werth, the team may struggle on offense; the rest of the team turned in another winning performance.   Werth made a late performance as a pinch hitter so it seems obvious his absence from the starting lineup will be brief.   Rollins calf injury may be more serious then was at first thought, which is a shame given his extremely fast start.

If there is ANY early question about the Phillies this year, it would have to be their starting pitching.  Halladay is a lock, and Hamels is 2-0 but has been shaky. Happ looks as good as he did last year and Moyer just keeps throwing up W’s.  But tonight, Kendrick, subbing for the injured Joe Blanton, lasted a mere 1 and 2/3  innings after giving up 6 runs and saw his ERA shoot above 17.   We need Blanton back.  Hey, where was the last Martinez sighting anyway ?

Three middle relievers combined to hold the Nationals to 1 run from the 3rd inning on.

The bottom line, no matter the injury, the focus is on offense.  When one Phillie is out of commission, another simply steps it up a notch and fills the gap.  There are many teams that struggle to score 14 runs at all in a game, and I have the feeling we may see this another dozen or more times this year, when the team gets in sync and everyone has a couple hits and a couple RBI.

Tonight, Victorino broke out of his mild slump with a 4-5 day with a triple, homerun, and 5 RBI’s.  He was listed on ESPN’s MLB top performers of the day board.  Utley went 2-4 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI.  He also appeared on the top performers board.  Polanco maintained his torrid pace going 2-4 to keep his average in the .480′s

Overall the first four in the lineup were a combined 10-18 with 12 RBI.

It seems clear to me now that the team is off to a 7-1 start that they may be substantially better than they were in 2008.  If the pitching solidifies, this offense is lethal.  And every new addition to the sluggers row has stepped up and over performed, as in Ibanez, and Francisco and now Polanco.  With six guys in the lineup that are each capable of a clutch hit, homerun or other run producing play, it is extremely difficult for a pitcher to work his way through this lineup.

Oh, and by the way, our pitchers can hit too !

Looks like it is going to be a long, enjoyable summer ahead with the Phillies setting the pace the whole way !



Strong start for Phitens-home opener today at 3

The Phillies finished thier opening road trip with a 5-1 mark, representing thier best start for a season since 1993 when they started 7-1.  Not only did they win 5 of 6 games but did so by outscoring the opponent 43-18. 

To be fair, the teams they played were not top echelon teams.  The Phillies return for their home opener today at 3pm and face the Nationals for the 4th time already this season.  This time the matchup is Cole Hamels against the Nationals Marquis who gave up 6 runs in 4 innings in his first start against the Phillies down in Washington.

The Phillies started strong, leading the majors in hits, runs, slugging percentage and batting average on their first road trip.  They rank second with a team 2.72 ERA.  They look to continue their success at home. 

Halladay is already paying dividends, going 2-0 with a .56 ERA in his first two starts.  The offense has returned in force with 5 starters currently batting .348 or better.  7 starters have an OBP of .400 or higher.  Polanco, the other off season acquisition is paying equal dividends to Roy Halladay as he is 13-27 with 1 home run and 8 RBI through the first 6 games.   Ryan Howard is leading the team in homeruns (3)  RBI (10) and is batting .357 with only 4 strikeouts.   Jimmy Rollins started the season off looking like the MVP he was several years ago with his batting average pushing .400 and his OBP over .500, exactly what the Phillies need out of their leadoff batter. 

The last time the Phillies started the season this strong, they won the NL East, then won the NLCS against the  Braves, prior to losing to the Blue Jays in the World Series.  More typically of late, this team has started off average and then accelerated through May and June to lead the NL East for the majority of the summer and fall.  This year they actually look to lead the division from start to finish.   Florida briefly held a game advantage but that was swiftly erased when the Phillies went to Houston and swept the Astros last week. 

Even the pitching staff is hitting, with Hamels, Halladay and Moyer all collecting hits on their opening road trip.   When the pitching staff is batting 4-15 you get the feeling this may be the year the Phillies put it all together and set many records en route to another World Series victory. 

The Phillies started the season ranked #3 in the MLB power rankings, behind the NYY and the Red Sox in the AL.   The Yankees are now 4-2 and Boston is at .500 at 3-3 so it is probable the Phillies will move up in the ranking. 

Now I have to sign off, and get moving, so I can get to the park in time for some tailgating before the game starts in 2 1/2 hours.  I was privileged to watch the season opener in DC and am now going to watch the home opener live at Citizens Bank.  I will report on the game once I return home.    If you are my boss, and are reading this, I REALLY am sick, and my doctor prescribed an afternoon of $9 beers and fresh air, so I have to go.  Just don’t ask me for the note, because I think I lost it already ! 

Go Phillies !!!!



Phillies name Jamie Moyer #5 starter

The old man gets the nod.

The Phillies officially named Jamie Moyer the team’s fifth starter today.

Bellow is an excerpt from philly.com

“We think it’s the right way to go,” (pitching coach Rich) Dubee said. “Jamie proved that he’s healthy. That was the biggest question coming into spring training, how he’d come back from the surgeries. He’s throwing the ball well. He’s functioning well. And again, this guy has a tremendous track record of being a winning pitcher.”

Dubee looked at the situation in a different perspective for Kendrick.

“He won a job,” Dubee said. “He didn’t lose the starting job. In my mind, it was going to be a tough thing to do if Jamie was healthy to win that job from Jamie Moyer. Kyle won a job on our roster.”

Given the fact that Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero will begin the season on the disabled list and the way Jose Contreras and Antonio Bastardo have struggled this spring, Kendrick’s role in the bullpen could be significant. Moyer, 47, isn’t able to bounce back as quickly as Kendrick can after a relief outing.

You can read the whole article here.

This is not surprising news to Phillies fans. When the Phillies gave Moyer a 2-year deal at the end of the 2008 season, it was viewed as a reward for helping the team win the World Series. A man of his word, Charlie Manuel will give Moyer a chance to finish his career in the starting lineup.

Now it’s time for the veteran to make his coach look good.



Pleading the fifth: Moyer of Kendrick?

Having won three straight NL East titles and appearing in the World Series the last two years, few questions surround the Phillies as they embark on the 2010 season next month.

And the questions that do exist — bounce back seasons from Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels — don’t pertain to the first week of the season so much as they do the season as a whole.

The team’s starting eight are assured. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley don’t exactly have their jobs on the line.

But there is one bit of competition that has the interest of the team’s followers.

The old soft throwing lefty vs. The promising, yet inconsistent young buck.

Jamie Moyer vs. Kyle Kendrick.

On one end you have a  47-year old who’s fastball is looks like a changup, but has always found a way to get the job done. Since being acquired by the Phillies in a deal with Seattle, Moyer has been a great presence in the locker room. His work on the mound has been equally as impressive. He is 47-31 in three seasons and has given his team a chance to win the vast majority of the time. With the Phillies offense, they usually have.

He tied for the team lead with 12 wins last year, though his ERA bloomed to 4.94.

On the other hand you have Kendrick who pitched well in 2007 — surprising the organization with a 10-4 record and a 3.87 ERA — but struggled in 2008, finishing with a 5.49 ERA. Kendrick doesn’t overpower hitters and doesn’t have amazing stuff, but he is a Major League pitcher and does appear ready.

This Spring, Kendrick has put forth a strong audition, posting a 1.29 ERA. In 14 innings he has allowed just seven hits and two runs, while striking out 6. Moyer made his first official start of the Spring on Sunday and he to had success, allowing one run on five hits in five innings against the Blue Jays. Moyer previously made three starts in “B” games, and currently has a 3.86 ERA.

This will not be an easy decision by any means.

Although he pitched in relief at the end of last season Moyer does not want to be a reliever. Kendrick could be used in relief but may be better served getting starting experience in the minors if he isn’t chosen as the fifth starter. The team already has Jose Contreras in the bullpen so the need for a long-man is not there.

The Phillies could also try to trade Moyer, but as Philly.com writer  Paul Hagen points out, the team would be best served to keep both as there is a lack of starting depth in the minors and injuries are inevitable during a season.

I think that Kendrick’s time has arrived and he should get the nod. I also think he won’t.

If we have learned anything about Charlie Manuel in his time in Philadelphia it’s that he is loyal to his guys. Sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes to a fault.

The Phillies can survive with Moyer in the No. 5 spot and they know it. Kendrick will get his chance, just not during the early part of the season.

And if your rooting for one guy or the other and it doesn’t work out in your favor don’t let it bother you. When a team’s only dilemma is at the No. 5 spot in the rotation, your team is in really good shape.



Whiz Kids or the New and Improved Phitens, who is better ?

 From 1976 to 1980 they won 4 NL East titles, 1 National League Pennant and 1 World Series.

 From 2005 to present they have won 3 National League East titles, 2 National league Pennants and 1 World Series.

The first team included the group known as the Whiz Kids, with nearly every member of the team either in the hall of fame, or close to it, and known nationally as household names due to the exposure they recieved during their dominance.  The second team is still playing so does not have the advantage of securing a historical place in our minds and memories as of yet, but may equal or exceed the ability and statistics of the first group of Phillies superstars. 

This article will attempt to compare the two squad’s core group of players, then and now to determine which team is truly the best Phillies team of all time.  It might be noted the first team played just prior to the advent of steroid allegations and performance enhancing drugs becoming the norm, whereas the second group has played and does play in “the steroid era” of baseball with equal or better statistical results, yet has received no substantiated press regarding the use of these illegal and banned substances.  That by itself in this modern era of sports is remarkable, but what this group has acheived in a short period of time may be more so.

The first group-of Phillies included; Michael Jack Schmidt, Pete Rose, Bob Boone, Greg “The Bull” Luzinski, Tim McCarver, Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox and was led by pitchers Steve “Lefty” Carlton, Tug McGraw and Larry Christensen. 

The current group of 21st century Phillies includes; Ryan Howard, Jaysen Werth, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and has had Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, JA Happ and Brad Lidge leading the way from the mound. 

For purposes of a direct comparison, I am not selecting players that only played 2 years or less with either team during the peak, hence the noticable lack of names such as  Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Juan Samuel, Pedro Martinez and the like.

The 1976 to 80 team, over their five seasons averaged  747 runs, 113 Homeruns, 696 RBI’s, 136 stolen bases and a .270 batting average while the pitching staff posted an ERA of under 3.50 for the span.   The two offensive leaders would have to be Rose and Schmidt, with Rose batting .291 with 390 runs and 255 RBI and Michael Jack posting over 200 homeruns, 600 RBI and 600 runs scored over the same 5 year span.

The leaguewide change of focus from defense to offense over the ensuing 30 years is evident when one realizes the Whiz Kids pitching staff ranked 7th league wide with an ERA around 3.00 while the 2008 staff was ranked 4th league wide while the ERA had risen to 3.88.

The offensive numbers of todays Phillies correlate to this change.  The current team is averaging 837 runs scored, 207 home runs, including a team record 224 last year, 706 RBI’s and 120 stolen bases.   Todays squad is led by Ryan Howard, with 220 homeruns, 630 RBI’s, and 460 runs scored over his first 5 full seasons.

The Phillies offensive output has increased by 30-40% while the team ERA has risen by 20% at the same time the league ERA has risen accordingly.   Between the Phillies dominance in the late seventies and early eighties and the current Phillies rise to prominance, the National League East was owned by the Atlanta Braves.  But those Braves dominated by virtue of their excllent pitching staff led by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.  There has not been a National League team that has ever had the dominant lineup from 1st to 7th position that the current Phillies possess.

Last years Phillies saw 4 players hit 30+ homeruns and drive in 90+ runs, as well as six players score 90+ runs and 8 hit 25 or more doubles.   They also had 4 players steal 20 or more bases.  This is the most balanced team to play in the National League in 50 years.  The Whiz Kids were famous simply because the perennial basement dwelling Phillies went to and won the World Series.   The current club should be afforded more respect because they are a better rounded and higher achieving team, and I for one, can not wait for them to close out the National League for 2010 so they can return to the World Series and go 2 for 3 as they take the championship away from the hated NY Yankees and return it to it’s rightful place, in Philadelphia.  This is a team that could easily win 3 or 4 of the next 5 World Series and establish itself in history as a baseball dynasty.

Based on these numbers, I would have to state, the current Phillies ballclub is the best statistical team ever to play baseball in Philadelphia, and I have a feeling the best is yet to come.



Phillies pitchers and catchers report

Roy Halladay is there.So is Cole Hamels.

J.A. Happ? Check

Brad Lidge? Check.

The pitchers and catchers have arrived at Clearwater, Fla., one day earlier than tomorrow’s mandatory date.

According to philly.com every pitcher has reported except for Jamie Moyer and Jose Contreras. (There’s an old persons joke just begging to be inserted with that).

So good news baseball fans; despite the snow that appeared outside our windows today, baseball is ready to get going again.

The only real news of the day is that J.C Romero said he expects to break camp with the team, implying that he will be completely recovered from his elbow surgery and ready to pitch at full strength by Opening Day.

That’s good news for the Phillies, as Romero is the only lefthander in the bullpen that has succeeded at the Major League level.

News will be pouring in over the next few weeks about every player and the Phillies roster. Hope springs eternal for every team this time of year.

For the Phils that hope is real.

It may be snowing outside, but baseball is back.



Philllies Send Lee To Close Out Rockies

Do you think that this is what the Phillies had in mind when they pulled the trigger on the trade that brought Cliff Lee to Philadelphia? Did they have some crystal ball somewhere that told them Jamie Moyer would get hurt, that J.A Happ would be ineffective in his first post-season start and that Cole Hamels would not show the form that won him the NLCS and World Series MVP in 2008?

Nah, probably not.  What they did know about the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner was that he is a horse.  A guy who takes the ball and pitches deep into games, and that is what the Phillies really need tonight when they take on 15 game winner Ubaldo Jimenez and the Colorado Rockies.  They also knew that two years ago Cliff Lee, after an awful 2007 season, was relegated to cheerleader as he watched his Cleveland Indians go up 3 games to 1 on the Boston Red Sox only to eventually lose the lead and a decisive Game 7.   Boston went on to win the World Series and the Indians haven’t gotten back to the post-season since.

Tonight’s game is a rematch of Game 1 when Lee dominated, shutting out the Rockies for 8.2 innings before settling for a complete game 5-1 victory.  The Phillies certainly don’t need a complete game from Lee – but they do need a solid start from him because even though they are home for Game 5 tomorrow if necessary, anything can happen in a Game 5 and I’m sure the Phillies would just as soon close this one out and not have to worry about which Cole Hamels will show up tomorrow night.   The Phillies already got away with one last night when they overcame a bad and short outing by J.A Happ as well as two walks in the ninth by Brad Lidge after securing a one run lead on Ryan Howard’s ninth inning sac fly.   The Phillies also had to use more of their bullpen on a brutally cold night then they would’ve like to have, so a seven or eight inning outing by Lee would go a long way.  There is no travel day between Games 4 and   5 thanks to Saturdays cancellation so if the Phillies lose tonight and have to use the bullpen again that would leave the Phillies in a bad spot for tomorrow night.

Let’s hope that scenario doesn’t present itself and the Phillies close this one out on the road.



Phillies starting pitcher report card 2009

The Phillies and Rockies are deadlocked at 1-1 after the first two games at Citizens Bank park, and now they are off to chilly Colorado.   The talk this year has focused on the Phillies pitching.  Everyone seems to agree the offense and defense are good enough to repeat as World Series champions, but the jury is still out on the pitching staff.  On an off day with no game scheduled, I am taking this time to review the Phillies pitchers; today the starters get their grades for the regular season.

It was a strange year.  Only four Phillies even qualified as starters.  Two midseason pickups have to be factored into the mix.   Two of last seasons standouts made no difference on the 2009 season.  Last years heroes are potentially this years goats.  So here we go.

Definition of starters.  For purposes of this evaluation, we can consider 6 Phillies pitchers as starters this year.  Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton were the only two that started start to finish, had 30 or more games played with 150 innings or more.  Jamie Moyer started off as a starter and ended in the pen, JA Happ started in the pen and ended as a starter. Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez arrived in midseason and started all the games they appeared in the regular season with decidedly mixed results.

Hamels was the best pitcher on the team last year finishing 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA and the much talked about WS MVP award.  Jamie Moyer was a close second, actually leading the team in wins but with a slightly higher ERA and less impact in the post season, finishing 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA.   Both saw their numbers drop off this year, Hamels finishing below .500 at 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA and Moyer finished in the bullpen with an overall record of  12-10 and an ERA of 4.94, but some of those statistics were accomplished as a reliever.

Happ and Blanton pitched little in the championship year, but finished tied for the team lead in wins along with Jamie Moyer this year.  Happ only started 4 games late in their championship run, was officially a rookie in 2009 and starred at 12-4 with an ERA of 2.93, to lead all starters.  Blanton started all year this year after being the Phillies mid season acquistion last year and starting in 13 games, this year finishing 12-10 with an ERA of 4.05.   Both these pitchers showed remarkable improvement over last years statistics. 

Brett Myers and Adam Eaton both factored in 2008, Myers was a non factor in 2009 and Eaton is no longer on the team.  These two were effectively replaced in the line up by Martinez and Lee.   Pedro is still a cypher, starting 9 games and going 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA but leaving three games very early and only pitching 44 innings for the Phillies this year.  Lee was more productive, but even more confusing as he went 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA; at first unbeatable, then going to average and returning to very good to close the season.  And we all saw what he did in his first postseason start pitching a 6 hit complete game for the victory but that doesnt count toward his regular season grade.

So that’s their numbers.  Now, how to grade their productivity and effectiveness ?  The overall staff needs to have a high B grade in my opinion to make a concerted World Series run.  So how do this years Phillies starters, hopefuls, and part timers stack up?

I think we all have to agree Lee gets an A.  he showed us something in his first few starts after the trade and didn’t back down when he saw his stats tail off in late August, probably the result of a tired arm.

Happ has to get an A.  As a rookie, he did something no Phillie starter has done in 50 years, win 12 games; and he started in the bullpen, so he accomplished this feat in 3/4 of a season.

Blanton gets a B, finishing 4 games above .500 but with an ERA over 4.  to get the A grade, I really think your ERA needs to be in the low to mid 3′s. 

I give Hamels a B-, if his W/L percentage had dropped and he had maintained last years ERA I would grade him higher, but he seemed much less effective in the big games this year and he too finished with an ERA above 4.

Moyer gets a B- as well, and this grade would have been lower if he had not led the Phillies in wins (or co-led) for the second straight year, combined with his professional attitude when he was demoted to the bullpen after being plagued with  a 5+ ERA most the year.

Martinez is the hardest to grade, and I would have to give him a C+, only because his grade really should be an incomplete, with 44 innings pitched and only 3 quality starts in half a season with the team. 

This puts the Phillies 6 supposed starters at a cumulative grade right around a B.  Maybe good enough to do it, but I would feel better if the newest Phillies were either more tested in the postseason (Lee) or more proven in their starts this year (Martinez)  Without a lot to go on, it is hard to tell how they will perform when the pressure is on, but it looks like Manuel may start Pedro in game 3 tomorrow so we will get a chance to see if he shines as well as Lee surprised everyone after being awarded the Game 1 start earlier this week.

Expect a review and grades on the Phillies middle relief and closers in an article to follow in the next few days.  They are an enigmatic group, even harder to evaluate, and with a lot more up and down and movement in and out of the core group than the starters, if that can be believed !  I look forward to watching the rest of the NLDS and feel confident the Phillies won’t let us down on their brief trip to Colorado.   Go Phillies !



Phillies Game 1 Starter – Hamels or Lee?

We’ll know for sure this afternoon when the Phillies will announce their starter to oppose the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez.  Charlie Manuel has a 12:30pm press conference and its expected that by 1pm we’ll know who will be starting.

Most media reports have the Phillies giving the honor to Cole Hamels with Cliff Lee going game two.  Hamels 2009 season certainly wasn’t vintage Cole, but the Phillies evidentally believe that the experience he gained last year when he was both the MVP of the NLCS and World Series gives him the edge on Cliff Lee who has not yet pitched in the post-season.  Lee was with the Indians in 2007 when the finished just one win shy of a World Series appearance but he was not on their post-season roster.

Since regular season numbers mean nothing, its hard to argue the choice of Hamels given the fact he has pitched in the post-season the past two years while Lee, who has struggled lately, has no post-season experience.   Experience is the same reason the Cardinals went out and got Smoltz, who may start Game 4 against the Dodgers ahead of Kyle Lohse.   The playoffs are totally different from the regular season, and Cole Hamels proved last year he can handle that pressure.  We’ve yet to see if Cliff Lee can. 

If the Phillies go with Hamels as expected, it assures that the Phillies will use four starters with Lee, Blanton and either Happ or Martinez following Hamels in the rotation.   Hamels, unlike Lee, has never pitched on three days rest in his career and its unlikely that the Phillies will change that now.  They had the option last year against the Brewers and passed and didn’t allow him to throw against the Dodgers on three days rest, instead allowing Jamie Moyer to pitch.

The 2009 Playoff ride starts tomorrow afternoon and today we’ll know who will be taking the mound when the Phillies begin the defense of their World Championship.  I can’t wait.



Post Party Blues

The past two nights the Phillies are looking like a team that gave it’s all to clinch the division and are not all that concerned about home field advantage for the championship series.  With the exception of another towering homerun by Howard in the bottom of the first (his 44th) the Phillies offense was flat.  Joe Blanton looked equally flat as he allowed 5 runs in 6 plus innings and never seemed to be on top of his delivery. 

Charlie Manuel rested Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino took over the leadoff spot for the night and went 1 for four.  Tracy got his 4th pinch hit in the 7th inning, but was stranded on base as were all the Phillies that reached base after that one blast from Howard.  The real story was the bullpen auditions that occurred after Blanton handed it over and took a seat.  

All the writers on this blog have commented time and time again about the dire situation looming in the Phillies bullpen that will almost certainly factor into whether this team can repeat as world champions this year.  We know they can hit, and we know there are at least four quality starters, and we know they are an experienced, good fielding team. 

One also can not help but notice that the relief pitchers loaded the bases two innings in a row, and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits and a walk.  If not for several good fielding plays, this game would have been a rout.  As it was the 7-2 final score hardly made the Phillies appear to be a 92 win team poised to go to the playoffs.    

The bullpen has had a revolving door on it this year, after being one of the primary reasons for the Phillies success last year.  The only reason they were able to clinch the division was due to the strength of the offense. 

Tonight the Phillies utilized Eyre, Condrey, and new call up Escalona, and finally Durbin, once the game was out of reach, even for our hard hitting Phillies.  None of them were particularly effective in doing their job.  It is hard to say who can provide middle relief and who can close for this team at this point.   I do know the combination of a slow offensive start with a weak bullpen as was evidenced the past two nights can only spell disaster for the Phillies playoff hopes. 

Tomorrow I will be reviewing all the remaining ptichers statistically, how they match up against right and left handers, and give you my vote for middle reliever and closer.  I must say, with the loss of Moyer and Romero in the past week, the pickings will be slim.   It is almost a sure thing that Happ will have to play some sort of role in the post season, and it is possible that his move back to the bullpen, if it happens, could prove to be the action that propels him to a possible MVP with a Phillies series victory. 

When was the last time a rookie won MVP ?  Has it ever happened ? Wouldn’t that be the follow up to last years championship run, to do it again with the help of a young, untested rookie pitcher who steps in at the last minute to carry the closer load on his shoulders ?  I have to admit, although I have been lobbying for Happ to get his chance starting in the post season,  I would be equally interested in seeing him back in the bullpen, but in a closer role.  He has certainly proven himself to me this year, and I believe he has earned the right to show the team if he can hold down a larger role now that the overall roster depth has so drastically changed.

Well, one thing is for sure, no matter if we play the Rockies or the Dodgers, we are going to be in for one wild ride.  I am just glad that for a change, we can actually sit here in October and talk about this and that, instead of the usual “what if”, or “if onlys” that I am used to from most of my late season Phillies watching days !  Let us give credit to this team, for all they have been through, they are one of only four teams in the National League still standing, and who knows how far they can go ?  That is why we play all these games !  I will be rooting from the front row, every chance I get !