Vote for Perdro … again?

Will there be another Pedro Martinez sighting in Citizen’s Bank Park?

Well, maybe.

ESPN.com is reporting that the Phillies have been in contact with Pedro in regards to returning to the team in the second half of the season. Pedro was a pleasant surprise for the Phillies last year, rediscovering his fastball and giving the rotation some much needed depth. He was however tagged with two losses to the Yankees in the World Series.

Bellow is a statement in the story for Ruben Amero:

“We have talked to his agent, but there’s nothing so far,” Amaro Jr. said. “We are not negotiating, but we’ve been talking to him. It all depends on whether he wants to play or not.”

It’s hard to blame the Phillies for contacting Pedro considering the struggles of their rotation behind Roy Halladay and to some extent Cole Hamels. With J.A. Happ’s return still in question, Martinez wouldn’t be a horrible acquisition. And while I’m not sure Pedro can be a difference maker at this point in his career, the Phillies currently find themselves in a position where they need to consider all options.

So would you vote for Pedro?



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.



How will Pedro’s time in Philadelphia be remembered

Wherever he has gone Pedro Martinez has elicited a lot of emotions from his team’s fan base and the fan base of the opposition. Some view Pedro as a fun, wacky guy who brings energy to a team and a stadium every time he takes the mound.

Others view him as a cocky, arrogant pitcher whose history of hitting batters makes him an intimidator.

But how will his two-month stay in Philadelphia be remembered?

The Phillies signed Pedro Martinez on July 5 to a modest 1-year/$1 million contract. The former Red Six and Mets pitcher had been out of baseball to that point, as his asking price of $5 million to start the season garnered little attention.

Shortly after the signing of Pedro, the Phillies traded for Cliff Lee, reducing the expected impact of Martinez. However, with Jamie Moyer struggling, the Phils gave Pedro is first start on August 12 against the Cubs.

A little over a month later, he finished his regular season with a 5-1 record with an ERA of 3.63, good enough to earn himself a spot in the postseason rotation.

After not pitching in the NLDS, Pedro pitched a 7-inning gem against the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS. The bullpen would blow an inherited 1-0 lead, leaving him without a win.

However, the World Series was not kind to Pedro. Against his nemesis, the New York Yankees, Pedro went 0-2, including the deciding Game 6 loss in which he allowed four runs in just four innings.

It is unlikely Pedro will be resigned for next season. The Phillies are set in the rotation 1-through-4 and have Jamie Moyer under contract. There is also the chance that Kyle Kendrick earns his way back to the majors or that highly-touted prospect Kyle Drabek makes the roster.

So how will the future Hall of Famer’s short stint in Philly be remembered?

My guess is that fans will look at Pedro’s time with the team fondly. He gave the team more than anyone could have expected given the way things ended for him in New York the previous season. Sure he didn’t execute well enough in the World Series, but Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels’ shortcomings will be talked about much more going forward.

Pedro wasn’t great, but his two month stint at in Philadelphia did more good, than harm.



Yankees beat Phillies to claim 27th World Series

The Philadelphia Phillies’ quest to repeat as World Series champions has come to an end.

Thanks to six RBIs for Hideki Matsui the New York Yankees finished off the Phillies in Game Six, winning 7-3, to claim their 27th World Series.

It was a frustrating day all the way around for Phillies fans. Pedro Martinez never gave the team a chance, allowing four runs in four innings. Chad Durbin came in and made things worse. The offense had its moments, but never brought the tying run to the plate in the late innings.

This series and this season will be broken down over the next couple of weeks as fans try to swallow the concept of New York taking their title.

The Phillies certainly have nothing to hang their heads about. They were best team in the National League and second-best team in baseball.  However, a year after winning the World Series, that just wasn’t enough.

In a few weeks, maybe we can look back with fond memories of this season.

But not now.

The Evil Empire has struck again.



Burnett shuts down Phils; Series tied 1-1

Pedro Martinez gave the Phillies a valiant effort Thursday night but the Philadelphia bats went silent against A.J. Burnett, as the New York Yankees took Game 2, 3-1, to tie the World Series, 1-1.

A couple of solo home runs proved to be enough for New York thanks to seven strong innings from Burnett, who had his curveball going, and a two-inning save from Mariano Rivera.

Now the series shifts to Philadelphia where Cole Hamels will get the ball for Game 3 against postseason veteran Andy Pettitte, on Saturday night.

While taking both games in New York would have been a huge boost for the Phillies, a spilt is more-than acceptable. The Phillies have proven that they are a great home team in the postseason, dropping just one home game the last two years. While taking all three games at home will be tough, the Phillies showed against the Dodgers in the NLCS and the Rays in the 2008 World Series that it can be done.

Rest assured that the Philly faithful will be pumped up and bring much more energy than the New York crowd could muter up in two games.

I have never been a Joe Buck fan, but I had to chuckle last night when he said after a Mark Teixeira home run, “At 9:04 the Yankees fans have shown up.”

You can bet that won’t be the case in Philadelphia.

The bigger question will be if Hamels shows up. The Phils need Hamels to find last season’s form and deliver them a big victory. We know he has it in him and now we need to see it.



Pedro Martinez and Yankees renew rivalry

When the Phillies signed pitcher Pedro Martinez late in the regular season it was with hopes hat he could provide them with a little bit more than Jamie Moyer was giving them.

Now, they are asking for more; A lot more.

Pedro will take the mound tonight at Yankees Stadium with the task of giving the Phillies a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series.

Pedro’s best game against the Yankees came in September of 1999 when he pitched a complete-game one-hitter in a 3-1 Red Sox win. He struck out 17.

The Phillies can’t ask for that tonight can they?

Well, probably not, but given Pedro’s flair for the dramatic the Phillies can expect a solid performance that will keep them in the game.

The atmosphere will no doubt be intense tonight at Yankees Stadium. Last night you could hear a pin drop, but that was only because Cliff Lee was that good. Even if Pedro is on his game, the fans will be on him, surely bringing back the “Who’s your Daddy” chants.

The best thing for Martinez was what Lee gave him by pitching a gem last night – a sense of freeness on the mound. By winning Game 1, the Phillies shifted all of the pressure on the Yankees. Lose Game 2 ad the Yankees are finished.

That is the pressure quality, but erratic, Yankees starter A.J. Burnett faces. It is only Game 2 and it is already a must-win for the Bronx Bombers. This is Burnett’s first start in a World Series game and he has an entire team and city on his back.

 

Burnett against the Phillies: Between his time in Florida and interleague matchups while with Toronto Burnett has faced the Phillies quite a few times and the Phillies hitters have gotten the better of him. Burnett is 5-8 lifetime with a 4.85 ERA in 16 starts. One of those starts came on May 22, when he was shelled for five runs in six innings in a Phillies win.

Pedro vs. A-Rod: In 55 at-bats against Pedro A-Rod has just one home run. He also has 19 strikeouts.

Game time: 8:07, FOX



Pedro Martinez to get ball in Game 2

If someone had told you at the All-Star break that the Phillies would be in the World Series with Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez pitching games one and two, what would your reaction have been?

Likely a little confused.

However the Phillies two big late-season pickups will be doing exactly that as Charlie Manuel announced that Pedro will get the ball in Game 2 on Thursday.

“To have 60,000 people looking at one guy to deliver that ball and all of them chanting ‘Pay-dro! Pay-dro!’ is a great honor,” Martinez recently said in an interview with The Associated Press. “To pitch at Yankee Stadium on one of the greatest stages to play on, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
It is a feeling he knows well.

The Yankees have had some success in the past against Pedro. Frustrated at one point in his Boston career, Pedro called the Yankees “his daddy” in an infamous postgame interview.

That is hardly the case though. Martinez went 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA against the Yankees in the old stadium. The bad news is that Pedro has never one a playoff game in New York, going 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA.

We also know that this is not the same Pedro that pitched for the Red Sox five years ago. Then again, this is the same Pedro that pitched seven brilliant shutout innings against the Dodgers in Game 2, only to see the bullpen cough up a victory.

Most importantly we know that Pedro will not be intimidated — by anyone. That means those 60,000 fans can shout as loud as they want and taunt him merciless and it won’t bother him. Martinez is a true competitor. He lives for game’s like he will get Thursday.

If you need any more insurance that Pedro is the right guy to march into Yankee Stadium and deliver a victory just look back to this quote he issued in 2001 after beating the Yankees in a regular season game.

“I don’t believe in rivalries. I don’t believe in curses. Wake up the damn Bambino, maybe I’ll drill him in the (behind).”

Oh yes, Pedro will be ready.



No one is laughing at Charlie Manuel now

It wasn’t so long ago that Charlie Manuel was looked at as a laughing stock in this area.

Manuel, the Phillies skipper, seemed to know nothing about National League baseball after spending his entire career in the American League as the manager of the Cleveland Indians.

Two years into his term with the Phillies it looked as though Manuel still didn’t understand how to properly execute a double switch – something Little League managers could figure out.

Manuel’s speech was Southern and slurred he had trouble putting two sentences together and hardly seemed like a motivator.

It got so bad that 610 jockey Howard Eskin nearly got in a fight with “Uncle Charlie” during a press conference halfway through the 2008 season.

People laughed at Manuel.

No one is laughing any more.

While he is still much the same coach he was when he came to Philadelphia after the 2004 season, Manuel has led the team to consecutive World Series appearances. Beginning Wednesday, Manuel and the Phils will face either the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Angels in what they hope will be the first of four necessary wins to become two-time World Champions.

Charlie has always been loved by his players, even when he wasn’t by the fans. You see the players talking and joking with Manuel in the dugout during the game, something you would never see with some of the stricter managers such as Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa, both of whom are back home watching.

It is hard to say exactly what Manuel does as a manager. In fact, baseball managers as a whole are tough to figure out. They don’t design plays like basketball or football coaches and they don’t shuffle lines like a hockey general.

Pitching coaches deal with issues that come up with the rotation and bullpen and base coaches deal with the tough decisions of when to send a runner. Sure some baseball managers call signs for pitches (most leave that to the catcher) and put on calls such as bunts and hit-and-runs.

But maybe the biggest responsibility of a baseball manager is controlling the clubhouse and making sure everyone on the team is on the same page.

In that area, Manuel excels.

You hear nothing but good things about Manuel from his players. The coach is willing to listen to his players at any time and they are willing to listen to him. Manuel doesn’t care about the spotlight; he leaves that to the players. When it is time to celebrate, Manuel shakes a few hands, gives a few hugs and goes back to his office.

Manuel is far from perfect. He makes mistakes from time to time like he did in NLCS Game 2, when he decided to take out Pedro Martinez after seven dominant innings that produced a 1-0 lead, which turned into a loss.

Manuel had a plan that game and he was going to stick to it. He didn’t want Martinez to go past 90 or so pitches and he wasn’t going to change that, no matter the circumstances.

But that’s Charlie. He’s the same guy who wouldn’t replace Brad Lidge when 99 percent of the fan base and media thought it was the right thing to do. He understands things the rest of us don’t.

Manuel may never be the best tactical manager in baseball and he certainly won’t become the greatest speaker.

Instead he will continue to be the same laidback, friendly guy that puts out a plan and stays with it.

In other words, he will continue to be the perfect manager for the Phillies.



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 !



209 Home Runs for 2009 and counting

The Phillies won again.  Hit 4 homeruns.  Ho hum.  We Phanatics are getting spoiled.  This is a really good team, with a lot of depth.

Example 1. Pitching :  Happ left in the third with a mystery injury, probably reinjured his oblique muscle, and with all the talk about the bullpen, Kendrick comes in and pitches 4 innings of shut out 2 hit relief.   The Phillies bullpen for all it’s late inning woes has been notorious this year for clutch long middle inning relief, between Happ early in the year, Madsen all year long, Moyer late in the year and Kendrick tonight, all 4 pitched 4 innings or longer in relief of starters for various reasons.

And these starters are pretty dang good !  Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Martinez, Happ.  put those five on any other ball club and at least three would make the starting rotation.  Two of the three could be staff aces just about anywhere in the league as well.

Example 2. Fielding  :  Jimmy Rollins is playing spectacular at shortstop, turning difficult plays into routine, fielding the short hop like the ball is on a string, throwing with incredible accuracy.   But Rollins is a horrible offensive weapon right?  1st in at bats, 4th in stolen bases, 7th in doubles, 13th in hits, 13th in runs scored,   Hmmmm, low average around .250 for Jimmy, but overall, not really too bad.  He just appears to be worse than he is because the rest of the team is batting so well.  His 3 run jack in the ninth inning to stretch a 2 run lead into a rout didn’t hurt his playing stock.

Example 3.  Power :  Ryan Howard hit his 40th home run for the 4th straight year.  And he did it naturally.  Another day at the ball park.

I mentioned before it is hard to pick out a Phillies as MVP because they are so well balanced and they all contribute. Much has been made of Albert Puhols numbers, Howard is 7 home runs behind him, 6 RBI’s behind him, and raised his average to a quite respectable .272 in tonights game. If he can eliminate 70 or 80 strikeouts he can potentially threaten for the elusive triple crown.  He tied Chuck Klein for the second place spot for most multi homerun games as a Phillie in team history.

Example 4. Confidence :  The Phillies actually have a better road record than home record, and in the last 7 years they have won 44 games on the road four times.   Only a team with a lot of depth can manage to win away from home consistently.  It takes a team dynamic, and a real focus to getting the little things done to overcome the inherent home field advantage that frequently.

Example 5.  Scoring :  The Phillies very well could have 4 30 home run 100 RBI guys on the squad by the end of the year.  And 6 players scoring 100 runs.   I don’t think that has ever been done.  If it has, I couldn’t find an example of it.

Bottom line, on any given day, any given player might display his talents and assist the team to a victory.  As they head to the playoffs to defend the championship, on a night when the starting pitcher and starting catcher both left the game early, no one on the Phillies bench looked especially worried, after all, they have depth, and plenty of backup and role players just waiting to come out and show what they can do.

By the way, Howard hit 2, Rollins hit 1, Fransisco hit 1, and the Phillies won going away again 9-4 over the “better luck next year Braves”

We Phillies fans are getting spoiled, and I for one, love it!



Hamels dominates in sure win.

After a rough couple of weeks at the end of August, where the Phillies starting pitchers were roughed up in several games, the staff has reverted back to their mid season form.  They are looking like the powerful, indomitable rotation we expected to have after several key midseason trades.  Cliff Lee lost back to back starts, as Pedro struggled without losing a game but the staff endured.  The starters posted 28 consecutive scoreless innings before Hamels gave up a lone run on two freak bloop singles.   Lee looks like last years Cy Young winner, Pedro looks like Pedro of old, throwing 130 pitches of shut out ball in his last start, and after tonights performance by Cole Hamels,  JA Happ has got to be wondering if he will be Rookie of the year, and odd man out of the pitching rotation for the postseason. In the last 5 starts Phillies starters have gone 39 1/3 innings and allowed 3 runs.  That is an ERA of  .70 by the starters this week.

I know it was the lowly Nationals, with the worst record in MLB, but Hamels followed his fellow pitchers and their recent resurgance by flirting with a no hitter through the first 5 innings.  The Phillies starters seem to be trying to ensure they won’t need to rely on the bullpen, as they are methodically pitching into the 7th and 8th inning without allowing any runs.

Hamels helped himself in a close game by driving in a run in the 6th to give himself a 3-0 lead.  Hamels has 31 strike outs and 7 walks in his 4 September starts, with an average of only 12 pitches per inning.   In tonights game he had 10K’s and 1 walk, only running the count to three balls twice all night.  This was Hamels 12th double digit strikeout performance in his young career.  These are similar numbers to the ones he posted in the postseason last year while on his MVP tear.

The Phillies had their 66th sellout of the year, and 200th in a row at Citizens Bank park as the fans have been great at showing their support for this team, even pulling out white towels with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.   Overall the Phillies have been playing like a veteran team in all aspects of the game.  From Chase Utleys heads-up baserunning that led to a run wthout a Phillies hit, to Jimmy Rollins heads-up fielding in the 8th when grabbing a bouncing ball as a baserunner passed in front of him and getting the sure out at 1st.   We also saw fielding gems by Zimerman in his catch as he rolled over the tarp on the third base foul line and Ibanez who came in to pinch hit and made a spectacular catch in fair territory deep in left field as he jumped up against the wall in the corner.

With Park out with a bad groin, and Lidge having struggled the past few months, the starting pitchers ability to go deep in games at this stage of the game is crucial.  Madsen and Myers got a little work this week, and Lidge did come in tonight to secure the save, but overall the bullpen is well rested heading into the final stretch of the regular season.  The Phillies ran their record to 15-3 against the Nationals and extended their lead on the Marlins and Braves with the 4-2 victory.

At 25 games over .500, the Phillies have the best winning percentage as a team since 10/3/93, nearly 16 years.



Phillies have options with playoff pitching rotation

Joe Blanton again made a case to be in the Phillies’ rotation, pitching six scoreless innings in the Phillies 6-1 win over the Nationals.

Of course that comes after Pedro strengthened his case and Cliff Lee assured his. Then there is J.A. Happ who has made a season-long case to pitch come time for the postseason.

Never before has a Phillies team had such a great problem.

At this point there are only two things assured: First, Cole Hamels will be in or near the front of that rotation. Second, Lee will be right there with him.

From there, things get cloudy. For how well he has pitched this season and the fact that he is right-handed points to the notion that Blanton will take the No. 3 or No. 4 spot, but that is not a given. The emergence of the old Pedro Martinez has given manager Charlie Manuel a new option. Pedro threw over 130 pitches on Sunday for the first time since he was a member of the Red Sox. How well he responds to it may determine his fate. If he continues to pitch the way he has (5-0 with an ERA under 4.00) Pedro will be in the postseason rotation.

That would give the Phillies two lefties, two righties and an unhappy Happ. Happ has pitched extremely well this season, to the point he may win the NL Rookie of the Year award. Happ has a 10-4 record with a team-low 2.77 ERA (Lee’s is 2.67, but that is not including his time in Cleveland). Managers like experience in the playoffs though, and Happ is likely the odd man out.

Another reason Happ may be relegated to the bullpen is the uncertainty surrounding left-handers J.C. Romero and Scott Eyre. Each has health concerns and their status for the playoffs is not certain. Jamie Moyer (who by the way has a team-high 12 wins) is not a realistic option as a left-handed specialist, so Happ may be the guy they turn to. Left-handers are hitting jus .206 against Happ making him a good choice for the spot is Eyre or Romero can’t go.

 Personally, this would be my postseason rotation:

 With home field advantage: Hamels, Martinez, Lee, Blanton

Without home field advantage: Hamels, Lee, Martinez, Blanton

My reasoning is simple: Pedro needs to pitch at home. He feeds off the crowd and they feed off him. Adrenalin is what fuels Pedro these days and pitching in front of a sold-out and raucous Citizens Bank Park will give him his best chance for success. Also, in case of a seven game series, Lee would be set for Game Seven. The Phillies rotation without home field advantage has the plus of having aces Hamels and Lee go back-to-back, but does not have the right-left, right-left flow that managers love to send out.

 The job of figuring out the rotation over the next couple of weeks belongs to Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee. In the meantime, it sure is fun to guess.

How would you set up a Phillies rotation with so many options?



Save committee may work in Philly

In the first game of a rainout makeup double header with an odd 4 hour delay between games, Kyle Kendrick got his first win of the year and Manuel did as promised and sent Brad  Lidge out to get the save, albeit a shaky, scary one.

Lidge gave up two runs, keeping his ERA above 7 but finished the game without losing it.  Barely.  Manuel is now switching back and forth between Lidge and Madsen, with neither selection appearing to be that good a choice, but no other immediate solution at hand.

The Phillies hit two more homeruns, now having 332 of their 714 runs scored via the round tripper, or 46%.  The Phillies ran their season matchup against the once worrysome Mets to 11-6 with the night cap game in hand.

Kendrick looked glad to be back in winning form, and Lidge looked grateful to record his 29th save.  With the win, the Phillies guaranteed at least a .500 season.  The Phillies have 4 players with 30 home runs, 84 or more RBI’s,  and 88 runs scored.  Chase Utley got his 100th run scored for the third straight year.

The Phitens trotted out Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez for the nightcap.   Pedro displayed command of 4 different pitches with good speed and control, pitching 130 pitches over 8 shutout innings as the Phillies clung to a 1-0 lead.  Pedro dropped his ERA under 3 and ran his record this year to 5-0.  Pedro is one of the few pitchers to play in both leagues and record 100+ wins on both American and National League teams.

Game two was a pitching dual, with Redding leaving the game in the 7th after giving up one run on three hits and carrying the loss. The only thing left to see was if the Phillies could hold on and win the game with their closing pitching.

Green hit the first batter he faced then recorded three outs on his next two pitches to get out of the 7th inning with the one run lead unchanged. The Phillies arrived at the 9th still holding a one run lead, and 6-0 record in Pedro’s starts.  Madsen came in, finished off the largely ineffective Mets and earned the save to secure Pedro’s win.  The Phillies took a largely needed doubleheader sweep with two saves on a night when the bullpen sorely needed to prove itself.

The closing issues aren’t resolved, but at least for one night at least, a closer didn’t cost the team a sure victory and we can all sleep well tonight knowing the Phillies have all but clinched the National League East.



If Lidge is “the guy” who was that masked man ?

The Phillies came out of their slump tonight in typical Phillies fashion.  There was a moment when it seemed every batter that stepped up to the plate hit the ball out of the park.  5 solo home runs provided just enough support to Pedro for the Cy Young winner to get his fourth win this year as a Phillie.  This team needed a wakeup call.  The series in Houston was brutal, and no offense to Washingtonians, but the Phillies really did not need to lose to the MLB worst Washington Nationals.

Several writers have commented this year that the Phitens rely too much on the long ball, citing their issues hitting with men in scoring position and calling out their pitching for not being able to close or save games.  A lot has been made of the Angels with their bevy of .300 hitters.  The truth is, there are few teams in the history of the league that have been this effective a run producing machine.

I admit, there are many more dingers than drives down the middle of the ballpark, but you know what ?  Fans love the home run, so why not give them what they want ?  And it seems to be winning games the majority of this season.  Seriously though, the Phillies need to settle down and enjoy tonight’s efforts but get ready for the final push to close out the season.  They still have a good shot at getting to the World Series, but in order to win it all for the second year in a row, they need more consistency.  They need to realize every team that meets them during the post season is going to be gunning to beat the world champions,.

The other teams and managers will know the Phillies weaknesses, and I can see a scenario where teams will issue numerous intentional walks, just to get to a situation where the Phillies need the clutch two-out single or sac fly to drive in the important run.  You can’t hit a home run if the opposing manager is smart enough to not pitch to you.  That won’t bode well for their success if this team is not ready to perform under less than optimal circumstances, and beating up on the NL basement dwelling Nationals may make them feel better, but it doesn’t make them any more qualified to win the Series.

Tonight both Utley and Ibanez hit their 30th of the year, and Werth hit his 32nd.  Now there are 4 Phillies with 30+ homers and 80+ RBI’s, putting them in the top 15 players in the league.  6 Phillies rank in the top 20 with 75 or more runs scored, when you add in Rollins and Victorino .  That means over 25% of the power and production in a 16 team league is coming from this club.  So they might not hit for average, and they may not drive in base runners, but they hit and score and outperform the rest of the National League according to these numbers.  No other team has more than 3 players ranked in the top 20 in any category, let alone all three.

So here is hoping, the Phillies continue their long ball hitting ways, the pitching stays just healthy enough and the crafty manager works the talent he has to his best advantage.  The Phillies have only had one losing streak of more than 4 games this year, another important factor when you consider the 5 or 7 game series that make up the post season.  They rebound from most losses well, and just got over a brutal road trip that may have helped them as far as the law of averages goes.  They still possess the best road record in baseball and are on track to have the best overall record in the National League, so it is hard to be over critical of them at this point.  The only true question mark remaining is Lidge, who Manuel asserts is still his “go to guy” and this is key, because any hopeful champion needs a closer they can depend on.  If Lidge is put in to close the bottom of the ninth and gives up 2 or 3 runs, the offense doesn’t get the chance to come back out and smash home runs to salvage the game.  Lidge will need to be at his best for the next month if we are going to repeat as World Series champions in 2009.  Tonight he failed to earn his three outs again, fortunately Madsen came in and picked up the save.  Makes you wonder what Manuel meant when he said earlier that Lidge was still the guy, hard to be “the guy” if you cant get the job done



And The Phillies 5th Starter Is…….Pedro Moyer?

I know, I could’ve used Jamie Martinez as well but I think everyone gets the idea here.  For the second time in four starts Pedro Martinez had a good performance interrupted by rain.   On Friday night in Philadelphia Martinez survived the first 63 minute delay  but after play was resumed for all of 7 minutes Pedro’s night was done as the Braves and Phillies waited through a second 45 minute delay.

Enter Jamie Moyer.   Making his second relief appearance since being sent to the bullpen in favor of Pedro Martinez, Moyer relieved Martinez after another rain delay and pitched an effective 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run on four hits.  He struck out five and walked none.  It was also the second time that Moyer earned the win coming in behind Pedro to run his mark for the year to 12-9.

After making some comments in Chicago after the demotion saying that he felt “mislead” by the Phillies, Moyer has been all business in his two relief appearances.  His 12 wins leads the Phillies and more importantly his two appearances have saved the bullpen from becoming taxed.   I don’t have the stats, but I’d have to say if Moyer finishes the season leading the Phillies in wins after being sent to the bullpen it would certainly be something that hasn’t happened in a long time if ever at all.

And somewhere Charlie Manuel and Rich Dubee are smiling after dismissing the idea of using a six-man rotation.    Could Charlie have known that we’d have some rainy nights in August? Could he have pulled out his Farmer’s Almanac and saw this coming? Even if he didn’t he probably should say he did because right now the Phillies are looking pretty smart by sending Moyer to the bullpen.  Moyer has pitched some effective baseball, giving up just one run in his 10 2/3 innings of relief while going 2-0.  Pedro hasn’t pitched bad and he hasn’t pitched great.  The Phillies have given Pedro great run support in Pedro’s non-rain starts which certainly helps.  The important thing for Pedro is for him to get stronger with every outing, and should mother nature intercede well, there is always Jamie Moyer.