Friday, May 30, 2003

Put me in coach...

I caught a bit of baseball tonight the other night, and Peter Gammons was reporting that the Phillies are just about ready to give up on Marlon Byrd -- at least for this season -- and go out and find some centerfield help. I'm not sure that I can blame them. The current CF duo of Byrd and Ricky Ledee are only hitting .222. Byrd is patrolling CF with a .544 OPS, and seems lost at the plate more times than not.

If the Phillies were inclined to make a move for an outfielder, they have some prospects to dangle as trade bait. They are also willing to take on a bit of salary to make a run at the postseason. But if they go for it, who is out there?

Readily available:

  • Carlos Beltran, Kansas City -- The number one player available right now, Beltran started the season on the DL, and has started off slowly, hitting only .244. But the power numbers are there, as he has hit eight homers in only 34 games. Beltran is heading for free agency at the end of the season, and KC will be looking to trade him to anyone for a few warm bodies in return. Beltran has put up good numbers, but many feel that he has prevented himself from reaching his full potential. He would likely be a half-season rental, as he seems determined to shop himself to the highest bidder.

  • Jeromy Burnitz, New York -- The catch is, you have to take his contract. After a few good seasons in Milwaukee, the Mets acquired the right fielder and gave him a lot of money to stink up Queens last season. He has hit well since coming off the DL last week, and has his OPS nearing 1.000. The Mets are looking for any takers, but I doubt that the Phillies would take his contract knowing he doesn't fit in their long-term plans. Along the same lines, the Mets would probably give us Roger Cedeno.

  • For the right price:

  • Kenny Lofton, Pittsburgh -- Many would argue that the Phillies should have scooped him up cheap in the off-season. Believed to be left for dead by many, Lofton is in the midst of a 25-game hitting streak that has brought his average up to .312. He is also getting on base 37% of the time and has stolen 10 bases. The acquisition of him could free Jimmy Rollins from the pressure of the leadoff spot. Pittsburgh could listen to offers if they do not pick up significant ground in the next few weeks.

  • Jose Guillen, Cincinnati -- The Reds' fourth outfielder asked for a trade after Ken Griffey returned from the DL and took his normal spot in center. Guillen is having a career year, hitting .341/.367/.636/1.003 with 10 homers and 28 RBI in 132 at-bats. The problem is the rest of his career. Previous highs for Guillen are a .274 average (2001), .320 OBP (2000), .430 SLG (2000), 14 home runs (1997 and 1998), and 84 RBI (1998). Guillen can also be a head-case. Still, I believe he is on a one-year deal, so he would be a fairly cheap rental.

  • Shannon Stewart, Toronto -- Despite their recent hot streak, the Blue Jays know that they are team playing for the future. And Stewart, at over $4 million this year, is not part of that future. Along with Kelvim Escobar, Stewart is and has been at the top of the Jays' trading list. Stewart has always been able to hit -- .300 this season, .302 career -- but just hasn't found his place in Toronto. If the Phillies are willing to add a bit of salary, this may not be a bad way to go.

  • Richard Hidalgo, Houston -- Before the season, Hidalgo was more available. But since he has passed Memorial Day and is hitting .299/.404/.506/.911 with seven homers and 25 RBI, he may not be as much on the block as the once was. Yet, I think the Astros would still listen to offers, if for no other reason than to clear room in the OF for prospect Jason Lane. The downside is that Hidalgo is in the middle of a multi-year contract paying him $8.5 million this season.

  • Rondell White, San Diego -- Another veteran on a younger team going nowhere. The Padres could be interested in moving White for a prospect or two, clearing the path for one of their many youngsters. Fact is, they are going nowhere this year, so they will keep building for the future. Not sure if he's a good fit at the Vet, though, despite his near-.500 SLG.

  • Maybe...

  • Gabe Kapler or Chris Richard, Colorado -- Neither Kapler nor Richard are playing or hitting much this season, but I list them because Colorado always seems to have a few extra outfielders.

  • Bottom line:

    If the Phillies don't start winning some games and picking up ground in the standings, talk of a deal is worthless. If they can start picking things up, however, Lofton seems the most logical and available. Stewart wouldn't be a bad choice, if the Phils are willing to pick up the contract. Guillen could probably be had, but I doubt Larry Bowa would want to deal with the headache that comes with him. Look for Lofton-to-Philly rumors pick up in the next month...

    Hard-luck loser

    Kevin Millwood picked up his second loss of the season last night, but it wasn't his fault. Millwood went seven innings, giving up three earned runs on seven hits, striking out five. Not a bad performance. His main fault, however, was not pitching the night before.

    The Phillies offense took another night off last night, getting shutout by the not-so-fearsome combination of Steve Trachsel, Graeme Lloyd, and Armando Benitez. One night after pounding out 13 hits, last night the Phils managed six. I'll spare you -- and me -- the sad details.

    The loss means that the Phillies dropped two of three from the Mets this week; four of six since the Phillies hit the Big Apple last week. The Phillies fell to 28-25, a full eight games back of the surging Braves. (By the way, the team name has officially been changed to the "Surging Braves".) And as Bill Conlin points out today in the Daily News, the fun may just be starting.

    As the Mets leave town, the Phillies have lost six of their last eight. And their upcoming schedule does not provide much relief:

    May 30 - June 1: vs. Expos (2nd in NL East)
    June 3 - June 5: vs. Mariners (1st in AL West)
    June 6 - June 8: vs. Athletics (2nd in AL West)
    June 9 - June 11: at Angels (3rd in AL West)
    June 13 - June 15: at Reds (4th in NL Central)
    June 17 - June 19: vs. Braves (1st in NL East)
    June 20 - June 22: vs. Red Sox (1st in AL East)
    June 24 - June 26: at Braves (1st in NL East)

    That 12 games against teams currently in first place; six against teams in second. The teams above combine for a .583 winning percentage. Take the Angels and Reds out of the equation: .624. Oh, but they do get a game against the Devil Rays...of course, that's the Hall of Fame exhibition squeezed into the Schedule from Hell, so it should be enjoyable, I'm sure.

    The Braves, meanwhile, play at the Mets, vs. Texas, vs. Pittsburgh, at Oakland, at Seattle, at Philly, vs. Baltimore, and vs. Philly in that same time span. If the two teams play at their current pace, the Phillies stand to lose three more games to the Braves in the standings. However, a shot-in-the-dark guestimate says that the Phillies could stagger out of this stretch at 10-14 (2-1 vs. the Angels and Reds; 1-2 vs. everyone else). A conservative guess is that the Braves could come out 14-10 (1-2 vs. the A's and Mariners, 2-1 vs. everyone else). Those are random guesses, but will probably play out fairly close to accurate. That means a 4-game increase in the Braves lead, putting the Phillies down by 12 games near the end of June. At that point, things will officially be ugly in Philly.

    Of course, 10-14 over the 24-game stretch assumes that the offense will show up every-so-often. Such wasn't the case last night.

    Thursday, May 29, 2003

    Good news

    Three good things came out of last night's ball game:

    1. The offense woke up, at least for one night
    2. Vicente Padilla looked better than he has in a month
    3. The Phillies got a win.

    I would have taken any of the three, but I'll happily accept the trio. The Phillies bats got some work in last night, pounding out 11 runs on 13 hits -- five of them home runs; Padilla gave up one run in seven innings; and the Phillies beat up on the Mets, 11-3.

    Padilla, who has been hit around since his exceptional start in Atlanta in late April, went seven innings last night, giving up just the one run on three hits. I would not say he was sharp -- he walked a career-high six while striking out only one -- but he was able to get the job done. He allowed a leadoff triple to Roger Cedeno in the first inning, that was misplayed by CF Ricky Ledee. Cedeno scored the Mets first run on a groundout by Rey Sanchez. Padilla got a second out before walking Cliff Floyd and Jason Phillips, but got Ty Wigginton to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning.

    He set the Mets down in order in the second, before walking Cedeno to start the third. He then got two outs before walking Floyd a second time and retiring Phillips on a fly out. He retired them in order in the fourth, walked Cedeno with one out in the fifth before erasing him on a double-play ball, and allowed two singles in the sixth before inducing another double-play grounder to end the inning. Padilla would get two outs in the seventh before issuing his sixth walk of the night, but stranded yet another free-pass recipient when Cedeno grounded out to end the inning.

    So while he wasn't solid, his lack of control did not hurt him. All six walks were stranded, and the only run off of him scored on a misplayed triple and a groundout. Definitely could have been worse.

    Yet, even if it was worse, the offense was more than able to pick him up for a change. Solo home runs by Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, and Jim Thome, as well as a pair of three-run shots by Ricky Ledee and Bobby Abreu had the scoreboard jumping. The 1 through 6 hitters in the lineup went a combined 12-for-23, with 10 runs scored and all 11 RBI. Abreu and Ledee also drew three walks each, and the free-swinging Phillies only struck out three times all night -- two of those by Vicente Padilla.

    The lineup featured the return of Bobby Abreu -- hitting cleanup -- and the benching of the struggling Pat Burrell. Burrell was replaced by Jason Michaels who went 0-for-4, and may sit yet again tonight as Larry Bowa tries to get Burrell to clear his head for a bit. In addition to Michaels's 0-for-night, 3B David Bell went 0-for-5 and left seven men on base.

    Still the offensive explosion last night hiked the team batting average a full three points, to a still-less-than-stellar .248. The key now is to keep the bats hot; the Phillies' previous five double-digit explosions have been followed up by an average of 2.4 runs per game -- which may be enough with Millwood on the mound tonight.

    At any rate, that's one win. One more, and we might have a winning "streak" on our hands. I'm not sure I can take it...

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    Blog news

  • This morning, I stumbled upon Diamond Mind Baseball's fairly new weblog. They describe it as a "way to publish small pieces of baseball commentary and research, items that may not warrant a full article". I call it a daily dose of Diamond Mind knowledge.

  • You may or may not have noticed, but I have recently syndicated my blog via XML/RSS, and the results of that move is a mention at Baseball Blogs everytime I post. Baseball Blogs is a growing list of baseball blogs of all kinds. Head on over and get yourself listed.

  • Alex has another great interview up over at Bronx Banter, this one with Allen Barra on the 2003 Yankees.

  • Jon has a pretty good post up about how Jody Reed made the Dodgers trade Pedro Martinez. There is no permalink available, so scroll down to the Friday, May 23rd post named "Buttercup".
  • A "Closer" Look


    Compare the numbers. Both are about equal in wins, losses, saves, and blown saves. Player 49A has thrown fewer innings in fewer appearances, yet he has given up the same number of runs; thus, his ERA is almost two runs higher than that of Player 49B. Player 49B walks more batters per nine innings, but makes up for that by striking out almost twice as many and allowing fewer hits than Player 49A. Looking at the averages, Player 49B might get hit a slight bit harder (SLG), but not nearly as often as Player 49A (AVG).

    Player 49A has been criticized by the local media. Player 49B, despite arguably better numbers, has been blasted by the local media, and is often mentioned as being on the next train out of town.

    Oh, and if you haven't figured it out by now, Player 49A is our own Jose Mesa. Player 49B is New York's Armando Benitez. After comparing, I want to know why Mets' fans are screaming for his head. I'll happily trade right now.

    News and Notes

  • P Terry Adams has rejoined the team after leaving during the Montreal series to deal with personal issues. I give Larry Bowa credit for either not prying, or simply not sharing private business with the press. However, it left his hands tied over the weekend. At any rate, Adams is back and available.

  • When Adams was placed on the restricted list, P Hector Mercado was activated. Mercado did not pitch in the Montreal series, but was kept on the roster when Adams returned yesterday. Instead of Mercado...

  • ...P Joe Roa was designated for assignment. Roa pitched a scoreless inning on Sunday -- his first appearance in 20 days, and only his third since being removed from the rotation on April 15th. And for the lack of use, he gets handed his walking papers. The Phillies, of course, have 10 days to do something with Roa -- assign him to the minors, deal him, or waive him. Roa is expected to refuse an assignment to the minors, and is upset at his lack of use, and the lack of communication.

    "I was kind of led on that everything's going to be OK," Roa said yesterday. "The toughest part about it all, and again I'm trying to be honest without saying anything bad, is they sat me for 20 days. Then this happens. If teams are looking at me, that's the bad part about it. I'm not putting anybody down or anything, but that's the side of the game and the business part that a lot of people don't realize."

  • P Turk Wendell has missed the last four games due to a sore groin. Bowa and his staff have not wanted to push Wendell, have him alter his motion, and injure himself more. So they kept him out. They were waiting to see if a DL stint was going to be necessary, but it appears that Wendell is ready to pitch again.

  • RF Bobby Abreu has been held out of the last two games due to a sore lower back. Abreu woke up with the pain Sunday morning, and he attributes it to the green concrete field in Montreal. He is improving, and hopes to be back in the lineup tonight.

  • The Phillies believe that Vicente Padilla has been tipping his pitches. They have looked at the video tapes, and believe they have found a flaw. We'll see if it helps the next time out.

  • Speechless

    7 hits. 2 in the first 7 innings. I don't even know what to say.

    You can find the game summary from here, or the Philadelphia Inquirer version here. Since I am without words, you can read them. Or let the following quotes paint the picture...

    Larry Bowa on the hitting woes:

    "I don't know; what else you can do?" Bowa said. "You just go out there and try, go out there tomorrow and hope they get them tomorrow... . We let [Al] Leiter off the hook a few times. We had the runners out there, we just didn't get a hit to break it open. We couldn't get a hit when we had to."

    Bowa on benching the struggling Pat Burrell:
    "To be honest with you, it's crossed my mind," he said. "I'll think about it. Maybe he needs to just get away. More than just one game. He's struggling."

    Burrell on being benched:
    "In the past, he's taken me out and it cleared my mind and gave me a chance to relax and watch the game," he said. "I've got to just keep plugging away. This is a difficult time for our team and also for me. We've just got to keep coming out and working and hope things click."

    Bowa on Burrell, part 2:
    "He has no knowledge of the zone," Bowa said. "Sometimes pitchers get you out. He's getting himself out a lot. That's what happens when you go into a slump. You lose knowledge of the strike zone."

    Randy Wolf, a little hard on himself:
    "I just didn't do my job," Wolf said. "I made a couple of mistakes."

    My wife, upon watching the Phillies "hit" for a couple of innings:
    "They suck!"

    That about says it all right now...

    Tuesday, May 27, 2003

    Fed up

    For once, I am not discussing the Phillies offense.

    I am joining other bloggers -- including Aaron and Mike C in voicing my frustration with Blogger. Well, maybe I should be pointing my anger at the combination of Blogger and Blogspot. Like everyone else, I have been having troubles. Slow load times, lost templates, lost archives, no customer support, no mention of any problems. I can edit my blog fine, but I can't always view it. Nor can I view the blogs of other Blogspot residents. So, I am looking into moving.

    My one problem is that I am cheap. Meaning that I chose Blogger and Blogspot because they were free. My first choice would be to continue paying what I am paying. But options there are limited. So I am looking into everything. If you have any suggestions on what I should look into, please e-mail me with those suggestions. Let me know what you use, why you use it, and what it costs you.

    I may only be doing this for fun, but if I do it, I want to do it right. And dealing with these problems is not right. Help me out here...

    Strike that...reverse it.

    Oy vey. Six games on the road versus NL East opponents; four losses; two losses in the opponent's final at-bat. Four losses against teams that the Phillies need to beat in order to make some noise in the division. Those four games sting.

    Kevin Millwood pitched very well Friday night and helped save a depleted bullpen for later in the weekend. Brandon Duckworth pitched possibly his best game of the season on Saturday. And Brett Myers pitched well yet again on Sunday. But except for Millwood, none of them got enough help to make it worthwhile. Millwood allowed two runs on six hits in seven innings Friday night. He was backed up by 11 hits, the keys ones being homers off the bats of Bobby Abreu and Placido Polanco. Duckworth went six innings on Saturday, giving up only two runs on six hits. He was backed by solo homers from David Bell and Pat Burrell, but the Phillies managed only two other hits -- a Wil Cordero homer in the bottom of the ninth gave the Expos the game. Myers went 6 2/3 innings, and allowed only five baserunners. The problem with that is, four of those five scored. And the Phillies only scored three of their own.

    23 hits in 3 games. That's a .225 average. Yech...

    What worse is the timing of the hits.

    0 on/0 out8
    0 on/1 out3
    0 on/2 out6
    1 on/0 out2
    1 on/1 out1
    1 on/2 out2
    2 on/2 out1

    Nine of those 23 hits came with two outs. Six of those nine came with no one on base. Only six of the hits came with a runner on base. Six of 23 hits with a runner on base; six hits in 102 at-bats. Horrible.

    Seven of the nine runs scored over the weekend came on home runs. Only two were manufactured.

    This is getting ridiculous.

    Only two of the Phillies regulars are hitting over .250 in the month of May: Jimmy Rollins at .290, and Jim Thome at .253. Burrell, Byrd, and Ledee are all under .200 this month. The Phillies, as a team, are hitting .225 this month -- dead last in the NL; dead last in the Majors.

    Anyone else depressed?

    Mets and Expos come to the Vet this week for six more. I'm still holding out hope that the Phillies are willing to act as good hosts.

    Friday, May 23, 2003

    Call of the Wolf

    Funny things happen on the New York subway system. For instance, yesterday Randy Wolf fell. He fell for a woman. An attractive brunette approached Wolf in Grand Central Station, looking for directions to Times Square. Wolf -- apparently the team's boy scout -- was more than happy to help her out. The two continued to speak before boarding the number 7 opposite directions.

    Wolfie is smitten to the point that he is considering taking out a large advertisement in the NY papers in order to find her. Should she be reading this blog (yeah, right!), she can contact the Phillies public relations department. In the meantime, Wolfie will swoon.

    "There was something about her eyes," Wolf said.

    "Phillies smart..."

    Their quote, not mine.

    But John Sickels hits the mailbag in his latest article, and answers a question on Phillies P prospect Gavin Floyd:

    Josh from Richmond writes: I was wondering what you have heard about Phillies pitching prospect Gavin Floyd? He had a great year last season, but I noticed that he hasn't done nearly as well (yet) this year at Class A Clearwater.

    I know he's young, he should only be a sophomore in college, but have any problems popped up with his mechanics or should we just chalk this up to growing pains? The Phillies have had decent results lately with pitching prospects and it's obvious they aren't rushing the kid by skipping minor-league levels.

    Floyd is currently 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA in nine games, seven starts, for Class A Clearwater in the Florida State League. His K/BB is 51/23 in 55 innings. The walk rate is a bit high, but the strikeouts are nice. Last year, Floyd posted a 2.77 ERA and 140/64 K/BB in 166 innings in the Sally League. His performance this year isn't quite as good, but it's still just May, and a 3.44 ERA is nothing to sneeze at. His strikeout rate is actually a bit better than last year.

    I don't think there is anything wrong with him; these numbers are still well within the range of expectation. Floyd remains one of the top pitching prospects in the game, no question. You're right about the Phillies taking it easy with young pitchers; they don't promote them too quickly, and it seems likely that Floyd will spend most or all of this season in the FSL. That's as it should be, in my opinion. I think teams get themselves in trouble by promoting young pitchers too quickly. Letting Floyd build a foundation of experience and success is a good idea.

    The Flotilla is sinking

    Vicente Padilla was an All-Star last season (as the last NL pitcher in the game, does he get credited with a tie?), and despite second-half troubles, finished at 14-11, 3.28. After yesterday's loss to the Mets, he is standing at 3-6, 4.55, and getting seemingly beaten around. Yes, the stats are not that different from last season.


    The strikeouts are up per nine innings, but so are the walks and hits. But neither number is up significantly, although I would not want to give up more than a hit an inning.

    Padilla lost five straight, and has not one since his masterpiece in Atlanta on April 19th. In that game, he gave up four hits, walked no one, and struck out four in a complete-game shutout. He threw 107 pitches that night, 82 of them for strikes. But I remember the post-game comments, and Padilla and the coaching staff spoke about how he was able to twirl the gem mostly on his fastball. His other pitches were off that night, but he was able to move and locate his fastball, so he stuck with it.

    Six games, five losses, and a couple mechanical and mental adjustments later, and he is still throwing mainly his fastball. The only problem is that he is not able to move it and locate it as he was on that night in Atlanta. Some quotes, after yesterday's game:

    "He's getting his curveball hit early in games and then he loses confidence in it and doesn't use it," manager Larry Bowa said. "They're sitting there... knowing he's throwing 90 percent fastballs."

    "He shook off 16 to 20 off-speed pitches," the manager said.

    "Every time, it seems, I throw a breaking ball, they hit it out of the park," said Padilla, explaining why he is throwing so many fastballs.

    "And he's all over the place with his location," said catcher Mike Lieberthal.

    Cliff Floyd homered off of Padilla on a breaking pitch early yesterday. Bowa claims that he didn't go back to a breaking pitch after that. So he's concentrating on the fastball, and the hitters are sitting on it. Since the game in Atlanta, his walks and hits allowed are up, even from his 2003 numbers.

    Since 4/196.623.9710.59

    Last season, Padilla seemed confident on the mound, and was able to handle opposing hitters. This season, he is unsure, and unwilling to trust his own ability. Until he feels comfortable using his breaking pitches again, the hitters will continue to sit on the fastball, and they will continue to hit Padilla hard.

    Meanwhile, the Flotilla will continue to take on some water.

    I just keep telling myself...

    ...that it is still before Memorial Day.

    The Phillies traveled to New York earlier this week fresh off of taking two of three at Houston, and knowing that they would be playing a team that had four regulars on the DL, including C Mike Piazza. Three days later, they stagger to Montreal having dropped two of three to the Mets.

    Vicente Padilla picked up his fifth loss in six starts yesterday, as the Phillies fell to the Mets 6-3 in the series finale. Padilla was actually pitching fairly well in the early innings; yes, he had given up three runs on eight hits in the first five innings, but the Phillies were still in the game. The game was tied at three entering the bottom of the sixth. After a leadoff, single, Padilla induced a double-play and found himself one out away from getting out of the sixth.

    But Vance Wilson singled. And Joe McEwing walked. And Timo Perez (Timo Perez!) ripped a double into the gap in left-center. And suddenly it was 5-3, and the Phillies -- with their downright pathetic offense -- were done.

    The Phillies managed but five hits all day, two of them coming off the bat of Ricky Ledee. The 3-through-6 hitters in the order were a combined 1-for-14. The Phillies are now hitting .247 on the season as a team. I'm just not sure what else to say about the offense right now. The ineptitude boggles the mind. So, instead, I will quote Sam Carchidi of the Inquirer:

    Their starting centerfielder is hitting .191.... Their Nos. 3 through 5 hitters are batting a combined .240. Their new third baseman, despite a nine-game hitting streak, is hitting .224, and their catcher is in a 1-for-23 skid.

    That about says it all.

    The one lingering question in my mind is whether or not Bowa would have left Padilla in there when he found trouble in the sixth had the bullpen not have been depleted the day before. Remember, Bowa pulled Randy Wolf after only five innings and 68 pitches, and thus had limited options in the bullpen yesterday. If he had more options, would he have used one of them? We'll never know. So instead, Padilla stayed in and grooved a fastball to Perez, and the game was over.

    Now, the Phillies travel to Montreal to face an Expos team that is off to its best 47-game record in team history, 30-17. Kevin Millwood goes for win number seven against Zach "Sticky Fingers" Day (4-1).

    Thursday, May 22, 2003

    Goodbye to a class act

    Phillies 3B Dave Hollins -- member of the 1993 NL Championship team -- announced his retirement yesterday.

    Hollins, who was upset when he was passed over for promotion last week when Tyler Houston was put on the DL, had left AAA Scranton to figure out his next step. Reitrement was rumored at that point, but it was only made official yesterday. He had been hitting .204 for Scranton with two home runs and 12 RBI. He hit .118 in 17 at-bats with the Phils last season.

    Hollins will be best be remembered for being part of the fun-loving Phillies of '93. He was selected to the All-Star team that season, and hit .270 with 27 home runs and 93 RBI as the Phillies advanced to the World Series. In his 12-year career, Hollins was a .260 hitter with 112 home runs and 482 RBI while playing for seven teams.

    Dave, you will be missed.

    Washed Away's Alan Schwartz argues that Randy Wolf may be the best-lefthander not on the DL right now (that would be Randy Johnson he's speaking of). So why did Larry Bowa pull Wolf after five innings last night?

    Wolf had given up two runs (one earned) on four hits through five innings. He had thrown only 68 pitches. But with three runs on the board already in the top of the sixth and a runner on third, Bowa pulled Wolf for pinch-hitter Tomas Perez. Perez flied out to end the inning. The game and the lead were handed over to the bullpen -- which has pitched very well to this point in the season -- but last night, they faltered. Cormier, Wendell, Plesac, and Adams combined to go 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits. The key blow was the game-tying home run by Cliff Floyd off of Plesac in the eighth. The Mets scored in the bottom of the ninth to take the game, 5-4.

    "If Plesac gets out Floyd, we go to [Jose] Mesa for 1 2/3 innings," Bowa said, "but it just didn't work out."

    I'm not sure Mesa for five outs with a one run lead would have worked, either, but at least it was a plan. Of course, they may not have needed him for five outs if Bowa had left Wolf in the game longer than five innings. Wolf did not seem thrilled with the decision.

    "He's the manager and I'm the player and I have to respect his decision," he said.

    The Phillies scored three in the sixth on an RBI single by David Bell (1-for-4), and RBI groundout by Todd Pratt (1-for-4), and a sac fly from Marlon Byrd (0-for-2). They added their fourth run in the seventh on a Bobby Abreu single. Overall, the Phillies managed only eight hits one night after putting 11 runs on the board. Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-4, bringing his average up to .293. Byrd's 0-for-2 dropped his average to an ugly .194.

    The three-game series concludes today when Vicente Padilla -- winless in five starts -- faces Pedro Astacio at 1:10.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2003

    And finally...

    Finally this morning, posted my article about Jose Mesa's downward trend this weekend. You can find it here. It is basically the same as the posts I made on him last week, with a little bit extra thrown in. Check it out, and a big thanks to Chuck at for posting it.

    Minor League Report

    From Kevin Goldstein's The Prospect Report:

  • Chase Utley went 3-for-5 with an RBI, and Travis Chapman went 2-for-5 in Scranton's 2-1 win at Charlotte. Both are hitting .297.
  • SS Dan Gonzalez went 2-for-5 as Clearwater beat Daytona 4-2, and is hitting .316.

  • What I missed

    My apologies for not writing in almost a week. I was out of town on Friday, heading to Toronto for a wedding. And while I didn't bring SARS home with me, I did find a sinus infection, keeping me in bed for the last two days. So, for me as well as you, a quick recap on what I've missed in the last few days:

    Thursday: Phillies 6, Arizona 4

    After dropping the first two games of the series, the Phillies found themselves down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh, and in danger of being swept at home. But the Phillies struck in the seventh. Rollins led off with a double and moved to third on Polanco's sacrifice. Thome was walked, and Rollins scored the tying run on a wild pitch to Burrell. Burrell walked putting runners at first and second. Abreu popped out for the second out before David Bell ripped a double to score Thome and give the Phillies the lead. Ledee was intentionally walked to load the bases and get to Todd Pratt, who was patient enough to draw a walk of his own and score Burrell with the sixth run. The two-run lead was comfortable for Mesa, who closed things out for his 12th save.

    Friday: Houston 4, Phillies 2

    In the first game of a nine-game road trip, the Phillies turned to Vicente Padilla who has struggled in the last month. Padilla looked much better on this night, shutting the Astros down through five, and allowing only two runs on six hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and walked only two, showing that some of his command had returned. With the game tied at two in the eighth, Padilla handed things over to Turk Wendell, who had not been scored upon in his first 12 appearances of the year. 13 was unlucky. Wendell gave up a double to Jeff Bagwell and a single to Jeff Kent before giving way to Rheal Cormier. Cormier gave up a run-scoring single to Lance Berkman, pinning Wendell with his first loss of the season.

    Saturday: Phillies 9, Houston 4

    Another day, another questionable pitcher. Brandon Duckworth made the start after a one-start stint in Scranton intended to get him some work and stretch out his arm. Larry Bowa was determined to see Duckworth pitch into the sixth inning on this day, but it didn't happen. Not that it was Duck's fault, mind you. Duckworth wasn't sharp by any stretch of the imagination, giving up two first inning runs -- three total on five hits in five innings. Bowa might have sent Duckworth out for the sixth, but instead pinch-hit for him hoping to extend a good inning. The Phillies had already put three runs on the board on two hits, two walks, one HBP, and one error when Duckworth was due up with the bases loaded. Instead, Bowa sent Ricky Ledee to the plate -- Ledee promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play. Still, the Phils had put three on the board and had Duckworth lined up for the win. The bullpen limited the hot-hitting Astros to one run over four innings, and the offense piled on some more. Polanco hit his second homer of the season, and Thome hit his ninth -- on a ball that traveled an estimated 443 feet deep into the second deck in right field. The Phillies had ten hits on the day, seven coming from the 1-3 hitters in the lineup.

    Sunday: Phillies 3, Houston 1

    Sunday is Kevin Millwood's day. In the Phillies first ESPN Sunday Night game in seven seasons, Millwood helped to show they belonged. The Phillies jumped out quickly for two runs in the top of the first, and that would be all Millwood would need. After giving up a run in the bottom of a shaky first, and getting out of a runner on second-no outs situation in the second, Millwood calmed down. He retired 13 of 14 batters before Craig Biggio doubled in the eighth. Larry Bowa wasted little time thinking about whether or not to allow Millwood to pitch the ninth. Despite some miscommunications in the outfield, Millwood pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to lock down his sixth win of the season. He threw 113 pitches on the night, giving up the one run on six hits and a walk. He struck out four, and the Phillies took two of three from Houston.

    New York, New York

    Think Pat Burrell sings this in the shower? Burrell snapped a 1-for-17 skid last night with two big home runs, helping to bring the Phillies back from a 4-0 deficit to an 11-7 victory at Shea. Burrell, who entered the game hitting .213, went 2-for-4 with those two home runs and four runs batted in. In his short career, Burrell has absolutely owned the Mets, hitting .314 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI entering last night. In 90 at-bats at Shea Stadium, he was hitting .300 with eight home runs and 23 RBI. And he upped those numbers last night.

    Brett Myers got the win (4-3, 2.59) despite giving up four early runs. As he headed toward the bench after the sixth inning, he must have been thinking "Here we go again". The Phillies -- who had only scored one run for Myers in his three losses -- had only put up one to that point last night. Burrell's solo shot in the top of the sixth had cut the Mets lead to 4-1. But Burrell's first shot was just a warm up.

    Myers, due to lead off in the top of the 7th, was pulled for pinch hitter Nick Punto, who struck out. After Jimmy Rollins singled, Placido Polanco lined out for out number two. After Jim Thome walked, Burrell worked a deep count before finding his pitch and depositing it over the left-field wall to tie the game at four. (Of course, Burrell hit his homer one pitch after I flipped away from the game -- my luck.) But the Phillies weren't done there. Bobby Abreu singled and stole second before Mike Lieberthal walked. David Bell -- who has brought his average up to .223 after riding the Mendoza line last week -- singled to bring in Abreu and give the Phillies the lead. Ricky Ledee walked to load the bases, and Punto got a second chance. He hit a grounder to short, and surprised Joe McEwing by sliding head-first into the bag and beating the throw. Punto's hustle extended the inning and provided a sixth run -- his first Major League RBI. Jimmy Rollins followed with his second single of the inning, scoring two more before Rollins was tagged out trying to stretch his hit into a double.

    All told, the Phillies put up seven runs in the inning on six hits, and took a 8-4 lead into the stretch. Three more runs in the 8th, including a two-run Jim Thome homer -- his 10th -- gave the Phillies some padding heading into the ninth. Carlos Silva struggled a bit in the ninth and had a few bad bounces, but held on for the Phillies fourth victory in five games.

    But the story of the night was once again Burrell's bright night under the city's bright lights. He returns again tonight for game two of the three-game series.

    Thursday, May 15, 2003

    Minor League Highlights

    I am going to try to make this a regular update, thanks to Kevin Goldstein's The Prospect Report, which I highly recommend you sign up for.

  • Scranton 3B Travis Chapman is 11 for his last 23, and after a 2 for 4 last night is up to .311 on the year.
  • Reading RF Jorge Padilla went 2 for 4 last night with an RBI and two runs scored. He is hitting .321.
  • Clearwater P Gavin Floyd started the season 0-3; last night, he scattered seven hits over seven innings, giving up one run, and running his record to 4-3. He lowered his ERA to 3.44.

  • News

  • 3B/PH Tyler Houston was placed on the 15-day DL yesterday after breaking the middle finger on his left hand while trying to bunt Tuesday night. For those of you hoping this would be Travis Chapman's chance, no such luck. Nick Punto made the trip back down from Scranton to take the roster spot.

  • In addition to the Offensive Slumber section in the left menu, I have also started a Mesa Watch. The worse that looks, the higher my blood pressure probably is.

  • Classic Schilling

    I think that we can safely say that Curt Schilling is back and healthy. Schill followed up his four-hit shutout of the Pirates with a two-hit, 14-strikeout shutout of the hapless Phillies, making what is likely his last start at the Vet a memorable one. Brett Myers (3-3) was once again the hard-luck loser in last night's 2-0 defeat to Arizona.

    Maybe it was all Schilling, but the Phillies offense once again looked downright horrible. 29 baserunners: two hits and one walk. That's it folks. Bobby Abreu singled (and was erased on a caught stealing) and David Bell doubled. That's your offense for the night. Drive home safely.

    Thanks to the continuing ineptitude of the lineup, I have started an "Offensive Slumber" tracker in the upper-left menu. I will update it everyday (or at least everyday that I post), and I will keep it until the Phillies are hitting at a respectable level (yet to be determined). As you can see right now, the Phillies are hitting only .246 as a team, good for 13th in the 16-team National League.

    But maybe that has something to do with Brett Myers. Brett Myers has given up more than two runs on only two occasions this season, and has a 2.21 ERA -- good for third among qualified NL pitchers. Yet, he is 3-3. In his three losses, the Phillies have scored one -- as in, a total of one -- run for him. His three losses have come in 2-0, 3-1, and 2-0 games. Unless he's taking runs away from the opposition, it's going to be tough to win many games. Despite ranking third in ERA, Myers ranks 185th in the NL in run support at 2.21 -- matching his ERA. So maybe the .500 record makes sense.

    So, with a bullpen implosion on Tuesday, and an offensive disappearance Wednesday, the Phillies have dropped the first two of this series, and three straight overall. The Braves loss last night keeps the Phillies five games back. Randy Wolf goes against Elmer Dessens tonight in a chance to salvage a game in the series, and a .500 homestand.

    Wednesday, May 14, 2003

    More Mesa

    Can you tell that Jose Mesa has me up in arms?

    Last night's appearance in a tie game was the 17th such appearance since Mesa joined the Phillies at the start of the 2001 season. And the results should have been expected. Mesa gives up just shy of a run per appearance when entering with the game tied; he has a 6-6 record in those 17 games, and the Phillies are 10-7. I crunched the numbers from all of Mesa's appearances since Opening Day 2001, and here's what I have come up with:

    ScenarioGamesAvg RA*WLSvBSTeam WTeam L
    Tie Game170.766600107
    1-run lead410.44252813338
    2-run lead360.2801342351
    3-run lead350.1400341350
    4-run lead140.360020140
    5+ -run lead60.67000060

    *Avg RA = Average number of runs Mesa has allowed per appearance

    As you can see, the numbers are not good when he enters a game with a tie score. He will give up a run 3 out of every 4 chances, and the team is barely over .500 in that scenario.

    Mesa is most comfortable with a 3-run lead. He has had 35 such appearances in 2-plus years; in those 35 games, Mesa has 34 saves and the team has 35 wins. With a 2-run or 4-run lead, he is almost as automatic. With a 5-run or greater cushion, he gets a little relaxed; he may give up a run or two, but the game is safely in hand. Similarly, he's not as effective when he comes in and the Phillies are trailing -- he may give up a run or two at times, but usually the game is pretty much over anyway.

    But it's the smaller leads where I find issues. We've seen that the numbers are not good when the score is tied. But look at 1-run leads -- the leads that a closer needs to protect. In 41 appearances with a 1-run lead, Mesa will give up a run almost half the time. He has 13 blown saves in those 41 chances, for a 68.3 save percentage. The Phillies have lost 8 of those games. Those are not good numbers. You turn to your closer to shut down tight games. What does it say when you can only feel safe doing so if you have a 3-run lead?

    These numbers, again, span 2001-present. Which means that Mesa's troubles -- as brought to the spotlight last night -- are not a one year thing. The numbers show that Mesa is not dependable -- or at least not as lights-out dependable as you want your closer to be -- in a close game. And the Phillies can't have that in they want to be playing in October.

    News and Notes

  • Tyler Houston broke the middle finger of his left hand during his pinch hitting appearance last night. He attempted to bunt at the first pitch and had the ball, apparently, hit his finger. He later singled in the at-bat. He is to be re-evaulated today, and they will then determine whether or not he will need to go on the DL.
  • Vicente Padilla -- he of the four straight losses -- pitched well in his side session yesterday. Larry Bowa did not see anything wrong mechanically, and believes that Padilla has to overcome a few mental blocks and confidence issues.
  • Brandon Duckworth is scheduled to be on the mound on Saturday in Houston after pitching well in Scranton over the weekend.

    Minor League Notes

    Some minor league highlights:

  • P Cole Hamels -- the Phillies' first-round draft pick in 2002 -- made his single A debut for Lakewood last night after some time at extended spring training. His debut was an impressive one, as he went five innings, giving up one hit and two walks, while striking out eight.
  • Reading P Taylor Buchholz gave up two runs over 7 2/3 innings last night, scattering seven hits. He walked one and struck out 10, raising his record to 4-1 with a 3.15 ERA.
  • Also in reading, SS Andy Machado went 3 for 4 with three runs scored, raising his average to .272.
  • Scranton 3B Travis Chapman went 3 for 5 with two RBI, taking his average to .305.

  • Phillies News Site

    Chuck Hixson contacted me yesterday about his fairly new Phillies news site, I had actually stumbled upon the site a couple of weeks ago, and it is growing quickly. Series previews, game recaps, and some original articles are scattered throughout the site, and it is becoming a very good source for some Phillies news. Check out and the work Chuck and his staff are doing.

    As a side note, Chuck has asked me to do some writing for them, as well. My work there, if it happens, will not affect what you see here; it will just serve to compliment it. If and when I have an article posted over there, I'll let you know about it here. A big thank you to Chuck for the offer.


    It was 1-1 entering the ninth. Kevin Millwood and Brandon Webb had dueled for six innings before Webb bowed out. He had allowed one run -- a Pat Burrell homer -- in his six innings, giving up only five hits. Millwood went three more outs, giving up just that one run on six hits; he struck out a season-high 11. Through eight, the pitchers were dominating. Then we went to the ninth.

    To start the ninth, in came my own sort of heartburn: Jose Mesa. Last night's game marked only the second time this year that Mesa has entered the game with a tie score. The Phillies scored an extra-inning run in that earlier game, giving Mesa the win. Last night, it wouldn't even get that far. Mesa quickly got the first out...well, here's the play-by-play, from

    -M Williams fouled out to first.
    -L Overbay walked.
    -D Bautista struck out swinging.
    -R Barajas singled to shallow center, L Overbay to third.
    -Q McCracken singled to center, L Overbay scored, R Barajas to second.
    -A Cintron singled to right, R Barajas to third, Q McCracken to second.
    -R Barajas scored, Q McCracken to third, A Cintron to second on wild pitch by J Mesa.
    -J Spivey singled to center, Q McCracken and A Cintron scored.
    -R Cormier relieved J Mesa.

    A walk. A single, on an 0-2 count. A single. A single. A wild pitch. A single. All but the walk coming with two outs.

    A bad night? Absolutely. But I think it's going beyond simply a bad night.

    The loss last night took Mesa to 1-3 on the season. Yes, he has 11 saves, but he has two blown saves, as well. His ERA is a downright ugly 6.35, which would be a career high. He has appeared in 18 games so far this season; he has allowed at least one run to score in seven of those. Let me just give you the ugly numbers:


    Compare those numbers with the previous two years:


    The numbers are obviously in a downward trend. His losses doubled from 2001 to 2002, and he has already matched 2001's total. We've already talked about the ERA. His strikeout numbers are down, and his walks are slightly up.

    The loss of control is a big issue for closer. A team depends on the closer to come in and shut the door on the opposition -- don't even give them a whisper of a chance in the 9th. A guy like Mariano Rivera, John Smoltz, Eric Gagne -- they shut the hitters down 1-2-3 repeatedly. Mesa's lack of control leads to him being hit often, as the .306 clip shows. He has only six 1-2-3 innings in his 18 appearances, and is averaging over 1.5 baserunners per inning. That is not the sign of a closer in control.

    We can hope that Mesa is going through a rough spot, and will become more effective and efficient as the summer wears on. But for a team that hopes to contend and play October baseball, I am not sure you can pin your goals on that hope. It's time to start looking for some help.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2003


    I, of course, plan to have much more to say on this topic tomorrow, as time permits, but I wanted to say this right now:

    If the Phillies are going to win the division this season, Jose Mesa will not be the closer come September.

    More tomorrow...

    Beware of snakes

    Last week, I offered my preview of the Phillies visit to Arizona. At the time, I mentioned how -- outside of Luis Gonzalez -- the Diamondbacks' offense was struggling, and how they would miss Randy Johnson (DL), Curt Schilling (pitched two days before the series began), and BK Kim (DL) in the series. I spoke about how the Phillies had to ride their strong pitching and beat up on the Arizona young arms to take at least two of three in the desert.

    And then the D'backs woke up and took two of three from Philadelphia. That's why they don't pay me the big bucks, folks.

    So, tonight the D'backs make their way to the Vet, and I can no longer say what I did last week.

    Johnson and Kim are still on the DL, but the Phillies will not miss Schilling this time around. He is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday night against Brett Myers. Schilling got beat up in his first start after returning from a short DL stint, but put in his best performance of the season in his last start at Pittsburgh. In that game, Schilling pitched a complete game shutout, striking out 10, while allowing only four hits and one walk. Around Schilling, the D'backs will start Brandon Webb -- who gave up three runs in seven innings vs. Philly last week -- and Elmer Dessens (3-3, 4.53)

    Webb will match up once again with Kevin Millwood, who provided the Phillies with their only win in Arizona last week. He also went seven innings, but did just slightly better than the young Webb, giving up two runs on four hits, while striking out six. Myers goes for the Phils on Wednesday, five days after he shut down the Astros through six-plus innings. In that Houston game, Myers picked up his third win and lowered his ERA to 2.20. On Thursday, Dessens will face Randy Wolf, who threw a complete game shutout against Houston on Saturday, picking up win number five.

    But the pitchers will have to face an Arizona offense that has heated up as the calendar has turned to May. The team is 5-5 in May (for a team that is still below .500), and while the team offensive numbers don't look that much different from April to May, some of the individual players are heating up.

    Luis GonzalezApril.327.402.6351.036
    Steve FinleyApril.231.293.396.689
    Junior SpiveyApril.250.345.342.687
    Matt WilliamsApril.190.254.328.581
    Danny BautistaApril.224.316.265.581

    Gonzalez's numbers are down from April, but still decent. The rest are heating up, and suddenly Finley and Williams don't look so old.

    The Phillies could have taken two of three last week, but let one get away. They cannot afford mistakes as they try to offer some payback this week. Two of three at home is a must before the Phillies hit the road again.

    Monday, May 12, 2003

    Heating up, part 2

    Some signs the offense is waking up...stats from the last 7 days:


    Burrell's .263 may not seem like much, but remember he's hitting .218 on the year.

    Heating up

    The Phillies returned home Friday night and welcomed the Houston Astros to their last visit to Veterans Stadium. The hospitality ended there, as the Phils took 2 of 3 from the Astros, snapping the visitors' seven-game winning streak.

    On Friday night, the Phillies rode good starting pitching and an awakened lineup to a 5-3 victory. Brett Myers pitched 6 1/3 innings of good baseball, limiting the Astros to two runs on five hits. Myers retired 14 straight batters before walking Lance Berkman to start the seventh. He then gave up singles to Richard Hidalgo and Brad Ausmus before having to be removed from the game. And I emphasize "having to be". Seemingly, Myers and Mike Lieberthal convinced Larry Bowa that Myers was still going strong, and Bowa decided to leave Myers in the game. Only problem: Bowa suffered a brain lock and forgot that pitching coach Joe Kerrigan had already been out to see Myers once in the seventh inning. Bowa's visit was the second, meaning Myers would have to be replaced. Terry Adams came in and hit a batter and gave up a run-scoring single in his 1/3 of an inning, and Rheal Cormier came in to finish off the seventh.

    But the offense made a nice appearance in the game, as well. The top five hitters in the lineup combined to go 9 for 15, including Lieberthal's three hits -- raising his average to .352 -- and Jim Thome's moon shot to right field. Thome's shot, which landed in section 502 of the upper deck, was "estimated" at 414 feet -- tied for the second longest home run to right field in Vet history. But if you saw it, you know it went a bit further than 414. As John Kruk said in the TV broadcast, "If that ball went 414, I'm skinny." Last I saw of the Krukker, he had not exactly lost that game-playing weight. To see the shot yourself, check out the Phillies video page. You will need RealPlayer, and choose the key play video from the 5/9 game versus the Astros. It's worth seeing.

    On Saturday night, the offense wasn't as impressive, but it did what was needed. Bobby Abreu and Mike Lieberthal each had a first-inning RBI single to give the Phillies and Randy Wolf a 2-0 lead, and that's all Wolf would need. Wolf pitched a complete game shutout, preserving that 2-0 lead. He allowed five hits (four singles and a Biggio double) and only one walk. The Astros did not have more than one baserunner in an inning until the 8th. It was his fifth career shutout. Abreu, Thome, Lieberthal, and Burrell went a combined 5 for 14, with Lieberthal raising his average to .357.

    So with two games in hand, the Phillies looked to Sunday. On the bright side of Sunday's game, the offense put seven runs up on the board, including back-to-back homers from Thome and Burrell. On the bad side, the bottom fell out of the starting pitching, and the Phillies lost 10-7. Vicente Padilla had his fourth straight poor outing, lasting only three innings. In that short time, he managed to give up six runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks; he did not strike out a batter. Before the Padilla Flotilla was set to sail, the Phils were down 6-0 and Padilla was sunk. The bullpen's efforts were so-so, with only Carlos Silva really getting touched up -- he gave up three runs in two innings. But Padilla had given the Astros a lead they could hold on to.

    Offensively, the Phils were carried by the 2 through 5 hitters in the lineup: Tomas Perez, Abreu, Thome, and Burrell. They combined for six of the team's seven hits, scored all seven runs, and drove in five. Thome's homer was his eighth, and fourth in five days. Burrell followed with his sixth, marking the first time this year that the Phillies have hit back-to-back home runs.

    Overall on the series, the Phillies scored 14 runs on 23 hits, for an average of 5 and slightly more than 7 per game. Still not great, but better than we had been seeing.

    An off-day today, followed by three with Arizona.

    Friday, May 09, 2003


    The Phillies were off last night, giving me a chance to do what I have been wanting to do since the calendar turned to May -- compare this year's offensive output with last year's, up to this point in the season. It would come as no surprise to anyone that the Phillies offense is struggling right now. The Phillies have scored 174 runs -- good for 5th in the NL -- in 35 games (just shy of 5 a game), despite a .252 average (10th) and seemingly no power whatsoever. The team slugging percentage is .397 (11th); to put that in perspective, Pat Burrell's SLG right now is .406, and we all know how much he is struggling. But how do these numbers compare to last season?

    Actually, these numbers are not too far behind last year's totals. Last season, as a team, the Phillies hit only .259 and slugged .422. The influx of players like Jim Thome and David Bell, along with the continued development of Pat Burrell and the emergence of rookie Marlon Byrd was supposed to increase offensive output, not maintain the status quo. But it seems to this point in the year that the players are struggling...almost each and every one of them. That obviously can't continue forever, which is a reason why the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article this morning about how the Phillies offense is about to burst out. But how much can we expect them to improve, and should the slow starts be a cause for concern? Let's look, position by position.

    1st Base

    Jim Thome was the free-agent signing of the winter and was expected to boost the Phillies offense -- not to mention make people forget Travis "What's His Name?" Lee ever wore red pinstripes. But Thome is not hitting well, and until his two homers the other night, wasn't crushing the ball. Through 35 games, Thome is hitting .254. He has "only" 6 homers and 26 RBI. But through this point last season, Thome was hitting an ugly .210! And yes, he had 9 home runs and 29 RBI, but he wasn't hitting much else. His slugging percentage this season is only .008 lower than it was at this time last year, and his OBP is .034 higher, thanks to 24 walks already this year. So minus a small dip in his power numbers, he's hitting better than he did at this point last season -- and let's not forget he finished last year at .304 with 52 HR and 118 RBI.

    In addition to putting up better numbers than he did to this time last season, Thome is also outpacing Travis Lee's 2002 numbers. His average is 29 points higher, his OBP 40 points, and his SLG more than 100 points higher. And despite his "lack of power", he is still doubling up Lee's output through May 10th of last season -- 6 HR to 3, 26 RBI to 13. So despite his struggles, Thome is still giving the Phillies a better output, and based on his early-season struggles last season, we can expect an explosion this summer.

    Advantage: 2003, with improvement to come

    2nd Base

    Placido Polanco, in his first full season with the Phillies, is putting up numbers above and beyond what I expected. He is hitting .300, which isn't a shock. But his OBP is above .400, and his SLG is at .438. These numbers put his OPS 245 points higher than it was last season at this time. We probably can't expect him to continue to play up to the level he is playing at now, but he is also not a .597 OPS guy. Surprisingly, he is giving the Phillies about what Marlon Anderson was giving them last season. Anderson's BA was in the same ballpark (.294) and his OPS was only 22 points lower, at a surprisingly high (for him) .820. Anderson's OBP was more than 50 lower, but he made up a lot of that difference with a SLG average around .470.

    Advantage: Even


    Here, we are comparing Jimmy Rollins to Jimmy Rollins. Rollins had a poor season last year, with a BA in the .240 and an OBP in the low .300s. Yet, through May 10th (35 games) last season, he was hitting .317 and getting on base 37.5% of the time. He had already swiped 7 bases in 11 tries. And from there, his numbers went downhill. This season, he is at .282 and getting on base almost 35% of the time. His stolen base numbers are down (3 for 5), but his other numbers across the board are equivalent to this time last season -- and much better than his final numbers on the year. Last year, he took a tumble...this year, things are looking up.

    Advantage: 2003

    3rd Base

    A debate that will go on in Philly for a few years: are we better off with the 3B we have, or should we have held on to Scott Rolen? Rolen's numbers last year, surprisingly, were in the same ballpark as David Bell's 2002 numbers. Bell had a 30 point advantage in BA at this time last season, while Rolen held a 60 point SLG edge. Their OBP were practically even. But in 2003, David Bell is struggling mightily. His average has fallen to .217, and his OPS is below .600. My hope lies in the fact that last season, Bell had an awful May, followed it up with a good June, struggled again in July, but finished in August and September very strong. Things have to go up, right?

    Advantage: 2002

    Left Field

    Pat Burrell. A complete mystery to this point in the year. He struggled early on last season, as well, and Larry Anderson has made a few references to it during broadcasts this week -- that it was about this time last year that he turned things around. But at this point last season, he was hitting .267. This year: .211. Last season, his OBP was .362, and his slugging was an even .500. This year: .300 and .406. His raw stats look comparable -- he had 2 more homers and 1 more RBI at this point last year. He had 2 more walks, and 3 fewer strikeouts. The main difference that I can find is in his average; last season, he had 4 more hits in 13 fewer at-bats. Since his strikeout totals are fairly equal, I removed his Ks from his ABs, and worked out his BA for balls put into play (H/(AB-K)). That number this year is .304. Last season, it was over .390. And this makes sense, as every broadcast I watch, the broadcasters are saying something along the lines of "He's 0 for 3, but has been robbed twice". In my eyes, he's not following one of the main rules in baseball: "Hit it where they ain't." If he can start to do this again, the average -- as well as the power numbers -- will go up again.

    Advantage: 2002

    Center Field

    Coming into the season, not a whole lot was expected of Marlon Byrd, and he wouldn't have to do a whole lot to make people forget Doug Glanville. Unfortunately, to this point in the season, he has done less than that. Last year at this time, Glanville was hitting .244 with a paltry .312 OBP. Sadly, Byrd -- around one DL stint -- is hitting only .167 with an OPS barely over .500. Throwing Ricky Ledee into the argument puts the 2003 numbers above Glanville's output of a year ago, but considering the Phillies were counting on Marlon Byrd to man CF on a daily basis, 2003 has been a disappointment so far.

    Advantage: 2003, but only thanks to Ricky Ledee

    Right Field

    Much was made of Bobby Abreu's slow start last season, yet he finished at .308 with 20 home runs and 31 stolen bases. Much is being made again this year about Abreu's early struggles, so take another look at last year's final totals. Why? Because his numbers so far this year pretty much match last season's numbers to this point. His OBP is 40 points lower this season, but he has drawn 5 fewer walks. A little more patience at the plate, and a summer warm-up, will bring Abreu's numbers to the expected level.

    Advantage: Even


    Last season at this time, Mike Lieberthal was still getting back in the swing of things after 2001's knee injury. In early May, he was hitting .255/.314/.373/.687 before heating up in the late summer months. This year...well, the heat remained through the winter. Lieberthal has the only hot bat in the Phillies lineup right now, hitting .337/.412/.529/.941. He has more homers and RBI than this time last year, and 35 games into the season, still has more walks than strikeouts. Don't expect these numbers to stay this high, but expect the final numbers to be better than last year's.

    Advantage: 2003


    So what do I take from this? At 4 of 8 positions, the 2003 performance is better than the 2002 numbers at the same point of the season. At 2 other spots, they are about equal. Yet, most of baseball's "thinking heads" agree that the Phillies are still struggling and should break out at any time. Considering they are 4 games better than last year's record through 35, and only 3 1/2 games behind a Braves team firing on all cylinders, I'm still looking forward to an explosive summer at the Vet.

    Thursday, May 08, 2003

    Around the blog league...

  • I am a little behind on this one, but Alex Belth has another great interview up over at Bronx Banter -- this one with's Rob Neyer.

  • Jon at is wondering why Fred McGriff is hitting ahead of Brian Jordan versus lefties.

  • The Southpaw has been posting like a wildman lately. I'm not sure, but I think he is trying to have more posts than readers. Head over there and give him a run for his money.

  • News and Notes

  • The Astros come to town for a 3-game weekend set beginning tomorrow night. Pitching matchups for the series:

    Friday: Roy Oswalt (2-3, 3.66) vs. Brett Myers (2-2, 2.09)
    Saturday: Wade Miller (1-3, 5.02) vs. Randy Wolf (4-2, 3.53)
    Sunday: Kirk Saarloos (0-0, 18.00) vs. Vicente Padilla (3-4, 3.97)

  • Brandon Duckworth has been sent down to AAA Scranton to get some work in. With an off-day today, and another on Monday, Duckworth was going to be skipped in the rotation. But since he is still working back from injury, Larry Bowa wants him to get his work in. He is going to make a start, and the Phillies want to key in on his stamina. Bowa has said that Duck will throw 90 pitches, no matter how long it takes him to throw them or what kind of trouble he gets into.

  • Bill Conlin has an article in the Daily News today about the Phillies inability/unwillingness to steal bases. To an extent, Conlin has a point. After all, the Phillies are only on pace to steal 32 bases... a team...

    ...for the season. He wants the green light to be flashed a little more often. I can't disagree with that, but as I see it, we only have a few base stealers on the team. Jimmy needs to run more, and be more effective in his attempts. So far on the season, he is only 3 for 5 in the SB department -- this from a guy who swiped 46 in his rookie year. And Bobby Abreu needs to run some more. He's 2 for 3 on the year, but does not look like the guy that has swiped 30 or more in each of the last two seasons. Beyond that, maybe Ledee or Byrd. But the Phillies are not a running team. With Abreu, Thome, Burrell, and Lieberthal, they have become more of a mashing team. Let Rollins and Polanco get on, but there is a legitimate fear to having them caught stealing if one of the next three guys at the plate could drive them in with a double or more.

  • And I haven't strayed from the Phillies often lately, but I wanted to get my two cents in on this: Marlins' pitcher Josh Beckett is having elbow problems. This will be the third pitcher on the DL for the Marlins in that many weeks, and the second young pitcher with a significant arm injury. I am not expert enough to say whether or not the ridiculously high pitch counts have something to do with these injuries (but Aaron will take issue with it over at Aaron's Baseball Blog), and I will leave the injury reports to someone like BP's Will Carroll -- but to my non-medical, untrained eye, something is seriously wrong in Florida. I don't know whether Jeff Torborg and his staff are overusing these young pitchers, or if the Marlins' medical staff is somehow or another missing the signs, but something is fishy down south.

    Beckett has thrown over 100 pitches four times this season, and 99 in a fifth start. Last season, he threw more than 100 pitches in a game 6 times, with 116 being his high. Those may not be seriously high numbers, but we need to remember that Beckett had shoulder trouble as recently as three years ago, and he is only 22. This is a pitcher that the Marlins want to anchor their rotation for years to come, and multiple arm problems before age 23 is not a good sign.

    A.J. Burnett has also had multiple arm ailments over the last few years. Yet, in between DL stints, he consistently throws more than 100 pitches per outing. This season, after a spring arm injury, he had games of 113, 108, and 112 pitches in four starts. In 2002, he had 3 games between 100-109 pitches, 7 games between 110-119 pitches, 9 games between 120-129, and one over 130. In 2001, he had 18 games over 100 pitches, with two over 120.

    Again, I am not an expert on the effects of pitch counts. I am not even an expert on the effects of a young man throwing a little white ball as hard as he can over and over again. But I do have common sense, and that sense tells me that you don't let a young pitcher with previous arm trouble consistantly throw 115 pitches.

    But maybe that's just me...

  • Coming home

    After 10 games in 10 days out West, the Phillies are coming home. They completed the "no rest for the weary" trip at a respectable 5-5. .500 on a West Coast swing isn't bad -- but if you asked any of the players or their fans, they would probably say it could have been better.

    The Phillies managed to salvage one of three at the "BOB" last night with a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The win came in the wake of a disappointing game Tuesday night, in which the Phillies managed to blow a 4-0 lead. With the game tied in the 9th, the Phillies found themselves unable to advance the lead run from first base and thus held scoreless. In the bottom of the inning, the D'backs showed them how "small ball" should be played, and a sac fly plated the winning run in a 6-5 Arizona win.

    But last night was a different story. The new ace, Kevin Millwood, was on the mound and he did what is expected of an ace -- he shut down the opponent and gave his team a chance to win. Millwood held Arizona to two runs on four hits in seven-plus innings of work; he struck out six and walked only one. Rheal Cormier pitched another inning of shutout baseball, and Jose Mesa made the ninth exciting before nailing down his tenth save.

    In what may be a spark of hope as the summer months descend upon us, the offense looks to be waking from its winter slumber. After Jim Thome cranked two homeruns and Pat Burrell added one of his own Tuesday night, Bobby Abreu and Tyler Houston each hit one last night. After hitting just 22 homers as a team in the first 33 games, the Phils have now hit five in the last two nights. Is this a sign of things to come?

    Well, maybe. Thome appears to be heating up, even if just a little bit. After hitting a season-low .227 after an 0-for-4 Monday night, the slugger has gone 5 for 7 in the last two games with the two home runs on Tuesday night. But the other two players in the Opening Day 3-4-5 mix are still struggling. After reaching .295 on April 27th, Abreu saw his average fall 30 points on the West Coast trip, thanks to a 7 for 37 streak, with only 3 extra base hits. Burrell has been struggling since Opening Day, and his 0 for 3 last night dropped him back to .211. His .706 OPS ranks him ahead of only David Bell and Marlon Byrd, both of whom are also struggling. In the case of Bell, after a 3 for 4 night in the opener in LA took his average up to .259, he went 3 for 30 (.100) in the next eight games before being given a night off last night.

    On the bright side, Jimmy Rollins is 8 for 21 in the last five games, walking twice and scoring five runs. Placido Polanco is 6 for 24 with six runs scored in the six games since he was activated from the DL. And Mike Lieberthal is hitting .337/.412/.529/.941, with more walks than strikeouts.

    Still, I'd like to believe that the last two nights will serve as somewhat of a wake-up call to the offense, as they enjoy an off-day today before hosting the Astros for three. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

    Tuesday, May 06, 2003


    Obviously, I have not been able to see through the Cleveland fog. For weeks now, I have been a frequent visitor to the Cleveland Indians Report, but due to a (permanent?) case of brain lock, I never added a link to this wonderful site. That problem is now resolved. Be sure to check out the CIR, as you will find all of the information you need on the Indians and their rich minor-league system. The big names may be gone from Jacobs Field, but there are many more on their way. Check it out...

    Just 1 of 162

    It was a bad night. It could have been seen from the start. SS Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a triple, but was quickly erased when he tried to score on a Miguel Batista wild pitch. Instead of giving the Phillies a quick lead, he was nailed at the plate, and things just went downhill from there.

    Vicente Padilla, in his third straight poor start, struggled early and often. He quickly loaded the bases in the bottom of the first inning, and in an attempt to get out of the jam, offered a two-out, 0-2 fastball to Diamondbacks 3B Matt Williams. Williams, though in the "twilight" of his career and no longer a full-time player, can still turn on a fastball. And he did, putting the ball over the fence, and putting Arizona on top 4-0 in an eventual 10-1 thumping of the visiting Phillies.

    The night was just all-around ugly for the Phillies. Batista twirled his fourth career complete game, giving up one unearned run on seven hits. Along with Williams's blast, the ageless Steve Finley went 3 for 3 with two homeruns, a triple, and four runs scored. The Phillies also managed to clear the benches, and argue with the fans in the stands. In the bottom of the seventh, Joe Roa (in his first appearance since April 20th) let loose a pitch behind the back of Craig Counsell, who an inning earlier had swiped second with a six-run lead. While Roa says that the pitch was not intentional, he did think it was an insult to the Phillies for Counsell to steal a base with such a comfortable lead. D'backs manager Bob Brenly tried to defend his player's decision:

    ``If they were upset by the stolen base they obviously haven't been following our games,'' he said. ``We didn't do anything to try to incite or infuriate or rub their noses in it by any stretch of the imagination. We've been scuffling to score runs. It was still early enough in the ballgame with the guys they have in the middle of their lineup, they can put a lot of runs on the board in a hurry, too.''

    Brenly obviously hasn't been following Phillies' games, either; if he did, he would know that the offense is worse than anemic right now, averaging 2.6 runs per game over the last nine. Regardless of the intent, Roa's pitch cleared the benches, allowing a little jawing to go on. Curt Schilling, the former Phillie, was left to play peacemaker -- and as only a Philadelphia paper could argue, maybe talk trade.

    Even after the on-field fun was done and over with, the Phillies kept jawing -- with a fan behind the dugout. It is unclear whether words were just shared, or if something was thrown by the fan, but the arguing went back and forth for a few minutes before the Phillies had security remove the fan and his three friends.

    Then again, at that point in the game -- down nine runs -- they might have been better off leaving the fan where he was. They could have used anything to take their minds off of the game in front of them.

    Among the good from last night:

  • Jimmy Rollins had three of the team's seven hits, raising his average to .281.
  • Mike Lieberthal went 2 for 4, and is up to .350.
  • Joe Roa finally saw some action.
  • Rheal Cormier pitched another scoreless inning.

    And the bad:

  • The seven earned runs and five walks were career-worst numbers for Padilla. His ERA jumped to 3.97.
  • Jim Thome went 0 for 4 and is down to a .227 average.
  • Pat Burrell returned from an off-day and went 0 for 4, with two strikeouts. He is hitting .205.

  • Monday, May 05, 2003

    Phillies at Arizona: A preview

    The Phillies will ride a two-game winning streak into the desert tonight to take on the struggling Diamondbacks in a three-game series. The Phillies have won six of their last ten, and are 4-3 through the first seven games of this ten-game roadtrip. The Phillies, to this point, have been carried by their pitching staff, especially the bullpen, as mentioned in this morning's post. Good pitching has led the Phils to a 19-13 record, 1 1/2 games behind the surging Atlanta Braves.

    Arizona, on the other hand, is floundering at 13-19, nine games behind the front-running San Francisco Giants. Normally, the D'backs are carried on the backs of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. But not this year. Johnson is on the DL for the next month after having knee surgery the other day. Before going under the knife, however, he was an uncharacteristic 1-2 with a 6.94 ERA. Schilling has also been slowed by health problems, as an appendectomy kept him out of the lineup for almost two weeks. He pitched on Saturday against Atlanta, giving up five runs in five innings of work. He, too, is 1-2, with a 5.01 ERA. With Schilling slowed and Johnson on the DL, Arizona was dealt another blow when converted reliever Byung-Hyun Kim had to be placed on the DL yesterday. So the Phillies will come into usually-pitching rich Arizona and face the not-so-imposing likes of Miguel Batista (1-2, 3.06), Andrew Good (0-1, 5.25), and Brandon Webb (1-0, 0.60). So with the pitching uncertain, can the Diamondbacks depend on their offense to carry them?

    A quick look at the basic numbers would say, sure. Arizona's team batting numbers are a few steps above the Phillies in regards to average and slugging. The Phillies have drawn 35 more walks, giving them the edge in OBP. But Arizona's advantage in the hitting department is muted by the fact that the Phillies have scored 38 more runs in the same number of games. So while the Phillies are scoring runs despite a lack of consistent offense, Arizona appears to be able to put the bat on the ball, but not long enough to bring the runners around.

    Individually, only Luis Gonzalez is putting fear into opposing pitchers with a .333/.410/.634/1.044 batting line. He has provided the power in the desert with eight homeruns and 20 RBI. He is the only regular hitting over .300, unless you count the three-headed catching monster of Chad Moeller (.355)/Rod Barajas (.467)/Robby Hammock (.421). Only Junior Spivey has as many as half as many homers as Gonzalez, and that is only due to a recent hot streak. Only Spivey (11), Steve Finley (12), and part-time player Carlos Baerga (13) join Gonzalez with double-digit RBI, and of Baerga's 13, seven came in one game.

    Manager Bob Brenly has had to juggle his lineup due to ineffectiveness and injuries to the point that only three of his players have 100 at-bats more than 30 games into the season. A World Championship team two seasons ago, this year's version of the D'backs is not as imposing as previous versions. This is a team facing a lot of issues, and if Schilling continues to struggle and Johnson does not make a quick (and effective) return, may be facing a season that does not include a post-season invite.

    Series possibilites

    Good: The Phillies will take two of three from the Diamondbacks, and head home following a 6-4 West Coast swing.

    Better: The Phillies pitchers keep the Arizona lineup in check, the hitters take advantage of the young starters, and the Phillies sweep the series.

    Best: The Phillies sweep the series, feasting on the young pitching and sparking the so-far dormant offense before coming home to take on the Astros and these same Diamondbacks.

    Week in review

    So what has happened since Tuesday morning, following Brett Myers's good performance in the West Coast opener. Let's try a quick recap.

    Tuesday: Los Angeles 6, Phillies 2

    Randy Wolf had his roughest outing of the young season, giving up six runs on 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. Mike Lieberthal went 3 for 4 with a home run for an offense that was otherwise rather anemic. The Phils managed only eight hits, while striking out eight times. The 'pen gave up one hit in 1 1/3 innings.

    Wednesday: Los Angeles 4, Phillies 0

    The offensive woes continue. Only seven hits, while striking out 11 times (34 times in the first three games of the series). The hot-hitting Mike Lieberthal is moved to the cleanup spot in the lineup, and goes 1 for 4. He's hitting .354. Vicente Padilla takes the loss (3-3), giving up four runs in six innings. The bullpen gave up only one hit in two innings.

    Thursday: Phillies 4, Los Angeles 1

    The Phillies managed a split in the four-game series behind Brandon Duckworth's steady performance. He lasted only five innings -- 97 pitches -- but gave up only one unearned run on seven hits. He struck out seven, and walked none. The bullpen was solid again, giving up only two hits in four innings. The offense was, again, shaky, picking up only five hits and striking out another 8 times.. The 5 through 9 hitters went 0 for 15 with only two walks.

    Friday: San Diego 5, Phillies 4 (10 innings)

    The offense made the most of things when they made contact Friday night, scoring four runs on only seven hits. The Phillies got six innings of three-run baseball out of Kevin Millwood, and Cormier and Silva followed with three innings of no-hit, two-walk pitching. After claiming a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th, they handed the game over to the highly-combustible Jose Mesa, who proceeded to give up three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning, taking the loss in a heartbreaking 5-4 defeat.

    Saturday: Phillies 5, San Diego 4 (10 innings)

    This time, the Phillies made their 10th inning run count. Brett Myers pitched wonderfully, giving up one run on five hits in six innings, lowering his ERA to 2.09. Terry Adams struggled for the Phillies, giving up three runs in 1/3 inning, but the rest of the 'pen went 3 2/3, giving up just two hits, as the Phillies climbed to 3-3 on the West Coast swing. A struggling Pat Burrell (.211) was dropped to seventh in the lineup.

    Sunday: Phillies 3, San Diego 1

    They kept it at nine frames to close out the weekend, as the Phillies took another series. The Phillies continued to struggle offensively -- only five hits -- but were again carried by their pitching in this 3-1 victory. Randy Wolf (4-2) went six innings, giving up just one run on two hits. He struck out six. After Adams walked the only man he faced on four pitches, Cormier, Silva, and Mesa combined to close out the final three innings on only one hit. Placido Polanco -- activated from the DL earlier in the week -- went 1 for 4 with a run-scoring double, and scored a run, bringing his average to .319. Pat Burrell and Mike Lieberthal got the day off.

    What we've learned

    The Phillies are 4-3 through the first seven games of this 10-game, 10-day road trip. I thought before the trip started that six wins would be a great trip; a 2-1 series in Arizona will give them that. Some things have become apparent on the trip. First, despite their apparent struggles, the offense is still averaging three runs and seven hits per game on the trip. Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but not awful either. Secondly, the Phillies are being carried by their pitching. In seven games, the starters have put up four quality starts (six innings or more, three or fewer hits) -- Brandon Duckworth's start may have been a fifth, if he could have gone another inning. But the bullpen is carrying the team, amazingly enough. On this trip, the 'pen has thrown 19 innings, giving up only 15 hits and four earned runs. That's an ERA -- simple math in my head -- of 2.00 and a WHIP of 1.11. Those numbers include the poor outings of Adams and Mesa.

    That's light years better that we ever could have expected of the bullpen in Spring Training. Rheal Cormier has not given up a run since he got blasted for five in his first outing of the year on April 3 -- that's nine games and 12 2/3 innings. Turk Wendell has come back from injury and has pitched 8 2/3 IP of shutout baseball. And while Mesa can be frustratingly inconsistant, he has nine saves in 11 chances. One has to assume that the offense will, at some point, wake up. If it does, and the pitching continues anywhere near the pace it is currently on, it could be a fun summer.

    Next up: 3 in the desert. A preview later, if I have time...

    First thing first...

    I am back. A big "thank you" for all of you who e-mailed me or left a comment concerning my father. It was nice to know that your thoughts were with us last week. For those concerned, the surgery went as well as they could have hoped, and my father was released from the hospital yesterday. Needless to say, it was a very long week, but he is now home and resting, waiting for that afternoon game on the Extra Innings package. (Lucky bastard!)

    And back to what I do best...or at least reasonably well...