On a lighter note...
There were plenty of articles this morning about Bowa's blow-up yesterday. But Frank Fitzpatrick, from the Inquirer, had a rather humorous suggestion for fixing the Phillies: Fab Five fans, this is a must-read.
Friday, August 29, 2003
On a lighter note...
That's either the sound that preceded Larry Bowa's blow-up yesterday...or the sound counting the time until he gets escorted out the managerial door. You decide.
The aforementioned Bowa explosion came after yesterday's listless loss -- the first four-game sweep of the Phillies by the Expos in team history. A six-game losing streak. A 1-9 start to a pivotal road trip. I think the outburst was called for, don't you?
Actually, from the sound of it, outburst might not be a strong enough word. Todd Zolecki of the Inquirer writes that
Larry Bowa's emotions finally boiled over into a tirade behind clubhouse doors that one veteran player described as an all-timer, one of the worst explosions he has ever seen from the manager.
Amaury Telemaco asked if the reporters could hear Bowa through the closed doors. Jim Thome said that he had never seen his skipper so upset. And who can blame him? This team left home on a five-game winning streak. They went into Milwaukee and got swept. They left enough runners on in St. Louis to sell out Busch Stadium for the rest of the year. And Montreal was a trip in itself...
Don't know about you, but this doesn't look like a playoff-worthy team to me. Yet, they still sit in a Wild Card tie. Amazing...
The Bowa blasting isn't surprising; with the skipper's temper, I was shocked it had not happened sooner. What might be more disturbing is the screaming match that followed between pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and ace-of-the-future Brett Myers. Kerrigan is rather ticked off that certain pitchers seem to be ignoring his game plans. And the pitchers seem to think that Kerrigan isn't giving them enough room at this point in the season.
Kerrigan decided this week he had seen enough from his pitchers, who he said had strayed away from his game plans. Kerrigan and Bowa met with Vicente Padilla after Tuesday's 14-10 loss because Padilla had refused to mix up his pitches. Kerrigan held a meeting of pitchers and catchers Wednesday to speak his mind, and Kerrigan will now play a greater role in what pitches are thrown in certain situations.
One veteran pitcher later said that some of them have pitched long enough that they know what to do.
So the pitchers want more freedom, and the pitching coach said he'll start calling pitches. Is it me, or do we not seem to be on the same page here?
So what happens now? Does the tirade and venting of emotions wake this team up? Do they go into Shea Stadium and sweep a Mets team that swept the Phillies at the Vet last month? Or do they go in and lay another egg?
Better yet, does it even matter anymore?
What does matter is whether or not there is a rift between the manager and his players, or even the manager and his GM. There is no denying that Larry Bowa rubs some of his players the wrong way. They do not see eye-to-eye with his emotional enthusiasm, and the fact that he wears his heart on his sleeve. After gathering the opinions of the players, GM Ed Wade asked Bowa to be a bit more positive in the clubhouse. Will yesterday's riot act burn some bridges? Does Bowa have any control in that clubhouse anymore?
Will Kerrigan regain the trust of the pitching staff that he turned around this season? Or are the players not giving the coach the respect he deserves for leading them to so many positives this season?
As for Bowa and Wade...Paul Hagen of the Daily News offers his two cents on their opposite positions:
the manager has pretty much been saying that things have to go right for the Phillies to win the wild card.
Meanwhile, Wade's bottom line has been that something would have to go wrong for the team he put together in the offseason not to.
And while there have been no outward signs of tension between the two - in fact, Wade has been staunchly supportive of the skipper - those are significantly different ways of sizing up the situation.
If the Phillies' monumental skid - which reached nine losses in 10 games yesterday afternoon at Montreal - ends up costing them their first trip to the postseason in 10 years, that basic division of opinion could come into even sharper focus.
Some will blame Bowa. It will be said that he lost the team, that he overworked the bullpen, that he didn't get the most out of the talent he was given.
Some will blame Wade. It will be said that he was too conservative, that he failed to recognize the shortcomings of the club, that he should have helped himself to any number of the players who were available in waiver deals.
All that really matters, though, is this: Will Wade blame Bowa if a team the general manager has said all along is good enough to make the playoffs, doesn't?
Yeah, there are plenty of them floating about right now. The two at the top of my head are these:
1) How will the team react for three games in New York?
2) How the hell are they still in a tie for the Wild Card? Unreal...
Thursday, August 28, 2003
I am listening to the ninth inning of the Phillies game, and the following thoughts have come to my mind:
And most importantly...
While I was buried under desk and computer cables, Bryan over at Wait 'Til Next Year took a look at the future of the Phillies. And let's be honest: the future looks a whole lot better than the present right now. Head on over and check out his article entitled Phor Phillie Phans. A teaser:
Ed Wade took a career gamble the last few years. He wanted Phillie Phield to open like Jacobs Field did, to a team with great potential. That will be true in 2004, whether Schilling or Millwood pitches Opening Day.
*shakes his head in disgust*
Well, one positive that I can take out of last night's game is that the offense isn't backing down. Trailing 6-1 in the seventh, the Phillies fought back for five runs -- including a Marlon Byrd grand slam -- to tie the game at 6. The unfortunate part is that there were 8 other innings to play.
The pitching staff again failed the Phillies. Brett Myers lasted only five innings last night, giving up five runs on ten hits. He walked three while striking out only two. Control has been a major issue for Myers in the last few weeks. From his start against Atlanta oin June 17th through his victory over Colorado on August 5th -- a span of 10 starts in which he went 6-0 -- Myers walked only 14 batters. In the four starts since: 14 free passes. I think we may have identified a small problem. His lack of control is leading to high pitch counts in minimal innings. In these last four starts, he has thrown 384 pitches in 21 innings -- an average of 96 innings in less than 5 1/3 innings per start. Not good numbers...
Still, the offense found a way out of the hole that Myers dug. The five-run inning featured big hits and timely hitting, something the Phillies have sorely lacked lately. After leaving 17 men on base in the first two games of the series, the Phillies left but two men on last night. In the seventh, anyone who got in, came in to score. Pat Burrell had a run-scoring double, and a baserunner later, Byrd cleared all of the bases. Yet, the Phillies still had to turn the game over to the bullpen.
Dan Plesac finally got an out this week -- two of them, in fact -- but he also allowed three baserunners. Two hits and a walk later, and the eventual winning run crossed home plate. Turk Wendell came on to relieve Plesac, but to no avail. Wendell threw just 1/3 of an inning and allowed two runs...without giving up a hit or a walk! After getting Orlando Cabrera to fly out to end the bottom of the 7th, Wendell plunked Jose Vidro and Vlad Guerrero to start the 8th. Both runners came home two outs later on a Brian Schneider ground-rule double. 9-6. Drive home safely.
On the bright side, Jose Mesa didn't pitch again.
Series finale this afternoon, 1:05. Then the team moves on to New York, and the last three games of this ugly, ugly road trip.
In other news...
A few bullpen moves were made yesterday: Terry Adams was placed on the 15-day DL with what I heard described as a strained oblique muscle. Adams evidently injured himself in Tuesday night's game; Brandon Duckworth was called up to take his place on the roster. With Amaury Telemaco still scheduled to start tonight, that would leave Duckworth relegated to the bullpen unless Larry Bowa plans on going with six starters for a small stretch to give his starting arms a little extra rest.
The other bullpen move was putting Mike Williams on the bereavement list. In his short absense, the Phils called up P Geoff Geary, who threw one inning last night, giving up a run on a hit and a pair of walks.
By the way, that's 35 runs allowed in three games in Canada. With the current conversion rate, those 35 runs translate into just shy of 25 US runs.
That's still pretty sad...
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Okay, so where do I start? When I last wrote, the Phillies were preparing to embark on the "neverending" trip -- 13 games, 13 days. Since then...I'd say that the wheels fell off, but I am not sure that they were on to begin with.
The good news: The Phillies are still in a tie for the NL Wild Card lead.
The bad news: That's only because the Marlins have been as bad as the Phillies. And everyone else is creeping forward.
Actually, creeping isn't the right word...flat-out rushing is more like it, which is really sad since the other competitors are all playing around .500 baseball. When I left you last week, the Phillies and Marlins were in a dogfight, and everyone else was fighting to stay within a handful of games. Since then, it's become a seven-team race:
|Team||Record since 8/19||Games gained in standings|
No one could actually argue that Arizona, Chicago, Montreal, St. Louis, or Los Angeles are setting the world on fire. But the Phillies and Marlins are doing all they can to hand the playoff spot to someone else. Things have gotten so bad for the Phillies in the last week that last night's game could have been seen coming.
I flipped on the game last night in the bottom of the first -- the first game that I have had time to watch in the last week. The Phillies jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, and slowly increased that lead to 8-0. You would think that with an 8-0 lead, Padilla on the mound, and the strong bullpen, an 8-run lead was safe. But when the Expos woke up and put a couple runs on the board, I just had this gut feeling that the bottom was going to fall out. And slowly but surely...it did. 14-10 Expos win. And the Phillies fall to 1-7 on the road trip.
It appears to be the pitching that has fallen off a cliff in the last week. In the five-game winning streak to end the homestand, the Phillies gave up 19 runs in those five games. They then gave up 21 to the Brewers -- the Brewers! -- in a three-game Milwaukee sweep. They have given up 26 to the Expos in the first two games of this four-game series. Good God...
The numbers have slowly been creeping up all month long. Kevin Millwood has actually been decent in the month of August; in his five starts this month, he has allowed 24 hits in 36 innings, has a 1.00 WHIP, and a 3.00 ERA. But he is only 2-2 in those five starts. It's the other three stooges we have to look at.
Vicente Padilla has allowed 34 hits and 11 walks in 27 2/3 innings in five August starts (1-1 record). His WHIP is 1.63 and his ERA is 5.20 -- both numbers significantly higher than his 1.28 and 3.92 marks on the season. He actually had a pretty good outing last night before being pulled (too early, maybe?) and handing things over to the bullpen.
Brett Myers is -- somehow or another -- 2-1 in his four August starts despite the following trash: 23 innings, 31 hits, 13 walks, 1.91 WHIP, 5.48 ERA. Yech. You wonder if he may be hitting a wall in his first full major league season. Myers is up to 162 innings pitched on the year, and has seen his numbers skyrocket this month. Some statistical perspective: he has allowed 19% of his hits, 21% of his runs, and 23% of his walks in just 14% of his seasons's innings this month. His ERA has gone from 3.63 to 3.89 over these four starts.
But the main culpret is the All-Star of the bunch, Randy Wolf. Wolf cruised into the All-Star game at 10-4, with a 3.31 ERA and seemed very worthy of the selection. Since then: 2-5 with a 6.60 ERA. *gulp* But it gets worse. In August, Wolfie is 1-4 in five starts with a 10.17 ERA. He has given up 30 hits, 26 earned runs, and 17 walks in just 23 innings. Are you kidding me?!? In these five starts, he has a 2.04 WHIP. Control issues, anyone?
What was the Phillies strength in the first four months of the season has become it's big-time weakness. And the bullpen hasn't helped. In the last week, the bullpen has given us this array of numbers:
Terry Adams and *gulp* Jose Mesa *gulp* were spared from this chart because they haven't been half-bad. But you might as well put kerosene on the mound instead of any of these guys lately...you'd get the same result.
Yet, through all of this, the Phillies still have their grasp on the Wild Card. But things need to turn around...a few more days like the last week, and they could find themselves looking up at half-a-dozen teams...and quickly.
More carnage...ummm, baseball?...at the Big O tonight.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Thome: Player of the Week
Jim Thome was named co-NL Player of the Week yesterday, sharing the award with former Phillie Curt Schilling. On the week, Thome batted .318 (7-for22) with five homeruns and a 1.045 slugging mark. He also scored six runs on the week.
Let's hope he stays this hot.
I haven't commented yet on the never-ending boos for Scott Rolen this weekend, and I am not sure that I will. I don't like it (personally, I like Rolen and my opinion is that management ran him out of town), but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And we all know Philly fans have theirs, and they will let you know about it.
That said, Diamond Mind offered their opinion on the Rolen deal, a year later. With Polanco putting up the numbers he is, they don't think the deal turned out too bad. There is no permalink available, so head over to Diamond Mind and scroll down for the "Rolen for Polanco" article.
Is this an important stretch?
First off, a note: blogging will be on the lighter side this week. My office is moving over the weekend, so I have to pack my office, deal with the computers and servers, etc., etc., etc. Basically, work is interfering with my life again.
So, while I have some time, back to the Phillies. If you have not already heard, the Phillies start a 13-game, four city road trip tonight in Milwaukee. The road trip is only the first half of a 27-game, 27-day stretch -- a stretch that includes 20 games on the road. I certainly hope that they enjoyed yesterday's day off, because the next one does not come until September 15th. At that point, we will have a much better idea how seriously we should be talking about October baseball at the Vet.
Some people say this stretch is important. How important? Well, let's see how many articles there have been on it:
Do we get the point yet? Yeah, the trip is important. Yes, this long stretch will go a very long way to determining whether or not the Phillies are true contenders this season. And the players know it:
"It's an important road trip. We will have a better idea of where we are." -- Mike Lieberthal
"Everyone knows what's at stake. Every road trip is important." -- Larry Bowa
"I think now there's a lot of energy. I don't think guys are worried. It's exciting that all we're thinking about is the playoffs. Usually I'm counting down the days until I can go to the golf course." -- Lieberthal
"When you have a dogfight like this you play every game as hard as you can. You (can't) take one team light." -- Bowa
"We've got a real tough road trip coming up. Hopefully we can keep this momentum. It's kind of too bad we have an off day because I think right now we're playing as good as we have all season." -- Jim Thome
"Every series is important now. It doesn't really matter where it is." -- Lieberthal
"It sounds extremely cliched, but we have to take it one game at a time. If we look at the whole thing, it becomes too much. We just have to look at it as one game against the Brewers on the road, try to win that and hope we can get some momentum." -- Randy Wolf
"I think this stretch will tell a lot about us. It's going to be fun to see where we are at the end of this trip." -- Thome
"We just need to win games." -- Bowa
"I don't have enough clothes for two weeks." -- Wolf
A 13-game road trip. 27 games in 27 days. Think they are ready? I guess we'll find out in game one tonight: Phillies at Brewers. Millwood vs. Sheets. The two pitchers matched up last Wednesday at the Vet, in the Phillies 11-4 win. Millwood gave up three runs on six hits in seven innings. Sheets, on the other hand, got bombed: 10 runs (eight earned) on 12 hits in just five innings. The Phillies are hoping for more of the same tonight, and hope to start the trip off with a win.
One game at a time...
Monday, August 18, 2003
Punto sent down
I finally found the other half of the Telemaco transaction: INF Nick Punto was sent down to Scranton. The move has to be seen as a numbers issue, as Punto played well in his role as a pinch-hitter/backup infielder. With Chase Utley playing everyday, Tomas Perez and Tyler Houston move back to the bench, making Punto expendable.
I, for one, hope to see him back soon. He is energenic and scrappy...just the kind of player that Phillies fans fall in love with.
Since we last spoke...
...a lot has happened for the Phillies:
Oh, and best of all...
So, where do we start? Let's start with the aftermath of last Tuesday. After Brandon Duckworth lasted fewer than five innings (again), and gave up four first inning runs in an eventual 6-3 loss, the Phillies realized they could not avert their eyes any longer. In the midst of a playoff race, they could not hand the ball every fifth day to a pitcher who could not get past the first few innings. So off to Scranton went Duckworth; up came 2B Chase Utley.
This move has been rumored for weeks, ever since 3B David Bell was removed from the lineup with back pain. At first, reports were that Bell would return within a few days, so the move was not made. Weeks later, Bell is still out, and Ed Wade finally called up Scranton's hottest hitter. Utley was called up on Thursday and made the start at second that night, with Polanco moving to third. The move seemed to bother neither player, as Utley went 3-for-4 with a RBI, and Polanco went 3-for-4 with a RBI and two runs scored. The two players accounted for six of the Phillies 12 hits as they defeated Milwaukee 4-3 and took the last two games in the three-game set.
Out went the Brewers and in came the Cardinals for a three-game series. When the week started, I felt that the Phillies needed to take five of six on the homestand. After losing the opener to Milwaukee, I never expected it to happen. But a sweep of the Cardinals got it done.
Vicente Padilla did not have the strongest outing of the season (four runs on nine hits in five innings), but he fared better than the Cardinals' Woody Williams (five runs on ten hits in five innings). The Phillies scored five in the first off of Williams, and clung to a 5-4 lead until the red-hot Jim Thome crushed a two-run homer to extend the lead to three. Four very strong innings by the bullpen -- including Dan Plesac's first save of the year -- sealed the win.
Saturday's big inning came in the sixth. Brett Myers was not sharp that night, but for the most part was getting the job done. Entering the bottom of the sixth, however, he and the Phillies were trailing 3-1. In the bottom of the inning, Marlon Byrd led off with a double. Polanco sacrificed him over (yes, a Phillie got a bunt down), and Abreu doubled him home. Thome then crushed a Dan Haren pitch over the center field wall to make it 4-3. Mike Lieberthal followed for a back-to-back set, and just like that, the Cards were on the ropes. They got one back in the seventh, but were shut down the rest of the way. Myers picked up his 12th win, and the bullpen threw 2 2/3 innings of one-hit baseball.
The Phillies got a break Sunday night in their attempt to run their winning streak to five: Albert Pujols had a fever. With Pujols out of the lineup, there was one fewer hurdle for Amaury Telemaco to deal with in his return to the majors. Called up to replace Duckworth in the rotation, Telemaco gave the Phillies all that they have been hoping for most of the year. After giving up a first-inning homerun to Orlando Palmeiro, Telemaco calmed down. He worked seven strong innings, giving up two runs on four hits. He struck out seven, and walked none, showing why the Phillies called him up instead of one of the young phenoms -- control. He retired the last 14 batters he faced, and handed a 6-2 lead over to the bullpen. Sunday's big inning was the third: Jim Thome hit a blast into the upper deck in right field -- only the 23rd ball to land there in the history of the Vet -- and Pat Burrell hit his own two-run shot a few batters later.
The bullpen gave up two runs in the ninth before nailing it down. The runs were charged to Turk Wendell, but the excitement was brought on by Jose Mesa. Mesa was returned to the closer's role Saturday night, when he walked Pujols to lead off the ninth and then set the Cards down 1-2-3. Sunday night, he came in with one out and a runner on. Edgar Renteria moved to second on a catcher's indifference call, and Miguel Cairo singled him home. Eduardo Perez struck out for out number two, and Mike Matheny worked a walk after falling behind 1-2. Bowa had said Mesa would be on a short hook, and with two on in a close game, Bowa pulled his closer. Mike Williams came on to finish the game, while Mesa retreated to the clubhouse, kicking coolers and fans (the air producing kind, not the ones who paid to watch him pitch) in the tunnel on the way back.
Mesa's troubles apparently did not end there, as it is reported that he pushed a reporter in the clubhouse following the game. From the AP report:
Minutes after the game, Mesa sat in front of his locker with one hand on his knee and the other rubbing his chin. A reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer approached Mesa, who began cursing. A heated argument ensued before Mesa raised both arms and pushed the reporter away. Reliever Carlos Silva came in between the two men before Mesa walked into the trainer's room.
Larry Bowa has said that Bowa will remain the closer (albeit on a short leash), but it will be interesting to see how Bowa reacts after last night's outburst.
So where does the 5-1 week leave the Phillies. Well, in terms of the WIld Card, right where they started. The Marlins took five of six from the Dodgers and Padres, and remain 1/2 a game behind the Phillies. The rest of the field, however, fell back slightly. Arizona went 3-3 over the last six to fall to three games back. The Cubs took three of four from Houston, and then dropped two of three to the Dodgers. The Dodgers took their two over the Cubs after dropping two of three to Florida. Both teams sit five games back. The Phillies did their part to push the Cards back, and they sit 5 1/2 back, tied with the Expos. Here are the schedules for the upcoming week:
Phillies: 3 at Mil, 3 at StL
Florida: 3 at Col, 3 at SF
Arizona: 1 at Atl, 3 vs. Cin, 3 vs. Cubs
Cubs: 3 at Hou, 3 at Ari
LA: 3 vs. Mon, 3 vs. NYM
St. Louis: 3 vs. Pit, 3 vs. Phi
Montreal: 1 vs. SF, 3 at LA, 3 at SD
So, Arizona, LA, and St. Louis are home while everyone else hits the road. The Phillies and Cards will hook up for three more, as will the D'backs and Cubs and Expos and Dodgers. Florida avoids the team-vs.-team struggle, but they have to play six games against two of the best home-teams in the league. No easy task for anyone.
The Phillies task is made that much tougher with the knowledge that the six games this week are just the first six in a 13-game, 13-day trip that also takes them to Montreal and New York. This trip will make or break this team; when they return to the Vet on September 1st, we will have a much better idea whether or not the team is set to make a September run at the postseason.
In the meantime, they relax today and spend a little more time figuring out their closer issues.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
I don't even want to talk about last night's game, but I will mention the opening lines from the AP article on ESPN.com:
Brandon Duckworth pitched his best during a pennant race two years ago. The way he's going now, he might not stick around for this one.
Uh huh...about says it all. If you want a recap of last night's game, check out the article.
Otherwise, I am looking at other options...
Brandon Duckworth had looked decent-to-good in his last three starts. But the bottom fell out again last night, and I don't think the Phillies -- in the heart of the playoff race -- can put up with it much longer. So let's take a look at the other choices.
Ryan Madson -- Madson is the closest pitching prospect to the majors, and was coveted by other teams at the trading deadline. He has pretty good basic numbers, although he gives up almost a hit an inning. In contrast to Duckworth, however, he allows two fewer walks per nine, which can make a difference (keep in mind that four of Duck's six walks scored last night).
Baseball America lists Madson as the Phillies #6 prospect coming in to the season, citing his aggressiveness and ability to pitch inside as the key to his success. He keeps the ball low, getting a lot of ground balls. They deem his changeup to be the "organization's best and a major league out pitch". His fastball only reaches the low 90s, but he keeps the ball around the plate and doesn't get himself into trouble.
Doesn't get himself into trouble...sounds like the kind of guy the Phillies could use. Keep an eye open for him...
Amaury Telemaco -- Telemaco no longer counts as a hot prospect, if he ever was one, but he is more than handling the AAA competition. He is allowing less than a baserunner per inning, and is averaging almost seven strikeouts per nine. He probably isn't a long-term solution in the major league rotation, but the Phillies just want someone who can get them through the next two months.
The one thing that Telemaco has going for him over the other options is major league experience. He made his debut with the Cubs in 1996, and pitched in the majors most recently with the Phillies back in 2001. He got most of his innings in early in the year (ironically, before Duckworth got his callup), but has faced MLB competition. I'd give you his MLB stats, but they would ruin the very nice image painted by this year's AAA stats.
Josh Hancock -- Hancock doesn't have the best numbers on the AAA staff, but he is more than holding his own. He is actually allowing fewer baserunners per nine than Madson, albeit with less fanfare. With all of the young arms in the Phillies' system, Hancock projects to be no more than a 4- or 5-guy in the rotation, probably more a long- or middle-relief guy. But he can fill that #5 spot in the rotation right now, and probably put up equivalent numbers to Duckworth.
Taylor Buchholz -- I'm stretching it a little bit, dipping into the AA rotation, but I'm looking for any outlet here. And Buchholz isn't a bad choice. Baseball America's #4 prospect on the Phillies list projects to be a front-of-the-rotation starter and has three above-average pitches. From BA:
He throws two- and four-seam fastballs, generating plus life and sitting at 88-93 mph with a high of 96. Buchholz learned a new curveball grip at low Class A Lakewood in 2001, and now his breaking ball has more velocity than Floyd’s and equal bite. His conditioning, athleticism and sound delivery have made him durable.
His one weakness coming into the season was his tendency to overthrow, leaving the ball up for hitters. He has given up nine home runs on the year in 122 2/3 innings, so he will give up a long ball every now-and-then. The key is that he doesn't allow many baserunners in general, so when he does allow a HR, it's with minimal damage.
Seung Lee -- The great "unknown" of the Phillies' prospects, Lee did not make many preseason prospect top 10 lists. But he is putting up some of the better numbers among Phillies pitchers. He does not get as many strikeouts as his counterparts, and he will give up a lot of homeruns (19 on the season), but he finds a way to get the job done. 16 decisions in 23 starts shows that he goes deep into ballgames and fights long enough to pick up a decision, one way or the other. As Duckworth's 4 2/3 innings showed yet again last night, the Phillies could use an innings eater.
I am probably reaching on some of these guys, and I am probably hoping too much. But I think Duckworth has shown that he cannot seem to shake whatever it is that is bothering him, and he is not the Phillies best option down the stretch. Last night's game was a must win; instead, the Phillies have now dropped five of six, and have fallen behind the Marlins in the Wild Card race. Not exactly how you want to play in the stretch drive.
My prediction (for what it's worth): look for the Phillies to sooner or later (sooner, I hope) make a move, whether it be for Madson (higher ceiling) or Telemaco (MLB experience).
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
An unfamiliar face
The Brewers come to town tonight. That remark in itself holds no meaning or level of excitement. What is interesting about it is that today is August 12th, and tonight's game will be the first between the two teams this season. Three games this week, and three more in Milwaukee next week. That's it. Done. See you next year. So the Phillies -- and more specifically, their fans -- do not have much of a chance to get used to the Brewers. So what can we expect from them, other than Bob Uecker in the booth?
Not a whole heck of a lot.
Milwaukee is 46-71 on the season, good for next-to-worst in the NL. Their .393 winning percentage is better than only the Padres and Tigers in the Majors...not a great calling card. However, they are a more-than-decent 25-32 on the road. Of course, on their last road trip (Colorado, New York, and Montreal), they went 3-7.
Offensively, they are are led as they have been the last few seasons: by Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins. Sexson is hitting .267 on the season, with 32 HR and 86 RBI. He has picked up the pace since the All-Star break, hitting .281 with seven of those homers and 16 RBI. Jenkins hits .281, and has 22 HR and 75 RBI one season removed from a horrific leg injury. But they are about it. Wes Helms is the only other Brewer with more than 50 RBI, and he is on the DL with a hamstring injury. But there are bright spots...
Rookie Scott Podsednik is hitting .297 on the season with a .365 OBP and 23 steals, but appears to have hit a wall, as he is hitting just .226 since the break. Veteran 2B Eric Young is still swiping bases as well, with 22 on the year, despite a .336 OBP. The Brewers have also gotten 14 homers and 43 RBI from part-time man John Vander Wal; a .283 average (and .437 SLG) from C Eddie Perez; and a .630 SLG average from the sometime-hittter, sometime-pitcher Brooks Kieschnick.
On the mound, they are led by Ben Sheets (10-9, scheduled to pitch Wednesday night). Sheets is the only Brewer pitcher with double-digit victories, only pitcher with more than 150 innings pitched, and one of two (Matt Kinney) with more than 100 strikeouts. He has a 3.95 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.13. Kinney and Franklin (tonight's starter) are the only other starters worth mentioning; each has seven wins, but each has an ERA over 5.00.
Relief-wise, Mike DeJean appears to have given way to Danny Kolb, who has a 2.25 ERA on the season (9.75 K/9), but an 0.82 ERA and all six of his saves since the All-Star break.
All in all, nothing to write home about.
So the Brewers, and their .273 opponents' batting average, appear to be prime subjects for a sweep and an offensive revival -- both much needed by the home team. Let's see if the Brew Crew plays along.
Bench Dogs getting their due
Six strange individuals. By name: Todd Pratt, Tyler Houston, Nick Punto, Ricky Ledee, Jason Michaels, and Tomas Perez. As one: the Bench Dogs. They have been coming off the bench all season for the Phillies, and doing everything asked of them and more. And now they are being recognized, not only for their work, but also for their...how shall I say this?..."creativity".
Yesterday, MLB.com had an article on Todd Pratt (found this morning on phillies.com), focusing on his determination and excitement on the field, as well as his enthusiasm off of it. And then this morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer had an article on the entire group, highlighting not only the fun and laughs they bring into the clubhouse, but also the determination and excitement in playing the game of baseball.
Six individuals, six sick minds, one overwhelming feeling of fun in the clubhouse.
What makes these guys who they are?
But it's just not the off-the-field stuff that make these guys special. It's the clubhouse and on-the-field stuff that works for them, too. They offer a warped sense of leadership, getting the team "up" for any occasion. They serve as the team cheering squad. And they are ready to go whenever they are called upon, and in whatever role. They never stop working, and none of them are satisfied with their results: they are always looking for more. All of that works for the Phillies, when these are the results:
Houston is 10 for 20 with three double and eight RBIs as a pinch-hitter.
Ledee made the big catch and scored the only run with a home run on April 27, when Kevin Millwood threw a no-hitter at Veterans Stadium. Ledee has hit a homer every 22.3 at-bats, third-best on the team.
Michaels has hit .325 with five doubles, one home run and five RBIs in 11 starts. His three-run homer in the top of the 17th inning on June 27 gave the Phillies a 4-2 win over Baltimore.
Perez has hit .346 in his 34 starts. His single in the bottom of the 11th on July 19 drove in the winning run in a 4-3 victory over Montreal.
Pratt's pinch two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th on June 21 beat Boston, 6-5. Half of his 26 hits have been for extra bases.
Punto has hit .320 against lefthanders and his speed has made him a valuable pinch-runner. He went 3 for 3 on July 13 in New York, which included a two-out single off Armando Benitez in the top of the ninth inning to key a rally that tied the score. (Inquirer)
The best part about this group is that they are always striving for more, a better contribution to the team. The rest of the team knows that as long as these guys are backing them up, everything will work out just fine.
Monday, August 11, 2003
Another wasted opportunity
So let's see what was wasted...
So, of course, it all blew up in their faces.
A five-run third inning led the Giants to a 5-2 victory, and a 2-1 series victory over the suddenly struggling Phillies. Myers, who had not lost since June 11, struggled with his pitches:
"I usually try to go out there with the fastball and get quick outs, but today it didn't work," Myers said. "They were all over the fastball today. I didn't get ahead of a lot of guys, and they seemed to know when the fastball was coming."
Myers's control was alright (only three walks on the day, two of those intentional passes to Barry Bonds), but he just couldn't seem to get his pitches working. Jose Cruz, Jr. led off the third with a single, and was followed by a single by J.T. Snow. Marquis Grissom doubled in Cruz, and Bonds was given a free pass. With the bases loaded, Edgardo Alfonzo singled to bring in Snow. Grissom scored on a wild pitch to Neifi Perez, who walked on five pitches, reloading the bases. Myers finally got Pedro Feliz to strike out, but Yorvit Torreabla singled home two more runs.
At that point, I had seen enough. Myers didn't have it, and unlike Saturday, the offense could not muster anything against the unknown rookie. On Saturday, the Phillies fought back from 4-0 and 5-1 deficits, but the 5-0 deficit seemed to be a little too much. The Phillies hit well off of rookie Kevin Correia, tagging him for seven hits in six innings; the problem is that they could not do anything with those hits. The Phillies left 10 men on base, including four in scoring position. They were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position on the day.
After struggling against Correia, the Phillies could do no better against the bullpen trio of Matt Herges, Joe Nathan, and Tim Worrell. The Phillies managed four hits off the trio in three innings, but could do nothing until Tyler Houston's RBI single in the ninth. Too little, too late.
So the Phillies finish the six-game Western swing at 2-4 and limp back home. The Phillies struggle this week opened the door wide for their Wild Card competitors: the Marlins picked up two games and have pulled into a tie for the Wild Card lead, and obviously for second in the NL East. The Diamondback also picked up a couple and sit two games back. St. Louis -- who comes to Philly for three next weekend -- are three back, with the Dodgers and Cubs beating each other up so that they both line up at 3 1/2 back. Still not dead are the .500-playing Expos and Rockies, at 5 1/2 back.
The Phillies need to desperately rediscover their offense tomorrow night, when the Brewers come to town for three games. Milwaukee is 46-71, one game better than the Padres. I'd say this is an easy sweep, but you saw what happened last week with the Padres. The hard truth, however, is that the Phillies need a sweep over the Brewers to reclaim some stability in the playoff race. While the Phillies will be hosting the Brewers and Cardinals this week, the Fish will be home for LA and San Diego. My hope is that Florida and LA beat each other up a little bit. Arizona travels to Cincinnati and Atlanta, making it a tough weekend for them. The Cards get three in Pittsburgh before traveling cross-state, while the Dodgers play Florida before tangling with the Cubs again. The Phillies need to take advantage of three with the Brewers, and then make a statement against the Cards.
Need may be a strong word, but at this time of the year, the Phillies cannot keep missing these opportunities.
Friday, August 08, 2003
A quick one
I wanted to get in a quick post this morning before I spend all day in meetings...
The Phillies blew it yesterday. They had a 3-1 lead in the sixth, and couldn't hold it. The result was dropping two of three to the Rockies before going to San Francisco for three this weekend, where wins will be as tough if not tougher to come by. Losing the series meant the following:
Yesterday's game left lingering questions, including the possible second-guessing of Larry Bowa for not taking Kevin Millwood out after the sixth. Regardless, the Phillies have to dust themselves off and head to San Francisco, where Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, and Brett Myers will be taking on Jesse Foppert, Dustin Hermanson, and Jason Schmidt. The Giants hold the second-best record in the NL, a double-digit lead in the NL West, and are owners of the four-best home record in the league. They also have some guy named Bonds.
I'll be back with more later, if I ever get out of the Conference Room today.
Thursday, August 07, 2003
Where are my Tums?
Baseball Prospectus discusses the Phillies in today's Prospectus Triple Play:
No worries, Phillies fans: This move isn't permanent, and you can look forward to some more heart-stopping ninth innings from Mesa soon.
BP also has a note on Pat Burrell, and the Phillies' options as the playoff race heats up. Jason Michaels, anyone?
It wasn't the homer that lost the game...
Bottom of the fifth inning, 1-1 game. Two on and two out for Rockies' first baseman Todd Helton. Brandon Duckworth runs a 3-1 count, throwing mainly offspeed pitches off the outer half of the plate. Larry Anderson comments that Duckworth wants to keep it outside -- even at the cost of a walk -- because moving inside could allow Helton to crush the ball. 3-1 pitch...inside part of the plate...gone. Center field bullpens, three runs, game over.
But it was not the homerun that cost Duckworth. It was his error three batters earlier that did the damage.
With Charles Johnson on first, and no one out, Rockies' pitcher Chin-Hui Tsao comes up attempting to bunt the runner over. He gets the bunt down, and Duckworth fields it. His throw is in the dirt, and Jim Thome is unable to scoop it out. Error on Duckworth, two on, no one out. He gets the next two outs, and should be out of the inning. Instead of inning over, it's two on, two out for Helton. And Duckworth makes a mistake. But without the error, the pitch never would have been a mistake.
And that has been the story for the Phillies since the All-Star break. Currently, the Phillies are fourth in the NL in fielding percentage (.986) and fourth in fewest errors (62) through 113 games. But 21 of those 62 errors have come in the 21 games since the break.
That's half an error more per game. At that rate, the Phillies should count themselves lucky to be 11-10 since the break. The question becomes, are those errors costing the Phillies? I tried to look at the 21 errors since the break, using the ESPN.com game logs:
July 17, vs. Montreal -- W Cordero flied out to right, O Cabrera scored on throwing error by right fielder B Abreu.
Sac fly, play at the plate, and the throw was bad. Cabrera may have scored on the play anyway, and most certainly would have scored on the single that followed one out later. It hurt, but probably didn't cost the run, and the Phillies won anyway.
July 18, vs. Montreal -- O Cabrera stole second, O Cabrera safe at third on throwing error by catcher M Lieberthal.
Cabrera did not end up scoring, so the error was not costly.
July 19, vs. Montreal -- B Wilkerson safe at third, R Calloway safe at second on throwing error by pitcher V Padilla.
Two on, one out. From the log, I am guessing that Padilla tried a pickoff throw that got away. Michael Barrett followed with a double, scoring both runs. Nothing else happened in the inning, so if the runners had been on first and second instead of second and third, the chance exists that only one run would have scored on the double.
July 19, vs. Montreal -- J Vidro safe at first on error by third baseman T Perez.
Same game. Vidro moved to second on a Cabrera single, and was stranded there. No damage, and the Phillies won the game.
July 23, at Chicago -- M Grudzielanek doubled to right, M Grudzielanek to third on error by right fielder B Abreu.
First of three errors in the game. Grudzielanek was left at third, so no damage done.
July 23, at Chicago -- D Miller safe at first on error by third baseman T Houston, A Gonzalez to second.
Error #2. Randy Wolf got the next two batters on a pop foul and a strike out. No damage done.
July 23, at Chicago -- M Clement safe at first on error by pitcher R Wolf.
Wolf hurts himself in the fifth, but gets out of it. A fielder's choice and a fly out end the inning and the threat. Phillies win, 3-0.
July 24, at Chicago -- K Wood sacrificed to first, D Miller to second, K Wood safe at first on error by pitcher V Padilla. D Miller to third on throwing error by first baseman J Thome.
Two errors on the same play. Great. So it's now first and third with one out. Kenny Lofton hit a sac fly to bring home Miller, and Padilla ended the inning by inducing a groundout. The run gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead, but the Phillies countered with their nine run inning in the 14-6 win.
July 25, at Florida -- L Castillo lined out to pitcher, A Gonzalez to third on throwing error by pitcher B Myers.
First of two errors in the game. With runners on first and second at the time of the lineout, I don't know who Myers was trying to double off. After a walk to load the bases, Myers got Mike Lowell to foul out to end the inning.
July 25, at Florida -- J Pierre sacrificed to pitcher, T Hollandsworth to second, J Pierre safe at first on throwing error by pitcher M Williams.
This inning was doomed from the start. Both runners ended up scoring, but Hollandsworth would have in the events that followed anyway. Pierre should have been out, but the Marlins' 8-run inning made his run inconsequential anyway.
July 26, at Florida -- D Lee singled to center, J Encarnacion to third, J Encarnacion scored on error by center fielder M Byrd.
This run scored directly because of the error. But it's tough to pin a 5-run loss on this one play.
July 26, at Florida -- L Castillo safe at first on error by center fielder M Byrd, J Pierre to third.
Another Byrd error cost the Phillies another run, as Castillo -- who would have been out -- scored on a Ivan Rodriguez double.
July 27, at Florida -- M Lowell reached on infield single to third, J Pierre to third, L Castillo to second, J Pierre scored, L Castillo to third on throwing error by third baseman N Punto.
10 errors in five days. You could argue that this run did cost the Phillies the game, as Florida went on to the eventual 7-6 win.
July 31, vs. Los Angeles -- O Perez struck out swinging, O Perez safe at first on throwing error by catcher M Lieberthal.
No damage done, as Perez was left on base as Duckworth got the next two batters to end the inning.
August 2, vs. San Diego, Game 1 -- P Nevin singled to right, G Matthews Jr scored, M Loretta to third, M Loretta scored on error by right fielder B Abreu.
L Merloni stole second, B Buchanan scored on error by shortstop J Rollins.
Two errors in the first two innings that directly led to two runs -- in an eventual 6-4 loss. The errors put the Phillies in an early hole that they could not climb out of.
August 2, vs. San Diego, Game 2 -- R Klesko safe at third on throwing error by pitcher C Silva.
A pickoff attempt that got away and scooted down the right field line. Klesko went first-to-third, but was left there when Nevin struck out.
August 5, at Colorado -- R Belliard safe at first on error by shortstop J Rollins.
Belliard was stranded at third, as the Rockies went scoreless in the inning.
August 6, at Colorado -- C Tsao sacrificed to pitcher, C Johnson to second, C Tsao safe at first on throwing error by pitcher B Duckworth.
This error did cost Duckworth, as it led to the three-run homer that provided the winning runs. Without the error, Helton would have led off the following inning, obviously with the bases empty.
August 6, at Colorado -- G Atkins reached on infield single to third, G Atkins to second on throwing error by third baseman T Houston.
Same game, but this error leads to nothing, as Atkins is stranded at second.
21 errors, 8 of them by the pitchers. 11 of the 21 were throwing errors; two or three were an outfielder botching a catch, and the rest were bobbles with the glove.
10 of the runs allowed by the errors were runs that probably would not have been scored by the events that followed, and the errors probably directly contributed to three losses. But the Phillies are still 7-6 in the 13 games in which they have committed these errors.
Looking at those numbers, you could say that the errors are not costing the Phillies these ballgames. And for now, that's probably true. But if they don't get their act together and start playing defense like they did in the first half of the season, it will eventually catch up to them and begin to cost them more than a handful of games.
And with a one-game lead in the playoff race, the Phillies cannot afford to just throw it away...
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Anything but useless...
From Jayson Stark's latest Useless Info column:
It's doubtful that any team traded for a reliever at the deadline who will be as effective as Rheal Cormier has been for the Phillies. But any team could have traded a bag of sunflower seeds for Cormier last winter or this spring. Last season, Cormier had the third-worst ERA (5.25) of any left-handed reliever in the National League and allowed the second-most baserunners per nine innings (14.55). This season, thanks to a trip to the Joe Kerrigan Repair Shop, he has the lowest ERA of any left-handed reliever in the National League (1.36) and has allowed the fewest baserunners per nine innings (8.45) of any left-hander except Billy Wagner.
Rocky Mountain High
Brett Myers pitched seven strong innings in Denver last night, despite not feeling real comfortable in his pregame bullpen session.
"I saw some of my stuff not breaking as sharp or moving as much and I was trying to make it too good -- knowing that in the back of my mind that this place is known for balls that fly out and not for your stuff to break as sharply," Myers said.
But when he stepped on the mound in the bottom of the first, none of that seemed to matter. Staked to an early 2-0 lead, Myers went to work. He allowed a leadoff single to Ron Belliard and a one-out walk to Todd Helton, but then got Preston Wilson to ground into a double play. He allowed a one-out hit and stranded a runner in the second, and got out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in the third. Myers consistantly got into trouble last night (his only 1-2-3 inning was the sixth), but he found a way out of it every time.
All told, he allowed two runs on eight hits in seven-plus innings, lowering his ERA to 3.58 and picking up win number 11. After giving up a pair of doubles to lead off the eighth, Myers gave way to Turk Wendell to finish the inning. Terry Adams came in and pitched a scoreless ninth.
Myers's strong pitching effort was backed up by the output of the offense. The Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, when a single by Placido Polanco and walks to Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu loaded the bases for Mike Lieberthal. Lieberthal singled to center, bringing in two runs. They added to that lead in the second when Polanco singled home Marlon Byrd with two outs, and scored again in the third when Bobby Abreu led off the inning with a "Coors Field" homerun -- what appeared to be a simple fly ball that just kept carrying until it cleared the wall.
With the score 4-1 in the fifth, the Phillies loaded the bases again on a Thome single, an Abreu walk, and a Lieberthal hit-by-pitch. Tyler Houston followed by doing his job, bringing home a run on a fielder's choice. The Phillies scoring was capped by Ricky Ledee's pinch-hit two-run homerun in the top of the 8th. For Ledee, it was his career-high ninth homerun of the season.
So with seven runs of support, Myers picked up his 11th win. This level of support is one that Myers did not see much of early in the year, but is getting used to lately. Myers's season started with the Phillies being shutout despite Myers's gem on the mound. Two games later, the team scored but one run for him. Overall, through his first thirteen starts, the Phillies scored 51 runs -- an average of 3.92 runs per game that Myers started. Throw out an 11 run outburst on May 20th at New York, and that average dropped to 3.33 runs a game. In those first thirteen games, Myers was 5-6 with a 3.54 ERA; the team was 6-7.
Since June 17th, however, the offense has perked up with Myers on the mound. Scoring no fewer than three runs in any of the next ten Myers' starts, the Phillies have put 66 runs on the board. At 6.6 runs a game, the Phillies are 8-2 in Myers's last ten starts; Myers is 6-0. Here's a simple breakdown:
|Phillies output||Team record||Myers's record|
|Fewer than 3 runs||0-3||0-3|
|6 runs or more||6-1||6-0|
I guess there are no surprises there. Give Myers three runs, and he'll give you a break-even chance of winning the game. More than that, and you'll likely get the W. So it's a good thing that the Phillies have chosen the second half of the season to back Myers up.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
While you were not watching...
Since I took down the "Offensive Slumber" watch, the Phillies offense has slowly been waking up. When we last had the "Slumber" up, the Phillies were hitting about .248 and were ranking 13th in the National League. As of this morning, the ranking has risen only to 10th, but the team average is up to .259 -- a nice 11 point jump. The spark can cleary been seen at the top of the order.
Since he took over in the leadoff spot, Marlon Byrd (who was under .200 at the end of May, remember) has been hitting .363/.415/.531/.946. In 25 games in the #1 spot, he is 41-for-113 and has scored 28 runs. He only has eight walks in that time, but while he continues to hits, the lack of walks do not have much of an effect on the on-base percentage. But Marlon is not the only one who has been heating up...
Since the start of July, 2B Placido Polanco has been hitting .400, getting on base almost 45% of the time, and slugging just over .600. He has scored 29 runs in that time and -- with Marlon getting on base in front of him -- has driven in 22 runs. A doubles machine, Polanco has hit nine of his 28 doubles since July 1, and has his overall average up to .303.
Bobby Abreu, occupying the cleanup spot more often than not in the last month and a half, has brought his average up to .294. He hit .313./.404/..510/.914 in June, and heated up just a bit more in July, when his numbers looked like this: .337/.433/.592/1.025. With Byrd, Polanco, and Thome reaching base in front of him, Abreu drove in 25 runs in July and has added four more in early August.
The lineup has seen some help from some unlikely sources as well. With David Bell out, 3B duties have been split mostly between Tyler Houston and Tomas Perez -- the latest additions to the "Blonde Bombshells" trio. Each is hitting .292, with Perez coming through with some timely hits. The "Bombshells" ringleader, Todd Pratt, has been no slouch himself, as he is hitting .291 with a decent amount of playing time in the last month.
With the offense heating up, things can only look to get better as the Phillies hit the road and head to that offensive heaven -- Coors Field.
Colorado is probably playing above expectations this season, and currently sit at 57-57, 6 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the Wild Card race. For the Rockies, Larry Walker is having a down year (.287, 10 homers, 60 RBI) and Todd Helton is having his normal Coors Field year (.351, 23 HR, 89 RBI), but the story has been Preston Wilson. The Marlins were happy to ship him out of town, and he has to be estatic about the move as well. Wilson is having a career season, hitting .305 with 28 HR and 108 RBI. He is still striking out a fair amount (103 punchouts), but even that number seems down a bit this season.
The surprise in the Rocky Mountain range this year has been the pitching. All-Star Shawn Chacon has struggled since a DL stint just before the All-Star break, but no one can complain about the Rockies' pitching at home this year:
At Coors, an ERA below 5.00 will win you a lot of games. For the three game set starting tonight, the Phillies will only see one of these four pitchers. Shawn Chacon (11-5) goes tonight against Brett Myers (10-6), who looks to follow up a strong performance against Kevin Brown and LA on Wednesday. Tomorrow's matchup will feature Rockies' rookie Chin-hui Tsao -- who is 1-0 in his two starts -- against Brandon Duckworth (4-5), who is coming off possibly his best game of the season. Thursday afternoon's finale will feature Kevin Millwood (11-7) for the Phillies against Denny Stark (1-0), who lasted just 4 2/3 innings in his last start.
The Rockies enter this series looking to make up some ground in the Wild Card race, and erase the memories of a three-game sweep in Philadelphia back in April. Another sweep by the Phillies could knock the Rockies out of the race for good; a sweep by Colorado makes this race closer than it needs to be. The pitching will struggle in Coors, so the offense has to continue to turn it up a notch or two.
Thome, Thome, Thome
.262 average. .379 on-base percentage. .534 slugging percentage. 27 homers. 83 RBI.
Those aren't bad numbers. But they may not reach the lofty expectations we had for Jim Thome this season. Why are the numbers down? Aaron Gleeman explores why in his latest post. Go check it out.
Tuesday: a happy day
I take one day off of work, sick at home, and I miss the one piece of news that I have been waiting for all season. Figures, huh? I'll get to that in a second.
First, let's start with the disappointing weekend. Yes, taking only 2 of 4 from a struggling Padres club counts as disappointing. The Phillies need to take advantage of playing teams like this, not waste their chances.
The Phillies took Friday night's series opener, behind Kevin Millwood's gem. Millwood -- who threw the season's first no-hitter on April 27th -- had a perfect game going into the sixth. After a questionable ball three call -- Millwood wanted it to be strike three -- Padres C Miguel Ojeda singled to left field to ruin the perfection. Millwood erased him on a double-play grounder, and had faced the minimum through six. Millwood finished off the complete game shutout, allowing just three hits and a walk, but faced just two batters over the minimum thanks to a pair of double plays turned behind him. The offense was sparked by the top of the order, where Marlon Byrd and Placido Polanco went a combined 6-for-8 and scored four of the team's six runs on the night.
Saturday's doubleheader proved the be a mixed bag. In the opener, Randy Wolf had what he referred to as a bad night. Bad control and a pair of fielding errors behind him led to three early San Diego runs. Wolf got things under control, and set the Padres down in order in the third and fourth, but got in more trouble in the fifth, capped by Phil Nevin's three-run home run, making it 6-0 San Diego. On the night, Wolf lasted five innings, giving up six runs (four earned) on five hits and five walks. He threw 94 pitches in those five innings. Offensively, no one told the Phillies that the game started at 5, as they were being shut out on three hits entering the ninth. They woke up for four runs on four hits in the ninth, but their late rally fell short.
The offensive momentum continued into the second game. After four in the ninth in Game One, the Phillies scored in each of the first two innings in Game Two, and added four more in the fourth. Byrd and Polanco again sparked the offense, as they went 4-for-7 with five runs scored and five RBI. But this time, they had some help: Bobby Abreu (two hits, three RBI), Ricky Ledee (two hits), and Todd "Blonde Bombshell" Pratt (two hits, three runs) all played big parts in the Phillies' ten-run outburst.
Carlos Silva got his first major league start, and showed some flashes in the game, but overall was inconsistant. He went four innings, giving up three runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out five. He looked really good early, setting the Padres down 1-2-3 in the top of the first. In the second, he got two outs before he faced trouble. With one out, Gary Matthews Jr. laced a double to left, scoring a run. Silva then intentionally walked Ojeda before striking out Joe Roa to end the inning. In the third, he allowed a one-out double to Mark Loretta, who stole third and scored on a ground out to tie the game at two. In the fourth, with his pitch count rising, he allowed a pair of one-out hits, scoring a run, before getting Roa and Ramon Vazquez to end the threat. Overall, not a bad performace; there was definitely some hope for the future in Silva's arm.
Silva was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fourth, as the Phillies scored four to claim a 6-3 lead. That lead was increased as bullpen members not named Jose Mesa pitched 4 2/3 innings of two-hit baseball. The problem was that Mesa pitched at all.
Coming into the top of the ninth, the Phillies held a 10-3 lead. Mesa strolled in from the bullpen in order to get some work in -- he had not pitched since Wednesday's game against LA. The first pitch he threw, Miguel Ojeda greeted and drove into the Padres' bullpen. 10-4. Pinch-hitter Brain Buchanan singled to center, and Vazquez followed with a ground-rule double. After Mark Kotsay popped up, Loretta walked to load the bases as a chrous of boos filled the stadium. The boos were replaced by the loudest cheer of the night as Larry Bowa came in to relieve Mesa. Dan Plesac came in and got two quick outs to end the mess.
Sunday's game was a pitcher's duel that would go extra innings. A 2-1 Phillies' lead was wasted in a rare bad outing by Rheal Cormier, who allowed a run to tie it at two in the seventh. It stayed that way until the tenth when -- once again -- Jose Mesa entered the game. Mesa started by walking Sean Burroughs and Gary Matthews, Jr. to put two on with no one out. The numbers on and out really didn't matter, as Brian Buchanan brought them all home on a homer to left field. 5-2 Padres. Game over. Yet, Bowa left Mesa in for one more batter -- another walk -- before lifting him for Turk Wendell. But the damage had been done.
Two of four from the Padres. Not good. The Phillies were helped by Houston, who took two of three from Florida, and kept a four-game lead over St. Louis in the Wild Card race. A good weekend by Montreal (they were hosting Milwaukee, so don't get too excited) brought the Expos to within 4 1/2 games, and the D'backs still sit give out. But the Phillies needed to take advantage of a weekend like this and extend the lead. Otherwise, there may not be a lead to maintain.
The Phillies may have taken a good step toward maintaining that lead by removing Mesa from the closer's role. Yes, the news I have been waiting for all year finally arrived...it just arrived when I wasn't paying attention. Evidently, Larry Bowa had finally seen enough (what took so long?!?) and determined that Mesa needed some work with Joe Kerrigan. Now, the bad news is that -- for now -- this move is only temporary. Mesa will work with Kerrigan over the next few days, and will not work the ninth inning for a week or so. Unfortunately, that means that he may pitch in other innings. Ready for the ugly?
|Since July 1||11.17||16.76||8.38||8.38||.383|
Joe Kerrigan -- if you can turn this around, I will forever refer to you as St. Joe. Until such time as that happens, however, the Phillies will look elsewhere for closing help. Bowa has said he will work with a "bullpen by committee" approach for the next week, and that may not be a bad thing:
The question becomes, will Bowa count on the guy -- Williams -- that has the most recent closing experience, but the worst numbers? Or will he rely on the guys that have gotten the job done all season long? That is yet to be seen.
Regardless, we have to hope that either Mesa finds a way to turn it around, or -- if he does not -- Bowa sticks to his word and sticks Mesa on the bench...permanently!
Monday, August 04, 2003
Mesa out as closer
Excuse the lack of updates today -- I am home sick, and haven't been up to blogging today...until now.
D-Mac, from The Iggles' Nest, just brought to my attention that this weekend's ineptitude has finally cost Jose Mesa. Phillies.com has an article saying that Mesa has been removed, at least temporarily, from the closer's role. According to the article, Mesa will not pitch in the ninth inning for at least one week, while working on his delivery with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.
No word on who will serve as closer; a bullpen-by-committee is a possibility, although former Pirates closer Mike Williams may get the first crack.
I'll have more on this later, but for now I am just celebrating!
Friday, August 01, 2003
Cole in Clearwater
Cole Hamels made his first start for Clearwater last night and got...*cough, cough*...roughed up. At least for him. In his High-A debut, Hamels went 5 2/3 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits. He walked three and struck out ten on the night. His ERA is 3.18, which is ridiculously high after the 0.84 he had at Lakewood.
Some of these are old news, as I am behind in updating my links...
To the Baseball News section of my left column, I have added a link to the Baseball Nerds. It's a fairly new site that is going to attempt to cover everything baseball-related: majors, minors, independent leagues. If it's out there, they have an eye on it.
Three other sites have moved away from Blogger and Blog*Spot (can't blame them) to a new server and Movable Type. They are
Check them all out.
The Phils offered two minor-leaguers for Suppan. Sources said they did not offer any of their top minor-leaguers: Cole Hamels, Gavin Floyd, Ryan Madson or Chase Utley. Some reports suggested Madson was the key figure in the deal, but a person close to the situation said he was never discussed.
The Phillies remain convinced (and last night's start helped) that Brandon Duckworth can capably fill the fifth starter's role, and are happy with the makeup of their team.
That's what the Dodgers were, by both the Phillies and the rain. Check out these pitching lines:
4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
1/3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
The first line is Odalis Perez's line through the first four innings . Minus a walk to Todd Pratt in the third, he was almost untouchable, and the Phillies were looking as bad as the weather.
The second line above is Perez's effort in the fifth. As dominating as he was in the first four, the wheels completely came off in the fifth. Listening to the broadcast last night, John Kruk was convinced that Perez's concentration disappeared after walking Pat Burrell on a very close call for ball four. You could tell that he wasn't happy with the call. He came back and struck out Jimmy Rollins, and then tried to bust Pratt inside. Pratt fought it off and flared it into left field for the Phillies first hit. If the walk to Burrell upset Perez, the flare flustered him.
Tomas Perez followed Pratt's dink with a dunk -- a line shot to the opposite field that cleared the wall and landed in the Phillies bullpen. Just like that, the Phillies went from being no-hit to a 3-1 lead and had the Dodgers' pitcher seemingly on the ropes. But Perez wasn't done taking the beating. Opposing pitcher Brandon Duckworth singled down the first base line, and Marlon Byrd got a single of his own. With the rain coming down hard at this point, Placido Polanco provided the thunder: he absolutely launched a pitch that landed in the club level in left-center field. 6-1 Phillies, Perez is done, and Duckworth has his first win since May.
For the first time in quite a while, I can say that Brandon Duckworth had a good outing. He allowed four hits and one run over seven innings. The one run was an Adrian Beltre long ball that was up around the eyes. Regardless of whether Duckworth was trying to climb the ladder or just badly missed his spot, I have no idea how Beltre could get so much behind a pitch so high. Still, it turned out to be the only mistake Duckworth made all night, and that is a very good thing.
The Phillies scored seven runs last night against a pitching staff that has given up that many runs only twelve times all season (two of those games came in a weekend set in Colorado, to be fair), and pulled off the three-game sweep at a time when it was badly needed. The sweep knocked the Dodgers to six back in the Wild Card race, and the win last night added a half-game to the lead over the idle Marlins.
Coming to town for a four-game set are the San Diego Padres. San Diego has been playing decent baseball as of late, and are 7-6 since the All-Star break. But they still remain 25 games below .500, and are the only team truly out of the playoff race in the NL West. The pitching matchups for the weekend start off with a pair of Kevins tonight -- Jarvis (4-2) for the Padres and Millwood for the Phils. The first game of tomorrow night's doubleheader will be Jake Peavy (8-8) against Randy Wolf (11-5). The second game's pitchers have yet to be decided. On Sunday, Oliver Perez (4-4) will face Vicente Padilla (10-8).
Carlos Silva was pencilled in to start the second game tomorrow night, but was used in the 9th inning last night. Harry Kalas and Larry Anderson wondered if last night's appearance may just serve to be the equivalent to a side session between starts, but the move was curious. Silva threw only 18 pitches, but was seemingly removed because he was ineffective. He faced three batters, and gave up hits to two of them; both of those runners scored. But the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Phillies will still have Silva start game two tomorrow and limit him to about 55 pitches.
So then let me ask this: why throw him last night, and why limit him to only 55 pitches? Unless he was saving his good stuff last night, 55 pitches won't get him past the third or fourth inning, meaning you are asking a lot out of your bullpen -- and your long reliever is the starter! Based on these developments, I would much rather see a one-night callup for someone like Ryan Madson to make a spot start. But presumably, Ed Wade and Larry Bowa know more than I do.
I will be at the doubleheader tomorrow night, so I'll hopefully have some news on how Silva looks. I'm trying to convince my wife that this doubleheader won't be like the last one we had with San Diego...where rain delays and extra innings kept them playing until 4:30 in the morning. But the forecast of rain isn't helping my argument...
EDIT: D-Mac, from the Iggles' Nest, reminded me that former Phillie Joe Roa will likely start Game 2 for the Padres. That means in the three games I will have seen at the Vet this season (after tomorrow night) Roa will have started two of them -- Opening Day for the Phillies, and tomorrow for the Padres.