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Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Open Thread, Game Five 

Game 5 of 162. Record-to-date: 1-3.

Gavin Floyd (0-0) vs. Jeff Suppan (0-0).

Young gun Floyd makes his 2005 debut against the guy who made the baserunning gaffe in the World Series. Hopefully the bullpen will pull it together and stop surrendering runs. If I have my math right, the Phillies bullpen has surrendered 12 runs in 12 innings of work. Can't blame Worrell anymore: Madson has an ERA of 8.10, Cormier is at 9.00 and Terry Adams is at 10.80. Ouch.

Post your comments below.

(94) comments

Friday, April 08, 2005

Open Thread, Game Four 

Game 4 of 162. Record-to-date: 1-2.

Cory Lidle (0-0) vs. Mark Mulder (0-0).

Post your comments below.

(24) comments

It could be worse … 

…we could be the Mets.

I’m disappointed at the Phillies 1-2 start like everyone else, but I don’t think now is the time to panic. Myers pitched well and the team is scoring runs. Clearly the Phillies bullpen has been the source of the problem.

Lieber / Myers / Wolf: 18 1/3 innings, 7 Earned Runs allowed (3.44 ERA)
Bullpen: 9 2/3 innings, 8 Earned Runs allowed (7.45 ERA)

The Phillies offense is humming: .339 OBP, 15 runs scored, .693 slugging percentage. Pat Burrell is off to a great start (.500 BA, 2 2B’s, 1 HR, 6 RBI’s), as are players like Jimmy Rollins (.429 OBP) and Kenny Lofton.

Up next: starting tonight the Phillies have a three game set against the St. Louis Cardinals, probably the only other team in the NL capable of bashing the ball the way the Phillies do.

I’m very interested to see how Cory Lidle pitches tonight, especially since he’ll be going up against the Cardinals vaunted new ace, Mark Mulder. Lidle’s ability to keep the ball down will suit him well against the Cards Big Four of Edmonds, Pujols, Rolen and Walker. My question is: I wonder how the Phillies will do against a pitcher like Mulder? Are we getting Mark Mulder pre-All Star 2004? Or Mark Mulder at the end of the season last year?

I’ll publish an open thread later. I’m very happy by how much people seemed to enjoy it.

(0) comments

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Game Three Open Thread 

Game 3 of 162. Record-to-date: 1-1.

Randy Wolf (0-0) vs. Loiaza (0-0)

Post your comments below.

(0) comments

Good times ... 

I’m going to say something pretty shocking right now:

So the Phillies lost. A lot of good came out of last night’s game.

No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses. Yes, I am bitterly disappointed to see the Phillies drop a game to their weakest division rival. And yes, it will be an awful start to the year if the team loses tonight and goes 1-2 against the Nats.

But look at the good things that came out of last night’s game:

Pat Burrell went two-for-four with two RBIs and a run scored. So far this season Burrell is five-for-seven, with a walk, three runs scored, four RBIs and no strikeouts. Unlike last year when, Burrell was a singles hitter for nearly all of the year, Burrell is showing some power: he has two doubles and a home run. His slugging percentage is 1.429

Brett Myers went six and two-thirds, allowing just seven hits and a walk. Myers did surrender a home run, but he struck out seven and gave up just one earned run. In all, an impressive performance to begin the season. If Myers has finally turned the corner and become a front-line starter than the Phillies can breathe a little easier.

Okay, the bullpen blew it, and the Polanco / Utley switching is already a little old, but I like what I’m seeing. So keep this game is prespective: there are more 160 to go.

Current Standings:
Atlanta: 1-1
Florida: 1-1
Philadelphia: 1-1
Washington: 1-1
New York: 0-2

What’s going on with the Mets?

(108) comments

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Game 2 Open Thread 

Game 2 of 162. Record to date: 1-0.

Brett Myers (0-0) vs. Zach Day (0-0).

Post your comments below.

(2) comments

I'm pleased to announce... 

... the first installment of what I hope to be an on-going dialouge with other bloggers in our division is up today over at Mets Geek. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

(1) comments

161 to go... 

I'm always cautioning people not to cheer results outside of their meaning or to be too pessimistic. I'm happy with aspects of the Phillies 8-4 victory over the Washington Nationals. And I'm not so happy with others.

My over-arching feeling about Monday's game is that it was a good game for the Phillies: Pat Burrell is off to a hot start (3-for3 with a walk), as is Jimmy Rollins and Kenny Lofton (both 2-for-3 with two walks). The Phillies had 20 hits or walks. Either it is a testament to the Phillies prowess at the plate or confirmation that the Expos pitching staff needs help. If Monday is any indication, my prediction that the Phillies are going to score a lot of runs is validated.

I was much more troubled by the Phillies pitching: they surrendered 13 hits and 3 walks. Lieber I was somewhat disappointed by: he surrendered ten hits and four runs in just five and two-third innings work. I expected him to be much stingier at the plate, so I am discouraged to see him surrender a home run in his first outing at Citizens. It would have built the pitching staff's morale to see their new ace prove that pitchers can survive at Citizens. It bothers me to see Lieber get bailed out by the lineup.

Meanwhile, the Phillies have two more games against the Nats before hitting the road for a big series this weekend against the Cardinals. The Cards series will give us a more complete picture of where the Phillies are going this year: it'll be on the road against a formitable foe. I'm eager to see what the Phillies record will be on Monday morning: if they get off to a fast start I'm sure we'll all breathe easier.So let's just enjoy the first win of the season. 1 down, 161 to go.

Oh, I'm going to set up an open thread for tonight's game in case people want to comment as the game is in progress.

(2) comments

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Memories…Opening Day 

Whenever I read writers memoirs I’m always come across a common-thread in their writings: baseball fans always speak nostalgistically about baseball in the summertime, amidst the green grass and lazy summer days. Their most vivid memories are about spending hot summer nights in the ‘ol ballpark cheering their heros onward.

Recently I was re-reading the chapter of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Wait ‘Til Next Year dealing with a trip she took with her family to Ebbets Field to see the Dodgers and Giants play, and I was reminded of nights I spent at the Vet. Some of my most vivid memories of my childhood deal with going to the Vet with my Dad or my Grandfather. I still remember going to games: the long drive from our home in central Chester County, the crawl on I-95 to the Vet past the Philadelphia Naval Yard (I was always fascinated to see the massive aircraft carriers sitting in their drydocks during their refits), the parking lot at the sports complex, and the entry into the Vet … the hot summer night was practically dripping with moisture it was so humid. I remember following my dad as we walked through the hustle and bustle of the Vet corridors on our way to our seats. Through all of the grey concrete and soda-stained hallways.

Then we’d walk into our section. I’d stare at the sight before me: the dull green of the astroturf. The dark sky surrounded by the dull red and yellows of the seats and the gray concrete. Being in the Vet was like being at the bottom of a massive concrete bowl.

My father and I would sit through some so-so baseball. For some odd reason we went to games against the Giants each year and saw Barry Bonds club home runs in each. The Phillies won, more often than not (I’ve found my experience to be atypical of Phillies fans), prevailing in some great games. We’d get hot dogs, sodas, a program. We’d sit under the hot night sky and watch the game being played, though it was rarely played well. The ugly astroturf of the Vet looked oddly nice … I’d sometimes stare at the numbers of the players retired in the outfield, wondering who Robin Roberts was, or what made Richie Ashburn so special (later in life I found out). I went to Steve Carlton night with my grandfather in 1989 and I still remember Harry Kalas speech, talking about Carlton’s 1972 season with the Phillies, and how great he was on an awful team.

Then my dad and I would head out (we’d usually stay rather than leave in the seventh inning the way so many suburbanites do: purists we are), crawling through the traffic on 95 to Chester County. We’d get home at 11:30 or so and I’d collapse into bed, dreaming of catching flyballs in centerfield or blowing fastballs by Barry Bonds. My athletic abilities being as meager as they are this was a forlorn hope, but I was always thinking about the game I love. I memorized stats, I imagined myself the General Manager of the Phillies (in my mind I always managed to make a Joe Carter-for-Von Hayes deal possible).

These are the sort of memories I’ve made over the years watching baseball. My dad & I haven’t seen a game in years together (my life in Pittsburgh being a deterent). I go to games at PNC Park (nice place, by the way) and watch the Pirates play with detachment: I want my friends to have a winning team, but the Pirates cause isn’t my own. I still enjoy it, but it isn’t the same. It doesn’t mean the same thing when you get older and have responsibilies and dreams of things like getting promoted and getting a house. But it means a lot to reach back in your memories and remember those days so long ago. I hope everyone out there is making memories of their own with their kids. These are the things they’ll remember.

I'll try to work up something about yesterday's game. Here is the thumbnail version: don't cheer results outside of their meaning. Talk to me in a week and we'll have an idea about where the Phillies are going.

More later.

(0) comments

Monday, April 04, 2005

2005 Season Preview: Batting 

“Offense gets the glory but defense wins the game” goes one of the most tired clichés in sports. Naturally, the 2004 Phillies proved the aphorism correct: the ’04 team was a powerful force at the plate and awful at preventing the opposition from scoring runs. Not surprisingly, the Phillies finished with a paltry 86 wins and out of the playoff race. The team upgraded the pitching staff in the offseason, so the question is whether or not the Phillies offense can continue to supply the runs this team needs to win the NL East.

We’ll close out our Season Previews with a quick discussion of the Phillies prospects at the plate in 2005. First, here are some stats I use and their definitions:

GPA (Gross Productive Average): (1.8 * .OBP + .SLG) / 4 = .GPA. Invented by The Hardball Times Aaron Gleeman, GPA measures a players production by weighing his ability to get on base and hit with power. This is my preferred all-around stat.
ISO (Isolated Power): .SLG - .BA = .ISO. Measures a player’s raw power by subtracting singles from their slugging percentage.
RC (Runs Created): Measures how many runs a player “creates” for his team. The formula used by Bill James is fairly complex: look at p. 397-398 of the 2005 Bill James Handbook.
OBP (On-Base Percentage): How often a player gets on base. (H + BB + HBP) / (Plate Appearances)

Got it? Let’s start by showing the Phillies projected 2005 lineup and how those players are projected to do:

Games / OBP / SLG / HR / 2B
SS Rollins: 158 / .335 / .429 / 13 / 40
CF Lofton: 105 / .348 / .390 / 7 / 17
RF Abreu: 156 / .420 / .527 / 26 / 45
1B Thome: 137 / .399 / .566 / 39 / 26
LF Burrell: 151 / .354 / .470 / 29 / 31
3B Bell: 148 / .325 / .402 / 16 / 32
2B Utley: 155 / .333 / .478 / 24 / 36
C Lieberthal: 125 / .334 / .448 / 16 / 30
Pitchers

The sources of these projections is the 2005 Bill James Handbook. Here are the Phillies projected sabremetric stats:

Runs Created / GPA / ISO
SS Rollins: 94 / .258 / .153
CF Lofton: 51 / .254 / .117
RF Abreu: 131 / .321 / .222
1B Thome: 111 / .321 / .294
LF Burrell: 90 / .277 / .221
3B Bell: 74 / .247 / .145
2B Utley: 90 / .269 / .203
C Lieberthal: 71 / .262 / .169
Pitchers

The ’05 team returns about 95% intact from last year. Aside from Kenny Lofton there aren’t any important new faces, and most of the ’05 lineup is playing where they did last year. So let’s start with a few observations about the ’04 team:

The 2004 Phillies were an impressive offensive force, whether or not you thought that Citizens Bank Ballpark had a dramatic effect on the Phillies season. Citizen’s Bank doesn’t explain why the Phillies were fourth in the NL in home runs on the road, third in road OBP and third in road slugging percentage. This against teams that played at Citizens. This team was a monster at the plate. Check out how they ranked in GPA:

NL GPA Rank:
1. St. Louis: .270
2. San Francisco: .270
3. Colorado: .269
4. Philadelphia: .266
5. Atlanta: .263
6. Houston: .263
7. Chicago: .262
8. San Diego: .257
9. Los Angeles: .255
10. Cincinnati: .253
11. Florida: .250
12. New York: .245
13. Pittsburgh: .245
14. Milwaukee: .241
15. Montreal: .238
16. Arizona: .238
NL Average: .255

The Phillies ran ahead of the NL is pretty much every stat:

Phillies / NL Average / (Phillies + / -)
BA: .267 / .263 / (+.004)
OBP: .345 / .333 / (+.012)
ISO: .176 / .160 (+.016)
GPA: .266 / .255 / (+.011)
SLG: .443 / .423 / (+.020)
RISP: .257 / .257 / (.000)

(RISP: Runners in scoring position.) So the 2004 Phillies were a powerhouse, despite a so-so season from franchise hope Pat Burrell and a horrible year for Marlon Byrd, the team’s annointed leadoff threat. I don’t expect that to change much in 2005. The team is largely intact and probably a little stronger than last year. I’ll split the discussion into three parts: the team’s top of the order threats, the middle lineup and the bench and bottom together.

I. Leading Off

ss Jimmy Rollins
cf Kenny Lofton
2b / 3b Placido Polanco
cf Marlon Byrd (?)

The two biggest changes to the Phillies defensive / offensive alignments have been the team’s decision to make a change in its middle defense: centerfield and second base. Placido Polanco is out at second base and replaced by Chase Utley, the highly touted prospect will finally get his chance to be a full-time regular after playing about a third of the year in 2004. The conventional wisdom is that the Phillies are getting an upgrade offensively with Utley, but have to accept a defensive downgrade with Utley replacing Polanco in the field. This is probably wrong. Dave Punto’s Probablistic Model of Range (PMR) and Zone Rating (ZR) have made a convincing case that Utley might be as good or even better than Polanco defensively at second. Offensively Polanco and Utley are vastly different players, so comparing them is difficult. Here is a comparison of the two for 2004:

Utley: .308 OBP / .202 ISO / .250 GPA
Polanco: .345 OBP / .143 ISO / .260 GPA

Polanco hit well in the two hole for the Phillies doing what a player hitting at the top of the order should do: get on base and get into position to score runs. Utley is a different breed: he’ll eventually hit in the middle of the Phillies order, but for now he’ll hit sixth or seventh. Utley isn’t the on-base percentage threat Polanco is, but he’s a much more explosive bat (though to be fair to Polanco, he has a pretty good bat too). Here are their projected stats for 2005:

Polanco: .258 GPA / .132 ISO / 76 Runs Created (27 2b’s and 13 HR’s in 136 Games)
Utley: .269 GPA / .203 ISO / 90 Runs Created (36 2b’s and 24 HR’s in 155 Games)

Polanco will get some playing time at third base this season, as well as at second base filling in when Utley has to take a day or two off. Unfortunately for him, his customary spot hitting second has been taken by Kenny Lofton, so he’ll have to get used to hitting seventh or eighth in the lineup unless Lofton is out.

Another big question mark for the Phillies is new centerfielder Kenny Lofton. Marlon Byrd disappointed us all by following his strong performance in 2003 by having an awful 2004 season: .287 OBP / .093 ISO / .209 GPA, just 35 Runs Created in 106 games. He didn’t get on base, he didn’t hit for power and he wasn’t a threat at the top of the order at all. If there is any solace for Phillies fans it is that Byrd will almost certainly perform better in 2005. (Hard to fathom that he can’t.) Here is what the Bill James Handbook projects for 2005:

Proj.: .243 GPA / .322 OBP / .119 ISO (38 Runs Created in 102 games).

Not good, but better than the horror show that last year was for the Phillies former prized prospect. I suspect the projection is accurate because, if Pat Burrell’s 2004 season is any indication, Byrd’s ’05 campaign will lay between his career year in ’03 and his ’04 horror show. Assuming that is correct, the Phillies really can’t count on a player with an OBP of just .322 hitting leadoff or in the two slot. When Byrd spells Lofton, expect him to hit seventh or eighth in the lineup.

So what will Lofton do with the job? I suspect he’ll turn in a passable performance in 2005. Not great, but better than what Byrd could do. My main concern about Lofton is the fact that at the age of 38. Lofton doesn’t have the skills he used to and his injuries in the preseason make me question his durability. Still, I think he’ll be a dangerous bat and the Phillies will be more dangerous with him in the lineup than without, though I do think he’ll be a downgrade from Placido Polanco hitting second.

The sole stable factor at the top of the order is Jimmy Rollins. Though many don’t realize it, 2004 was a breakout year for Rollins, who had a .366 OBP after the All-Star break, played very well:

Pre All-Star: .244 GPA / .108 ISO
Post All-Star: .300 GPA / .230 ISO

Rollisn wrestled the leadoff job away from Marlon Byrd because he dramatically lowered his strikeouts:

2001: 108
2002: 103
2003: 113
2004: 73

Rollins finally got into a groove and hit a career high .348 OBP (.025 over his previous career high in 2001) in 2004. The performance was impressive, and enabled Rollins to lay claim to being the top shortstop in the National League, a title he has even more of a claim to now that Edgar Renteria left to Boston.

It pains me to see that Rollins is a free agent next year, because he'll probably fetch $8 or $9 million for 2006. He's a terrific defender and has hit very well recently. I think Rollins is the complete package, an on-base threat with speed (30 steals) and power (14 home runs in 2004), a terrific table-setter for the middle of the lineup.

II. Murderer’s Row:

rf Bobby Abreu
1b Jim Thome
lf Pat Burrell
3b David Bell
2b Chase Utley

People paid a lot of attention to the Cardinals fearsome foursome at the end of the 2004 season when the Cards decision to deal for disgruntled outfielder Larry Walker seemed to gaurantee a World Series triumph. Walker, Rolen, Pujols, Edmonds were tremendous, maybe the best foursome in history. I’d wager that the Phillies fivesome of Abreu, Thome, Burrell, Bell and Utley will produce a lot of runs in 2005. Consider runs created (2005 proj.):

Abreu: 131
Thome: 111
Burrell: 90
Utley: 90
Bell: 74
Total: 496

(The team scored 840 runs in 2004.) That’s a tremendous lineup for any pitcher to face.

We can be sure of Bobby Abreu having a terrific season in 2005. Six of the last seven seasons he’s had a .400 OBP or better. Six of the last seven years he’s also had a slugging percentage of .497 or better. That’s a tremendous performance. Abreu might not be very good defensively, but he might be one of the three or four best bats in the major league. Anyone who hits for power (78 extrabase hits in 2004) while drawing more walks than strikeouts (127 vs. 116) is playing the game of baseball right. If Abreu played with the Dodgers, Yankees or Cardinals he’d be a major super-star. The Phillies are fortunate to have him.

I’ve heard that the Phillies are thinking of moving Pat Burrell into the cleanup slot. I wholeheartedly support the idea. I’m still high on Burrell, despite his inconsistencies. I doubt he’ll play on the level he did during his 2002 campaign, but I think there is a chance he could and having him hit fourth could help him out a lot. Here are Burrell’s last three years:

2002: .376 OBP / .544 SLG / 104 Runs Created / 25 Wins Shares
2003: .309 OBP / .404 SLG / 57 Runs Created / 9 Win Shares
2004: .365 OBP / .455 SLG / 72 Runs Created / 15 Win Shares

2004, despite some problems in June and July, was a good year for Burrell. Once he regains his power stroke he could have a terrific year for the Phillies.

The Phillies might bump Thome to the fifth slot, which I don’t like: I wish Thome hit third, followed by Burrell and Abreu. Thome had a good year, as usual, for the Phillies in 2004. Not a lot bad you can say about a guy who has a .396 OBP and a .581 slugging percentage. While Thome’s numbers have declined somewhat from his Cleveland days, he’s still one of the four or five top sluggers in the game. While Thome may be a defensive liability at first, he more than makes up for it with towering home runs. It is worrisome that he’ll turn 35 in August, but I don’t expect him to slip much in the coming year. He’ll still be a .370+ OBP / 40-45 home runs guy.

David Bell is the weak link in this chain. Oh sure, he had a good season in 2004: his OBP was a career high and ran about fifty points ahead of his career average. His .458 slugging percentage was a career high too, as well as being fifty points over his career average and a .175 point jump on his 2003 season with the Phillies. My beef with Bell is simple: 2004 was his career season and I can’t see him continuing to be the productive bat he was. Bell has a bad back and has battled through a lot of ailments, so I tend to think injuries will catch up to him. The Phillies have said that they intend on spelling Bell and playing Placido Polanco at third. I honestly wouldn’t mind if the Phillies just sat Bell and gave Polanco the job:

Polanco: .345 OBP / .441 SLG
Bell: .365 OBP / .458 SLG

Not much of a difference and Polanco really doesn’t have a reputation as a slugger. Yet Polanco nearly had as many home runs (17) and Bell (18). The Bill James projections for 2005 make the choice clear:

Bell: .325 OBP / .402 SLG / .247 GPA / .147 ISO / 74 Runs Created
Polanco: .335 OBP / .427 SLG / .258 GPA / .132 ISO / 76 Runs Created

Add in the fact that Polanco is a better fielder than Bell.

As for Chase Utley, I’m thrilled to see him finally get his shot. He’ll probably hit seventh, after Bell, but he is a player who could really anchor the Phillies lineup. If the Phillies hold onto Ryan Howard, I can see Utley, Burrell and Howard being the Phillies 3-4-5 hitters in 2007, 2008 and beyond. I think Utley is so good that he’ll be a fixture at the All-Star game as the NL’s second baseman. As I discussed abover Utley is a rare talent: a terrific fielder and a potent bat. I hink he’ll develop his OBP skills this season and really do some damage for the Phillies.

III. Bottom Half & The Bench

c Mike Lieberthal
c Todd Pratt
if Ryan Howard
if Jose Offerman
of Jason Michaels

Like most NL teams the Phillies battery hits eighth and ninth. Mike Lieberthal and Todd Pratt will be spending most of the season hitting eighth when they aren’t squatting in the dirt.

Lieberthal had a rough year playing catcher for the Phillies. Though he played in an impressive 131 games, he hit just .335 OBP, and had 49 Runs Created. Entering his 12th year in the MLB, he’s probably reaching the end of his career with the team. I’m pessimistic about his production for 2005. I suspect he’ll be a .325 OBP, 12-15 HR, 60-65 RBI guy for 2005.

Todd Pratt will probably get decent playing time in 2005, which I’m happy about. The Phillies backup catcher is one of the best and is a dependable bat off the bench. The Bill James handbook predicts him to hit .350 OBP with 32 Runs Created in 71 games for 2005, right in line with what he did last year (.351 OBP, 18 Runs Created in 35 games).

I was disgusted to see that Ryan Howard has asked for a trade. I don’t blame him – he wants to play – but apparently the Phillies have decided that he can only play first base and they won’t be dealing Jim Thome any time soon. Keeping Howard would be foolish, especially if Thome is healthy, if they plan on keeping him on the bench. I’d love to see the team try to convert him into a third baseman or a corner outfielder, but that isn’t likely. What pains me is that Howard is a tremendous talent and could produce tremendous numbers for this team. Consider some of his 2004 minor league stats:

Reading: 374 AB’s / .386 OBP / .647 SLG / 86 Runs Created
Scranton: 111 AB’s / .362 OBP / .604 SLG / 21 Runs Created
Phillies: 39 AB’s / .333 OBP / .564 SLG / 7 Runs Created

In 131 games in Scranton and Reading he had 131 RBI’s. Not too shabby. Here are the projections for Howard:

.335 Obp / .561 SLG / 34 HR’s / 82 Runs Created / 104 RBI’s

In 112 games. Howard is a future 40 HR / 120 RBI guy. Teams have contacted the Phillies asking about him, so I do expect him to be dealt this season, unless Thome gets hurt or the team tanks and Ed Wade decides to rebuild with a youth movement.

I’d dearly love to see Howard stay. He’s the last real product of the Phillies minor league system ready to play in the majors, and given the team’s often checkered past in race relations, it would be nice to see an African-American star wearing the red pinstripes. He could be a real force, so if the Phillies deal him I hope they are getting three or four top-flight prospects in return. In the here and now he’ll be a deadly bat off the bench and a terrific sub for Thome should the injury bug bite.

I was surprised to see the Phillies sign Jose Offerman to a contract, but pleased. Offerman is near the end of his career and will be the Phillies designated pinch hitter extraordinaire. Last year Offerman had a .581 OBP in 31 plate appearances as a pinch hitter (11 for 24 with 7 walks), a tremendous performance. I think he’ll do well in the role.

Jasn Michaels got a lot of playing time in 2004 due to injuries and poor play from Phillies outfielders. Michaels played 95 games in the Phillies outfield and came off the bench to pinch hit another 39 times. He’s a dependable bat (.364 OBP in 2004) and is a decent glove in the outfield, so he makes a terrific fourth outfielder.

IV. Conclusions

Today, the 2005 season kicks off for the Phillies. I think this team is strong, and far better than generally known by most pundits. Offensively they’ll be strong: any lineup boasting Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome and Pat Burrell is going to score some runs. While I am predicting slides for players like David Bell and Mike Lieberthal, I think that Chase Utley and Pat Burrell will pick up the slack and have great years. I think the Phillies bench (like Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco, Jose Offerman and Todd Pratt ) is strong. I think the Phillies will hit 200+ home runs and score 830-870 runs in 2005. I think they’ll hit strong on the road. This is the most potent lineup in the NL East. The only NL team as good 1-9 are the St. Louis Cardinals … and maybe the San Francisco Giants (though the Rockies will always be impressive statistically thanks to Coors Field).

I think the Phillies are going to play well in 2005. There is little question to me that this team is the strongest the Phillies have had in a decade. The rotation is a little suspect, but vastly improved from last year. The bullpen is deep and staffed with tough, groundball pitchers. The Phillies defense is nothing short of supurb: tough, disciplined, and experienced. I think Charlie Manuel is a terrific choice to lead this team: the Phillies are a veteran club and need someone calm guiding them through the season. I think these guys will probably make a good run at the post-season, but I think their division mates made too many improvements in 2005. I still think the Mets are over-rated, but they are improved from last year’s 71 wins. The Braves are offensively challenged, but are strong in their pitching staff. The Marlins are weak almost nowhere: they have improved on offense and are already strong in pitching and defense. Aside from the Nationals, I don’t think the Phillies are appreciably better than any other team in the division.

But the problem I have with all of the cynicism about the team that surrounds the opening of the season is this: this is a strong team playing in a division full of teams just as good. The Phillies could go anywhere from fourth (as SI predicts) to first (as some at Baseball Prospectus predict). So enjoy this season Phillies fans. This team could be strong and prosper. Let’s give the Phillies the benefit of the doubt and enjoy a fun-filled Opening Day at Citizens Bank.

Give this team a chance, Phillies fans. Enjoy the game today.

(6) comments

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Opening Night... 

Yankees – Red Sox tonight at 8:00 on ESPN. I’m eagerly looking forward to it.

Sports Illustrated’s Baseball preview issue came out this week. I haven’t had much of a chance to check it out, but they’ve awarded the Phillies fourth place, behind the Mets. Snort. Here is a link to their analysis of the Phillies, which essentially amounts to "the team is the same, but they are hoping to play better under Charlie Manuel". I disagree and note that the team upgraded their pitching staff with Jon Lieber in a big way. SI is a little too dazzled by the Mets big bucks, in my opinion.

I'm encouraged by Baseball Prospectus' predictions for 2005: the Phillies are consistently projected to finish first or second by Prospectus' staff. It is interesting to me that a main-line publication like SI is going with the conventional wisdom that the Mets are improved and an outsider / stat outfit like Prospectus thinks that the Phillies have quietly closed the gap. Sabremetricians should be rooting for the Phillies this year.

Season Preview, Part III tomorrow everyone.

(6) comments

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