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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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Opening Day & Roster Thoughts… 

I am certain that people will blow yesterday's 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves wildly out of proportion. Yes, it is disheartening that the Phillies lost and their new and improved pitching staff surrendered three home runs. And yes, the Phillies blew a slew of chances (bottom of the fourth, the Phillies have Chase Utley and Pat Burrell on second and third and Rowand lines out to Renteria) to score runs, but how often is Edgar Renteria going to beat you with two home runs? There is a lot to be happy with:

-Jimmy Rollins is off to a hot start, hitting his first home run of the year, going 2-for-5 yesterday.

-Brett Myers pitched a nice game, going seven and two-thirds of an inning and surrendering just three runs (okay, there are two home runs in there), while getting nine strikeouts and giving up two walks. Myers looked great and really dominated a dangerous Braves lineup at times. Seventy of Myers 106 pitches yesterday were strikes. Nice.

Obviously there is a lot to dislike: the bullpen effectively lost the game, the team blew scoring chances, etc. Look on the bright side: the Braves couldn't muster any offense without the long ball. Out of their seven hits, three were home runs.

Predictably there will be a lot of second-guessing of Charlie Manuel for leaving Brett Myers in to face Renteria in the eighth inning. In this age of pitch counts and coddling starters, it is a little refreshing to see the manager give his guy the ball and say: "Get 'em." Letting your starter go 7, 8 innings is as old school as baseball strategy gets these days. More like the days of Robin Roberts than Trevor Hoffman. Disagree with me, but I don't think that Charlie Manuel made the wrong call by leaving a starter having a strong day in to face a light-hitting shortstop with nobody on.

That'll do it for our Opening Day post-mortem. Now, I have a couple of thoughts on the Phillies 2007 Roster. I predicted that the Phillies starting lineup would be:

SS – Jimmy Rollins
RF – Shane Victorino
2B – Chase Utley
1B – Ryan Howard
LF – Pat Burrell
CF – Aaron Rowand
3B – Wes Helms
C – Rod Barajas

Well … Flip Helms and Rowand and I got the call right on the money. I actually like the way Manuel has constructed the Phillies lineup a little better: Helms will be a better, more potent, threat at the plate than Rowand.

Next, the Bench. I predicted that the Bench would look like …

OF – Jayson Werth
OF – Chris Roberson
IF – Danny Sandoval
IF – Abraham Nunez
C – Carlos Ruiz
IF/ C – Chris Coste

In actuality …

OF – Jayson Werth
OF – Michael Bourn
IF – Greg Dobbs
IF – Abraham Nunez
C – Carlos Ruiz
IF/ C – Chris Coste (?)

I was certain that Roberson and Sandoval would be a part of the Phillies roster as they traveled north. I am delighted to see that they are not. Sandoval, a poor performer and fairly old (28) career minor leaguer, was passed over in favor of Dobbs, a talented (if light-hitting – just two career home runs) player from the Seattle Mariners who has more of an upside.

I am particularly delighted by the Phillies decision to offer the job of the fifth outfielder to Bourn, a talented speedster with a much greater upside than Roberson. Theoretically Roberson, the more senior and experienced player should have been offered the job while Bourn, who played just 38 games of Triple-A ball, should have been sent to Ottawa for “seasoning”. Instead the Phillies made a bold decision to give the job to Bourn. Bourn is a much, much faster player who is a better threat to get on base and to supply some speed to the Phillies on the base paths. In 2006 Bourn had a higher On-Base-Percentage (OBP than Roberson did in Scranton (.368 vs. .349), and was a better base-stealer (15 of 16 vs. 25 of 24). This is a great move by the Phillies brass and really shows a lot of boldness. Rather than play cautiously and give the job to Roberson they are going to roll the dice and give Bourn a shot. Well done.

I put a question mark next to Coste, because I think/hope the Phillies are ultimately going to give the final roster spot to Coste, who is currently on the 15-Day DL for a minor muscle ailment. Expect Coste, a real jack of all trades (catcher, infielder), to be #25 on the Phillies roster.

The pitching staff …

Projected / Opening Day
Cole Hamels / same
Brett Myers / same
Jamie Moyer / same
Freddy Garcia / Zach Segovia
Adam Eaton / same
Jon Lieber / Clay Condrey
Ryan Madson / same
Geoff Geary / same
Fabio Castro / Matt Smith
Alfonso Alfonseca / same
Tom Gordon / same

Basically what I expected. Injuries to Lieber and Garcia have required the Phillies to bring in some help, particularly Segovia, a highly talented minor-leaguer who is actually slated to start for the Phillies on Sunday against the Florida Marlins. Segovia pitched in Double-A Reading in 2006, so skipping a season in Ottawa and getting to start in the bigs would be a major moment for Segovia.

Today is an off-day. I'll be back to preview Cole Hamels v. Tim Hudson tomorrow.

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What did you think about Manual batting Utley behind Howard?
I kind of liked it - this puts two bats behind Ryan Howard (Utley & Burrell) instead of just one (Burrell). I worry about the decrease in Howard's RBI opportunities however, because this strategy will only succeed if Shane Victorino gets on base, but then again, a #3 hole hitter is least likely to lead-off an inning statistically (I read that on TangoTiger, I think), so Ryan Howard ought to maximize his RBI chances by having guys leadoff innings ahead of him. If Victorino doesn't hit, expect this experiment to be junked.
Well not exactly on the money, howard batted in front of utley...
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