Friday, August 31, 2007
It was a clutch, dramatic win that capped a huge series of successes for the Phillies. A four-game sweep of the Mets was something that I simply did not think was in the cards. Sweeter still that the running runs came off pitches thrown by Billy Wagner.
How important has the running game become for the Phillies? Werth's two steals put him in position to score the tying run and Igushi's steal helped to score the winning run when Chase Utley singled him home from second base. This team is really running and stretching the opposing defenses. Maybe this, speed, is what separates the 2006 team from 2007.
So now the Phillies turn their attention towards the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves as they enter the stretch run. They get the Marlins in Miami tonight and this weekend, then the Braves Monday through Wednesday before coming home to play the Marlins again. With the Fishstripes and Braves slumping, the Phillies are poised to roar.
Circle the date in your calendar: Sept. 14-16, Phillies vs. Mets in Shea Stadium. The NL East will be won by someone.
That’s it. I’ll give a little post to keep everyone’s appetite whetted for when I come back, but I am taking a trip to Western New York starting on Monday and I won’t be back until Sept. 10.
The Phillies have a very productive offense this year (2007). Baseball-Reference.com has them producing at 115 adjusted OPS over league, and they are leading the NL in runs by quite a margin.
Nonetheless, every since the departure of Scott Rolen, they have had a big hole at third base. David Bell filled it for a while, but with his departure, Abraham Nunez, Wes Helms and Journeyman Dobbs are not the answer as Nunez and Helms are playing well below league average offensively (making them the worst third basemen in the league by far) and Dobbs is barely league average offensively.
Placido Polanco, who started at 2B for the AL this year in the All-Star Game and who was able to play 3B, and who the Phils mindlessly tossed away to the Tigers for relief help a couple of years back, could have solved this problem. Polanco also had the right team attitude and was a winner, often coming up with key hits and always delivering positive energy in the clubhouse.
Now the Phils have brought over Tad Iguchi from the White Sox, a veteran of the World Series Champions, who in two seasons with the Chisox has demonstrated both fielding prowess and power, hitting more than 15 homers each year with Chicago. In a month when Chase Utley was down, Iguchi rose to the challenge and batted more than .300 with power, walks and ops and fielded his position.
Now the challenge is to the Phillies to find a place for Iguchi to play, and that place must be third base. Iguchi is a winning ballplayer, his offensive output is at least league average or better, he is a good fielder, and notwithstanding any defect he may have with his arm, it will be a great deal easier to convert him to third base over spring training or winter leagues than to bring in a new third basemen or over pay for a 30 year old plus third basemen on the decline such as Aubrey Huff or Eric Chavez. Iguchi has shown he can play.
Helms has shown that he cannot play. The Phils should trade him now or simply designate him for assignment. Helms has failed utterly this year. Jayson Werth's success shows how utterly Helms has failed. That Helms cannot hit in the easiest ballpark in the majors to hit homers in shows that Helms has nothing left or that he simply lacks what it takes in the furnace of a pennant race.
Nunez is a very good fielder, but can't hit. This makes him an excellent reserve infielder or late inning substitute for blowout games.
Dobbs has had a good season and should be a good lefthanded pinch-hitter or bench-player. He could conceivably platoon at times with Iguchi to add a left-handed bat against tough right handers at 3B if Dobbs continues to put up good offensive numbers. Dobbs is ok defensively and holds his own.
The Dobbs/Iguchi combination is the right one at 3B for the Phils.
Helms is extra baggage and should be eliminated.
The Phillies should not get rid of Iguchi. If they do, they will be making the same mistake they did a couple of years ago with Placido Polanco.
Also, what if Chase Utley gets hurt again? Who will play second base for a month? Iguchi provides insurance at 2d base and adds depth to the team.
A final note; Charlie Manuel must learn to stop carrying 13 pitchers.
He needs to carry 10-11 pitchers, and carry 14-15 PLAYERS so that he has a bench. Manuel needs to stop keeping pitchers on the roster that he barely uses for months or weeks at a time, which use up a roster spot that could be going to a bench player. One reason the Phils offense is better this year is the bench depth--starters are better rested and this has contributed to Burrell's better 2d half, along with better 2d halves by all the starters.
As well as better pinch-hitting and substitution in late innings.
Big hits have been coming from the bench.
But to have a bench, you have to have 14-15 players on your roster.
A team needs only five starters and five relievers. Six relievers, tops. You can't use more than that, can you? After that, some of the pitchers will not get enough work consistently.
Those are my thoughts.
Manuel has done his best work this year, and Gillick has made some astute moves, such as acquiring Iguchi.
Nonetheless, the Phils are in the same situation as years past, a couple of games out and on the outside looking in at the playoffs unless they continue to be hot and hope that the teams ahead of them lose some games. This will be tough with only 27 games to go and many of those against teams with something to play for such as 3 game sets with the mets, atlanta, st. louis, etc. The Phils must sweep colorado at home, must take the series vs. florida today, must win as many games at home as possible, and earn splits on the road, and hope arizona plays down to its pythagorean record at long last, and that san diego with its tremendous pitching gets unlucky and drops a few one run games.
--art kyriazis, philly