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.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thoughts on Ryan Howard 

It took me a little while to digest the news of Ryan Howard’s $10 million-dollar arbitration award. The judgment of the arbitration panel might have immediate and far-reaching consequences for baseball, the Phillies and Ryan Howard. Here are a few things that pop to mind:

-Ryan Howard’s salary has just jumped by a factor of 11, from $900,000 to $10,000,000 … I wish I got a pay increase of that magnitude.

-Does the contested arbitration hearing mean that Howard is a goner when he becomes a free agent? Far from it. I actually think that the arbitration hearing makes it more likely, not less, that the Phillies are going to be able to re-sign Howard. Think about it: had the Phillies won the arbitration, Howard would have been smarting from the arbitrator’s ruling and probably would have sought to test his marketability when the time came. I think that Howard now might be a little more willing to re-sign because he’s getting an extra $3 million bucks now. Sure his team opposed his salary request, but the arbitrator sided with him and now his worth has been established. Precedent is set. If the Phillies take a conciliatory line in negotiations – understanding that re-signing Howard is going to cost them $100 - $120 million over the next seven to ten years – they ought to be able to get Howard on-board with a multi-year deal and take care of business this season or early next.

-This is the first time the Phillies have gone to arbitration since they did against Travis Lee in 2001.

-This is, as near as I can tell, the first time they’ve lost in arbitration.

-Now precedent has been set in terms of future arbitration awards. If Ryan Howard got $10 million, Prince Fielder can command $10 million, or more. Lots of players could see their salaries increase, which would probably drive prices higher in the free agency market.

Here is a link to ESPN's Jayson Stark's report on Howard's victory.

Todd Zolecki has a nice piece in the Inquirer about Howard's victory as well. Zolecki posted a few times on the issue in the recent past. Today's post argues that re-signing Ryan Howard has just become more difficult because the arbitration ruling is making Howard more likely to ask for A-Rod type money, something I don't entirely agree with. (At $7 million or at $10 million, Ryan Howard was going to ask for more than what Alfonso Soriano got from the Cubs in 2007.) Yesterday's post is about Howard's jublient reaction to the news.

The Inquirer's Jim Salisbury has a nice analysis of Howard's award here.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Arbitration Day 

Big day for the Phillies today as they are scheduled to meet on Ryan Howard’s request for $10 million dollars for 2008 with the arbitrator. The Phillies are offering $7 million dollars and it is unlikely that the team and Howard will reach an accord prior to today’s hearing. The likely outcome is a messy hearing that sees the Phillies forced to argue and present evidence as to why Howard doesn’t deserve the money, while Howard must present evidence that he is worthy. I did a little research on the subject and found the whole topic of arbitration to be shadowy and mysterious. As near as I could discover, it appears to me that the largest arbitration award Howard is seeking would be the largest ever handed down, so there will be quite a lot of attention paid to the hearing from outside of the Phillies organization.

Interesting facts: the Phillies haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2001, when they fought with Travis Lee. In their history, the Phillies have won all seven of their arbitration hearings.

The largest award I’ve found is the one Alfonso Soriano won in 2006 ($10 million). Soriano, however, had extra playing time compared with Howard. Miguel Cabrera won $7.4 million last year in arbitration and he had less experience than Howard has, so it seems virtually assured that the Phillies are going to see Howard walk away with more than their asking price.

If the Phillies prevail, their basic argument will be that Howard should make what Albert Pujols made in 2004, his fourth season in the big leagues, when he made $7 million. Ultimately the Cardinals went and signed Pujols to a 7-year deal worth $100 million, which is what the Phillies want to see happen here.

More tomorrow...


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Myers the Joker & Other News 

Over the weekend, Brett Myers pranked poor Kyle Kendrick into believing that the Phillies were going to deal him to the Japanese Big Leagues for a Japanese player, a ruse that left Kendrick completely floored. Here is the link from Yahoo! Sports and some video of Kendrick's reaction - courtesy of Comcast Sports Net - to the news. Well done, Brett Myers!

Meanwhile, in copycat news, Carlos Beltran has issued a declaration that the Mets are now the team to beat in the N.L. East, a boast Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies are wisely ignoring. Funny thing is, the Mets were the team to beat last year and they choked. Win some games in late September this time, Beltran, than we'll be impressed.

The Phillies signed 33-year old Kris Benson to the roster last week. Benson, who missed all of 2007 with injuries, was a former first pick in the 1996 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Benson never quite became the player that the Pirates envisioned and dealt him at the trading deadline in 2004 to the Mets. The Phillies decided to give Benson a shot. Generally speaking like some of Benson's numbers: in 2004, for example, he posted a 2.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is very impressive. In '04 he also only allowed 0.67 HR/9. In 2005 he posted decent numbers once more: 1.93 K/BB ratio, 1.24 HR/9. He really struggled in Baltimore in '06 (11-12, 4.82 ERA, 1.51 K/BB), but if he sticks with the Phillies, they could have a dynamite #5 starter or long-reliever.

Let's just hope that his wife doesn't show up in training camp ...

Tomorrow: some thoughts on the Phillies - Howard arbitration battle.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

What about Josh? 

Recently I appeared on Philly Sports Talk Now with Jim and Rich and they asked me who in the Phillies minor league system might be ready to step in this season and make an impact for the team, since some of their pitching appeared to be so lackluster. Carlos Carrasco was mentioned and I noted that Carrasco seemed to be major-league ready. I neglected to mention another pitcher who is generally flying under the radar screen of most observers and even Phillies fans: Josh Outman. Outman might just be as good as Carrasco, not that anyone is noticing …

Outman, taken in the 2005 Draft out of Central Missouri State, will enter his fourth year in the Phillies system in 2008, most likely beginning the season in Double-A Reading before making the move to the Phillies new Triple-A affiliate in Allentown. Outman began his career in Batavia, throwing for the Muckdogs and going 2-1 with a 2.76 ERA (9.5 K/9) before he moved along to Lakewood, the Phillies Single-A affiliate, to be teamed with Matthew Maloney and Carrasco. The three made a fearsome trio, guiding the Blue Claws to a victory in the South Atlantic League (SAL):

Maloney: 16-9, 2.03, 9.6 K/9
Outman: 14-6, 2.45, 9.3 K/9
Carrasco: 12-6, 2.26, 9.0 K/9

Maloney, who has since been dealt to the Cincinnati Reds in a deal the team will likely come to regret, was invited to Double-A ball for 2007, while Outman and Carrasco started the season in Advanced Single-A Clearwater, playing for the Threshers. Maloney and Carrasco – generally rated as the sole Top 100 prospect in the Phillies system – have earned notice for their skills, but Outman has curiously been over-looked by scouts. Carrasco pitched well in Clearwater (6-2, 2.84) and advanced to Reading for Double-A ball. In Double-A, Carrasco has struggled a little, going 6-4, but seeing his formidable strikeout and walk totals stall:

K / BB ratio:
2006 (LAK): 2.44
2007 (CLE): 2.41
2007 (RED): 1.06

Carrasco’s ERA jumped from 2.84 in Clearwater to 4.86 in Reading. Part of all of that is the general advantage pitchers have in the Florida State League (FSL), of which Clearwater is a member. But a bigger factor he is that Carrasco has been challenged for the first time in his minor league career. How he responds will be interesting.

Outman, likewise, pitched well in FSL ball (10-4, 2.45 ERA, 2.16 K/BB ratio) and earned the invite to Reading. What has caught my eye is that Outman has out-pitched Carrasco in Reading. While his record was just 2-3, with a 4.50 ERA, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was an impressive 1.47. Outman seems to have weathered the change a little better. What has also caught my eye is the fact that Outman has been pitching in Arizona League baseball this winter and has turned on some solid numbers. In five games pitched he’s tossed thirteen and two-thirds innings with a 3.95 ERA and thirteen strikeouts to three walks.

So Outman is a formitable prospect and just as ready for the majors as Carrasco, in my opinion. According to Top Prospect Alert, Outman ranks as the Phillies fourth-best prospect and third-best pitching prospect after Carrasco and 2007 first-round draft pick Joe Savery. Since Kyle Kendrick made the jump in the Phillies hour of need from Double-A to the majors last season, it wouldn't be outside of the realm of possibility to see Carrasco or Outman make the jump to Philadelphia in 2008. For all of the attention given to Carrasco, Outman could turn out to be the mainstay in the Phillies rotation for years and years to come.

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