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 29, 2008

Outman, Savery & Feliz 

The pre-season got off to an excellent start for the Phillies with their 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday. Jamie Moyer looked solid, tossing three innings and allowing a sole hit while striking three Reds out. Pedro Feliz went two-for-two with a run scored and an RBI and Greg Dobbs hit a home run. A fun time was had by all! … Then, sadly the Phillies lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-6. Highly touted rookies Joe Savery and Josh Outman got to take the mound against the Pirates and the results weren’t pretty:

Savery: 1 IP, 5 Earned Runs, 4 Hits, 1 Walk, 2 Strikeouts.
Outman: 1 & 2/3 IP, 4 Earned Runs, 5 Hits, 0 Walks, 2 Strikeouts.

Both will do better next time. Remember, Savery was pitching college baseball this time last year and he got burned facing quality major league hitters. Outman is still in the minors and won’t be MLB ready until mid-season or the fall. Savery, Outman and Carlos Carrasco are going to be big additions to the Phillies rotation in 2009 and 2010.

On the plus side, Feliz is now 4-for-5 with the Phillies!

Meanwhile, the Phillies decided to slice off discussion about moving Brett Myers to the bullpen by electing to name him their Opening Day starter, a decision that may (or may not) have reportedly angered Cole Hamels.

The decision is largely symbolic: Opening Day is just one game in 162. Getting the nod for Opening Day is an acknowledgment of who someone regards as the team’s best pitcher, and I can understand why Hamels might be upset.

This will be the second Opening Day in a row for Myers, who started Opening Day for the Phillies last season and pitched a good game – out-pitching Braves starter John Smoltz in most respects – before getting the no-decision in the Braves comeback victory. (Incidentally, Jon Lieber hurled Opening Day for the Phillies in 2005 and 2006.) Hamels, the Phillies front-runner for the Cy Young Award and the team’s acknowledged ace pitcher, probably ought to have gotten the nod, but the team decided that the ability to take the focus off the bullpen and onto Myers role as a starter out-weighed the negatives.

It’s hard to compare the numbers Myers and Hamels turned in last season because Myers numbers as a closer are going to be different: fewer innings, the ability to hurl the ball knowing you have just a few outs to get, pitching with runners on, etc. I elected to compare Myers 2006 campaign with Hamels 2007 campaign:

Myers ’06 / Hamels ‘07
W – L:
12-7 / 15-5
ERA: 3.91 / 3.39
FIP: 4.17 / 3.80
HR/9: 1.32 / 1.23
BB/9: 2.86 / 2.11
K/9: 8.59 / 8.68
K/BB: 3.00 / 4.11

Slight edge to Hamels here, but Myers was very, very good was when was the starter, so this is a dynamic 1-2 punch the Phillies have here.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It May Be Cold in Philadelphia ... 

... but there is baseball being played in Florida! The Phillies kick off the 2008 Spring Training Schedule with a game against the Reds at 1:05 today. The baseball season was actually supposed to have been kicked off last night as the Phillies were set to play an exhibition game against Florida State’s baseball team but the weather intervened. Joe Savery was to have gotten the start.

Today’s game with the Reds features Jamie Moyer taking the mound for the Phillies. The Phillies want Ryan Madson, Clay Condrey and Travis Blackley to take the mound as well today. Obviously Moyer and Madson will be on the Phillies 25-man roster when the team heads north to Philadelphia in a month, but Condrey and Blackley are on the fence. For Blackley, a Rule 5 Draftee from this past off-season, these are going to be the most critical days of his MLB career. Will he make the Phillies roster? What as? A starter or as a reliever?

Coming up … Thanks to the rain-out minor-leaguers Savery and Josh Outman, a pitcher I am very high on, are now slated to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow and Friday. Adam Eaton makes his first start since being left off the Phillies playoff roster on Saturday in Clearwater against the Mighty Yankees, although the rain-out might change the Phillies plans a little.

In other Phillies news, The Phillies named Brett Myers their Opening Day starter, a wise move given all of the talk swirling around about Brad Lidge’s injury. Just remove any talk of Myers going to the bullpen, keep him focused on being a starter this season.

A brief word about the craziness of yesterday … I posted a brief piece yesterday arguing that the Mets acquisition of Johan Santana doesn’t make them the team to beat in the N.L. East. Usually those who post comments on my blog post a handful of observations that are interesting and informative. To my stunned amazement, I got somewhere around 120-130 comments on my blog after a Mets Blog posted a link to my post and the majority of the comments were exceptional in their nastiness and their anger towards me. Many of the comments were vulgar and contradictory. In one particularly bizarre moment, after I commented on the profanity of Mets fans, one commenter assailed me for not censoring the comments and stated the profanity was actually MY fault (i.e., I allowed it to be posted) and that I shouldn’t blame Mets fans for a profanity laden comment a Mets fan posted. Wow. Only in New York … Or maybe the Soviet Union …

I’ve bristled over the years at the suggestion that Phillies fans are a bunch of loud-mouthed brutes. The booing of Santa Claus all those years ago, for example, is an incident constantly thrown back at Philly sports fans as prima facie evidence of their idioticy. Well, there are Philly sports fans who are calm and friendly people. I count myself as one of them, so I resent the stereotype. I will try to resist the temptation to believe that all Mets fans are boorish nuts, but their comments on my blog leave me with little alternative.

That said, some of the better reasoned comments revolved around my criticism of John Maine. Apparently my main sin in my post was to argue that John Maine isn’t a good pitcher, or more accurately, that Maine isn't the great pitcher that Mets fans seem to think he is. Jeez, fellas. He’s pitched just 324 innings in his career so far. He had a decent season last year, but he was hardly the world-beater that Mets fans have built him up in their minds. He’s a young pitcher with a lot to learn. The Bill James Handbook, for example, predicts Maine will go 12-11 with a 4.05 ERA in 2008. You’re assailing me for believing that a pitcher with a single full season of experience is going to struggle next year. Disagree with my conclusions, but don't call me an idiot for not seeing the world from your perspective.

Which leads me to another point. Disagree with me people, but don’t be disagreeable about it. That's really what bothers me about the flame war that erupted on my blog yesterday.

I realized, and felt a little sorry for them when I did, that the psychosis of Mets fans is on display here: for not agreeing with the conventional wisdom that Johan Santana guarantees the pennant to the Mets before the first pitch of spring training (that is why games are played on grass, not on paper), I was angrily savaged by a bunch of guys who live in their parents basement in Long Island. There is an angry desperation in their words. They HAVE to believe that Johan Santana makes them into the best team in baseball. They HAVE to beat down everyone who disagrees with them. They HAVE to have the world agree with them … Why? Well, I think the collapse of the Mets last season was so tragic and the acquisition of Santana so dramatic, Mets fans NEED to feel that their team is the best team there is. It is reassuring to them. They’ve had heartbreak before: 1989, when the great late-80’s Mets teams cracked up, ’02, last season … I don’t think Mets fans could, emotionally, survive another collapse. That's why they attacked me.

Good luck fellas.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Who's Afraid of the Mets? 

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Mets “buying” the 2008 N.L. East division title. After scuffling through a painful post-season where memories of their historic 5-12 collapse against the Phillies are in their minds, now suddenly the Mets are proclaiming themselves the team to beat and act as if last season never happened. I don’t buy it. There are a number of reasons why the Mets aren’t a lock to win the N.L. East in 2008, and they are …

1. History: Remember the 2002 Mets? In the wake of the Mets surprising run at the N.L. East title in the days after 9/11 the Mets management decided to open up the team’s purse-strings and attempt to lure the top free agents to Queens. In came Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, and Jeremy Burnitz. And the Mets finished seven games worse than they did the previous season. History is against the Mets here.

2. Numbers: The addition of one player rarely makes the sort of impact that people are talking about here. Suddenly the Mets suspect rotation goes from a weakness to an exceptional strength? I don’t think so. Remember, Santana will throw 35-40 games for the Mets in 2008. They still need pitchers for the 120-130 games that Santana cannot pitch. Do you really feel comfortable, Mets fans, with Willie Randolph handing the ball to John Maine on the last game of the season?

3. The Aging of their Roster: They added Santana to bolster the rotation, but they’ve updated none of the other positions on the roster in any meaningful way. Anyone notice that Carlos Delgado really struggled in 2007? His OBP plunged to .333, a decline of nearly thirty points and a nearly seventy point decline from the .399 he posted with the Marlins in 2005. His home runs declined from 38 in 2006 to 24 last season and he saw his Runs Created dip from 101 to 70. Delgado is 36 this season and is entering the twilight of his career. He better not struggle in 2008 or the Mets are in trouble.

4. It’s in their heads: The memory of last season is still going to echo in their minds. Any time the Phillies have struggled in a pennant race the ghosts of 1964 are raised. Any time this season that the Mets struggle, the ghosts of last season will return. I wonder how badly this will effect the play of a young player like Jose Reyes, who really seemed to wilt under the pressure of the pennant race last season while his counterpart in the Phillies lineup, Jimmy Rollins, shined. Will Reyes struggle any time the mention of 2007 comes up? I think he will.

So there you go, Phillies fans. Four very good reasons why the Phillies might just still be the team to beat in the N.L. East in 2008. It’s a little early to waive the white flag, fellas. There are 162 games to go …

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Monday, February 25, 2008

No Closer for Old Men? … 

… Inspired a little by the Oscars this morning. I love Joel and Ethan Coen’s movies. “O Brother Where Art Thou?” is one of my favorite movies. The working title of his post originally was “There will be Surgery”. Moving along …

Brad Lidge, the Phillies new closer, injured himself over the weekend and is scheduled to have surgery on his surgically repaired knee, a procedure which is expected to keep Lidge out of the Phillies bullpen for six weeks, making it likely that Lidge will miss the Phillies season opener against the Washington Nationals on March 31st, as well as a few games in the first week or two of the season. While this doesn't bode well for the Phillies season, it isn't the end of the world.

Wisely, the Phillies haven’t panicked by routing Brett Myers back to the bullpen as they did last season. Instead, the Phillies have announced that Tom Gordon will take over the closer duties until Lidge returns from surgery.

Gordon, who lost the closer’s job last season to Myers after he blew three of his first seven save opportunities in April, spent much of the 2007 season on the injury list. When Gordon returned late in the season he mostly was the set-up guy for Myers. In September in particular Gordon pitched well: he appeared in 18 games, threw sixteen innings and struck out thirteen, allowing just three walks and a single home run. His ERA for the month was 3.94. It was the exceptional play of Gordon, Myers, J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson, the Phillies much-maligned bullpen, that was one of the major reasons why the Phillies were able to catch up to the Mets and capture the N.L. East last season.

This season will be the 40-year old pitcher’s 19th MLB season in a career that stretches back to Kansas City (the team he began with in 1988), the Houston Astros, the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees and Red Sox. Gordon may not be the flashiest or most overpowering pitcher on the mound, but he’s good about getting hitters to hit the ball on he ground – 1.34 groundball/flyball ratio in 2007 and 1.41 in 2006 – and he always strikes out many more guys than he walks – 2.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2007, and 3.09 in 2006.

Take a deep breath Phillies fans. They’ll be fine.

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