Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gallardo-Hamels Game 1

I'm concerned about this match-up. I think Hamels will step up to the pressure of pitching Game 1 at home. Gallardo, however, presents some problems. The Phillies have a history of doing poorly against pitchers they don't know. Whether those pitchers turn out to be future Cy Young winners or just visiting the show for a quick cup of coffee, the Phillies manage to make all of them look like Hall of Famers.

And we've seen this team tank it offensively far too often. So, although Gallardo with only four starts this year might seem like easy pickings, I'll be much happier after the first inning if they've shown they can get to this flame-throwing righty.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Phillies Clinch!

Howard's Defense

Last night, Ryan Howard committed his 19th error of the season. It cost the Phillies two runs, and maybe another inning out of starter Joe Blanton.

In a conservative estimate, I'd guess that Howard has cost the Phillies somewhere around 30 runs this season defensively—both in his errors and in the plays not made.

Even so, his offensive numbers:

146 RBI
103 Runs
48 HR

and, for a stat I call total offensive contribution (TOC), which is RBI + Runs -HR:

205 TOC.

Those are phenomenal numbers.

Does he where on the starters and the bullpen? Yes.
Does he more than make up for it with his contributions at the plate? Yes.

I would love to see Howard dedicate some serious time this off-season to improving his defense. Just focus on the fundamentals (which is something I harp on) of fielding the ball cleanly, throwing the ball to second base to start a DP, get a force out, or complete a pick off.

A minor improvement in any of these areas would improve his already significant value immensely.

Comparing Howard to Albert Pujols (whom I the best player in today's game), the primary differentiator is their glove. Howard's a liability. Pujols's an asset.

Even so, substitute almost any other first baseman for Howard in September, and the Phillies are 5 games behind the Mets and out of Wild Card contention. So, I'm perfectly willing to live with Howard's deficiencies.

Magic Number 1

Today is the biggest game of the season for the Phillies. Win and they're in.

It's that simple.

And with the Mets moving Santana up to pitch on three days' rest (because if they don't win today, tomorrow doesn't matter), the Phillies can't simply sit back and wait for the Mets to lose. It's time to claim their division title, not wait around for someone else to hand it to them.

Unfortunately, this game will be shown on Fox. That both means bad national announcers (probably including the ever-irritating Tom McCarthy) rather than Harry Kalas in the booth; and it also means that in the event the Phillies do win, I don't know if anyone locally will be showing the post-game celebration.

Of course, it's WAY too soon to be concerned about that.

All I care about right now is getting through the top of the 1st inning without giving up any runs.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Blanton Count

A while back, I wrote that the Pat Gillick's trade for Joe Blanton would be a success if the Phillies won at least 9 games that Blanton started.

With tonight's win, the Phillies are 9-4 in starts by Joe Blanton. By the hair on his chinny-chin-chin...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Myers is off; Burrell is hot

Before tonight's game, Charlie Manuel spoke about how this was a big adrenalin game (just like when Myers was a closer). Problem is that's why he sucked as a starter at the begiining of the season. Completely different approach to the game.

Let's hope he can calm down and fix things.

And note that Burrell's hot again tonight. As I noted last night, this streaky player is on the right type of streak at the moment

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fundamentally Sound Baseball Again

I'm reminded again tonight of the importance of playing fundamentally
sound baseball.

As I've previously written (here and here), the Phillies struggles are
almost always caused by a failure in the fundamentals, not a massive
breakdown in their pitching or hitting. By the same token, their
greatest success has come from getting the fundamentals right.

Tonight's throwing error by Cole Hamels and baserunning error by
Burrell are the difference between leading or trailing this game 3-2.

That ability (or lack thereof) to play fundamentally sound baseball
will determine how far this team goes this year and in the future.

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Burrell's Hot

The storyline on the Phillies in September has been that Howard and
Rollins got hot and have carried the team. Gradually people have
started to realize that others have contributed significantly--some in
spots like Dobbs, Feliz, and Utley while others have consistently been
sharing the load though in lower profile roles like Victorino, Werth,
and Ruiz.

And throughout it all Burrell's been struggling mightily...until now.

A streaky player his entire career, Burrell seems to have finally
shaken off the rust as in the four games since Saturday, he's hit two
home runs and a double. When Pat's hot, he can carry a team. If this
is indeed Pat turning the corner, he couldn't have chosen a more
opportune moment.

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Mad Dog Madson

Am I the only Phillies fan who clutches his heart when Ryan Madson enters the game in a crucial situation?

I know the numbers, and I've seen the development over the past four years; but still, when he walks to the mound with the game on the line, I feel like Mesa is closing games all over again. And when he finally leaves the mound (typically having done his job effectively), I wipe the sweat from my brow.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Florida Doesn't Deserve Baseball Pt. 2

Although they haven't yet announced the attendance, watching the game
on TV, I see thousands of empty seats, and not just the outfield
nosebleed seats but lots of prime seats down both foul lines.

And this is for one of the hottest teams in baseball (having won 9 of
the last 10) that still has a legitimate, if tough, shot at the

Disgraceful. They ought to move spring training to Texas to punish this state.

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What will the Cubs do?

That's the question for Phillies fans going into the final week of the
baseball season.

Having already clinched the NL Central title, will Lou Piniella rest
his regulars, treating the remaining games as glorified exhibition
games; or will he instead keep pressing to remain hot?

Lou's decision takes on heightened significance because the Cubs'
final seven games are against the top two teams (as I write
this) in the Wildcard race. Four against the Mets followed by three
against Milwaukee.

I'm expecting Lou to keep the pedal to the metal until the last game
of the regular season, except for his starting pitching staff, which
he might juggle to set up for the first round of the playoffs. I have
two primary reasons for expecting this.

First, regardless of what Lou does, one of these two teams (though I
hope not both) is going to make the playoffs. You don't want to give
up anything to a potential playoff opponent. Anything that gives your
competition a little confidence (such as having won a few against you down the
stretch) in the playoffs is a bad thing. Lou's been around
long enough to know that; he's not likely to make that mistake. This
is even more important against the Mets because if the Mets are the
Wildcard team, they will start the post-season against the Cubs in

Second, Lou's history includes early exits from the playoffs when he
managed the Mariners. Those teams included the record-setting 2001
club that had the most wins (116) in AL history. That team cruised
into the playoffs, having clinched early, and was promptly dispatched.
Especially this year, with the opportunity to again make history this
time for the Cubs by ending a 100-year World Series drought, Lou is
not going to take it easy until he's hoisting the trophy.

Don't get me wrong. Will Lou this week use Kerry Wood for a 2-inning
save or on three consecutive nights? No, absolutely not. And as I
mentioned, I do expect him to juggle his rotation, but if I'm Jerry
Manuel managing the Mets or Dale Sveum with the Brewers, I have to
view the Cubs as the best team in the league looking to get hot going
into the playoffs, not as a relaxed team looking to ease into the

Doing otherwise would be perilous to your post-season health. And in
the case of both of these interim managers, that's likely to determine
whether they they return at the helm next season.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CB Buckner's Game Pt. 2

And now he's taken a shot to the throat. Call the hotel and send a
gallon of painkillers to his room.

Don't worry, CB, it's a late start tomorrow.

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The Gambler's Fallacy & Baseball

According to the Gambler's Fallacy a string of the same events shows
that the opposite event is "due" or "bound to happen." 14 flips of a
coin resulting in heads means the 15th is "bound to" be tails because
tails is "due."

So, by parallel reasoning, Brad Lidge is "due" to blow a save since he
has a streak of more than 40 converted going back to last season.

Of course, there's a reason it's a fallacy.

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CB Buckner's Game

They say an umpire is at his best when you don't notice him. If that's
true, CB Buckner had a rough night.

The rough part actually started when he took a foul tip bunt off the
side of the head.

All night (literally beginning with the first batter, Jimmy Rollins)
players and (I assume) coaches have been questioning his strike zone.

And then came the 8th inning when a series of suspect ball-strike
calls against the Phillies in the top half of the inning culminated in
an apparently blown call on a play at the plate in the bottom half,
which was rapidly followed up by a close ("I heard a foul ball") check
swing that kept Cody ROss standing in the batter's box (instead of on
first base) where he would strike out a few pitches later.

Rough night to be an umpire when the game's still not over and that
foul tip to the noggin is starting to look like the high point.

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Fundamentally Sound Baseball = Winning Baseball

So why are the Marlins winning?

Two throwing errors in the top of the third led to one unearned run
for the Phillies.

Annibal Sanchez failed to get down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of
the third, and the Marlins still managed to score two to take the

But if the two teams keep playing the same way (fundamentally sound by
the Phillies and a wreck by the Marlins), I'll put my money on the
fellows from South Broad.

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Florida Doesn't Deserve Baseball

This is the final home series for the Marlins. Yet with a bitter rival
who's in playoff contention in town and with a serious hot streak that
COULD get them back in the playoff race themselves, the Marlins are
drawing 20,000 fans.

"They're drawing well," says Chris Wheeler.

The sad part (and why they don't deserve a baseball team) is that he's right.

Under these circumstances, 20,000 on a Saturday night is good. Pathetic.

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Fish Smell

The Marlins are always a tough team for the Phillies.

In addition, the Fish have been extremely successful for a small-market, low-salary, no-fans team. That's bound to rub Phillies fans the wrong way.

Finally, the two squads genuinely seem to dislike each other, and that's been going on for years.

So, no surprise then that a hot Phillies squad with a slim lead in the NL East went to South Florida last night and lost to an even hotter Marlins team that has avoided all talk of the playoffs and instead set its sights on being a spoiler, pulled off a big win.

Surprising to me in all of the coverage of Brett Myers implosion was the lack of discussion of Jamie Moyer's comments following his seemingly miraculous victory over the Brewers on three days of rest.

At the time, Moyer said that pitching on three days' rest wasn't a problem. The problem, he said, was the next start after doing so. Sure enough, his next outing was 5.2 innings with 6 ER against the Braves on Tuesday night.

Myers beat those same Brewers on 3 days rest, and his second start was last night.

The only commentator I've seen take up this theme is Rich Hoffman.

In part it got overlooked in the victory Tuesday night, when Howard's 2-run home run made the Phillies look a tad invincible.

What's the point?

Well, if this really is just a three-day hangover, then Myers should be fine for his next start; but this is a cautionary tale about how to handle him and Moyer in the closing weeks and into the playoffs.

The lesson is NOT that we can't pitch them again on 3-days rest. The lesson IS that if we do so, we better have the bullpen ready early.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I decided to split my posts about the Phillies into a separate blog because they were getting lost amidst my political rants and random other postings.

I know all 3 of my loyal readers will be deeply appreciative of this change.

And if, by some random coincidence, you're not one of my 3 previous readers, welcome to the blog.

Here, you'll find me tracing the Phillies pursuit of a second consecutive division crown, and (I hope) a berth in the World Series (I don't dare mention more than that).