Thursday, March 23, 2006

Phillies @ Braves 3/22/06

Phillies tie the Braves 4-4 at the Disney/ABC/ESPN Corporate Synergy Ballpark in Orlando, Florida. And you always thought there was no tying in baseball...

I jotted some notes down as I watch the archived Phils-Braves game on MLB.TV from earlier today (actually, it'll technically be earlier yesterday by the time I post this monster of an entry). These notes are all still pretty much a big mess and I don’t feel like organizing them in any kind of coherent fashion, so good luck trying to sort through what I wrote. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for this post, but…read it anyway, it’s good for you. My advice: try to ignore the weird stuff I do with tenses (switching all the time and for no apparent reason) throughout this thing. If you try to figure out why I use what tense (my answer: I’m a mediocre writer), you’re head will probably explode and it’ll make a big mess. Enjoy!

First Inning

Chris Roberson – infield single, good speed, sporting the shades today and what looks like a freshly shaved head…does he really use a new helmet for baserunning or did something happen to his batting helmet that we missed? I’ve never seen a player request a new helmet upon reaching first before. Weird.

Roberson just got thrown out as he tried to steal second– great throw by Braves catcher Brian McCann, the play was not even close…Roberson is seen talking to Charlie in dugout afterwards.

Bobby Abreu – strikes out looking at a breaking ball at the shins. Looks like it will be a fun day of umpiring (this isn’t me bitching about a spring training strike call, it is more of a general comment/prediction of the quality of umpiring I expect for today’s game) …

BIG test for Phillies starting pitcher Ryan Franklin today – looks like he’ll be matching up against the “real” Braves lineup – quite possibly the same way they’ll use on Opening Day

“kid has always had a great arm” – ESPN announcer (who I’m sure will be quoted often) Jeff Brantley talking about Ryan Franklin

Play-by-play guy on ESPN (never heard of him before though the voice is somewhat recognizable) talked for a good bit about the Phillies’ new plan of actively seeking sinker balers who induce loads of groundballs…just like Ryan Franklin, right? I hope that’s a joke. A quick check of my new handy Baseball Prospectus 2006 reveals that Franklin’s groundball percentages (percentage of all batted balls that were hit on the ground with the ML average being 45% in 2005) over the past three seasons have been 37%, 38%, and 42%. He is an extreme flyball pitcher – you can use stats to back this up (obviously the best way to tackle something as easily provable as this) or, if you hate stats and want no part of them, just watch a game or two – the man gives up flyballs like no tomorrow. He may have good movement on his sinking pitches, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a groundball pitcher.

Marcus Giles strikes out swinging…later in the inning, Andruw Jones strikes out looking…not bad so far, Franklin

“monster year” expected out of Renteria by the former Phillie Brantley…later, he said he’d have a “blockbuster” year…what does that even mean? I think he is a very reasonable candidate for a bounce back year, but “blockbuster”? What does a “blockbuster” year entail?

Second Inning

Chase Utley hits one back to the mound – Davies fields it out of self-defense and gets the out…Brantley calls Chase a “gametime player” – it is clear now why he gets paid the big bucks for his color work…

Ryan Howard is hitting after Alex Gonzalez today…someone please tell me why?

Third Inning

Brantley talks about the “horrible mechanics” Franklin exhibits on his bunt attempts – eventually, Franklin bunts a ball right back up the middle that should have been a double play ball…terrible bunt by him, something the AL guy will have to work on. Heck, something the whole damn staff should really work on after their pitiful showing when sacrificing last year. I have no evidence to back this claim up come to think of it…no stats anyway, just my anecdotal evidence I gathered while watching the team every night during the season. I wonder if there are any stats that keep tabs of failed sacrifice opportunities – times when the pitcher strikes out with a fouled off bunt on strike three, hits into a force out somewhere and doesn’t advance a runner, or even when they show like they are bunting (and it is an obvious bunting situation) but eventually give up due to their ineptitude. Somebody get on that…

John Schuerholz in the booth in the bottom of the third – talking baseball and plugging his new book (which I’m extremely intrigued by for the record)…some nuggets from the Schuerholz conversation:

  • One of the most interesting things to be leaked out of the book so far is the story about a potential Barry Bonds to Atlanta deal back in 1992. I had read about this old story a while ago, but I didn’t remember the part about Jim Leyland being the one who specifically pulled the plug on the trade.
  • Very telling that as Schuerholz is rambling on about his book, a 53rd round pick like Marcus Giles comes to the plate for the Braves. I hate the Braves, but they are good at what they do.
  • Schuerholz repeats his manta about what constitutes a truly good trade – both teams must think they’ve won the deal long after the trade has been made; good trades must benefit both teams. If you go around ripping people off all the time, after a while nobody will want to deal with you.
  • He says the book should have been titled the Schuerholz-Cox Code (play on The Da Vinci Code) …cute.
  • He brought up the Andy Marte deal to get Renteria…it’s been a few months now and I still don’t get that move. How has Marte been moved twice this offseason? It boggles my mind…
  • They spent a good long time talking about Tom Glavine being pissed off about certain details in the book…I don’t know enough about the situation to place blame, but…I’ll do it anyway (it’s more fun that way). Glavine has a reputation for being very thinned skin, so I think we can chalk this up to an overreaction on his part. Just my uneducated guess.

Brantley informs the viewing public that Kyle Davies needs to “kick it up a notch” – I say all these things like I hate Jeff Brantley and I feel bad it comes across that way. I really don’t dislike the guy at all. In fact, I think he is actually a halfway decent commentator and is one of the better ex-jocks ESPN has hired in the past decade. He isn’t great by any means and I am glad he doesn’t do all 162 of my favorite teams games, but when stacked up against the rest of the color commentating world, he isn’t all that bad. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest, now I can go back to making fun of him.

Giles appears to have struck out on a 2-2 pitch except Franklin didn’t get the call. Giles later walked, but was picked off at first by 5 feet. I have no idea what he was thinking there. Guess that’s why he fell to the 53rd round…kidding, of course.

Ryan Franklin…I really want to be wrong about you, so please be kind and keep this solid game up. Giving up all of these flyballs will come back to get him later on though, mark my words. A groundball is more likely to be an out than a flyball – that’s a fact kids, I have a 550 page book on my desk to prove it (also a joke – the book being the be-all, tell-all part that “proves” my points for me anyway. Not the page amount of Prospectus or the fact about which batted balls are mostly likely to be out. That’s all true). The increased strikeout Franklin has shown is very encouraging though.

Fourth Inning

Chris Roberson physical resembles Endy Chavez. Agree? Disagree? One thing I do know is that, much like our old friend Endy, Roberson can really run. He is fun to watch once he makes contact.

Great play by Francoeur on a ball hit by Utley – diving grab of a low, sinking liner in rightfield. I’m confident Abreu would have got to that ball as well…he is a Gold Glove winner after all…okay, fine, he would have no shot getting to that ball, but I still love the guy.

Too many flyballs for Franklin…so far this inning there have been 2 flyball outs to Roberson in left…and now a homerun by Andruw Jones…the inning ends with another flyball out to left. I’m not happy.

Fifth Inning

Ryan Howard killed a ball that gets behind Jones in centerfield. He took a really, really wide turn and looked intent on heading to third for the triple before he wised up and headed back to the bag at second. He is no Chris Roberson on the bathpaths, but he can really scoot for a big fella. (EDIT: great quote by Charlie Manuel after the game about this play - "I want him to think that [he can stretch doubles into triples], but I don't want him to go."

The idea of Pete Incaviglia (I mean Sal Fasano) as Jon Lieber’s personal catcher is really starting to grow on me. More time for the backup catcher just makes Mike Lieberthal more effective on the days he does play. Fasano needs to do at least a competent job to make this plan work – so far this spring, he has done just that.

Jeff Francoeur is a very, very strong young man – he muscled a homer in the bottom of the inning off of an awkward swing. He may be a bit overrated by the baseball traditionalists (and conversely somewhat underrated by those who are statistically oriented), but the kid is still a player.

Brian McCann, another quality youngster, follows with a single – looks similar to… (EDIT: looking back at my notes, I realized I never finished this thought. Now, of course, I’ve forgotten to whom I was going to compare young McCann’s looks. I see a little Drew Henson, but I don’t think that is what I was thinking earlier. This will drive me crazy until I remember)

Matt Diaz – is it really prounced “Die-azz” with the emphasis on the “Die”? Funky. Anyway, Tomas Perez just bobbled a Die-azz grounder, but still kept his cool and threw him out in time. Why is this notable? Perez knew he had time to get Diaz because of the confidence he has in his arm. The one plus, plus tool our old buddy Tomas possesses is a great arm. It really is one of the better infield arms I can think of around the bigs. Again, somewhat strange, but true (true to me anyway).

Sixth Inning

Beautiful push bunt by Roberson – 3 at bats, 3 opportunities to show off his plus speed (infield hit, groundout when he nearly beat the throw, and now the bunt single)

Todd Pratt sighting number one this season – I hate seeing him in a Braves uniform, it just upsets me. Not for any kind of Pratt-love (some days I loved him, others I hated him – his public personality that is), but just seeing any player you once rooted for in the rivals ugly colors is upsetting.

Alex Gonzalez with an RBI single to get the Phils on the board

Ryan Howard 3-run homer – he killed this ball, well worth a replay or 20 if you want to look up the highlights online

Long at bat for Tomas Perez – ends in foul pop to catcher. Good battle for Tomas, but it gets him nowhere. Except maybe a one-way ticket to Florida that is.

Sal Fasano strikes out on 3 pitches. Just like Inky used to do…

Jake Blalock is now out in left – hey did you know he is Hank’s little bro? Thanks ESPN – factoids like that prove that you truly are the “world wide leader in sports!”

Nice play by Geary on a low liner right back to him – good start for him in the inning.

Andruw Jones really has been around forever and he is only 29 for this upcoming season (birthday in April). That’s crazy. He also has 301 homeruns too…not bad. Great job by Geary setting Jones up today though. Very nice piece of pitching by Geoffy boy.

Ruben Amaro Jr joins the fellas in the booth – he comes across as being very well spoken. No surprise coming from the Stanford graduate. When he enters the booth, he greets Brantley by calling him by his old nickname “Cowboy.” Touching moment. Here is what I gathered from Amaro's interview:

  • Roberson is complimented by Amaro – Ruben goes on to mention that the debate on Roberson comes down to the age old debate as to whether it is more beneficial for a younger player to play everyday in AAA or to get big league experience even if it is in a bench role
  • Amaro repeats the mantra of Schuerholz – the whole point behind a trade is for both teams to benefit.
  • He also mentions that the Phils have moved the outfield fences both back and up – he says that the organization has been told that this change could knock down 15 to 20 homers per season. Old news, but still worth a mention.
  • He talked about losing Billy Wagner to the Mets – called it a “double whammy”
  • “Cowboy” asked Amaro a question about the Phils outfield but first talked about the quality defense of the team’s outfielders. He actually mentioned the outfield range as a strength of the team. Rowand has range…does Pat Burrell or Gold Glover Bobby Abreu? I’m far less sure. Amaro says that Abreu plays a “quality rightfield” and that Burrell is “one of the best throwers” in the league. Very accurate statement about Burrell – he isn’t a good fielder, but the man can throw. Nice way of sidestepping the question by Amaro. Clearly he is putting that degree of his to good use.
  • “I’ll take the line he had today” – Amaro quote about Ryan Franklin’s day. His line wasn’t bad, but the flyball/groundball ratio was. Keep an eye on this.
  • Amaro says that he believes the Phillies do try to model themselves in some ways after the Atlanta Braves. Also mentions the player developmental side of the game and the influence the Pope Paul Owens had on the franchise. Any mention of the Pope is okay by me.
  • I love the importance of spring games…Ryan Howard’s 3-run homer off of Jorge Sosa is merely an afterthought as Ruben Amaro barely takes a breath to mention that a homerun was hit. Amaro just kept on answering a question asked by the announcers and they didn’t bother to interrupt him. Spring training is so intense.
  • Howard and Utley both stepping up down the stretch last year – Amaro mentons these two players specifically. High praise and very true.
  • The play-by-play guy asked Amaro something along the lines of “how do you stop the Braves”? Amaro’s answer was a good one: “Realignment.” Well done, Rube.
  • Amaro kind of makes the old David Ortiz comparison to Ryan Howard. I’ll take it.

Seventh Inning

I (and anybody watching on the tube/computer) missed Blalock’s first at bat of the game– understandable because it is spring training and all, but I don’t have to like it. He wound up driving the ball to deep center for a long flyball out.

Yoel Hernandez throwing to number 67 Chris Coste (wearing the Todd Pratt model hockey mask – the mask actually came in handy when Tony Pena knocked him in the coconut on his backswing). The first batter of the inning is Todd Pratt. Pratt walked.

Test for Hernandez upcoming – 2 on, no out…and he uncorks a wild pitch. Brantley calls Coste a “young catcher” – news to me. Brantley places the blame on the wild pitch squarely on Coste. I agree with “Cowboy” on this one – Coste tried to scoop the ball with his mitt (not quite a backhanded stab, but his glove was turned awkwardly to grab it) when he really should have thrown his full body in front of the ball to knock it down. I think the ball actually wound up hitting his cleat and that is what sent it flying off away from him.

The announcers both agree that they’ve heard that the Phillies really like Coste’s bat, but are at a loss as to where they can play him. They need to find a place for Coste to play? Oh you wacky national announcers – it must be hard pretending to be experts about everything.

Two Sosas at the ballpark today – Jorge is pitching for the Braves and Juan is in the dugout for the Phils. When I was looking up Juan the other day I noticed something I thought was odd – there have only been 5 Sosas in big league history. Jorge, Juan, Sammy, Elias, and Jose. I would have thought there has been a ton. Well, two were at the park on Wednesday making it a rare and special occasion indeed.

Braves tie it up…Hernandez just can not walk the pitcher under any circumstance, not even if he is a former outfielder like Jorge Sosa is.

Bobby Abreu interview – he said although he loved the event, he would consider changing the timing of the World Baseball Classic. He said players weren’t ready to play and that the event should be either in mid-season (it may be more feasible than you think) or shortly after the conclusion of the World Series.

Trade rumors – Abreu was “alright” when he read about the rumors and said that “no matter what, he just plays the game”. He said it and I really, really believed him.

Abreu on the Braves - “14 years and they still dominate”

Eight Inning

Roger McDowell – call it a hunch, but I really think McDowell will work out great as a big league pitching coach. I think he has the knowledge and temperament for the position and I think he should get bonus points around the league for being a guy the Braves actively sought out to fill the position. Knowing the Braves wanted him tells me a lot.

Tom Gordon – I’m nervous about him. His injury history, his peripherals taking a hit last year, his velocity being down…all the nervousness that came with his initial signing just hit me as I saw him on the mound again.

John Sickels did a prospect retrospective about Gordon – very cool stuff here

Gordon struck out James Jurries on a check swing with a cartoon curve

Notice that Brantley, who I have nothing against, honestly, laughs at more of his own jokes than anybody I’ve ever heard.

Gordon jammed Pete Orr on a dribbler right back to him

Pratt hits a slow roller to Sandoval at second – 1-2-3 inning. Good outing for Gordon.

Ninth Inning

Ryan Howard versus a lefthander - O’Connor is the pitcher

  • 1st pitch: breaking ball called strike 78 MPH
  • 2nd pitch: swing at a miss on a fastball
  • 3rd pitch: fastball low and in
  • 4th pitch: big slow breaking ball fouled off
  • 5th pitch: breaking ball inside fouled off to the left – good catch by a "lady with a glove" who apparently dove over her friend to get to the ball
  • 6th pitch: fastball missing low and away
  • 7th pitch: breaking ball in the dirt
  • 8th pitch: Howard jams his bat on a fastball up and in…seemed like a good pitch to hit…groundout to second base

Tomas Perez - I forgot all about him playing in the WBC – I’m not knocking him by saying this, but I honestly did not notice he was gone. He grounds out to short for the second out…

Danny Sandoval – robbed of a hit on a nice play by Tony Perez Jr. at shortstop

Matt Squires now pitching for the Phillies against David Kelton – Kelton flies out to centerfield. Squires is an organizational player - 27 years old, strictly a reliever, I have no idea what his splits are, but it seems like his only hope of ever reaching the bigs would be as a LOOGY. Kelton intrigues me for some reason and he honestly always has. He was at one time a highly touted prospect in the Cubs organization (played in the 2003 Futures Game at the All-Star break) as a third base prospect, but never matured into the hitter many thought he could be. He was moved off of third in order to jumpstart his bat, but didn't respond and now finds himself in baseball's no-man's land. He is still just 26 and is capable of playing 1B, the corner outfield spots, and even third in a desperate situation. Plus he is coming off a decent year in AAA with the Cubbies - .283/.329/.420. That's nothing to get excited about at all, but his versatility, relative youth, and the fact he was once highly thought of by scouts all lead me to believe that there are teams around the league that could do a lot worse than David Kelton as the last guy off their bench. Think of him as a younger Chris Coste who can't catch if you must.

Ryan Howard interview – he says the biggest plus of having the first base job all to himself this spring is not having to answer questions about the first base job competition. The word “relax’ or some variation thereof was used more than once by Howard in the short interview.

They just replayed Howard’s homer – I think it is now official: Howard’s at bats are events. I would stop doing whatever it is I was busy with to watch this guy hit. Big things are expected whenever he steps to the plate. It is a very similar feeling to Jim Thome cerca 2003/2004. I’d also argue it is similar to some of the stretches Scott Rolen had as a Phillie – he’d come to the plate and you knew something exciting would happen. Those may be the only three Phillies over the past ten years who have had that kind of impact on a game from a fan’s perspective that I can think of.

Braves top hitting prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia pinch hitting – flies out to take this game to extra innings

Tenth Inning

Brantley is being awfully hard on Victorino – says he’ll never make it if he keeps being so pull happy and that he absolutely needs to utilize his speed by hitting the other way more (when hitting lefty that is)

Chris Roberson with a three hit day after he goes the other way with a single to left – he shows off that speed yet again with a stolen base. He got a really great jump.

Chris Coste with a chance to be a hero…just noticed he goes without batting gloves at the plate, I love that…he won’t be the hero today though…oh well, I still love the batting gloveless approach

Braves are held off the board in the 10th…this game ends in a tie – better than a loss, right?


Blogger Adam said...

Good analysis. I knew they were playing each other but couldn't watch the game via work.

The Phils have had a really good Spring Training. I wouldn't be suprised if they came out of the gate starting strong.

3:22 PM  

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