Friday, September 29, 2006

Phillies @ Nationals

I wanted to get this up as soon as I could because I figured plenty of people either missed last night’s game entirely or started out with it but were unable to make it all the way through. My apologies for the poor formatting, grammar, and spelling. So, inn case you missed it, here is a fairly detailed run-down of the Phils-Nats game last night:

WARNING: If constant changes in tense stress you out, don’t go any further than this. I go back and forth in tense all the time here, not simply because I’m an idiot who doesn’t know how to write (though I kind of am), but because this game didn’t start until after 11:30 PM…

FIRST: Jimmy Rollins hits a bullet to centerfield on a 2-0 pitch to start the game…unfortunately he hits it right at somebody for out number one. Shane Victorino with a 10 pitch at bat as the second hitter of the game…that’s a beautiful thing right there. His at bat ends with a fly ball to center. Chase Utley beats out an infield single to give Ryan Howard an at bat with a man out…Utley then manages to steal second on a 2-2 pitch that was way up and in to Howard. Ryan Howard with a tough 7-pitch at bat of his own, eventually drawing a walk to put two men on with two men out. The pressure has got to be on Jeff Conine to come through with men on base after last night’s 0-7…unfortunately Conine fails to get the job done as he grounds into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

On the bright side, the Phillies did manage to squeeze 26 pitches out of Nationals starter Mike O’Connor…getting to their bullpen early is nothing but a good thing.

Zimmerman deserves to be the Rookie of the Year because of his RBI totals – Bob Carpenter

Zimmerman won the award before September even began – Mike Paciorek

SECOND: Pat Burrell hits a 3-2 fastball on the inner half of the plate 400 plus feet to dead center…Nook Logan makes a great play to time his leap and rob Burrell of a possible homerun. The Nats announcers get really worked up over the 2-2 pitch that was called a ball…it was inside, but these announcers are so limited mentally and are such extreme homers, that there really is no point in arguing with them. Chris Coste follows with a 1-1 flyball out to Logan…2 quick outs. Abe Nunez ends the inning with a shallow pop to rightfield on another 1-1 pitch. 12 pitch inning for O’Connor.

Statistics can really be fun…and a basic knowledge of stats and how they work can really help you avoid situations where you sound like an idiot. The Nats announcers believe that Brian Schneider has been “red hot” of late…they go on to say he was hitting just .231 at the all-star break, and .290 since…his batting average heading into tonight was at .257…his career average was at .256 coming into this year…does anybody else see how this player hitting .230 in one half and .290 in one half really isn’t doing anything all that strange? They do call it a batting average for a reason…

Two out trouble for Jon Lieber in both the first and second inning. In the first inning, it was a two out double for Felipe Lopez that didn’t prove costly. In the second inning, it was a two out homer by Ryan Church. Still a good start for Lieber through two innings…

THIRD: Two quick outs for the Phils in the third (Lieber struck out, Rollins popped out), but Shane Victorino keeps it from being a 1-2-3 inning with a beautiful push bunt down the first base line. “Now I know what you are thinking: Why are you bunting with two outs and nobody on base? You’re supposed to hit a double, aren’t you?” – Mike Paciorek…I have no idea what that means. Victorino ends the inning by getting thrown out by a mile trying to steal second base. At least Utley will get a chance to lead off the fourth…(quick game so far by the way – this is the perfect night for a speedy Jon Lieber start…and I must admit that Mike O’Connor looks to be a pretty quick worker as well).

“Utley loves the ball out over the plate” – yes, Mike Paciorek actually says this exact line during pretty much every Utley at bat. It’s kind of like Chris Wheeler describing ever homerun ever hit as occurring on a pitch located “middle-in.”

“Mike O’Connor will sneak a hit on you every now and then” – Bob Carpenter…well, Bob, I hate to be the one to tell you this but Mike O’Connor is hitting .056 on the year. So while what you said is technically true, it is still intellectually dishonest and just plain nonsense. Lieber breezed right through the third inning: strike out of O’Connor on 5 pitches, ground out of Bernie Castro on 1 pitch, and fly out of Logan on 2 pitches. Lieber has only 35 pitches through 3 innings…

FOURTH: Utley works the count full, but gets himself out on an inside fastball that jammed him badly…3-U for the out. Ryan Howard struck out on a low curveball (pretty pitch) after an 8-pitch at bat. Jeff Conine…he kind of stinks right now. Conine grounds out on a great play by Ryan Zimmerman (the sure-fire ROY!!!) to end the inning.

Lieber really is pitching a gem through four innings: 4 IP 2 H 1 ER 0 BB 2 K (3/7 GO/AO)

FIFTH: Pat Burrell leads off the fifth with a ball that looked gone off the bat. He just missed hitter a homer to left…this after just missing a homer to center in his first at bat. This ball was just off the end of his bat and it died in the glove of George Lombard at the warning track. The announcers note that both balls would have been homers at Citizens Bank Park. I agree. Coste follows with a strikeout, but Nunez follows with a walk to turn the lineup over. The Nats announcers freak out about the call on ball four…based on what I know about these two dopes, they will talk about this call for at least 3 to 4 more innings. Turns out Nunez did more than simply turn the lineup over as Lieber hits a 1-1 pitch into left field. Mike O’Connor looks just about done to me – he is consistently bouncing balls up to the plate when he misses. We’ll see. How about that - pretty ugly error by Ryan Zimmerman results in a tied ball game…Rollins hit the ball hard, but it was a ball that absolutely should have been fielded by Zimmerman. Victorino pops up to Vidro at first to end the inning…Lieber needs to keep it up now that the game is tied.

GIGANTIC play by Pat Burrell and Chris Coste in the fifth inning…Burrell nailed Ryan Church at home with a perfect throw from left field…the ball was hit hard, but there was no way Church should have been out on a play where he is running on contact from second base…phenomenal throw by Burrell and nice catch and tag by Coste…HUGE play…only Vlad Guerrero and Carlos Beltran have more outfield assists than Pat Burrell over the past six years…

SIXTH: Chase Utley strikes out on the seventh pitch of the at bat…it was on a low curveball from Billy Traber not unlike the one Mike O’Connor threw to Howard to strike him out earlier. Howard strikes out on a low and away fastball on a 2-2 pitch…all of these called third strikes (there have been five now) have been on very close pitches. But they have been great pitchers pitches, so I really have no problem seeing them called strikes. Conine finishes the inning off by grounding out to third.

“Aaron Rowand is hurt, which could be the most telling of all.” – Bob Carpenter clearly doesn’t know how to use words to make coherent sentences…I’m pretty sure that’s not any kind of accepted usage of the word “telling”…(quote was not taken out of context by the way, he said it totally randomly).

Bases loaded with nobody out in the sixth…Jose Vidro starts it out with a liner out to second base, one down. Pitching change for the Phillies as Aaron Fultz comes into the game…I think it’s such a critical spot in the game that I’d go with Matt Smith, but I have a pretty good feeling about Fultz as well (call it a hunch). “This at bat here could decide whether the Phillies go to the playoffs” – big statement by Bob Carpenter, but I can’t say I disagree. Sadly, Brian Schneider smacks a 1-2 pitch into right field for a 2-run single. 3-1 game…Fultz manages to get out of the inning with no further damage (foul pop for an out on a very good catch by Ryan Howard and a strikeout)…hard to blame Fultz too much for the inning although he really needed to bury Schneider once he got ahead of him in the count…all kinds of pressure now on the shoulders of the Phillies hitters.

SEVENTH: Another very good at bat for Pat Burrell to lead off an inning…he hits a seeing eye single up the middle for a base hit on the seventh pitch of the at bat. 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Chris Coste. Nunez grounds out 3-1 to end the inning.

EIGHTH: “Randall Simon is due up first, he’s swinging a really hot bat.” “And Randall Simon does it again.” “He can hit, the ball really just jumps off his bat.” “He gives you a good at bat every time he gets up there.” I’m just happy Simon led off the eighth with a key pinch hit single to left. Rollins then hits the ball very hard, but right at the second baseman. Double play as Joe Thurston is caught too far off the bag at first. Back to back innings with a double play for the Phillies…this may have been the crushing blow. Victorino ends the inning with a groundball. Utley, Howard, and Conine are the men now responsible for saving the Phillies season in the ninth.

NINTH: Utley goes down on the first pitch…fly ball to right field. Howard hits a screamer to right field on a 3-2 fastball, but Ryan Church runs it down at the warning track. Apparently, the “overspin on the ball did him in.” I’m not sure what “overspin” is, but I’ll take Paciorek’s word for it (it’s late). Ground ball to third, Conine is retired.

I could use this space to rant about how stupid it is the Nationals bat Ryan Church seventh or eighth while they hit Bernie Castro and Nook Logan one and two, but it’s late and I’m tired. This is unfortunate because I also had a pretty good rant saved up with regards to Ryan Zimmerman’s ROY candidacy. He is a great young player, but…come on. Hanley Ramirez has the highest VORP for a rookie position player since some guy named Pujols five years ago. Anyway…

Now that this game is over is it finally fair to ask if the season is over as well? The Phillies are not mathematically dead, but they’ll need some pretty crazy breaks over the next three days if they are going to get into the postseason. All the Phils can do now is sweep the Marlins down in Florida and hope that luck is on their side.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Phillies @ Nationals - 4 More Wins to Go

Phillies @ Nationals – it’s hard not to believe that this wasn’t the most exciting game of the year for both clubs involved. Baseball is fun.

Any and all quotes below are courtesty of the MASN Nationals announcers...two guys that I can say that I hate from the bottom of my heart:

  • “They should lead the league in runs scored playing in that ballpark…even though they don’t win there.” – Dumb, dumb, dumb.
  • “Cole Hamels might even become the next Steve Carlton” – Tom Paciorek…this isn’t here so much for being ridiculous but rather to give another example of the crazy praise Cole Hamels has gotten in his rookie year. No pressure, kid.
  • The announcers are obsessed with Ryan Zimmerman…there is no other way to explain it. He is a fantastic young ballplayer and a guy that I would kill to have on the Phils, but it really isn’t necessary for the announcing crew to give detailed play-by-play of Zim’s every single move on the field.
  • The announcers did inform me that Zimmerman does have 11 bunt base hits this year…see, now that’s something I did not know. 11 bunt hits for a big guy like Zimmerman is a pretty cool thing…even cooler when the announcers said that he was 11 for 11 when attempting to bunt for a hit (hard to believe that stat is true, but I have no reason to doubt them…right?)
  • For the second time this September, second baseman Chase Utley let go a completely wild throw on a potential inning ending double play ball…both times he’s done it, it has not only extended the inning, but it also allowed a runner to score…18 errors on the year for Utley…fortunately for all involved I can stomach the occasional Utley defensive gaffe so long as he is hitting a whole bunch of homers…the Phillies second baseman now has 32 on the season…32 homers for a second baseman…that’s special
  • “I’ll catch the end of that…at the…sports pub…” – Tom Paciorek commenting on the Houston-Pittsburgh game after hearing the game was tied and in extra innings…this quote doesn’t seem that weird in writing, but the way he said it was sounded very forced and even a little creepy…maybe it’s me though
  • “If you closed your eyes, you might have thought you were in Philadelphia. Now that’s an insult [to Cards fans]…they are really loyal in St. Louis, what a shock for them to boo.” – Tom Paciorek describing the recent bouts of booing exhibited by Cardinals fans…
  • The announcers were totally fixated on a 2-0 pitch from Pedro Astacio to Abraham Nunez that they felt should have been called a strike (I think it was in the fourth inning…maybe the fifth)…guess this one pitch was responsible for the Phillies scoring a run three batters later, the huge momentum swing in the game, and global warming….
  • Should Randall Simon really be the first option off the bench for this team? I don’t hate Simon as an addition to the bench, but I feel the same way about him as I do Jeff Conine. Conine is a great bat off the bench who is ideally suited to hit tough lefties, but badly miscast in any kind of role where he is taking at bats away from better players. Simon is a nice bat off the bench, but should not be the top option for a team that hopes to win a championship.
  • I commented on liking the future of Ryan Madson the other day and now it’s time for him to either make me look smart or dumb (it’s just one at bat so it’s not that big in the grand scheme of things, but this is a fun exercise anyway):
  • Madson v. Soriano, man on second, two outs
    First ball fastball (93 MPH) lined to Shane Victorino in center…inning over
    Well, that was a wee bit anticlimactic…can’t complain with the results though…
  • Unfortunate call to lead off the eighth inning…Ryan Zimmerman was out at first on a nice play by Ryan Howard. Jimmy Rollins’ throw to first was high, but Howard jumped up and got it…the umpire ruled Howard didn’t come back down in time to get Zimmerman and, while it was a very close play, he did. Oh well.
  • Brian Schneider is referred to by the Nats announcers only as “Schneider-Man” (as noted in the comments section yesterday)…again, I just don’t get this
  • The Nationals have got to be one of the single worst run franchises in professional sports – they are so backwards in their thinking, it makes me sad for the fans in Washington. The Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez trade with Cincinnati was a thing of beauty – best trade by any team in baseball this season for my money. Unfortunately, that excellent trade was quite possibly the only bright spot for the Nationals front office during the 2006 season. The Nats could field a lineup that looks like this: Brian Schneider, Nick Johnson, Jose Vidro, Felipe Lopez, and Ryan Zimmerman with Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Church, Austin Kearns, and Jose Guillen getting time in the outfield. That’s a whole bunch of quality players. Too bad they’ll find a way to screw it up (see this newfound obsession with Nook Logan as the first step to their plan of deconstruction).
  • Biggest situation of Matt Smith’s career – men on second and third, two outs, Ryan Church the batter – fly ball to Michael Bourn in right field on a 2-2 breaking ball…job very well done, Matt Smith
  • A Chris Booker sighting! Since I’m probably his number one fan (okay, only fan), I have to admit that it was kind of nice to see him pitch again this year. I was really rooting for him to make the Phillies out of spring training (loved the fastball, loved the slider, loved his minor league K totals), but can understand why the situation didn’t work out for either side (he pitched horribly in limited time this spring, got himself injured early on, and has a deserved reputation of iffy control). The only Phillie to ever face Booker prior to last night’s game was Jeff Conine, the hitter who he came in to face yesterday. Unbelivably enough, I was actually in Baltimore the day Jeff Conine had that at bat against Booker (Conine hit a double and Booker got rocked). Small world, huh?
  • Very interesting story from the ninth inning: Austin Kearns made his first plate appearance since walking off the field in tears last after his collision with Nick Johnson last Saturday. Apparently Kearns is in bad shape physically still and can not aggressively swing the bat. And yet there he was hitting for the pitcher in the ninth inning of a 5-5 game…thankfully, Tom Gordon didn’t issue his fourth walk of the inning to him and instead got him to fly out to Shane Victorino
  • Great at bat for Chris Coste leading off the tenth inning (he walked)…getting that leadoff man on base is a beautiful sight…although it didn’t amount to anything in the end
  • Buck Martinez (ESPN) on Pat Gillick: “Pat Gillick was the last GM to win big in Toronto, Baltimore, and Seattle – that tells you something.” Well, it does and it doesn’t. I get what he was trying to say (Gillick is a winner everyone he goes and all that jazz), but I see it more along the lines of Pat Gillick has always left organizations worse off than when he found them. Well, maybe not worse off then when he found them, but he still has a history of leaving teams in really, really bad shape.
  • “He does have the BEST beard though” - Nats announcers on Rick White…I can’t believe a visiting announcing crew just commented on Rick White’s crazy facial hair! How original!
  • The pitcher spot was due up third in the eleventh for the Nationals…they were out of position players on the bench. Leadoff man (Ryan Zimmerman) got on to start the inning, setting up a HUGE at bat for Robert Fick…if he got on, it would have really taken the pressure off whichever pitcher the Nats decided to send out to bat. Fick wound up flying out to left-center…pivotal moment in the game right there.
  • “[Chris Coste has] a lot of little…niches and…glitches that he’s gotta get down [in his swing]” – niches and glitches? Is Tom Paciorek drunk?
  • Chris Coste should bat leadoff…he came through again in the twelfth inning by getting on base to get the inning going (this time with a single to left)...again, it didn’t amount to anything but it was still a strong start to the frame
  • 3 lefties due up in the 12th for the Nats and Charlie Manuel goes with RHP Clay Condrey…LHP Fabio Castro seemed like a more logical choice, but at this point in the game I had no problem with Manuel going with Condrey even if it is for the silly reason of playing a hunch…the move worked pretty well, so I’m glad I didn’t protest it too much…
  • 2-0 changeup to Chase Utley with Shane Victorino on first (he singled on a 0-2 fastball) in the 13th inning…gutsy pitch by Bergmann, who ran the risk of going 3-0 to Utley by not using his fastball to get a strike…it missed, but he followed it up with 2 fastballs on the outside corner…3-2 pitch was a fastball in on the hands that Utley popped up…disappointing end for an at bat that once had a lot of promise
  • Felipe Lopez, Alfonso Soriano, and Ryan Zimmerman (Phillie Killer™) all due up in the thirteenth…Clay Condrey was not impressed…Lopez struck out, Soriano was badly jammed and weakly lined out to Rollins on the first pitch, and Zimmerman flied to short centerfield…baseball is a funny game
  • Chris Coste is amazing…another leadoff hit…this time a double…one of the best parts of Coste getting on each time has been watching Michael Bourn’s bunting practice afterwards…he sacrificed after both the Coste walk and hit earlier in extra innings and later added a bunt single to put men on first and third with nobody out in the fourteenth…
  • As crazy as it sounds, I think Clay Condrey pitched his way on to the 2007 Philadelphia Phillies roster last night…I don’t think this is a bad thing at all…
  • Jeff Conine went 0-7 last night...

What a great game...there is a huge threat of rain for tonight's game so here's hoping that can get it in...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Two Bad Losses...But Still Five More to Play

Astros @ Phillies – last regular season game in Philly ends on a sour note

  • Randy Wolf struck out Luke Scott with a 94 MPH fastball on the outer half in the first inning…this isn’t possible, right? It had to have been a fast gun, that’s the only explanation.
  • The Phils decided to play the infield in with a man on third and one out in the third inning. Wily Taveras came to the plate, hit a hot shot right to Jimmy Rollins at short, Rollins held the runner at third, and got the out at first. Pretty play.
  • was plugged by Phillies announcer Larry Andersen early in the game…it’s always nice to hear that site get some positive publicity when it can. Terrible throw by David Dellucci in the fifth inning…the Astros rookie catcher Humberto Quintero should not be able to score on a shallow pop-up to rightfield, I don’t care if Juan Pierre is out in right…I guess Dellucci’s arm is now on par with Pierre’s and Soriano’s as the worst in the NL…1-0 Astros lead

  • Fifth inning…well, it was an inning with very humble beginnings (back to back K’s for Abe Nunez and Randy Wolf)…but baseball is a funny game and it isn’t unsual to see an inning change with just one at bat. Jimmy Rollins with a hit, Shane Victorino with a hit, Chase Utley with a walk (great patience shown by Utley…it was almost Burrell-esque), and then finally, Ryan Howard with a single up the box…I hate to say it, but it was an MVP-type of big hit…2-1 Phillies
  • The Phillies loyalty to Randy Wolf needs to end and needs to end soon. Why would he hit in the bottom of the fifth, let alone go out and pitch in the sixth? Wolf was completely done after five innings and, as fate would have it, he was also set to bat second in the bottom half of the inning. Any Phillies fan watching the game could tell you that Wolf was done after five…why couldn’t Charlie Manuel and company figure this out?
  • Ryan Madson’s future spurs a whole heck of a lot of debate amongst Phillies fans. I think any talk of Madson getting a shot in the starting rotation again is all but dead…and, contrary to what I said before the season (boy was I wrong), this isn’t a bad thing at all. I don’t think it is a stretch to see Ryan Madson on the mound and consider what kind of pitcher he become once he gets more comfortable pitching out of the bullpen again. I admit his numbers have stunk (both starting and relieving this year), but his 3-pitch arsenal (plus fastball, plus changeup, iffy but usable in moderation curve) is ideally suited to the pen. I’ll be the first to predict a big 2007 out of the bullpen for Ryan Madson.
  • Jimmy Rollins is playing out of his mind right now…his homerun in the sixth looked like it was on a batting practice fastball…it was actually on a telegraphed changeup that must have looked like a beach ball to Rollins…the Phillies have done a heck of a job of making teams pay whenever they give them extra outs in an inning (in this case, the extra out came on that ball Chris Burke missed off the bat of Abe Nunez)
  • 7th inning was excruciating…the less said about it the better. On the bright side, the bottom of the 7th held lots of promise. I thought for sure the Phillies would rally with Utley and Howard due up to begin the inning…I was wrong.
  • Pat Burrell gets a gold star for his at bat against Brad Lidge to open the eighth…it really was an incredible at bat – Burrell took a great swing at a 3-1 inside fastball and then held off on a 3-2 fastball that just barely missed…the walk didn’t wind up helping the Phillies cause in the inning, but it was a good sign nonetheless…

Tough loss, but it’s baseball…with every game comes but one winner and one loser…the Phillies lost this one, but that doesn’t mean the season is over…

Phillies @ Nationals…another Phillies loss

A sampling of the horrible Nationals broadcasting duo (Tom Paciorek and Bob Carpenter) found on MASN:

  • “The Phillies absolutely do not want to play the Nationals right now.”
  • “Chase Utley is the real MVP of the Phillies.”
  • Apparently Shane Victorino became a starter for the Phillies after the Bobby Abreu trade…no mention of the pesky Aaron Rowand injury (don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?)
  • “I Wish I Were A Brett Myers Winner” - this clever ditty was inexplicably one of the "Keys to the Game" featured in the first inning
  • These two guys (Tom Paciorek and Bob Carpenter) just talk…I’m not even sure they watch the game as they talk. They show little to no regard to any of the on-field action, it’s incredible. They think they are hilarious too…maybe I’m missing something.
  • “Placico Polanco is a guy who really knows how to play the game” – not saying it isn’t true, but what does something like that mean exactly?
  • “Nobody that we have seen has gotten more big hits for his team than Ryan Zimmerman”
  • “If Ryan Zimmerman gets 50 doubles, he will have the Rookie of the Year award sewn up.”
  • Tom: “How about Houston actually scoring some runs? Not bad for the worst offense in the world”
    Bob: “Yeah, they are jacked!” - awkward silence followed...I still can't figure out what Bob was talking about...anybody know?
  • “I’d take Soriano way over this guy” - (this guy referring to Burrell)…yeah, what's your point?
  • “Bottom line is scoring runs and you do that by knocking them in” – Bob Carpenter sure knows his baseball...
  • Nats backup outfielder George Lombard is referred to simply as George…why? In what world do fringe major leaguers such as George Lombard deserve first name only status?

As for the game itself:

  • The Chase Utley 3-run homer that wasn’t was a heartbreaker…it made no sense that the umpires could blow it like they did, but they did. The bad call sure wasn't the reason why the Phillies lost the game, but it sure didn't help either. Nothing can be done about it now, so we move on...
  • Great baserunning by Jeff Conine in the third…when in doubt on the bases, any major leaguer would be wise to remember this: always run on Alfonso Soriano. Soriano has got an arm like Dellucci...
  • There are two impressions that any sports announcer needs to be extremely confident in before trying…especially before trying live on television. The Nationals color guy (Tom Paciorek) was apparently unaware of this little rule of thumb. Please, Tom, I beg of you – never, ever, ever try either that Vin Scully or Howard Cosell impersonation ever again. Please.
  • The 7th inning represented the Phillies best crack at getting to the Nationals pen: Victorino, Utley, Howard were the scheduled hitters. Again, I had a good feeling. Again, I was wrong.

Worst loss than the Houston game…but there are worse positions to be in than one back with five to go…right?

I'm very glad Charlie Manuel decided Pat Burrell should be benched in favor of David Dellucci and Jeff Conine tonight. Wouldn't want Burrell's career line of .385/.467/.731 against Nationals starter Pedro Astacio mucking up the lineup (small sample size caveats apply: those numbers are in just 26 at bats)...

The Phillies really need a win.

Monday, September 25, 2006

9/25/06 - The Final Week

Well, that was a pretty good weekend. Tonight the Phillies continue their push to the postseason with a 7:05 game against the Houston Astros. It'll be the last professional baseball game played in Philadelphia until Game 3 of the NLDS (believe it). Randy Wolf goes for the Phils; Chris Sampson goes for Astros.

Tonight is a fascinating night when it comes to scoreboard watching - the Cardinals-Padres game (Jeff Suppan v. Mike Thompson) means a whole heck of a lot for the two teams playing in Philly. The Phils are rooting for the Cards (Phillies are 1.0 game behind San Diego), while the Stros are pulling for the Padres (Houston is 3.5 games behind St. Louis). It ought to be a fun night (especially with the cooperation of a working MLB.TV)...oh man, just seven more games to go. Hopefully next week at this time the Phillies will be preparing for their first postseason trip since 1993 with a long flight out west to battle the Pads in the NLDS...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

10 More Games

Phillies win, Dodgers lose, Padres lose...Phillies are now officially tied for the wild card lead with Los Angeles and sit only one half game behind the NL West leading Padres...tonight Phillies fans everywhere need to become big time fans of both Brandon Webb and Shane Youman...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cubs 1 - Phillies 4

News from last night's impressive 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs...
  • Jamie Moyer scouting report per Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia: fastball at 83-87 MPH…not so sure Jamie throws that hard anymore (or ever)…luckily, he doesn’t have to
  • Apparently today is former Phillies organist Paul Richardson’s birthday…“he could probably play ‘Happy Birthday’ on his organ all by himself” – Larry Andersen…I’m assuming LA meant to say something nice/funny (HK forced a chuckle), but for some reason it came across just kind of sad to me…a retired old man playing “Happy Birthday” on his organ all by his lonesome…obviously not true, but a vivid mental image nonetheless…
  • The last time the Phillies faced Chicago starter Wade Miller (Reading, PA native) was when he was an Astro in May of 2003…Jim Thome hit a liner up the middle that knocked Miller right on out of the game…good times…
  • Shane Victorino needs to take a seat, that busted wrist is making his swing look goofy…I’ll be very interested in finding out the official diagnosis, something I bet we won’t know for sure until after the season is over…
  • Shortstop Jimmy Rollins is now 36 for 40 when attempting to steal a base…the only player in baseball with more steals and less times caught stealing is Ichiro (39 SB, 2 CS)…the only player with more than 30 steals at a better percentage than Rollins is Derek Jeter (32 SB, 3 CS)…
  • The first inning was full of important at bats…or at least important at bats in my eyes…here’s the rundown:
    • Big at bat for Chase Utley…man on second, one out, Ryan Howard waiting on deck…got ahead 2-0, then grounded out sharply to first base…
    • Bigger at bat for David Dellucci…men on first and third, two outs…hit by a 1-1 pitch (87th time a Phillie has gotten plunked this year)…
    • Biggest at bat for Pat Burrell…bases loaded…swing and miss on breaking ball…takes a close breaking ball low…takes a fastball (88 MPH) up and away…fouls away another breaking ball…takes a fastball very high (90 MPH)…3-2 breaking ball freezes him…he was clearly looking for a fastball, which is okay…what’s not okay is just standing there frozen watching a so-so Wade Miller breaking ball go by…that ball absolutely needs to be fouled off, that’s what a good hitter would do…on the plus side, the guy is seeing a ton of pitches and still getting on base at a very good clip (.377 OBP)…
  • Matt Murton hit a homerun for the Cubs tonight…I like Matt Murton, he’ll be a quality big leaguer for a long time…I also like his brother, Luke Murton, who will begin his sophomore season playing for the Georgia Tech baseball team in a couple months…Luke is a giant (listed at 6’4”, 226, but way bigger than that from what I saw of him) and a heck of a young hitter…when I saw him play his freshman year the sound of the aluminum ping when ball hit bat was louder than anybody else’s…keep him in mind when the 2008 draft rolls around, alright?
  • Wade Miller’s delivery is very odd, he throws the ball from a much higher plane than normal (almost from up by his ear)…it looks like he uses his arm and only his arm to get the ball to the plate…in any event, he did a heck of a job in the third inning when he struck out the side (Victorino, Utley, and Howard no less)…Miller’s strong night included six strikeouts through three innings and five in a row at one point (after he struck out David Dellucci to begin the fourth)…stash this performance in mind come winter when the Phillies are looking for an arm or two to round out their staff…
  • Great play by Chase Utley in the fourth inning to save a run on a Matt Murton grounder up the middle…Utley made a full speed, backhanded stab of a 10-hopper that would have scored the runner from second…Ryan Howard also deserves credit for making yet another nice play at first…Wheels commented on Howard’s great hands, but also mentioned how he needs practice refining his footwork…this to me was a very good, very succinct analysis of Howard’s defense…
  • You learn a lot during the course of a Phillies broadcast…the first thing a young Chris Wheeler did whenever he got a new baseball was…you got it, he’d smell it. It’s an odd comment, for sure, but I am in no position to judge…I’ve smelled a few new baseballs in my day…try it, they smell wonderful…or maybe I’m just a freak (and Wheels too!)…
  • Chris Wheeler also alluded to his “army days” at one point…anybody know what this means? I’ve either never heard any army stories out of him before or I have, but have chosen to block them all out…
  • Third baseman Abraham Nunez had himself a great at bat to draw a walk in the fourth inning…the Cubs weren’t pitching to him, he knew it, he wasn’t chasing any of the junk they were giving him, and he turned the lineup over…and then, wouldn’t you know it, Jamie Moyer is walked and the Phillies not only turn the lineup over, they get a chance to score some runs (see why they didn’t below…)
  • Jimmy Rollins with a big at bat in the fourth… this at bat led Scott Graham and Wheeler to discuss the “age-old question” of what to do with the first pitch in an at bat with a pitcher who has had trouble finding the plate? Should the hitter swing at it since the pitcher is so desperate to get one over that he’ll serve up a meatball right over the plate? Or should the hitter take all the way until he sees a strike because the pitcher has been extremely wild of late and figures to keep it up for the foreseeable future? The situation played out pretty well as Rollins was clearly taking the first pitch which just so happened to be a breaking ball on the outer half that was a strike, but a pitch he could have done nothing with (except maybe pop up)…anyway, with the bases loaded and two outs, Jimmy struck out on a 2-2 curveball…the score remained 0-0 after four innings…
  • “I can’t believe I went to bed after eight innings” – Wheels on the Dodgers-Padres game…I almost made the same mistake Wheels, but luckily I’m a night person…
  • “One of the greatest sporting events of all time” – Wheels must have really been upset to have missed the end if he is going out and putting this title on the game last night…
  • Great play by Shane Victorino on a line drive to the gap in left-center – he cut it off before it got to the wall and held Wade Miller to a single in the fifth inning…Victorino covers a lot of ground out in center, he’s a marvel out there…
  • Howard’s single in the fifth was on a hanging curve that he waited on and rocketed into left field for an opposite field hit…
  • Finally some offense - David Dellucci with a beautiful swing on a high fastball to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning was a sight to behold…Wade Miller had been using just his fastball to set up his curve all night long (rarely throwing the heater for strikes), but this particular fastball was left up over the outer edge of the plate and Dellucci smoked it in to left-center for a double. There was no doubt in my mind that Howard would score from first knowing Juan Pierre would be involved in the relay…this didn’t make his earth rattling headfirst “belly whomper” (Wheels) into homeplate any less sweet…
  • Burrell with a nice at bat after the Dellucci RBI…he took a close 3-1 fastball (it was low) from Roberto Novoa to put two men on with two out…good situation for the Phillies to be in…
  • Big at bat for Chris Coste…men on first and second, two outs…he hit a ground ball up the middle off the end of the bat that was spinning like a top…Ronny Cedeno tried to make a play, but it literally spun right off the heel of his glove…everybody safe, error on Cedeno…bases now loaded, still two outs (fifth inning)…
  • Bigger at bat for Abraham Nunez…and he went first ball swinging…Nunez with a little flair to short right-center for a two run single…Abe Nunez looks like Chase Utley and Chase Utley looks like Abe Nunez…well, until Utley heats up anyway (that process may have already begun…)
  • Jamie Moyer runs very well for a 43-year old pitcher…this is something I noticed a few starts earlier, but at the time thought nothing of it…tonight it was more of a factor as he almost beat out an infield hit to knock in a run…he’s a very smooth fielder too, fantastic all-around athlete…
  • Sheldon Brown and Kurt Busch took batting practice with the team before the game…I don’t care about NASCAR, but I think Sheldon ought to spend less time taking BP and more time lobbying his coaching staff to add another defensive back to the fold…just a hunch, but I think a Troy Vincent return is on the horizon…
  • I just can’t stop writing about Abe Nunez…the guy made a super defensive play on a Ryan Theriot grounder to third…Nunez was playing in on the grass and still had the reaction time to make a dive to his left, pop up, and get the runner…well done, Abe…
  • Will Ohman vs. Ryan Howard…advantage, Ohman…six pitches in this matchup over the past two nights…six low and away sliders…six swings and misses…thankfully the Phillies only see the Cubbies one more time this year, no more Ohman after that…
  • The Paul Owens Award winners (top minor league hitter and pitcher) are both in the house tonight…Carlos Carrasco and Michael Bourn received their awards pre-game…that Mike Bourn can really run…I’m happy to have seen the first stolen base of his career (seventh inning)…
  • Chris Coste with a blast in the bottom of the seventh, run down by Juan Pierre 400+ feet from home…Coste is beginning to look a little worn down to me, but he had a nice night at the plate so maybe I’m wrong…or maybe he is getting a second wind…
  • David Aardsma looked really good tonight, I didn’t realize he threw so hard (he hit 97 MPH on the gun at least once)…
  • Nice bit of insurance came in the bottom of the eighth when Jimmy Rollins jacked his 22ndth (his 38th of the year) was a very welcomed sight…it was a lined shot to dead center field that just missed sneaking over the wall for a homer…when Utley is going good, he shows the ability to hit the ball right back up the box with consistency…hopefully this is a sign of good to come… homerun of the season…Utley’s 2-out double in the 8
  • Big at bat for Chris Roberson in the eighth…men on first and second, two outs…Phillies up 4-1…Scott Eyre on the mound…foul pop out to Aramis Ramirez…more insurance would have been nice, but what can you do?
  • Insurance wasn’t needed as Tom Gordon came on in the ninth to shut the door on the Cubs…Geoff Geary pitched well in the eighth, Aaron Fultz made an nondescript cameo (one batter faced, one hit allowed), and, the player of the game, Jamie Moyer pitched 7 sterling innings to get the win…
  • One last note…the newest hot little rumor floating around Citizens Bank Park is news concerning Cubs potential free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez…there have been rumblings in recent days that the Phillies are the far and away frontrunners for his services IF he decides to opt out of his current deal with the Cubs…even if he didn’t, there would still be the chance the Phils and Cubs could work out a trade (with Ramirez getting a rewritten contract as part of the deal)…anyway…there is still the not so small matter of whether Ramirez is actually willing to leave Chicago…it is his choice after all…Will Carroll from Baseball Prospectus (and resident Cubs expert) was asked this question in a recent chat:

Aunt Jemima (Atlanta): If Aramis Ramirez leaves the Cubs as a free agent, any chance the Cubs would be smart enough to pick up Edwin Encarnacion, a player that the Reds seem to unappreciate? Which guy would they be better off with?

Will Carroll: I don't think Ramirez will leave. In fact, I think the deal's essentially done to keep him. Encarnacion? Sure, Krivsky traded Lopez and Kearns but that doesn't mean that every GM can pillage his roster, does it?

Much respect for Aunt Jemima getting a question across in the chat, not an easy task for a fictional character…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cubs 11 - Phillies 6

Losing 11-6 to the Cubs is tough, but it is by no means the end. The Phillies will likely find themselves one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the wild card race (the Padres are leading the Dodgers by four runs in the ninth inning as I type this...although back to back homers by Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew make it a 2-run game in the bottom of the ninth...we'll see what happens...EDIT: Wow...back to back to back to back homeruns for the Dodgers tie the game at 9 in the ninth...Marlon Anderson has five hits including 2 homers and a with 12 games left to play. Brett Myers and Cole Hamels are currently scheduled to start 5 of the remaining 12 for the Phillies, so there is reason for optimism. I'd rather get my hopes up and get crushed again than temper my enthusiasm and be "pleasantly surprised" if they do sneak into the playoffs. Believing is better than not believing, right? Game notes from the 11-6 loss to the Cubbies:

LAST EDIT: Dodgers win 11-10 in what may have been the absolute greatest 9th and 10th innings I've ever seen...back to back to back to back homers in the bottom of the ninth tied it up for the Dodgers (including two homers on two pitchers after Trevor Hoffman came in), the Padres scored to make it 10-9 in the top of the tenth, and then, finally, Nomar Garciaparra hit a 2-run homer to win it in the bottom of the tenth (after a Kenny Lofton walk, of course). Was it worth staying up until 2 o'clock in the morning for? You'd better believe it. Anyway, as far as I can tell the Phillies are now 1.5 games behind the Padres for the last NL playoff spot...
  • The only day of the week the Cubs have a winning record this year is on Monday. The Cubs were 10-8 heading into last night’s game…and are now obviously 11-8
  • “The more you see of that young man in centerfield, the more you marvel” – Harry Kalas on Shane Victorino…Larry Andersen then went on to compare Victorino to a young Andruw Jones (defensively)…
  • On a night that Juan Pierre hits a homer…well, it’s just not your night…
  • 4th Inning: Bases loaded with one out, Jose Hernandez at the plate, huge spot in the game (I promise I typed all that out before Hernandez went on to hit the gigantic grand slam that made the game close again)…Hernandez has had some of the worst at bats of any Phillie this season, but he really came through with a phenomenal AB in a big spot
  • I didn’t get a chance to actually watch the Phillies much this weekend (and when I did watch it was on mute while the Eagles were on), so I feel a bit out of the loop when it comes to the newest Phillies tradition: The Rick White congratulatory phone call. I saw him on the bullpen phone with Ryan Howard after the big man’s homer on Sunday…and here he was again on the phone with Jose Hernandez after the slam last night.
  • “Yesterday this city was on the business end of a comeback (the aforementioned Eagles game), today they try to put together one of their own (close but no cigar, Scott)” – Scott Graham
  • 4th Inning: Great AB by Rollins after the Cubs brought in Will Ohman after the slam (Rollins was patient and didn’t chase any bad balls against a reliever who just got into the game – a rare and beautiful sight). Chase Utley walked later in the inning on four pitches, bringing up Howard with 2 on, 2 out – another HUGE at bat – but Howard went down swinging after 3 straight swing and a misses on low and away breaking balls…this failed opportunity would hurt…
  • Abe Nunez with another nice night at the plate (he hit the ball hard and had some very good at bats) and in the field (he was excellent all night long)…plus on his double in the eighth inning, we had the joy of seeing Juan Pierre attempt to throw a ball to a cutoff man…he has the single worst arm of any outfielder I have ever seen at the major league level…
  • Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez is really a heck of a hitter – his homerun on the first came on a swing that produced one of the loudest cracks on contact that I’ve ever heard while watching a ballgame. Ramirez is a player who sits at the top spot of a large number of wishlists for Phillies fans everywhere. Scott Graham sure liked him, saying that he had “one whale of a ballgame” and could potentially be “one whale of a free agent” – get that man a thesaurus. Wheels mentioned the rumblings that Ramirez has a lack of desire and that is why some teams may not pay him big bucks if he decides to opt out of his Chicago contract…
  • Jamie Moyer (Tuesday's starter) is the oldest player to ever win a game as a Phillie…I probably should have known that before tonight’s trivia question, but I did not…now I do
  • Victorino definitely hurt himself diving after a ball early in the game (on the same play HK and LA were going on about how great a year he was having too…tragic)…he had a horrible at bat in the 7th, but it was clearly because of his left wrist bugging him so much that he couldn’t even grip the bat properly
  • 8th inning – Matt Smith really knows how to pitch…he stayed away, away, away with breaking balls and then finally came inside with a fastball to strike out Jacque Jones with a man on third and one out…Smith will play a big part in next year’s bullpen, a fact that is a good thing for Phillies fans who like seeing late leads protected…
  • The game ended (more or less) after David Dellucci struck out with Nunez on second after his double in the eighth…Dellucci has really struggled of late, but it may not be entirely his fault…much like Pat Burrell, Dellucci has been playing injured for much of the season…the Phillies are concerned enough about the injury (I believe it’s his wrist) that they won’t make an effort to re-sign him this offseason…that’s all a rumor, so believe it or don’t…

Friday, September 15, 2006

Phillies @ Braves - DH Recap

A little late and a little irrelevant by now (Blogger sucks), but here's what I saw while watching the Braves-Phillies doubleheader on Wednesday night (Phils swept the doubleheader, by the way, 6-5 and 7-2...unfortunately Chuck James held the bats in check as the Braves salvaged the last game of the series last night by a score of 4-1):


I really hate to be a pain, but I honestly believe that Randy Wolf has no business pitching in the major leagues right now. It’s nothing personal (I’m a huge Wolf fan), but the poor guy rushed himself to come back from Tommy John surgery and it shows. I predicted prior to the season that Wolf wouldn’t pitch at all in 2006; I later amended that to say that if he does come back, he’ll be a shell of his former self. The typical rule of thumb with injuries to pitchers is this: if it is the shoulder that has been hurt, the pitcher will have a hard time getting his velocity back; if it is the elbow that has been hurt, the pitcher will have a harder time with his control. Wolf’s velocity has been fine…it’s his bad location that has done him in. All that being said (and knowing what we know about how pitchers typically respond to TJ surgery), Wolf seems like a very good bet to bounce back in 2007. Based on everything I’ve read and heard, Randy will be a highly sought after free agent pitcher this offseason. I think a pitching hungry team (and there are plenty) will give him the new going rate for middle of the rotation starting pitchers: 3 years/21 million dollars.

1st inning: great at bat by Howard, he is showing Abreu-esque patience at the plate these days…

1st inning - Why in the world is Conine hitting 5th? Conine was a fine addition to the ballclub, but he is now being stretched beyond what his current abilities as a player ought to allow. Getting good players is the goal of any GM…but the manager’s job is to put his good players in the best possible position to succeed for the greater good of the team. This isn’t happening when Conine hits 5th. Maybe I’m wrong…

1st inning: Wolf can not locate at all, disastrous 2-run error by Utley, 3-0 Braves. This may have been a bad start, but it was early enough in the game to not get too down.

3rd inning: Howard with another great at bat…got ahead with a 3-1 count after letting two low changeups pass by…just misses a homerun with a 3-1 deep foul ball (not close to being fair, but an opposite field homer kind of swing)…just misses a grandslam (on second look, maybe it would have been a double) when Andruw Jones makes a leaping grab at the wall…good at bat nonetheless

3rd inning: Huge hit for Jeff Conine in the inning, it looks like I was absolutely wrong…for this one night anyway…

Apparently Rick White has a 5.1 inning scoreless streak Turner Field…what an arbitrary stat…

8th inning huge: top of the order up

  1. Very heads up baserunning by Rollins on his leadoff single…Francouer bobbled it just enough for JRoll to take off for second (E-9)
  2. Victorino follows with a single to right…RBI…best part…”Phils still have Utley and Howard to come” – what a comforting feeling for a Phillies fan although I could hear the fear in the Braves announcer’s voice as he said it…(both Victorino and Rollins hits were to the opposite field by the way)
  3. The homeplate ump kept calling low strikes on Utley…for some reason, he simply didn’t adjust
  4. Howard K’s swinging…even in defeat he looked a little like Abreu in that at bat…I wish I could explain what I mean better, it’s just something in his approach that I can describe
  5. Conine getting on with a first pitch single is perfect because it sets up…
  6. The matchup I wanted all along – David Dellucci against a righty he can handle…is this the most important at bat of the year for the Phils? Dellucci hit a slicing liner to left field that completely turned Matt Diaz around…hitters tend to hit balls that slice towards the lines when they go the other way (like Dellucci did here)…Diaz looked like he wasn’t aware of that fact on that ball…

Jeff Torborg, a former big league catcher (and a horrible one at that), is one of the Braves announcers. He is horrible at his job. On top of that, he is freaking obsessed with catching. He singled out at least 10 Todd Pratt picks of balls in the dirt and attempted to break down the technique he used (poorly I might add). Former players can bring a lot to a broadcast, but not those with tunnel vision – we get it Jeff, you were a catcher. You know catching. There are eight other guys on the field, maybe you ought to try talking about them sometime, hmm?

Utley and Rollins are both getting way too pull happy, Abe Nunez is the worst player in the world, closely following right behind Nunez: Danny Sandoval. Sandoval should never be used to pinch hit…ever.

“Brayan Pena had an outstanding season for the Richmond Braves” – this may be a weird quote to take exception with, but I did find it a bit curious. True, Pena hit .302 in AAA this year…sounds good, right? Well, he finished the season with a .302/.342/.372 line…good for a 714 OPS. That’s hardly a good year. Jason Jaramillo had a disappointing year in AA in my estimation…but he finished with an OPS of 708. By Braves announcing standards, Jaramillo and Pena both had outstanding minor league seasons. No way is that true.

Rick White was hitting 94 MPH on the gun…I can’t say that I’m not impressed.


1st Inning - Jimmy Rollins with a great at bat to leadoff the game (down 0-2, drew a walk)…sign of good things to come?

1st Inning - Jeff Francoeur has one heck of an arm…he gunned Rollins at home in the first with just about as perfect a throw as you’ll ever see – I suppose the logical question is why would Bill Dancy send the runner with Ryan Howard waiting on deck to hit (1st and 3rd with 1 out being the alternative if you hold him)?

2nd Inning - 20th homer of the year for Rollins…phenomenal year for the Phillies shortstop (he is the ultimate “worry about what he can do, not what he can’t” player in my mind). With this homer, Rollins and Utley have become the first double play combo in Phillies history with 20 homers apiece. Fun fact.

3rd Inning - Carlos Ruiz’ laser beam homer to left…when Ruiz hits the ball hard or has a good at bat, I am genuinely happy for him…I know that makes me sound a bit like a weirdo, but I am really really pulling for the guy

Great defensive night all around – Nunez and Rollins both made excellent plays in the third and Rollins and Howard turned a nifty 3-6-3 double play in the second

No respect for Pat Burrell…pinch hit for in the ninth inning for Randall Simon…I just don’t get where the Phillies are coming from with a move like this…it isn’t a good baseball move, so that can’t be it…are they really trying that hard to send a message to poor Pat?

Credit is due for the game Abraham Nunez had…he played a fantastic game two (the Braves announcer called him “arguably the weakest hitter in the lineup” at one point…how diplomatic of him)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

9/14 Schedule

Happy game recaps from last night's doubleheader sweep of the Braves are on the way, but for now I leave you with a schedule of today's key games:

San Diego at Cincinnati (12:35) - Clay Hensley vs. Aaron Harang

Dodgers at Cubs (2:20) - Hong-Chih Kuo vs. Wade Miller

Colorado at San Francisco (3:35) - Aaron Cook vs. Matt Cain

The Phillies will know exactly how things stand as they head into tonight's ballgame against the Braves in Atlanta (7:35 - Jamie Moyer vs. Chuck James). Big day.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

9/8 - Phillies (Howard/Moyer) 3, Marlins 2

Elias Sports Bureau:

[Ryan] Howard has hit 12 home runs in 48 at-bats since Aug. 25. He has outhomered nine teams and hasn't gone more than seven at-bats without a home run during that span.

Chew on that for a minute...then check out his August numbers:

.348/.464/.750/1.214 OPS with 14 home runs and 41 RBI in 112 at bats

As for his September numbers (so far...):

.517/.622/1.310/1.932 OPS! with 7 home runs and 10 RBI in 29 at bats

Last night's 3-2 win over the Marlins:

.750/.750/2.500/3.250 OPS with 2 home runs, a double, and 3 RBI in 4 at bats

Now I realize it is kind of silly to look at any player's OPS on a given night, but...damn. Ryan Howard is good. Notes from the rest of last night's big, big, big win:
  • More Howard...his first home run of the night (2-run shot on a 2-0 count in the top of the sixth off of Marlins starter Scott Olsen) might go down as my very favorite of the 56 homers he has hit this year. It looked like he hit the ball out of the catcher's mitt...he waited and waited and waited until the ball was so far in on him right up until he unleashed an amazingly quick jolt of the wrists to put the ball way over the big teal scoreboard in left. Little League coaches everywhere stress waiting on the ball and not getting too jumpy at the plate...Howard's swing shows how this technique is supposed to work.
  • Howard's second home run was the opposite in many respects from his first...there was no waiting on this swing, he just unloaded on an Olsen fastball and pulled it to right. It was more of a traditional power hitter's swing and one that Howard has seemingly added to his arsenal shortly after the All-Star break.
  • Even in defeat Scott Olsen deserves his due. That power slider of his is a pitch that I'm already dreading seeing over the next 4/5/6 years of so. He got ahead of Chase Utley a couple of times and then threw him hard breaking slider after slider. Anibal Sanchez threw the no-hitter, Josh Johnson led the league in ERA, but Scott Olsen will have the best career of any Marlin rookie starter.
  • After Ryan Howard gave the team the lead in the top of the sixth, Jamie Moyer responded by setting the Marlins 2-3-4 (Dan Uggla, Miguel Cabrera, and Josh Willingham) down in order (strikeout, F-8, F-8). Well done, Jamie.
  • The Marlins TV guys were loving every Jamie Moyer at bat...from the way he uses two bats while on-deck to warm up to the way he eschews batting gloves altogether (instead grabbing a handful of dirt before stepping into the box). Tommy Hutton wondered if Moyer even had a bat of his own or if he was using the Jon Lieber Model...something about that phrase (Jon Lieber Model bat) made me laugh...
  • Moyer felt he was getting squeezed by the Tim Tschida all night (he was) and his reaction each time was priceless. After a bad call, he would quickly backpedal to the mound...hard to describe, but believe me it was adorable.
  • Shane Victorino's throw in the ninth that almost (and I mean almost) got Miguel Cabrera at the plate was a thing of beauty. He needs to be this team's starting centerfielder next season.
  • Why in the world is Alfredo Amezaga the Marlins centerfielder? He has never been able to hit, they have better internal options, and (very important point coming up) HE IS AN INFIELDER. He looks lost in centerfield...which is understandable because (one more time) HE IS AN INFIELDER. This would be like if the Phillies decided to carry out their spring training plan of having Matt Kata get some work in at the outfield spots. Am I missing something here?
Howard and Moyer were the stars of this game, as accurately reflected in all the mentions they got in the recap. Brett Myers vs. Brian Moehler today...Phillies can't let a pitching matchup like this go for nothing. Critical start for Myers...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Phillies - Marlins - 9/7 - Butt Whippin'

"It's a good story, a very good story," Manuel said about a Marlins team with a $15 million payroll and 21 rookies on the roster. "They have a bunch of young guys that want to play and establish their Major League career. After a slow start, they relaxed and when they finally got to .500, they looked up and were in a Wild Card race."

But ...

"I look at whipping their [butts], if you want to know the truth," Manuel said. "They're a threat, but I like the fact that we can determine where they go."

Well put, Charlie. I don't have much to add to the chalk game story on, aside from complaining about the terrible Marlins TV broadcast on MLB.TV...something I'll spare you, the loyal reader, for the time being. Four quick things I noticed:
  1. It was pretty cool/random that the Phillies hit for the cycle through 13 batters last night. It set the tone for an unbelievably well balanced offensive attack: 17 total hits - 8 singles, 2 doubles, 3 triples, and 4 homers. You won't lose many games when you put those kind of crooked numbers on the board...
  2. I'm sure many Phillies fans thought they were in for a long night after Jon Lieber's struggles (3 earned runs, 2 homers allowed) in the first inning. The Phillies responded with 3 runs of their own in the second and 1 in the Josh Johnson, the current NL ERA leader, no less. I'm sure Phillies fans thought the game was slipping away after Rick White gave up 4 earned runs in just one third of an innings work in the 7th. The Phillies responded with a huge run in the top of the eight and then three more in the top of the ninth to put it away. This team is playing a lot like the September version of last year's club, no?
  3. Chase Utley had the best at bat of the night and is hopefully started to fully figure out what it takes to bat in front of the most feared slugger in the game. The rap on Marlins relief pitcher Randy Messenger is that although he has a hard fastball (consistently hitting the mid-90's), it is a bit too straight for his own good. Utley knew he would get nothing but fastballs when he came up to the plate with two on and two out in the 7th inning of last night's game...he jumped ahead of the count 3-1, sharply fouled off those 3 straight fastballs in a row, and then finally jumped all over a 94-MPH hitter for his 26th home run of the season. Very smart at bat by Utley.
  4. The game ended with an oufield of Chris Roberson in left, Shane Victorino in center, and Michael Bourn in way there is an outfield in baseball that can touch that one in terms of pure speed across the board.
The Phillies won one of the two closer pitching matchups last night, so they already have a huge leg up on winning this 4-game set with the Marlins. Tonight's Jamie Moyer vs. Scott Olsen's matchup swings heavily in the favor of Florida...a win by the Phils tonight to go up 2-0 in this 10 game stretch against the Fish would be a huge boost heading into the weekend.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Phillies - Astros 9/6

Phillies lose to Houston by a score of 5-3. Failure to hit with men on base (or, more to the point, with bases completely full of men) and questionable strategy (keeping Madson in instead of using a lefty to turn Berkman around) did them in. Charlie Manuel will get ripped for going with Madson, but his biggest mistake of the night was intentionally walking Mike Lamb earlier in the fateful inning. All in all, I can't say I'm too angry at the loss as a whole; the part that burns me up is knowing the Phillies had plenty of chances to get to Andy Pettitte early and failed to capitalize. That burns. Berkman's bases clearing double? He hit a good pitch and inside-outed a ball that just barely stayed fair the other way. It happens. Jimmy Rollins, the potential tying run, getting thrown out at second in the ninth? Willy Taveras made a tremendous, one in a million kind of play to get him...just getting to that ball was impressive, but he topped that by making a 100% perfect throw to the bag at second. The Phillies and Astros played about even through seven innings...after that point, Houston just flat outplayed the Phils. It's no fun, but it happens. On to random game notes...
  • First complaint of the night: the lineup. Why wasn't Randy Wolf hitting in the eighth spot last night? This would have made sense on so many levels...the majority of which are based solely on making me laugh at Abe Nunez batting behind the pitcher. Another, more serious, point of interest to me: Why not give Jose Hernandez (.761 OPS vs. lefties this year, .823 OPS vs. lefties over the previous 3-year stretch) a start at third instead of Nunez? Hernandez wound up with a hit his only at bat of the night...Nunez finished the game without a hit in four at bats. In Abe's defense, he did make a beautiful diving stop on a ball down the line that had double written all over it. There is no telling if Hernandez would have made the play, but smart money says that ball gets by him. Does it even out? I don't think so. Is it the reason the Phillies lost? Nope, there were many other reasons that outrank Nunez' inclusion in the lineup.
  • One of the things I was looking forward to in this game was watching Randy Wolf work with rookie catcher Carlos Ruiz. Mike Lieberthal had been Wolf's personal catcher since both players have been back healthy. As far as I could tell, Wolf and Ruiz were a fine tandem...that's admittedly not a very in-depth analysis, but it's all I got.
  • As far as Wolf himself...he looked better. He is still clearly struggling with his location, but his velocity seems to be on the way back...he hit 91 on the gun here and there and he struck out Jason Lane on a "rising" 89 MPH fastball with two men on in the third.
  • As far as Ruiz himself...absolutely great to see him back in the lineup for the Phillies. He looked like he was much more comfortable at the plate than in his previous stint with the club...needless to say, I wasn't a fan of Charlie Manuel pinch hitting for him in the ninth.
  • Shane Victorino made a beautiful throw to almost catch Chris Burke wandering too far of first in the fifth inning...I love when outfielders throw behind the runner. An outfield of Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, and David Dellucci/free agent lefty hitting specialist would look pretty nice in 2007...goodbye, Aaron Rowand.
  • Juan Samuel visited Chris Wheeler and Scott Graham in the booth last night...Wheels told him that watching Jose Reyes play reminded him of a young Samuel...Samuel told stories of one of his all-time favorite teammates, Julio Franco (pronounced 'Fronk-co', of course).
  • Wheels called the ball Ryan Howard hit to Andy Pettitte in the sixth a "power hitter's dribbler" because of all the crazy spin on it...seemed like a pretty dead-on description to me.
  • Also in that sixth inning, great back to back at bats by Shane Victorino and Chase Utley. The were throwing everything in, in, in to Victorino until Pettitte finally made a mistake and badly missed his spot (instead throwing a ball low and away) as Victorino drilled a line drive right back up the box for a leadoff single.
  • Lance Berkman = older, chubbier Pat Burrell...Berkman could be the older brother Burrell never had!
  • Underrated aspect of Jimmy Rollins' game - he has a plus, plus arm for a shortstop. Check out his throw to get Chris Burke in the eighth's a thing of beauty.
The fake enthusiasm and corny nicknames (Blummy, Scotty, Hoffy...are you kidding me?) in this San Diego-Colorado game currently on MLB.TV is embarassing to listen to...San Diego is a great city, one of my personal favorites, but they do not have a playoff quality baseball team. I'm not saying the Phillies are playoff quality (far from it), but the Padres are hardly a slam dunk even with the 2.5 game lead as I write this (Padres 0, Rockies 0 in the 11th out double by Todd Walker puts the winning run in scoring position for the Pads...).

Anyway, as I stay up late waiting for this game to finish, I'll throw out the probably pitching matchups in Florida:

Thursday: Jon Lieber v. Josh Johnson
Friday: Jamie Moyer v. Scott Olsen
Saturday: Brett Myers v. Brian Moehler
Sunday: Cole Hamels v. Dontrelle Willis

Phillies need to take three of four...I give them the distinct edge for the Saturday game, slight edge on Sunday (yeah, Hamels over Willis), the Marlins the clear edge on Friday, and the Marlins a slighter edge than it looks on Thursday (I'm a big believer in Lieber's second half self). Phils win Thursday, lose Friday, and then take the series with wins on Saturday and Sunday. Is that wishful thinking on my part?

And just as I am about to publish this post, Paul McAnulty hits a game winning homer for the Padres in the 11th. Phillies are now 3 games out as they head to Florida. Ouch.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

State of Phillies Baseball

I'm horrible at updating this thing, but I have an excuse - the better the Phillies play, the more involved I get when watching the games, the less energy (if you can call it that) I have to add something of value to this here site. Is that a cop-out? Of course it is.

I suppose my original purpose of this site was to create a personal outlet for me to write/think about baseball during the long offseason months when there is no baseball to watch; rest assured when the Phillies exciting run finally ends (with the World Series Trophy finally returning to South Philly, no doubt) and there is no more baseball to watch until spring, I'll be around obsessing over every little offseason rumor and formulating opinions on baseball matters I honestly have no business having an opinion on. In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and watch as much baseball as I can over the next few weeks and (hopefully) begin to pick up the pace and check in from time to time with news and observations concerning the Phils chase for the wild card.