Sunday, April 08, 2007

Phillies @ Marlins Series Wrap

Disappointing weekend for the Phillies in Miami. Read all about it below (and in case you missed a ton of words wasted on a slew of nobody relievers, check it out here):

Phillies 8 – Marlins 2

I probably should be keeping track of this statistically, but it seems to me that the shift that teams put on when Ryan Howard comes to the plate has worked out a whole bunch of times the first week of the season. In the second inning of Friday’s game, that’s exactly what happened; Howard scorched a ball to right field but it was exactly where the defense was playing him.

Carlos Ruiz is a starting catcher, there is no doubt in my mind about it. Who is clearly better in the National League? Brian McCann, Michael Barrett, maybe Russell Martin and/or Paul Lo Duca, Chris Iannetta soon enough…that’s about it as far as I can see. Now obviously Ruiz isn’t a cornerstone kind of player that you lock into a role and forget about upgrading for the next 5-6 years (see Utley, Chase), but he is a fine option as a starting catcher in the here and now. Hopefully Phillies management feels the same way and we see Ruiz get the vast majority of the time behind the dish in 2007 (nothing personal Rod, it’s just that you kind of stink at baseball).

Pat Burrell made a very nice diving catch in the bottom of the fourth inning on Friday. I don’t bring it up so much to talk about the catch (in fact, a couple of days later I don’t really remember it all that well…all my notes say are “great diving catch in left”), but the fact that he was in a position to make it in the first place. Burrell is moving so much better in left field than he has in prior seasons. It looks to me that he is slimmer this year than last and more athletic both in the field and on the base paths. He made a nice hustle play getting to a foul ball on Thursday against the Braves only to get charged with an error (and the ensuing symphony of boos) for not catching it.

In a perfect world, I’d do recaps every series of the visiting team’s broadcast crew – a full analysis, pros and cons, what makes each partnering unique, etc. The world is clearly not perfect and I know this because of the very existence of Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton, the Florida Marlins broadcast team. They are terrible. I have nothing more to add. Let’s move on.

Even though Miguel Olivo runs a lot better than I remembered, it was still pretty inexcusable for him to ignore a stop sign at third and try for an inside-the-park homerun. Poor guy was out by 20 feet, easy.

The bottom of the fifth inning was unquestionably the turning point of the game. I was soooooo wrong about Jamie Moyer being a bad matchup against Miguel Cabrera and the Marlins – the ancient former Mariner put on a clinic against the youthful Florida lineup. With men on first and third, Moyer completely went into his own personal version of Operation Shutdown…only not nearly as evil and infinitely more effective. Moyer slowed the game down, paced around the mound between pitches, threw over to first an inordinate number of times…and before you knew it, three Marlins (Aaron Boone, Hanley Ramirez, and Dan Uggla) had popped up and the Phillies were out of the jam. Watching Cole Hamels pitch is the ultimate in pitching excitement when it comes to the Phillies and I can’t wait until his start against the Mets on Monday, but I’m now almost as excited to see what Moyer does on Thursday.

Marlins 8 – Phillies 5

Highlight of the game for the Phillies was obvious – Jimmy Rollins’ inside-the-park homerun was a sight to see. It was made about a million times better by Harry Kalas’ awesome call, so if you haven’t seen the highlight yet I suggest checking it out.

Another thing I’d like to start tracking, but won’t because I am too lazy is the number of times players swing at 3-0 pitches and in what situations they do so. Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems as though the Phillies have swung at a ton of 3-0 pitches in the early part of the year (most notably Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Shane Victorino). Baseball Prospectus has begun doing a manager profile in their yearly annual and I think a great addition would be the inclusion of green lights on 3-0 pitches. I wish I had thought of this before the season, I would have been more than happy to keep track for the Phillies…maybe next year.

To continue what I said earlier about Pat Burrell being in better shape, did anybody else notice the play he jetted back to first on a ball Aaron Rowand hit that was caught in the gap? Burrell started on first, but was well past the bag at second when he realized the ball wasn’t going to drop. He then proceeded to run as fast as he could (well, presumably it was as fast as he could…how would I know either way?) until he made his way back to first.

Shane Victorino is a noticeably better outfielder than Aaron Rowand and it is a crime that he isn’t playing centerfield everyday. Rowand’s defense was one of the things I looked forward to most heading into 2006, but outside of a highlight reel catch of two he has been pretty average out there. Victorino has more range, a vastly superior arm, and a better idea of how to play certain hitters (I’m guessing on that last one, but it frustrates me to no end when I see Rowand play so damn shallow for EVERY SINGLE HITTER).

Gary Matthews referred to a current major league ballplayer as “Junior” during the broadcast. There is no way that I was the only one who thought of Ken Griffey Jr. rather than Gary Matthews Jr., right?

Two wasted opportunities for the Phillies summed up the entire night for me. In the fifth, Jimmy Rollins doubled and Shane Victorino followed it up with a walk; Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both went down stranding the two runners. In the sixth, Burrell and Wes Helms lead off the inning with back to back singles; Rowand, Carlos Ruiz, and Jayson Werth went down 1-2-3.

Marlins 6- Phillies 4

The ultimate in frustration for a Phillies fan – 7 hits + 11 walks adding up to 4 runs scored. Take heart, Phillies fans, I guarantee that some of those baserunners will result in runs before long. Teams with high number of guys left on base also happen to be teams with high numbers of, wait for it because this is earth shattering, guys getting on base in the first place. When you have lots of guys who get on base, surprise surprise, eventually things begin to even out and the “clutch” hits with runners in scoring position begin to start falling in. Patience.

I listened to this game on my XM while attending the Boston College-North Carolina game…at least the Phillies kept things closer than the Golden Eagles did against the Tar Heels (15-6 final, UNC finished off the 3 game sweep).

So the Marlins radio crew is an interesting one…the discussion on beer pong was quite enlightening. The announcer brought up the fact that Aaron Rowand as his “Beer Pong Champion” wristband. Unfortunately for the listening audience, he then attempted to explain the intricacies of beer pong to his older, less hip partner. Despite being a college student, I’m hardly an expert on beer pong…but I was damn confused listening to this guy’s explanation. According to him, beer pong is played with a paddle and a ping pong ball. There are two cups on each side of the table and players take turns trying to hit the ball with a paddle into a cup on the fly. Maybe this is a version of the game I simply hasn’t seen, so if anybody knows more about this let me know.

Zack Segovia’s father in-law is former big leaguer Darnell Coles. Who knew? Not me…

Bring on the Mets…I’m not just being a huge homer, but I think the pitching matchups favor the Phillies by a lot…here comes the sweep that turns April around. If not…Davy Johnson should make sure to frequently check his email.


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