Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Phils Ace Drops One to Fish....

- Cole Hamels was not his usual self as the Phils got beat 5 - 3. Hamels went 6 innings, but gave up 5 earned runs. The Phils' offense was anemic and supplied only by two Jayson Werth homeruns. Overall, a bad night for the Phightins. When your ace is on the mound and doesn't have his best game, a professional, consistent offense is usually capable of picking up your best pitcher. That didn't come close to happening, with the Phils garnering only 5 hits (2 by the aforementioned Werth).

It merits mentioning that Wes Helms played first base last night and still has the same number of home runs on the year that I have (which is to say, zero). It gives those Chris Coste fans something to complain about, if nothing else.

On the plus side for the Phils, Ryan Madson came off the DL last night and blew away the Marlins in two innings of hitless, runless relief. That was the Ryan Madson I expected to see all year to this point.

- Last night's NBA draft lottery gave the Sixers exactly what they were expecting....the 12th pick of the draft. With that pick, ESPN's Chad Ford is predicting (Insider account required for link) that the Sixers will take Al Thornton from Florida State in effort to push a more up tempo game. I'm ok with that. Even more exciting, I thought, were the other picks Ford had the Sixers making. He had the Sixers taking PF Josh McRoberts at 21 (from Denver and the Iverson trade) and PF Glen "Big Baby" Davis at 30 (via Dallas). Both would be smart picks and would immediately give the Sixers much more competent options at power forward than Louis Amundson and Shavlik Randolph.

One interesting tidbit from last night's draft lottery was that the Celtics got completely shut out of the 1st 2 picks and slipped all the way to five. It serves them right as they tanked games down the stretch last year to get high into the lottery to begin with, whereas other teams like the Sixers, gutted it out and played hard. Couldn't happen to a better franchise and fan base.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Phils and the NBA Draft Lottery

- The Phils begin a road trip tonite that starts in Miami against the Florida Marlins. The roadtrip begins with the squad feeling pretty good about itself after taking 2 of 3 from the Blue Jays to cap a 7 - 3 homestand. You have to like the Phils chances tonite with Cole Hamels (6 - 1, 3.30 ERA) going against some guy I never heard of. Also, apparently, Florida has some idiot pitcher (who used to be a Phillie) who got "I love Billy Koch" tattooed on his ass. Can't wait till Wheels regales us with that little nugget when that guy pitches over the next couple of days.

I went to the game on Saturday night and unfortunately, it wasn't Jamie Moyer's night. He easily had his worst outing as a Phillie to lose 13 - 2. Reliever Clay Condrey gave up a grand slam to prototypical AL player (slugger whose power numbers have dwindled now that steroids have been outlawed DH-type) Matt Stairs to complete the debacle. Fortunately, for me, I was watching that from the comfort of McFadden's, since the game was long over by that point.

It was probably the first time I ever felt sort of old at McFadden's. Usually, when you go to McFadden's, the music is a bit more diverse (i.e.--not all club music) and it's not that difficult to get around to use the bathroom.

Last Saturday night felt like "A Night at the Roxy" as I kept waiting for Will Ferrell and his brother Chris Kattan to come dancing by at any second. I had a good time...don't get me wrong, it was good for just people watching, but I definitely didn't feel compelled to stick around as we kept getting run into by drunk people who clearly had no business even trying to dance. Perhaps it was "Grand Mal Seizure" night at McFadden's. Anyway, maybe McFadden's (and the ballpark in general) is still in "College Night" mode (a much younger demographic) until Summer officially starts and they'll start catering to a more widely dispersed age range (and actually play music that contains some guitar).

- The NBA draft lottery is tonite and let's hope the Sixers do better than the 12th pick that they'll probably end up with as a result of needlessly playing hard down the stretch. I hate like hell to pick on Bill Simmons again, but I hope he was kidding when he says that the Boston Celtics deserve some sort of good luck because of some of the things that have happened to the franchise since they last won in 1986. Boston fans have celebrated 3 Super Bowls and 1 World Series title in the last 5 years, yet somehow, we're supposed to feel bad that the Celtics have fared poorly? Yeah, ok.

Here's to rooting for the Celtics to somehow get bumped from the top two picks and end up with some unknown project like that Chinese kid with the fake birth certificate.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Start of Interleague Play

I have to get something off of my chest: I absolutely hate American League baseball. Hate it. It's like watching those slightly overweight former high school heroes play softball in a beer league. I get more enjoyment out of watching a video game in autoplay mode than a Texas Rangers/Kansas City Royals matchup on ESPN. AL baseball is simply not that interesting. There is too much offense, the games go on and on forever, there's not enough strategy, and it's all because of the most ridiculous rule in all of sports, the designated hitter. Honestly, having the DH in the AL is the worst idea that Bowie Kuhn could have allowed in the 70s as the commissioner of baseball. It weakens the game by allowing a dopey gimmick to change the way the game is played.

Further exacerbating my hatred of American League baseball is that fans of AL teams have been crowing about the superiority of AL baseball for the past couple of years, because most of the more successful teams in the past 5 years have been AL teams (Red Sox, Angels, Yankees, etc.). Unfortunately, what they fail to realize, is that these things come and go in cycles and despite the AL's alleged superiority, they've only won 3 of the last 6 World Series. Hardly the stuff of dominance.

Take Bill Simmons, the ubiquitous "Sports Guy", for example. He has taken things a step further, calling the NL "quadruple A" baseball. In his running diary of last year's NL Championship clinching game, he mentions the fact that because Jeff Suppan, a pitcher that failed in an appearance in Boston a few years back, was the MVP of the series, that his winning the award was somehow indicative of American League superiority. That's pure crap. You could go through a big list of players since the advent of free agency and you could pinpoint quite a few players who went from the NL to the AL and dominated. Needless to say, Simmons rightfully took a lot of crap when the Cardinals defeated the Tigers in the World Series a few weeks later.

If American League teams are better than National League teams at anything at all (other than unnecessarily prolonging games), it's in buying their teams. Of the top 10 teams, in terms of payroll, 7 of the teams are American League teams. That includes Bill Simmons' precious Red Sox, who are second only behind the supposed "evil empire" that is the New York Yankees. The Red Sox have spent much money in recent years, they are almost indistinguishable from the Yankees in terms of foolish spending on player salaries (witness dropping $51 million dollars JUST FOR THE RIGHTS TO NEGOTIATE with Diasuke Matsuzaka).

So, needless to say, I was pleased with last night's 5 - 3 victory by the Phils over the Blue Jays. Things are definitely going the Phils' way as they scored 5 runs on only 3 hits (all singles). I plan on going to my first game of the year tonite, with Jamie Moyer taking the hill. Moyer is actually an example of a player who got kicked around in the National League for a few years, only to go to the AL and find success with the Seattle Mariners, where he won 20 games twice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Phrenetic Phillies

The Phils began a series with the hottest team in baseball last night, the improbable Milwaukee Brewers, with a come-from-behind 8 - 6 victory. The Phils scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th and had the lead for good when Wes Helms hit a long single off of Derrick Turnbow to plate Gregg Dobbs for the game-winning run. The win gave the Phils a 7 - 6 record so far in the month of May.

Some of the particulars from the past couple of weeks:

- The Phillies lost 3 one-run ballgames during their 10 game road trip out West. Simply winning one of those would have given the Phils a .500 roadtrip. As it is, to date, the Phils have a record of 1 - 6 in one-run ballgames. This is a tribute to their bullpen, which has been substandard (Relief ERA and BA against WELL above NL averages), and their below average ability to hit with runners in scoring position.

- The last game of the Phillies 10 game road trip that ended in Arizona could have easily been a loss and made the sub-par road trip a complete catastrophe. If it wasn't for Jamie Moyer keeping the Phils in this game and Ryan Howard's pinch grand slam, they could have very easily let this game slip away as well. They were flailing mightily at Randy Johnson's offerings all evening before Johnson got wild and got yanked. Couple that with the Phils recent woes in hitting against Arizona's bullpen, and you had the makings of a series sweep. Fortunately, the ailing Howard came on to pinch-hit and save the day to give the Phils the 9 - 3 victory.

- Speaking of Ryan Howard, he's now on the disabled list with a quad strain. You wonder if the stuff that surrounded Ryan as a result of his MVP year last year hampered his ability to be right mentally and physically for the start of this season. You have to hope he's also using this time to fine tune his swing.

- As a result of Howard's DL stint, the Phils recalled last year's folk hero, utility man Chris Coste. Coste was hitting a mere .233 at the time of the call-up. While many fans were upset that Coste was not part of the team this year after hitting .328 in 198 ABs last season, I actually thought that Rod Barajas would be an upgrade over both Coste and Mike Lieberthal. Barajas, meanwhile, hasn't seen the field since the Phils beat the Cubs last Friday, 9 - 3, and for good reason. He's carrying a .178 average into tonite's game. People are going to continue to clamor for Chris Coste unless Barajas picks it up offensively.

- Greg Dobbs, since starting against Arizona on May 8th, is 8 for his last 12 (.318 overall).

- I know this is hypothetical, but at their current pace, if Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley play in 140 games apiece, they are on pace to score a mind-boggling 122 and 111 runs respectively. Currently, Rollins ranks 4th in runs scored (with 33) in all of MLB and Utley ranks 9th (with 30).

- While Freddy Garcia has started slow to this point (1 - 2, 5.17 ERA), he is at least now stretching into and past the 6th inning and his last two starts (vs. Chi and vs. Atl) were "quality starts". The Phils will need more of the same going forward.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Phillies April 2007 By The Numbers

April 2007 is in the books for the Phightin' Phils and May 1 makes for a good day to do a quick review by the numbers:


The number of wins the Phillies had in the month of April to give them a record of 11 - 14, 5 games behind the division leading Braves. Clearly, the 1 - 6 start hurt them; let's hope it doesn't come to haunt them in September.


The number of games the Phillies won against the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves in the 8 games they played against those two teams. They have yet to beat the Braves this season in four games. The Phillies maddening inability to beat these teams is the single biggest story in this young season. They will not make the playoffs if they don't start beating these two teams.


This is Aaron Rowand's team leading batting average in the month of April. The spark plug centerfielder has been on a torrid streak and has 5 homers and 12 RBIs to go with his gaudy batting average. Hopefully, this quiets those that want to trade him and hand center field over to Shane Victorino (.260-0-8).


This is reigning MVP Ryan Howard's batting average to date. The best thing Ryan Howard can say about the month of April is that it is finally over. It goes without saying the Phils will need Howard to get it going. Complicating matters, in terms of Howard breaking out, is that no one is pitching to Howard in big spots. He's been intentionally walked 8 times; 1 behind ML leader Barry Bonds. A shift in the lineup could be in the offing to get the Big Man going if he can't shake off the April doldrums.


The number of wins by the Phillies' resident Methuselah, Jamie Moyer. The Pride of Souderton and St. Joe's University leads the Phils pitching staff in wins has the second best ERA among starters behind only short-timer Jon Lieber. He has been the stopper of the rotation so far.


The number of strikeouts by "Kid" Cole Hamels. This is good for 5th (as of this writing) in all of the Major Leagues and 2nd in the NL (Jake Peavy, SD, 46 Ks). Hamels looks to be validating the scouting reports many have about him and his ability.


The number of blown saves by closer Tom Gordon. Pat Gillick should be watching this situation VERY carefully for the eventuality that Gordon just doesn't have it anymore. Gordon is 39 years old which, in addition to fear of an eroding skillset, also makes him an injury risk.


The number of extra base hits that 3B Wes Helms has to date in 81 ABs. I don't expect Helms to come in and become Mike Schmidt, but he's got to start hitting with more pop. Here's hoping his bat warms up as the weather warms up.

All in all, this could have been a much worse month for the Phillies. I give them credit for battling back from a 1 - 6 start, but they have a lot of work to do. They are going to need bullpen help and they cannot count on 43 year old Jamie Moyer to be their best pitcher all season. They will need more power from Pat Burell (1 HR) and the aforementioned Ryan Howard (3 HR).

The move of Brett Myers to the bullpen has much less to do, I believe, with Brett Myers or the Phillies bullpen troubles than it does needing to have Lieber in the rotation, if only to show him off to potential trade suitors. How well Lieber pitches and what the Phillies get for him when they deal him will be one of the more intriguing story lines going forward this season.