Tag:Philadelphia Phillies
Posted on: September 7, 2008 7:01 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2008 11:11 pm

NL East Playoff Picture. Mets/Phillies

Let me start this post by saying that, at this juncture, with less than a month left in the regular season, I tend to throw all predictive stats out the window. With so little time left, very close divisional race such as the one we still have in the NL East it could easily be decided on anomalous occurrences.

Every year, some instances happen and it factors heavily into the playoff picture.

The unlikely is expected.

So this is not a post where I am going to predict how the NL East is going to play out in the month of September. Frankly, I think it’s a waste of time even trying to do so. But I do want to assess the current situation, and lay out the things we should be looking at over these final 20 games, especially since the Mets and Phillies are locking horns for the last time this year tonight.

Can They Keep It Up?

METS: I shake my head a bit at the recent chatter regarding whether or not Carlos Delgado is an MVP candidate. For one, he doesn’t deserve it, and two, it’s unbelievable that I even have to argue against it considering where he was just a couple of months ago. As of the morning of June 26th, Delgado had a .229 BA, .306 OBP, and most surprising of all, a .396 SLG. That’s an OPS barely above .700 for a guy with a career OPS of .925. But during the game on the 26th against the Yankees, Delgado exploded for 2 home runs and a team record 9 RBIs. And since then, his line has been a very impressive .298/.391/.627. To me, it’s the difference in isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) that’s most encouraging. And surprising based on his performance during the first 3 months of the season.

PHILLIES: One area of the Phillies that I completely underestimated going into the season was their pitching. As a team, they’ve allowed  only 4.17 runs per game, which is top-three in the National League - and they’re doing it in a hitter’s park. But one guy who was not having much success for the better part of the season was Brett Myers. Through his first 17 starts, Myers was awful. He had an ERA of 5.84, had a worse K-rate (7.9/9) and a walk rate (3.9/9) than his career norms, and an incredibly high home run rate (2.12/9) as well. Then the Phillies did something a bit surprising - they optioned him to the minors in early July, and Myers agreed. And since his return to the bigs on July 23rd, Myers has been outstanding, especially in his past five starts. The Ks are back, the walks and homeruns have all but disappeared, and his ERA has reflected these positive changes (1.43 over 37 2/3 IP). I try to never put too much stock in so few innings, but that 37 2/3 IP are also about as many innings as the Phillies are going to get out of any starting pitcher from this point forth any way. So who says he can’t finish strong too? Myers’ start Friday night not only gave the Phillies hope that they can reach the postseason, but also that they can advance past the first round.

Can They Turn It Around?

METS: Pedro Martinez is a totally different pitcher these days, and the change hasn’t  been positive. When he arrived in Flushing back in 2005, he dominated. The following season, he walked a few more hitters and gave up more home runs. It was also during the 2006 campaign that the injuries began. First, it was a hip injury. Then it was his right calf. Then his left calf was torn. Finally, a torn rotator cuff. Season over. There was still some optimism in 2007 when Pedro returned. Despite a serious drop in velocity (couldn’t hit 90 mph any more), the strikeouts were still there, and the walks remained manageable. Yet, even though he had a 2.57 ERA in the five starts he made last year. Hitters were on him, evidenced by the .284 BAA. Predictably, Pedro missed significant time in 2008 as well. When he returned in June, his velocity was higher than last year (88-91mph), but only this time, the strikeouts were down, walks were up, and he’s been giving up homeruns at a career high rate. As of this writing, his ERA is 5.07 and it’s no fluke. Can Pedro stay healthy and keep the ball down?

PHILLES: In 2007, the Phils averaged a whopping 5.51 runs scored per game. This year, they’re at 4.83, which is still good, but is also a noticeable drop. From here in New York, it seems that the media and fans are mostly attributing the decrease in production to Jimmy Rollins. But the bigger problem has been with Ryan Howard. His BA, OBP, and SLG have all decreased quite a bit for two consecutive seasons now. His sufficient HR (39) and RBI (119) numbers appear to be masking his .325 OBP. And although a .502 SLG is nothing to scoff at, it is a cause for concern when he had a .584 last year and .659 the season before that. Add it all together and his adjusted OPS is a 109 - which is a bit low for a first baseman, and especially so for a guy with Howard’s reputation. Unless he is hiding an injury, I don’t think that this is a decline just yet. He could very realistically go berserk in September.

Will They Get Noticed?

METS: I’m continually amazed at how little appreciation Carlos Beltran receives from Mets fans. Perhaps some false expectations were created by his career year in 2006 when he crushed 41 home runs in his second season in a Mets uniform. Or perhaps it’s because he’s been put into the clean-up spot 108 times this year and we’ve come to expect more power from that position in the batting order. Beltran may never hit 40 dingers again, but here’s what you can count on him for - one of the top defensive centerfielders in the game with good pop, a very strong ability to get on base and plus speed. As viewers, it’s easy to be impressed by diving catches and leaping grabs at the wall. Some guys who are underappreciated are those who are so good they get to the ball fast enough so they don’t have to dive. Beltran’s one of those guys. And he’s also one of those guys who can appear to be able to win games all by himself. We haven’t seen that Beltran yet in 2008.

PHILLIES: When most people think of the Phillies lineup, the names that immediately come to mind are Howard, Rollins, Utley, and Burrell. But Jayson Werth is the guy who has impressed me most so far this year. This is a gentleman that walks, is slugging over .500, manages to steal bases without getting caught, and still somehow finds a way to give a stray badger shelter below his lower lip. Multi-tasking. Werth hasn’t been great against righties (.790 OPS) but absolutely kills lefties (1.051 OPS and 1 HR every 8.87 ABs). If he could get that OPS vs. righties up just a bit, he’d really be something pretty special.

Posted on: July 12, 2008 7:28 pm

Did the Phillies ruin the career of Brett Myers?

The question in the title makes the big assumption that Myers’s career is in trouble.  That’s obviously an unsettled question. The only honest answer to the question above is “I don’t know.”

Pitchers are a odd breed, often breaking out or collapsing at different points in their careers, based on either a new pitch, a trick delivery, or, conversely, on a sudden drop in velocity or mental breakdown.  There could be thousands of reason why Brett Myers has gone from a potential ace to one of the worst pitchers in baseball during the first half of the 2008 season.  I know very little about his personal life, or his makeup. Maybe it's his  mechanics. These are all possible reasons for why he has been getting rocked to the tune of 24 HR in 101 2/3 IP, or why his WHIP is higher at age 27 than it was at 21.

I’m specifically selecting and presenting one set of arguments out of many to argue for why the Phillies, in particular Pat Gillick and Charlie Manuel, bear responsibility for the rapid decline of Brett Myers. 

The Ace:

April 2, 2007, and it's Opening Day at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark and Brett Myers is on the mound. The Phillies, after a disappointing 2006 campaign, have patched up the holes in their rotation, replacing dead weight like Scott Mathieson, Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd with proven veterans Freddy Garcia and Adam Eaton.  In fact, after having only two decent starters at the beginning of 2006 (Myers and Lieber) they open the 2007 campaign with an apparent embarrassment of riches with six proven starters: Myers, Garcia, Eaton, Lieber, Jamie Moyer, and Cole Hamels.

Obviously, someone is going to have to move to the pen, but there are no obvious candidates.  Lieber, Moyer, Eaton and Garcia are all paid decent wages to be starters. Hamels is the new star, has been dominant as a starter his entire career. Myers, well, he certainly has a nice two-pitch repertoire with a 93 mph fastball and wicked curve, and even seems to posses that elusive closer mentality, but why move him?  He was 26, and the last two seasons he had logged 413 innings, with an ERA+ of 118 and 120.  While there were some small rumblings in a few blogs about moving him to the bullpen, it isn’t discussed publicly by the Phillies.

By opening day, the crowded picture has received a little clarification, as both Lieber and Garcia hit the DL with what are thought at the time to be minor injuries.  For now, things appear okay, and Myers is on the mound, dominating.  Though seven innings, he has held the Braves to 3 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs, and has struck out 8.  He has thrown 95 pitches.  The Phils lead 3-2.  It’s opening day.  Manuel sends out Myers to start the 8th. After retiring the first two batters, Edgar Renteria hits a game-tying home run to deep center field, and Myers’s day is done. 

The Move:

The Phillies have $8M closer Tom Gordon, Geoff Geary, and Madson.  In retrospect, opening day of 2007 foreshadowed two of the major problems for the Phillies in April: Brett Myers and the bullpen. After his fine opening day performance, Myers had two of his worst starts ever as a starting pitcher, failing to get out of the fifth against Florida and Houston, and giving up 18 baserunners and 13 runs in a combined 7 2/3.  The bullpen was almost as bad. Two days after the opening day loss, Madson gave up another extra-inning home run, this time after Gordon blew a two-run lead in ninth.  Rumors about a possible injury to Gordon began to swirl, and Madson, who had been assumed to be the 8th inning set-up man, lost his job before ever actually pitching in a “hold” situation.

With Lieber and Garcia ready to return, the Phillies then had three problems: too many starters, and ineffective opening day pitcher, and a weak bullpen.  All of these, of course, could be solved by one move: Myers to the pen.

While many people remember it as Myers moving to the closer role, the initial move was actually only as a set-up man, as Gordon, who had been an all-star the year before, was given the leeway to work through his struggles.  And so on April 18th, with the Phillies trailing the Washington Nationals 5-4 in the eighth, Brett Myers made the second relief appearance of his major league career, and his first since 2004.

The Phillies decision to move a young, promising ace to the bullpen - even as a set-up man - can be defended. 

Someone had to move there, and after a brief and disastrous experiment with Lieber in the pen, Myers seemed the obvious answer.  Heck, he even wanted to do it, so why not?  Many people at the time thought it was a rash decision to make three weeks into the season, and they might have been right.  The Phillies knew that they had six starters and a bullpen of Gordon, Madson, and Geary in January: why not make this move in spring training?  But even granting some poor planning, moving Myers at the time seemed to solve a lot of problems.

What can’t be defended as easily was Manuel’s overuse of a lifelong starter in the bullpen.  Instead of gradually easing him into the role, Manuel treated Myers like he was Mariano Rivera circa 1996, using him often, and for multiple innings. Before being injured on May 23rd, Myers had the following line. 18 G, 20 2/3 IP.  That’s in 34 team games. If you prorate that out over a 162 game season, it translates to 86 appearances, and 94 IP. 

Closing out 2007:

After a two month recovery, Myers returned to the Phillies bullpen and pitched very well, anchoring the back end of a bullpen that was as important as anything else in helping the Phillies catch the Mets. In that final stretch, Myers had a 3.02 ERA and a 3:1 K/BB ratio.  His fastball climbed to 94-95, and he ended up on the mound September 30th as the Phils clinched their first division title in 14 years.  But Myers worked multiple innings several times, and his usage was barely curtailed: the last two months put him on pace for about 80 games and 85-90 innings over 162 games. This was a lot of work for any pitcher, let alone a converted starter just coming back from 60 days on the DL.

Heading into 2008:

Myers may have been the closer of the future, but the Phillies pulled off a big trade to acquire Brad Lidge, realizing that they needed a starter, and that the best one on the market was sitting in their bullpen.  However, the 2008 season has gone poorly for Myers, with his fastball topping out at around 88-90, and the Phillies losing 11 of his last 12 starts.  He hasn’t looked remotely like the pitcher of 2005-2006, and last week, he was demoted to AA.

It seems a long time from when Myers was taking the hill opening day in 2007, ready to become one of the top starters in the NL.  There are many reasons why his velocity is way down and is in AA after posting a 5.84 ERA, many that might not be related at all to his strenuous workload in 2007.  Pitching coach Rich Dubee has said his velocity is fine and that he just needs to locate better.  Some blog posters claim it’s all in his head.  Maybe it’s the bad karma from the mean Kyle Kendrick prank?  But no matter the actual reason, the Phillies, after a reckless execution of the bold idea to turn Myers from one of their best starters into a closer, may find themselves with neither.

Rumor has it that Myers will return to the rotation after the All-star break, lets see how his second half goes.

Category: MLB
Posted on: May 30, 2008 12:23 pm

Did the White Sox Dump Another Injuried Player?

I will admit that so far in 2008, the Chicago White Sox have been better than I had them pegged to be, thanks to some very surprisingly effective pitching. And I should give the guy some credit for this. So Kenny, I underestimated you and your club.

upon hearing the news that A’s prospect Fautino De Los Santos had undergone Tommy John surgery this week, it reminded me of something.

You see, De Los Santos is a 22-year old pitcher who was traded by the Chicago White Sox to Oakland along with Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney in exchange for Nick Swisher during the winter. It was believed at the time that, while raw, his potential upside was higher than any of the other players involved in the deal. But the A’s shut him down in early May due to a sore elbow. And now it’s Tommy John, meaning that he’ll most certainly be out for the rest of the year, and may miss all of 2009 as well.

But this was reminiscent of another trade that the White Sox made back in 2001, when Mike Sirotka was sent packing as part of a deal that netted Kenny Williams David Wells from the Toronto Blue Jays. But Sirotka never threw a single pitch in a Toronto uniform, because his shoulder had been injured (torn labrum) before the deal ever happened. Kenny Williams (as first year GM) argued that Toronto was given all the medical reports they needed, and the Jays cried foul, claiming that vital information was withheld from them. The whole issue turned into a bit of a fiasco with the Jays appealing to Bud Selig to overturn the deal as a result.

Selig upheld the deal. essentially stating that while Chicago was very well aware of the poor state of Sirotka’s shoulder, that Toronto should have done their homework, which isn’t all that unreasonable, I suppose. As I understand it, the Jays front office did not make the trade pending a physical. It was only conducted after the trade was consummated. Oddly enough however, the first physical given by Toronto showed nothing irregular. It was only when they went for a second opinion to Dr. James Andrews that the problem was discovered. But Sirotka himself put it very nicely:

Sirotka said he was examined by White Sox doctors in early January and given a cortisone shot. He was told to let team doctors know if there was any discomfort after 10 days, but was traded.

“At the time I was getting examined, I didn’t think there was much to worry about because they didn’t seem too concerned,” Sirotka told the Sun-Times. “But one of my first reactions after being traded was I must really be hurt because I didn’t think the trade made much sense.”

It should also be noted that another player that went to Toronto in that deal, pitcher Mike Williams, was also injured before arriving in Canada, but Chicago argued ignorance on that one.

Believe it or not, there’s more. Back in 2006, the Philadelphia Phillies also received a pitcher that was injured prior to a trade. And yes, he came from Chicago’s South Side.

The acquisition of Freddy Garcia was initially considered a pretty good move for the Phils, who was in need of an “innings-eater”. And Garcia certainly fit the bill, making Philadelphia contenders going into 2007. But right at the onset of spring training, something was apparently wrong. By mid-March, there was talk of him starting the year on the disabled list.  Of course, the Phillies went on to win the NL East last year, but none of the credit went to Garcia, who made 11 starts, compiled a 5.90 ERA, and won 1 game. He made his final start on June 8th and underwent season ending surgery in August. It would come to light that Garcia had been receiving cortisone shots in his shoulder, although the pitcher denied this despite his own agent admitting it's veracity.

Again, it was a case of a team (this time, the Phillies) not doing their homework. They had relied on the White Sox’ own medical reports to inform them before pulling the trigger on the deal. It was really only after the injury became apparent that people inside the game talked openly about how Garcia’s fastball had lost velocity before the trade even happened. I’m not sure where these opinions were before his shoulder exploded as a Phil, but they were loud and clear by June of ‘07. Sure, in retrospect, the numbers posed a bunch of red flags, especially his strikeout rates in ‘05 and ‘06. But I can’t find one instance where a columnist or analyst pointed this out to be problematic at the time the deal went down. Either way, it was yet another situation where the Chicago White Sox were able to unload a pitcher with a pre-existing injury.

This is not to say that Fautino De Los Santos was damaged goods before he was traded. I have no idea if this was the case and am not making an accusation. But this is now the fourth incident in Kenny Williams’ tenure that something like this has happened. So you have to wonder - will front offices become far more hesitant to even deal with Kenny Williams? And why aren’t they taking more precautions than they do?

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com