July 29, 2014

Red hot Phils off to Pittsburgh looking for NL lead

The Phils are now 6-1 on their parade around the bottom of the NL and look to add to that as they travel to PNC Park to face the 20-games under .500 Pirates. The Phils are now 7 up on the Braves (who have San Diego) and 8 up on the Marlins (who get the Mets), and sit only 1/2 game behind the Dodgers for the best record in the NL. Our magic number is 33, and I will track that for the rest of the season as best I can. Just in case you don’t know, Magic Number = Phillies’ wins + Braves losses (or whoever is in 2nd) until the Phillies clinch the division. We are currently 7 games over

2009: 72-50
2008: 65-57
2007: 65-57

Player of the Series:  Brad Lidge (3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 2 Saves)
Goat of the Series: Cole Hamels (5 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, L)

Let’s take a look at where the Phils players currently rank in the NL…with 16 teams in the NL, I’ll list anything that is top-15

  • Utley (T-2nd in Runs, T-10th in HR, 11th in RBI, 8th in Walks, 2nd in OBP, 13th in SLG%, 6th in OPS, 13th in Total Bases)
  • Victorino (5th in Runs, T-4th in Hits, T-8th in Doubles, 2nd in Triples, T-11th in SB, 8th in BA, 15th in OBP)
  • Howard (T-6th in Runs, 3rd in HR, 3rd in RBI, 2nd in SO, 8th in SLG%, 5th in Total Bases)
  • Werth (T-6th in Runs, 7th in HR, T-13th in RBI, 9th in Walks, 5th in SO, 15th in Total Bases)
  • Rollins (13th in Runs, T-5th in Doubles, T-6th in SB)
  • Ibanez (T-8th in HR, T-13th in RBI, 5th in SLG%, 11th in OPS)
  • Happ (4th in ERA)

Slight discrepancy between the hitters and the pitchers, huh.

Series Preview: Phillies at Pittsburgh Pirates

Over the last several years the Pirates have traded an entire starting 8…

C- Jason Kendall
1B- Adam LaRoche
2B- Freddy Sanchez
SS – Jack Wilson
3B – Aramis Ramirez
OF – Jason Bay
OF- Nate McClouth
OF – Nyjer Morgan

You would think they would have gotten a pretty good return on all that talent, but they really haven’t. The Pirates have been the worst run organization in baseball for some time and must have one of the worst scouting systems and draft strategies as they have been high up in the draft for the last decade with little to show for it.

Right now they have a couple players worth watching (Andrew McCutchen, Zach Duke) but their #1 RBI guy has only 12 more RBI than Carlos Ruiz, and they are a long way away from a winning season.

Tuesday: Blanton vs. LHP Ross Ohlendorf (11-8, 4.15 ERA)
Wednesday: Hamels vs. LHP Paul Maholm (7-7, 4.74 ERA)
Thursday: Happ vs. RHP Charlie Morton (3-6, 5.21 ERA)

Three Questions for the Series…

  1. Can the Phils avoid looking ahead to the weekend series with the Braves?
  2. Should we throw the towel in on Hamels for the rest of the year?
  3. Will the Phillies / Pirates ever be a good intrastate rivalry?

Prediction

It would be easy to predict a sweep the way the Phillies are playing, but I think that Ohlendorf or Maholm stymie us and we take 2 of 3. Hopefully Hamels can get some of his confidence back against a poor Pittsburgh line-up. Shockingly, I’m pretty comfortable with a Lee, Blanton, Happ rotation for the playoffs, but the difference between winning one series and winning the pennant or the whole thing probably rests with Hamels left arm.

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Comments

  1. Al Giordano says:

    they need to do everything possible to get hamels right again. period……………….

  2. stu says:

    Name to watch on the Pirates is Garrett Jones who has been on a power tear over the past month an a half (leading all MLBers in HRs at one point over the course of the month).  I would also be weary or Ryan Doumit having a good series as he is finally healthy.  Jones, Doumit, and McCutcheon pretty much carry their offense.
    All three of those starters are sink or swim guys and Matt Capps is a shaky closer.

  3. Richie says:

    As bad as Hamels has been I still have faith that he will be fine. It is soo weird though his velocity is not really down it is just his command that he needs back. If he can get ahead of hitters with an outside fastball first pitch, he will be fine. I do think the SI cover jinx is in effect and Im usually not superstitious.

  4. Al Giordano says:

    i know garrett jones is good. last time he played us he had 3 hrs…. hes a stud. knowing the pirates they will try to trade him……

  5. jkay says:

    hey guys… errr … we may have a problem here …

  6. Drew says:

    Freakin’ Lidge…but in his defense I think he went 4 nights in a row. Charlie should have rested him tonight.

    • Maria says:

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      • Ken Bland says:

        I see your point, Maria, but not sure I agree much.  First of all, it took you close to 3 years to react, which is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking.  Anyone could see this with that much hindsight.  Also, you might want to try spellcheck.  Rare is the bot on here that would win a spelling bee, but it was particularly stressful working through some of your typo gems.  Carry on, love.

  7. Dennis says:

    What are we going to do for th closer hole that needs filling? This is getting ugly!

  8. bball says:

    Let’s assume that Lidge pitches the same way for the rest of the season.   Do you think Charlie will stick with him in the playoffs? 
    He is a loyal manager which makes me worried he’ll put Lidge in a crucial situation in the playoffs.

  9. bski says:

    Absolutely amazing how quickly it all unraveled, isn’t it?  I mean, 3 batters, 5 pitches, and game over.  Hardly had time to process what just happened in the top of the 9th, then good night.

    I’ve already weighed in with my opinion on the Lidge situation, so here’s what Jayson Stark had to say (from an 8/21 chat transcript, which was before the latest implosion):

    Jen (Allentown PA)

    Would you Keep Brad Lidge as the closer? If not who would you replace him with?
    Jayson Stark
      (1:43 PM)

    The Phillies’ bullpen works best if Lidge can find it sometime between now and October. So I’d do just what Charlie Manuel is doing — stick with him until the end. But if he hasn’t shown signs of fixing his delivery and getting his act together by October, I’d go with the hottest hand I could find in the postseason. That could be Ryan Madson. It could be Pedro. It could be J.A. Happ. I keep pointing to the 2005 White Sox and 2006 Cardinals. Bobby Jenks and Adam Wainwright weren’t closing for those teams all year. But in October, the idea isn’t to do what you did all year. It’s one thing and one thing only: Win tonight.

    Bob (Denver)

    The Phillies don’t need a closer if their starters keep going 8 or 9… and they can just use situational guys for every batter in the ninth!
    Jayson Stark
      (1:55 PM)

    That’s a fine argument — if it were, say, 1957. But in this day and age, the starters are not going to go eight and nine innings every game through an entire postseason. And I don’t see Charlie Manuel wanting to go situation-to-situation late for an entire postseason, either. Somebody is going to have to step forward for that team. Ideally, they’d want it to be Brad Lidge. But if not, they’d better have a Plan B on the drawing board.

  10. jjg says:

    Brad Lidge:  last year, Ron Howard; this year, Danny Bonaduce.  Hard to envision a Hollywood ending this Oct. with him in the picture. 

    Fireman Brett, JC & Zagurski to the rescue! 

  11. bski says:

    If this continues, you’ve got to figure that Charlie Manuel will eventually get to the point where he will replace Lidge.  I mean, regardless of how loyal he is, he wants to win, so I can’t see him jeopardizing another championship run in order to protect Lidge’s psyche.

    Manuel has to be hoping against all hope that either Lidge gets himself together or that Myers comes back in dominating form so that he has a solid option for the playoffs.  Otherwise it’s a crap shoot because there are not too many other choices, effectiveness remains a question for each one, and moving someone else into the closer role will create a ripple effect throughout the rest of the bullpen, forcing relievers to slide into other slots to cover, which could end up doing more over all harm than good.

    • Ken Bland says:

      People must think b.ski disappeared from this blog. But there are so many readers and contributors these days that he just gets lost in the mix, I guess.

      But the funny thing is b.ski is obviously still here.  Anyone else so far ahead of their time that they used a Reading Fightin’ Phils logo so far ahead of it’s time?

      Nice marketing scam.  Much adieu about nothing.

  12. The Real Rob says:

    Are the Phils looking for a backup closer for Lidge?  Lidge needs to rest and get ready for what will most likely be another October!  Four straight days can be too much on a player and not all of Lidge’s blown saves were his fault entirely.  It just happens to be on his tab.  The Phils great defense needs to be there for the WHOLE game and help their respective pitchers out. This team has some walking wounded unfortunately, but the sooner they clinch their division, hopefully our wounded will get some rest because they could really the make the difference for another championship in Philadelphia! 

    GO PHILS!!! 

    • Ken Bland says:

      The Real Rob!  What a great answer to the trivia question whatever happened to.  The League leader in exclamation points and passion. 

  13. Pete says:

    Love that Charlie threw Hamels back out there in the 8th with 107 pitches already under his belt. Kind of a “time to get tough” kid type message.

  14. bski says:

    Any more questions about why Charlie keeps putting Lidge out there and hoping that he will come around?

    Tough to blame it all on Madson though, as we had some chances (top of the 9th anyone?) and the offense just couldn’t deliver.

  15. Pete says:

    yeah – Madson pretty much eliminated himself from any discussion about him taking over.

    Brett Myers? 3 IP, 2 H, o ER, 2 BB, 6 K so far in minor league rehab. I think he needs to get a shot once he is fully back.
  16. bski says:

    I think Howard is hot.  1st pitch swinging and delivering a 3-run shot in the 10th.  That was badly needed,  as we were 2-22 with RISP up to that point against the Pirates……THE PIRATES!  Now we just need SOMEONE to get us 3 outs and finish off the game.

  17. jjg says:

    Center of plate, belt-high, slop breaking ball.  Way to go, big man.  You did your job.  Watch it a little longer next time. 

  18. Pete says:

    he can watch it until you find a player with comparable power numbers through his first 4 MLB seasons that isn’t in the hall of fame.

    good pitches, bad pitches, good pitchers, bad pitchers – if you are among the best ever in important categories in a sport that has been around for 138 years – and have a rookie of the year, MVP and WS title to your name – it’s gonna take a lot more than verbal gymnastics to bring you down.
  19. The Real Rob says:

    This time you can’t blame Lidge on that blown save today!  Being a closer is tough and Madson is not a closer!  All Lidge needs is some rest and confidence!

    Great game from Hamels (even though it was the Pirates).  He has certainly been talking to Lee about his pitching velocity.  Wow,that is the Hamels we Phillies’ fans love and cherish!

  20. jjg says:

    Aw, Pete. I guess I struck a nerve.  I’m sorry.  Keep cheering for your hero.  And never let the facts get in the way of a good myth.  Damn, my lyin’ eyes! 

  21. Pete says:

    didn’t strike a nerve – just never been in a situation where my favorite team gets a dramatic, late in the game victory and my first reaction is a negative one.

    Once you present facts, I will listen.
  22. jjg says:

    In fact, I’m tired.  Pinch-hitter needed.  What’s Rick Joseph up to?  Dismount accomplished.

  23. Pete says:

    gotta hope that Hamels start tonight was the result of him making some positive changes, not just a crappy pittsburgh line-up. the 2nd is more likely than the 1st, but positive nonetheless.

  24. Trillo Fan says:

    jjg - not even the slightest bit happy that the Phillies won?  Would you have been more happy if Howard had struck out to end the game?  Methinks the only way you would have been more unhappy at the outcome is if Iguodala had hit the homer ;-)

  25. jurnee16 says:

    Madson is clearly better suited for the 8th inning.  I agree with those who say give Myers a chance at the job.

  26. jkay says:

    Trillo Fan: lol

    I am getting less sekptical bout Myers closing. Not sure how Lidge can be trusted anymore. You just can tell when its gonna be there and when its not.
    pity Madson could’nt  do it.

  27. jjg says:

    Trillo Fan, Howard couldn’t have ended the game as Phils were visiting the burgh of Pitts.  Let’s stay in context.  Now, I’ll humor you:  My  
    emoticon would’ve shown the biggest frown if  ”Donuts” McNott had 
    clubbed one and circled the bases facing backwards (like Jimmy Pearsall did after belting a Dallas Green serving for his 100th HR).  Keep thinking though, just try to avoid the intersection of Fog & Adrift.  Babe Ruth & Ryan Howard?  Now there’s a linkage prevailing only deep in the hearts (and far-reaching minds) of current rabid Phillies fans. 

  28. Trillo Fan says:

    jjg - You’re telling me Howard couldn’t have ended the game on a strikeout if the Phillies were trailing?  I must have missed a rules change somewhere.

    And, just to be clear (though I doubt you missed the point), my noting that Howard’s accomplishments place him on a short list of 4 that includes Ruth does not mean that I was equating Howard with Ruth, only that Howard’s accomplishments are rare and notable.  I’ll leave it at that; hopefully the point is clear enough.

  29. bski says:

    Erik Manning of fangraphs.com has an article from yesterday, Revisiting the Lidge Trade, in which he takes a look at what is going on with Lidge.  It’s not terribly revealing.  Just thought I’d share.

    The ‘why’ behind this isn’t all that cut and dry. Just by doing a quick-and-dirty analysis, his Pitch F/x numbers tell us his fastball velocity is down a little and the pitch is a tad bit straighter. His contact percentage is 84%, up from his career average of 75%. Hitters are swinging at fewer pitches outside of the zone — 27%, compared to a 30% career rate. It’s been less whiffs, more balls and more contact for Lidge this year compared to last. While I don’t think Lidge has been as bad as his ERA would indicate, at this point I wouldn’t let him pitch in any situation other than mop-up duty until he can right the ship. Lidge’s contract extension of 3 years/$37.5M isn’t looking so hot right now.

    Amaro has removed himself from the whole thing, at least publicly, stating that, “Those are mainly decisions for Charlie to make.”  Also, while still being supportive,  Manuel allowed, “If you go back and think about it, we’ve already tried a lot of things. I think we’ve tried rest. I’m concerned, and I’m sure he is, too.”, making one think that he’s getting that much closer to accepting that a change is necessary.

  30. jjg says:

    Trillo Fan,  But Phillies weren’t trailing; reality wouldn’t permit – my reply, in accordance.  

    An ‘argument by authority’ regarding player quality might smartly include ’The Bambino’ in performance association.  Yours was a deliberate and statistically accurate insert (I assume), and potentially effective in degree of persuasion, valid parallel or not (when considering baseball culture- and logistic- differences of eras).  In debate, raising to light opponent exagerration or sleight-of-posturing is considered a worthwhile practice.  

    I think our respective Howard points and positions are ironed out, at least for the time being.

    By the way, your Iguodala comment was funny.    

  31. Mike says:

    jjg you are an unfunny and possibly even grumpier version of bill conlin.  your rhetoric is completely nauseating.

  32. jjg says:

    Mike,  Thanks.  I love Conlin, one of the best sports columnists in America.  If indeed I’m his foul-breathed literary stepbrother, there’s consolation there.

    By the way, do you always enter a room with such grace?  As to your charming coda, I say, ol’ chap, a toast of Pepto-Bismol for the gastronomically-dismal.  Cheers!        

  33. Jesse says:

    Pete-

    Great stat on who the pirates traded away I got a kick out of that. On another note how long will Zach Duke be considered a player to watch? I feel like he has been one for about 5 seasons now (I looked and he has 123 career starts….)

    Lastly, I agree the Myers needs to get a look at the closer position. I don’t see any reason against it since he had success at the position 2 years ago. Also any thoughts on Chan Ho being our closer? He has been lights out the past couple of months…..

  34. Jesse says:

    Forgot to mention this but another note on Zach Duke to put his number of starts in reference….Cole Hamels has only started 109 regular season games

  35. bski says:

    It’s always tough when you face the Pirates, isn’t it?  I mean, pitchers like Candelaria, Kison, Blyleven, Bibby, and Tekulve really make it tough for you to score.  Wait a minute, they all pitched for the Pirates 30 years ago, so why is it we couldn’t score on the 2009 version of the Bucs?

    Tonight, the first three hitters reach to start the game and all we get is 1 run on a groundout by Howard.  In the 4th, Happ’s bunt doesn’t move Bako to second and Rollins follows with a double which would have plated a run.  Throw in all the other times we didn’t push runs across in the first two games and you’ve got yourself a series loss and a lousy way to finish the road trip.  Very frustrating.

  36. bski says:

    Still thinking about what an oddly quiet, and disappointing, series our offense just had.

    Actually neither offense did much and what they did do was almost entirely produced by the home run.

    We scored 7 of our 10 runs in the series by the homer,  and the Pirates scored 9 of their 10 runs that way.

  37. jjg says:

    Bangball.  Situational hitting becoming a relic.  Fortunately, starting pitchers have done bang-up job since All-Star break and the cast of NL East competition is weak.  Phillies seem to get bored with unchallenged success; need competition for juices to flow.  Another lull.        

  38. bski says:

    Yeah, the starting pitching has really stepped up and we’ve needed them to.  I’m sure the relievers have welcomed the decreased workload, although the starters’ league-worst first half most likely led to most of the bullpen problems in the first place.

    The offense is the offense.  They predominantly score via the home run.  They go through dry spells.  Nothing new there.  It’s been like this the last several years, yet they still score enough to win a lot of games (not to mention division titles and a world series).  At least this year the droughts seem to be for shorter stretches.  Doesn’t make them any easier to watch though.

  39. bski says:

    Just came across an interesting article by Chris Ballard of sportsillustrated.com, asking why every team sticks with a 5-man rotation.  His ideas make sense to me.

    Ballard’s article led me to an another article.  This one by Will Carroll from baseballprospectus.com, dated Feb. 8, 2006.  It’s involves a subject I have spoken about here many times before, namely developing pitchers from the time they are drafted to withstand higher workloads while remaining healthy.  I like this article a lot.

  40. The Real Rob says:

    I thought Blanton and Happ did a great job in that series, but without the run support, it’s tough.  Other teams better watch out for the Pirates from here on out.  (3 games-vs St. Louis,  7 games- v.s Dodgers)

    Also, I am looking forward to seeing Pedro’s next outing.  Each game has been a stepping stone and these next two games are BY FAR his great challenges yet.  (v.s Braves tonight and v.s Giants  9/3)
    GO PHILLIES!!