The Big Piece and The Big Deal

howard 0824.jpg“That’s why I call him the Big Piece. He was the game.” – Charlie Manuel on Ryan Howard, who hit two home runs in today’s 6-2 victory over the Mets.

Howard hit a three-run homer to left-field in the first inning and a two-run homer to right field in the third inning against the Mets.

The three-run homer could not have been more impressive. He kept his hands in and simply muscled the ball to left field. Or as Keith Hernandez said to Ron Darling as he watched the replay on SNY: “This is an inside-out, Ronny! He inside-outed this ball and hit it out in this ballpark. That’s impressive.”

Howard crushed the two-run homer in the third over the Subway sign in right. Or as Hernandez put it: “He turns on this one and he knew he got it. Inside-out to the opposite field, the exact opposite here.”

Howard has hit .333 (20-for-60) with three doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 25 RBIs in his last 15 games. He is hitting .268 with 34 homers and 104 RBIs this season, joining Chuck Klein as just the second player in franchise history to have four consecutive 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons.

This is the fourth consecutive season Howard has had 100 or more RBIs before Sept. 1. He had 114 in 2008, 110 in 2007 and 128 in 2006.


If Howard is the Big Piece than Cliff Lee is the Big Deal. He improved to 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA in five starts with the Phillies, who dealt for him July 29. In 40 innings, he has allowed 24 hits, six runs, three earned runs, six walks and zero home runs. He has struck out 39. Opponents have hit .175 against him. He allowed six hits and two unearned runs and struck out five in seven innings today against the Mets.

“This game is not that easy. It’s just not,” Brad Lidge said about Lee. “It’s pretty amazing. Not a whole lot of guys can say that they’ve done that over a five-game span. He’s throwing eight different things for strikes then he’ll sneak 94 in there from the left side. He’s throwing everything he wants to basically every single time. That kind of consistency is very hard to duplicate, no matter if you’re in midseason form or not. It’s just a lot harder to be that consistent than he’s showing. Trust me. I’ve been trying to figure it out for a couple months. It’s hard to get locked in like that and be automatic on every pitch. It’s impressive.”


Brett Myers walked one and struck out one in one inning in a rehab start for Single A Lakewood.


In between innings this afternoon, the Mets played the Electric Slide with a girl in a Mets jersey leading some children in the dance. The cameraman never noticed a couple Mets fans behind them dancing along while wearing paper bags over their heads. Hilarity ensued.


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I had my first exposure to Citi Field today. It’s a nice place, but not as comfortable as CBP. The concourse level is kind of dark, and the middle level hangs over a bit too much, although you can see the game from the concourse like at CBP.
I was spoiled as a luxury suite guest, (at $180 a ticket, I should have been – lucky I didn’t pay for it) but managed to take a walk around to scope out the joint.
Nice tribute to Jackie Robinson in the Rotunda. TONS of ads all over the place. Parts of it seems more like a shopping center than a ballpark. There’s actually a market in center field.
But of course, the Mets are more like store clerks than a baseball team, so it probably makes sense.
Nice game by the Phils, although it would be nice to not have to rely on the home run ball now and again, but great when “The Big Piece” can carry them. Couldn’t believe the Utley boner, and Sheffield should be cut today. He’s a dog.
Photos on my goofy blog:

Mama Mia!

Keep up the quotes about Keith Hernandez, Ronny!


Muleman, good blog post on your blog. Nice pics too. I think the Jackie Robinson link is that he played for an NL New York (the Dodgers) team and since the Mets are the current NL New York team, they saw it fit to claim him and honor him. I think it is nice. Also, last night on the Tonight Show during the “In the Year 3000” sketch, one of the lines was “In the year 3,000 the New York Mets will start to turn their fortunes around when they begin their popular ‘Bring a Major League Prospect’ to the game night”. Heh. Oh, and now it looks like Santana is done for the year.

The Mets are a mess and now they are also stuck with Billy Wagner for the rest of the season. He refuses to go to a team that has a chance to play in the WS, something he has never done, and trashes their closer. The Red Sox don’t know how lucky they are that they dodged that bullet.

Wagner’s comments regading 400 saves and what he wants to do say it all. Instead of saying the old, “I just want to help the team win and hopefully win a ring” he only cares about his own personal records. No wonder no one wants him. Cancer

What is funny about Wagner is that his manager said he would consider a trade to ANY playoff contending team. And then he says he wouldn’t go for a trade for Philly and then he says he wants to protect his arm for next season. So much for considering a trade to any playoff contending team! Idiot.

he’ll go to any contending team except Phila, Boston, NY, TExas, LA, and St. Louis. Basically, he wants to go to a team contending for the AAA title

Right now the team that worries me the most is the Rockies. They were 3 runs down in the bottom of the 14th and won it on a walk-off grandslam. That is scary. They did the same thing against San Diego 2 years ago and ended up going to the ’07 WS . We must keep an eye out for that team.

Getting back to Brad Lidge’s quote, it’s equally baffling to us how a pitcher who was automatic for an entire season and post-season could become so bad. Not just Brad, but Cole too. How do you go from being one of the best, most-feared pitchers in baseball to mediocre or awful? Whoever can answer that question should be the Phils new pitching coach!

I still can’t believe that opposite-field homer Ryan hit. I watched the replay 5-6 times. We all know how powerful the man is, but power should be negated when a hitter is jammed by a pitch. In Ryan’s case he brought his hands IN (as in the picture above) and whipped the barrel of the bat around without losing any bat-speed. This home run was really hit with his wrists and hands. Mike Schmidt used to hit homeruns like that a lot. Now we know Ryan can do it too. Before, the pitchers had to worry about Ryan getting his arms extended to pulverize a ball. Now they have to be careful that they don’t allow him to get his wrists around on a pitch either. WOW! I hope he can stay locked in like this till WSC ’08!!!!!

While not claiming to be a canidite for the pitching coach job, I think it’s a matter of confidence. Both Lidge and Hamels have the stuff, they are missing location a bit, and aren’t throwing the pitches they threw last year (look at percentage of Change-ups Hamel has thrown and sliders Lidge has thrown, especially in critical situations. It’s all about confidence!

How does Lidge do compared to the rest of the league? He had a perfect year last year. Did anyone really expect him to duplicate that feat? And you know what, it is pretty worrisome that the Phillies rely so much on the long ball. I just wish they would string more singles together. It they did that we could call them the Mets or the Braves.

     I still maintain Hamels fortunes will improve. He hasn’t lost velocity or breaking movement. His location has been a little off at times, but not nearly enough to account for his struggles. In fact, the percentage of his pitches that are strikes is identical to last year (66%).
     His K/BB ratio is the same as it was last year (actually, a little higher even), and his LD/GB/FB ratios are the same, so it’s not like he’s getting hit harder. He’s not surrendering any more line drives than last year. It’s just that all those weak groundballs and flyballs are now falling for hits, and that won’t happen forever.
     Lidge I can’t really explain, but it does seem like his stuff and velocity have returned lately. He was hitting 96 consistently with the fastball the last few outings and the slider had its old bite back. Maybe he’ll be recovered by the playoffs.

I am much more hopeful that Lidge can get it together than Hamels. Lidge needs to work on his pitch selection because he still has his velocity on the fastball and the bite on his slider. He needs to get ahead of the hitters with his fastball, plain and simple.
Hamels baffles me. He was so confident last year and now he appears flustered and frustrated. Every little thing gets to him.

And pherris, you are right about the string of singles. I remember reading a while back that the Mets were leading the NL in hitting with RISP. I’m sure that’s not the case now, but it wasn’t doing them much good back then either.

If you could have looked into a PALANTIR (chrystal ball for those who don’t know Tolkien) at the beginning of the season and had seen the stats for Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge in late August, you would have gone into despair and become needlessly depressed for months. It’s a miracle the Phils are as great as they are without help from those two guys. We must count our blessings!

I disagree phylan. I don’t think there is any question that it is affecting his pitching. Hamels got off to a poor, slow start and has been trying to catch up all season. The frustration is obvious. JMO.

I disagree phylan. I don’t think there is any question that it is affecting his pitching. Hamels got off to a poor, slow start and has been trying to catch up all season. The frustration is obvious. JMO.

Honestly, I’d be frustrated too if I was getting buried by garbage hits like Hamels is. He’s a competitor. Just because he gets ********** doesn’t mean it affects his pitching. Every fan likes to play armchair psychologist but really answer is always much simpler.

So as far as Hamels is concerned, are we going to believe the lying statistics or are we going to believe our lying eyes? We are suppose to take some solace from the fact that Hamels is giving up “weak hits” as opposed to what? Strong hits, as in gopher balls? My impression is that Hamels has always dodged the bullet prior to this year in that his gopher balls have been solos. Now he is giving up “weak hits” followed by gopher balls? It seems to be a toxic brew. Regardless, do not all exotic statistics amount to one thing, ERA? Hamels has about 8 starts to right his ship. His failure to do so would seem to open up the competition for the fourth spot in the post season rotation. And if things cut the Philies way there will not be a need for a fourth or fifth spot.

I’m just saying the reasons that teams are hanging runs on him are clear enough if you look at the numbers, without trying to get in a guy’s head, which is impossible to do.

I think that Hamels has lost confidence in his change up as his out pitch. While he’s still throwing the same ammont of strikes, etc, he’s doing it more with his FB and less with the change-up which was so effective last year.

FIJ, I think you’re right about Cole’s change-up not being his out-pitch anymore. The best change-ups in baseball have to come out of the same armslot as the fastball, which means that both pitches should be coming toward the plate at the same initial height. The fastball will stay up, while the change-up drops low, out of the strikezone or in the dirt in front of homeplate. Cole has hung a lot of change-ups over the plate. To be effective, his change-ups shouldn’t be much higher than the hitters’ knees. I don’t think there is any scenerio where his change-up is clearly in the strikezone and the hitter doesn’t recognize it in time to do some damage. I don’t see most of the games so I am just guessing.

As far as the arm slot goes, check out the “release point” graph on this page:

This is from his last start at the Mets. The changeups are in yellow, and you can see they’re mixed in nicely with the fastball, so it looks like they’re all coming from the same place from the batter’s perspective.

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