Nine Up, Nine Down

Chase UtleyHere are some things we’ve learned through the first nine games of the season:

  • You should be worried about Roy Halladay. Despite protests from Halladay and everybody else in the Phillies clubhouse and front office, Halladay has not looked good since 2011. So this isn’t a four or five start slump. This is a slump that has extended beyond one full calendar year. It started in Spring Training 2012 and has lasted through his first two starts in 2013. Besides a drop in velocity, Halladay’s ERA from 2010-11 to 2012-13 has jumped from 2.40 to 4.95, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio has plummeted from 6.75 to 3.43. He is going the wrong direction in every relevant statistic. Maybe he can figure out things and be productive, but right now there is no evidence to suggest he is close. He faces the wretched Marlins on Sunday. They’ve had Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs hitting cleanup. It is a good opportunity to have some success on the mound. Maybe it gets him going.
  • Don’t be worried about Cole Hamels. If we’re at Defcon 2 with Halladay, we’re at Defcon 5 with Hamels. There is nothing to see here. Please, disperse.
  • It’s more the rotation than the bullpen. Phillies starters have a 6.24 ERA, which ranks 28th in baseball. That is the biggest issue right now, not middle relievers like Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes. Certainly they need to do a better job. They have allowed 12-of-15 inherited runners to score. That 80 percent mark is the worst in baseball. (Technically, the Reds have allowed 100 percent of their inherited runners to score, but they’re only 1-for-1.) But the middle relievers have been pitching too much and have put into too many tough situations. That blame falls on the starters. They are the ones that need to do better. They are supposed to pitch deep into games and they have not done that nearly enough.
  • The Phillies rank seventh in the National League, averaging 4.67 runs per game. They have looked better recently, and they show some potential. Chase Utley, Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins are swinging well right now. Domonic Brown has been OK. I believe Ryan Howard will be better than he has been. The only drag right now is Ben Revere. He has struck out seven times in 38 at-bats. That’s 5.86 plate appearances per strikeout. He struck out 54 times last season, or once every 10.24 plate appearances. John Mayberry Jr. has been productive, but even if he continues to swing well the Phillies are going with Delmon Young in right field when he is ready. Add Young and Carlos Ruiz to the lineup before the end of the month and this lineup has a chance to score some runs.
  • Utley looks like the guy that earned the “Best Second Baseman in Baseball” tag from 2005-09.
  • Cliff Lee can be streaky. The Phillies should be thankful he started on a good streak, otherwise they’d be in deep doo-doo.

13 Comments

It is clear that the only way they are going to win a lot of games this year (ie, > 0.500 record) is to hit their way to wins. On paper, this lineup appears to be able to do this. But as I have said all along (and last year too), this team is not better than the Nats or the Braves, and, if they should reach the playoffs, is not likely to do much damage there. I think Revere will come around. Chooch will be back in a matter of weeks, which will help both pitching and offense. I think Doc is not going to be a big help this year. IF he can figure out how to reinvent himself, I think it will take most of a season to accomplish that, with a bunch of accompanying losses. I think Ryan Howard needs to go after this year, earlier if they can get a good deal. If Doc has been in a slump for more than a calendar year, Howard has been in one since 2010. I think in reality, what has happened is that pitchers have figured out how to get him out, and he either cannot or will not adjust. Either way, I think that long-term they need to move him and upgrade that position in the lineup. Alternatively, as they start looking for other positions, if they can find a better cleanup hitter, they could potentially keep Howard and move him up or down in the lineup so either 1) he has better protection or 2) he has less at bats during the course of a season. He is fine defensively, but offensively he has been dragging the team down. Its pretty sad when opposing teams would rather face the cleanup hitter than the catcher late in close games.

Either way, this is still better than most of the 1990s….

I don’t agree with moving Howard, at least not that soon. Firstly, nobody is gonna take him for any significant return with this much time/money on his contract. Secondly, he changes the rest of the lineup, regardless of whether he is slumping or hitting. Look at the two guys in front and back of him, what are they doing? Why do you think they are able to get pitches to hit? It is so they don’t have to throw Howard anything good, because they know that if they had to keep the ball around the plate with Howard, he WILL hurt them. Is he ever gonna be the hitter that he used to be? No, but pitchers make mistakes all the time, and he can still capitalize on those. He will still hit 25+ dingers and drive in 100+ RBI this year. Just watch.

Don’t discount our pitching just yet, especially once Cole figures his stuff out. KK didn’t look bad last night, pitching his way out of a couple jams and battling, what more can you ask for out of a #4? Lannan looked good against a young Royals team that can hit. If he keeps us in games and the offense keeps progressing, especially once Chooch returns, we will be just fine.

When it comes to Doc, who the hell knows what is gonna happen with him. If he can even get back to pitching like a #3 starter it would help out, quite literally, every single player on the roster from the offense to the other starting pitchers and down to the bullpen. Also don’t discount the effect that getting Chooch back could possibly have on Doc. There is something to be said about trusting your catcher fully, and obviously Chooch is one of the best in the business with handling a staff. No knock on Kratz or Quintero, but Doc is just a different type of guy than most other pitchers if you ask me. We shall see by mid May how things go.

I actually wrote that if it were my decision, I would let Doc go 2 more starts. If there is no significant improvement, I would let him try to figure out his mechanics somewhere in the minors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Amaro and Cholly are thinking the same way. It’s not like we would be worse off letting Morgan (who looked real good in spring and supposedly in Lehigh Valley as well) coming up for a few starts. At this point Doc is throwing BP, and if he doesn’t figure it out soon, he won’t have a win for a while, even against the likes of the lowly Marlins.

As for the playoffs, if we can get in, I think we can do some damage. We have a good mix of veterans and young guys, giving us experience and energy. That can be a good combo in the playoffs. If we get hot at the right time offensively and on the mound, there is no doubt in my mind we can do some damage. Did you think the giants would win it all last year? Especially after they went down a few games in that cincinatti series?

I agree with most of these points. But to get into the playoffs you have to be the second-best team that did not win its division. Right now, I just don’t see it, but of course it is a long season, teams can get better, teams can get worse, injuries can happen, moves will be made before the deadline, etc. But right now, I think the Braves/Nats, Dodgers/Giants, and Cards/Reds will all end up with better records. It isn’t always how good you are, it also has to do with how good the competition is, and the competition in the NL is much stiffer than it was 5 years ago.
Howard definitely has more help in the lineup than he did last year, so we’ll see. It is early.

Steve – if the Phillies play .500 ball through their next 9 games they’ll be 8-10 which is exactly where they were in 2008. The only recent season they were over .500 in April was 2011 because they were simply never /not/ over .500

Halladay is like the starting pitcher version of Brad Lidge – one year he’s Superman; the next year he’s Jimmy Olsen. Doc isn’t even mediocre right now. He’s just getting pounded. It’s sad to see. He did some great things for the Phillies. It’s somewhat like Steve Carlton at the end of his Phillies career, but I don’t think Carlton’s decline was as quick as Doc’s has been.

But what is the ERA of the starting pitchers without Doc “Homerun” Halladay?

Cole Hamels – 10.2 IP 13 ER
Cliff Lee – 10 IP 1 ER
Kyle Kendrick – 11.2 IP 7ER
John Laanan – 7 IP 3 ER
24 ER in 39.2 IP is a 4.84 ERA

Correction – it’s a 5.45 ERA.

I don’t understand “Don’t be worried about Hamels” and “Lee can be streaky” as foundations of this argument.
Between the two of them, Lee is the only one who has ever won more than 19 games. Their career ERAs aren’t that far apart, and I fear that we have over-valued Hamels.
Todd says Lee “can be streaky,” but what isn’t streaky about Hamels, who was close to a .500 pitcher in 2009 and 2010?
I don’t understand why it’s OK to call Lee streaky and tell us not to worry about Hamels.

now you know why you didn’t have to worry about Hamels

Will someone explain to me , why Chase Utley would swing at a first pitch, with guys in scoring poition and a pitcher having trouble with his command. he has done it twice today in Miami , once with the bases loaded, he’s paid how many millions to make them stupid decisions, all you are doing is helping the pitcher out. I don’t care if the first pitch is served on a silver platter, at least take a pitch or two. The pitchers love these dumb decisions, it helps keep them in the game. Players these days have no patience at the plate.

Utley is one of the most patient hitters in the National League historically, and almost never swings at the first pitch, especially the first AB against someone of the day. He saw something he liked with RISP and was aggressive, knowing the pitcher probably would give him something in the zone. It’s not bad baseball in that situation. If there was nobody on he certainly wouldn’t have done that.

Hamels and Doc certainly have not been the problem the last two days. How about a knock with RISP, guys.

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