First, he explained why Ryne Sandberg will be a good manager.
Second, he talked about possibly taking a job on Sandberg’s coaching staff.
But then he talked about Jimmy Rollins, whose .666 OPS is the lowest of his 14-year career. Bowa is a big Rollins fan. The two have a good relationship. One of my favorite Rollins-Bowa stories happened in the clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park in 2004. Bowa was walking through the clubhouse past Rollins’ locker, when Rollins’ blurted, “Hey, Bo, you’ve got to pimp that walk. Drag that back leg.” Bowa didn’t miss a beat and responded, “I’d like to see you drag that back leg across home plate every once in a while.” Both men laughed.
“Jimmy still has a lot of baseball left in him,” Bowa said Wednesday. “You have to keep the volume up. Sometimes he likes to lower the volume. The volume is definitely turned back up (recently). I can see a big difference.”
Rollins is hitting .385 (15-for-39) with two doubles, one home run, two RBIs, seven walks, three stolen bases and a .991 OPS in his last 11 games. It’s a small sample size, but it’s something.
“I don’t even know if they talk,” Bowa said about Rollins and Sandberg, “but I see a difference in the way Jimmy has played lately. Ryno hasn’t said a word whether he’s talked to him, but I just watching Jimmy and see a difference in Jimmy. … “(Rollins is) lucky. You don’t play on winning teams every year. To me, the mark of a good player is – what, they are 18 games out? – you still have to post up. It’s hard to play like that, but you still have to do it. It’s easy to play when everything is going good. He’s been very lucky. Even when I was here, we were .500 or above. It’s fun to play like that. When you’re 18 games out, you have to kick it in, and it’s hard sometimes.”
Last night could have been Roy Halladay‘s final home start for the Phillies.
He allowed four hits and one run in six innings against the Marlins, although you should not look deeply into the results. The Marlins have a .627 OPS, which is the lowest mark in baseball since the Blue Jays had a .617 OPS in 1981. It also ranks 34th lowest out of 2,042 teams since 1920. And the Marlins have averaged 3.21 runs per game, which is the third-lowest mark in baseball since 1980 and 29th lowest in baseball since 1920.
If you watched the game last night you watched one of the worst offenses in baseball history.
But the big question is this: Should this be Halladay’s final home start or should the Phillies bring him back next season?
The trick is finding the magic number, if they think there is any chance he can get out big-league hitters consistently. It would be asinine to sign him to a one-year, $10 million contract, considering his struggles, health issues and age. But what about a one-year, $2.5 million contract with incentives? What about a one-year, $4 million deal? There is a number where the Phillies can bring back Halladay and feel the risks are worth the salary.
And there are plenty of risks. Halladay has hit 10 batters in 61 2/3 innings this season after hitting 71 in 2,687 1/3 innings from 1998-2012. He also issued three walks to increase his season total to 34. He is averaging 4.96 walks per nine innings after averaging 1.86 walks per nine innings from 1998-2012. Halladay has made 12 starts this season. Of the 178 pitchers that have made 10 or more starts, his 6.71 ERA is 174th. Of the 143 pitchers that have made 30 or more starts the past two seasons, Halladay’s 5.12 ERA is 137th.
His command isn’t there.
His velocity isn’t there. His fastball topped at 87 mph in the first inning.
We keep hearing about arm slot and how it will take time to relearn. We keep hearing how it’s remarkable Halladay is back from right shoulder surgery in three months, and how he will benefit from the offseason. But this is a production business, so the Phillies must move past the warm feelings they have for Halladay and make some cold decisions.
If the Phillies decide Halladay isn’t worth the risk, how do they fill his spot in the rotation? We know it will include Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Miguel Gonzalez, but the final two spots are up in the air. Kyle Kendrick could be back, although he has struggled the last two-plus months and has a right shoulder issue. Do the Phillies think highly enough of Jonathan Pettibone to just hand him a spot? There are free agent pitchers out there. Starters like A.J. Burnett (36), Tim Lincecum (29), Bronson Arroyo (36), Matt Garza (29), Phil Hughes (27), Scott Kazmir (29), Paul Maholm (31) and Ricky Nolasco (30).
I only take a shot at Doc on a very low-risk contract filled with incentives because if he pitches poorly you can release him and move on. But bringing back Halladay at any price only adds one more question mark to this team’s roster in 2014: if Ryan Howard can come back from knee surgery … if Jimmy Rollins can come back from the worst season of his career … if Chase Utley can continue to produce and stay healthy … if Domonic Brown can replicate his All-Star season … if Mike Adams can come back from shoulder surgery … if Cody Asche can succeed in his first full season … if Gonzalez can pitch … if the youngsters in the bullpen can carry their success into next season … etc. Maybe the better risk is spending more money on a pitcher with a better track record over the past two years. It would be one less question for the Phillies entering Spring Training.
So what’s your magic number for Doc? Or is that number zero?
If you look at the projected Opening Day lineup you see many of the names you see today: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Cody Asche. That’s five left-handed hitters. You also have Jimmy Rollins, who is stronger from the left side of the plate. That has had a few people wondering if the Phillies could take a run at Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu.
But one source said yesterday it doesn’t seem to be a fit because Abreu is a hulking first baseman and is not a candidate to play the outfield.
In other words, Ryan Howard is in his way. He has three years and $85 million remaining on his contract.
But so is Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco. Ruf has pop and can play first base. Franco is the organization’s top hitting prospect. He came up as a third baseman, but the Phillies are trying him at first base to give them more options. If Franco becomes what the Phillies project him to be they already have a right-handed first baseman with pop. And at a whole lot less money.
Of course, nothing has been finalized and anything could happen in the coming weeks, but Sandberg reiterated this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park he has no expectations regarding a decision from the front office.
“There hasn’t been any indication or any word or anything,” Sandberg said before their series opener against the Marlins. “No, I’m just focused on what I’m doing here and the games to be played, getting the players in there as much as I can, making up a lineup to win a baseball game. I want to win as many games as we can, finish strong, finish on a positive note, a good note, all those things.”
The Phillies are 16-13 since Sandberg replaced Charlie Manuel on Aug. 16. Reviews from players inside the clubhouse and around the organization have been positive.
If Sandberg lands the job, he might have decisions to make regarding the coaching staff. Asked if he is evaluating the coaching staff in the event he might get the job, he said, “No, I’m not doing that at all. I’m just taking it a game at a time and focused on the game and the season at hand here. That’s not part of what I’m doing right now.”
Imagine what it could have been if he had not been sidelined the past few weeks with a right Achilles issue?
Brown has had just 12 plate appearances since Aug. 23, but he still entered tonight’s series finale against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park hitting .274 with 18 doubles, four triples, 27 home runs and 88 RBIs. Incredibly, despite the missed time, Brown still ranks fourth in the National League in home runs and eighth in RBIs.
He said he hopes to play before the end of the season, although he offered no timetable for his return.
Brown took batting practice Thursday afternoon, which he said would be a good test for him.
“I’m just trying to finish the season being healthy,” he said. “If I’m feeling it, if it’s bothering me, then I’m not going to play around with it. But I feel good right now. I feel like I’m close to 100 percent.”
They open the season on the road against the Rangers. They finish the season at home against the Braves.
He struck out the only two batters he faced in the eighth inning in Saturday’s 6-5 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He has allowed five hits, one run, two walks and struck out a remarkable 18 in 11 2/3 innings in his last 12 appearances.
He has been impressive as he has touched as high as 99 mph on the home radar gun. In fact, according to FanGraphs, Diekman’s average fastball velocity is third best among Phillies pitchers from 2002-13. His fastball his first two seasons in the big leagues has averaged 95.4 mph, which trails only Billy Wagner (96.7 mph) and Felix Rodriguez (95.6 mph). Wagner pitched for the Phillies from 2004-05. Rodriguez made 23 appearances for the Phillies in 2004.
Interestingly, five of the pitchers in the top 10 have pitched for the Phillies this season: B.J. Rosenberg (94.8 mph) is fourth, Phillippe Aumont (94.7 mph) is tied with Francisco Rosario for fifth, J.C. Ramirez (94.1 mph) is ninth and Luis Garcia (94.0 mph) is 10th.
And for those interested, of the 128 pitchers available to FanGraphs, former Phillies infielder John McDonald ranked last at 78.3 mph. Jamie Moyer ranked 127th with an 81.2 mph fastball.
He handed Martin one of his baseball cards, which showed his 10.64 ERA in 2000 with the Blue Jays. It is the highest ERA for any pitcher in baseball history with 50 or more innings pitched in a single season.
“He wrote a little note on his card to Ethan, to remind this kid, that, you might be taking your lumps now, but there’s a lot of good that’s going to come down the road in the future if you continue to learn, continue to have the heart to go out there,” said Rich Dubee, who announced today Martin will finish the season in the bullpen. “Ethan definitely has the heart and the mound presence.”
Right-hander Tyler Cloyd will assume Martin’s spot in the rotation the remainder of the year.
“It doesn’t really click in until Halladay came over and said, ‘Hey, do you know holds the record for highest ERA with over 50 innings pitched in the big leagues in a year?’ I said no, and he said, ‘Well, I did,’” Martin said. “Then he came and handed me the card with a 10-point-something ERA and had it highlighted. When you look at that … I’m still upset with how I’ve done, but it makes you say, OK, there’s still a chance I can still be that starter or whatever I have to do. I’m just taking that in, and once I’m down there (in the bullpen) I’ll come in for an inning or whatever they want me to do and give it all I have.
“I was really stunned. Dubee told me to go look at (Greg) Maddux and (Tom) Glavine, and it was the same kind of situation. It’s crazy to think back and see what they did throughout their careers, and where Roy is now, and they had rough starts. I guess I learn from these last seven starts, and just build off of it.”
Martin went 2-4 with a 6.90 ERA in seven starts. It has been speculated Martin might end up in the bullpen because he has a big arm that could serve the Phillies well in the late innings.
Martin has been successful the first time through the lineup, but the longer he has pitched the less effective he has been. Opponents have hit just .200 (11-for-55) against him the first time they see him. He has walked just six, but struck out 23. But after the first time through the lineup, opponent have hit .324 (22-for-68) with 15 walks and 11 strikeouts.
“I think he’s a gem,” Dubee said. “I think he really is going to be a gem in this league. Right now he’s got a lot of innings. We’re just trying to protect him from the workload and also see what he looks like in the bullpen.
“I’m not afraid to put him in the eighth inning right now. Again, this is all trial and error. It will be interesting to see how he handles it. His stuff has played phenomenally well the first time through a lineup. I don’t know if it’s because of fatigue. I don’t know if it’s because he burns up too much energy, but his stuff shortens up the second and third time through. He will play some big role on a pitching staff. It will be a nice little change to take a different look at him.”
I wrote yesterday about the many uncertainties surrounding the Phillies’ rotation entering the offseason. Everybody is mostly concerned about the offense (its 3.77 runs per game average is second-worst in baseball), the bullpen (its 4.24 ERA is worst in the National League), if Carlos Ruiz will be back, if Darin Ruf is the answer in right field, etc. But the rotation has been pretty bad this season. Its 4.29 ERA is 11th in the league. We know going into next season Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will be atop the rotation. That’s a good start. If he is as good as Phillies scouts (and other scouts) think he is, Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez should be a solid No. 3.
But then there are the final two spots.
Roy Halladay and Kyle Kendrick? The Phillies face interesting decisions on both. Halladay is a free agent, and his numbers the past two seasons have not been good. He turns 37 next May. He had shoulder surgery this May. History suggests he won’t be the same. Do you trust the evaluation that an offseason of rest and preparation for Spring Training will have him sharper and throwing harder next season? Or is that just something somebody says about a struggling pitcher (i.e. Oh, don’t worry, he’s still got it …)? Halladay is a considerable risk, unless he’s resigned at a significant discount or to a heavily incentive laden contract.
Kendrick is eligible for salary arbitration. He has struggled since the end of June, going 3-8 with a 6.23 ERA in 12 starts. That followed a 40-game stretch from late April 2012 through June in which he went 16-14 with a 3.50 ERA. He is going to get a raise if the Phillies offer him salary arbitration. They could non-tender him and try to sign him for less, but there is risk there. Kendrick is a durable guy, never having appeared on the DL. I would think he could get a multiyear deal elsewhere. I mean, the Angels signed Joe Blanton for two years, $15 million following three seasons with a combined 20-21 record, 4.79 ERA and trips to the DL. Halladay might have more upside than Kendrick, but Kendrick seems to be the safer bet. You at least have a better sense of what you’re going to get.
Bring back both? Bring back one? Bring back none? If you say none you have to have pitchers ready to step up. There are some free agents out there, but are they worth the risk?
He went 3-for-4 with one home run and three RBIs in last night’s loss to the Nationals. Asche has hit in 10 of his last 11 games. He is hitting .375 (15-for-40) with three doubles, one triple, one home run and nine RBIs in that stretch. He is hitting .312 (24-for-77) in 22 games since beginning his big league career with one hit in his first 17 at-bats.
Two of his hits last night came against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, making him 5-for-13 with one double and four RBIs against left-handers this season. That is impressive, although it is a small sample size. Asche had an .869 OPS against right-handers this season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley compared to a .691 OPS against left-handers, so it remains to be seen how successful he can be against left-handers over an extended period of time. But that is why Asche has started 21 games against right-handers since joining the Phillies, compared to just three starts against left-handers.
Easing in a left-handed hitter against left-handed pitchers is nothing new. Larry Bowa did the same with Chase Utley and Charlie Manuel did the same with Ryan Howard.
The Phillies faced 31 left-handed starters (19.1 percent of their games) in 2003. Utley started just two of his 36 games (5.6 percent) against them. The Phillies started 28.4 percent of their games against left-handers in 2004. He started just seven of his 57 games (12.3 percent) against them. That disparity grew a little closer in 2005 — 29.6 percent of total games started against lefties compared to 20.6 percent for Utley — before Manuel truly turned Utley loose against lefties in 2006.
Howard started just one of five games in 2004 against lefties, and just 14 of 79 (17.7 percent) against them in 2005. Manuel turned him loose during his MVP season in 2006.
“I thought he had great at-bats,” Ryne Sandberg said about Asche. “It goes a long way with his ability. I think he can hit righties or lefties. He has the ability. He should get a big boost from his game tonight.”