Results tagged ‘ bullpen ’

It’s Ohio Week In Philly

Chase UtleyHola, amigos.

It’s been a while, I know. I took a few days away from the blog to recharge the batteries. But it’s back to baseball tonight at Citizens Bank Park.

This week is a good test for the Phillies. They went 4-3 in San Francisco and Arizona and return home to play five games against the Indians and Reds. The Indians outscored the Phillies in two games two weeks ago in Cleveland, 20-2. The Reds swept the Phillies in three games in April by a combined score 16-4. If my math is correct, that’s zero wins, five losses, six runs for and 36 runs against. So I guess we’ll see if that 4-3 road trip meant anything.

A few random stats to digest:

  • From Elias Sports Bureau: Ryan Howard drove in the game-winning runs in the 10th inning Sunday. It’s the 13th time Howard has had extra-inning go-ahead RBIs. The only active players with more extra-inning, lead-assuming RBIs are Raul Ibanez (16) and Placido Polanco (15). Adam Jones and Albert Pujols also have 13.
  • I took a look in yesterday’s Inbox at the Phillies’ All-Star candidates. Interestingly, I found Chase Utley‘s .858 OPS best among NL second basemen. He’s third in baseball behind only Ian Kinsler (.911) and Robinson Cano (.895). Among NL second basemen, Utley is first in slugging percentage (.514); tied for first in triples (two) and home runs (seven); second in hits (41) and RBIs (24); third in batting (.289) and on-base percentage (.344); tied four fourth in runs (21) and sixth in doubles (seven). There is no question Utley has been the team’s bright spot offensively on a team that has struggled to score runs. (The Phillies’ three losses in San Francisco and Arizona were by a combined three runs.) Where would this team be if Utley’s knees were keeping him from the lineup?
  • The Phillies are 12th in the league with a 4.11 ERA. Remove Roy Halladay and they have a 3.60 ERA, which would rank sixth. I’ve said this for a while, but I consider the complaints about the Phillies’ pitching overblown. Halladay isn’t the same and he might never be, despite his optimism. No matter who takes that fifth spot while Halladay is out (right now it’s a four-man rotation), it’ll be an improvement over his 8.65 ERA. And while the ERAs of Jeremy Horst (5.51 ERA), Chad Durbin (6.17 ERA) and Raul Valdes (7.00 ERA) are scary, we’re not really pinning this team’s record on three pitchers in the front of the bullpen are we? Typically those guys are pitching when the Phillies are trailing or when the starter has gone less than six innings (again, which means things probably haven’t been going well). They aren’t pitching in too many high-leverage situations. Clearly, they need to pitch better, but this team’s problems fall mostly on the offense, which is 13th in the league averaging 3.54 runs per game. At some point this offense is going to have to get its act together or we’ll be looking at a fire sale in July.

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.

Willis Struggles, Has Sore Arm

This is not how Dontrelle Willis wanted to open Spring Training with the Phillies.

He allowed three hits, four runs and two walks in just 2/3 inning today in a 10-3 loss to the Astros. He said afterward he has some soreness in his left arm, although he does not believe it is serious.

“My arm just felt fatigued out there today,” said Willis, who has allowed four runs in just 1 2/3 innings in two Grapefruit League appearances. “I need to go out there and battle and make better pitches. But I’ll be all right. I just need a day. I’m really frustrated with my location, but if you’re tired, you’re tired. That’s the bottom line.”

A good spring is important for Willis, who is fighting for a bullpen job. Theoretically, Willis might have an advantage over other pitchers in camp because he is a veteran left-hander, but he does not have a guaranteed contract like Chad Qualls, Jose Contreras or Kyle Kendrick, so the Phillies do not need to give him a chance at the beginning of the season if they do not feel he can help the team.

If Willis makes the team it likely will be as a left-handed specialist. Lefties are 1-for-3 against him this spring, while right-handers are 4-for-7 with three walks.

“We’re going to take the best team possible,” Rich Dubee said. “Again, I don’t see any reason to have a second lefty if he’s not better than the righty before him. If he can’t get anybody out, what kind of look is that? Really. What kind of look is it? The fact of the matter is how servicable are they? That’s what we’re looking for. How do they fit in the mixer of the whole bullpen? I don’t care if he’s lefty or righty, who is the most effective guy?”

Willis said he isn’t concerned, but he knows he needs to do better.

“I was just horse—- today,” Willis said. “You take that for what it is, but you have to be smart about it, too. I’m trying to help the ballclub here and that’s not going to get it done. If I’m tired, then I’m tired. As an athlete, you have to humble yourself that hey, you went out there and tried and now let’s reel you in and get you right.”

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Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here!
Here are our upcoming book signings:

  • April 2: Barnes & Noble in Plymouth Meeting, PA, 7 p.m.
  • April 3: Chester County Book Company in West Chester, PA, 7 p.m.
  • April 26: Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ, 7 p.m.

Looking Down the Road: Bullpen 2012

Hola, amigos.

I’ve recovered from a three-night trip to Seattle, which included the redeye home Sunday night. If you missed it, yesterday I wrote how the team’s cheap, young relief pitchers could help the Phillies spend money elsewhere in the offseason. That could be big with Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson, Raul Ibanez, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Brian Schneider, Ross Gload and Danys Baez eligible to become free agents after the season. The Phillies literally could be looking for a new shortstop, closer and leftfielder, along with a replacement for Oswalt and more.

Before spring training started the Phillies’ bullpen projected like this: Lidge, Madson, Baez, Jose Contreras, J.C. RomeroAntonio Bastardo and Kyle Kendrick.

Bastardo was the only pitcher making less than a million.

I’ll go on a limb and say the Phillies resign Madson. If that happens the Phillies’ bullpen could look like this in 2012: Madson, Contreras, Bastardo, Michael Stutes and David Herndon taking up the first five spots. Some combination of Michael Schwimer, Justin De Fratus, Mike Zagurski, Phillippe Aumont and other inexpensive relievers taking up the final two spots.

The Phillies would go from six of seven relievers making $1 million or more to just two of seven making $1 million or more. Now, that’s not going to allow the Phillies to go out and sign the most expensive free agents on the market, but a couple million here, a couple million there, can help them replace some of the talent they’re certain to lose.

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Halladay Battles, Wins

You realize once again just how good Roy Halladay is, watching him grind through the heat and humidity today in seven innings at Nationals Park.

Halladay allowed three home runs, but each one was a solo shot.

Halladay is around the strike zone a lot, so he will give up his share of hits. But because he is around the strike zone a lot, he rarely walks anybody, which means it is a rare moment when he gives up those crushing two, three or four-run homers. Those homers didn’t kill him today.

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ESPN’s Buster Olney had an interesting look at the usage of National League bullpens. If you’re not an ESPN Insider, here’s the gist: the Phillies could have a fresh bullpen late in the season. The Phillies’ bullpen ranks 15th in the league in innings pitched. Another reason to appreciate the Phillies’ rotation.

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Smoother Road Ahead?

I wrote earlier this month about a tough 20-game stretch for the Phillies against teams with winning records:

  • 3 vs. Atlanta
  • 3 at Florida
  • 3 at Atlanta
  • 2 at St. Louis
  • 2 vs. Colorado
  • 3 vs. Texas
  • 4 vs. Cincinnati

So how’d they do? They survived. They went 10-10. The Phillies scored three or fewer runs in 14 of those games, including a stretch of nine consecutive games of three or fewer runs and a season-high four-game losing streak. They hit just .222 with a .286 on-base percentage and a .351 slugging percentage in that 20-game span. They averaged just 3.3 runs per game. They had a 3.06 ERA as a team, including a 3.37 ERA in the rotation and a 2.37 ERA in the bullpen.

I suppose there are two ways to look at it. The offense played about as poorly as it can play and the Phillies still broke even. Or the offense played poorly against good competition, which should give it flashbacks to the 2010 NLCS against San Francisco.

Whatever you think, the Phillies have an opportunity to really distance themselves in the next few weeks. They play 16 consecutive games against teams with losing records: three at New York, three at Washington, three at Pittsburgh, three vs. Los Angeles and four vs. Chicago.

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Who’s In, Who’s Out When Contreras, Lidge Are Back?

Before the season started the Phillies had their seventh, eighth and ninth inning relievers aligned like this:

  • Jose Contreras in the seventh.
  • Ryan Madson in the eighth.
  • Brad Lidge in the ninth.

But because of injuries to Lidge and Contreras, the Phillies have adjusted. They’ve used Danys Baez, Kyle Kendrick, J.C. Romero and others in critical late-inning situations. In last night’s 5-4 victory over the Braves, the Phillies went young. Michael Stutes, Antonio Bastardo and Vance Worley picked up big outs in the seventh and eighth innings.

“I think I put them in the fire, didn’t I?” Charlie Manuel said after the game.

Contreras could be back in roughly a week, although that remains to be seen. Lidge has said he’s hopeful he could be back before the end of June. It will be interesting to see how the bullpen lines up upon their return. Who stays? Who goes? Worley has done an excellent job, but it’s probably in the team’s s best interest to eventually send him back to Triple-A to start. (Ruben Amaro Jr. said as much recently.) They need him stretched out in case something happens to another starter. Roy Oswalt already has missed time because of a bad back and Joe Blanton already has missed time because of soreness in his right elbow (he still has discomfort in the elbow). It doesn’t make much sense to have the team’s No. 6 and 7 starters (Kendrick and Worley) both pitching in the bullpen.

Scott Mathieson or Vance Worley could be optioned Tuesday when the Phillies activate Oswalt from the DL. The other could be optioned when the Phillies activate Contreras. But what happens when Lidge returns? If Worley and Mathieson are optioned at some point and everybody is healthy, the bullpen would look like this: Baez, Bastardo, Contreras, Kendrick, Madson, Romero and Stutes.

Now it gets interesting. Bastardo, Contreras, Madson and Romero appear safe. The Phillies need a long man, which is Kendrick. That would leave Baez and Stutes. Baez has had his struggles, but is a veteran making $2.75 million. Stutes has options, but has been impressive in limited action. Fortunately for the Phillies the decision does not need to be made today. If Baez is pitching well when Lidge returns I think he stays. But if he’s not pitching well he could be in trouble — unless Stutes himself is struggling.

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A Younger, Inexperienced Bullpen

I’m sitting in the San Diego airport, getting ready to take the red eye back to Philadelphia. I won’t be in Arizona this week, so you might see fewer posts and tweets until I return Friday. But I figure I should post before I leave because I’ll be out of commission tomorrow.

The biggest thing to happen this weekend — besides the Phillies sweeping the Padres — is Jose Contreras landing on the DL.

The bullpen is 5-2 with a 2.24 ERA this season. Phillies relievers have allowed just one home run and opponents have hit just .210 against them.

It will be interesting to see how they hold up without Contreras. The Phillies’ bullpen looks like this: Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo, Danys Baez, Kyle Kendrick, David Herndon, Michael Stutes and Mike Zagurski. Those seven entered the season with a combined 1,005 relief appearances. The projected bullpen on Opening Day had a combined 2,180 relief appearances with Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, Contreras, Madson, Baez, Kendrick and Bastardo.

This bullpen got young and inexperienced in a hurry.

I’m more than a little curious to see how Stutes pitches. Phillies personnel really liked him in Spring Training. They liked his stuff, but they loved his makeup. He’s got heart.

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When everybody is healthy, we know Lidge, Madson and Contreras can close if Lidge is unavailable. But who closes now if Madson needs a day off? Bastardo got the save today. He’s got great stuff. It might be him.

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The Phillies have not scored more than four runs in 13 consecutive games. They have hit .207/.280/.303 in that span. That is bad, but it’s got to improve. Just like Phillies hitters weren’t that good the first eight games of the season, they’re not this bad in the last 13. … John Mayberry Jr. deserves more playing time. I’m not saying he’s going to save the offense, but it can’t hurt to play him when Raul Ibanez is struggling. … Lots of Phillies fans in San Diego this weekend. If you’re looking to make a Phillies’ road trip in the future, San Diego is highly recommended. My top five Got-To-See-In-The-National-League ballparks: Wrigley Field, AT&T Park, Dodger Stadium, PETCO Park and PNC Park. … Thanks for the restaurant suggestions to those who sent them. Had peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast at Cafe 222 and a good lunch later in the week at Tin Fish. Two thumbs up.

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You See Something New Every Day at the Old Ball Yard


manuel 0503 2010.jpgCharlie Manuel
sounded very certain yesterday afternoon that Brad Lidge needed to pitch a few more times in non-save situations before he resumed closing duties.

It sounded last night like he had a sudden change of heart.

Lidge allowed one hit and struck out two during last night’s 6-3 loss to the Cardinals. Lidge looked sharp, sharp enough that Lidge could be closing as early as tonight.

“Yeah, he looked ready,” Manuel said.

Maybe he just feels he needs to line up his bullpen ASAP. With runners on first and second and two outs in the seventh inning, the Phillies had Nelson Figueroa replace Joe Blanton. Figueroa allowed Blanton’s runners to score, plus two more, to turn a 2-1 game into a 6-1 game.

If everything had worked the way Manuel had hoped it would work before the season started, the Phillies would have asked Danys Baez, Jose Contreras, Chad Durbin or J.C. Romero to pitch the seventh. But with Ryan Madson hurt, Durbin unavailable after pitching two innings Sunday, Baez struggling and only having pitched once previously in consecutive games this season and Manuel trying to ease Lidge and Romero back following offseason elbow surgeries, he felt he had no other options.

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Thumbnail image for taser.jpgJust before the game a few beat writers were discussing the baseball cliche that you see something new during every baseball game.

Well, it turns out we really did this time. A Philadelphia police officer Tased a fan who ran onto the field before the eighth inning. The kid seemed to be running around and waving a towel, but police took no chances. In fact, neither did Jayson Werth. He readied himself for a possible altercation when the fan jumped onto the field near right field, but the fan quickly darted past him before being takent down in left.

The Phillies said in a statement: “This is the first time that a Taser gun has been used by Philadelphia police to apprehend a field jumper. The Police Department is investigating this matter and the Phillies are discussing with them whether in future situations this is an appropriate use of force under these circumstances. That decision will be made public.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the fan has been charged as a juvenile with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and defiant trespass. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsay defended the officer’s decision to Taser the juvenile.

“It was inappropriate for him to be out there on the field,” Ramsay told KYW Radio (1060-AM). “Unless I read something to the contrary, that officer acted appropriately. I support him 100 percent.”

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Chase Utley‘s solo homer off Trever Miller in the ninth was his fifth homer this season against a lefty, which leads the Nationa League. … Ryan Howard‘s 30-game on-base streak against the Cardinals was snapped. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

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The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. His Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

Amaro on Pitching Staff, Moyer and Kendrick


Thumbnail image for amaro.jpgRuben Amaro Jr.
answered a couple questions before they got asked yesterday morning at Bright House Field:

“No, we haven’t made any final decisions on our pitching staff or rotation.

“Yes, we’re still looking in other ways to improve our club.”

The Phillies optioned Mike Zagurski on Monday. It left the Phillies with 12 healthy pitchers in camp, a strong indication those are the 12 pitchers they will carry into the season until Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero are back. Amaro won’t say anything is official because the chance always exists they could make a deal before April 5, unlikely as it might be.

One roadblock to any deal is the Phillies appear to have exceeded their payroll budget, which is approaching $140 million. They’re simply not in position to add payroll. The second roadblock is that everybody in baseball is looking for pitching right now, so it’s not like teams are eager to trade a quality bullpen arm.

If the Phillies stand pat, there is just one roster decision: Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick for the fifth job in the rotation?

“They’ve both doing very well,” Amaro said. “Obviously, competition is a good thing. The fact that they’re pitching well, I think it can only bode well for the club.”

Kendrick has a 1.29 ERA in four Grapefruit League appearances. Moyer has a 3.86 ERA in one Grapefruit League start and three B game starts. If those numbers hold – they could change dramatically before the Phillies break camp – it would appear on paper that Kendrick had outperformed Moyer, right?

“I don’t evaluate the numbers, especially in Spring Training,” Amaro said. “That’s not how we evaluate. We have to evaluate what’s going to be best overall for our club, and how they’re getting people out and those sorts of things. It’s still kind of a complicated decision to make. Hopefully we’ll make the right one.

“Look at what we did last year. Chan Ho Park probably pitched better than J.A. Happ. Ultimately, was that the right decision to start those guys in those roles? Probably not. That’s why they were flipped. We ended up being a better club as a result of it.”

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Thanks to 97.5 The Fanatic’s Mike Missanelli for having me on his show yesterday at the Tiki Pavilion, where we talked about the Phillies and my book. Thanks as always to WIP’s Angelo Cataldi and The Morning Team, which had me on this morning. They even gave me a little “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” music at the end of my segment.

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The Fightins is giving away a copy of my book, if you enter their NCAA tournament Sweet 16 pool.

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The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. His Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

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