Results tagged ‘ Chase Utley ’

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.

Halladay Ready to Protect Hitters

Roy HalladayRoy Halladay finished a lengthy news conference last month at Bright House Field with the following comment:

“I know Chase suggested drilling a few guys this year so I might mix that in.”

He seems to have taken that suggestion to heart. After Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg hit Chase Utley with a pitch on his left foot in the third inning today at Bright House Field, Halladay threw behind Nationals designated hitter Tyler Moore’s back in the fourth inning.

“Yeah, that one slipped a little bit,” said Halladay, easing out a slight smile. “It slipped. That’s not necessarily the case, but I think we do need to protect our guys to an extent. I’m not saying that’s what happened. It slipped, but I think that’s important. We’ve had a lot of guys hit over the years. I think as a staff we need to do a good job of protecting those guys. Spring Training, I don’t think you’re necessarily trying to do it. But it wouldn’t have been the worst thing had it got him after getting one of our good guys.”

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Manuel Plays It Safe with Utley

Remain calm, all is well.

Chase Utley got scratched from today’s lineup just minutes before a 4-3 victory over the Yankees in a Grapefruit League game at Bright House Field. Hearts skipped a beat in the Delaware Valley as Utley has missed the previous two springs because of chronically injured knees.

But it wasn’t an injury that removed Utley from the lineup.

It was wet field conditions.

The field received a ton of rain before the game and the infield tarp was dumped in shallow right-field, which obviously is where Utley could be chasing down a pop up. So Charlie Manuel decided to play things safe and sit him.

Told he gave folks a scare, Manuel said, “What’s new? I give them a scare all the time. Knee jerk. Chicken Little. The world is coming to an end. I see it every day. You know? How many games have we played? I see it all the time, even when you win.”

My Phillies Lineup

Chase UtleyCharlie Manuel trotted out a lineup yesterday against the Tigers that I think could be (or should be) his Opening Day lineup.

He had Chase Utley hitting second, Michael Young hitting third and Ryan Howard hitting fourth.

First, I like this because it splits up Utley and Howard. There once was a time hitting Utley and Howard back-to-back made sense because both hit relatively well against lefties. But that no longer is the case. Utley has hit .202 with a .645 OPS against them the previous two seasons, while Howard has hit .205 with a .623 OPS against them. Put them back-to-back and it’s a gift for opposing managers late in the game. Just run out your left-handed specialist and get out of the inning.

Second, there have been studies that suggest teams should hit their best hitter second because he is still capable of driving in the leadoff man, plus his high on-base percentage allows him to get on base for the team’s other top hitters. So forget that, “We need a contact guy that can advance the runner in the two-hole.” Put Utley second.

Third, I simply think Young is the team’s best option to hit third at this point. He’s going to hit left-handers: he hit .333 with a .794 OPS against them last season, and has hit .314 with an .836 OPS against them in his career. So that makes things a little more difficult for opposing managers late in the game. Now, I’ve heard some people say, ‘Young doesn’t hit home runs.’ True, he doesn’t hit home runs, but if he moves toward his 2011 season (it’s too early to say either way which Young we will see this season) he should come up with enough extra-base hits to drive in enough runs to warrant the third spot.

Now, Jimmy Rollins: I want him hitting first. Each spot in a lineup is worth about 18 plate appearances per season. So the further you drop Rollins, the fewer at-bats he gets. If you want to take advantage of Rollins’ power and hit him fifth, you are costing him 72 plate appearances over the course of the season. I know there’s been a big push for Ben Revere to hit first, but after examining the numbers a little more closely I disagree. Rollins hit .250 with a .316 on-base percentage, .427 slugging percentage and .743 OPS last season. Revere hit .294 with a .333 on-base percentage, .342 slugging percentage and .675 OPS. I agree with Manuel when he said Rollins’ .250 was more productive than Revere’s .294. And again, I simply don’t want to cut Rollins’ plate appearances because Revere had a higher on-base percentage than Rollins (by just 17 points, mind you) for just one season. It’s worth noting here that Revere’s career on-base percentage is .319 compared to Rollins’ .328.

Yes, Rollins has a higher on-base percentage in his career than Revere.

That’s why I keep Rollins in the top spot.

So here’s my Opening Day lineup (not that Manuel is listening):

  1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
  2. Chase Utley, 2B
  3. Michael Young, 3B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Darin Ruf, LF
  6. Domonic Brown, RF
  7. Ben Revere, CF
  8. Erik Kratz, C

Feel free to agree or disagree below.

Play Ball

2013 spring training 002The Phillies open their Grapefruit League schedule tomorrow against Houston at Bright House Field, and Chase Utley will be in the lineup.

Utley, who played in today’s intrasquad game, will play in his first Spring Training game since 2010. He missed the previous two because of bad knees. Ryan Howard, who missed last spring following left Achilles surgery, also will be in the lineup.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s lineup looks like this:

  1. Ben Revere, CF
  2. Michael Young, 3B
  3. Chase Utley, 2B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Darin Ruf, LF
  6. Domonic Brown, RF
  7. Laynce Nix, DH
  8. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
  9. Erik Kratz, C.

Baby Steps: Utley to Play Friday and Saturday

Chase UtleyThese are big baby steps.

Chase Utley will start Friday’s intrasquad game at Bright House Field, and is expected to start Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Houston Astros. That is noteworthy because Utley has not played in a single Spring Training game since 2010 because of chronically injured knees.

“He’s going to get at least one at-bat (Friday),” Charlie Manuel said. “He’s going to play like two or three innings. … Yeah, he’ll probably play (Saturday). He probably won’t play Sunday. I think he worked hard this winter. The way he’s swinging right now and the way he looks, you can tell he’s willing to pay the price to get back to where he was. He wants to play quite a few more years. That’s good.”

Why Not Wait and See?

Roy HalladayDuring our meet-and-greet Tuesday with Chad Durbin, a reporter asked him what it’s like entering the season with the Nationals and Braves considered the top two teams in the National League East.

“That’s the sentiment right now, but that can change in a month as soon as the games are played,” Durbin replied.

Wait for some games to be played. That sounds pretty reasonable. But why be reasonable when it’s more fun to speak in absolutes?

On paper I can’t argue the Phillies are the third-best team in the division. The Nationals won 98 games last season. The Braves won 94. The Phillies won just 81. And while I know the Phillies have been telling everybody they played .600 baseball from July 31 through the end of the regular season, those two teams are in a better position to win (especially the Nationals) while the Phillies have a ton of questions entering camp in a couple weeks:

  • Can Roy Halladay bounce back?
  • Can Chase Utley stay healthy and produce like a true No. 3 hitter?
  • Can Ryan Howard hit left-handed pitching and produce like a $20 million cleanup hitter?
  • Can Carlos Ruiz replicate his offensive numbers without the benefits of PEDs?
  • Can Michael Young return to form and play third base regularly?
  • Can Delmon Young play right field?
  • Who in the world is going to play left field?

Those seven questions constitute six of the team’s eight positions in the field, plus its ace. Oof. That’s ugly. And based on e-mails and tweets this offseason, most of you agree. There are a lot of angry, upset, depressed and pessimistic Phillies fans. But relax for a moment. Follow Durbin’s lead and give them until June 1. That’s just two months of baseball. I really don’t see any need to get bent out of shape on Jan. 31. What’s the point? A colleague recalled earlier this week how experts gushed over the Marlins and Angels last winter, annointing them the clear-cut winners of the offseason. Both teams missed the postseason — the Marlins in spectacular fashion — while nearly nobody had the Nationals coming together so quickly, the A’s winning the AL West or the Orioles winning an AL Wild Card.

Another colleague posed an interesting question last week: Do the Braves’ additions of the Upton brothers and Chris Johnson make up for the losses of Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Michael Bourn? The Braves might lead baseball in five-tool outfielders, but are they so much improved they’re completely uncatchable?

The Phillies need quite a few things to go right this season if they expect to win the division. The odds of that happening are not good. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to see them make the postseason. Their chances might not be as strong as the past few years, but this team is not doomed before camp opens. But that school of thought is not popular. It’s much better to declare clear-cut winners and losers and speak in grand absolutes. Delmong Young? Disaster waiting to happen. Michael Young? He won’t be able to play third base effectively every day. Utley? Can’t stay healthy. Halladay? Too many innings on that right arm.

Those things might end up being completely true. The Phillies might flat-out stink. They were on pace to lose 91 games on July 29. And with a few injuries and their worst fears coming true at a couple other positions, this team could lose 90 games this year. But is it more likely they lose 90 or win 88 and win the second Wild Card? I’d say 88, but I’m going to wait and see. I’m heading to Clearwater in a couple weeks. I’m going to grab some breakfast at Lenny’s, enjoy the sun and watch everything unfold.

It’s not the worst idea in the world. It’s much less stressful, too.

So What’s Manuel’s Lineup?

rollins 0517So, if everybody is healthy, what do you think Charlie Manuel‘s Opening Day lineup will be?

That’s a big if, obviously. Chase Utley hasn’t played in a single Grapefruit League game since 2010 and Delmon Young could miss the first couple weeks of the season because of an injured ankle. But if everybody is healthy, what will it be?

Here’s my best guess:

  1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
  2. Michael Young, 3B
  3. Utley, 2B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Young, RF
  6. Domonic Brown/Darin Ruf/John Mayberry Jr., LF
  7. Erik Kratz, C
  8. Ben Revere, CF

Here is what Manuel said about Delmon Young hitting fifth, providing that right-handed power like Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth in the past:

“Yeah, he can hit fifth,” he said. “He definitely can hit fifth. I think once we get to Spring Training and put him in and let him play, I think hitting is definitely his strong point. I think he’s a good hitter.”

Where is Revere hitting?

“He can hit in the top of the lineup to somewhere down toward the bottom. It kind of depends on how he looks. I have seen the guy hit three times. I don’t go on somebody telling me where he can hit. I go on what I see, once I see him.”

If Delmong Young hits five, can Michael Young hit second?

“Yeah. First of all, we can do a lot of things. But also, too, as I explained, if we are going to give people time off and things like that, then we will have different lineups. We are going to have completely different lineups sometimes.”

Note: Scream so hard your face turns red, but I don’t see Rollins moving out of the leadoff spot. That could change once the season starts or if Manuel falls in love with Revere, but Manuel likes Rollins at the top of the lineup.

How Many Wins?

Darin Ruf, Erik KratzSo if you had to guess today, how many games will the Phillies win this season?

81, which they won last year?

More? Less?

A few things to consider:

  • How confident are you Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will be healthy and productive? If you are confident, push that number north of 81.
  • The Phillies went 36-24 (.600) the final two months of the 2012 season. That translates to 97 victories over a full season. Now, it’s foolish to say the Phillies will win 97 games next season based solely on a strong finish because there are slow starts, injuries, etc., but if you believe the talent on this team will be there (and possibly be improved) over six months in 2013 push that number past 81.
  • The Phillies blew 13 leads in the eighth inning last season. If setup man Mike Adams is the guy the Phillies hope he is — he had offseason surgery, remember — you figure he holds at least seven of those games, right? If the Phillies had held just seven of those 13 leads last season they would have won 88 games.
  • The Phillies went 10-8 against the Marlins last year. The Marlins should be absolutely dreadful this year. You’ve got to figure the Phillies get an extra win or two from Miami.

Or you could go the other route: this team is another year older, the Phillies haven’t made enough moves to push past the Nationals and Braves, Halladay’s best days are behind him, Utley hasn’t been healthy in years (why should this year be any different?), Howard’s OPS has been in decline since 2009, the corner outfield situation is scary, Carlos Ruiz will miss the first month of the season and who knows how good he will be once he returns, etc.

I’m thinking the Phillies finish in the 86-90 win range. If they finish on the higher end of that they probably make the postseason.

If you don’t think Halladay, Utley and Howard will be healthy and productive, oof, it could be a long season.

But it’s January 9. Who wants to be Debbie Downer today? But it’s at least something fun to think about with pitchers and catchers a little more than a month away.

Amaro on Offense, Utley, Doc and More

Ruben Amaro Jr.,Ruben Amaro Jr. met with reporters this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park as part of the Michael Young press conference, so we asked a lot of questions.

Here are the highlights:

QUESTION: Are you still searching for a corner outfielder?
ANSWER: As far as the outfield situation is concerned, we’re still trolling through the possibility of adding another piece there. And we’re also considering the possibility of a double platoon. That’s a possibility as well. We’ve done some things that have helped our club at a couple of different levels. I don’t think the process of trying to help improve our club stops until the end of the season. It’s very possible that we have the answers internally. I feel comfortable with the way our club is today and if there’s a way to improve it, we’ll try to do that.

QUESTION: Have an update on Roy Halladay‘s offseason?
ANSWER: Doc’s done very well. He’s going to start throwing off the mound here very shortly. Dubes (Rich Dubee) has seen him throw a couple times, at least long toss. I guess he’s working down there with Kyle Kendrick pretty extensively. He’s doing well, but we don’t know what kind of Doc we’re going to get until Doc’s down firing in spring training. But he’s feeling pretty good so far.

QUESTION: How is Chase Utley doing?
ANSWER: He’s done very well this offseason. (Head athletic trainer) Scott Sheridan’s visited him once and he’s probably going to go see him again. He’s taking ground balls pretty much every other day. He didn’t take a whole lot of time off. One of the things I think we’ve all learned, including Chase, that it probably behooved him to continue to work and do things to be able to keep his joints going, keep his knees going. He’s actually done very well. We have to be cautiously optimistic that he’s going to be back and playing. He hasn’t played games in spring training the last two years, but we’re cautiously optimistic that he’s going to be ready to go. We’ll probably monitor and have a discussion prior to spring training about how he’ll be utilized and such during the spring. I think he’s feeling like he’s raring to go and hopefully he’ll be ready to go April 1.

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