Results tagged ‘ defense ’

Howard’s Big Day

Ryan HowardIf you missed yesterday’s 10-9 victory against the Rockies you missed plenty, so here are a few facts, figures, thoughts and links:

  • Ryan Howard went 4-for-5 with a triple, home run, three RBIs and three runs scored. He is hitting .262 with a .360 on-base percentage, .508 slugging percentage and .868 OPS. It is just 18 games so nobody knows where his season is headed, but at the moment he is on pace for 36 home runs, 90 RBIs, 90 walks and 189 strikeouts. His 90 walks would be his most since 107 walks in 2007.
  • Howard fell a double short of the cycle, although he came close. He hit a ball to right field in the seventh inning that dropped in front of Rockies right fielder Brandon Barnes. The ball got behind Barnes as Howard cruised into second. The official scorer ruled it a single and an error on Barnes. Naturally, Phillies fans and many people in the Phillies clubhouse thought it should be a double. But not everybody in the clubhouse felt that way. Some thought it was a reasonable ruling. If it is changed, great for Howard. He will have the first Phillies cycle since David Bell in 2004, and the first Phillies cycle on the road since Johnny Callison in Pittsburgh in 1963. But if it isn’t, I don’t think it’s a great injustice. My first reaction when I watched the play? Single and error.
  • John Mayberry Jr. replaced Howard at first base in the bottom of the eighth inning. It is the second time it has happened in eight days, and it’s a trend that will continue if Howard continues to struggle defensively. (Ryne Sandberg said as much after the game.) Howard has two errors this season, but he recently had a third error reversed. He also had a catchable ball get past him Saturday in a 3-1 loss. It was ruled a hit, but it probably should have been an error. The Phillies simply do not have much margin for error this season, so in close games with a lead the Phillies need to have their best defense on the field. That means more Mayberry at first base and perhaps more Freddy Galvis in the infield and Tony Gwynn Jr. in the outfield.
  • Jonathan Papelbon picked up the save yesterday. He has struggled at Coors Field in the past. He spoke about that, but also being booed by Phillies fans. “To be honest, I enjoy it,” he said. “I kind of relish it. There is a sick side to me. … Guess I’m a sicko.”
  • Phillies catchers are trying to get used to these new catching rules on plays at the plate.

Phillies Defense Projects at the Top

Baseball Info Solutions recently projected Defensive Runs Saved for 2010, courtesy of John Dewan‘s Stat of the Week. It “evaluated each player’s defensive performance over the past three years and prorated their performance based on the number of innings each is expected to play this year.”

It expects the Mariners to be the best defensive team in baseball.

It ranks the Phillies second.

Mariners – 103
Phillies – 49
Rays – 48
Cardinals – 38
Astros – 37

It also listed its best projected defenders:

Seattle centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez - 24
Seattle shortstop Jack Wilson - 22
Phillise second baseman Chase Utley - 21
St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols - 20
Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman - 19

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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!

Phillies Favorites?

lee phillies.jpgA few seconds after the Phillies got Cliff Lee from the Indians last week, fans started asking if the Phillies suddenly became favorites in the National League.

What about the Dodgers? They have the best record in the National League. Of course, the last NL team to finish the regular season with the league’s best record and make the World Series was the 2004 Cardinals. And the last NL team to finish the regular season with the league’s best record and win the World Series was the 1995 Braves.

Remember the Cubs last year? Best record in the NL, bounced from the playoffs in three games.

But there are reasons to think the Phillies will be tough to beat in the postseason. Maybe even favorites:

OFFENSE

The Phillies lead the league in runs (547), home runs (143) and slugging percentage (.445). They rank fourth in on-base percentage (.339) and sixth in average (.260). They are tied for third in stolen bases (79) and first in stolen base percentage (79.8 percent). They are fourth in pitches per plate appearance (3.89), which shows the Phillies know how to work a starter and get into the bullpen. They have grounded into only 61 double plays, which is second fewest in the league. They don’t kill many rallies.

Offensively, few are better. Pitching wins in the postseason, but you’ve got to be able to score, too.

DEFENSE

The Phillies are second in the league with a .988 fielding percentage. Their 45 errors are second fewest in the league. A recent SI.com story praised six Phillies for their defense: Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz and Ryan Howard.

You’ve got to minimize mistakes in the postseason, when every play is huge. The Phillies do that.

PITCHING

This is where it gets tricky.

The Phillies rank 12th in the league with a 4.38 ERA while the Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals are first, second and third, respectively. The Giants and Rockies are tied for the NL wild card, the Dodgers lead the NL West and the Cardinals lead the NL Central. That could be a problem in the postseason.

But the Phillies lead the league with a 3.00 ERA since July 2. That is just one month, but if the Phillies have found their footing for good that bodes well.

Lee certainly helps the rotation. We’ll see what Pedro Martinez does. Brad Lidge remains a concern. He is 0-4 with a 7.11 ERA. That ERA is the worst of any qualifying relief pitcher in baseball. Lidge’s struggles haven’t been an issue lately, but it could be come September and October, when it seems like every game is a one- or two-run game.

So how does the 12th-ranked pitching staff, despite the fact they have pitched better recently — with a closer with the highest ERA in baseball — make the Phillies favorites in the NL?

Lidge’s track record shows he is much better than he has been, and the Phillies also have a slew of relief pitchers on the disabled list: Brett Myers, J.C. Romero, Clay Condrey and Chad Durbin. Myers could be back before the end of the month after recovering from surgery on his right hip. Get those pitchers healthy, and the bullpen looks pretty deep.

“I like our pitching staff when it’s healthy,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We need to get healthy. I think Brett is going to be back, and I have some optimism about him. He’s throwing and he’s not feeling any problems with his hip. We have a pretty good fighter’s chance we’ll get him back before the end of the season. Who wouldn’t want to have that arm in the back end of the bullpen?”

Cole Hamels had shown signs of improvement before Sunday’s loss to the Giants. Joe Blanton has the eighth-best ERA (2.55) since May. J.A. Happ ranks 14th (2.96). Jamie Moyer‘s ERA is 4.05 in that span, which will win the Phillies plenty of games.

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