Results tagged ‘ rotation ’

Phillies Sign Williams

Jerome WilliamsJerome Williams made enough of a positive impression that the Phillies are bringing him back next season.

They announced today that they signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, which includes performance bonuses. Williams, 32, went 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in nine starts this year.

“He did a nice job,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We feel he has some upside. He’s got some versatility. He’ll be given every opportunity to be part of our rotation, but he has some versatility to pitch in the middle (of the bullpen) somewhere if not.”

Williams went 2-5 with a 6.71 ERA in 28 appearances (two starts) last season with the Astros and Rangers before the Phillies claimed him off waivers in August. He is 48-54 with a 4.40 ERA in his nine-year career, so should the Phillies expect some sort of regression to his career averages?

“We looked at the metrics on that,” Amaro said. “A lot of it will depend on him. The way that he performed, it was clear that he had changed his overall approach. If he maintains that approach we believe he can gives us the depth we need. One of our priorities is trying to create some more starting pitching depth.”

Cole Hamels and David Buchanan are the only starting pitchers under contract or team control who finished the 2014 season healthy.

Cliff Lee finished the year on the disabled list with a left elbow injury, although Amaro said Lee is scheduled to begin his throwing program next month. The Phillies expect him to be ready by Spring Training.

A.J. Burnett has a $15 million mutual option, which the Phillies are certain to decline. But even if they do, Burnett has a $12.75 million player option, which he has until five days following the World Series to accept or decline. Burnett has vacillated between pitching again and retiring.

“I’m really kind of neutral on it,” said Amaro, asked if he would be surprised if Burnett turned down that much money. “I knew what it took to get him back and pitching this year. I would assume that he’d want to pitch again. I don’t have that information, but my inclination is that he’s going to want to pitch. He’s a competitive guy.”

Other pitchers on the 40-man roster include Kyle Kendrick, who will become a free agent; Jonathan Pettibone, who had right shoulder surgery in June; and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who became a reliever because of concerns about his ability to stay healthy as a starter.

But Amaro said Gonzalez will enter Spring Training competing for a job in the rotation.

“We’re going to give him every opportunity to be in our rotation,” Amaro said. “We have to try to create as many opportunities for starting pitching as we possibly can. We’re not going to be able to go through a season with five or six pitchers. It’s probably going to take seven to 10 pitchers.”

But can Gonzalez hold up?

“He personally feels more comfortable being in the rotation,” Amaro said. “Whether or not he can provide that remains to be seen. But after speaking with him it was very important to him to be prepared mentally and physically for this offseason to get stretched out.”

Tuesday’s Game Postponed

Nationals Phillies BaseballThe Phillies postponed tonight’s game against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park because of rain.

It will be made up at a later date.

The postponement does not alter the order of the Phillies rotation. Left-hander Cliff Lee will pitch tomorrow night, while right-hander A.J. Burnett will pitch the series finale Thursday afternoon. Right-handers Jonathan Pettibone, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez would fall in line to pitch this weekend in Colorado.

But the Braves have skipped right-hander David Hale, who was scheduled to pitch tonight. Lee instead will face right-hander Julio Teheran and Burnett will face left-hander Alex Wood.

Perhaps a night off will help the Phillies starters get on track. They have pitched more than six innings just twice in 13 games, which has placed additional pressure on a bullpen with the third-highest ERA (5.53) in baseball.

Phillies starters are 22nd in baseball in innings pitched, but are seventh in pitches thrown. It is partially why Phillies games are averaging 3 hours, 17 minutes, which is the third-longest average in baseball.

“For me, the game starts with pitching and defense,” Ryne Sandberg said in his office before the postponement. “I think overall our pitchers have to establish the strike zone and work ahead in the counts. I think that has a big part in why we’re playing the slowest games and longest games in baseball. Every time I look at the clock and leave (the ballpark), it’s almost midnight. I can’t believe it, but it is what it is.

“Our pitchers are throwing a lot of pitches, so on the starting pitching side of things they’ve been limited on the time that they can be out there and then we’ve had to use our bullpen and then with some of our bullpen guys it has been the same thing with the amount of pitches coming out of the pen.”

The Phillies planned to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day tonight, but pregame festivities surrounding the Jackie Robinson Salute will take place tomorrow night, including both teams wearing No. 42 jerseys. All fans attending tomorrow night’s game will receive the commemorative Jackie Robinson print, featuring quotes from Phillies players and Sandberg on what Robinson meant to them.

Rotation Problems

Roy HalladayGood morning, y’all.

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?

Possible Post-Break Rotation

The Phillies have not announced their rotation following the All-Star break, but here is one that makes sense:

Right-hander Kyle Kendrick opens the second half July 19 against the Mets at Citi Field, Cole Hamels pitches July 20 and Cliff Lee pitches July 21. Jonathan Pettibone then pitches July 23 in St. Louis and John Lannan pitches July 24.

This would give Hamels an extra day of rest following Sunday’s start against the White Sox. Lee would get normal rest following his expected appearance Tuesday in the All-Star Game. And it would split up Lee and Lannan with Pettibone.

Rotation Problems

The numbers can be sliced and rearranged a number of ways, but one thing is undeniable:

The Phillies have not seen their rotation pitch this poorly in a long time.

In 24 games since May 18, Phillies starters are 6-12 with a 5.70 ERA (91 earned runs in 143 2/3 innings). In 15 games since May 27, when Roy Halladay pitched his final game for the Phillies before landing on the disabled list with a strained right latissimus dorsi, Phillies starters are 4-7 with a 5.97 ERA (59 earned runs in 89 innings).

“It’s a whole gamut of things,” Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said.

Much of it is mental.

“One starter thinks I’ve got to be the guy tonight,” Dubee said. “And then when that doesn’t happen the next guy says, oh, geez, I’ve got to really be good. It’s been a mishmash of all kinds of stuff. Focus. We get distracted easily. Do we press? Yeah, absolutely.”

The lack of focus comes from frustration; things that happen on the field out of their control. That could be a booted ball in the infield. A broken bat hit that scores a run. It could be a dropped fly ball in the outfield or an errant throw. Maybe it is a really good pitch down in the dirt that a hitters golfs out of the park or off the wall. It could be the offense failing to score runs for them again.

“There’s a whole combination of stuff out there,” Dubee said.

Offense has not been a problem for the Phillies lately. They are fifth in the National League in scoring since May 18, averaging 4.67 runs per game, and third in scoring since Halladay’s last start for the Phillies, averaging 5.13 runs per game.

But the errors and a lack of run support over a long period of time can wear on even the most steely-minded pitcher. Even Halladay seemed to be worn down from those issues before he got hurt.

But what can Phillies pitchers do?

“Stay in your own house,” Dubee said. “Control what you can control. Execute pitches. Don’t get caught up on a broken bat hit or a play not being made or runs not being scored. You don’t have any control over that as a pitcher. You don’t have control winning games. Cliff (Lee) hasn’t had any luck or control in winning a game. All you can do is execute pitches and grind and grind and grind.”

The Rotation Shines

If Cole Hamels had picked up his 15th win in relief last night it would have been the first time a team had three pitchers in the rotation with 15 or more wins and an ERA under 3.00 since 1972, when the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A’s did it.

Roy Halladay finished the season 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA. Cliff Lee finished 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA and Hamels finished 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA. The ’72 Orioles had Jim Palmer (21-10, 2.07 ERA), Mike Cuellar (18-12, 2.57 ERA) and Pat Dobson (16-18, 2.65 ERA). The ’72 A’s had Catfish Hunter (21-7, 2.04 ERA), Ken Holtzman (19-11, 2.51 ERA) and Blue Moon Odom (15-6, 2.50 ERA).

But the Phillies rotation lived up to the hype this season. Phillies starters had a 2.86 ERA, which is the best in the big leagues since the 1985 Los Angeles Dodgers (2.71 ERA) and 1985 New York Mets (2.84 ERA). It also is the 12th best ERA of any rotation since baseball lowered the pitcher’s mound in 1969.

A couple other numbers about the rotation:

  • Their 932 strikeouts are the most since the 2003 Chicago Cubs (987) and rank sixth overall since 1969.
  • Their 1.11 WHIP is the best since the 1975 Dodgers (1.09) and third-best since 1969.
  • Their 4.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best since 1969.

Not bad.

Kendrick, Halladay to Pitch Doubleheader

Rich Dubee confirmed Kyle Kendrick and Roy Halladay will pitch Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Florida Marlins.

Halladay will pitch the night game.

Here’s how the rotation lines up for the moment:

  • Tuesday vs. Florida: Cole Hamels
  • Wednesday vs. Florida (Game 1): Kyle Kendrick
  • Wednesday vs. Florida (Game 2): Roy Halladay
  • Thursday vs. Florida: Cliff Lee
  • Friday at Seattle: Roy Oswalt
  • Saturday at Seattle: TBA
  • Sunday at Seattle: Hamels

It sure looks like Vance Worley lines up to pitch Saturday, although Dubee would not confirm that. The Phillies will need to make a roster move, of course. David Herndon could be optioned to make room for Worley. Kendrick could then return to his bullpen role. But stayed tuned on that …

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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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Worley Shows Phillies’ Depth

Vance Worley is 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA (one earned run in 12 innings) in two starts this season, which should have the Phillies feeling pretty good about their starting pitching depth.

It’s likely they’ll need him again at some point this season.

Here’s a look at the number of starting pitchers the Phillies have used in each of the previous four seasons:

  • 13 in 2007: Jamie Moyer (33), Adam Eaton (30), Cole Hamels (28), Kyle Kendrick (20), Jon Lieber (12), Kyle Lohse (11), Freddy Garcia (11), J.D. Durbin (10), Brett Myers (3), Fabio Castro (1), John Ennis (1), Zack Segovia (1) and J.A. Happ (1).
  • 7 in 2008: Hamels (33), Moyer (33), Myers (30), Kendrick (30), Eaton (19), Joe Blanton (13) and Happ (4).
  • 12 in 2009: Hamels (32), Blanton (31), Moyer (25), Happ (23), Cliff Lee (12), Myers (10), Pedro Martinez (9), Chan Ho Park (7), Rodrigo Lopez (5), Antonio Bastardo (5), Kendrick (2) and Andrew Carpenter (1).
  • 9 in 2010: Roy Halladay (33), Hamels (33), Kendrick (31), Blanton (28), Moyer (19), Roy Oswalt (12), Happ (3), Worley (2) and Nelson Figueroa (1).

The Phillies have used six starters so far this season. Maybe that’s all they’ll use. If they do the Phillies should win a ton of games because that means their aces are healthy. But even if the Phillies lose a starter for a significant stretch, Worley has shown the ability to handle himself. The Phillies always have Kendrick, too.

Charlie Manuel said that’s good to know. But he also hopes it doesn’t come to that.

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Phillies starters have gone five consecutive games in which they have pitched six or more innings and allowed one or fewer runs: Worley (six innings, no runs), Roy Halladay (nine innings, one run), Cliff Lee (seven innings, one run), Cole Hamels (nine innings, one run) and Worley again (six innings, one run). Elias Sports Bureau said it’s the first time that has happened for the Phillies since June 6-11, 1995: Mike Williams, Curt Schilling, Paul Quantrill, Tyler Green and Michael Mimbs.

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Cooler Weather, Cooler Bats

Charlie Manuel likes the summer because the summer is hot and hot weather is hitting weather.

The Phillies have played in mostly cool temperatures in the past week. Maybe that explains why they have hit just .226/.285/.313 in their past six games, averaging 3.3 runs per game. They hit .344/.392/.497 in their first eight games, averaging 7.0 runs per game. You knew the Phillies’ offense wouldn’t keep up the pace it set the first week of the season, but Manuel certainly hopes the last six games aren’t more indicative of the way it will play this season.

But just like the offense has leveled off, so has the pitching staff. Phillies starters were 4-2 with a 5.53 ERA in their first eight games, but are 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in their last six. The relievers were 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA in their first eight games, but are 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in their last six.

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Chase Utley continued his running drills before the game. Not that I’m counting, but when he ran last week in DC, he ran twice around the outside of the infield. He took three trips around the infield today. I guess that’s progress?

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The 700 Level has a good interview with Mike Schmidt. Check it out.

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