Preview: Midway Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies and winning are a complex and often frustrating topic. The Midway Phillies Blog presents a structured set of opinions and comments regarding the team. Here you will find a depth of knowledge and interesting topics not likely to
Signs of Life
With the Phillies showing some signs of life this season, they have pulled to within 2.5 games of the division leading Nationals. Amazingly, this is only good for last place in the division, but considering the injuries to Utley, Howard, Halladay and others, it's pretty amazing that they are in the thick of the race at this point.
This season looks like it will come down to the wire in the NL East and if the current trends keep up, this division might be sending 3 teams to the post-season, let's hope that the Phillies are one of them, heck, let's hope they can pull off their 6th straight division title. If you are in the mood to place a bet on the outcome of the season, we recommend finding a trusted sportsbook on playersjet.com
Phils Go to the "B List" and get Blanton
The Phillies have finally found a starter to add to the rotation, trading Adrian Cardenas
, Josh Outman
, and Matthew Spencer to Oakland for starter Joe Blanton. The good news is the Phillies didn't give up much. Cardenas is a second baseman who is clearly blocked by Chase Utley for quite some time. Lefty pitcher Outman had been converted to a reliever in the minors as potential insurance for the big club. Apparently he hasn't done well enough to make the big league roster, or rather the relief staff has done so well to date, he really hasn't been needed.
The bad news, contrary to popular belief, Blanton hasn't been all that great a starter with a career ERA of 4.25 / BAA .273 and for the Fantasy Baseball crowd, a 1.33 WHIP. None of those stats are very exciting, but he is an innings eater and should take some pressure off of the bullpen which is likely to be important down the stretch. Blanton is also under team control through 2010, so he should be with the team for awhile.
This brings up the next logical question. With Brett Myers apparently returning in a week, who is out of the rotation? Probably Adam Eaton, unless there is another deal in the works to move Myers. Personally, I would rather have Myers given his track record than Eaton. My guess, Eaton moves to the bullpen, the Phillies try to move him to anyone who has a bit of interest and may end up dropping him altogether and eating his salary for the rest of '08 and all of '09.
"Ace" sent to the Minors
In somewhat of a surprise move, the Phillies have optioned Brett Myers to triple-A to work out his mechanical issues. For the team "Ace", this is another odd turn in his past 2 years of going from opening day starter to closer to opening day starter to triple A starter. Hopefully the minor league assignments gets him straightened out and ready for the second half, the Phillies sure could use him with his Ace game.
The next question is who gets his next 3 or so starts in the rotation. Pat Gillick says this will be decided in the next 24-48 hours. Does this mean that a trade is in the works, perhaps the return of Randy Wolf? Could be, or it could just mean that they really haven't decided who to bring up from the minors yet. Kris Benson has been working back into shape, but doesn't sound ready to go yet, so it could be a youngster such as Carlos Carrasco. It would be interesting to see this guy's stuff at the major league level, so barring a trade, I vote for Carrasco. Maybe this can be the start of "Carrasco's Corral" in the outfield stands.
Get the 4-11 on the Phillies
The Phillies have been fond of starting out the season 4-11 as they have done in each of the past two years. This year, the team got off to a solid start, hit their usual hot streak in May and took over the division. That was the good news.
The past couple of weeks however have been the bad news, with the team going 4-11 in their last 15 games. Is there something to the 4-11 record? Maybe it's a sign that they should dial 4-11 to find out what the problem is.
While the team has certainly hit a lull in the hitting department (we're all looking at you Howard -- Mr. 10 Million Dollar Man), one of the big concerns is the starting pitching. With Brett Myers' melt down last night against the Rangers, the team is left scratching their head with what to do with the starting staff. It's no secret that the Phillies are actively searching for a top-line starter to go with Hamels, and the following names are widely speculated to be on the market.
It's pretty clear that any of those guys would greatly improve the staff. My favorite is Rich Harden since he should cost less due to his injury history and is a clear ace whenever he takes the mound. Bedard may be dealing with an injury and Sabathia will probably cost more in talent than what the Phillies have to offer, or would be willing to part with.
Of course, the next question is who would loose their spot in the rotation. After Hamels, here's the line on the other 4 starters:
2-6 Record, 4.86 ERA, 49K
7-3 Record, 4.59 ERA, 39K
7-5 Record, 4.09 ERA, 59K
3-9 Record, 5.84 ERA, 88K
If you were going strictly by the numbers that wouldn't be good news for Brett Myers.
The lines above belong to:
Can the Phillies really afford to jettison their opening day starter and "ace"? That probably isn't the wisest move given his history of success. Jamie Moyer has been pitching too well to be out of the rotation, Kendrick has the best record and Eaton has too high a salary to stick into the bullpen. Not to mention that the bullpen doesn't need another right hander anyway. So who would go? Probably Kendrick since he still has minor league options, though Eaton should really be the odd man out.
One thing is for certain, it's not clear who would loose their spot in the rotation IF the Phillies were to pull off a move, but it sure would be a nice thought to have a rotation anchored by Hamels and Harden (or Sabathia or Bedard) with a straightened out Myers as the number 3.
Phillies sign Steve Kline
Looks like the Phillies finally decided to bite on released lefty Steve Kline, signing him to a minor league contract
. Kline had a pretty rough year with the Giants in 2007 posting a 4.70 ERA and 1.65 WHIP with a .301 BAA. However, he is "only" 35 so he could still have some gas left in the tank. He does appear to be in decline since 2004, posting the following:
STL 2004 / 1.79ERA / 1.05WHIP / .209BAA
BAL 2005 / 4.28ERA / 1.46WHIP / .257BAA
SFG 2006 / 3.66ERA / 1.53WHIP / .275BAA
SFG 2007 / 4.70ERA / 1.65WHIP / .301BAA
It doesn't help that he went to a pitchers ballpark in 2006-2007 either. However, if he can pitch like his 2006 season, which is close to his career average, he will be a very serviceable reliever. If he pitches like he did in 2004, the Phillies will have one of the best bullpens in the game. Imagine that.
After a forgettable start to the 2008 season, the Phillies have signed veteran relief pitcher Rudy Seanez to the staff. The Dodgers cut Seanez at the end of Spring Training and the word was that he was ready to retire.
The 39 year old righty has had a pretty solid career, posting a 4.15 ERA and 544 Ks in just 522 2/3 innings. Last year, Rudy posted a solid 3.78 ERA with nearly a K per inning, so he may have some gas left in the tank, and the Phillies can use all the help they can get out of the bullpen.
Bottom line, this is a solid and necessary signing, and it's a low-risk / medium-reward sort of deal. If it works out, the Phillies get a workhorse who can chew up the middle innings. If things don't work out, Seanez can retire and the Phillies likely won't have any future money committed (financial details haven't been release yet).
The word is that the Phillies are still looking for a left-handed option out of the bullpen. Curious that they weren't in on Aaron Fultz who was released by the Indians and signed by the Tigers last week, he seems to be on a good year/bad year/good year/bad year kick and this is his good year. Steve Kline was released by the Giants and is available, another guy who has had a solid career and may have some gas left in the tank.
Phils Add Ben-surance
The Phillies completed a deal
to add Kris Benson to the team just in time for pitchers and catchers to report to the Carpenter Complex.
Benson represents a nice low risk, high reward option for the Phillies and will provide real competition for the 5th spot in the rotation (whether that be Eaton or Kendrick). Benson had shoulder surgery 10 1/2 months ago, so he should be ready to go sometime between the start of the season and June 1. In either case, there's a good chance that he will need to regain his form in the minors before pitching at Citizen's Bank, so the competition for the 5th spot in the rotation could last into the start of the season.
For the Phillies, it's a win-win situation, if Kendrick builds on last years success and Eaton returns to form, then the rotation is set and Benson can work his way back starting in the minors and take the inevitable step to the majors when the first injury hits (anyone want to lay odds on who will be the first starter to hit the DL?) Now, if Kendrick or Eaton falter in Spring training then Benson could be ready to contribute right away.
The history of shoulder surgery recoveries shows a trend where a pitcher comes back with middling success right away, then regains their old form after 2-3 months of regular duty. This could net out to the Benson of old by the second half of the season, and the Phillies always seem to need reliable arms the second half.
Over his career, Benson has had pretty consistent stats. His career numbers are:
About what was expected out of Adam Eaton when he signed.
Feliz a Philly
According to Jason Stark
, the Phillies have signed Pedro Feliz to a 2 year deal. This solves the third base issue that the Phillies have been dealing with.
While most baseball fans outside of the bay area have probably not heard of Pedro Feliz, the fantasy world has been aware of him as an intriguing option at SS in the past. He has been somewhat of an anomaly for fantasy teams offering teasing production but a low batting average, making him a position only play.
Over Feliz's 7 year career with the Giants, he has shown amazing consistency for a guy that has been switched from position to position.
2004 - 22HR / 84RBI / .276BA
2005 - 20HR / 81RBI / .250BA
2006 - 22HR / 98RBI / .244BA
2007 - 20HR / 72RBI / .253BA
Given the fact that he has played in a pitcher friendly ballpark and in a lineup that rarely had an offensive threat other than Barry Bonds, it seems reasonable to project a 22HR / 85RBI / .250BA with the Phillies. This gives the Phillies a league average third baseman, which is really all the team needs to add to their already high-octane offense. Really since Rolen left, the Phillies have had a void at third, the best year turned in by David Bell in 2004 with an 18HR / 77RBI / .291BA line. Putting up 22HR / 85RBI numbers looks even better for a guy that will probably be batting 7th in the order.
As for defense, in the 615 games Feliz has played at the position, he has put up a .961 Fielding Percentage with a .822 Zone Rating. Last year's .852 Zone Rating was the best in the National League as was his Fielding Percentage of .973, ahead of both Aramis Ramirez (.972) and Chipper Jones (.971). This is a great sign for a pitching staff that can use a little extra help getting outs.
Bottom line, Feliz is a great defender and solid bat at the bottom of the order, just what the doctor ordered.
The next question is what happens to Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs? The Marlins expressed interest in Helms awhile back, and the Phillies will probably let him go for very little, cash if they can get it. Dobbs looks like a solid bench option and backup at 3rd and in the outfield, probably the best role for him as far as the team is concerned.
The Phillies have a Darn Good Bullpen
The Phillies came to terms with Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson today avoiding arbitration hearings with the pair of right-handers. That got me thinking about the Phillies bullpen, and you know what? They look pretty darned good on paper. When did this happen? Especially after last year's abomination in the first half.It started with the trade for Lidge and then re-signing Romero and then bringing in Chad Durbin. Aside from the Lidge deal (who is replacing Myers in the 'pen) it didn't seem like much was done. Let's run down the pen and see where the Phillies stand.Closer - Brad LidgeThe guy has gotten a bad rap since serving up the Pujols game winner a couple years ago, and fantasy baseball players really noticed the problems with Lidge moving in-out-back in-then out again-then into the closers role for Houston since that blast. That hurt fantasy owners in 2006 and I should know I was one of his owners drafting a closer way to high (never draft a closer in the early rounds, but that's another topic). Still with the rough 2006, Lidge compiled 104 Ks, one of the few relievers in the game to accomplish that. Last year, where Lidge "struggled" he still posted a 3.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and .220 BAA, all very close to his career averages.Setup Man - Tom GordonYes he struggled last year opening the season, but he was clearly pitching injured and tried to pitch through it, which never seems to work. You can almost pick out the pitchers these days throwing through injuries. They are usually way off their career numbers. Gordon was quite good down the stretch last year after his injury problems were behind him, so it's reasonable to assume he will pitch more like the 2006 and second half of 2007 models than the first half of 2007 model.7th Inning Guy - Ryan MadsonMadson was kind of forgotten about last year, but posted a very strong season before going down with an injury, posting a 3.05 ERA. Seeing that Madson had signed reminded me how important he was to the Phillies bullpen the past few years, so I looked up his numbers and if you look at his career stats out of the pen (forget about those starts in 2006), you find a 3.48 ERA, which is fabulous for a 7th inning guy who has mostly been forgotten about. Assuming he stays healthy, Madson will be a key to the success of the bullpen.Lefty Specialist - JC RomeroI still can't believe the Red Sox cast this guy off. Don't you think they wished they had stuck with Romero and ignored Eric Gagne? There's no doubt who was better the second half of last year. Romero has definitely had a checkered career with amazing years like 2002's 1.89 ERA surrounded by 6.23 (2001) and 5.00 (2003). It's unlikely he will duplicate his 2007 success with the Phillies, but if he is limited to left-handed situations, he should be very good. Career line vs. lefties 1.26 WHIP, .226 BAA. Career line vs. righties 1.65 WHIP, .271 BAA.Swingman - Chad DurbinWe talked about Durbin in a past post, not the most exciting guy, but he is really being called upon to be the long man out of the pen and for the occasional spot start. If he performs like last year, he will get more exposure, but if not, he will chew up some innings where the Phillies are either way ahead or way behind. Good for saving the quality arms some mileage.2008 ProjectionsLidge - 3.30 ERA / 1.20 WHIP / .215 BAA / 100 K / 35 SVGordon - 3.40 ERA / 1.25 WHIP / .235 BAA / 65 KRomero - 3.50 ERA / 1.25 WHIP / .230 BAA / 55 KMadson - 3.20 ERA / 1.20 WHIP / .235 BAA / 70 KAmazingly similar stats across the board, it would be interesting to see 4 pitches that close to each other in stats, essentially that would mean it didn't matter who was on the mound, you could expect the same result.Now if the Phillies can just take a chance on a guy like Akinori Otsuka. Yes an injury risk, but why not take the shot with an incentive laden contract.[...]
So Taguchi Rounds out the Bench
The Phillies made a minor signing today getting So Taguchi
. Taguchi was the 4th outfielder for St. Louis the last several years. He is adept at getting on base with a .335OBP, but besides that he doesn't offer much in the way of power or speed (just a little of both). He is also a good defensive outfielder, so will probably be getting some time in left field for Burrell in the late innings.
Not sure what this means for Chris Snelling, it probably depends on how many pitchers the Phillies carry. Taguchi is probably a better hitter than Snelling, but with less upside.
Chad Durbin to the Phillies...who, what, why?
The Phillies have signed Chad Durbin
to a one year $900K deal. Definitely a low risk signing, but hard to see the upside.
Durbin has been around since 1999, but has pitched more than 50 innings only 4 of those years:
2000 72.1 IN / 8.21 ERA
2001 179 IN / 4.93 ERA
2004 51.1 IN / 6.66 ERA
2007 127.2 IN / 4.72 ERA
Those aren't real exciting numbers for sure. It appears Durbin will compete for the 5th starters position, but it's hard to imagine him winning the spot over a healthy Adam Eaton. Prior to last season's mess, Eaton did have a career 4.40 ERA. Durbin has a career 5.75 ERA, including last year's "career year".
In looking over last season's stats there is a silver lining on Durbin, if you take away his first 3 games where he gave up 16 runs in 13.2 innings, he actually compiled a 4.03 ERA.
So it appears that Durbin will compete for the starting rotation and be the long man out of the bullpen if he doesn't start. He could actually provide some solid innings pitched in either role, with the occasional bad outing sprinkled in between some solid outings. So there, Durbin provides some sort of upside.
The disappointing news out of this signing is the news that the Phillies are done searching for a starting pitcher or 3rd baseman. They are still interested in a left-handed reliever, which would appear to take Akinori Otsuka off the list.
If this is the end of the signings for the Phils, the bottom line is the same offense as last years with a mild upgrade to the pitching staff. Enough to compete, but does that put them over the top? Probably not.
Phillies Solidify their Outfield with Jenkins
The Phillies have signed Geoff Jenkins to a 2 year, $13M deal with a vesting option for a 3rd year at $7.5M. The plan is to have Jenkins platoon in right field with Jason Werth, and when you look at the career numbers between the two, you can see why this makes sense.
vs RHP: .288 AVG / .358 OBP / .525 SLG / .883 OPS
vs LHP: .242 AVG / .313 OBP / .408 SLG / .721 OPS
vs RHP: .249 AVG / .342 OBP / .408 SLG / .750 OPS
vs LHP: .284 AVG / .378 OBP / .486 SLG / .864 OPS
Combined, this nets out to a right fielder with numbers around:
.286 AVG / .368 OBP / .500 SLG / .870 OPS
Not bad really when you look at it on paper. This seems to be a pretty savvy signing by Gillick to get a right fielder for around 7M per year, committed for only 2 years. Consider that Aaron Rowand costs twice as much and required double the commitment in years for a career line of:
.286 AVG / .343 OBP / .462 SLG / .805 OPS
Based on career stats, the right field platoon provides more offense to the Phillies than Rowand. The counter point of course is that Rowand's career year this year might be his regular output going forward, and that's exactly what the Giants paid for, but at $13M a year, it's a gamble. You can also argue that Jenkins is in decline, but what you can't argue is his great success vs. righties. He is also a plus defender, and when you combine that with Victorino's strong defensive abilities moving over to center, there should be no hit to the outfield defense.
Overall looks like a smart deal for the Phillies that plugs one of the holes in the team.
Geoff Jenkins Nearing a Decision
According to Ken Rosenthal
, Geoff Jenkins is deciding between the Phillies and the Padres. Jenkins' name has been brought up numerous times in relation to the Phillies, so this isn't much of a surprise. Jenkins would be the left-handed platoon mate for Jason Werth that the Phillies were hoping for.
Jenkins is a power hitter with some pretty decent power years. From 2003-2005 he averaged over 25HR and 90RBI. The last couple of years have seen his power numbers drop off, but it's really the splits the Phillies are interested in.
Jenkins career splits look like this (left/right):
He definitely looks perfect for a platoon, and would replace the production lost in Aaron Rowand. Now if the Phillies can just upgrade at 3rd, they can actually have a better offense than last year.
In other news, the Phillies are interested in Akinori Otsuka
and are one of 9 teams reportedly interested in Mark Prior
. Who isn't interested in Prior? Better move quick to get him.
Since the Phillies have missed out on any trades beyond Brad Lidge (good one BTW) and free agents, it's time to turn the attention to the non-tender list
to see who might be out there to fill the open spots on the roster. It's pretty common knowledge that the Phillies are looking for a starter, reliever, 3rd baseman and an outfielder to either platoon with Werth or just be the 4th outfielder. So who strikes us as most interesting for each position?
STARTING PITCHERSMark Prior
Hard to believe, but the Cubs non-tendered Prior rather than pay him 3.5M to see what he's got this year. Possibly the best player on the non-tender list, Prior represents the opportunity to sign an ace for 5th starter dollars, and not even Eaton sort of dollars, think half of that. Seems like a no-brainer if Prior is interested. Of course he could be injured all season again, but a 3-4M flier seems reasonable.
After Prior there isn't much out there, Josh Towers, Mark Hendrickson or Mike O'Connor anyone? They do represent depth, but the Phillies may be better off with what they have now.
Some interesting names here, Kiko Calero was available for a few hours, but the A's snatched him back up.Akinori Otsuka
Potential closer material if he is healthy, of course that's a big IF. Reports are saying that he is throwing fine, so he could be a nice addition, though he is probably looking for a pretty nice contract. The Rangers let him go because Otsuka wasn't hip on a "shared-risk" deal. Guess that means he wants guaranteed money.
Some other interesting names, Brendan Donnelly looks like he might miss the entire season because of Tommy John surgery and being named in the Mitchell report doesn't help. Matt Wise is an interesting choice with a 4.18 career ERA and a price tag lower than Otsuka.
No luck on Crede being non-tendered, could always be a trade given the Phillies and White Sox recent history, and you wouldn't think it would take much to get Crede.Dallas McPherson
A highly touted youngster in the Angels organization missed all of last year with back surgery, so he may be damaged goods. The Angels are also set on the offensive side of the field, so McPherson was expendable. Seems like he might be young enough to recover well from back surgery (unlike say...Scott Rolen). He projects to be a 20HR 80RBI guy if healthy, maybe more.
Another name of interest is the reclamation project that is Morgen Ensberg, not sure what happened after his 36HR year of 2005, but playing in San Diego couldn't have helped. Still he may be a better option than McPherson, he did hit 12HR last year in half a seasons worth of ABs.
The Phillies seem set on a left-handed outfielder to platoon with Werth, so maybe that means Willie Harris would fit. The speedy, solid defender for the Braves last year is looking for a job. He would be an interesting replacement for Michael Bourn. Seems like essentially the same player with slightly less speed.
Jason Tyner is a lefty and available, he gets on base pretty well, but doesn't do much else. If the Phillies decide to go in another direction, Kevin Mench is available, but has already been marked off the list by the Phillies because of his right handed-ness. Jason Lane hit 26HR 78RBI in 2005, not much since, also not left-handed.
Rowand, Going, Going...Gone!
Looks like Aaron Rowand has signed with the Giants
for 5 years and $60. So after all it was about the money and the years for Rowand. Too bad, but we wish him luck.
Now at least the Phillies aren't left hanging to find out what Rowand will do. The organization can finally move on. With an outfield of Burrell, Victorino and Werth (plus platoon mate), the offense should be roughly what it was last year, with perhaps a slight drop off, though it should be considered that Werth might put up similar numbers to Rowand next year given the opportunity. Victorino will be just as good if not better defensively for Rowand, so it could be a win for the Phillies to avoid the big contract.
The focus for the Phillies now -- beyond pitching -- should be 3rd base. Looks like there is a chance that Joe Crede could be non-tendered tomorrow providing a chance for the Phillies to sign a solid hitter, good defender at what would appear to be a low-risk price. Then the Phils can move Helms to the Marlins for a minor league player, middle reliever, or bag of balls (why exactly do the Marlins want Helms back? And to be their highest paid player to boot?). Dobbs could then be the platoon mate for Werth in right field. All would start to come together in the universe for the Phillies. Hey, maybe Mark Prior will be non-tendered as well and the Phillies could take a shot on grabbing a potential ace for very little.
Iguchi on 3rd?
Todd Zolecki reports in that Tadahito Iguchi
may be open to playing third base for the Phillies. This is an interesting development as Iguchi was a great fill in for Chase Utley this season and seems to be a good clubhouse guy. The big question is can Iguchi play a major league 3rd base? His career .986 fielding percentage says that he is a pretty solid defender, but 2nd base is a long way from 3rd and quite a bit closer to the plate. Perhaps the bigger question is what sort of upgrade Iguchi would be for the Phillies at 3rd. His 2005-2006 seasons showed a nice bat with upside averaging 16HR, 70RBI, 12SB and a .280BA. Last year was a down year in BA until he came over to the Phillies, but his other numbers seemed in line.
An estimate of 2008 numbers, assuming he plays most of the season and has a small bump for playing in Citizens Bank and in a heavy hitting lineup:
Not too bad for a #6 or #7 hitter, and better than the alternatives.
Bedard to the Phillies?
New rumor that I hadn't heard before coming from Jason Stark
today. In his winter meeting notes he suggests that the Phillies have interest in the Orioles young ace Erik Bedard. For those unfamiliar with Bedard, he is a poor man's Santana with 15 and 13 wins the past 2 seasons, an average of about 200 Ks and 3.76 and 3.16 ERAs. All very gaudy numbers, especially for an American League pitcher who has to face the Yankees and Red Sox frequently. Let's put it another way, getting this guy makes Cole Hamels our #2. And the best part is that Bedard is team controlled through 2009, so no $20+M per year like Santana will cost.
The report claims that the Orioles want more than the price of Santana, and who can blame them, Bedard does represent a better deal for the acquiring team. While the Phillies probably don't have much of a chance at landing him, what would it take from the Phillies to make the Orioles think?
Let's start our own rumor...Victorino, Kendrick, Jason Jaramillo and Carlos Carrasco for Erik Bedard. The Orioles would definitely have to think about that one. Victorino is a Carl Crawford type player, Kendrick's value may never be higher, Jaramillo projects to a starting catcher in a year and Carrasco is one of the Phillies top pitching prospects. That's the sort of deal the Orioles are looking for. Is it a good deal for the Phillies? Short term it could be, but long-term that's a lot of talent to give up and pretty much strips the farm system bare, but if the team is looking to get a top tier rotation right away, this would probably get the job done.
Looks like no Wolfie
Ken Rosenthal is reporting
that the Padres have a preliminary agreement on a deal with Randy Wolf pending a physical. Looks like the Phillies hard sell couldn't get past Wolf's desire to pitch near home. To bad since a healthy Wolf would have been a welcome part of the Phillies rotation in 2008. Of course he could have also been Freddy Garcia round 2.
Looks like the Phillies are making a serious run at bringing Randy Wolf back. Wolf left the Phillies last off-season to play for his hometown Dodgers, and while the departure was unfortunate, he pretty much left on good terms.
Honestly, the Phillies didn't seem to have a ton interest in keeping Wolf around given the time he missed the previous 2 years. Yes, he turned down a larger offer from the Phils to sign with the Dodgers last year, but it still didn't feel like the organization put their best foot forward. Now we hear that the entire front office is talking to him.
This year it looks like the Dodgers are the team not so interested in retaining Wolf's services. Not really sure why since he pitched like an Ace the first half of the year posting a 7-3 record and 3.73 ERA through June 1. Kind of reminds you of 2003 huh? Other than his final game of the season where he gave up 6 runs in 3 innings and was obviously not feeling right (he went on the DL after that game) he only game up more than 4 runs in one other outing.
Perhaps the Dodgers were concerned with the shoulder injury that sidelined him the rest of the season. For the Phillies, they look interested in taking him on as a low-risk, high-reward type pitcher who has the ability to be a solid number 2 or 3 in the rotation. Seems like a 2-3 year deal for 20-30M would get the job done.
If the injuries are in Wolf's past, this could be a vary savvy signing, he's probably the best available free agent pitcher who happens to be entering his age 31 season, which is usually a pitchers prime.
Phillies Beat Mets for NL East Title!...on Paper
Fantasy Baseball is one of my passions. I've played in leagues since 1987 and have experienced the excitement of drafting Mike Schmidt, one of my favorite all-time players. This is where fantasy and reality begin to blur. While Schmidt put up very strong numbers in 1987 (35HR/113RBI/.293BA), keeping him on my roster in 1988 proved to be more of a problem (12HR/62RBI/.249BA). I did manage to finish in second place each season, but probably could have made it to first with a stronger hitter than Schmidt in my lineup.In any case, it was a lesson learned. Something about weighing emotions vs. hard statistics, something successful fantasy baseball players are very adept at doing. In fact, because of my emotional attachment to the Phillies, I actually tend to undervalue most of their players heading into drafts so that I don't make the same mistake again. Of course, last year this meant passing up on Utley, Howard and Rollins (all fantasy studs) when I could have drafted them in good value positions.This year I do have Howard and Burrell on one team and Utley on another, but keep missing out on Myers and Hamels, they are both going early than expected and right about the same time. Hamels went one pick ahead of Myers in one draft and Myers when a round before Hamels in another, both ahead of where it made sense to draft them based on the projections.The relationship between fantasy and reality got me thinking when the news came out that Jimmy Rollins was proclaiming the Phillies the team to beat in the NL East. The emotion is great to hear from a team that had none through the Bowa era and early on in the Manuel era, (maybe it was the Abreu era) but was it just emotion, or does Jimmy Rollins have a point?Mets fans of course like to point to last year when they ran away with the division and the Phillies were left in rebuilding mode only to find out they were good enough to compete for the Wild Card. As everyone knows, last year was last year and this year is different. It's not like the Mets won 14 straight division titles and have the right to proclaim themselves the team to beat. It was just one year.The Hard StatisticsWhile preparing for my Fantasy drafts this year, I decided to take a look at how the Mets roster compares with the Phillies roster. First a bit about how I prepare. When projecting player statistics, I look at 3 sources; The Sporting News, ESPN and the Roto Wire. I take each of their projections and average them out to determine what is expected of every player in the draft. This gives me stats on the players most likely to be drafted and some that aren't. One caveat here, bench players and the bullpen aren't considered (yes, I know this is an area of concern for both teams, so maybe I'll cover that in a later blog).Looking at fantasy projections may not be the best statistical research, especially for those hard core statisticians out there, and it doesn't take into effect the schedule, which benefits the Phillies, but it does provide some interesting results none-the-less.What does seem most important in looking at the stats is determining how many runs will be scored by each team's hitters and how many runs will be given up by each teams pitchers. This should give some sort of indication of won-loss record.Phillies Hitters (runs scored)123 Jimmy Rollins80 Shane Victorino122 Chase Utley110 Ryan Howard81 Pat Burrell71 Aaron Rowand58 Wes Helms60 Rod Barajas------------------705 TotalPhillies Pitchers (ERA)3.99 Brett Myers4.11 Cole Hamels4.17 Freddy Garcia4.43 Jamie Moyer4.67 Adam Eat[...]
Your National League Wildcard Leader
At least partially, as the Phillies moved into a tie with the Dodgers for the National League Wild Card. Quite an accomplishment really, with the way this season started and progressed for the Phillies. According to Elias, this is the first time the Phillies have been the Wild Card leader this year, so the team has piqued at the right time.
With their new found pitching skills, this team looks poised to take over the Wild Card race. It won't be easy, but they have a very good chance when you look at the remaining schedule. The Phillies have 10 games left to finish out the season. 3 of the games are with the lowly Nationals, so that presents a schedule advantage. Then there is one makeup game left with the Astros. The difficult part of the schedule comes with the 6 games remaining with the Marlins and the 3 final games of the season in Miami.
The Phillies have shuffled their starting pitching so that Randy Wolf starts against the Astros and Jon Lieber skips pitching against the Marlins in Miami, where he has a 5.86 career ERA. To look even further into the matchups, the Phillies won't be facing either Dontrelle Willis or Anibel Sanchez in the current series, and should avoid facing any of the Astros tough pitchers in that game. Charting out the Marlins rotation, it looks like the Phillies will only have to face either Willis or Sanchez once in Florida. All of this projects out to some nice offensive games for the Phillies, so as long as the starting pitching continues to hold up, things look good.
By contrast, after today's game, the Dodgers have 9 tough games left agains the Diamondbacks and on the road for the final 6 against the Rockies and Giants. Charting out their pitching opponents isn't nearly as favorable as they are likely to face the following hurlers:
Jason Jennings 3.65 ERA
Noah Lowry 1.86 ERA (in August)
Matt Cain 2.80 ERA (since All Star Break)
Jason Schmidt 3.50 ERA
In case the Dodgers end up doing better than the Phillies the rest of the way, the Phillies still have a shot at beating out the Padres who are the current NL West leaders, but only 1/2 game ahead of the Phillies and Dodgers. They also have a tough road the rest of the way, with 4 games left against the Diamondbacks where Brandon Webb should get 2 starts. They also have 3 games against the Pirates and the Cardinals. Take note that the Pirates are on a 5 game winning streak and may not be as easy to beat as they seem. Here's who the Padres are likely to face off against the rest of the way:
Brandon Webb-2 Starts 2.92 ERA (potential Cy-Young)
Chris Carpenter 2.79 ERA (potential Cy-Young)
Jeff Suppan 2.04 ERA (since All Star Break)
It all adds up to a great schedule advantage for the Phillies, and barring a major setback or some exceptional play by the Dodgers and Padres against some great pitchers, we should be seeing the Phillies in the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
There, I've made a bold prediction, superstition be damned! Now, don't let me down.
Trade Winds Swirling
This doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who is mildly following the Phillies these days, but Pat Gillick seems determined to trade away some big salaries in order to fix the problems the Phillies are having. What's the problem you ask? Well any baseball fan can answer that one. Our starting pitching stinks!This has been a tourturous season to be a Phillies fan. The season began with so much promise from guys like Floyd and Madson tearing up Spring Training, then bringing in the highly touted Cole Hamels. It shouldn't have mattered that Lieber was out with injuries and Myers was out for his problems, the depth of talent should have been able to make up for the holes. Well, it certainly hasn't worked out that way, the Phillies are the proud owners of the worst pitching staff in the National League (at least when you measure it by the number of base runners allowed).So, Pat is hitting the trade market to find the team some arms and to re-adjust the payroll so that arms can be bought in the off-season. In the next week-and-a-half, the following guys could be traded away.Bobby AbreuThe biggest name on the trade market (on par with Soriano of course), Abreu's name just hasn't stayed out of trade rumors since the off-season. The likelihood of him being traded seems quite low however. The reason's being that Abreu is a big-time talent with a big-time contract. Pat is smart enough to see this and is looking for another team to take on Bobby's entire salary and return top talent in trade. This becomes even more difficult since Bobby has a no-trade clause and will only waive it if his option is picked up, making him a $30M player. Pretty much only the Mets, Yankees and Red Sox can afford that. The Yankees and Mets are in more need of arms then bats and neither has the talent to trade that Gillick seems to be in search of, namely top tier starters. The White Sox would seem to be a fit since they have an extra starter in either Garcia, Vasquez or hot shot prospect Brandon McCarthy. They also need a better center fielder and could easily move the speedy Podsednik into the role. However, the White Sox seem more interested in a pitcher. Why? Who knows, they seem to have to many of them to begin with. Vasquez could be a good addition and a player that seems to only want to play on the East Coast, but the prospects of that sort of deal happening are slim.Pat BurrellIf Abreu can't be moved, the over-bloated contract of Burrell's seems to be next on the list. The Orioles seem to have interest and are willing to part with Rodrigo Lopez, but that isn't all that exciting of an arm to acquire. Think Cory Lidle when you hear the name Lopez. A guy that can shut a team down one night and get blown out the next. Here's an idea, how about a trade for Melvin Mora, the Philies are certain to dump the underperforming error-machine they have at third base after the season, and will need to replace that position anyway. It doesn't fix the immediate need, but maybe some more offense will help that pitching staff win another game or two. Let me explain the more offense part...Mora would offer similar numbers to Burrell's, while Dellucci and Victorino could platoon in left and both could put up better numbers than David Bell. Oh, why couldn't Thome have played third?Cory LidleFor as consistent as Cory has been in the middle of the rotation the past few years, he has never been considered a major building block for the team. The Phillies seem interested in helping ano[...]
Building the Rangers Starting Staff
The Phillies seem to be in the business of supplying starting pitchers to the Texas Rangers these days. After giving away Vicente Padilla (Ricardo Rodriquez has been released if you haven't heard), Pat Gillick has completed the trade of Robinson Tejeda and Jake Blalock for outfielder David Dellucci.
It's a shame to see the talented arm of Tejeda go, but his value may have peaked last year. He has never projected to a solid major league pitcher, mostly due to his inability to find the strike zone. Last year his stuff was electric, but he threw a large number of balls out of the strike zone and seemed to live on the edge in every game he pitched. The ability to move Tejeda so easily seems to point to how deep the Phillies young pitching goes, as I've discussed in a previous post.
As for Dellucci, the Phillies are getting a pretty solid outfielder that can serve as the left handed power that Gillick has wanted available from the bench. In fact, Delucci was the starting left fielder for the Texas Rangers last year and put up some pretty impressive numbers.
David Dellucci (2005) - 29 HR / 65 RBI / .251 BA
(2006 Pre-Trade Projections) - 21 HR / 57 RBI / .244 BA
With this signing, the question has to be asked...Is there another shoe ready to drop? Dellucci could be a starting outfielder on many major league teams with the potential for 30 home runs in 500 plus at bats. Is he really just going to serve as the 4th or 5th outfielder for the Phillies? Perhaps, but it makes you wonder if Gillick has another deal in the making. Perhaps a Burrell or Abreu deal for that elusive top-of-the-rotation starter. Hopefully this isn't a signal that Burrell's injury is more severe than has been let on.
The bottom-line, for now, is that the Phillies get the bench depth they have been searching for, and Dellucci should provide plenty of home runs in his at bats as a starter or a pinch hitter. Over his career, mostly in part-time service, he has averaged a home run for every 28 at bats, but in the last 2 years he has averaged a home run every 16.6 at bats. Which means if he gets 200 at bats in part time duty, we could see 12 home runs from Dellucci, and that's pretty good news.
Reasons to Believe
If you pay attention to the general sports media, you wouldn't have much of a reason to believe the Phillies have a chance at the post season this year. All of the so-called experts believe that the off-season moves the Mets have made makes them the odds on favorite to win the N.L. East, or at least take the Wildcard. I have some specific comments about their team and where their flaws are, but will reserve them for a later posting. Everyone else picks the Braves to win the N.L. East, and while you can't blame the media for picking a team that has won the division 14 straight years, it shouldn't just be handed to them, especially when they are in semi-rebuilding mode.If you take an objective look at the team the Phillies have put together for this season, any reasonable person would believe they are a legitimate contender for the post-season. So, on the eve of the eve of the season opening, I thought it would be good to point out the reasons why the Phillies should be getting more consideration.1) Jimmy RollinsNever underestimate the importance of a quality lead-off hitter. In the last few years, Rollins has finally figured out how important his role is on the team, and that translated to a 36 game hitting streak to end of the regular season last year. Quite literally, as Jimmy Rollins goes, so goes the Phillies. The table setter is quite possibly the most important spot in the lineup. Just think about all of those Braves teams that had Kenny Lofton (in his prime) and Rafael Furcal leading off. If Rollins can manage a .350 OBP, the Phillies should walk into the post-season.Jimmy Rollins - .296 BA / 13 HR / 62 RBI / 38 SB / 116 RWhile I am clearly a Phillies fan, I want you to know that any statistical projections come from my experience as a Fantasy Baseball manager. These stats come from an accumulation of several expert Fantasy Baseball sources. And, when it comes to projecting stats, Fantasy Baseball is the most un-biased place to look.2) A full season of Chase Utley and Ryan HowardLast year the Phillies started off slowly, and part of the reason was an injured Jim Thome and a platooning Chase Utley. Once Polanco was traded and Thome was placed on the DL, both Utley and Howard had a chance to flourish, and so did the Phillies playoff chances. With a full season of both these young power hitters playing, the Phillies will be better off than they were last year. Here are their projections for this year:Chase Utley - .293 BA / 31 HR / 106 RBI / 17 SBRyan Howard - .279 BA / 37 HR / 105 RBI3) We still have Abreu and BurrellThis Phillies lineup has the chance to be the best hitting team in the N.L. and probably on par with the Yankees, Red Sox or White Sox. I've already talked about Rollins, Utley and Howard as keys to the season, but let's not take for granted the other big bats in the order. Here are their statistical projections:Bobby Abreu - .295 BA / 27 HR / 105 RBI / 28 SBPat Burrell - .276 BA / 30 HR / 108 RBIAs you can see, the Phillies project out to four 100 RBI guys in their lineup. How impressive a feat would this be. To begin with, no team had four 100 RBI guys last year. Only 2 teams managed three 100 RBI guys (Phillies included) and 3 others had two 100 RBI guys. Here's the list:Phillies - Bobby Abreu (102), Chase Utley (105), and Pat Burrell (117)New York Yankees - Alex Rodriguez (130), Gary Sheffield (123) and Hideki Matsui (116)Boston - Manny Ramirez (144) and David Ortiz[...]
Floyd Makes the Rotation
MLB.com is reporting
that Gavin Floyd has been named the Phillies #5 starter. This is great news for Phillies fans as Floyd has long been considered a potential ace of the staff. After his setbacks last year, he has come through in a big way this spring and earned himself a shot at becoming that ace.
This leaves one open question for the Phillies, who lost their spot in the starting rotation and becomes the 7th inning guy? We know that Lieber, Myers and Lidle have been named the starting 3, so that leaves one of the Ryan's...Madson or Franklin.
With the success Madson has had in the bullpen the last couple of years, it would be an easy move to send him to the 'pen. However, with as good a spring that Floyd has had, Madson's has been even better, suggesting that he has earned a spot in the rotation as well. Manuel has stated that he wants the best players to go north with him, and given the spring stats, Madson is the best for the starting rotation.
This leaves Ryan Franklin as the most likely person to move to the 'pen. Interestingly enough, he was signed with the knowledge that he might pitch in relief. His brother (and agent) even included incentives for total number of appearances, suggesting that relief was a real possiblity. Add to this that Manuel is refusing to name the final 2 starters, but is also saying that he has definitely made up his mind. Franklin has been out of camp lately, so if you read between the lines, this likely means that Manuel wants to tell Franklin in person before telling the media.
Great news Phillies fans, our starting rotation may now be full of great potential. Madson already had nice upside, but not much was expected out of Franklin. With Floyd in the rotation, this could be a very exciting pitching staff. It's way too early to predict anything, but this staff definitely has the potential to be dominant if everything works out.