Monday, August 27, 2012

Week 20: Antonio Bastardo and Barry Jones

The 2012 Phillies finally looked like the playoff-worthy team we have come to expect over the past few seasons.  Facing the two best teams in the National League, they went 5-2, including a sweep of the first place Nationals.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of too little, too late, as the team is still buried in the standings.  It would take a miracle to capture a playoff spot at this point.

Still, the recent results are encouraging, as there's no reason to believe that with a mostly healthy core, this team shouldn't be in playoff contention in 2013.

If they do want to be contenders in 2013, they will need better performance from their relief pitching.  One player who the team expected to be a key bullpen cog has had a mostly dreadful season, but this week gave hope that he might be turning things around.


Featured Phillie of the Week: Antonio Bastardo

In 2011, Bastardo was a revelation.  At first he was used as a lefty specialist, but due to injury, he was soon elevated into the eighth inning setup role.  He excelled in that spot, and looked near unhittable at times.

And then, the calendar turned to September.  Bastardo suddenly became ineffective.  There were several theories for his sudden downturn: He was tipping pitches, he was tired, he lost his confidence.  The 2011 Phillies didn't have many obvious weaknesses heading into the postseason, but Bastardo was becoming a bit of a concern.

As it turned out, Bastardo wasn't a factor in the postseason, but unfortunately for the Phillies, his late 2011 struggles carried over into this season.

He hasn't seemed to be able to find any sort of groove this season.  Just when it looked like he might be getting back on track, he would go out, walk a couple of hitters and give up two or three runs.

This past week provided hope that he might be returning to his form of last year.  He came in to face one batter in Saturday's win against the Nationals, and promptly struck him out.  On Sunday, he followed that up by striking out the side in his one inning of work.  Bastardo has actually struck out the last five batters he has faced.

If Bastardo truly has turned the corner, then the Phillies relief situation looks much brighter than it has for most of the season.

Ghost of Phillies Past: Barry Jones

Heading into the 1992, the Phillies felt very comfortable with their relief pitching.  They already had Mitch Williams as their established closer, and to supplement him, they brought in righthander Barry Jones from Montreal to handle setup duties.

Jones had long been regarded as one of the best relievers in baseball.  While he hadn't had his best season in 1991, that was believed to be partially because the Expos' uncertain relief situation forced him into a part-time role as closer.

It was thought that if he was used solely as a setup man, he would return to his former steady self.  Sadly, that was not the case.

Jones continued to struggle.  The 1992 Phillies were a disappointing last place team, and it seemed like on the few occasions that they actually had a lead in the eighth inning, Jones would blow it.

Midway through the season, the Phillies traded Jones to the Mets.  It was a small consolation that he somehow pitched even worse for them.

Pennant Year Song of the Week

The Phillies' chances of making the postseason are slim.  But at least this week gave them a small glimmer of hope.  And so, this week's song comes from 1993: Reason to Believe by Rod Stewart

Phillies Related Tweet of the Week

From Dan Steinberg @dcsportsblog

Dave Jageler: "The Phillies, out of contention. All they have left to do is boo Jayson Werth."

This is so not true.  Phillies fans also have to boo Scott Rolen and J.D. Drew.

And give Phillies fans a break.  We're not used to our team being out of contention.  Maybe Nats' fans could give us advice on how to handle it?

Final Analysis

The Phillies have to hope that Bastardo can once again be a dependable relief pitcher.  If he turns in another Barry Jones-like performance in 2013, their chances of contention will be greatly damaged.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Week 19: Kyle Kendrick and Mike Maddux

As the Phillies continue to muddle along, the season has become somewhat of a tryout for next year.  The team is taking a look at some players to see if they could be viable components of the 2013 squad.

One player who is getting an extended look is someone who the Phillies really should have a good idea about considering he's been with the team since 2007.  And yet, they still don't seem to know if they can count on him as a reliable contributor going forward.

Featured Phillie of the Week: Kyle Kendrick

Last week, most Phillies fans would have said that there was no way that Kendrick should be a part of the 2013 club. 

He was coming off of a couple of abysmal starts where he looked passive on the mound and got knocked around.  Worse, after he received criticism for the poor starts, he whined that he wasn't being afforded the proper respect for his past accomplishments. 

Most Phillies fans were ready to show Kendrick the door.  Hadn't we seen enough of Kendrick over the past few seasons to know that he's never going to be anything more than a fringe major league starter?

Naturally, Kendrick has answered the criticism with two sparkling starts.  On Tuesday, he pitched seven shutout innings, and he followed that up with eight shutout innings on Sunday.

In those two starts, Kendrick looked nothing like the passive wreck who we witnessed before.  He was aggressive, he used his best pitch (the sinker) often instead of relying too much on his subpar cut fastball.

It should be said that before his struggles as a starter, Kendrick had been pitching effectively in relief.  He was getting people out on a regular basis and even put up an impressive scoreless streak.

It is possible that some of Kendrick's stuggles were due to being moved back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen all season.  He should remain in the rotation all season, so we'll see if he can maintain some consistency in this role.

Ghost of Phillies Past: Mike Maddux

This guy pitched for the Phillies

In 1988, Mike Maddux was another pitcher who was used in both the rotation and in relief without being especially effective in either role.

In case you were wondering, Maddux is the brother of future Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux.  It shouldn't be a huge surprise that the Phillies had Mike and not Greg.  Throughout the team's history, they have had the unfortunate knack of obtaining the inferior brother of a star player.

Jason Gimabi didn't play for the Phillies, but Jeremy did.  The Phillies didn't have the legendary Joe DiMaggio.  They didn't even have his brither Dom, who was a multiple-time All Star.  They had to settle for Vince DiMaggio.

I'm just shocked that they never bothered to pick up Ozzie Canseco.

After he left the Phillies, Mike Maddux went on to have a decent enough career, mostly as a reliever.  But he certainly never came close to matching the accomplishments of his brother.

This guy did not pitch for the Phillies

Pennant Year Song of the Week

The Phillies knew that the remainder of this season would be seeing who is worthy of a spot on next year's time.  The process requires a bit of patience.  So this week's song comes from 1993: Looking Through Patient Eyes by P.M. Dawn:

Random Phillies Image Found on the Web

This is a picture of Philadelphia Phil and Phyllis.  They were the Phillies' unofficial mascots when the team first moved into Veterans Stadium in 1972.  They failed to catch on and were replaced a few years later by the large green mascot who we all know and love.

Final Analysis

Has Kendrick's recent performance been indicative that he'll be a viable member of the starting rotation?  Or is it just another tease, and next week we'll get another 4 inning, 6 run stinker of a performance?  Kendrick's future with the team likely depends on the answer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 18: Eric Kratz and Mark Parent

Despite another 3-3 week, the Phillies' fortunes have improved slightly. 

They are no longer in last place, having passed over the fading Miami Marlins.  More importantly, some of their key players seem to be rounding into form.  Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard have looked closer to their pre-injury selves, and Domonic Brown has shown some indication that he may indeed live up to the hype he once carried as a minor leaguer.

It has also helped that they've gotten a large offensive contribution from a very unlikely source.

Featured Phillie of the Week: Eric Kratz

Heading into this season, most Phillies fans had no idea who Eric Kratz was.  Actually, throughout most of the season, most Phillies fans had no idea who Eric Kratz was.  He just seemed like a journeyman minor league catcher who the Phillies kept calling up and sending back down to the minors.

When starting catcher Carlos Ruiz went down with an injury a couple of weeks ago, there was reason to believe that the Phillies offense would suffer.  After all, Ruiz has been the Phillies' best hitter this season.

But surprisingly, Kratz has gone a long way towards replacing Ruiz's offense.  He is batting .308 in the month of August, and more importantly, has contributed some big home runs.

In Sunday's win over the Cardinals, his three run homer in the eighth inning tied the game and allowed the Phillies to win in extra innings.  Earlier in the week, a Kratz home run had provided the Phillies the margin of victory in another win.

While Ruiz will certainly reclaim the starting job when he returns, it looks like Kratz has earned himself a chance to be his backup next season.

Ghost of Phillies Past: Mark Parent

Parent in his post-playing coaching days

Teams generally don't expect much out of their backup catchers.  They usually hope for a solid defender who can avoid being too much of an offensive liability when he makes his one or two starts each week.

Mark Parent was the Phillies' backup catcher in 1997 and 1998, and while he was serviceable enough on defense, he was  futile with the bat.

Parent actually hit 15 home runs in the 1995 season.  That was 15 more than he managed in 1997.  He didn't compensate by hitting for a high average, as he only batted .150.

While he improved those numbers ever so slightly in 1998, the Phillies had seen enough, and replaced him for the 1999 season with the just as forgettable Gary Bennett.

Pennant Year Song of the Week

The Phillies are no longer in last place.  And while they're still a far way from first, sometimes you have to just take it one step at a time.  And thus, this week's song is One Step at a Time by Jordin Sparks:


Phillies Related Tweet of the Week

Fightin' for Philly @philly_sports_

2012 has been productive in the sense that all the bandwagoners are gone. Only the faithful are left now

Is this true?  Has everyone hopped off the bandwagon?  I'm sure that if the winning resumes next season, the bandwagon will still be plenty full.

Final Analysis

Mark Parent was a borderline major league player who hung around for awhile as a backup.  Kratz has never even had that much of an opportunity, but it looks like he's going to get his chance to stay on a major league roster next season.  We'll see if he takes advantage.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Week 17: Ryan Howard and J.R. Phillips

The white flag has officially been raised.

Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Joe Blanton have all been traded away for a variety of prospects.  Players like Dom Brown, Nate Schierholtz, and B.J. Rosenberg are essentially getting tryouts at the major league level to see if they will be a part of the team's plans moving forward.

Despite the exodus of talent, the team ended up having one of its better weeks.  They won two out of three games over both the Nationals and the Diamondbacks.  Perhaps the team is more relaxed now that the pressure is essentially off.

Despite the team's success, there was one player who was not having a good week.  In fact, he was suffering through one of the worst slumps of his career.  But hopefully, what happened in the final at bat of Sunday's game will change that.


Featured Phillie of the Week: Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard is no stranger to slumps.  In just about every season he has spent as a major leaguer he has gone through a rough patch where he strikes out frequently and looks absolutely lost at the plate.

The slump typically comes early in the season.  But since Howard missed the first three months of the season, the slump was a bit delayed this year.

Heading into the final at-bat of yesterday's game, Howard had been struggling.  He was only batting .208, and had been striking out in almost half of his at bats.
Of course that meant nothing on Sunday when he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied.  The bases were loaded with one out, so all Howard had to do was hit a semi-deep ball.  He did even better than that, lacing a game-winning single into right field.

Howard has been notoriously streaky in his career.  If Sunday's heroics signify the start of a hot streak, then the Phillies offense may become very dangerous.


Ghost of Phillies Past: J.R. Phillips

My mother actually liked J.R. Phillips.  She thought he was a very good first baseman due to the way he would stretch for balls.  Unfortunately, first basemen are expected to do more than merely stretch effectively.  They also have to be able to hit a little.

Phillips didn't hit a little.  He barely hit anything at all.
He had once been a highly touted prospect for the Giants.  But after hitting just .195 in his rookie season, the Giants traded him to the Phillies.  The Phillies were hoping that a change of scenery might help him.  It certainly wasn't unheard of for a once touted rookie to fail with his original team and then find success elsewhere.

Phillips did not find success elsewhere.  Aside from one game in which he somehow hit two home runs, his offensive production was just as pathetic with the Phillies as it had been with the Giants. 

At the end of the season, the Phillies released him.  He continued to float around the majors for a few years, but he never developed into a major league quality hitter.


Pennant Year Song of the Week

Some people considered Shane Victorino to be the heart and soul of the Phillies.  He was involved in countless big moments over the past few years.  But he is now an ex-Phillie.

In his honor, this week's song is from 1983.  It is Separate Ways by Journey.

Phillies Related Tweet of the Week

From Matt Gelb (@mattgelb):

In one week, the Phillies changed 28 percent of their 25-man roster.

Yes, there has been a lot of turnover on the roster recently.  And I expect there to still be more to come.


Final Analysis

Hopefully, Howard will soon snap out of his offensive funk.  The Phillies need him to produce like the Ryan Howard of the past, and not like J.R. Phillips.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Week 16: Cole Hamels and Don Carman

The Phillies took on the Milwaukee Brewers at the beginning of last week, and thanks to some late game heroics, they actually emerged with their first three game sweep of the season.

It looked like maybe - just maybe - the team had finally found its rhythm, and would be a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season.  For a second, those dreams of somehow winning a playoff spot didn't seem quite so impossible.

And then, just as soon as it had arrived, momentum was lost.  The Phillies were swept by the Atlanta Braves in a series that pretty much caused the team's focus to switch towards the future.

The Phillies will almost assuredly be trading away some of their players in the coming weeks, either for prospects, or simply for salary relief from the luxury tax.

But there is one Phillies who, despite much speculation earlier in the year, will definitely not be traded.

Featured Phillie of the Week: Cole Hamels

Cole Hamels could have waited a few months and become a free agent.  He assuredly would have received a monumentally large contract.  Instead, he signed an only slightly less monumentally large contract extension to stay with the Phillies.

He received the largest contract in team history, and the second largest contract ever awarded to a pitcher.

While there is obviously some risk involved for the Phillies, they've assured themselves that their best homegrown pitcher in over fifty years will be with the team for the foreseeable future.  Hamels should be in his prime throughout the length of the deal, and if all goes well, he will be anchoring the Phillies rotation for years to come.

Unfortunately, Hamels didn't go out and celebrate his new deal with a shutdown performance.  Instead, he was uncharacteristically wild, and lost to the Braves.

Thankfully for Phillies fans, Hamels will have plenty of chances to redeem himself over the next few years.

Ghost of Phillies Past: Don Carman

The Phillies once had another homegrown lefthander who they thought was going to be a rotation mainstay for years to come. 

Don Carman went 9-5 as a rookie in 1985 and followed that up with 10-5 and 13-11 records in 1986 and 1987.  They thought he was going to develop one of the National League's top lefthanders.

Much like the rest of the team, Carman's performance dropped off severely after the 1987 season.  He went 10-14 in 1988, and then suffered a National League leading 15 losses in 1989.  His ERA went up every season, topping off at a dreadful 5.24. 

In 1990, the Phillies tried moving him to the bullpen.  He was slightly improved, but far from a standout.  The next year, they finally gave up on him and traded him to the Reds.

In addition to his poor pitching, Carman was also one of the worst hitting pitchers to ever step foot in a batter's box.  He started off his career 0-42, and ended up with a lifetime .057 average.

Pennant Year Song of the Week

Heading into their series against the Washington Nationals, the standings are a little different from last year.  The Nats are in first place, and the Phillies are in last.  Most Phillies fans would consider that to be upside down.  And so this week's song is Upside Down by Diana Ross.


Random Phillies Image Found on the Web

This pretty much sums up how the season has gone for General Manager Ruben Amaro.

Final Analysis

While there are no guarantees in baseball, the Phillies can feel quite confident that they will have one of the best pitchers in baseball anchoring their staff for the next few years.  If they are going to rebound from this year's disappointment, Hamels will likely be a big part of it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 15: John Mayberry, Jr. and Wes Chamberlain

Surely, Saturday was the death of all hope for the 2012 season.  The lineup was complete with both Chase Utley and Ryan Howard batting in their familiar third and fourth spots.  Both players homered, contributing to the team's five run output.

That should have been enough to win.  After all, Cole Hamels was on the mound, and he has been the team's best pitcher all season.  But Hamels faltered.  He gave up three home runs, including one to the opposing pitcher.

With the game tied in the ninth, closer Jonathan Papelbon - another player the team has largely been able to depend on this season - was brought into the game.  He pitched one successful inning, but when forced to go back out in the tenth, he too faltered.

When even Hamels and Papelbon fail, what chance does the team truly have?

On the bright side, the team did rebound on Sunday, thanks in part to a very surprising source.

Featured Phillie of the Week: John Mayberry, Jr.

John Mayberry's two homers on Sunday were very surprising, mostly due to how horrible Mayberry has been for most of the season.

The team was hoping Mayberry could adequately replace Raul Ibanez in left field.  At the very least, he was expected to provide some right handed power as part of a platoon to help compensate for the absence of Howard.

Based on last year, this was not an unrealistic expectation.  After a demotion to the minors, Mayberry had a strong second half.  He hit 12 home runs, and looked like he had finally put it all together after a inconsistent start to his career.

Instead, Mayberry showed that inconsistency might be the best the team can ever expect to get.  He disappointed the team with a .237 batting average, six home runs, and 23 home runs.  In addition, he managed to walk only 11 times against 67 strikeouts. 

Instead of helping to compensate for the loss of the team's power hitting stars, Mayberry turned out to be another disappointment in a season full of them.

Ghost of Phillies Past: Wes Chamberlain

Wes Chamberlain was another young outfielder who the Phillies had high hopes for.  The Phillies received him in a trade from the Pirates, and in 1991 he showed great flashes of potential.  He hit 13 home runs, and the Phillies were counting on big things from him in 1992.

Much like the entire team, Chamberlain disappointed during the 1992 season.  Instead of developing into a star, he struggled so much that he was demoted to the minors in the middle of the season.  The team was hoping he could become a power threat, but he only hit nine homers that year.

Chamberlain did rebound somewhat in 1993.  He was the right handed component of a successful right field platoon with Jim Eisenreich.  But he never lived up to the future star billing that was once placed on him.

Pennant Year Song of the Week

Saturday's loss pretty much eliminated any hope anyone could have for the 2012 Phillies making the playoffs.  In addition, it might have been Cole Hamels' last appearance as a Phillie.

For Phillies fans, this song sums up how we're feeling:  Hurt So Bad by Linda Ronstadt

Phillies Related Tweet of the Week

From Todd Zolecki @Toddzolecki:

Today was the Phillies' first win at home since June 26 vs. PIT. Snapped a 7-game losing streak.

Yes, the Phillies have been truly awful at home this season.  Is there a reason why they can't seem to win at home?

Final Analysis

Much like Chamberlain, John Mayberry looks like he is never going to develop into a true star.  His best case scenario is for his to become a valuable bench player who can provide some right handed pop.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Week 14: Cole Hamels and Tyler Green

Due to the All-Star break, the Phillies only played three games this week.  And they actually managed to win a series!

The opponent might have been the unimposing Colorado Rockies, but at this point, the Phillies can't turn their noses up at any wins.

Despite the team's poor showing thus far, they still had three players named to the National League All-Star team.  One of those All-Stars picked up where he left off on Sunday with a sterling performance to lead the Phillies to victory.

Featured Phillie of the Week: Cole Hamels

Due to his impending free agency, Cole Hamels has been the subject of multiple trade rumors.  While he might not be a Phillie through the rest of the season, the team is certainly glad that he is currently on the team now.

Hamels pitched one scoreless inning in the All-Star game, helping the National League to a shutout victory.  He followed that up with a brilliant performance on Sunday.

Hamels pitched eight innings, giving up only one run on six hits.  He struck out seven Rockies, and with five runs of support behind him, the Phillies came away with one of their easier wins of the season.

Now the question is: Was this Hamels' last start as a Phillie?  While the team would certainly love to re-sign him, it will certainly take a long, expensive contract to do so.  If he reaches free agency, he'll have no shortage of teams bidding for his services.

Considering the Phillies hopes of making the playoffs this season are slim, many want the team to trade him, and pick up some good prospects in return. 

Personally, I would keep him and do whatever it takes to sign him to a new contract.  With so many expensive players already signed for 2013, it doesn't make sense to start a rebuilding phase.  The team should still be in "win now" mode, and the team obviously will have a better chance of winning in 2013 with Hamels, than without him.

Whatever happens, if this was Hamels' last start as a Phillie, he certainly made it a good one.

Ghost of Phillies Past: Tyler Green

In 1995, the Phillies had another pitcher they drafted in the first round make the All-Star team.

Tyler Green was the Phillies first round pick in the 1991.  He instantly became their top prospect and quickly ascended to the major leagues. 

He started the 1995 season in the Phillies rotation, and he lived up to the hype.  He started out with an 8-4 record, and helped the Phillies stay near the top of the standings for the first half of the season.

In the second half, things went quickly downhill for both Green and the Phillies.  His control - never great to begin with - deteriorated, and opponents began to regularly knock him out of games early.

The team lost eight consecutive games started by Green, and his poor performance was the main factor in most of them.  Eventually, things got so bad that the team was forced to drop him from the rotation.

Part of Green's problems may have been due to injury, as a sore shoulder caused him to miss the entire 1996 season.

When he returned the following season, his fortunes didn't improve.  He went 4-4 in 1997 and 6-12 in 1998 to end his career.

Pennant Year Song of the Week

Finally winning a series was a good step for the Phillies.  It is clear that if they are going to climb out of the massive hole they have dug for themselves, it is going to be a slow process.

In that spirit, this week's song is from 2008.  It is One Step at a Time by Jordin Sparks:

Random Phillies Image Found on the Web

This is an Irish themed Phillies flag.  Perfect for St. Patrick's Day!

Final Analysis

While both Tyler Green and Cole Hamels were highly touted prospects, their major league careers turned out quite differently.

Green had one successful half season.  Hamels has already established himself as one of the greatest pitchers in team history.

We can just hope that Hamels will continue to pitch well for the Phillies for years to come.  It would be a shame to see him continue his career elsewhere.