Just as things were starting to look down for the Phils, I took a look at the team calender and I saw four games against the Nats on deck. Now, of course, initially I said we need to sweep the Nats and then realized that four game sweeps are rare, even against the worst team in Major League Baseball.
After the Phils lost a heartbreaker to the Dodgers last Thursday (the game I happened to be at), they found themselves back at .500 and finishing up the homestand at 2-6. Ouch. That’s awful. They needed a rebound and the Nationals couldn’t have come at a better point. They are the type of team that the Phils need to take care of. They did.
But break out the brooms. Four games in three days were no problem for the Fightins who took care of business this weekend against Washington. Apparently the heavy load was no problem for Raul Ibanez either.
Here’s Raul’s series:
Friday: 4-6, 2 RBI, 3 R
Saturday (Game 1): 3-5, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2 HR
Saturday (Game 2): 2-3, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 HR
Sunday: Okay, lets not include today’s game (0-4)
But through the first three games of the series Ibanez was 9-for-14 with nine RBIs, seven runs scored, and three homers. He can flat out hit and he’s an instant hit here in Philly.
I want to touch on two other things.
1) New look lineup?
2) Rotation changes
First, the lineup. With a struggling Shane Victorino, Charlie’s slid him down to the six spot and has put Raul in the three spot. Here’s how the lineup has looked over the past couple of games:
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Ryan Howard
RF Jayson Werth
CF Shane Victorino
3B Pedro Feliz
C Carlos Ruiz
The bolded players are the ones who have been moved around. With the doubleheader and certain players getting some breaks, I have to wonder if this lineup is here to stay for now. Raul is undoubtedly our best hitter right now, which merits the three spot (although I do like Utley in the three spot). Victorino never seems like he’s a two hitter but he certainly has the speed for the top of the lineup. I’m fine with him at six as well though. I like the change, for now.
Pertaining to the rotation, I thought Chan Ho Park really showed us that he’s supposed to be in this rotation in his last two starts (I think 12 IP with 2 ER). But today he gave me another reason to want him out of the rotation. He went an inning and a third surrendering five earned runs while walking four Nats.
Enough of this, I want JA Happ in this rotation. I think that Park will fit our bullpen nicely as he did in LA’s ‘pen last season. A good long relief man not named Jack Taschner (no offense Trashner, the ERA under four is nice, but I’m a nervous wreck everytime you’re in). Here’s how I think the rotation should shape up:
Tuesday at Cincinnati — Jamie Moyer
Wednesday at Cincinnati — Joe Blanton
Thursday at Cincinnati — Cole Hamels
Friday at the Yanks — Brett Myers
Saturday at the Yanks — JA Happ
This is a tough situation because this has Cole Hamels pitching a week after he last pitched but nothings perfect.
It’s finals week here and I find myself studying a bunch, but currently I’m procrastinating. Took the first final early this morning and now I have three more to go. I cannot wait to get back home for the summer. I have tickets to one of the Dodgers/Phils games at The Park next week. I’ll get to see Manny come to town along with that solid Dodgers team. But anyways…
While I’m on my study “break” (I call it a break because I plan on doing this post, and then watching the Sox/Yanks game tonight, so really it’s a four or so hour break), I’ll give you the team of my favorite players that I’ve watched during my lifetime. I’m in the team forming mode so here it goes.
– Team consists of a player at each position, five starting pitchers, and two relievers, and a manager
– Each player is my favorite at that position
– Each player will have played since 1990 (my year of birth) but I don’t remember the early 90’s so most likely a little later than that
– No DH (since the Phils are in the NL and pitchers should hit anyways)
– And other rules that I can’t think of right now
THE “MY FAVORITE PLAYERS” TEAM
Catcher Joe Mauer
This guy can catch and hit for average? Sign him up. A career .319 hitter, Mauer has a great approach at the plate and a career OBP over .400 and he’s back from injury now (which is good, he’s on my fantasy team). He beat out Mike Lieberthal and Charles Johnson here.
Firstbase Jim Thome
In an era where all the players reaching the 500 homerun club are accused of performance-enhancers, we have the players like Thome who are just pure power. My dad was a fan of Thome when he was still with the Tribe, so I followed his liking and then he ended up coming to Philly for three or so years. He’s slugged 545 total homers in his career and keeps on going with the White Sox today. The runner up here is Todd Helton.
Secondbase Chase Utley
When there are so many great secondbasemen in the game today, Utley is called by many, the best of them all, and I agree. He’s been all the hype since he came up to the big leagues with the Phils in 2003 and hasn’t dissapointed. With the quick swing and a great approach to the plate, I’ll have Utley over any secondbaseman on my team. Luis Castillo and Brian Roberts were also considered–but it was really no contest.
Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra
He was my second ever “most favorite player” while playing short for the Sox. I’ve followed him as far back as I can remember. With the Red Sox, he hit .323 and was the batting champion twice. He’s the reason my favorite number is five. From ’96 Rookie of the Year to today, Nomar’s the man.
Thirdbase Cal Ripken Jr.
The only current Hall of Famer on this team, is Ripken. I know he was a shortstop for most of his career, but as far as I can remember, he’s a thirdbaseman. One of my most favorite baseball moments ever is when he hit a homerun in his last All Star Game in 2001. Mike Lowell is the runner-up here.
Leftfield Jeff Conine
He was my very first “favorite player.” As far as I know, I’ve been a Conine fan since I’ve been a baseball fan. Supposively when I was five or six, my dad took me to a Marlins/Phils game at The Vet and Jeff Conine hit a homerun that game and I decided he was my favorite player. It is only fitting that he was with the Marlins both times they won the World Series. There was no way Pat Burrell would top Conine here, but he’s also up there.
Centerfield Shane Victorino
I’ll say it over and over and over again, Victorino is a winner. I love the way he plays the outfield. He gets one of the best jumps on the ball in the entire league. He’s also always coming up big when we need him most, he’s clutch. Juan Pierre was also in contention in center.
Rightfield Brad Hawpe
This former pitcher-turned-outfielder has a cannon from right field. He can hit the ball real well too, its not just the thin air in Denver that carries the ball because he hits just as well on the road as he does at home. Hawpe’s a hitter.
Starting Pitcher Josh Beckett
My current “favorite major leaguer” is Beckett. He played a huge role in the 2003 Championship in Florida and everytime he was on the mound, I knew the Marlins were going to win. When healthy, he has some of the nastiest stuff in the league and isn’t afraid to knock anyone back with a fastball.
Starting Pitcher Curt Schilling
Pitched a while for Phils and I got his autograph at a Commerce Bank opening. Then we traded him to Arizona where he went on to win a World Series with the Dbacks. Then he went on to Boston where he was a clutch pitcher in the playoffs, season, bloody sock, bogged by injuries, and so on. He’s a Hall of Famer to me.
Starting Pitcher Roy Halladay
This guy is one of my favorite pitchers in baseball. In an age where complete games are far a few between, Halladay goes the distance like its in his contract. I wish I could have been alive during the days where pitchers were expected to throw complete games, because I feel like that’s the way it was supposed to be. I respect Halladay because he pitches the right way.
Starting Pitcher Randy Wolf
How can you not love Randy Wolf and the Wolf Pack? A Phillie for most of his career, Wolf has become one of those players that I like to always check up on and find out how he’s doing.
Starting Pitcher Cole Hamels
Young King Cole and his dirty changeup lead the Phils through the playoffs last season. He has great tempo on the mound and has solid mechanics. This year, he has just been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball. I’m looking for him to have a great career (knock on wood).
Other Starters that were up there are Greg Maddux, Brett Myers, and Josh Johnson.
Relief Pitcher Brad Lidge
After what he did last season, how could he not be my most favorite reliever in the entire game. He was perfect, echoing the Phillies perfect season. When he fell to his knees after striking out Eric Hinske to end the World Series, it instantly became my favorite baseball moment, ever.
Relief Pitcher Jonathan Papelbon
This guy is such a character. He has the perfect mentality for the closer role. He’s crazy. Sometimes you have to be to be a closer. Papelbonfire.
Manager Charlie Manuel
Come to me before last postseason and I would have told you Jack McKeon. But Charlie proved to Philly and all its fans that he cares about and loves the fans. He knows a heck of a lot about hitting. Charlie brought a Championship back to the city. Lets do it again!
There’s my favorites of my MLB memory.
In each of the last two games against the Brewers, the Phils have mustered a hefty one run in each game off solo shots. Two days ago, Jayson Werth took a ninth inning pitch long for a homerun to keep the Brewcrew from shutting out the Phillies. Then yesterday, Matt Stairs kept the Phils from getting shutout AND getting no hit, all in one swing, with a shot that went off the foul pole.
The offense has struggled the past two games to manufacture runs and last game, they struggled to even get on base via base hits. Over the past two games the Phils are hitting .164 (10-for-61).
Well, don’t expect much better tonight in Florida as the Phils face up against righthander Josh Johnson. Johnson (2-0) goes for his third win in his fourth start after starting the season dominating his first two starts against Washington and the Mets. His third start, however, wasn’t too impressive when the Nats got a second look at the 2009 Johnson, roughing him up for six runs in six innings.
I’m hoping the Phils can take advantage of a Johnson off a bad start and Johnson, being a righty, may be hit by the lefty-heavy filled Phils lineup. But Johnson, who can strikeout hitters, may take advantage of a free swinging Phils team.
When Cole Hamels went down yesterday off the linedrive back at him from Prince Fielder, I was initially worried. My panic level rose rapidly. Especially when Fielder was the one who hit the ball, one of the hardest hitting hitters in the league. When he swings, he really swings. But last night, I heard that the ball went off the meaty part of his back shoulder and that he may not even miss his next start. I was scared of a DL stint, and apparently, that isn’t going to be happening.
This Marlins series is the Phillies first real test of the season. The Fish, coming off the wrong side of a sweep against the Pirates, are hungry for their first win of the workweek. The Phils, with a struggling offense, look to cut down the Marlins division lead even further.
Here’s my Keys to the Series
-No easy pitches to Phillies hitters
-Take the extra bases
-Look to hit the longball
-Find a way on base
-Continue to play good defense
-Avoid giving up the longball
Tonight Brett Myers takes the ball against Johnson. Tomorrow night, Chan Ho Park starts against young stud righthander Chris Volstad. Then on Sunday, Jamie Moyer will toe the rubber against what was supposed to be Andrew Miller, but now that he’s on the DL, maybe Anibal Sanchez will start.
PHREAKIN’ PHUN WEEKEND
Not only do we have the Phils/Marlins series this weekend, but all four Philadelphia teams are in action this weekend. The Flyers played great last night and Marty Biron had a heck of a game. The Sixers play two at home this weekend against the Magic, coming into the Philly with the series tied–and a nervous Magic team. The Eagles got the draft Saturday, and at pick twenty-one I’m really hoping the Birds get Knowshon Moreno. We got Yanks/Sox this weekend on TV Saturday and Sunday. Tons of playoff basketball and hockey. Not to mention a sick weather weekend, and I’ll be going golfing Saturday morning. Here’s the schedule, not that anyone cares, but I’ll post it anyways:
7pm — Phils at Marlins
8pm — Magic at Sixers
Teeing it up
3pm — Pens at Flyers
4pm — NFL Draft
7pm — Phils at Marlins
12pm — Phils at Marlins
6pm — Magic at Sixers
The Phillies offense did something tonight they hadn’t done all season, hit. Here are three guys I’m glad to see finding their swing:
[4 Games] Before Tonight: 2-for-15, 1 R, 1 RBI
Tonight: 3-for-5, 2 R
Before Tonight: 3-for-16, 2 R, 1 RBI
Tonight: 2-for-4, 1 R, 3 RBI
Before Tonight: 2-for-10
The two-spot through six-spot hitters (Victorino, Chase Utley, Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez) combined to go 10-for-22 with 7 runs scored and 7 RBIs. I was happy to see these guys starting to play. I think that it comes down to getting away from all the “championship buzz.” Whether they accept that or not, I think that’s the true reason they’ve been struggling. They usually get off to a rough start and I’m happy to see that they’re seeing the ball better. It is just one game though, we’ll see how they do the next few games where they’ll be facing Aaron Cook tomorrow in Denver and Daniel Cabrera on Monday while in Washington.
While in DC, they’ll be visiting the President of our country. More reigning champions talk could affect them but I hope it doesn’t. I guess we’ll find out if my theory is correct on their struggles.
PARK TO START FIRST GAME IN RED PINSTRIPES
Tomorrow, Chan Ho Park will start his first game for the Phils. He won the fifth starters spot in spring training over JA Happ and now must show everyone why they picked him. He’s determined to have this job and keep it.
It would also be nice to see a quality start out of Park after our first five games where starting pitchers have allowed 4 ER in 6 IP (Brett Myers), 4 ER in 5 IP (Jamie Moyer), 7 ER in 4 IP (Joe Blanton), 7 ER in 3.2 IP (Cole Hamels), and tonight 4 ER in 7 IP (Myers). The best start of the year has been Myers start tonight but it would be nice to see a starter allowing under four runs in seven (what pitchers are supposed to pitch).
BRING THAT LOU KID UP
Lou Marson has been called up to the big team. I’m glad to hear that our catcher of the future is joining the team. It’s expected that Chris Coste and Marson will share time behind the plate. So Marson will get his at-bats because it’s said that Coste is more effective when he only plays a few times a week. This news comes on the heels of Carlos Ruiz being placed on the 15-Day DL. I don’t want to see chooch on the DL, and he doesn’t want to be on the DL. But I can’t help but saying that maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Maybe Marson will show that he’s ready to play everyday this year and I am hoping that despite how much I love Ruiz behind the dish.
Marson did have a bad, bad spring. In 14 games, he went 1-for-20 with three walks. But I wouldn’t take that small sample and use that to judge the kid. In Double-A Reading last year, Marson batted .314 with a .433 OBP and an .849 OPS.
It certainly is a long season, but that’s one of the many reasons why I love the game. The Phils know that after their 4-1 loss to the Braves tonight on national television as defending World Champions. I certainly am a little angry that the bats looked awful against Derek Lowe and I’m a little embarrassed, but there’s 161 more games (162 more games for the Mets to blow the half-game lead they have right now). But regardless, here’s some thoughts on tonight’s game:
I didn’t get to see the opening ceremonies but I saw the replay of it and I’ll probably end up watching it again and it seems like they planned it out really well. I love the fact that Charlie was raising the championship banner.
The bullpen had a nice night. Newcomer Jack Taschner, Scott Eyre, Chad Durbin, and Brad Lidge combined for three innings, a strikeout each, and no hits or walks surrendered. I was nervous about Taschner because I’ve heard that he can be wild at times but he looked alright tonight.
Let’s start with Brett Myers. I listened to the first four innings or so on the radio so I didn’t see pitch locations and such (I had to drive back to school today). But when they replayed the homeruns he gave up, it’s clear that he missed his spots in each of the pitches. He got the ball way up in the zone to Brian McCann and put the other two pitches right in the wheelhouse of Jeff Francoer and Jordan Schafer (Schafer did look completely silly against Lidge in the ninth). When I started watching Myers for the two innings I saw him, he was keeping the ball down and hitting his spots. That’s what he will need to do in order to be successful this season. He toughed it out for six innings and struck out six and only walked one. Take away those three bad pitches and that’s a solid outing for this early in the year. So maybe this isn’t a dark spot (grey spot?).
We got to find a way to get on base. Usually it’s not a problem. Driving in RISP is the usual problem. I know it’s the first game and all, but until the ninth, the Phils mustered two hits off Lowe.
These players have got to want to be in that position in the ninth inning with the game on the line. Ryan Howard looked nervous and you could tell he didn’t want to be in that situation tonight. He swung at junk from Mike Gonzalez (who looked awful tonight) and then took a fastball right down the pike. Raul Ibanez worked Gonzalez nicely but he did swing at ball four but since he’s the new guy in town, I’ll let him slide for tonight.
On the ball that went off of Myers glove where Utley had to shift directions quickly, he looked like he wasn’t ready to do that quite yet. However he did look pretty good charging some grounders. But it worries me that maybe he’s not 100% yet.
All in all, I think Joe Morgan may have said it best at the end of the game, I don’t remember his exact words but they were along the lines of saying that the Phillies know that this is just the first game and that the Phils will fight to the end and that’s why he truly believes that this team has the chance to do something special and repeat this year. And Joe would know. Well, I hope he’s right.
So now that I’m completely done my team previews and you have all seen how I predict it will pan out, here’s the playoff and award predictions.
Cubs over Mets
I feel like everyone jumped on me having the Cubs finish with the best record. Well I got them going a step further. A playoff rotation like there’s shouldn’t have failed last season. Some of their offensive guys are getting older, but they recognize this may be their last hurrah as they are all probably near the end of the primes of their careers. As for the Mets, their bullpen is nice, but you don’t get to them unless you have the lead.
Red Sox over Indians
The Red Sox are just a playoff team. They’re built with the intangibles and I’m big on that. A deep rotation with an unbelievable bullpen gets the easy nod over Cleveland here.
Yankees over Angels
Come on, a playoff rotation that could potentially be CC, AJ, Wang, then Pettite or Joba. You have to at least win the first series. The Angels counter with a solid rotation but I think the close series goes to the Yanks.
Dodgers over Phillies
As much as it hurts me to say this, I think the Dodgers get the best of the Phils this time. Manny is a force and the rest of the offense can hit. They have some good young arms and a solid bullpen. Close series, but no cigar for my Fightins.
Dodgers over Cubs
I’m all about the Dodgers this year, they have a heck of an offense. This is where the Cubs magic ends this season. In the rematch of last year’s NLDS, this result is the same.
Red Sox over Yankees
Of course, I love this rivalry and I think they meet once again in the ALCS. Sox move on simply because I hate the Yankees. Just kidding. Well Sox do move on, but my reasoning isn’t because I hate the Yankees. Intangibles move them on.
Red Sox over Dodgers
With Josh Beckett in October, you can’t go wrong. Sox win their third in six years.
American League MVP
He’ll be the most valuable player for his team this season as I expect him to have a higher batting average than last year. He does it all; steals, scores, drives home runs, hits homeruns, and plays a great centerfield.
Other Possibilities: Mark Teixeira, Dustin Pedrioa
Wild Card: Evan Longoria
National League MVP
He was robbed last year. Lead the entire league in homeruns and RBIs and he struggled. It’s scary to think that he can do better, and then when you look at the fact that he could increase his average, he can definately increase his 146 RBIs.
Other Possibilities: Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez
Wild Card: Pablo Sandoval
American League Cy Young
He throws complete games like it’s his job. If he has a year like his last, he’s bound to win this award.
Other Possibilities: Cliff Lee,
Ervin Santana (my pick prior to injury), Jon Lester
Wild Card: John Danks
National League Cy Young
I think this kid is bound to break out. I think this is the year Billingsley steps up and becomes the Dodgers ace. He definately has potential for 20 wins, 200+ strikeouts, and a sub-3.00 ERA.
Other Possibilities: Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum
Wild Card: Ricky Nolasco
American League ROTY
The reason I like him for this award is because he has a definate job. He will definately get his chances to move up in this lineup as well. I got two Jays winning awards.
Other Possibilities: Matt Wieters, Either Athletics 21-year-old
Wild Card: Elvis Andrus
National League ROTY
He has so much potential and he had an awesome performance when called up in September last year.
Other Possibilities: Colby Rasmus, Tommy Hanson
Wild Card: Jason Donald
Now that that’s over with, let the Phils raise the championship banner and play ball. Brett Myers, you may now throw the first pitch of the 2009 MLB season.
Season Preview: Philadelphia Phillies
Projected MLB Rank: 3rd — NL Rank: 2nd — NL East Rank: 1st — Record: (95-67)
National League East Champions
The hometown team. Coming off an unbelievable World Series run and one of the most memorable Octobers of my lifetime, I truly believe, as a baseball fan, this team has the chance to do something special.
It starts with their leader and leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins. Having down numbers and an injury last year didn’t help his cause to repeat as MVP but it doesn’t matter because he is the rock on this team. He holds us together at short and gives us every chance to drive him home. Then there’s the fire behind this team, Shane Victorino. He is a winner. He hit .293 last season and stole 36 bases. His play in the outfield is unreal and I once heard a scout say that he gets the best jump on the ball that he’s ever seen when it comes off the bat.
Then comes the middle of the order. Coming off hip surgery, Chase Utley could lead many to believe during the spring that he didn’t have any type of problem with his hip and didn’t have surgery. That’s how quickly he’s rebounded from the surgery. With the injury last season, he hit .292 with 33 homeruns and 104 RBIs. Imagine what he will be able to do healthy. After Utley is the big man. Ryan Howard may whiff a bunch, but the production he puts up cancels it out. He hit 48 homeruns and drove in 146 runs to lead the league last season. In my opinion, he was MVP. There’s a blog about it in my archives if you want to hear my argument.
There’s no longer Pat Burrell, sadly enough. He lead the parade though, how fitting. But Raul Ibanez is an upgrade. He hit .293 last season while driving home 110 runs. Jayson Werth may get a chance to bat fifth in this order to break up all the lefthanded bats. He had a great season last year batting .273 with 24 homeruns while slugging .498. Pedro Feliz, also coming off of surgery, should get back to 20-homer form this season as he should hopefully stay healthy and Carlos Ruiz showed flashes of skill at the plate during the postseason so I’m hoping he doesn’t bat .219 again this year.
The rotation starts with Cole Hamels. NLCS MVP. World Series MVP. He’s got a hot wife. I know you’ve all seen him everywhere this offseason, especially when he had his “injury.” He’s a drama queen, but a drama queen that can pitch better than the rest of them. Expect more than 14 wins this year for Young King Cole because hopefully he doesn’t keep both offenses silent everytime he toes the rubber again.
Brett Myers is a roller coaster. I want nothing more than for this guy to have a great year. But you never know. Last year he was sent down to AAA to rediscover himself after a dreadful start. Then he came back and threw the heck out of the ball. He ended up somewhat salvaging his ERA and record when he came back up to the big leagues. I want the dominating Brett this year. Righthander Joe Blanton came over from the A’s last season and saved his season as well. He started the year as the A’s ace last season, so he’s certainly got the potential (and we saw it in the playoffs).
The ageless wonder. Jamie Moyer. The Souderton product had a career year in 2008 posting a 3.71 ERA and lead the team in wins with 16. Let’s see if he can do it again, I believe in him. Chan Ho Park won the fifth starters spot with an amazing spring. His fastball is up in the midnineties now and he’s striking out hitters at a good rate. If he can keep up what he’s doing in the regular season, he’s one of the best fifth starters in the league.
Then there’s the bullpen. Ryan Madson is a legitimate setup man. He turned his game to the next level last season, even reaching the high nineties with his fastball. Lefty Scott Eyre will certainly get a lot of work in while JC Romero is out under suspension. Eyre did an awesome job coming out of the bullpen after he came over in the trade from the Cubs. They also traded for Jack Taschner, but I’m also hoping JA Happ makes the bullpen as well. The question for me is whether Chad Durbin can recreate his 2.87 ERA and Clay Condrey his 3.26 ERA.
Then there’s Brad Lidge. Lights Out.