The Gold Glove Awards have been announced over the past two days and Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino have won their third and second, respectively. In my last post I stated who I should get the award in each league. Four of my nine American League guesses were right (Erick Aybar was robbed though) and I missed on two of the nine National League spots. I was debating on whether or not to put Freddy Sanchez or Orlando Hudson at second and I chose Sanchez because Hudson lost his job at the end of the season.
But, nice work Vic and Jimmy. These two guys do a really nice job in the field and come up with some spectacular plays here and there but their biggest strength in the field is that neither make mistakes. Victorino was tied for the league lead in least centerfield errors with only one and Rollins lead all National League shortstops in fielding percentage.
And each everyday Phillies starter has a decent glove which is one of the best parts about watching this team. Ryan Howard, perhaps the weakest glove, really stepped it up this season and didn’t commit as many errors (and I think he had the most “web gem” points for a first basemen too). But when you go around the field and look at each guy, there’s really no mystery out there as to whether or not they’ll make a play.
Carlos Ruiz is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. I think he may have had only one passed ball all year long and if it weren’t for the likes of Yadier Molina in the NL, Carlos might be winning these Rawlings awards. Chase Utley is also one of the best at fielding his position and he is one of the most heads up fielders in the league as well. Pedro Feliz has one of the more solid gloves and stronger arms in the league from the hot corner (and I’d like him to be back next year in some ways, just for his glove). Raul Ibanez has a decent arm out in left and if it weren’t for injuries this past season, his range could have been better. Then I think Jayson Werth has one of the most underrated arms in the league and well as good range with those long strides.
Congrats again to all the Gold Glove winners.
AND this is my 100th entry. I’ve been off and on writing on this over the past year and at times I forget that I have this thing. So thanks to the few that may read this junk.
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.
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.
First of all, congrats to Raul Ibanez for hitting his first homerun as a Philadelphia Phillies player. It’s nice to see a homerun coming off of our bat for once this series.
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, down 10-3, I had lost all hope and figured that the Phillies were going to swept right out of the opening series by the homer-happy Braves. In fact, I was willing to give up on the game once Joe Blanton had a rough third, and even more so ready to throw in the towell when JA Happ gave up the two run shot to Jordan Schafer in the fifth.
Then just as I was about to leave the radio and head off to the gym, Chase Utley blooped a single into center and Ryan Howard was hit by a pitch. I figured that I would stay until the end of the inning. Well, eight runs later I was still sitting at my computer listening to the game.
The Phils bottom of the seventh consisted of five hits, six walks, eight runs, and four Atlanta relievers. The Braves bullpen imploded. They couldn’t find the strikezone and I’m suprised the Phillies aggressive bats let the Braves put that many on. One thing the Phillies didn’t prove to me during the playoffs last season was that they aren’t the team to work the walk. They would swing at ball three or ball four in a 2-2 or 3-1 count. But today, they discovered a patience they never had before and it turned out to be the difference in the ballgame.
In that dreaded seventh inning for the Braves, Eric O’Flaherty, Peter Moylan, Blaine Boyer, and Jorge Campillo surrendered six walks and five singles. All eight runs scored were earned by the Braves pitchers and Moylan and Boyer don’t even have ERA’s.
How clutch did the Eric Bruntlett sac fly turn out to be? In the bottom of the eighth Bruntlett brought home a run as insurance for Brad Lidge. It turned out that it was needed and kept Lidge’s streak alive. Lidge ended up giving up a homerun to Matt Diaz on a slider but no blown save was to be had. Lidge recorded his first save of the year after a slider in the dirt got Garrett Anderson to swing and miss.
“Put this one in the win column for the Fightin’ Phils.”
CHARLIE DOUBLE SWITCHES
Charlie Manuel ended up using the double switch today in that pivotal seventh inning. He sent Matt Stairs up to hit for Carlos Ruiz (maybe a fear factor for the pitcher). Brought Chris Coste in to pinch hit for the pitcher, then sent Coste in to catch and the pitcher spot was now in the eight hole. To anyone that doesn’t know, there was concern that Charlie didn’t know how to use the double switch. Well today he utilized it (even though it wasn’t the usual double-switch situation). I applaud you Uncle Charlie.
Those rings are nice aren’t they? It was awesome to see Pat Burrell back again (I think he got emotional–hence the shades). And yes, we did boo Adam Eaton.
SOUTHPAW SQUAREOFF AT FENWAY
It looks like Scott Kazmir got the best of Jon Lester tonight in Boston. Through four innings, Lester looked great. But then in the fifth, a few flyballs fell in that probably could have been caught. Both flyball “singles” involved Jed Lowrie running backwards and I’m not sure if he got in the way of Jason Bay and Jacoby Ellsbury, but it looked like it. So don’t look at Lester’s five earned and think he got rocked. Although Carlos Pena did rock one pitch on the three run bomb to center.
Jed Lowrie seems to be the goat of the night. There were the flyball situations, and he also struck out twice. Once was with the bases loaded and two outs late in the game. Even if Julio Lugo was healthy, I would stick with Lowrie at short. Who cares about how much he’s getting to sit on the bench? Jed’s the future.
How good does Akinori Iwamura look at the bottom of that lineup? Normally the nine-hole is also called the “second leadoff spot.” Aki, along with Jason Bartlett and Carl Crawford combined for nine hits in fourteen at-bats. That will definately make this lineup go as the season progresses and they may be the key.
I look forward to the rest of these Rays/Sox matchups.
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.
The 2009 season is well on it’s way. Before we know it, Major League Baseball will be on our televisions, we will be filling our team’s ballparks, and we will be right into the swing of things. With the new season, I am changing my profile picture from the glorified final pitch of the World Series. The Phils can’t dwell on the past and neither can the fans because we have another job to do: REPEAT.
(I still get chills everytime I watch Brad Lidge’s slider bring us a championship).
The new picture is from the summer a couple of years ago when my family took a huge road trip. One of our many stops was the Field of Dreams (Dyersville, Iowa). It was unreal to actually visit the set of my favorite movie and actually play on the field.
But anyways, let’s get one last look at this because hopefully come October 2009, we’ll be seeing the Figthins hoisting the World Series trophy again.
I know this isn’t baseball related, but it’s also time for the NCAA basketball tourney. I spent a long time finishing off my bracket and here’s some of my predictions…
First Round Upsets:
(12) Arizona over (5) Utah
(10) Maryland over (7) Cal
(11) VCU over (6) UCLA
(10) Michigan over (7) Clemson
*9 over 8 seeds aren’t really upsets
Going Against the Grain:
(7) Texas over (2) Duke
(6) WVU over (3) Kansas
(5) Florida State over (1) Pitt
My Elite Eight: Louisville, Michigan St, UConn, Mizzou, Florida St, VIllanova, UNC, Oklahoma
My Final Four: Louisville, UConn, Villanova, UNC
My Final: UNC over Louisville 78-74