The Fourth of July State of the Philadelphia Phillies Address

With the Philadelphia Phillies leading the league with 53 wins and 32 losses by the sheer talent of their pitching staff and occasional bumps in offense, all has been well in the land of Phillies generally.  However, the Phillies are not without their problems, and these problems are perhaps more severe than they were last season.  Whereas the major concern with the inadequacy of the bullpen last season, this season the Phillies have contended with a depleted bullpen.  This is not good news at the present time, and hopefully, it won’t get worse as the season comes to a close.  Despite the 7-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday, with pitcher Cliff Lee on the mound, the Phillies are going into the All-Star Game with three Phillies pitchers, including Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, and third baseman Placido Polanco.  That is impressive indeed as three pitchers have generally been stellar, and Placido Polanco was one potent bat for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pitching Staff

The much-touted pitching staff of the Philadelphia Phillies so far has been the best in the league with the Atlanta Braves tied at 3.04.  General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made certain of an improvement in the pitching staff as a whole, after the San Francisco Giants pitching staff closed the doors on the Philadelphia Phillies last season.  However, the San Francisco Giants are not too far behind the Philadelphia Phillies ranked fifth overall presently with 3.20.  And Brian Wilson of the Giants is still one devastating closer as he is tied for first in the National League with 24 saves, and it appears he may come to haunt the Philadelphia Phillies offense this post-season perhaps.

Roy Halladay has been fantastic this season, much like every season as he is one consistent and elite pitcher.  He’s presently tied for first in the National League with 11 wins with Pittsburgh Pirates Kevin Correia and Atlanta Braves Jair Jurrjens.  He presently has a 2.44 ERA and an impressive 1.03 WHIP on 11 wins and 3 losses.  He is matching last season’s numbers so far with a 2.44 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.  Fortunately for him, he’s not known as a batter.  He’s actually performing worse than last season with a dismal 0.73 batting average presently.  It is only slightly worse than his previously dismal .141 batting average.  Halladay is third in ERA in the NL with 2.44 with his teammate Cole Hamels performing slightly better with 2.41 and Atlanta Braves Jair Jurrjens with a stunning 1.89 ERA.

Cliff Lee has been performing actually better than last season, with the month of June did giving him a boost. This season he has a 2.92 ERA and a spectacular 1.08 WHIP on 9 wins and 6 losses.  In his 2010 season with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, he had a 3.18 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.  Cliff Lee at present is tied with Cole Hamels in the National League with his 9 wins and eighth in ERA overall.  Lee’s batting average hasn’t been half-bad for a pitcher.  Currently, he has a .205 batting average and a .22o on-base percentage.  Compared to his 2009 season with the Philadelphia Phillies, he had .212 batting average and on-base percentage.  Lee is certainly no power hitter like Ryan Howard, but he contributes to the Phillies offense.

Cole Hamels has been performing significantly better than his previous season. Cole Hamels is currently tied in the NL with his 9 wins with Cliff Lee and, and he has the second best ERA in the NL with 2.41 ahead of Cliff Lee.  He has significantly improved over last season with his present 2.41 ERA over last season’s 3.16 and stunning 0.94 WHIP compared to last season’s 1.18.  Like his teammate Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels has actually contributed to the offense this season.  He has a respectable .222 batting average and .243 on-base percentage.  Hamels is certainly no offensive batting machine, but he is more than capable of generating some runs this season.  With his injury to his glove hand and cleared to play tomorrow against the Florida Marlins, it will be interesting if it throws him off his rhythm or not.

Roy Oswalt, the least-talked-about pitching ace of the Philadelphia Phillies, has been battling through a spinal injury as of late. Presently, he is on the 15-day disabled list as he converses with doctors.  He is the weakest chain of the four with a 3.79 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Unfortunately, Oswalt has performed much worse than he did last season.  In his 2010 season with the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies, he had a 2.76 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.  In the meantime, his replacement Vance Worley has performed respectably.  Worley presently has 2.57 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.  Worley too has declined since last season.  His numbers for last season were a 1.38 ERA and 0.92 WHIP on 1 win and 1 loss.  Although Worley does show signs of elite pitching, it’s far too early to count as an ace pitcher.  In the meantime, Joe Blanton, the original fifth ace, is still on the disabled list as well.

Regarding the closers, the Philadelphia Phillies closers still aren’t anywhere elite status either. Brad Lidge has been pitching, and it appears that he is getting closer to returning to the Phillies bullpen.  Ryan Madson is not scheduled to come off the disabled list quite yet either, but no optimistic news has come yet.  Madson so far has had a pretty good season as Philadelphia Phillies closer nonetheless.  He is still 13th in the NL with 15 saves.  He is ranked about 4th or 5th in ERA among closers with a 2.03 ERA. His peer Jose Contreras, ranked 17th in the NL with 5 saves.  Unfortunately, Jose Contreras is still contending with his injury as well.  With the massacre in the bullpen, Charlie Manuel had to often rely on his starters going the distance, and most of them have served him well so far.  Unfortunately, he may be dipping into the well too often, and it might cost the Phillies in the playoffs.

Offense

The Philadelphia Phillies most recognized bat, Ryan Howard, has been performing as well as he did in the 2010 season so far.  He presently has a .253 batting average and a .353 on-base percentage.  Compared to his 2010 season, he had a .273 batting average and .353 on-base percentage.  He is currently second in the National League with 67 RBIs behind Milwaukee Brewers Prince Fielder‘s 69.  It sort of comes to no surprise as these two sluggers contend with each other.  Whereas Prince Fielder is currently ranked 19th in batting average in the National League with .296, Ryan Howard, however, isn’t even ranked among the top 40.  In terms of homeruns, Prince Fielder is ranked third with 21 homeruns. Comparably, Ryan Howard is ranked fifth with 17 homeruns tied with St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols and Chicago White Sox Carlos Pena.

Placido Polanco has been the most devastating of the Phillies offense, but he too has been on decline as of late.  With his injury, he has been out of the lineup recently, but he will return this Wednesday against the Florida Marlins.  Polanco currently has a .277 batting average, .331 on-base percentage, 4 homeruns and 39 RBIs.  He is currently ranked 35th in batting average in the National League.  Statistically, so far, he’s been performing comparably to his 2010 with his .298 batting average and .339 on-base percentage.

Chase Utley has made a triumphant return and his impact on the offense so far has been significant.  Presently, he has a .285 batting average, .386 on-base percentage, 4 homeruns and 18 RBIs.  He’s been performing better than last season so far.   Last season, he had .275 batting average and .387 on-base percentage.  During the last week, he’s performed admirably with a .389 ERA on a homerun and 2 RBIs.

Shane Victorino, the last potential man on the All-Star roster, has been impressive this season offensively.  He presently has a .303 batting average,  .376 on-base percentage, 9 homeruns and 34 RBIs.  Victorino is ranked 11th in the National League in batting average and tied for 37th in homeruns.  He has been a fantastic offensive machine for the Philadelphia Phillies this season.  In the past week, he’s had .381 batting average on a homerun and 6 RBIs.

Phillies Problems

Obviously, at this point, the injuries in the bullpen are a major point of concern with the Philadelphia Phillies.  With closers slowly coming back onto the active roster, the Phillies will have a chance of succeeding in the regular season and well into the playoffs.  Ryan Madson would be the first that fans should want to come back soon, but inconsistent Brad Lidge will have to do for now perhaps.  The next problem has been run support.  That relies on a consistent offense of which the Phillies don’t have presently.  When the pitchers have to win their own game on both sides of the diamond, that is a problem. Lastly, the offense as a whole needs to produce more often.  However, pitchers have become better, and it is an issue around the league as batters no longer have the edge.  After the All-Star Game, the Phillies offensive engine needs to get revved up so the Phillies can make a steady push into the playoffs.

All-Star Game and Beyond

The Philadelphia Phillies are poised to win the division at least and clinch a berth easily into the playoffs.  However, the Phillies are also dependable on a slump after the All-Star Game as the offense collapses in August or September.  It has been that way the past few seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, and this season should go no differently.  While all the clamor goes on the Philadelphia sports talk radio shows and the media about the bats effectiveness, the bats will return somewhat again in the playoffs.  At that point, the only concern is that the bats consistently and constantly generate runs in playoff games, which it has failed to do in the past couple of seasons.  With the way things look now, the Philadelphia Phillies will be joined by the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs.  This field of potential playoff contenders could well lead to an interesting path to the World Series.

With this as some food for thought, enjoy your 4th of July with your hot dogs, beer brats, hamburgers and assorted drinks!

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Boston Bruins Bring Home the 2011 Stanley Cup: Some Afterthoughts…

After a dominant performance by the Boston Bruins against the Vancouver Canucks for the final game of the Stanley Cup finals, the Boston Bruins bring home the Stanley Cup to their city after three seven-game playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Vancouver Canucks.  It was well-deserved after the Stanley Cup drought since 1972.  With their goalie Tim Thomas winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, he deserved the award with 37 saves and a 4-0 shutout to boot for the Bruins.  Now the Bruins get to return home to add another trophy for Beantown.  Proudly, he ended the post-season with a 1.98 GAA and .940 save percentage.  His rival during the Stanley Cup final, Canucks Roberto Luongo, performed respectably, and he ended the post-season with 2.56 GAA and .914 save percentage.  The Canucks suffered a disappointing last game to end the series on their home ice nonetheless, but it paled in comparison to what happened afterward.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing was that both the Boston Bruins fans and Vancouver Canucks fans caused major disturbances.  Whereas the Canucks fans nearly destroyed their town, with 100 people arrested and 150 hurt, the Boston Bruins had seven people arrested, and they have appeared in the Boston Municipal Court.  Perhaps it’s not the Philadelphia Eagles fans that should get a bad rap after all.  Even with the celebration after the Philadelphia Phillies winning the 2008 World Series over the Tampa Bay Rays, Philadelphia got hit with some malcontents in Center City, but it paled in comparison to what happened on Wednesday night in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Concerning the sport of hockey and the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers still have a lot of issues to resolve, but they should solve the goalie issue first and foremost.  The Flyers do have the physicality of the Boston Bruins, but they need to coordinate their forechecking much better.  The Flyers should make their way into the playoffs again next season, as they have the talent to do so.  Coach Peter Laviolette has some work to do this off-season.

Now as another sport has disappeared into the horizon for most of the country, now the clock is ticking on Major League Baseball as each month passes by. With the labor dispute in the NFL progressing with tempered optimism, sports fans, including myself, want a resolution to come as soon as possible.  And by soon, I don’t mean late August or September.  By that time, the playoffs for baseball teams will be coming into view.  And by that time, either Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay or Cole Hamels will have their sights on the NL Cy Young Award for both of their outstanding performances this season to date.  This has been quite the empty season of sports with no NFL mini-camp chatter or rookie speculation.  Perhaps things are looking up. Perhaps not.

The Philadelphia Phillies Reality Check: Are the Bats Really On the Decline Again?

The Philadelphia Phillies are in yet another offensive funk within a couple of months.  But this is nothing new to this baseball organization as the bats have nearly gone into decline the past few seasons around this time.  Like last season, the offense after the first month falls into ruin for no apparent reason.  With the pitchers struggling or overcoming injuries, the Phillies aren’t helping themselves.  As a team, they were originally in the top 5 in overall total runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.  However, now they are ranked 19th, 16th, 16th and 22nd in each of those respective statistics. They are now a half-game ahead of the Florida Marlins in NL East and holding to it by a thread as the potent offense of the Colorado Rockies come into town.

The toted All-Star Rotation in the beginning of the season have been in decline.  Surprisingly, they are maintaining 2nd overall in the overall ERA rankings in the entire league. In May, Roy Halladay has fallen slightly from a 2.35 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP compared to his season average of 2.21 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.  He’s been the one bright and consistent star on the entire team.  The prodigal son of Philadelphia, Cliff Lee, has actually improved over the past month.  He had a 3.42 ERA and 1.48 WHIP compared his season average of 3.84 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. In a turn of events, Cole Hamels has stepped up even with the presence of Cliff Lee.  Usually, like a couple of seasons before, the opposite effect happened with Cliff Lee pitching great while Cole Hamels pitching not so well.  Presently, Cole Hamels has a season average of 3.19 ERA and 1.04 WHIP which is better than Cliff Lee. In May, however, he had 3.27 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Meanwhile, Roy Oswalt has declined slightly this season as well.  He presently has a season average of 3.33 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

But the offense is what important now as it seems that the Phillies can’t generate any significant offense with the elite pitchers in their starting rotation. Currently, they are ranked 19th in total runs sandwiched between the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles.  Astonishingly, they are even below the lackluster New York Mets who are ranked 13th. But these numbers are slightly deceptive. Ryan Howard is keeping pace with his All-Star statistics.  He is ranked 6th overall in total runs and 2nd in runs batted-in in the National League.  Furthermore, Placido Polanco currently has the 5th best batting average in the National League with .338.  Ryan Howard has declined in May, however.  He has to a .182 batting average compared to his season average of .252.  Meanwhile, Jimmy Rollins has declined slightly in May with .250 batting average compared to his season’s .269.  And the last and the worst, Placido Polanco’s batting average has plummeted in May despite holding 5th overall in batting average.  He had a .222 batting average throughout May so far compared to his season average of .338.  As a Phillies team, they aren’t performing spectacular, but they aren’t alone.  The malaise in offense seems to be affecting the entire league, especially the NL East.

What the Phillies are suffering from, most of the rest of the league as a whole are declining as well.  I imagine it’s the team rosters settling down and contending with injuries.  With the Philadelphia Phillies losing their last four consecutive games, it’s too early to spell doom and gloom quite yet.  Roy Oswalt’s loss last night 2-1 against the St. Louis Cardinals should be taken with a grain of salt.  Their offense has been hot this season as Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman are ranked 1st and 2nd in the entire National League with batting averages of .360 and .352 respectively, and Lance Berkman leads the NL with runs batted-in.  We still have several months before September rolls around, and playoffs come into view.  It’s far too early to cry wolf…yet.

Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals Conquer Joe Blanton and the Philadelphia Phillies…For Now

Last night, the Philadelphia Phillies had their weakest link in the name of their fifth starting pitcher in the rotation, Joe Blanton, facing perhaps the strongest link in the Washington Nationals chain, their first starting pitcher Livan Hernandez, next to their third baseman and strongest batter Ryan Zimmerman.  However, Zimmerman was placed on the disabled list recently due to an abdominal injury caused by a slide into second base last Saturday against the New York Mets, and his power wasn’t missed too much in this game as Jayson Werth compensated for his absence.

Although Ryan Howard homered to the left in the second inning, Jayson Werth responded in kind in the fifth inning.  By that time, Washington Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa sacrificed fly to bring in Wilson Ramos to tie the game into the top of third inning.  Unfortunately, Blanton will be Blanton…and the collapse of the fourth inning as Wilson Ramos doubled to bring in Jayson Werth for another run and the lead. Nationals outfielder Laynce Nix got another run to close the fourth inning with the score of 4-1.  Into the eighth inning, Raul Ibanez started a mini-rally against the Nationals, but it was too little, too late, and Placido Polanco’s single in the ninth simply wasn’t enough.  The game ended on a low note for the Philadelphia Phillies with the score of 7-4.

Phillies Joe Blanton, the starting rotation’s weakest link, had a disastrous 10.45 ERA on six innings pitched.  Nationals starting pitcher Livan Hernandez had a solid night with 3.50 ERA on 6.2 innings pitched, 7 hits and 1 homerun.  Their closer Sean Burnett had an excellent night with 1.35 ERA.  But that was last night…

Tonight is a bit of a different story for the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies at 7 PM.  Phillies devastating starting pitcher Roy Halladay will go against John Lannan of the Nationals.  With Halladay focused and maintaining exceptional statistics in the beginning of the season, he is a force to be reckoned with his 0.92 WHIP and 0.69 ERA on 13 innings pitched.  Tonight’s game should have a completely different complexion, and Jayson Werth and the Washington Nationals will get their due.

In Like a Jam, Out Like a Lyon for the Philadelphia Phillies in Their Season Opener Comeback

The Philadelphia Phillies made a comeback from behind against the Houston Astros and got the win with the score of 5-4.  The comeback rally began with Phillies Placido Polanco’s walk off of Brett Myers in the bottom of the 7th inning.  Ryan Howard hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring in Benjamin Francisco and move Jimmy Rollins to second.  Then Raul Ibanez grounded out at first and brought in Jimmy Rollins to bring the score to 4-2.  At that time, Philadelphia Phillies fans were biting their nails, fearing that they may have lost this game.

But miracles do happen in Citizens Bank Park on this gloomy Opening Day for the Phillies.  In the bottom of the 9th, with Brandon Lyon as Houston Astros closer, Ben Francisco singled to left center to bring in Jimmy Rollins to bring the score to 4-3.  Carlos Ruiz singled to the left field and now the bases were loaded with Ryan Howard in scoring position on third base and Ben Francisco on second.  This was it — now the Phillies batters don’t have get too greedy while on base with Wilson Valdez and John Mayberry Jr. in the wings.  Wilson Valdez singled to left and brought in Ryan Howard for the tie 4-4.  It was John Mayberry Jr.’s turn, and he blasted the ball to deep center to bring in Benjamin Francisco for the win 5-4.  Fantastic thriller of a game, and an even more fantastic win for Phillies fans!

Unfortunately, a few issues have revealed themselves early for the Philadelphia Phillies.  Roy Halladay was not on his game in this one.  Halladay pitched for six innings and threw 101 pitches, but he had 5 hits and a 1.50 ERA.  Compared to Astros starter Brett Myers who pitched for seven innings, Myers had 3 hits and a 1.29 ERA.  Then late in the game, both teams sought out their bullpen, and disasters compounded upon disasters for both their pitching staffs.  The Astros got the worse of it with Brandon Lyon who had a 81.00 ERA which won’t bode well for his baseball card trade value or his regular season statistics.  For the Phillies, however, Danys Baez got an undeserved win for this game.

The next game in this series begins tonight at 7 PM.  The starting pitchers will be Cliff Lee for the Philadelphia Phillies and Wandy Rodriguez for the Houston Astros.  Lee will make his triumphant return as a Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, and he should receive a triumphant applause from the Phillies fans throughout this game.  Comparably, Lee is the better of the two overall but not by much.  In their careers, Lee has a 3.85 ERA based on WHIP of 1.26 compared to Rodriguez who has 4.18 ERA based on WHIP of 1.31. This should make for another close game tonight.

The Philadelphia Phillies Season Opener Against the Houston Astros Today: Starting Rotation Going the Distance

With the Philadelphia Phillies regular season opener today at Citizens Bank Park with the Houston Astros, the organization cleaned house.  Luis Castillo, the former New York Mets candidate for Chase Utley‘s position, did not make the Phillies team, as expected.  However, it was not for the lack of trying.  Now Wilson Valdez will most likely take over while second baseman Chase Utley goes on the DL with closer Brad Lidge.  For Brad Lidge this will be his third time in the past four seasons on the disabled list while Jose Contreras will take over the role of closer with Ryan Madson on partial duty, according to manager Charlie Manuel.  To add some optimism for Phillies fans, San Francisco Giants reliever Brian Wilson, the devastating closer who put an end to Phillies post-season last year, will also be on the disabled list.  Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Phillies will be without Chase Utley with no timetable for his return.  This lack of clarity on his return may be a bit disconcerting for some fans. Lastly, former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth day ended yesterday with a shutout of the Washington Nationals by the Atlanta Braves of the score of 2-0.  This may bring a smile to some Phillies fans as he accused Cliff Lee recently of stealing the money of the salary cap needed to keep him on the Phillies roster.

Today’s season opener at 1 o’ clock in the afternoon will begin off on a gloomy and dank day and end with some cold and bitter sunshine — kind like the Philadelphia Phillies season potentially.  Roy Halladay will start for the Phillies, and Brett Myers, a former Phillies player himself, will start for the Houston Astros.  Halladay, who was won both the NL Cy Young Award last season and AL Cy Young Award in 2003, is one ace pitcher to start for the Phillies.  He has improved significantly since 2006.  Halladay had less earned runs from 78 to 68 while pitched 3o innings more, increased number of strikeouts from 132 to 219, and a better ERA from 3.19 to 2.44.  On the opposite side of the ball, Brett Myers of the Houston Astros has improved since 2006 as well although his improvement has lacked consistency.  Comparably, Myers’ number of earned runs has decreased from 86 to to 78 while pitching 25 innings more, his number of strikeouts have remained relatively consistent from 189 to 180 and had a slightly better ERA from 3.91 to 3.14.

With the way last season, Charlie Manuel has mentioned to his starting pitchers may pitch full games, if needed. He suggested that Cliff Lee may be throwing 100 pitches in his start, and I imagine Halladay may be on a similar schedule with his number of pitches.  With Brad Lidge out and the relief duty split between Jose Contreras and Ryan Madson, the starting four of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels might be pitching full games sometimes.  Concerning the reliever situation, Contreras doesn’t have an overall impressive ERA of 4.55, but his ERA improved last season with 3.34.  Ryan Madson seems to be the better closer however.  His ERA had improved significantly from 2006 with 5.76  to 2.55.  This is Charlie Manuel’s decision for now on his reliever, but as the season progresses, the reliever situation may change.

Philadelphia Phillies Dominic Brown and Chase Utley Injured: Bats Out of the Bag

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Dominic Brown and second baseman Chase Utley have both suffered injuries before the regular season has even begun.  Dominic Brown injured his hamate bone in the wrist during  a swing and had surgery for his wrist recently, and it will take at least four to six weeks to heal, according to Phillies trainer Scott Sheridan.  In the meantime, it appears that Ben Francisco will take over for the regular season until Dominic Brown can be somewhat healed.

Then comes the big whopper that hasn’t been resolved yet, second baseman Chase Utley. He has right patellar tendinitis, chondromalacia and bone inflammation which “non-operative care,” including a cortisone shot, did not resolve.  Now Chase Utley and the Phillies are looking for medical answers elsewhere. Unexpectedly, Chase Utley is not approaching any medical doctors for surgery of his knee.  Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro hasn’t held out that Chase Utley might still be available opening day, but Utley’s medical situation might not hold out that long.  Phillies fans and others are hoping that Utley returns to full health as soon as possible, and this knee tendinitis won’t put Chase Utley out for most of the regular season.

With two of Phillies better batters potentially missing the beginning of the regular season, it will be time to lean on the starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels to pull off some miracles on the mound without help on offense. Given the offensive firepower declining at least at the start of the season, first baseman Ryan Howard must be the man to lean on, but the Phillies and their fans, including myself, will see if he can live up to his five-year, $125 million contract extension from April 2010.  His contract, as well Roy Oswalt’s, closed the salary cap for the Phillies and ultimately ousted one of the Phillies better batters and players Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals.

The opening of the regular season begins in a couple of weeks with the Philadelphia Phillies facing the Houston Astros at home in Citizens Bank Park.  This will be somewhat good news as the Houston Astros is not a particularly stellar team, despite the camaraderie between Phillies general manager Charlie Manuel and Houston Astros general manager Ed Wade.  Both general managers have been given two-year extensions recently, but Charlie Manuel has had the better upside with his four NL East titles, a World Series Championship and his dominating starting pitching rotation for the next few seasons.  Now it’s up to Charlie Manuel to work some miracles to generate some offensive firepower in the first few weeks of the season and for the Philadelphia Phillies fans to believe.

Cliff Lee Back in the Philadelphia Phillies Rotation: Analysis of the Fatal Foursome

Former Texas Rangers’ pitcher Cliff Lee finally has returned to his home, the Philadelphia Phillies, with the rabid Philadelphia fans.  Even he acknowledged that Phillies fans understood the game and would cheer without the need for teleprompters, unlike other stadiums or among other fans.  He denied more money from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to come home.  For that, we, the Phillies fans, are grateful — for at least five years under his current contract.

Egos and Rivalries

Roy Halladay, in fact, motivated the Phillies ball club to pick up Cliff Lee again. General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. consulted with Halladay to discuss the terms of his current contract and the terms of Lee’s current contract.  Halladay’s current contract consists of a three-year, $60 million extension with a vesting option for a fourth season. Under the current roster, it appears that Amaro has smoothed the transition from the Rangers to the Phillies.

In 2009, Cole Hamels performed below average with 4.32 ERA on 206 hits and 10 wins and 11 losses.  However, it could have been far worse. With the presence of Cliff Lee, Hamels performed better after mid-season.  I expect Cliff Lee to have the same impact on Hamel’s performance.

In 2010, it was not an issue concerning egos with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels together.  Another pitcher in the lineup shouldn’t become much of an issue.

Potential Lineup

Based on 2010 statistics, Cliff Lee has the worse ranked statistics of the foursome with 12 wins and 9 losses and 3.18 ERA.  Therefore, he should be last in the rotation. Unfortunately, based on 2009 statistics, he had a 14 wins and 13 losses and a 3.22 ERA. Again, he should be last in the rotation.  It appears the optimal rotation should be Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.  However, with the personality of Lee, he should be first or second.  He carries a poker face and doesn’t appear easily rattled, unlike his teammates.  Also, he was the best post-season pitcher in 2009, and again, he should be the same in this potential post-season.

Rotation’s Impact on Bats/Offense

With most pitchers, they should not be batters, unless they lived in the era of Babe Ruth.  However, we live in a different era, with more days of rest for pitchers and quicker batters. All four batters are no hitters, but Cliff Lee has the best potential, based on 2010 statistics.  He had a .184 batting average, followed by Cole Hamels with .149 being the next best.  Cliff Lee is the best potential batter to be put in a lineup, without resorting to pinch hitters.  The Phillies will have to rely on Ryan Howard to hit like he did in 2006 with a .313 average on 58 homeruns.  However, he fell precipitously in 2010 with 31 homeruns and a .276 average. Additionally, the Phillies will require that Chase Utley performed like he did in 2008 with 33 homeruns on .292 average.   

Defense

Chase Utley’s high-flying ability and Shane Victorino’s fielding ability are the only visible defense for this team.  Utley has shown he is capable of making remarkable plays, but he is also error-prone.  This is perhaps the only major flaw of the Phillies this season and for the next few seasons.  The Phillies defense was unreliable coming into last year’s playoffs, and it is again going to become problematic.

Closer Issue

Brad Lidge had an ERA of 2.96 and 1 win and 1 loss.  If he could perform like he did in 2008, it would be great.  At that time, he had an ERA of 1.95 and 2 wins and 0 losses.  But I think we may face the same issue with Lidge as a closer, as the seasons prior with his erratic pitching.  Now only if we had San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson with his 1.81 ERA last year…

Playoffs or Pipedreams

With this lineup of starting pitchers, the Phillies appear bound for the playoffs, at least until the pitchers’ contracts begin expiring.  Also, all four of them will be in their late 30s when the contracts end.  All of them are seeking their respective rings.  But with the Phillies’ somewhat average defense and somewhat above average bats, the Phillies will have to lean on their starting pitchers to essentially win the game. Will it be good enough?  I believe so, if last season follows the current season, with a few strong teams dominating against mostly weaker teams. Whether we can a World Series or several, that would be a sight to see.

Cliff Lee Returns to the Philadelphia Phillies: Fastball Point of View

In 2009, Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. acquired Cliff Lee from the Cleveland Indians, and the Phillies fans cheered for him every time on the field.  He was one of Phillies better starting pitchers.  In fact, with him on the roster, he boosted Cole Hamels out of his doldrums back then.  Cliff Lee has signed a five-year, $120 million guaranteed contract with the Phillies, and this time, he intends to stay.  Furthermore, to everyone’s surprise, he rejected offers from the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers.

Now he’s part of one of the most devastating starting pitching rotations in baseball currently — with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  As long as the starting pitchers don’t become cold at the end of the season, the Phillies should remain just potent enough with their bats to get into the playoffs and quite possibly the World Series.

Game 1 of the MLB World Series: What I Learned About This Game

The World Series officially started last night. And as a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I have to root for Cliff Lee and his Texas Rangers, despite the comments he made previously. Cliff Lee made the comment as a competitive professional athlete, and it should be taken as such.  I know, Pat Burrell is on the San Francisco Giants, but then again, he was with the Tampa Bay Rays, which makes it strike two for him. So in my mind, Cliff Lee over Pat Burrell.

After this discussion, I have learned these things about the Giants and the Rangers game at AT & T Park.

  • San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lencicum and Texas Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee are hittable by their respective opponents. Cliff Lee was surprisingly more hittable than Tim Lencicum.
  • Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee can hit the ball solidly, unlike Philadelphia Phillies pitchers Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt.  He’s a respectable batter.
  • Cody Ross can still hit — and now gained the ability give a Giants fan a World Series souvenir (aka his bat) to the lower stands.
  • Cliff Lee got decimated in the 5th inning, and boy, he certainly ran fast to get to the bench.
  • Juan Uribe put the No Way with Texas Rangers pitcher Darren O’Day in the 5th inning with a devastating home run to bring in three runs for the Giants.
  • Tony Bennett loves San Francisco. A lot. (Luckily, it wasn’t Tammy Nelson again.)
  • I don’t believe Aubrey Huff missed the first base bag in the 6th inning.  He had a solid hit off of Giants pitcher Sergio Romo, and he blatantly missed the bag. Incredible.
  • Giants bats were hot, and the Rangers pitchers and players were not. The Texas Rangers had four costly errors in this game and 14 hits from the Giants.
  • Vladimir Guerrero had two errors in the bottom of the 8th inning. He might consider using superglue on those gloves.
  • Lastly, Giants closer Brian Wilson is still a solid closer.

Well, the Texas Rangers got beaten, but not without a push in the 9th inning.

Off to Game 2…