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Phillies monthly review: August 2014
by Scott Butler 9/1/14

Phillies August Storyline

After a disappointing lack of action at the trading deadline and waiver deadline, the Phillies maintained essentially the same team to begin and end the month of August, with only Robert Hernandez and John Mayberry getting traded. On the bright side, the Phillies had their first winning month of the season.

Phillies August Win/Loss Totals

Record: 14-13
Home record: 11-5
Road record: 3-8
Top winning streak: 4
Top losing streak: 3
Series record: 4-4-1

Began month: 48-61
--4.5 games behind Mets for 4th place
--11.5 games behind 1st place Nationals

Finished month: 62-74
--1.5 games behind Mets for 4th place
--16 games behind 1st place Nationals

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Phillies ownership change may indeed be coming
by Scott Butler 8/31/14

David Montgomery was asked prior to the 2009 trade deadline whether he endorsed going "all-in" to win a second straight World Series in favor of a more conservative approach. His response, and I'm paraphrasing since I cannot find the direct quote, was that he would prefer to contend each season and not win a title if the alternative is winning one World Series and falling off a cliff.

Since those comments, the Phillies traded for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence; surprised everyone by signing Cliff Lee; and handed Jonathan Papelbon the richest contract ever for a closer. They also re-signed nearly every core player, creating an historically old roster. Then, after an 89-loss season which cost the winningest manager in Phillies history his job, the Phillies refused to rebuild. Instead, they added 36-year-old Marlon Byrd and 37-year-old AJ Burnett, bringing their payroll to record levels with the same level of failure.

Ruben Amaro did not make these moves in isolation. He needed ownership approval for all deals and it is quite possible the decisions to retain Rollins, Utley, Howard, and Ruiz were in fact initiated by the owners. Amaro may have been the man pulling the trigger, but it was the ownership loading the shotgun. Such an unprecedented level of incompetence from top to bottom is almost inconceivable.

That is why it seems so clear now that the Phillies are preparing for the sale of the franchise.

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Why is Jonathan Papelbon still in a Phillies uniform?
by Scott Butler 8/24/14

Jonathan Papelbon has been one of the best closers in baseball. His velocity and strikeouts are both way down, but dude continues recording outs and saves. He has a sparkling 1.49 ERA, has converted 31 of 34 saves, and has not allowed a run in 13 consecutive appearances.

Papelbon cleared waivers, allowing Ruben Amaro to trade him to any team as long as he waives his no-trade clause. Pappy made it crystal clear he will accept a trade to a contender.

So why is he still here?

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MLB has a problem with length of games and the solution is simple
by Scott Butler 8/24/14

The average length of a Major League Baseball game is 3 hours and 8 minutes. Digest that one for a moment.

Baseball games are a full 20 minutes longer than the 2:48 average 10 years ago.

And if that doesn't get your attention, how about this number? It takes an average of 23.0 seconds between pitches in 2014, which is 1.6 seconds higher than it was just five years ago.

Pace of games has the attention of Rob Manfred, baseball's next commissioner, who identified it as priority number one when he assumes the office in January.

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Ruben Amaro: the rest of the moves
by Scott Butler 8/23/14

A couple weeks ago, I documented Ruben Amaro's good moves and his bad moves as general manager of the Phillies. Today, let's take a look at the rest of the moves which would not be considered particularly good or bad. As with the previous lists, this includes all moves of any significance, so pretty much everything involving the big club in any way was included.

Here they are in chronological order:

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Sitting Darin Ruf all part of Phillies ludicrous plan
by Scott Butler 8/17/14

As a kid, I had a friend with a paper route who followed the classic hand-to-mouth business plan. While most "paper routers" collected money on a certain day of the month, he only collected whenever he wanted money for something like baseball cards or candy, oftentimes approaching whichever house was the closest.

It is clear now that the Phillies' front office conducts business in a similar manner, that is, with decisions void of any strategic plan. Ruben Amaro has made that fact abundantly clear and here is just one sample:

"First and foremost, I am going to make sure that everybody in my organization understands that our number one goal is to win that night's game, and that we will never shortchange the present in order to build for the future. Because 71 wins is better than 70 wins, and 72 wins is better than 71 wins. I do not believe in lost causes and sunk costs."

Here is part of that quote again:

We will never shortchange the present in order to build for the future.

So, let me correct myself, the Phillies have a plan, but it is a stupendously flawed one.

Plan, no plan, paperboy plan, whatever you want to call it, this line of thinking has leaked into the managerial office. Case in point: Darin Ruf.

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Phillies rumors August 10-15
by Scott Butler 8/16/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from August 10-15:

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Mindset of the Best
by Rob Harrand 8/10/14

Phils Baseball is excited to provide a guest post from Rob Harrand, former Professional pitcher with the Phillies and co-founder of Reality Pitching. You can learn more about Rob and Reality Pitching following the post.

Never have the stakes been higher for aspiring Big Leaguers than they are today. With financial
payoffs larger than they’ve ever been, injury rates higher than they’ve ever been, and
competition fiercer than it’s ever been, the importance of formulating a personal “game-plan” is
more crucial than ever. Thinking you can just squeeze by in today’s game without one is a
massive oversight.

MINDSET OF THE BEST

In my experience with professional baseball players, the overwhelming majority of the very best
have had one thing in common....an attribute that really stood out above all others (hint: it’s not
talent). Simply put, this attribute is self-awareness; a sense of what they need to do to get the
most out of their abilities to succeed. Having great self-awareness allows you to honestly
assess your strengths and weaknesses in order to understand exactly what it is you need to
improve upon. In turn, self-awareness allows players to formulate a calculated game-plan that
lays the foundation for consistent improvement. While I was with the Phillies, there were several
players who exemplified this, and in turn, stood out from the pack.

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Phillies monthly review: July 2014
by Scott Butler 8/3/14

Phillies July Storyline

July concluded with the date all Phillies fans had been waiting for. July 31st, the trading deadline. The trading deadline came and went without a single trade, leaving fans with the same wretched team and the same wretched roster. The month itself was equally as disappointing. The Phillies began July 10 games under .500 and finished 13 games below .500.

Phillies July Win/Loss Totals

Record: 12-15
Home record: 4-6
Road record: 8-9
Top winning streak: 5
Top losing streak: 4
Series record: 2-6

Began month: 36-46
--0.5 games behind Mets for 4th place
--8.5 games behind 1st place Braves

Finished month: 48-61
--4.5 games behind Mets for 4th place
--11.5 games behind 1st place Nationals

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Don't criticize Amaro for trading deadline. The blame starts much sooner
by Scott Butler 8/2/14

When Ruben Amaro sat in the visitor’s dugout at Nationals Park and explained why he did not trade a single player, it was hard not to laugh and think, “you screwed me again, Constanza.” It was just another low point in a horrific six years with Ruben Amaro.

Amaro is no doubt receiving the ire of an entire fan base. Fans expect change with old, expensive, losing teams, but the same team that was 14 games under .500 before the trading deadline was the same team to hit the field after the deadline.

Amaro’s inactivity on July 31 will be looked upon by most as one of his biggest failures as Phillies’ general manager. I am here to tell you July 31, 2014 was not the failure. The failure occurred on numerous preceding dates.

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Ruben Amaro: the bad moves
by Scott Butler 7/30/14

Ruben Amaro, Jr. inherited a World Champion when he took over for Pat Gillick following the 2008 season. Amaro has been a textbook example of how to slowly disintegrate a ball club. Under Amaro's leadership, the Phillies lost in the World Series in 2009, lost in the NLCS in 2010, lost in the NLDS in 2011, finished with a .500 record in 2012, lost 89 games in 2013, and are on pace for 91 losses this season.

Ruben Amaro has made multiple mistakes during his six years as the general manager of the Phillies. In the second of four posts on Ruben Amaro, we take a look at the worst of his moves.

Here's a little teaser: this list is much longer than the previous list of good deals.

Again, this is not a ranking but instead the moves are listed chronologically. So, here they are. The worst moves from Ruben Amaro, Jr.:

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Phillies must try to trade Hamels to Dodgers
by Scott Butler 7/30/14

There is very little to be excited about with the Phillies these days. They are in the basement in the NL East, have the fourth worst record in the league, and aren't likely to contend for at least two more years. The Phillies MUST make changes if they hope to keep the window within that time frame.

Cole Hamels has been unworldly this season and watching him dealing last night was a thing of beauty, but the only real excitement the Phillies can create is by making a big splash before the deadline.

A piece from Corey Seidman on csnphilly.com offers some reason for excitement. In his post, Seidman explores the possibility of trading Cole Hamels to the Dodgers. There is absolutely no indications of any imminent deals, but let's live in the dream world for a moment.

Let's pretend the Phillies are able to pull off the deal proposed by Jim Bowden of ESPN.com of Hamels for Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, and Alex Guerrero.

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Ryan Howard has only himself to blame
by Scott Butler 7/29/14

Ryan Howard would like fans to put things in perspective.

When asked about the burden of his contract and performance earlier this week, Howard told reporters, “Baseball is a game. Yeah, I get paid a lot of money to play it, but it's a game. You go out and see little kids doing it, because it's a game. You have to keep things in perspective.” He later added, “I have a beautiful wife, a son, a baby on the way.”

In other words, Howard does not feel burdened by his contract and poor performance because he has a wonderful life outside of baseball.

A couple days later, Howard changed his mind.

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Ruben Amaro: the good moves
by Scott Butler 7/29/14

Ruben Amaro, Jr. said this week when speaking of Ryan Howard, "Listen, everybody's being evaluated. That's part of baseball. We're all scrutinized and evaluated."

That's exactly right, Rube. With the trading deadline just two days away, it is time for Amaro's evaluation. Over the next few days leading to Thursday's deadline, I will chronicle the good moves (yes, there are some), the bad moves, and all other notable moves in Ruben Amaro's six years as general manager, followed by an overall evaluation.

First, a few ground rules. I did the unenviable task of going through every single move Amaro made and included all moves of any real consequence. Outside of the truly minor moves with players like Scott Mathieson, everything was included. Rather than ranking the moves, they are presented in chronological order.

Let's begin with the best moves from Ruben Amaro, Jr.

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Phillies attendance drop not as bad as it seems
by Scott Butler 7/23/14

Citizens Bank Park is a more attractive destination than ever before this summer. It is a shorter walk from the parking lot, gone is the worry of being sandwiched between two large, sweaty, drunk guys, and the beer lines are short. Who needs interest and intensity when you can have shorter beer trips and more leg room?

Of course, we aren't talking US Airways here, and empty seats are not considered positive for baseball organizations. Since last season, the Phils lead all of baseball with a decline of 6,800 fans per game, according to baseball-reference.com. They dropped from the 8th in attendance to 14th.

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Domonic Brown perhaps Ruben Amaro's biggest mistake
by Scott Butler 7/22/14

When Ruben Amaro let Jayson Werth walk after the 2010 season, he was not too concerned about replacing his power bat in the lineup. He had Domonic Brown. Ranked as the 15th best prospect by Baseball America prior to 2010, Brown hit .327 that season with 20 home runs and 68 RBI at triple-A before a July call up with the Phillies.

The Phillies and, frankly, nearly the entire baseball world was sold on Domonic Brown. So much so that Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and MLB.com all ranked Domonic Brown as the fourth best prospect in 2011. In three reputable draft rankings, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper ranked one and two, followed by the number 3 rated, then Domonic Brown.

Here is the scouting report for Brown in 2011 by Baseball Prospectus:

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Could the Phillies owners be looking to sell?
by Scott Butler 7/21/14

Bill Giles gathered a silent group of investors and bought the Philadelphia Phillies in 1981 for $30 million. Thirty-three years later, the Phillies team value is $975 million according to Forbes.com. The Phillies have been a lucrative business investment which, despite the current lag in attendance and in the standings, is likely to continue paying dividends.

But is it possible the Phillies owners are ready to sell?

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Phillies Poll Results: Which Phillie is most likely to be traded?
Posted 7/21/14

We just closed the voting on the poll question, Which Phillie is most likely to be traded? Here are the results:

Poll Results: Which Phillie is most likely to be traded?

Phillies rumors July 13-19
by Scott Butler 7/20/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from July 13-19:

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Making the case for trading Ryan Howard
by Scott Butler 7/20/14

With a potential fire sale looming, no player on the Phillies roster is safe. But one name that rarely surfaces in trade rumors is the player the Phillies would most like to see vanish.

The Big Piece. Ryan Howard.

The prevailing wisdom is that Howard's gargantuan contract (he is still owed over $68 million) and severely declining production makes him virtually untradeable.

But there is a case for a Ryan Howard trade.

Of course, any such trade involves the Phillies eating an obscene amount of cash. Before we approach any potential suitors, let's determine Howard's actual worth.

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What will Phillies look like after trading deadline?
by Scott Butler 7/12/14

The Phillies have won five straight against postseason contenders and despite a 42-51 record they are unbelievably just 8 games back in the NL East and 9.5 games behind the best team in the National League (Brewers). Unless Ruben Amaro is completely delusional, the Phillies recent success changes nothing and they should still be sellers by July 31.

As much interest as the trading deadline will create, fans also must be prepared for the remaining product after all the carnage. So let's take a look at what the Phillies roster might resemble after the trades.

Let's begin with the most likely players to go, which I will assume is Marlon Byrd, Jonathan Papelbon, Kyle Kendrick, AJ Burnett, and Antonio Bastardo. But before we get to that, let's examine the few notable names missing from the list.

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Ruben Amaro's troubling interview exposes flawed approach
by Scott Butler 7/8/14

After watching his team lose 13 of 16 games after getting swept by the Pirates, Ruben Amaro decided to offer his thoughts on his struggling club prior to the start of the first game in Milwaukee.

"I didn't anticipate our guys being this poor. Because they are. They are this poor. We think that they're better. But they haven't shown it. So at some point we're going to have to make some changes. Some guys, once they are ready to play, may be factors for us."

Amaro put the onus directly on an underachieving group rather than accepting the blame for assembling the team.

After calling out his team for underperforming, Ruben Amaro went on a slight media tour which included an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic.

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Let's blame Phillies' lack of offense on injuries
by Scott Butler 7/3/14

The human body protects itself in strange ways. We sweat to lower our body temperature. Blisters lead to calluses which protect our feet and hands. Damaged muscle fibers strengthen muscles. It is also human nature to create mental defense mechanisms for areas of weakness, which is what I will attempt to do here with the Phillies lethargic and hapless offense.

The Phillies have scored 2.5 runs per game in their last 12 games prior to tonight and 2 runs per game during their six game losing streak. The Phillies have the fourth lowest runs per game average (3.8) in the National League and have been shutout 11 times this season.

Given these harsh times, we must not forget that the Phillies have been decimated with injuries to several enormously impactful players. Names with impressive resumes like Wil Nieves, Reid Brignac, Darin Ruf, and Freddy Galvis (as well as Carlos Ruiz if you must). They even suffered through the short term absence of Tony Gwynn, Jr., and a paternity leave for Domonic Brown.

For those of you who did not catch the sarcasm, injuries are not the reason for the Phils' putrid bat swinging of late. To be perfectly honest, outside of Cliff Lee, the Phillies are very fortunate the injury list is not much, much, longer. All of the Phillies core players, outside of Chooch, each age 34 or older, have avoided the disabled list.

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Phillies monthly review: June 2014
by Scott Butler 7/1/14

Phillies June Storyline

It was a month of ups and downs for the Phillies in June with a five-game winning streak along with losing streaks of four and six. They followed up a 1-8 stretch with wins in 9 of 11 games, but finished with four straight losses. By the end of the month, the team made Ruben Amaro's decision a little easier as to whether to be buyers or sellers.

Phillies June Win/Loss Totals

Record: 12-17
Home record: 6-10
Road record: 6-7
Top winning streak: 5
Top losing streak: 6 (including May 31)
Series record: 2-5-2

Began month: 24-29, last place
--1 game behind Mets for fourth place
--5 games behind 1st place Braves

Finished month: 36-46
--0.5 games behind Mets for 4th place
--8.5 games behind 1st place Braves

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81 down, 81 to go: Phillies at midway point of season
by Scott Butler 6/29/14

Well, we finally (and mercifully) reached the midway point of the 2014 Phillies season. Yesterday's two losses in the twin bill against the Braves gives them a record of 36-45, last in the NL East, nine games below .500, and on a pace for 90 losses.

They rank 12th in the National League with a 3.86 team ERA, 11th in runs per game (3.86), 12th in team batting (.240), 12th in on-base percentage (.304), 13th in slugging percentage (.366), and 13th OPS (.670). As a result, the Phillies are the fifth worst team in the NL.

The beauty of the the midway point is that it is easy to extrapolate individual results for the entire season. Beginning with the offense, here are the prorated numbers over 162 games. The leaders in each category are highlighted in red.

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Ryne Sandberg has a lot to learn about player management
by Scott Butler 6/28/14

If there is one thing above all else that made Charlie Manuel the winningest manager in Phillies history, it was that he knew how to manage people. He knew which players needed to be coddled, which needed a swift kick in the $#@, and which needed the manager to just stay away.  Whatever the methods, they worked quite well for Charlie Manuel.

Ryne Sandberg does not seem to have that touch quite yet.

Part of it is learning how, when, and why to send a message. That message failed with Domonic Brown, who Sandberg gave the day off on Tuesday for “a little mental break.”

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Phillies lose to Braves, but Tom McCarthy makes play of the day
by Scott Butler 6/27/14

The Phillies lost the opener to the Braves Friday night, but Phils' broadcaster Tom McCarthy caught Freddie Freeman's three run blast. Better yet, with a little encouragement from his friends, Tom threw the ball back. Here's the awesome video.

 

Cool as could be, T-Mac called the play, put on his glove, and then made the catch with no fear. As Harry Kalas would have said, "Tom McCarthy, you are the man!"

Despite solid outing by Hamels, defense contributes to end win streak
by Scott Butler 6/22/14

The Phillies scored 4.8 runs per game during their 9-2 winning stretch, the starters had a 2.35 ERA, and the bullpen had a 1.95 ERA. One stat that should not be overlooked is that the Phillies committed just two errors in those 11 games.

In this game, poor defense in the eighth inning contributed to a 4-1 loss and the end of the Phillies' five-game winning streak.

The Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the eighth when Hamels allowed a walk to begin the inning and Matt Holliday followed with an RBI double. It was a questionable decision to allow Hamels to start the inning with 107 pitches entering the frame.

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Poll results: How much are you watching Phillies compared to last year?
Posted 6/21/14

We just closed the voting on the poll question, How much are you watching Phillies compared to last year? Here are the results:

Poll Results: How much are you watching Phillies compared to last year?

Sounds about right. Comcast certainly did not help things by firing Wheels and Sarge and replacing them with Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs. Moyer has actually has improved, but the broadcasts with Matt Stairs, who follows the mantra of don't speak unless spoken to, are difficult to watch. Thanks as always Comcast!

Of course, if the Phillies continue winning as they have, these percentages will shift dramatically.

Phillies hot streak by the numbers
by Scott Butler 6/20/14

10 days ago the Phillies were not in a happy place. Losers of eight of their last nine games against jugger-nots (like the word play?) like the Mets and Reds, the Phillies were in dead last in the division and 11 games below .500. They were tied for the worst record in the NL and second worst in baseball. We had finally arrived at the official end of the greatest era in Phillies history.

Or so we thought.

Since then, the Phillies have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and on paper are legitimately in the hunt in the NL East at just 4 games out of first. How did they do it? They hit well, pitched well, and fielded well. Funny how when those things come together, teams tend to win ball games.

Let's jump inside the numbers over the last ten games, shall we?

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Prepping for the Cards
by Scott Butler 6/19/14

It is baseball in St. Louis for the red hot Philadelphia Phillies (did I really just write that?) as they take on the Cardinals. This has always been a series to circle on the calendar in many Philadelphia households ever since the Cardinals came from 6.5 games behind with 12 to play to steal the NL Pennant from the Phils in 1964. For those of us not old enough to endure the greatest collapse in Major League history, the 2011 NLDS should offer enough motivation.

Ignoring epic meltdowns and postseason defeats, the Phillies face the Cardinals at an interesting time. The Phillies come in as winners in seven of their last nine games and attempt to win their fourth straight for the first time this season. Then again, the Cards are even hotter with eight wins in their last ten and a 5-1 record in their current homestand.

The Phillies have their work cut out for them against a Cardinals team with the third best record in the league at 39-33. The Phils actually rank ahead of the Cardinals offensively with 280 runs scored (9th in NL) compared to 270 for the Cards (11th). But the Cardinals' 3.18 team ERA ranks 2nd in the NL, while the Phillies' 3.94 ERA is 13th.

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One down, 34 to go
by Scott Butler 6/17/14

Earlier this season I wrote that fans should get hyped up for the Phillies/Braves series in April when the Phillies were 6-6. If you pay attention more to the standings than win/loss records, you can probably follow the same advice after a win in the first game of a three game set against the NL East leading Braves. A three game sweep of the Braves would put the Phillies 3.5 games behind Atlanta. They would be 6 games under .500, but shockingly right in the mix in the NL East.

Of course, teams with a significantly sub .500 records who only manage to go 4-2 against the two worst teams in the league don’t often create good stories down the stretch.

Speaking of the stretch, yesterday began an extremely difficult one for the Phils with 32 of their next 35 games against winning teams. The one non-winning team: the Pirates who are 34-35.

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Philler Up! Father's Day edition: Bunning is perfect, Biddle is not, money does not buy wins, and other Phillies notes
by Scott Butler 6/15/14

Mr. Perfect

Today marks the 50th Father's Day since Jim Bunning's perfect game in 1964. Frank Fitzpatrick of the Inquirer wrote a great article about the perfect game which recaps the days leading to and following the first perfect game in the NL in 84 seasons at the time.

A few interesting items from the post:

On learning temps would be in the 90's for the game: "I loved the heat," he said. "I sweated a lot, and I'd go through three jerseys every game. But I welcomed it because I knew I was in better shape than the hitters."

This was Bunning's second no-hitter, throwing his first on July 20, 1958. From Fitzpatrick's post:

On that sweltering Sunday at Fenway Park, Bunning, then a Tiger, no-hit the Red Sox, getting Ted Williams for the final out. (The Red Sox haven't been no-hit at home since.)

"The only game I ever got Williams out four times," Bunning said. "Four pop-ups."

More from Fitzpatrick:

In his first Philadelphia season after nine in Detroit, Bunning, 32, was at his peak. He was 6-2 with an ERA under 2.50. Tellingly, on May 29, he'd been perfect for 62/3 innings against Houston before a blooper fell in front of Wes Covington.

Though he'd been hit hard the previous Wednesday in Chicago, Bunning earned a rare save a day later when manager Gene Mauch used him to get the final two outs in a 6-3 win.

Mr. Not So Perfect

Then there is the other side of perfect and his name is Jesse Biddle.

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Video with Mike Schmidt gives reason to root for Dom Brown
by Scott Butler 6/15/14

There is no escaping the fact that Domonic Brown is having an abysmal season:

His .218 average ranks #61 of 65 all qualified MLB outfielders.

His .266 on-base percentage is #64 of 65.

His .320 slugging percentage is #62 of 65.

His .586 OPS is #64 of 65.

His .102 ISO (Isolated power) is #57 of 65.

His -0.9 WAR according to Fangraphs is dead last.

Let's face it, if the Phillies had any other options or if Darin Ruf was healthy and producing, Domonic Brown would be the starting left fielder at Lehigh Valley. His one historic month last season only buys so much time before a demotion is in order.

Hope may be running out on Dobo, but videos like this may offer a reason to hold off a little longer:

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2011 Phillies Playoff Central 2011 Phillies Playoff Central