Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has been looking to upgrade the starting pitching all season long. And rightfully so. Until recently, the Phillies had one of the worst starting staff ERA's in the league, were not going deep into games, and were not improving. Then came the news that Brett Myers needed possibly season ending hip surgery.
Who would have thought that a week later we would be talking about how great the starting pitching has been?
The Phils starting staff still ranks second to last in the National League with an ERA of 5.34 and they still are a mile away from the next best ERA of 4.83.
But things are looking up. During the last 21 games in which the Phillies are 16-5, the starters are 13-3 with a 4.19 ERA and only 32 walks in 126 2/3 innings.
In the last 14 games they have a 9-2 record with a 3.13 ERA and 13 walks in 92 innings.
Even better, in the past 7 games they have a 1.50 ERA with 4 walks in 42 innings.
Part of the reason for this recent success is that Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton are pitching as we expected they would. Hamels has returned to his ace form and Jamie Moyer is keeping the team in games. Joe Blanton has had a few tremendous starts. It's hard to tell if it is just a hot streak or if he is back on track, but it seems unlikely that he will revert to his terrible starts earlier this season.
As for the last two spots, J.A. Happ has been excellent in all three of his starts. I really do believe that he is a pitcher we can count on for the rest of the season. He is sure to decline a little as teams get to know him better, but I have no worries about Happ.
Bastardo...who knows? We are just gonna have to wait and see on that one.
The Phillies have the second worst starting staff in the league and are 11 games above .500 and 3 games up in the NL East. Just imagine what can happen if we start to pitch?!
What do we do in Philadelphia when things are going well? We find something to complain about. And that is exactly what I will do here. No sooner did I call Jimmy a Hall of Famer than I say he is damaging the team.
After replaying last nights heartbreaker to the Dodgers in my head, I do not see Pedro Feliz dropping the ground ball or Lidge giving up the game winning hit. The lasting image in my head is Jimmy Rollins leaving one man after another on base. It seemed like anytime we had someone on base, it was two outs and Jimmy at the plate.
Jimmy is normally the guy we can count on to get a big hit when we need it. But this year he can't buy a hit. This year he is hitting .209 with runners in scoring position. The Phillies players always say, "As Jimmy goes, we go." Considering that Jimmy is batting .219 this season with an on base percentage of .259, it is amazing that the Phillies are 32 - 21 with a three game lead over the New York Mets in National League East.
53 games into the season, you begin to wonder if this is just a slow start by Jimmy or something we should be extremely worried about.
The Phillies might be sitting pretty for now, but if we are going to go anywhere this season we will need Jimmy to go, too.
It's hard for me to say that a game is good when we lost...especially to the Mets. But, tonight's game against the Mets was fun to watch and there were some interesting things to think about.
1. After Happ gave up two runs to make the score 3-0 against Johann Santanna, you might has well have turned off the TV. But the following inning, the Phillies hit not one but two homers off Santana - long ones, too. Later, J-Roll hits a bomb of his own.
2. Following inning. Santana, who has one hit this season and couldn't get a bunt down, hits a huge double to take the lead back from the Phils.
3. Did you notice that Happ swung at the first pitch twice against Santana. That made me furious! Santana had a low pitch count and the pitcher swings at the first pitch...twice!! Besides, if none of the regular hitters could do anything, what makes Happ think he's any different?
4. Finally, what a take out slide by Jimmy. That was the best (legal) take out slide I have ever seen. It was clean, too. Without that slide the game is over. That is what MVP's do!
Rod Barajas stuck it to the Phillies once again, hitting the game winning home run against the Phillies in the ninth inning to complete the sweep by the Toronto Blue Jays.
It is hard to find many guys in major league baseball that irritate me more than Rod Barajas. He was a terrible hitter and a below average catcher with the Phillies (and pretty much his whole career) and had an bad attitude. But he has absolutely killed the Phillies, giving us even more reason to hate him.
Let's examine the numbers.
In 122 at-bats with the Phillies in 2007, Barajas had a .230 average, with 4 home runs and 10 RBI.
Since that time, in the five games he has played against the Phillies, he is 8-for-16 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI.
This guy has the same amount of RBI's in 5 games against the Phillies as he got in the ENTIRE SEASON when he played here.
Barajas created his negative legacy for me when he did not even attempt to block the plate on a play that tied the game in the ninth inning against the Marlins. Because Barajas was afraid to get hurt, Brett Myers, who was the closer at the time, needed to continue pitching and eventually was injured.
And what did he have to say about it? Following that game Barajas said, "I didn't want to get down low and have him get a good shot at me and maybe knock the ball out."
I remember the play. He wasn't protecting the ball. He was completely avoided contact.
And here is his worst comment: "It would have been disappointing if we lost, but the fact that we were able to pull it out, we can look back and laugh at some of these plays." LAUGH AT THESE PLAYS?! He completely blows the lead and a pitcher gets hurt because of it, and you say you will laugh at it?!
In comparison, Greg Dobbs made a bad decision that contributed to blowing the same lead and had this to say: "I'm sick to my stomach. I want to eat, but can't. I feel tremendously responsible for that inning because we should have had three outs."
Back to the present. When asked about the performance of Rod Barajas following the game, Phils skipper Charlie Manuel said, "I can't believe it to tell you the truth."
Either can the rest of us, Charlie.
The Phillies gave fans some bad news, as they placed leftfielder Raul Ibanez on the 15-day disabled list Thursday morning with a strained left groin and brought up outfielder John Mayberry Jr. from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to replace him. Ibanez is scheduled for an MRI today and it is not clear when Ibanez will return.
They are obviously big shoes to fill, as Ibanez was hitting .312 and was second in the National League with 22 homers and 59 RBIs.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said that Ibanez was not happy with the decision. "We have to kind of see the forest through the trees here. He stood a chance to really damage the groin if he continues to play on it, and if he does that, he could be out for a very, very long period of time, and it just doesn't make any sense for us to do that with him."
The injury began noticeable in this past game. You saw that he was having difficulty running on a double play he hit into yesterday. He was 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in two games against the Blue Jays, and had just six hits in his past 31 at-bats (.194).
Ibanez was out of the lineup on Sunday from what they claimed to be an issue with his shoes, Amaro says that is not related to his groin problem.
Mayberry, a 25-year-old right-handed hitter, went 2-for-9 (.222) in three games with the Phillies. At Lehigh Valley, he hit .257 with eight homers and 41 RBIs in 52 games.
It is a shame to see him injured, as Ibanez has been the Phillies, and perhaps the league's MVP this year and leads all NL outfielder in all-star votes. Hopefully we will get him back in two weeks.
I think we have reached the point where something drastic needs to be done with the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies. They are making an incredible amount of mental mistakes, the starting pitching is simply not good enough, and the bullpen is showing signs of overuse.
I have never seen this Phillies team seem so lost. One thing we have always known about this group is that they play good defense, or at least try to play good defense and make good decisions. The mental lapses right now are staggering. Let me remind you of the most recent knucklehead plays. On a sac fly, Pedro Feliz forgot how many outs there were AND Matt Stairs jogged to the plate so the run would not count. Jimmy Rollins flipped to second rather than throwing out the lead-footed Pat Burrell. Marco Scutaro went all the way to second on a walk. Rolen stretched a single into a double when Mayberry lazily fielded the ball. Ryan Howard was not paying attention when he picked up an errant pick-off throw and allowed Kevin Youkilis to advance to third.
These are not the type of mistakes typical of a World Champion, but they are epidemic and now a change needs to be made.
As much as I pointed out the faults of the hitters, I am going to suggest that something needs to be done with pitching.
The fact is this: the Phillies have the MOST runs scored in the league and the WORST starting pitching in the league and second-worst overall pitching in the league. We might complain about the hitting and defense, but THE PITCHING IS THE PROBLEM.
If you can fix the pitching, the rest of the team can relax and they can start playing the type of baseball we expect.
With the passing of Harry Kalas, everyone now realizes how important broadcasters can be to those of us sitting at home watching them. Therefore, we decided that now would be a great time to take a look at each of the announcers.
Now that Harry Kalas is gone, like it or not, Tom McCarthy has now taken over the television play-by-play in this town, probably on a permanent basis. Therefore, he is a voice we better get used to.
I will say it right now that I am not president of the Tom McCarthy fan club. To begin with, I do not like the way in which he came to the Phillies. As you might recall, he was the radio voice for the Phillies pre and post game shows and a few innings of play-by-play from 2001-2005 before joining the Mets. My biggest problem with T-Mac is that HE WORKED FOR THE METS. Sorry, but I have a very tough time swallowing the fact that while we were beating up the Mets in 2007, he was rooting AGAINST US. McCarthy grew up in New Jersey as a Mets fan, so there is a good chance he still roots for the Mets.
I also did not like the fact that Phillies basically fired Scott Graham in order to bring T-Mac back to Philadelphia. I liked Scott Graham, and it was a shame that the Phillies sent Scott packing. It sure seemed like the Phillies were grooming McCarthy to replace Harry Kalas and I don't know why. Tom also made it clear to the Phillies that he would only return if he was guaranteed to be exclusively on television. What, are you too good for radio?
He also talks too much. I didn't mind it so much when he was only doing a few innings, but after three hours I am about ready to hit the mute button.
Finally, he calls games like a national broadcaster. When you are the local announcer, fans like to know that their announcers feels the same emotions they do. We aren't looking for you to go crazy all the time, but it is nice to know that you care. Sometimes he almost seems excited when the opposing team hits a home run. (Since he might still be a Mets fan, maybe he is excited).
Enough with the negatives. There are plenty of positives with Tom McCarthy.
First of all, Tom McCarthy seems like a genuinely nice guy. That is important. I get the impression that he truly is a good person and it comes through in the way he calls a baseball game.
He also has a lot of baseball knowledge. I think he talks too much, but he seems to know and study the game of baseball more than many play-by-play announcers.
He is a technically perfect broadcaster. If you listen to him closely, you will notice that T-Mac changes his voice tone, inflection, and volume perfectly. Try calling an inning yourself and you will know what I mean.
His relationship with Sarge. He gets along so well with Gary Mathews and it makes for some entertaining innings. He somehow gets the best out of Sarge and they both clearly enjoy being with each other.
All in all, we could do much worse than Tom McCarthy. He is a good broadcaster, but not my favorite. If the Phillies are smart, they will limit T-Mac to three to six innings on TV like they did with Harry Kalas. He can spend the other innings roaming the stadium like he did before if he wants. Listening to him for nine innings is just too much.
The Jimmy Rollins saga continues today, as Jimmy will retake his place atop the Phillies lineup. There has been much discussion around town about whether not Charlie should have sat him for four games and whether or not he should return to the leadoff spot. We will see if it worked soon enough.
I happen to agree with Charlie's decision. Jimmy has been so bad for so long and Charlie has put him lower in the lineup before and it did not work. Rollins was so immersed in the situation, I think this short break might have really cleared his head and allowed him to rethink his approach. We all know that Jimmy wants to be a lead-off hitter and can be a real force when he is hot. If the Phils are going to win this year, we need Jimmy hitting #1, so let's fix this now.
I have never felt that Jimmy was a good lead-off hitter. J-Roll gets way too few walks, swings at the first pitch too much, loves to swing for the fences and refuses to hit the ball on the ground. If you don't like it, too bad, because that is the way it has been and that is the way it will be.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that he was different during his MVP season. He was the exact same player, but just had much better results. He was just on fire that year, and most of his fly balls left the park. So if you praised him then, you have no right to bash him now.
It would be nice to see Rollins make a concerted effort to hit the ball on the ground and take more pitches but J-Roll is still probably too stubborn to change his approach. All we can hope is that he gets his swing back.
Regardless of your thoughts, Jimmy Rollins is the sparkplug for this team. His teammates constantly say, "As Jimmy goes, we go." Time to get going, Jimmy.
The Phillies announced that left-hander Antonio Bastardo has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left posterior shoulder. Left-hander Sergio Escalona will temporarily take Bastardo's place in the bullpen, but they still need a starter for Thursday. So the question is, who will replace Bastardo in the rotation?
Andy Martino, Phillies beat writer for the Inquirer, said that the most likely choice will likely not be Joe Savery or Kyle Drabeck. Martino says that Phils GM Ruben Amaro does not believe either pitcher is major league ready. Therefore, Bastardo's replacement appears to be coming from AAA.
Kyle Kendrick will probably not be the choice, since his numbers are not great, he did not pitch well in his brief return to Philly, and has not developed his extra pitch yet.
It wouldn't surprise me to see Carlos Carrasco, but he still has not gotten things together in the minors. I just don't see much of an up-side to bringing him up. The only name remaining is Andrew Carpenter. His numbers are very good in AAA and he has been here before, so why not bring him up?
Regardless of who gets the phone call, it is clear that the rotation is not good enough to go anywhere in the postseason and a move must be made. We will see....
Joe Savery (AA)
10-1 3.08 ERA, 84.2 IP, 39 BB, 58 K
Kyle Drabeck (AA)
4-0 2.43 ERA, 33.1 IP, 13 BB, 26 K
Kyle Kendrick (AAA)
4-4, 3.97 ERA, 79.1 IP, 26 BB, 43 K
Andrew Carpenter (AAA)
7-1, 2.75 ERA, 88.1 IP, 26 BB, 61 K
Carlos Carrasco (AAA)
4-7, 4.92 ERA, 88 IP, 25 BB, 84 K