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Phillies Blog Articles - October 2011

Remember Michael Stutes?
by Scott Butler 10/4/11

When did Michael Stutes all of a sudden become Adam Eaton?

Michael Stutes had one bad month in August and all of a sudden everyone is ready to toss him aside like yesterday’s sports page.

This weekend I heard two reporters (David Murphy and some other guy) agree that essentially Stutes is no more than a last resort or a “mop-up” guy.

Chris Coste said he would have chosen Herndon over Stutes for the final NLDS roster spot. Herndon?! David Herndon?! Admittedly, Herndon’s ERA (3.32) is better than Stutes (3.63), but c’mon! Tell me he hasn’t fallen that far?

Stutes ran into some big time struggles in August, surrendering 8 runs in 12.1 innings and an 5.84 ERA for the month. But that was a month ago. Stutes bounced back with a 3.00 ERA in September and seemed to regain his form, but it apparently didn’t put him in favor of the Phillies media.

In some ways, you might say there is reason to have MORE confidence in Stutes, not less. In The Mental ABC’s of Pitching the author writes, "If you want to know who I am, watch me when things aren't going my way." Things clearly weren't going his way in August. But Stutes' ERA in September ranked 2nd out of his 5 full months and it was his third best months in walks per 9, strikeouts per 9, and WHIP. Stutes struggled for the first time in his young big league career and survived to find the light at the end of the tunnel. That speaks volumes to the character of Michael Stutes.

Maybe this argument would have better BEFORE he gave up 3 runs in a third of an inning in Game 1 of the NLDS, but Stutes does not belong in the back of the bus just yet. You can argue that Madson, Bastardo, Lidge, Worley, and even Kendrick all belong ahead of Stutes, but just not Herndon.

Hamels pitched remarkable game, in case anyone noticed
by Scott Butler 10/5/11

With Cole Hamels on the mound last night, I bet you couldn't keep your eyes off the little blue batter’s box on TBS with a teeny pitch count above it. We watched Hamels’ pitch count climb higher and higher, while Garcia finished his innings quicker than a trip to the bathroom.

By the third inning it was clear that Hamels was struggling.

Then Rich Dubee made some funny comments. Dubee praised Hamels for his poise and presence on the mound, the velocity on his fastball, and the movement on his pitches. Were we watching the same game?

Wait a minute. Let’s think about this for a second. Maybe Hamels deserves the praise. He faced a very dangerous Cardinals team who showed us exactly why they have the best offense in the league. Yes, Hamels threw a lot of pitches, but that was his only choice against a patient Cardinals squad. I mean, look at what happened to Halladay and Lee when they left pitches over the plate, giving up 8 runs between the two of them.

Hamels explained his approach perfectly. "I was trying to make pitches and just keep them down. If I missed, I knew I got another opportunity. If you're making your mistakes up in the zone, you're pretty much going to pay for it really bad. But if they're down, you give yourself probably a better opportunity to get out of the inning."

You have two choices against an offense like the St. Louis Cardinals. You keep working the corners and watch your pitch count rise, or you starting creeping toward the middle of the plate and meet the same fate as Hamels’ opponent. Garcia made one mistake and it lost him the game. Hamels made none and wound up the victor.

"I knew that every pitch mattered," he said. "Every inning mattered. They had a great pitcher on the mound . . . We were 1-1 in the series . . . We're not in our home park anymore. You definitely focus and try to dig deep."

Yet his performance has already been gone and forgotten. Go to philly.com and phillies.com and you will see what I mean. Only one article on philly.com about Hamels and none on Phillies.com. In fact, Cole Hamels name was mentioned exactly 4 times in three Game 3 articles on phillies.com. He has the second lowest ERA (1.81) in Division Series history and became the winningest pitcher in Phillies postseason history, yet he had a GRAND TOTAL OF 4 MENTIONS.

A World Series ring and 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP honors didn’t get Hamels noticed and neither did 4 postseason wins in 2008, 7 postseason wins overall, a 2.65 postseason ERA since 2007, or 6 shutout innings last night.

The question is, how many championships will it take before Hamels gets the respect he deserves?

Pull out your game 5 cliches for Phillies
by Scott Butler 10/7/11

“Win or go home,” “it’s do or die,” “winner takes all,” “must-win,” “this one’s for all the marbles.”

Use whatever cliché you want for a decisive game of a playoff series, but there’s also another one: “there is no tomorrow if you lose.” The fact is, this might be the last game of the season for the Philadelphia Phillies.

It is just too soon to end.

The Phillies grinded out 162 games and became the winningest team in Phillies history, obliterating the rest of the NL East. With one of the best starting rotations ever, the Phillies are clearly the best team in the National League.

The Phils won consistently, quietly, and methodically. They didn’t blow teams away and collect huge winning streaks. The Phillies simply took care of business and won series after series and eventually had enough wins to put the Braves to sleep nice and early. Everyone contributed as the Phillies survived placing 12 players on the disabled list.

All said, it takes a combined effort and consistency to win 102 games in a season. But that doesn’t matter in the playoffs.

The regular season is a marathon and the playoffs are a sprint, as they say. You don’t see many marathoners running sprints, but in professional baseball you must do both. Some teams just aren’t built for the postseason rush. Just look at the Atlanta Braves who won 13 straight divisions and only one World Series.

For better or worse, the Phillies entire season rests on this one NLDS game 5 against the Cardinals. 12 more wins than the Cardinals in the regular season, yet the season now rests on one crucial game.

But that is the position the Phils have put themselves in. Blown leads by two of their “ace” pitchers and poor hitting got them here. Now, the Phillies are in a place where luck may play too large a role. A bloop hit, a bad call by an ump, a unfortunate hop, or even a runaway squirrel can decide the fate of the entire season.

It’s not the ideal situation, but it is the reality.

But the Phillies have put the fate of their season in the capable hands of Roy Halladay. There’s nobody to trust more with the season on the line than Roy Halladay. The 5:00am workouts in spring training, the 66 complete games, the 2 Cy Young awards, the 2,531 innings, the demotion to the minors in 2000, and the 14 years of experience has prepared Halladay for this very moment.

However…

I’ve seen too many times where Halladay was victimized by bloop hits after jamming a good hitter. Two bloopers and a well placed hit can be the difference between golf on Saturday or more baseball on Sunday. And the Cardinals are filled with scrappy, contact hitters with a knack for stringing together four or five hits.

Some things are out of your control as a pitcher, but if anyone can defeat luck, it’s Doc. All we can do now is watch the game.

And just remember, “it aint over until the fat lady sings.” Or something like that.

Phillies no más
by Scott Butler 10/9/11

Two words, "10 más," written by Carlos Ruiz on the Phillies dry erase board in the clubhouse after their game one victory, fittingly summarized the Phillies failure in 2011. An inspiring message at the time, Ruiz intended to remind his teammates that they were just 10 wins away from their 2nd championship in 4 years.

In reality, it revealed a team seeking the light at the end of the tunnel without noticing the pothole directly in front of them. For the second straight year in the playoffs, the Phillies offensive unit played like an old, "business as usual" group living off past glory.

What happened to the hard nosed, fiery team who ran down the Mets in 2007, disposed of CC Sabathia in the 2008 NLDS, hit two magical home runs off Jonathan Broxton in the NLCS, and didn't let a little rain stop them in the World Series?

What happened to the 2009 team who caught the Mets again, used a "get me to the plate, boys" rally to finish the NLDS, and knocked out Broxton once again in the NLCS?

Those Phillies teams are long gone. What we are left with is a Phillies team who has batted .212, .216, and .226 in the three postseason series since 2009.

The current Phillies squad is simply missing the hunger, energy, and (let's face it) the youth of the 2008 team. The 2011 Phillies expected to win and seemed to just assume they would win as long as they showed up at the office.

It's hard to recognize until it smacks you in face, but the Phillies need a different attitude. Maybe it's time to let Rollins go and move the only tradable piece on the roster in Shane Victorino just to shake things up and recreate that hunger.

This was supposed to be the year where we celebrated the best team in Phillies history and started to throw around a word like dynasty. Unfortunately, 102 wins did provide a World Series trophy. And a World Championship would give the Phillies two in five years which does not exactly garner dynasty status.

2011 was undoubtedly disappointing, but maybe it's the wake-up call they needed. We still have Halladay for at least another year and Lee and Hamels should be with us for several years. That's reason enough to have optimism for more great years ahead.

But, first things first. Let's get "un más" in 2012.

BBA Ballot for baseball's best in 2011
by Scott Butler 10/13/11

At the close of each season, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has been handing out awards for the best players in the game. Before BBA announces the winners of these awards in the coming days and weeks, I'd like to share my ballot for the BBA's end of season awards:

Goose Gossage award (top reliever)

3. Joel Hanrahan
2. Craig Kimbrel
1. John Axford

One thing you will notice about this year's relief crew is that there were few veterans in the mix and no big name closer that jumps out at you. Not that there was a lack of talent, though. With so many quality relievers to choose from, I narrowed it down by only choosing closers. Had I not, you might see three Braves names in there.

John Axford was the clear winner with an ERA under 2.00, tied for the lead in saves, and only 2 blown saves. I'm not too sure Kimbrel belongs at #2, but his 2.10 ERA and share of the lead in saves is hard to ignore.

Walter Johnson award (top pitcher)

5. Cole Hamels
4. Tim Lincecum
3. Cliff Lee
2. Roy Halladay
1. Clayton Kershaw

As much as I want to give Halladay another Cy Young award, Kershaw has a better ERA, more wins, and his games meant more to his team. I was really hoping to see Cole Hamels at the top of the list since I picked Hamels to win the Cy Young award, but at least he was just good enough to make the list. Three Phillies on the list would have looked damn good with a World Championship to go with it. Oh well.

Stan Musial award (top player)

10. Jose Reyes
9 . Hunter Pence
8. Justin Upton
7. Michael Morse
6. Albert Pujols
5. Troy Tulowitzki
4. Lance Berkman
3. Prince Fielder
2. Ryan Braun
1. Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp came about as close as you can possibly get to a triple crown. He led the league in HR (39), RBIs (129), and finished third in average (.324). Take your pick with the rest of the guys, since this list is filled with 30+ homer, 100+ RBI, .300+ guys.

Phillies free agent and payroll options in 2012
by Scott Butler 10/15/11

What can the Phillies do to improve the team in 2012? With $114 million already committed to 10 players, there isn't much wiggle room with the Phillies payroll. Obviously lots of things will change over the next few months, but I'm going to give you a rough idea of what the Phillies can and cannot spend.

So how much wiggle room is there with the Phillies payroll?

Well, let's begin by removing the salaries of the Phillies big free agents (Madson, Rollins, Oswalt, Ibanez, and Lidge). That drops the Phillies team payroll by $46.75 million. Then we add $14.5 million for salary increases to existing player contracts. That gives the Phillies $32.25 million just to maintain the same payroll as 2011.

What can they do with that $32.25 million? There is obviously some tinkering to be done with the bullpen and bench, but the focus of this discussion will simply be free agents.

Phillies free agents

Ryan Madson:

Even though Madson is a Scott Boras client, the Phillies are going to try hard to keep him with the Phillies. As a legitimate big league closer, Madson stands to make something in the neighborhood of $15 million.

Jimmy Rollins:

For a few reasons we can get into later articles, I will say that Rollins will not be wearing Phillies pinstripes in 2011.

Roy Oswalt:

The Phillies will decline the $16 million option for Oswalt next year and will buy him out for $2 million (which I already included in the payroll total). The Phillies may try to bring Oswalt back, but it won’t be for $16 million.

Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge:

These two are as good as gone.

What's left?

If the Phillies pay $15 million to Madson, it leaves them with $17.25 million to replace shortstop, fourth starter, left field, and middle relief. Let’s see what it might cost to fill each position.

Replacing Phillies free agents

Left field:

John Mayberry earned himself a starting spot in left field in 2012. Before Howard returns, we will probably see Francisco and a combination of bench players in left while Mayberry plays first base. The Phillies may grab a free agent bench guy to cover Howard's absence, but they probably won’t shop for full time left-fielder.
Additional cost: $0

Shortstop:

If the Phillies part ways with Jimmy Rollins, Freddy Galvis is the shortstop of the future. But he is probably still one year away, so the Phillies may look to sign someone like a Rafael Furcal or Edgar Renteria.
Additional cost: Around $5 million. On the flip side, keeping Rollins would cost upwards of $10 million a year.

Middle Reliever:

The Phillies don't have to go shopping to replace Lidge for now, especially if Jose Contreras is healthy next season. Whoever the Phillies do sign probably won't be a big name, anyway.
Additional cost: $0

#4 starter:

Remember a guy named Joe Blanton? He is still under contract and definitely a viable 4 or 5 starter. And Vance Worley pitched well enough to take the other spot, so the Phillies really don't need another starter. Kyle Kendrick is also available to start if anyone gets injured. If the Phillies choose to keep Oswalt, it will cost them about $10 million dollars in addition to the $2 million buyout. Obviously this has a huge impact on other moves the Phillies can make.
Additional cost: $0 or $10 million dollars.

The bottom line

Money left if Oswalt returns: $2.5 million

Money left if Oswalt does NOT return: $12.5 million

As you can see, $2.5 million doesn't give the Phillies much to play with, but letting Oswalt walk gives the Phillies quite a bit of flexibility. The Phillies have 5 starters, three three aces, and a decent (albeit young) bullpen, so I think the Phillies should focus their attention elsewhere. Let's just see how it plays out...

The death of Phillies postseason offense
by Scott Butler 10/20/11

I can’t help but look at the Cardinals and see who the Phillies once were in 2008. The 2008 Phillies can barely take out the garbage for the 2011 version, yet the ’08 Phillies ended their season with a parade down Broad Street while the current squad has already flown south for the winter.

I would like to follow the inspirational words of famous philosopher Mark McGuire who so eloquently stated, ”I'm not here to discuss the past... I'm here to be positive.”

But I just can’t help myself. I need to find out what happened to the Phillies magic.

What happened to the Phillies offense the last two postseasons?

The answer to this question is not like finding the Bermuda Triangle. Sure, the pitching could have been better, but the blame for two straight under performing seasons goes square on the shoulders of the Phillies offense. Five of the eight position players from 2008 are still here, but today’s offense is a shell of its former self.

The story of the last two postseasons is a dark and dreary tale in which the Phillies have declined in nearly every offensive category. The drop has been consistent and significant. Compared to the 2008 team, the 2011 Phillies offense dropped by 33 points in average, 79 points in OBP, 114 points in SLG, and 194 points in OPS.

But the comparison is not just 2008 vs. 2011. The real comparison is between the 2008/2009 World Series teams and the 2010/2011 teams.

Comparing the 2008/2009 Phillies with the 2010/2011 Phils

Let's compare the two groups starting with some basic stats:

The 2010/2011 Phillies did not produce base runners

Batting average
2008/2009 - .253
2010/2011 - .219

Walk percentage
2008/2009 - 1 per 8.5 PA (11.7%)
2010/2011 - 1 per 13.2 PA (7.6%)

On-base percentage
2008/2009 - .347
2010/2011 - .294

That's a drop of 34 points in average, 53 points in OBS, and 4.7 more plate appearances between walks. The Phillies have followed the equation of less hits + less walks = less base runners = less scoring chances = less runs. You can see why Ruben Amaro challenged the team to find a new approach. Not only were they not hitting, they were also undisciplined and were unable to manufacture any rallies. Equally as frightening was the Phillies lack of power:

The Phillies' power vanished

SLG
2008/2009 - .461
2010/2011 - .316

OPS
2008/2009 - .808
2010/2011 - .610

Xtra base hit percentage
2008/2009 - 1 per 9.3 AB (10.7%)
2010/2011 - 1 per 16.2 AB (6.2%)

HR percentage
2008/2009 - 1 per 21.6 AB (4.6%)
2010/2011 - 1 per 64.7 AB (1.5%)

That’s a drop of 145 points in slugging percentage, 198 points in OPS, 6.9 more at-bats between extra base hits, and 43.1 more at-bats between home runs. Less base runners and less power leads us to this:

The 2010/2011 Phillies did not knock in runs

RBI percentage
2008/2009 - 1 per 6.7 AB (14.8%)
2010/2011 - 1 per 9.4 AB (10.6%)

2.7 more at-bats between RBIs may not seem like much, but it is deadly in a five game series. Let's use the NLDS against the Cardinals (in which the Phillies had 164 at-bats) as an example.

The 2008/2009 Phillies would have knocked in 24.3 runs and the 2008/2009 Phils would have scored 17.4. That's nearly seven less runs. Considering that the Phillies lost by a total of three runs in games 2-5, seven runs is the difference between moving on and going home.

Why did the Phillies go home early the last two seasons? They didn't hit, didn't walk, didn't hit home runs or extra base hits, and they didn't knock in runs. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that out.

See below for all the stats since 2008:

Phillies Postseason Offense 2008-2011
  G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG OPS
2008 14 531 465 64 121 27 2 19 60 61 101 14 4 0.26 0.348 0.449 0.798
2009 15 568 485 82 120 24 5 25 81 68 113 11 2 0.247 0.345 0.472 0.817
2010 9 338 289 33 62 14 0 4 28 31 70 10 1 0.215 0.309 0.304 0.614
2011 5 176 164 21 37 7 1 3 20 8 29 2 3 0.226 0.269 0.335 0.604

First annual Phillies players of the year awards
by Scott Butler 10/27/11

The first annual PhilsBaseball Phillies Player of the Year awards. Sounds official, doesn't it? And it only took me three years to finally hand out Phillies awards. Better late than never, but not the best timing after the first round hanging by the Cardinals. As painful as the Phillies finish was, these awards are (mainly) for the regular season, and 102 wins is a pretty darn good season. Let's get right to it.

Robin Roberts Phillies Pitcher of the Year Award

Robin Roberts seemed the obvious choice for Phillies Pitcher of the Year. Roberts pitched the most games in a Phillies uniform (529) and ranks second in Phillies wins (234) to go along with a 3.46 ERA. I considered Jim Bunning who threw the perfect game on Father's Day, but he only played half his career with the Phillies and pitched in fewer games (226) than the amount of wins for Roberts.

Robin Roberts Phillies Pitcher of the Year Award winner: Roy Halladay

Doc won the Cy Young award last year and should finish a close second this year. Halladay finished with a team-high 19 wins, had the best ERA among the starters (2.35), and logged the most innings (233.2).

Halladay did have some competition in 2011 with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Cliff Lee was nearly identical in ERA (2.40) and innings (232.2) and not far behind in wins (17). But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Hamels had a career year and easily wins this award on nearly every team with a 2.79 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP. If he hadn't missed two starts due to injury, he would have competed with Halladay and Lee in innings.

Richie Ashburn Phillies Hitter of the Year Award

There are plenty of good Phillies hitters to choose from, but for me the competition came down to Mike Schmidt and Richie Ashburn. With three league MVP's for Schmidtty, I'll save Schmidt for that award (in a later article) and name the Phillies Hitter of the Year after Richie Ashburn.

Whitey had the second most games (1,794) and at-bats in Phillies history (7,122) in 12 years with the Phils. He batted .311, scored 1,114 runs, and stole 199 bases on his way to the Hall of Fame. Add to that 35 years in the broadcast booth and Ashburn spent 47 years in the Phillies organization. No wonder a section of CBP was named after him.

Richie Ashburn Phillies Hitter of the Year Award winner: Shane Victorino

Victorino finished first on the team in runs (87) and triples (16); second in hits (152) and steals (19); third in average (.279), doubles (27), home runs (17), OBP (.355), slugging (.491), and OPS (.847); and finished fourth in RBIs (61). Shane was truly an all-around player and possibly the most consistent hitter until the last month of the season.

Ryan Howard's 33 HR and 116 RBIs deserve mention, but his .253 average was simply too low. Howard also finished BELOW Victorino in slugging and OPS, so it's really no competition.

Hunter Pence is an honorable mention and played better than Victorino over the entire season, but he only spent a few months with the Phillies.

That does it for the pitcher and hitter of the year. In the next article I will tackle the Phillies MVP and Rookie of the Year.

Phillies MVP and Rookie of the Year awards
by Scott Butler 10/31/11

We already handed out our first awards for Phillies Pitcher of the Year and Phillies Hitter of the Year. Now we move on to the more subjective categories of MVP and Rookie of the Year.

Mike Schmidt Phillies MVP Award

Choosing whose name to place on the MVP award was a no-brainer considering Mike Schmidt won the NL MVP award three times in his career, while the Phillies club only won the award four other times in their history. Schmidt ranks first in Phillies history in games (2,404), at-bats (8,352), runs (1,506), hits (2,234), HR (548), RBI’s (1,595), and walks (1,507).

Mike Schmidt Phillies MVP Award winner: Shane Victorino

I mentioned earlier this season that Shane Victorino was the Phillies MVP, and at the end of the season the numbers still support it. I explained in last week’s article that Victorino finished first on the team in four categories (runs, triples, hits, and steals), third in six categories (average, doubles, home runs, OBP, slugging, and OPS), and fourth in one category (RBIs).

Victorino fits the definition of valuable, contributing in nearly every way possible. He was a table-setter as we expected, getting on base, stealing bases, and scoring runs. But Victorino was also a terrific run producer with high numbers of extra base hits and home runs, as well as a high slugging and OPS. Although I don’t feel he was quite as good defensively as prior years (at least in the NLDS he wasn’t), Victorino is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball.

Victorino is a true five tool player (excelling at hitting for average and power, baserunning, throwing ability, and fielding) who finds a way to help the team in many ways. That allows Charlie Manuel to put Shane anywhere in the lineup. No other player contributed with as many qualities as Victorino, and for that he is the Phillies MVP.

Ryan Howard Phillies Rookie of the Year Award

It feels kinda weird naming an award after a current player, but I didn’t have much of a choice. Just look at the long list of Phillies to win the award:

Jack Sanford (1957)
Dick Allen (1964)
Scott Rolen (1997)
Ryan Howard (2005)

Nobody knows who Sanford is (and if he ever even existed), so he’s cut. And you can kill me before I name anything after Scott Rolen. The only name left is Dick Allen, but his 204 homers just don’t measure up in my book.

Phillies Rookie of the Year Award candidates

This is the one award that had the most competition, as Worley, Mayberry, and Stutes all played well enough to win the award. Now to the contestants:

Michael Stutes was just another young minor league arm when the season began, but he developed into the Phillies seventh inning pitcher by year's end. Stutes threw 62 innings in 57 games, finishing with a 6-2 record and a 3.63 ERA. He ran into some difficulties in August, but easily earned himself a key spot in the Phillies bullpen in 2012.

John Mayberry was the feel good story of the year. After several years of splitting time between the majors and minors, Mayberry finally broke out of his shell. John had a tremendous spring training, but struggled early on in a fairly limited role and dropped to a season low .219 average on May 24th. He was sent to Lehigh Valley and seemed destined to remain there.

But when he returned in with a new stance and improved approach, Mayberry caught fire and hit .301 with 12 HR and 37 RBI in July through September. Mayberry finished with a .273 average, 15 HR, 49 RBIs, and ranked second on the Phillies with a .513 Slugging percentage and .854 OPS.

But there was a clear winner.

Ryan Howard Phillies Rookie of the Year Award winner: Vance Worley

Vance Worley was another run-of-the-mill minor league starters good enough to pitch in the big leagues, but not good enough to stay there. That all changed in 2011, as Worley started 21 games and posted an 11-3 record and a 3.01 ERA. Not only that, but the Phillies won 14 games in which Worley started, which was the second longest streak in Phillies history behind Steve Carlton's 15 consecutive wins.

Vance Worley solidified the Phillies starting rotation and may give the Phillies flexibility to let Oswalt walk and focus their attention elsewhere in 2012.

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