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Phillies Blog Articles - January 2012

Phillies look alikes
by Scott Butler 1/8/12

This is a boring time if you are a Phillies fan, so I thought it might be fun to play around with Phillies look alikes. Anyone from the Phillies organization is a possible target in the Phillies look alike game, but I left out any obviously embarrassing ones since this is just for fun.

Well, here are your

PHILLIES LOOK ALIKES

Placido Polanco - Enrico Colantoni

Placido Polanco and Enrico Colantoni
I don’t know why, but this one is hilarious.

Ben Francisco – Carlton Banks

Ben Francisco Carlton Banks
He may not be on the Phils anymore, but I couldn’t pass this up. Play some Tom Jones for Benny Fresh and see if he can dance as well as Carlton.

Chase Utley – Mike Richards

Chase Utley and Mike Richards
Talking about brothers, how about long lost brothers? Listen to their postgame comments and tell me they aren't related.

Jimmy Rollins - Sylvester Stalone

Jimmy Rollins and Sylvester Stalone
Is it just me or do these guys have the same jaws?

Roy Halladay – Chris Carpenter

Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter
Did you hear how Halladay saved a boy from an anaconda on his fishing trip with Chris Carpenter? Save one life, drown Chris Carpenter. Seems like a fair trade to me.

Cole Hamels - White Collar guy

Cole Hamels Matt Bomer White Collar
Especially with a nickname like Hollywood Hamels, Cole is a dead ringer for Neal on White Collar.

Carlos Ruiz - Phil Collins

Carlos Ruiz Phil Collins
Oh, this isn’t the Phillies weirdest song intro? How in the heck did Ruiz get stuck with “In the Air Tonight” anyway? I would bet my mortgage Ruiz has never listened to a Phil Collins song in his life.

Larry Anderson - Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs

Larry Anderson Buffalo Bill Silence of the Lambs
If you run into Larry, ask him to say, “It puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.”

Jim Jackson – Ned Flanders

Jim Jackson and Ned Flanders
Okaley Dokely!

Ryan Howard - Corey Howard

Ryan Howard and Corey Howard
Couldn’t find anyone for Ryan, so here is a picture of his fraternal twin brother Corey

Antonio Bastardo - Deshawn Jackson

Antonio Bastardo Desean Jackson
The look alike, both make less than a mil, and neither wants to come across the middle.

Roy Oswalt - Doogie Howser

Roy Oswalt and Doogie Howser

Roy Oswalt is really a doctor, but he plays a ballplayer on TV.

Charlie Manuel – Santa Claus

Charlie Manuel Santa
I don’t mean this as a joke because I love Charlie. He has the white hair, he’s jolly, and I bet he would kill as a mall Santa.

Bill Giles – Dave Thomas

Bill Giles and Dave Thomas
Mmmm...Wendy’s

Have any good Phillies look-alikes of your own? Just click Contact Us and drop me a line.

Remembering Ryan Madson
by Scott Butler 1/13/12

Ryan Madson did not die as the title may suggest, and no it isn’t time to go into baseball mourning, but Phillies fans lost a piece of themselves when Madson agreed to terms with the Reds. Madson landing somewhere else was an inevitability once the Phillies signed Papelbon, but it still hurts a little to see him go. After a successful career spent entirely in a Phillies uniform, Madson deserves a proper sendoff. So, here’s a recap of Ryan Madson’s career in Philadelphia.

Ryan Madson’s Phillies career

Born and raised in southern California, Madson was drafted out of high school by the Phillies in the 9th round of the 1998 MLB draft. A starter throughout his minor league career, Madson got his chance in the big leagues in 2004 as a reliever.

Madson had a terrific rookie campaign in which he posted a 2.34 ERA in 52 games, but he followed up with a less than stellar 4.14 ERA in 2005. Madson returned to his familiar role as a starter to begin the 2006 season, but after a 6.28 ERA in 17 starts the Phillies realized it was a failed experiment. So, back to the pen he went. Madson excelled as a reliever with a 3.01 ERA as the Phillies’ setup man from 2007-2010.

Madson was a central piece of the Phillies bullpen and a huge part of the Phillies 2008 World Series title. During the 2008 playoffs, Madson posted a 2.21 ERA in 11 games and found some extra juice in his fastball, hitting as much as 97mph on the radar gun.

By 2009, Madson developed into one of the game’s top setup men, but as good as he was in the eighth inning, he was equally as poor in the ninth. Charlie Manuel gave Madson plenty of chances to close in 2009 and 2010, but for whatever reason Madson did not hack it as a closer. To make matters worse, Ryan missed ten weeks in 2010 with a broken toe after he kicked a chair following a blown save in San Francisco.

The Phillies had so little faith in Madson to finish games, they picked Jose Contreras over Madson as the Phillies closer entering the 2011 season. But a season ending injury to Contreras gave Madson one last chance. He did not disappoint this time around, converting 32 of 34 saves and finishing with a 2.34 ERA.

The end of the Madson era

Who knows exactly what went down during the negotiations between the Phillies, Madson, and Scott Boras, but another Phillies contract was not in the books. The Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to a four year contract and Madson eventually settled for a one year contract with the Reds.

Madson finished his Phillies career with a 47-30 record, 3.59 ERA, and 52 saves. When all is said and done, Madson is the team's all-time leader in relief appearances (473) and 3rd in games pitched (491). As Matt Gelb pointed out, only two guys named Robin Roberts and Steve Carlton ever stood on the mound more times as a Phillie than Madson.

What can Phillies expect from Vance Worley in 2012?
by Scott Butler 1/19/12

Vance Worley’s emergence on the MLB scene was easily one of the nicest surprises for the 2011 Phillies. But what kind of story will unfold for Worley in 2012? Worley went from mediocre minor leaguer to dominant major leaguer overnight, going 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA in his first 11 starts with the Phillies. Then he came back to Earth and finished with a 4.17 ERA in his final 12 games (2 in relief). So which character will Vance Worley play in 2012? Jekyll or Hyde?

A tale of two halves for Vance Worley

In comparing Worley's first eleven games with his last twelve, even while his ERA was skyrocketing, in many ways Worley was improving.

His control numbers are one area that improved. Worley threw 63.6% of his pitches for strikes in his first 11 games and 65.2% in his last 12. His walks/9 decreased from 3.41 to 2.83, while his strikeouts per game rose from 6.69 to 9.85. That difference improved his strikeout to walk ratio from 2:1 (1.96) to nearly 4:1 (3.47).

If Worley was around the plate more, it stands to reason that hitters made more contact. But that was not the case. His contact percentage against went from 87.2% to 87.1% and their swing and miss percentage only changed from 43.1% to 41.6%.

Reasons for Worley's inflated ERA

If his strikeouts increased, walks decreased, and batters were making contact just as much, what caused his ERA to double?

One reason is a spike in his home run rate. Worley's home run/fly ball rate during his hot stretch was 2.6%, which is less than 3 home runs per 100 fly balls and way below the MLB average of 9.6%. Maybe Worley was effective at putting hitters off-balance to keep the ball in the yard, but it is impossible to maintain such an obscenely low rate.

A few percentage points makes a significant difference. If Worley had equaled the MLB average, he would have tossed 8 more home run balls. If each homer scored 1.5 runs, that equals 12 more runs and his ERA would have increased to 3.54.

Secondly, as Corey Seidman pointed out, Worley's line drive percentage increased by 16 percentage points. Line drives result in hits 73% of the time versus 23% for grounders, which might explain why his batting average against rose from .199 to .278. More line drives indicate players were seeing the ball better. Worley might have thrown the same amount of strikes, but hitters were making better contact on the balls they hit.

The luck factor

It is also quite possible that more homers, more line drives, and a higher ERA is more of a factor of luck than anything else. Three stats and some sabermetrics help account for the luck factor.

LOB (Left On Base)%
Worley's LOB was 79.9% in the first half and 76.2% in the second half, both just slightly higher than the MLB average of 72.5%. Worley's high LOB demonstrates his mental toughness and ability to handle adverse situations. It’s also good to see a reasonable number here, because too many weird things happen in the game of baseball to expect any pitcher to maintain an abnormally high rate.

BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play)
BABIP is just what it sounds like, the opponents batting average on balls hit between the white lines. For the game of inches that baseball is, anything drastic on either side should raise a red flag. Worley's BABIP went from .268 in his first 11 to .304 in his last 12. Both are within the range of the MLB average of .291 and it shows how his fortune may have changed throughout the year.

FIP (Fielding Indeterminate Pitching)
FIP is supposed to be the ultimate non-luck stat, determining what a pitcher's ERA would be in a luck-neutral environment by excluding defense and game situations. It theoretically tells you what a pitcher’s ERA should be. Worley's FIP in his first 11 games was 3.36 and his late FIP was 3.29.

Vance Worley's FIP seems to validate the rest of his numbers. We saw that even though his ERA skyrocketed, batters weren’t behaving much differently at the plate and Worley was walking less and striking out more. His FIP reflected that, suggesting that he was much more consistent than his ERA indicated. At the end of the day, Worley's fortune evened out over the entire season and his overall ERA of 3.01 was close to his FIP of 3.32.

What does this all mean for Worley in 2012?

Worley maintained a consistent approach of throwing strikes and trusting the defense behind him. As much as we might be inclined to focus on his ballooning ERA and assume hitters figured him out, most of the stats don't endorse that idea. There is no reason to expect Vance Worley can't replicate his performance on the mound next season. If he brings the same game next season, we should see an ERA around 3.50.

However...

If Worley wants to remain in the big leagues, he needs another pitch. Worley caught batters looking on his two-seamer that ran back across the plate for called third strikes, but he didn't induce many whiffs for strike three. In order to survive, Worley must find a put away pitch. He needs a pitch with some bite like a slider or something that can fool them like a nasty curve or a changeup.

Hitters will adjust to Worley. Now he needs to adjust to them.

Chase Utley is a natural lefty
by Scott Butler 1/23/12

Chase Utley has been hiding a deep, dark secret for nearly his entire life, a baseball disability no one could ever know. Chase Utley's secret? He is left-handed.

It’s articles like these that separate bloggers from real journalists. Thing is, I have absolutely no evidence to back up my claim. I searched far and wide and came up blank. In fact, one story shows that Utley would probably be batting right-handed today if it wasn’t for his dad’s laziness.

But hear me out…there is still good reason to believe that Chase Utley is naturally left-handed.

Proof (OK, just guesses) why Chase Utley is a lefty

Just look at the way Utley throws. It’s weird, right? There is no reason why a man with such physical gifts should be such an awkward thrower. I contend that it makes more sense that Utley is so physically gifted, he’s able to look fairly normal throwing with the wrong hand. Try it sometime and you'll know what I mean.

It also takes Utley way too long to release the ball to first on a routine play and he double pumps on nearly every grounder. Chase doesn’t look like the kind of guy who is willing to take any play for granted like that. So why does he do it? Because he needs to send a signal to his brain before he can throw. Throwing should require no conscience thought whatsoever, but Chase needs to remind his brain if he wants his arm to cooperate.

Then the 2009 World Series exposed him for what he really is. Chase hid his illness quite skillfully during his career, but World Series pressure finally exacerbated the issue. In pressure situations, the best therapy is generally to rely on your natural ability and instincts. Unfortunately, Utley’s instincts told him to use the other hand!

The question begs to be asked: why didn’t Chase throw left-handed to begin with? Glad you asked.

Why does Utley throw right-handed?

A hard nosed, intense player like Utley wants to be in the middle of the action as much as possible, meaning he has three choices: catcher, shortstop, or second base. My guess is that his speed eliminated catching, so he was left with shortstop and second. Problem is, lefties can’t play middle infield because they need to pivot in order to throw to first and it takes too long.

So Utley had to fake it.

He obviously tried shortstop, the quarterback of the defense, first. Surprisingly enough, that lasted all the way through high school. But Utley was such a tremendous athlete, he made it work and he’s been fooling people ever since. Well, you don’t fool me, Chase.

I would bet if you followed Chase around you would see him write, draw, paint, and eat with his left hand. He probably even, ehem, wipes with his left hand. He can keep knowledge of that last one to himself.

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