PhilsBaseball.com www.philsbaseball.com
Phillies Blog Articles - September 2012

Hustle is Juan Pierre's middle name
by Scott Butler 9/1/12

There is one topic Phillies fans want to talk about right now and I would love to dive into the Jimmy Rollins situation, but I just don’t have it in me to handle the situation delicately and my stress starts to rise just thinking about it.

Instead, let's turn the tables and talk about another Phillies player who all Dad’s should point out to their young sons.  His name is Juan Pierre.  Stories abound about Juan Pierre's professionalism and amazing dedication to the game of baseball:

Bob Brookover describes Pierre’s daily routine which begins around 3:30 p.m. with a short game of catch with Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin before bunting practice commences. Extra work for most players is standard practice for the 34-year-old veteran. Many might feel bunting practice for one of the best bunters in the game is excessive, but not Pierre.

"It's more of a feel thing to stay sharp," he said recently. "People say I'm a good bunter. I think I'm a decent bunter. But if I go without bunting for a while, it will show up in the game. I'm not a natural."

MLB Network followed Pierre during Spring Training in 2011 during his morning ritual when he was with the White Sox.  Each day he would arrive around 5 a.m. to begin a vigorous workout and practice routine which oftentimes meant waiting for the stadium crew to open the facility.

Even yesterday, Sam Donnellon provided the following conversation with Pierre who was once again caught during his 3:30 p.m. practice:

"Do you do this every day?" Pierre was asked. "Or only when you're playing?"

"I'm playing?" he asked. "The lineup's been posted?"

"Yes," he was told.

"Oh, wow!" he said. "Thank you for that."

In just thirteen words, Juan Pierre encapsulated what makes him so special.  Read it over again, because it captures wonderfully the almost idyllic image of what we all yearn for in our ballplayers.  It’s as if he appeared from behind the cornstalks.  Doctorlike dedication, armylike work ethic, childlike exuberance, all in one package.

It appears to be a simple formula for Juan Pierre: you put in your work, you do it because you love it, and you go hard all the time.

As we have seen a few times recently, Charlie Manuel's only two rules are two show up on time and to hustle.  Hustle is word with quite a different meaning to Juan Pierre.  Hustle to most players on a routine play means a decent jog on their way down the line, but for Pierre each pop up deserves a full sprint.  Watch Pierre run down the line on any grounder or pop-up and the difference will be immediately evident.

I’ll admit I’m not impartial when it comes to Juan Pierre.  Growing up as a small kid with Muscular Dystrophy who never played more than the required two innings in the field and one chance at the plate, I idolized the little guys like Juan Pierre.

But it's more than just a tremendous work ethic for Juan Pierre. He is also a mentor. Focus on Pierre at the ballpark and you are likely to see him talking baseball with whoever is willing to listen. And, oddly enough, the most likely target of his mentorship is the man who has replaced him in the starting lineup. Pierre seems to have taken a keen interest in Domonic Brown, who essentially stole Pierre's job. Rather than become embittered at the almost 26-year-old, Pierre seized the opportunity to coach a player with the opportunity for a great career.

The beauty of Juan Pierre is that he doesn't seek a camera following him as he hustles down the line, a reporter following his practice routine, or a fan catching him in the dugout coaching his replacement. Pierre has made a King's ransom throughout his career, but you get the feeling he would do it all for free and there is a good chance he would find a way to make that possible.

There won't be any shrines for Juan Pierre when his career is finished, but his hard work has earned him a place in Major League Baseball for thirteen years and counting, and that's a pretty cool thing.

So, if you bring your son to the ballpark, focus his eyes on the scrawny guy with his hat under his helmet so he can see the player who embodies everything that is right with this glorious game of baseball.

Phillies review: August 2012
by Scott Butler 9/2/12

Phillies August Storyline

Four months of bad baseball, a sweep at the hands of the Braves, and a 45-57 record made the Phillies sellers at the trading deadline, and within the first week of August Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Joe Blanton were all gone. August was the Phillies' most successful month, but it was probably too little, too late. Essentially out of the playoff race, August was more for showcasing future talent than winning ballgames.

Phillies August Event Recap

The Phillies won two of three in Washington to begin the month and then went 5-4 in a nine-game home stand against the Diamondbacks, Braves, and Cardinals, including a complete game shutout by Cole Hamels. The final game of the home stand featured a game-tying three run homer from Erik Kratz and a walk-off infield single from Juan Pierre.

In the next series in Miami, Hamels tossed another complete game shutout and the Phils took the series against the Marlins. The Phillies then traveled to Milwaukee and split a four-game series. Up next was the two best teams in baseball and the Phillies provided some hope for the future by splitting the three game series with the Reds and sweeping the Washington Nationals.

The Phillies lost the final home series of the month against the Mets and finished with a bit of drama as Jimmy Rollins was benched on August 30 after failing to run out a pop up exactly two weeks after pulling a similar stunt in Milwaukee. The Phillies completed the month with a win over the Braves in which Erik Kratz hit a game-tying solo homer in the ninth and John Mayberry hit a game-winning three-run homer in the tenth.

Phillies August Win/Loss Totals

Record: 17-12
Home record: 11-8
Road record: 6-4
Top winning streak: 4
Top losing streak: 3
Series record: 5-2-2
Began month: 46-57 - last place - 15.5 games behind 1st place Nationals & 1 game behind 4th place Marlins
Finished month: 63-69 - 3rd place – 17.5 games behind 1st place Nationals & 11 games behind 2nd place Braves

Phillies August Highlights

- Ryan Howard hits game winning single on August 5 against Diamondbacks
- Cole Hamels pitches back-to-back complete game shutouts on Aug 7 and 13
- Erik Kratz hits game tying three run homer and Juan Pierre hits walk-off infield single on August 12 against Cardinals.
- Kyle Kendrick pitches 8 shutout innings against Brewers on August 19.
- Phils win with Mayberry walk-off single in 11th on Aug 23 against Reds.
- Phillies sweep Nationals at home from Aug 24-26.
- Tyler Cloyd makes MLB debut on August 29 when Cole Hamels calls out sick with stomach issues.
- Jimmy Rollins gets benched on August 30 after failing to run out a pop up.

Interesting Phillies notes

- Phillies sell out streak ends on August 6 after 257 straight sellouts
- Mike Lieberthal inducted into Phillies Wall of Fame on Aug 10
- Cliff Lee notched his first home win on August 26.
- Upset that the Phillies sent him to the minors instead of placing him on the DL, Michael Schwimer reported six days late to Lehigh Valley and asked for a second opinion on his sore elbow.
- Darin Ruf broke Ryan Howard's single season home run record at Reading with his 38th home run. Ruf also tied a record with 20 home runs in August.
- Steven Lerud, with a career .221 minor league batting average, gets called up as Phillies backup catcher.

Phillies Injuries

-8/7 - Ruiz placed on 15-day DL with plantar fasciitis
-8/13 - Nate Schierholtz placed on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured right big toe
-8/24 - Brian Schneider was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain.
-8/29 - Phillies announced that Vance Worley will undergo season ending elbow surgery

Phillies Season Totals and NL Ranks through August

Phillies Team Hitting Totals through August
Average: .256 (9th)
Runs: 548 (10th)
Runs/game: 4.15 (10th)
HR: 131 (9th)
BB: 351  (14th)
SO: 878 (1st)
OBP: .315 (12th)
SLG: .400 (9th)

Phillies Team Pitching through August
ERA: 4.01 (10th)
ER: 529
IP: 1,188.1

Phillies Starting Pitching through August
ERA: 3.88 (7th)
ER: 638
IP: 854.2

Phillies Relief Pitching through August
ERA: 4.34 (12th)
ER: 161
IP: 333.2

Phillies August Totals and NL Ranks

Phillies August Team Hitting
Average: .248 (11th)
Runs: 112 (12th)
Runs/game: 3.86 (8th)
HR: 30 (4th)
BB: 86 (14th)
SO: 202  (1st)
OBP: .316 (10th)
SLG: .394 (10th)

Phillies August Team Pitching
ERA: 3.46  (3rd)
ER: 101
IP: 263.0
BB/9: 2.26 (2nd)
SO/9: 8.18 (3rd)

Phillies August  Starting Pitching
ERA: 3.33  (2nd)
ER: 70
IP: 189.1
BB/9: 1.62 (1st)
SO/9: 7.08 (6th)

Phillies August Relief Pitching
ERA: 3.79 (T-8th)
ER: 31
IP: 73.2
BB/9: 3.91 (14th)
SO/9: 11.00 (1st)

Phillies August Win/Loss Chart

Phillies August 2012 Win/Loss Chart

Peter Gammons: three or four more really productive years from Utley
by Scott Butler 9/4/12

How to explain Chase Utley's 2012 season? After resting his sore knees over the entire offseason, Utley led most people to believe that he would be ready to go in 2012. Even general manager Ruben Amaro assumed everything was going well. In January, Amaro said, "He's doing good. He's feeling well."

As late as mid-March, Utley had not played a single inning in a single Grapefruit League game and had not fielded a ground ball in weeks, yet Amaro was still convinced he would be ready. "I don't think there's any chance he won't be ready Opening Day," Amaro Jr. said on March 15. "We fully expect him to be ready Opening Day."

Well, Utley wasn't ready for Opening Day. He finally joined the Phillies on June 26 and his knees appeared to be such a delicate issue that he would likely need regular days off throughout the rest of the season. Yet, miraculously, Utley played in 30 consecutive games from July 16 through August 19. Now it is hard to see evidence of any injury whatsoever.

All along we all assumed it was just a knee problem, but one guy attributes much of Utley's issues to his hip surgery. Peter Gammons had an interesting take on the whole Utley situation when he was on WIP a couple weeks ago.

"I think we all thoroughly underestimated, I know he did, how difficult it is to come back from that kind of hip surgery.  I talked to people from Harvard Medical School a year ago about it and they said…the procedure that he and Alex Rodriguez and Mike Lowell and some others had is only about 12 to 14 years old."

"Nobody still knows exactly what to expect after you have that kind of operation and it’s clear that…once you’ve had that operation you naturally change your running gate. When you change the running gate you’ve had since you started to become athletic as a teenager then that affects other parts of your body. A-Rod’s broken down in about six different places, Utley’s broken down a couple different places, Lowell just couldn’t play again."

"I think that he’s evolving except that he’s in such great shape that I think we still may see three or four really productive years out of him. Especially we all know how the competitive juices burn with him, he just he boils at all times."

Pretty revealing comments if you ask me. And did you catch the second to last sentence? Peter Gammons expects not one more good seasons or a couple decent seasons, but three or four "really productive" seasons. I don't know if I buy it yet, but like what Peter is selling.

Somebody is Gonna Get Fired
by Scott Butler 9/6/12

Sometimes it can be easy to fall into a trap of reading too much into comments.  Other times it doesn’t require any reading skills at all.

"We want to get better," Manuel said recently. "How are we going to do that? What we got, is that enough? I'm not just talking about players; I'm talking about everything, the whole picture. It is tough when you look at it."

By the whole picture Charlie Manuel means the coaching staff and by get better he means fire a Phillies coach.  A little logic suggests that is all he could possibly mean.  So, unless Charlie has some major changes in store for hot dog vendors or the clubhouse cleaning crew in 2013, one of the Phillies coaches will most likely be fired after the season.

"Sometimes in this game, there comes a time when changes are good," Manuel said. "Who it is, it doesn't matter.”  Sounds like a little coach’s roulette to me.

"You have to take anything into consideration that you think will help you. Trying stuff sometimes is definitely not bad. That's how I look at it."

My money is on Greg Gross, but maybe Charlie has his mind set on the guy who Hunter Pence squashed.

Phillies put down the Vanimal
by Scott Butler 9/9/12

Vance Worley’s season is over before it needs to be.  Shouldn’t that be big news?

Vance Worley was set to have off season surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, but the Phillies decided to have the surgery right now for, well, no real reason at all.  You probably paid the announcement little attention due to the Phillies masterful job of burying the story.

See, the Vance Worley story just so happened to come out on the same day that Utley was “unexpectedly” caught fielding ground balls, Cole Hamels developed a sudden gastrointestinal illness, Tyler Cloyd made his major league debut, and a day before Rollins was benched for not hustling.  Awfully big coincidence or a giant cover-up?  Hmmm, that’s actually pretty juicy.

It’s doubtful Oliver Stone will be directing a movie based on this conspiracy, but at the bottom of all the rubble is a troubling development which needs to be addressed.

Worley could have the surgery after the season with no problem at all. He would not miss any time in Spring Training or the regular season and the loose bodies were not affecting his pitching this season, so there is no physical justification for having the surgery now.  It certainly wasn't a problem for Cole Hamels or Scott Eyre who both had the procedure after the season with no setbacks.

So why do the surgery now?

Worley has claimed all along that the loose bodies in his elbow had nothing to do with his recent poor performance.  In one my favorite quotes all year, when asked after a rough outing if the elbow was an issue, he said, "Quit crying. It is what it is. I'm just not locating when I need to get the outs. That's why I'm getting hurt."  But after the Phillies' decision, Worley responded, "I mean, the way I've been pitching the last seven or eight games, it's almost like it needed to be done." 

Wait, it is a formula of pitch poorly, get surgery?  I’m a little confused. 

Let's hit up Rich Dubee for some clarification. Hey Dubs, why is Vance Worley going on the DL?  “His demeanor has changed. He doesn't look right. He lost that good look on the mound."

That’s why he went on the DL?  Because his demeanor changed?  Maybe you didn’t understand the question, Rich. 

Let me rephrase. If he doesn’t need the surgery now and off season surgery won’t be a setback, why do it now?  "His demeanor was different.  His personality was different. His mound presence was extremely changed. And those aren't good things. Those aren't things we want engrained in him for the rest of his career for sure. It was a good time to stop him and get him straightened up."

Straightened up?  Huh?  So when the going gets tough the tough gets…placed on the DL?

Dubee is not trying to sideswipe the question.  In fact, nobody from the Phillies is trying to use the injury as an excuse for his recent pitching and that is exactly the problem.  According to a line in The Mental ABC’s of Pitching, "If you want to know who I am, watch me when things aren't going my way."  Especially on a team in which wins and losses don’t matter much, this is the perfect time to observe how Worley handles the first real adversity he has faced in his Major League career.

Which brings us to the haunting aspect of the situation: the Phillies watched Worley when things were not going his way and they did not like what they saw. Worley had a 3.01 ERA in 2011 and a 2.92 ERA through June this season, but his final 11 starts yielded a 5.80 ERA and .350 batting average against. His struggles increased over his last five games in which he posted a 6.75 ERA, pitched six or more innings just once, and averaged 4.8 innings per start.

Equally as alarming is the notion that the league has finally caught up to Vance Worley. Midway through his second season, it seemed like Worley might have avoided the dreaded "sophomore slump." After 44 games in 2011 and 2012, Worley was an impressive 17-12 with a more than respectable 2.92 ERA. 44 games is plenty of time, one would think, for teams to have enough video and charts on Worley to figure him out. As it turns out, maybe 44 games was exactly enough time.

Hopefully there is more to Vance's elbow issues than the Phillies are letting on, but that is almost besides the point. Composure and demeanor is an enormous factor in the success or failure of a pitcher, and it seemed that Worley's mental toughness is what allowed him to enjoy such success in the first place. Without his mental edge, Worley is a just another pitcher with below average velocity, mediocre stuff, and pedestrian control.

We can only hope that Sir Vancelot has not simply reached the same inevitable shelf life like that of his predecessors before him like JA Happ and Brandon Duckworth...

The Darin Ruf era begins
by Scott Butler 9/11/12

He is finally here.  The Great Dambino, The Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruf.  We have now entered The Darin Ruf era.

Last night, September 10, 2012, Darin Ruf’s Major League Baseball career unofficially officially began.  Two months ago, 99 out of 100 Phillies fans could literally bump into him in wearing his Reading Phillies uniform with the name Ruf stitched on the back and still not recognize him. But now, Babe Ruf, as his teammates now call him (apparently they, too, just noticed him) is now a household name in Philadelphia.

The 26-year-old first baseman made a name for himself when he tied Sammy Sosa’s professional baseball record with 20 home runs in August to cap off an incredible season in which he broke Ryan Howard’s Reading Phillies record with 38 regular-season homers.  His 38 bombs and 104 RBI’s were tops in the Eastern League and his .317 average fell 24 points shy of earning him a Triple Crown. 

It bares repeating.  Darin Ruf tied a PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL RECORD FOR HOME RUNS IN A MONTH and NEARLY WON THE TRIPLE CROWN.  So, why have we not heard of this guy before?

Ryan Howard’s name leaked into minor league discussions years before he stepped foot on the Citizens Bank turf, so why not Darin Ruf?

I compared their stats and discovered they are closer than you might think.  Check it out.

Howard Career vs. Ruf Career
  G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS IBB
Howard 515 2180 1875 285 565 110 11 112 404 253 588 .301 .389 .551 .940 40
Ruf 458 1886 1632 257 498 136 7 67 283 185 337 .305 .386 .520 .907 4

Their career averages and on-base percentages are nearly identical, but Howard separates himself in the home run and RBI departments.  Ruf hit 45 less homers and 121 less RBI's, but he also notched 26 more doubles. Replacing many of Howard’s homers with two-baggers explains why their slugging percentage is close but their RBI’s are not.

A similar story plays out when comparing Howard’s 2004 season and Ruf’s 2012 season.  Folklore would suggest that Ruf was Howard's equal since he bested Howard’s Reading record of 37 home runs.  But his “record” is nearly as misleading as anything you will hear from the upcoming Romney/Obama debates.  As Ruf himself mentioned, “I think he (Howard) had 30 fewer games and had just as many (homers) as I did, then he went to triple A." 

Pretty close, Darin. Howard’s 37 homers came in 37 less games and the Big Piece went on blast another 9 more in AAA and two more in the big-leagues for a total of 48 total home runs in 2004 compared to Ruf’s 38.  Ruf is also two years older than Howard was in 2004.

Howard 2004 vs. Ruf 2012
  Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Howard 2004 24 131 560 485 94 141 28 1 46 131 60 166 .291 .380 .637 1.017
Ruf 2012 25 139 584 489 93 155 32 1 38 104 65 102 .317 .408 .620 1.028

This is not to belittle the accomplishments of Darin Ruf.  38 home runs in 102 games is great in any league and 20 home runs in a month shows the potential power this kid could provide.  But it’s important to point out that Ruf hit more homers in that one month than he had in any entire season prior to that.

So, why was Ruf a ghost until this season? Because chicks dig the long ball, that's why.  Ruf only hit 29 home runs in his previous three seasons combined (all in single-A), making him more akin to a Raul Ibanez than a Ryan Howard. Doubles are nice, but they won’t get you on as many Wheaties boxes as 38 homers.  Ruf might set a rookie home run record next season, but if history means anything, he is just as likely to hit 40 home runs as he is to hit 10.

Regardless of how he remained hidden in the minors, a few Citizens Bank Park moon shots will quickly erase his life of anonymity.

Q&A with Matt Yallof from MLB Network
by Scott Butler 9/14/12

If you lived in the Philadelphia area over the past decade and love baseball, there is no doubt you are familiar with the name Matt Yallof.  Matt was an anchor and reporter at Comcast Sportsnet from 2000 to 2006 and a regular host of Phillies Post Game Live.  After a stint in New York as the primary studio host for SportsNet NY from 2006 tMatt Yallofo 2008, he joined MLB Network and has been there ever since.  Matt now co-hosts The Rundown with Lauren Shehadi on MLB Network weekdays from 2-5.

Matt Yallof was always one of my favorites on Comcast Sportsnet, because it was evident when he hosted Phillies Post Game Live that he was a baseball guy. He gave the impression that he would stretch 30 minutes into two hours if he was able. For a baseball nerd like myself, it doesn't get any better. That is why it came as little surprise when MLB Network grabbed him.

I had the chance to catch up with Matt to learn a little more about him and a few of his thoughts on the Phillies.

Matt, it was clear from your days at CSN that you love the game of baseball, so working at MLB Network must be a dream come true for you.  How has your experience been at MLB Network?

MLB Network absolutely is a dream job, but it’s not just about baseball.  It’s also how the place is run that makes it special.  It’s the combination of the content and the people I work with and their passion that makes it so great. It's as good as it gets here. This place is air tight.

What is a typical day for Matt Yallof?

Up until one year ago I never really had a day I would call typical.  Unless you are covering a team as a beat writer, no two days are alike.  You’re in the clubhouse one day, preparing for a post game show the next, and hosting an afternoon show the following day.

I would have to say this is the first job in over twenty years of working in this business that I have had typical days.

Typical now is hosting The Rundown Monday through Friday.  We have a meeting each morning and then need to fill three live hours.  You may not realize it, but three live hours is about as much as any show on any network. It's a lot of research, reading, writing, and phone calls. Then it's a show for three hours. You need to treat it like a Soap Opera and you’re just filling out trends. Trends like right now with the run the Phillies are on. It’s really all out.

When I go home, I’m working with my feet on an Ottoman watching baseball.  I’ll see a home run or a great play and then call somebody with an idea for the next day’s show.

So, you must have baseball on your mind 24 hours a day.

Pretty much, yeah.  But even if I didn’t have this job I would probably be thinking about it 23 hours a day.

Before MLB Network you also worked for sports stations in Philadelphia and New York.  Be honest, who did you root for growing up?

My family was all Brooklyn Dodgers fans, but when I grew up in Long Island as a kid I loved the Mets.  I’d be coaching baseball and then heading out to the ballpark for twenty games a year at Shea.

How, then, were you able to cover the rival Phillies for seven years?

When I got older I moved around a bit and the truth is, the longer I worked around sports, you get to see the inner workings and meet the players and the coaches and my fandom kind of waned. But I really enjoyed my time with the Phillies.  I got to cover a team I grew up hating.

What can you tell us about what led you to Comcast Sportsnet in Philadelphia and how did it prepare you for your current role at MLB Network?

Here’s the deal. I don’t want to get all Zen on you because that’s not me at all, but every job prepares you for the next. There is a link between my first job and this job. 

Comcast Sportsnet was great for me because for the first time I was in contact with Major League Baseball on a daily basis.  That was a tremendous help.

Some would say that outside of playing baseball for a living, covering Major League Baseball is the next best thing.  What does it take to make it to the top in the tough world of sports broadcasting?

I’m definitely not at the top. There’s always someone better and it will always be that way.

What it comes down to is desire, passion, patience, and taking advantage of every opportunity.  Believe it’s what you want to do and that you are capable.  You also need a lot of luck, but I’m a big believer that you make your own luck.

On to some baseball now, in particular the Phillies.  The Phillies were 14 games under .500 as recently as July 13.  How the heck are they now in the Wild Card race?

Early on, the Phillies had some bad breaks, a bad bullpen, and two big bats missing.  Talent tends to show itself over 162, and it has shown itself a lot with the Phillies in the last couple of weeks.  The Phillies are not a panicky type of team at all. In fact they might be over confident. 

They are as cool as they come. When you speak to Chase Utley you wonder if he has a pulse. Then he goes on the field and he’ll kill you.  He’s my favorite player today.

Another reason the Phillies are still in it is that the Phils maintained their pitching. Ruben could have dealt Lee, but he didn’t. Pitching still wins.

Do the Phillies have a chance if they reach the post season?

Can the Phillies still win? Absolutely. If they get in, with this pitching staff, of course they do.  Will Halladay be favored in a one game playoff? Absolutely.

Care to predict the World Series?

This is just for fun, so let's say it's the Rangers and the Giants. But there is one little caveat. If the Rays get in they could do some damage.

Many thanks to Matt for taking the time to chat with us.  Be sure to check out Matt and his co-host Lauren Shehadi on The Rundown every weekday from 2-5 ET on MLB Network. The Rundown features look-ins of live games in progress, highlights, news, updates and interviews with players, general managers and correspondents throughout MLB.
 
You can also hit up Matt on Twitter at @MattYallofMLB

Charlie Manuel does it again
by Scott Butler 9/26/12

Barring a collapse of epic proportions, the final eight regular season Phillies games will be the final eight games of the entire season. As painful as that might be, this team deserves a lot of credit for making the postseason even a remote possibility.

The Phillies reached 14 games under .500 after losing the first game after the all-star and did not quit.

They traded Victorino and Pence at the July 31 trading deadline and traded Joe Blanton soon after and did not quit.

They blew a 4 run ninth inning lead on September 2nd to fall to six games under .500 and did not quit.

Even when the Phillies lost three of four to the 105 loss Astros they did not quit.

The recent two losses to the Braves might have ended any playoff hopes, but they unlikely will cause quit in the Phillies.

It says a lot about the character of the team, the talent that still exists, their desire to win, and their refusal to accept losing.

It also says a lot about the manager. The Phillies are 41-26 (.612) since the all-star break and improved from twelve games below .500 to two games above .500. Such a turnaround was no accident, either. Throughout Charlie Manuel's tenure, his Phillies teams play for him down the stretch. No matter what. In his nearly eight seasons as Phillies skipper, Charlie Manuel's teams have a .604 winning percentage (394-258) after the all-star break.

This will be the second time Charlie watched his general manager sell at the trading deadline (2006 and 2012). Those teams were a combined twenty games under .500 (84-104) prior to the deadline and thirty games over .500 (79-49) after the trades.

Charlie Manuel is not the perfect manger and has plenty of shortcomings, but his teams always find a way to win. Wins are the only thing that counts and Charlie has proven to be pretty good at it.

That's why 2012 may actually be Charlie's greatest accomplishment. Just look at the Phillies 2012 win/loss chart.

Phillies 2012 Win/Loss Chart

With all the injuries and minor leaguers filling the bullpen, outfield, and infield, he somehow managed to go 41-25 after their lowest point and improved from 14 games below .500 to two games above. Not bad.

Utley at third base? Just look at Ryan Zimmerman
by Scott Butler 9/27/12

Chase Utley can be quite the awkward bastard on tosses to first base. His throwing motion is so strange that I will never be fully convinced that Utley isn't a natural lefty. If he can't throw to second base, who would be stupid enough to put him at third base? I'll answer that question with another question: have you seen Ryan Zimmerman?

It's hard not to notice the parachutes Ryan Zimmerman sends from third base. It is a strange side-arm, nearly underhand motion you might use if you were ordered to safely throw an egg onto a pillow from 127 feet. It is almost embarrassing to watch a professional athlete soft tossing pop-ups from third. If that is what he does with routine grounders, just imagine the disaster on anything not hit directly at him.

Herein lies an intriguing peculiarity and a reason to possibly see Chase Utley manning the hot corner someday: Zimmerman has no problem on the bang-bang plays. Watch him charge a dribbler or range to his left for a ball in the hole and you can see why he owns a 2009 Gold Glove. Time is the issue with Zimmerman, and the less he has the better he is. Which brings us to the only reason we would give two craps, which is how it applies to Chase Utley.

Maybe Zimmerman suffers from a similar syndrome as Chase. It certainly would explain why Utley double and triple pumps before releasing two-foot throws. He just has too much damn time. As long as Utley does not have time to think and can rely on instinct he seems to have no issues.

But...it is a long throw from third base and balls come a lot quicker at than they do at second base. Just because Polanco made a seamless transition to third does not mean the same will be true for Utley. Don't forget that Polanco has two Gold Gloves at second.

But as Jim Carrey said in Dumb and Dumber, "so you're telling me there's a chance." If Utley was somehow competent at third, it would open up a spot for Galvis at second, allow Frandsen to be a utility guy, and maybe save Utley's knees from potential disaster.

So, next time you guffaw at Zimmerman, just think, that could be Chase Utley.

Impact of bullpen on Phillies team success
by Scott Butler 9/29/12

In addition to officially ending the Phillies postseason chances, the Marlins walk-off run against Josh Lindblom in the ninth inning last night was a friendly reminder of the importance of the bullpen.

One of the big reasons the Phillies entered postseason discussions in the first place was the huge improvement of the bullpen. The Phillies bullpen ERA was 4.75 before the all-star break and 2.96 after the all-star break. Better yet, their bullpen ERA was 4.91 on July 8 and 2.74 since then.

To put that into perspective, since July 8 the Phillies bullpen has surrendered more than two less runs (2.17) per nine innings. With the bullpen averaging 2.6 innings per game, it is roughly the equivalent of allowing one extra run every other game. The Phillies as a team have scored 666 runs this season and allowed 665 runs for a run differential of +1. Had they posted a 2.74 bullpen ERA over the entire season, they would have decreased their earned runs allowed by 54 runs from 177 to 123, giving the Phillies a run differential of +55 which would rank sixth in the National League.

The recent turnaround is even more dramatic. Since Sep 3, the Phillies bullpen ERA is 2.07. Run that over a full season and the Phillies' run differential becomes +85 and fourth best in the NL. Not to say that anyone could or should have expected such results, rather, it indicates the bullpen's potential impact on a team.

The impact is more than just run differential. The bullpen affects team confidence, pressure placed on starters and hitters, overall team morale, and, most importantly, wins and losses. The Phillies record was 38-51 (.427) at the bullpen's lowest point, which was just one game after the team's lowest point at 14 games under .500. Since then, the Phillies are 40-28 (.588). And in the bullpen's greatest stretch from Sep 3 until Sep 25, the Phillies were 14-6.

In a sense, a team's success can be predicted by the success or failure of their bullpen, regardless of what the rest of the team does. In games in which the Phillies bullpen allowed zero runs (excluding complete games), the Phillies are 50-29 (.633). In games in which the bullpen allowed just one run, the Phillies are 11-15. In games in which they they allow one or more runs, the Phils are 23-50 (.315). That is not to say that the bullpen has more of an impact than starting pitching, but it goes to show just how slim the margin can be. See for yourself.

Phillies Bullpen Splits
Bullpen ER Record Win Pct Bullpen ER Record Win Pct
0       50-29 .633
1 11-15 .423 1+ 23-50 .315
2 5-13 .278 2+ 12-36 .25
3 5-12 .294 3+ 7-23 .233
4 2-3 .400 4+ 2-11 .152
5 0-5 .000 5+ 0-8 .000
6 0-2 .000 6+ 0-3 .000
7 0-1 .000 7+ 0-1 .000

The above results show why in my mind the single biggest reason for the Phillies disappointing 2012 season is the bullpen. As awful as this season has been, a fairly reliable bullpen might have been enough to put the Phillies in the playoffs.

Jonathan Papelbon did a good job for the Phillies this season, but the results show how insignificant he was in comparison to the ineptitude of the rest of the bullpen. Ruben Amaro sealed the Phillies coffin when he elected to make Papelbon the richest reliever in Major League History and take his chances in his existing bullpen and cheap investments like Chad Qualls and Dontrelle Willis.

Relief pitchers can be as unpredictable as nudity in scary movies, but I feel Ruben Amaro must make the bullpen his number one priority during the off season. With plenty of young, quality arms to choose from, the return of Michael Stutes, and a few shrewd off season signings, the Phillies could dramatically enhance their chances to compete next season.

 

Phillies Win/Loss ChartIf you are a Phillies fan, I think you will enjoy this. Available now!