It is the age old saying: Kyle Kendrick is a schizophrenic and so is he. OK, maybe not a direct quote but the scenario works here. The possibilities with Kendrick are endless. He could be the solid and consistent pitcher who jumped onto the scene in 2007. He could be the wildly inconsistent 2011 version who still managed a 3.22 ERA. He could be the Kendrick from 2008 and 2010 who barely belonged in the majors. Or he could be the Kyle Kendrick with a 3.62 ERA in 40 starts over the past two seasons and a 3.19 ERA in his final 12 starts in 2012.
The majority of the focus on the pitching side for the Phils is placed squarely on the shoulders of Doc Halladay. Let's face it, any chances of the Phillies reaching the promised land may begin and end with Doc. But a similar argument could be made about KK. If Kendrick replicates his 5.49 ERA in 2008 and becomes another Adam Eaton or Chad Qualls the Phillies could be in a heap of trouble. But if for some strange reason Kendrick reproduces his 3.19 ERA in his last 12 starts last season, the Phillies would have a near ace on their hands for the mere sum of $4.5 million.
The ups, downs, and strange twists in Kendrick’s career are abundant. Is it possible the strangest twist still lies in front of us and Kyle becomes a top of the rotation type of starter?
Kendrick's results as a starting pitcher in 2012 were much the same as the rest of his merry-go-round career. In his 9 best starts he gave up 6 runs in 65.2 innings for a 0.82 ERA, but in his 8 worst starts he allowed 42 runs in 36.1 innings for a 10.47 ERA.
To gauge what to expect from Kendrick in 2013 it makes sense to look at those best and worst games. Why was he so horrendous in 8 starts and so glorious in nine others? Is there anything in the stats that gives us reason to believe he is prepared for a dominant season?
That is where my focus lies. Let’s delve into the numbers to see what we can expect from Kyle Kendrick in 2013. Get ready for more way more information than you ever wanted.
Kendrick throws four pitches: fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup. The chart below shows the percentage of times he threw each pitch and his average velocity (according to Fangraphs) for his best 9 starts (in yellow) and his worst 8 starts (in grey).
In Kendrick's best starts, he threw more fastballs and mixed his secondary pitches more. In his worst starts, he relied less on his fastball and changeup, much more on his cutter, and ignored his curveball. We also see that his velocity for all pitches is less when he struggles. The end result is nothing particularly out of the ordinary.
The next chart shows how batters approach Kendrick in his good and bad starts. For most pitchers, it is control and command that rules the day, but with Kendrick that does not appear to be the case. His strike percentage in good games (65.7%) is not much different from that in poor outings (61.4%).
Rather, the numbers suggest that his success is based on movement of pitches. When Kendrick succeeds, hitters' overall swing percentage is 7 points higher, their percentage of swings on pitches outside the strike zone is 9 points higher, their contact percentage drops by 6 points, and their swinging strike percentage is nearly 4 points higher. The end result is that hitters are swinging at more pitches and connecting on fewer pitches.
Finally we get to the outcomes of each at-bat. In general, grounders are a pitcher's friend and line drives are their enemy since line drives fall in for hits at a much greater rate than grounders or fly balls. Kendrick predictably allowed more ground balls, less line drives and fly balls, and more strikeouts.
My final synopsis of Kendrick is this: he pitches much better when he is good and much worse when he is bad. That expert analysis comes absolutely free of charge. Kendrick did not find a new pitch, develop new movement, or discover some miracle drug, ahem Chooch/Galvis, ahem. At the end of the day, it is still the same old Kyle Kendrick with the ability to throw a gem one day and a turd the next.
The only difference is that Kendrick was able to string together more of the good ones for a longer period of time than he had in the past. In a stretch of nine starts from July 6 to Sep 10, Kendrick had 7 quality starts, pitched six or more innings 7 times, pitched seven or more innings 4 times, and allowed two or fewer runs in all but one start. Kendrick may not have discovered a secret garden, but he was able to replicate his success much more frequently.
Kyle Kendrick Starts 7/6 - 9/10
In some ways, consistency is the sign that he might have finally turned the corner. It took him a while, but Kendrick clearly found a plan that worked and was able to execute it more times than not. Although he still has much to prove, Kyle Kendrick might be the biggest surprise for Phillies fans in 2013.
My prediction: 30+ starts and a 3.42 ERA in 2013.
Scott Hairston, Vernon Wells, and Alfonso Soriano. Those appear to be the options the Phillies are now pursuing to upgrade the outfield. Not exactly Hamilton, Bourn, or Swisher, but when the hottest girls already have prom dates, you have to take whatever scraps are left. The Phillies want another right-handed outfield bat, but here are some reasons why these scraps are not worth taking.
Scott Hairston is one of those journeyman players who no team really wants but one team always takes. Hairston, who turns 33 in May, is the lone free agent of the group and could fill one of the outfield vacancies. Last season, his .263 batting average and .299 on-base percentage were around the major league average, but he had above average power with a .504 slugging and .803 OPS. Keep in mind that those figures are higher (except for OBP) than his career .247 average, .302 OBP, .449 slugging, and .751 OPS.
Hairston would add some right-handed pop which the Phillies could use, but he also is likely to have a price tag in the range of $5 million. That kind of cash for a marginal upgrade just does not seem worth it.
Don't let the name fool you. Vernon Wells is a three-time all-star with three Gold Gloves, but the 34-year-old has been anything but in recent years. Wells hit 25 home runs in 2011, but has hit just .222 with a .257 OBP and .667 OPS the last two seasons.
The Angels would clearly eat a huge amount of the remaining $42 million on his deal, which runs through 2014, but I doubt they would eat enough to make this a worthwhile venture. Do the Phillies really need another player in his mid-thirties with injury issues (Wells missed significant time with a hand injury last season) and huge question marks?
How does 32 homers and 108 RBIs sound to you? Those are the numbers Alfonso Soriano put up last season. Soriano is a career .273 hitter with a .323 OBP, .505 slugging percentage, and an average of 34 homers and 95 RBIs per 162 game season. The Phillies would have to be absolutely certifiable to turn down those kind of numbers, right? Jeez, isn't that the right-handed bat they have been so desperately seeking?
If it seems too good to be true it probably is. There are a few issues with trading for Soriano. First and foremost is age. Soriano will turn 37 on Monday and his production is sure to drop sometime in the not too distant future.
Secondly is the cost. Soriano will make $18 million in each of the two years remaining on his contract. The Cubs will reportedly cover $26 million of the $36 million contract, leaving $10 million guaranteed dollars the Phillies would need to spend. Not only that, but the Cubs are a rebuilding franchise who would most definitely require quality prospect(s) in return. The Phillies already dealt one of their best prospects (Trevor May) in the Revere deal and don't have many chips left in their depleted farm system.
My final reason was initially that Soriano had major character issues, but an article in The Chicago Tribune has me backing off that claim.
Even so, 2 years/$10 million plus prospect(s) for a 37-year-old possibly nearing an abrupt end of his productiveness is a steep price to pay.
So far in this offseason Ruben Amaro has avoided tasting the low hanging fruit; big names like Hamilton, Bourn, Upton, and Swisher with obvious talent and unnecessarily high price tags. Even fringe players like Shane Victorino and Cody Ross went for big money. Would you pay full price for a rotten apple just because it is the last one? Of course not. You either go to another store or you wait for the next shipment to arrive.
The Phillies find themselves in a similar position. They could pay $5 million for Hairston, whatever the Angels ask for Wells, $10 million guaranteed plus prospect(s) for Soriano, or say no to all three and look elsewhere.
There always will be players like Juan Pierre or Scott Podsednick hoping to earn there way onto a club as a Spring Training invite. The Phils could also look to spend that money on the best available upgrade, regardless of position, maybe adding another quality bullpen arm. Or they could stay put and address their outfield needs at the trading deadline.
Regardless of which path they follow, a tasty Peach beats a rotten apple.
Imagine for a second a world in which Carlos Ruiz hits .325, Ryan Howard hits 58 bombs, Chase Utley knocks in 100 runs, Rollins recreates his MVP season, Michael Young leads the league in hits, and Darin Ruf and Domonic Brown live up to the hype. In this imaginary land, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are Cy Young candidates once again, Cole Hamels has a 2.79 ERA, and Kyle Kendrick has a 3.22 ERA.
You gander towards the bullpen and discover a closer named Papelbon who gathers 35 saves with a 0.92 ERA, a setup man named Mike Adams with a 1.85 ERA, and a gentleman named Antonio Bastardo with a 2.64 ERA. In the dugout sits Freddy Galvis, who learns how to hit and continues his wizardry in the field; John Mayberry, who hits like it is August 2011; and Erik Kratz, who continues the legend with one behemoth home run after another.
Now set the table, light some candles, pour some wine, throw on some Marvin Gay, and wait for Olivia Wilde to show up, because you are as likely to spend an evening with her as you are to live in such a Phillies winter wonderland.
But a guy can dream, can’t he?
What if by some strange twist of fate the madness I described plays itself out in 2013? What if every Phillies player matches his career best season in 2013?
I thought it might be fun to entertain that scenario, so I tossed logic out the window and took the best full single seasons of every Phillies player and assembled them as a team. For most of the regulars it was pretty easy to determine the best season, which for the most part meant the best ERA or the best OPS. I had to dip into the minors for some of the younger guys, but I tried to use their highest professional level (ie single-A, triple-A, or the majors).
So here is a list of the Phillies likely Opening Day roster using their career best seasons and prorated to match the Phillies' total plate appearances last season. I also compared those figures to the best NL team totals from last season. Here's how it worked for the offense.
|2012 NL Best||776||1526||307||57||202||741||567||1094||158||.274||.338||.437||.766|
That is what you call a dream team. This pretend offense would have completely obliterated the competition. The bottom row of the chart compares the Phillies totals with the NL Best stats with green cells indicating areas in which the Phillies were better and grey cells indicating areas in which they were worse.
As you can see, the Phillies score 59 more runs, hit 23 more home runs, and have 206 less strikeouts. Their batting average is 35 points higher, their on-base percentage is 39 points higher, their slugging percentage is 83 points higher, and their OPS is 131 points higher. I'm pretty sure CBP will sell out every single game with such Ruthian production.
Now onto the pitching. The pitching side is not quite as exciting, but it is equally as impressive.
|De Fratus||2011||AA, AAA||6||3||2.99||51||0||0||0||75.1||63||30||25||16||71||0.98|
|2012 NL Best||98||64||3.33||9||16||1468.1||1637||588||538||409||1402||1.22|
The Phillies beat the 2012 NL best ERA by 64 points, allow 447 less hits, 112 less earned runs, 27 less walks, and their WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) is 12 points better. To put into perspective just how huge those numbers are, the Phillies 2011 staff finished with an ERA 18 points better than the next best team vs. 64 points in this scenario. Their WHIP in 2011 was just seven points better compared to 12 points here.
What would this mean for the 2013 Philadelphia Phillies if these totals played out in exactly this manner? I'll tell you what. It would be one of the greatest single seasons in baseball history. When the Phillies won 102 games in 2011, the scored 184 more runs than they allowed, while this squad would have a difference of 356 runs, a rate nearly double that of 2011. I am not going out on a limb to say the 2013 Phillies would set the record for most wins in MLB history.
None of this means Jack squat for those of us without our head in the clouds. But what we can learn from this is just how talented a roster resides in Philadelphia. The Phils are loaded with players with tremendous past accomplishments. If they could recapture even a sliver of their prior glory, we are in store for an incredible season.
Ben Revere is coming! Ben Revere is coming! There it was. My very first Ben Revere/Paul Revere joke. Ahhh, and to think we get to listen to awful jokes just like that one for at least the next nine months. Come to think of it, we should hope the bad jokes stick around even longer considering the Phillies gave up two young pitchers in order to obtain him.
Now that the Phils have their centerfielder for the future, I wanted to dig deep into the stats to see what exactly Revere brings to the Phillies lineup.
First, here's a little background on your new centerfielder. 24-year-old Ben Revere was born in Atlanta and drafted out of Lexington Catholic (KY) High School by the Minnesota Twins in the first round (28th pick) in the 2007 draft. He made his major league debut on Sep 7, 2010 as a pinch-hitter for Denard Span, who was ironically also dealt by the Twins this offseason to the Washington Nationals.
Revere began the 2011 season at AAA Rochester and was called up to the Twins in early May, where he remained for the rest of the season. In 2012, he spent most of the first two months at AAA until being called up for good on May 15th.
Now that our introductions are complete, here’s a quick scouting report and a look at Revere’s career stats.
Ben Revere bats from the left side with blazing speed and he hits for decent average, avoids strikeouts, does not walk, and has virtually no power.
Revere stole 74 bases in 254 games over the last two years. His rate of 47 steals per full season would have ranked him second in the majors in 2012. He also has a decent 82% stolen base rate which is the same as Shane Victorino and one point below Jimmy Rollins.
One aspect of his game in which Revere excels is his ability to avoid striking out. He averages 64 strikeouts per 162 games, which is well below the league average of 119.
Don’t expect Ben Revere to get married anytime soon because he loves, and I mean loves singles. A staggering 88% of his hits are one-baggers. That is an extremely low figure considering the league average is 66%. He is way below the career rates for Victorino (66%), Rollins (64%), and even Juan Pierre (83%).
If Revere is in love with singles, he tolerates doubles and despises home runs. Only 2% of his career hits are doubles (22 in 989 at-bats), a figure 18 points behind the 20% league average. That, along with a giant goose egg in home runs gives him an extra-base hit rate of 12% compared to the MLB average of 34%. Ben’s .323 slugging percentage and .642 OPS are both 82 points below average.
Another area in which he is lacking is his ability to draw walks. His 5.4% walk rate (36 walks per 162 game season) is way below the MLB average (8.0% and 57 walks). It is the main reason why his on-base percentage equals the MLB average, which is especially problematic for a player whose skill set revolves around reaching base and scoring runs. Now that we have an overall picture of Ben Revere, let's dive deeper into what he did last season.
Two attributes Revere shares with all good leadoff hitters is his ability to make contact and keep the ball on the ground. Revere's 92.6% contact percentage towers above the league average of 79.7% and he ranked 3rd in the AL with 9.5 at-bats per strikeout. His 66.9% ground ball rate is much higher than the 45.1% MLB average (somewhere Willie Mays Hayes is smiling).
But the sign of a true legitimate hitter is line drives, since they fall in for hits at a far greater rate than ground balls and fly balls and indicate better contact. Revere's line drive rate (18.6%) falls slightly below the league average (20.1%) and is something he should look to improve in 2013.
Most hitting coaches will instruct hitters to strive to hit the ball up the middle, and Revere does that exceptionally well. 67.9% of his hits were up the middle versus 55% league wide. His pull percentage (16.5%) is less than the league average (27.5%), but his opposite field percentage (15.6%) is right around average (17.5%). You might expect with his lack of power that he would constantly be late on pitches like Juan Pierre (who many people, including myself, compare him to), but it is nice to see that his pull and opposite field percentages are similar.
And let's not forget his ability to drop a bunt. Revere was tied for 3rd in baseball with 9 bunts and seventh in bunt hit percentage (.563).
Another way to get an idea about a player is watching how he responds in different counts during the at-bat. The below chart shows how Revere's batting average fares in different counts compared to the league average.
These are splits you like to see from your leadoff hitter. First, you can see that Revere held his own when he was behind in the count or buried in an 0-2 or 1-2 hole. It shows that he sees the ball well and is generally able to make good contact to fight off the nastier pitches. And like any quality hitter, he makes pitchers pay with a .368 average when he is ahead in the count.
It is also important to note that after a 3-1 count he walked only 35% of the time vs. 42% league wide. After a 3-0 count he walked 39% of the time compared to 64% for the league. If Revere is going to be a worthwhile addition to the Phillies, he must improve on those figures.
Revere actually hit better against lefties (.314) than he did against right-handers (.284).
He hit .317 through July, but only .265 in August and September.
He had a .293 batting average with the bases empty, .295 with men on base, .257 with runners in scoring position, and .288 with two outs and RISP.
Ben Revere has many of the tools to be a great player in this league for a long time. He makes contact, keeps the ball on the ground, rarely strikes out, knows how to bunt, spreads the ball around, and steals bases. He also steadily improved in almost all key hitting areas.
But Ben Revere is by no means a refined player. He must improve his ability to take pitches, work counts, and draw walks. A .333 on-base percentage simply does not cut it. He also needs to try to drive the ball more. Turning a few of his singles into doubles would pay huge dividends.
Other than that, what he needs is more experience.
As much as I would love to see him utilize his speed as a leadoff hitter and remove Rollins from the top spot, at this point in his young career he might be better off batting second. He batted just .259 as a leadoff hitter last season but hit .305 batting second. Considering that this would be his first full season and he was just traded for the first time in his big league career, Charlie might be well advised to ease him into batting leadoff.
If you are willing to accept his inadequacies and a few growing pains, Ben Revere could be a lot of fun to watch as he learns and grows into the leadoff hitter we know he can be.
The Phillies don't take the field on Opening Day for another 71 days (not that I'm counting), but it is never too early to think about the Phillies 2013 starting lineup. It certainly is not too early for Charlie Manuel, who already discussed the lineup at the Phillies holiday party on Dec 11.
Here are the parameters for this discussion. We are looking at the lineup for the first 25 games before Chooch returns from his suspension and assuming Domonic Brown will play right field and Darin Ruf will play left. I don't see Charlie using anyone other than Utley and Howard at third and fourth, so let's eliminate that option, as well.
Projecting the Phillies lineup is not as easy as it might seem considering the only two givens in the batting order are Utley at third and Howard at cleanup. The leadoff spot will likely go to Jimmy Rollins or Ben Revere, but beyond that the lineup discussion gets a bit murky.
Let's talk about the possibilities at each lineup spot before exchanging lineup cards.
As I mentioned, the competition for the first spot in the lineup is between Rollins and Revere. I have campaigned for several years to remove Rollins from his perch due to his fairly low batting average and infatuation with pop-ups. Ben Revere hits for a higher average, 88% of his hits are ground balls, he is faster than J-Roll, and is adept at bunting. But, as I pointed out on Thursday, Revere is not refined enough as a hitter and may not be ready for the pressure of seeing a pitcher first. Besides, arguing for Revere as the leadoff hitter is pointless since you know Charlie is going with Rollins.
Ben Revere and Michael Young are the most obvious candidates to bat second. Similar to the leadoff hitter, the job of the #2 hitter is to get on base, create some first and third situations, and set the table for the middle of the lineup. Neither of them has much power, but that is not a major concern with the second batter (think Polanco).
Utley third; Howard fourth. End of discussion.
Anyone besides Utley and Howard could take this position. We'll get to who bats where a little later.
Go with Revere or Young, right? Not so fast there, Bucko. Revere and Young might be the easy choices, but there are complications with both of them.
In many ways, the eight hole is ideally suited for Ben Revere. There is little pressure, no need for power, and Revere's speed makes it easier for pitchers to sacrifice him to second. The major problem is that he has not shown the patience to bat number eight. Think of how opposing pitchers approach the #8 guy. They aren't worried at all about the pitcher on-deck, so they will throw a lot of junk pitches slightly out of the strike zone and hope the hitter chases.
In order to hit in that position, a player must be willing to take a walk and needs the discipline to lay off the junk pitches. With a walk rate of 5.4% which is far below the major league average of 8.0%, pitchers might eat Revere alive. If Charlie Manuel hits Revere eighth, he might be setting up a young player to fail.
Michael Young, on the other hand, has a better 6.6% walk rate and the patience to bat eighth. But I have a hard time envisioning Charlie Manuel asking a 7-time all-star who was just forced out of Texas to bat eighth. For now, let's assume that it is Revere or Young and see how the lineup shapes up.
1. Jimmy Rollins (S)
2. Ben Revere (L)
3. Chase Utley (L)
4. Ryan Howard (L)
5. Erik Kratz (R)
6. Domonic Brown (L)
7. Darin Ruf (R)
8. Michael Young (R)
I love the speed up top, but the concern is the letters in parenthesis. This lineup has three lefties in a row 2-3-4 and three righties out of the four final slots. Charlie never liked bunching up his lefties, so don't bet on seeing this lineup on April 1st.
1. Jimmy Rollins (S)
2. Michael Young (R)
3. Chase Utley (L)
4. Ryan Howard (L)
5. Erik Kratz (R)
6. Domonic Brown (L)
7. Darin Ruf (R)
8. Ben Revere (L)
The top four look really nice and it is a balanced mixture of righties and lefties towards the bottom. Charlie could also switch Ruf and Kratz. This is probably the most likely Philies lineup.
Of course, this still presents a problem with Revere batting eighth, which is why I would propose the following lineup:
1. Jimmy Rollins (S)
2. Michael Young (R)
3. Chase Utley (L)
4. Ryan Howard (L)
5. Erik Kratz (R)
6. Ben Revere (L)
7. Darin Ruf (R)
8. Domonic Brown (L)
Try not to fall off your seats, but what if the Phillies bat Domonic Brown eighth? Sounds crazy, but it makes a lot of sense. Domonic Brown has the patience needed to bat eighth. His impressive 10.4% walk rate is second only to Chase Utley in this lineup and his 4.03 pitches seen per plate appearance would have tied him for 11th in the NL if he had enough PA to qualify.
Brown's speed is another nice bonus for the pitchers batting behind him attempting to sacrifice him to second. Plus, batting Brown lower in the lineup also alleviates some of the pressure.
Poor Charlie Manuel. There are way too many lineup possibilties for a guy who turns 70 next year. Hopefully he can reminisce on the good old days with Werth, Victorino, and Burrell because those days are long gone. Good luck, Chuck.
The Phillies finally got the corner outfielder they have been seeking all along...Delmon...Young. Yeah...I guess.
He’s no Josh Hamilton, but at least Delmon Young has done something at the major league level. He has a career .284 batting average with 89 home runs. He will also be the only corner outfielder on the Phillies roster who has played a full season with at least 450 at-bats. Hey, when your beer choices are Natty Ice or nothing at all, you take the beer.
Ruben Amaro may have sold his soul a bit to bring in a guy who needs two hands to count all of his on and off the field issues, but he gives the Phillies another option and only costs $750,000 if he stinks. Albert Pujols makes that much over a two week vacation.
The Phillies situation is so dire in the outfield that Young is already slated to be the Phillies starting rightfielder despite making only 29 starts in the outfield last season. “Ideally, he’d be playing right field every day for us,” Ruben said. “But that’s not etched in stone. That will happen when he shows that he can play every day in right field for us.” He can show that by putting on his uniform correctly, remembering which dugout is his, and running 100 feet without collapsing.
It might not be quite that simple since he underwent microfracture surgery on his right ankle on Nov. 10. But Young owns the right field job if and when he is healthy. Ben Revere is the starting centerfielder, leaving Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr., and Laynce Nix to fight for the last three outfield slots.
I almost cringed when I heard Todd Zolecki say this, but I agree that John Mayberry gets one almost by default since he is the only guy who can realistically backup Revere and play center (and by “play center” I mean he can run and hold a glove at the same time). Plus, the Phillies cannot option Mayberry to the minors anymore and he has been decent against lefties. Again, it’s Natty Ice or nothing.
Nix probably takes another spot because he has a guaranteed contract and offers a left-handed bat coming off the bench.
That leaves Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf to fend for themselves.
Popular opinion states that Domonic Brown has the inside edge on that final roster spot and that Darin Ruf needs to prove he belongs, but I am not so sure it is not the other way around.
First of all, both players have options remaining, so either one could be sent to the minors. Secondly, Domonic Brown has had three opportunities to prove he belonged in the majors. He has a career .236 average with 12 home runs in 147 games to show for it. Brown is still just 25, but has he really earned another chance?
Finally, the boss, Charlie Manuel loves the long ball and sure does talk a lot about Darin Ruf. It probably doesn't hurt that Ruf hit 10 bombs in 120 at-bats in the Venezuelan Winter League. I could definitely see Charlie throwing Ruf into the fire to see how he handles it.
In all likelihood, this will come down to a fight in Spring Training. Brown vs. Ruf. The battle begins in just a few weeks.
It finally set in yesterday, the sobering realization that the Phillies are the third best team in the NL East. This feeling cauterized yesterday upon learning that the Braves acquired Justin Upton. One year ago, the Phillies were defending their fifth straight National League East title and coming off the best record in baseball for the second straight season. Now, they are coming off a .500 mark and hoping to sneak into the playoffs. It was a tough morning to be a Phillies fan.
But my mood changed quickly. I had the good fortune to attend the Phillies Winter Breakfast yesterday at the Diamond Club at Citizens Bank Park and was reminded why it is great to be a Phillies fan. The event itself was enough to brighten even the coldest January day. Charlie Manuel, Ruben Amaro, Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen, and Tom McCarthy enlightened season ticket holders in an entertaining Q&A session.
Looking back on a fantastic day with great baseball guys, I came away with a better understanding of what it really means to be a Phillies fan. All it took was three words from Kevin Frandsen: "they were teams."
I got a chance to chat with Frandsen, who seemed so anxious to throw on a uniform and play in 20 degree weather that it would not have surprised me if he had pine tar and eye black in his pocket. Kevin mentioned how much it irked him that he spent the first six years of his career in the Giants organization, only to leave just in time for the Giants to win two World Series titles without him.
"And they were crappy, too," I said.
"No," he quickly corrected me, "they were teams."
"They didn't have the sexy names, but they were teams," he elaborated.
Those were teams. Hmmm.
His words lingered with me throughout the day, but the true power of those three words never really hit me until today.
They were teams.
It got me thinking. What exactly is a team? The Phillies showed that the concept of team extends beyond the players on the field and can stretch throughout an entire city.
The Phillies demonstrated their definition of the word by choosing Erik Kratz and Kevin Frandsen as their player representatives. They weren't even starters a year ago. Why them? I like to think that it was because they represent us and embody what we value in our players.
Kratz and Frandsen endured years in the minors and had to scratch and claw their way onto a Major League roster, but they persevered. Given the opportunity, they gave a blue collar effort in a blue collar town. As former minor league roommates, Kratz referenced how Frandsen wakes up with dirt on his shoulders. Frandsen reminded folks of Erik's collision with Chipper Jones. It wasn't homers and RBI's that impressed one another; it was heart and determination. That's a team.
And what about the fans? Philadelphia fans are constantly reminded of snowballs, batteries, taser incidents, and eagerness to boo their own players. Yet what I witnessed was the most knowledgeable fan base in baseball. Given the chance to grill the manager and general manager, this group was not interested in second guessing and finger pointing. They wanted to talk Phillies baseball.
They asked questions about on base percentage, the lineup, the outfield situation, and the pitching rotation. One fan even asked Ruben Amaro about insurance on players. Do you think a Nationals fans would ponder such an intelligent question? Philadelphia fans may be tough on their players and coaches, but one thing they are not is stupid. They truly feel that their words can influence and improve the teams they passionately root for. That's a team.
Finally, there is the organization as a whole. I spoke to John Brazer, Director of Publicity, who told me this is his 20th year with the Phillies. Twenty years might be a long time in most places, but with the Phillies he ranks 65th on the longevity chart. People like Harry and Whitey who remained with the Phils until the end of their lives. That's a team.
I came into the Phillies Breakfast disappointed about my team's chances. I left feeling proud to call myself a Phillies fan.
Sure, the Phillies might be the third best team in the NL East on paper, but with grinders like Kratz and Frandsen, a dedicated organization, and a hungry fan base, "they are a team."
Cole Hamels is great. He so does not fit in here in Philadelphia yet he so does. He doesn’t look the part, but “Welcome to the Big Leagues” is all I have to say about his toughness.
What I love even more are the glorious quotes he provides. While most guys either give you the scripted answers, say nothing, or just hide in the corner, Hamels will give you an honest answer. Most of the time it gets him in trouble. Does, “I can’t wait for it to end” ring a bell for anyone? And I’m sure his responses have created multiple coronaries for his agent. But from the prospective of a fan, it doesn’t get any better.
Hamels surprised everyone yesterday when he announced that he never had any shoulder soreness during the offseason, as reported. After they badgered him on the topic, he made his point quite clear.
"Since these are the questions that you guys are asking, I haven't really thought about anything of that sort because I haven't even picked up a paper," Hamels said. "That's the honest truth. I wasn't the one who started it. I know I feel good and I'm ready to go. That's all I can really answer because that's where it is. It's the same program, and I'm looking forward to spring training and finally getting out of the cold."
He stopped just shy of saying, “that’s a clown question, bro.”
The questioning then moved towards his expectations for the team.
"We just have a lot to prove," Hamels said. "I think ultimately we can't take the back seat and hope that we can coast through. We really have to go after it from the very beginning and not really hope we can play catch-up. These teams now, they're a lot better, the players are a lot better in the league, and they're not going to allow you to really catch up."
Gotta love a guy who puts a target on his own back. Hey, it worked out pretty well for Jimmy Rollins.
The Phillies hosted their Winter Breakfast on Friday in a State of the Union of sorts. Fans were greeted this season by Ruben Amaro, Charlie Manuel, Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen, and Tom McCarthy. As I mentioned on Saturday, it was a fantastic event. During the breakfast (which featured a ton of great grub, I might add), fans had the opportunity to ask questions in a Q&A session.
Before we get to the answers from Charlie and Ruben, I thought I would share part of my brief conversations with Erik Kratz and Kevin Frandsen. I didn't take down any direct quotes, so you will have to trust my memory on these, but you'll get the gist of it.
On the difference between the minors and the majors:
The difference is consistency. You might get 2 of 4 pitchers in the minors who are major league talent but you get them every day in the majors.
On how tougher the pitchers are in the majors:
It's not much different, really. You can only throw a ball so fast and there is a limit on much break you can get. Maybe it is just that they have better command in the majors.
Frandsen, who spent the first six years of his career in the Giants organization only to leave before they won two championships, mentioned how tough it was to watch them win.
Me: Those were crappy teams, too.
Frandsen: No, they were teams. They didn't have the sexy names, but they were teams.
Here are some of the quotes from the Q&A session with Charlie and Ruben:
Charlie: "You don’t." (That one got a huge laugh from the crowd.) "If we have a lot of swingers, guys who don’t want to get two strikes on them, then they get over anxious and chase bad balls and don’t get good balls to hit. First rule of thumb is to get a good ball to hit."
"We have guys like Henderson, Wally Joyner, Sandberg and also myself, we think we are all good hitting instructors. We have the best hitting instructors in baseball if you want to know the truth."
"We want to create a culture or an attitude, we want to get more involved and enjoy it a little more."
Ruben: "With this type of surgery (for Mike Adams), from the very minute he left the operating table he felt much, much better. He’s one of the best in the game and I think your going to enjoy watching him pitch."
"As far as Michael Young is concerned, I don’t know that there’s a better character guy other than Chase Utley. The only thing he cares about is winning." (Regarding his defense) "He’s got the type of mentality that he will not let himself get embarrassed."
Charlie: "He can hit the ball the other way. I like some of the things about his hitting. I want him to do his own thing. I don’t want people to know a lot of the things about him."
Ruben: "Darin’s going to get an opportunity to play this year. Darin has really jumped onto the scene the way he handled himself. I’ve never seen a player jump, hand speed wise, so greatly from one year to the next. We saw him in the AFL (Arizona Fall League) and we could see he had some strength, but he might have been a little tired at that point. This year he was so short with his swing that he can really get back on the ball in a different way. The ball comes off the bat in a really different way. He’s very athletic and for a big guy, he moves around OK. He’s a good kid, a good makeup kid. We’ll pull for him."
Charlie: "I like Rollins to lead off. Nobody in baseball except Trout last year knocks in as many runs and scores as many runs as Rollins does and that speaks for itself. I know he gets criticized a lot, but this is about run producing, it’s about scoring runs."
Ruben: "Chase can hit in one through four. Michael Young is extremely versatile one through five or six, there’s some versatility."
Ruben: "We do have insurance on players, particularly long term contracts. To be honest with you it’s a very complicated process. The player would have to be out an entire season for us to begin to collect or more than one season. One of the beauties of what the union has done for the players and has made it more challenging for people in the front office is that when you guarantee a contract it’s guaranteed. It’s not like the NFL where you can just cut a guy. No, we didn’t collect any insurance money."