Saturday, October 31, 2009

Game 3 Preview; Blanton in Game 4

The crucial Game 3 is a mere hours away. Andy Pettite, who's pitched very well this postseason, takes the hill for New York. Cole Hamels is the key for the Phillies. They're in big trouble not just in this game but in the series if Hamels should falter. Citizen's Bank Park has been a sanctuary for the Phils throughout the last two postseason's and they look for that trend to continue tonight.

Joe Blanton, not Cliff Lee, will pitch Game 4. He'll be opposed by CC Sabathia who will make his second start of the series. While Blanton has been consistently good, the match-up is much more slighted than Lee vs. Sabathia round two would have been; making tonight's game that much more important for the Phils. This series has started as a back and forth affair. Expect that trend to continue. The series could very well be tied 2-2 with Lee on the mound, at home, in Game 5.

No changes to the lineup for tonight's game, except for the obvious subtraction of the DH. This is an advantage for the Phillies; not only are the pitchers used to hitting, but it also takes Hideki Matsui out of New York's starting lineup.

The team announced that Greg Dobbs is feeling much better and will be available off the bench tonight.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

UtLEE lead the Phils to Game 1 victory

Cliff Lee was spectacular last night, out-dueling former teammates and Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia as he twirled a complete game gem over the Yankees in Game 1, 6-1. It was one of the best pitching performances in World Series history.

Just a year removed from the addition of Brad Lidge putting the Phillies over the top to grab a World Championship, Lee made the Phils' brass look brilliant last night. If he pitches three games in the series and even comes close to emulating last night's start, this series is over.

Raul Ibanez had the opportunity to play hero early with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning after two walks and a Ryan Howard double. He worked ahead in the count to 3-1 but bounced out to second to end the disappointing inning. After the Phillies threatened but didn't score, they needed a statement from Lee and they got it. Lee struck out Derek Jeter to start the inning, easily fielded Johnny Damon's bunt attempt and threw him out and fanned Mark Teixiera to end the frame. But Lee wasn't done.

He'd go on to strike out Alex (A-Roids) Rodriguez three times, part of this ten K's, while walking none and not allowing an earned run. His halfhearted pop-up catch was hilarious; we'll be seeing that for a long time.

Chase Utley rose to the occasion with two solo home runs off Sabathia, the only runs he'd allow. His first dinger seemed more like a pop-up, he got under it and had only one hand on the bat, but it carried out of Yankee Stadium and just cleared the right field wall as many balls do in that park, putting the Phils ahead 1-0 in the third. But Chase was at it again in the sixth, this time with a line drive blast deep into the seats, once again with two strikes in the count.

The offense got to the bullpen, forcing walks and getting big hits from Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Howard.

Jimmy Rollins made the heads up play of the night, dekeing Hideki Matsui on a hump back pop-up, a play the umpires would confer and eventually get right. With no outs and Matsui on first, Robinson Cano hit a small pop-up to short that Jimmy appeared he was going to field on a short hop to turn a double play. Instead, with his glove about an inch from the ground, J-Roll caught the ball but pretended it bounced, stepped on second and threw to first. The play was clearly intentional, as he immediately started pointing to Howard that he should tag Matsui, who was well off the first base bag and headed back to the dugout. It was a caught pop-up so Cano was out, and when Howard tagged Matsui off the bag it was a bases clearing double play. Great heads up play from Rollins; a play that a champion makes.

The Phillies, once again, take Game 1 of a postseason series. They haven't dropped a Game 1 since the NLDS in 2007 against Colorado. The Yankees were dealt their first Game 1 defeat of this postseason. Now, home field advantage belongs to the Phillies again, and tonight's game gives them a huge opportunity to head back to Philadelphia in complete control. AJ Burnett is New York's question mark in the rotation, and the Phillies should score some runs. With Pedro on the mound in Yankee Stadium tonight, Game 2 could be a battle of the bullpens after last night's Game 1 was all Cliff Lee.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Series Match-Up: Pitching

Both teams feature interesting pitching match-ups, starting with Cliff Lee vs. CC Sabathia and ending with Brad Lidge vs. Mariano Rivera.

Starting Pitching:

Cliff Lee has been the best pitcher in the postseason thus far. He’s been dominant after an overall very strong season despite a few bumps in the road. Pedro Martinez takes the hill in Game 2 after an outstanding regular season with the Phillies and a great Game 2 start in the NLCS against the Dodgers in which he threw seven shutout innings. His numbers, however, are not as strong on the road or against the Yankees and pitching with the “Who’s your daddy?” chants could be a formidable task for Pedro. One difference is, I don’t see him being intimidated by the Yankees or their fans. Not that he was before, but it seemed like they used to get to him. Now, he is just viewing his entire experience as fun while he goes out and just throws. Cole Hamels is the x-factor for the series. If he could somehow return to his dominant 2008 form, the Phillies rotation is far better than New York’s and the Phillies would win the series. A mediocre Hamels makes it close. The Phillies could use Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ or use only three starters.

CC Sabathia is New York’s horse, and what a dominant one he is. He’s been tremendous for the Yankees all season and especially in this postseason. The Phillies did beat him in the playoffs last year, and would have beat him in May had Brad Lidge not blown the save. They’ve still won the last two games he’s started against them. AJ Burnett was a big free agent signing for the Yankees, but didn’t live up to expectations. While Hamels is the Phillies’ question mark, Burnett is New York’s. He seems like a pitcher that the Phillies could hit. While it’s not yet been announced, Burnett will likely start Game 2 against Pedro in Yankee Stadium. Andy Pettite is the Yankees’ reliable veteran much like Pedro is for the Phillies. Should teams require a fourth starter, the edge goes to Blanton or Happ over Chad Gaudin. Lee and Sabathia match-up well, Pedro and Pettite are the two solid and crafty veterans while Hamels and Burnett are the struggling stars.



The Yankees have the best relief pitcher in the history of baseball, and Mariano Rivera has delivered time and time again in his postseason career. Brad Lidge appears to have regained some of his confidence and while Rivera and Lidge are the only two closers to not blow a save in the postseason thus far, Rivera has the distinct edge. The rest of each team’s bullpen is a bit shaky. Ryan Madson has been pretty good and Chad Durbin has been outstanding, but as we all know the Phils have plenty of question marks in the ‘pen. Phil Hughes has struggled for the Yankees thus far in the playoffs, while Joba Chamberlain is where he belongs but hasn’t been spectacular. New York hasn’t gone very deep into their bullpen in the postseason because their starters have gone so deep into games. Expect for them to get tested more in the World Series. The middle relief is fairly even, but Mo puts NY over the top.


Monday, October 26, 2009

World Series Match-Up: Outfield

The outfield, between the Phillies and the Yankees, is patrolled by emerging stars and aging veterans. All three members of Philadelphia’s outfield were elected to the 2009 all-star game, quite an accomplishment for a team with so much punch in the infield.

Left Field:
Raul Ibanez started his Phillies’ career with a bang, carrying the team on his back through stretches of April and May until an injury caused him to miss significant at bats. He hasn’t been the same since his injury, but “Rauuuuullll” as he’s affectionately referred to by Phils’ fans, has still been a tremendous pickup and a very good middle of the lineup player for the team. Ibanez finished third on the team with 34 home runs while knocking in 93. He finished the season batting .272 with a .552 slugging percentage. Ibanez was the best hitter in Major League Baseball throughout the first two months, and still ended up as one of the most productive players in the league. His postseason has not been quite as strong. He maintained a high average in the NLDS, but struggled against the Dodgers. He’s hitting just .226 with one home run and nine RBI. He’ll need to improve upon those numbers if the lineup is going to succeed against New York, but he is one player that a week off should benefit greatly as stories emerged that Ibanez may need the same off-season surgery that Chase Utley required after the 2008 season. Ibanez will likely be used in some games as a DH with Ben Francisco in left.

Johnny Damon has more playoff experience, helping Boston beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS with two big home runs in Game 7 as New York blew a 3-0 series lead. Damon has been a decent player at the top of New York’s lineup along with Derek Jeter. He hit .282 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI. New York’s very short porch in right aided Damon in some of those home runs as balls were flying out of Yankee Stadium in that area all season, with that area also being Damon’s primary power location. Damon also stole 12 bases without being caught and may try to test Carlos Ruiz once on the base paths. Damon is a good player, but doesn’t have a strong arm at all. Damon and Ibanez could both be subtracted from games in the late innings for defensive purposes. Ibanez has a better arm but less range. Damon, in the postseason, is hitting just .238 but has two home runs. Both Damon and Ibanez need to improve upon their postseason to have a positive impact on their respective clubs.


Center Field:
Shane Victorino is once again doing it all for the Phils. He is a gold glove center fielder, gets on base and makes things happen while on the bases and just generally wreaks havoc on opposing teams. He’s also a very clutch hitter. He hit .292 with ten homers, 62 RBI, 39 doubles, 13 triples and 25 stolen bases; all while patrolling the outfield excellently with a cannon for an arm. Victorino was a key contributor in the 2008 postseason, as Yankees’ Game 1 starter CC Sabathia remembers after surrendering a key grand slam to Victorino in Game 2 of the NLDS. This postseason is no different for Victorino, who’s hit .361 with three home runs, 7 RBI, two doubles, one triple, two stolen bases and a remarkable .722 slugging percentage through the first two rounds. Victorino is a high energy guy for the team, and he is the complete package, a five-tool player.

Melky Cabrera is merging into a nice player for the Yankees. After struggling throughout most of 2008, Cabrera turned it around and had a decent season, hitting .274 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI while playing a solid center fielder. He’s a decent bottom of the lineup producer but isn’t much of a game changer. He has a far less impact on his team than Victorino has on the Phillies, but Cabrera is still in the maturing process and could develop himself into a top of the rotation player in the next few years. Melky has been getting on base for the Yankees in this postseason, improving his average to .314; but he’s struck out 11 times while walking just three times. He is a decent player, but an afterthought in their lineup.


Right Field:
Jayson Werth has developed into one of the league’s elite hitters, just a season removed from sharing playing time with Geoff Jenkins. What a find Werth has turned out to be for the Phils. With a career high 36 home runs and 99 driven in, accompanying a .268 batting average and 20 stolen bases, Werth is an all around excellent hitter. He’s also a well above average fielder with a great arm and he’s done a fine job in both center and right field for the Phillies. He worked his way into the five hole and is Ryan Howard’s backup in the lineup, forcing opposing pitchers to face Howard merely because of his presence in the on deck circle. Werth is having a tremendous postseason, hitting .281 while leading the team with five home runs and is second to just Howard in RBI with ten. He could have easily taken MVP honors in the NLCS, if not for his slow start through the first two games, and likely would have taken it in the NLDS if such an award existed. Werth has made himself a household name and will be a perennial all-star and MVP candidate in the league.

Nick Swisher has been a decent player for the Yankees. While hitting just .249, Swish hit 29 home runs and drove in 82, but he led the team in strikeouts. He was adequate in the field while committing five errors, but his glove is nothing to write home about. Swisher has been terrible in the playoffs. He’s hitting just .125 and has knocked in one run without a homer. He, like Cabrera, has struck out 11 times to lead the team while walking on just three occasions. The Yankees have enough weapons that anything Swisher does for them can be considered a bonus, because he hasn’t had an impact on all that many games for them. He’s filled in nicely, but he is not a premier player or one that is counted on primarily in that lineup.


Designated Hitter:
Tough spot to judge for the Phillies. Even though Ibanez will likely fill in with Francisco getting a few starts in left against tough left handed pitching, Ibanez is still the team’s left fielder so Francisco will supplement him in this comparison. Matt Stairs is likely to DH against AJ Burnett, or Greg Dobbs could see some time. Francisco is a nice player that could make some good things happen with the bat and in the outfield, while Dobbs has been struggling all season after being one of the league’s best pinch hitters last season. Stairs has struggled this year as well, but jacked five homers off the bench and could put a charge into a ball at any time. He’s singlehandedly won a few games for the Phillies in the past, most notably Game 5 of the 2008 NLCS, and he could make a positive impact letting it rip against Burnett’s power fastball.

Hideki Matsui has been around for a long time now, and while never living up to his “Godzilla” nickname, Matsui has been a rather good player for the Yankees despite a few down stretches. He had a good year, hitting .274 with 28 homers and 90 driven in, while not playing in the field at all for the first time in his MLB career. The extra focus on offense allowed him to increase him home run total which was nine in 2008. Matsui hasn’t had a great postseason to this point (.233 1, 5), but he’s been here before and he knows how to put the ball in play which makes good things happen. Matsui is in much better game shape than anyone on the Phillies, as all of their players have been sitting on the bench, only seeing occasional playing time and at bats.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

World Series Match-Up: Infield

The Phillies and Yankees feature two of the most prolific infields in baseball, if not the two best. Full of all-stars, gold glove winners and perennial MVP candidates and winners, they match-up well and any player in either infield has the opportunity to change the World Series and hand his team a win or a loss.

This was written prior to Sunday's Game 6 of the ALCS, so statistics from that game are not included in the Yankees' postseason numbers

First Base:
Ryan Howard is the standard for power hitters in Major League Baseball. He’s had an outstanding postseason, earning him NLCS MVP honors, after crushing 45 regular season home runs and posting a .279 batting average. The big man even chugged his way around the base paths to four triples. Losing about 20 pounds in the offseason helped Howard improve his overall game, raising his batting average and improving his defensive skills and his range in the field. Howard is certainly one of the game’s elite talents.

The Yankees went on a shopping spree in the offseason and found themselves an all-star first baseman in aisle six. They didn’t find Mark Teixeira in the bargain bin though, paying $180 million to lock him up for eight years. The switch-hitter produced for the Bronx Bombers in a big way, as he always does. His 39 homers and 122 RBI lead the team, accompanied by a .292 average and spectacular .997 fielding percentage, Teixeira is a remarkable talent. But while Howard has thrived in the bright lights of the postseason stage, Teixeira has faltered. He’s batting just .171 with one home run and four runs batted in. That’s not going to cut it for a number three hitter in a postseason batting order. If not for the postseason stats, these players would match-up evenly. Phillies’ pitchers beware: don’t wake the sleeping giant.


Second Base:
Chase Utley is the best second baseman in the game. He struggled in September and didn’t hit early in this postseason. He made costly throwing errors in back to back games, costing the team a game. Despite all that, which was very un-Utley like, he is the best overall player at his position. His regular season batting average took a hit, ending up at .282. Utley is a .300 hitter and there is no reason for Chase to hit under .300. He may need a few more off days next season, but that’s for another place and time. Utley, despite a few short dry spells, is having a decent postseason. He’s accumulated a .303 batting average, with one long ball but only two RBI. His home run is his only extra base hit of the playoffs. His power numbers and production need to increase, as does his consistency in the field. Chase does have two stolen bases and hasn’t been caught. His .303 average is important though, because Howard and Jayson Werth are absolutely punishing the ball, and Utley is on base when that happens, leading to his eight runs scored. If he starts driving the ball in the gaps like he should, this offense will soar.

Robinson Cano has been somewhat of an enigma for the Yankees. One month he couldn’t hit a beach ball and the next he’s tearing the cover off the ball. He’s a streaky player, but his streaks can last half a season. Sounds a little bit like Pat Burrell but without as much power. Cano had his best year in the big leagues this season, hitting .320 with a career high 25 home runs. He also hit 48 doubles. For a speedy runner, he’s not much of a threat to steal a base. He stole five in 2009 and was caught seven times. He stole just six bags in 2007 and 2008 combined, and was caught nine times during that span. He’s a consistent fielder, posting a .984 fielding percentage each of the last four seasons. Cano is a good player and can be a difference maker. Another season or two like he posted in 2009, and Cano could give Utley a run at his reputation as the best player at his position. Cano is struggling mightily in the playoffs though. He’s hit just .212 with no home runs and he’s made two errors. The bottom of the Yankees’ lineup is much less potent without Cano getting on base. He may be the key to their World Series run; and if he and Teixeira get hot at the same time, the Phillies could be in trouble.


Jimmy Rollins had his worst statistical season since 2002, hitting just .250. He still hit 21 home runs and drove in 77 runs. Rollins had a great second half after a terrible first half, and had another excellent season in the field; he’ll win the gold glove once again. He is a dynamic lead-off hitter, base stealer, power hitter and gap to gap hitter when he’s going well. He hasn’t had a great postseason thus far, hitting just .244 with no homers and no stolen bases. He needs to get on base more and make things happen on the base paths. He has been clutch for the Phillies though; his dramatic walk-off double against the Dodgers in Game 4 was huge. Rollins is a very good player, but he hasn’t been able to emulate his MVP form from 2007 in which he hit .296 with 30 home runs, 94 RBI, 38 doubles, 20 triples and stole 41 bags. Rollins getting on base more could be the Phillies’ key in the World Series.

Derek Jeter is an iconic figure in Yankees history. Deemed overrated by outsiders throughout much of his career, Jeter does produce at the right times. He’s never won an MVP, but he may earn one for his efforts this season. He hit .334 with 18 home runs. He also had a strong defensive season, and while his defensive skills are not what they used to be, he’s still a good shortstop. Rollins has him beat in the field, but this season, Jeter beat him at the plate. Jeter is having a very strong postseason, hitting .314 with three home runs. He, like Rollins, hasn’t stolen a base but he has been caught once. Jeter is a table-setter and producer at the same time, just as Rollins is during his strong years. When Rollins is going well, they are about even at the plate and Rollins is a bit better in the field, but Rollins is not at his best this season.


Third Base:
Pedro Feliz has been a valued addition to the Phillies. He hasn’t reached his advertised 20 home runs per season, but his defensive skills have more than made up for his decreased power numbers. Feliz raised his batting average to .266 this season while appearing in an impressive 158 games. Pretty solid for a number seven hitter in the lineup; he still managed 12 homers and 82 RBI. He also hit 30 regular season doubles while contributing to the team on many levels.

The Yankees have the game’s premier third baseman in Alex Rodriguez. Expect the “You Took Steroids” chants to resurface in Game 3 as the Yankees come into Philadelphia. Even so, A-Rod had an excellent shortened season. He hit .286 with 30 homers and 100 RBI, second in both categories behind only Teixeira. He is having a terrific, if not legendary postseason thus far. Hitting .400 with 5 home runs and 11 runs batted in; he is coming through for the Yankees every day. He is the biggest threat in their lineup, by far, and should be avoided at all costs. He is a remarkable talent, and has turned around his reputation of not being able to come through in the clutch.


This is a tough position to judge. Carlos Ruiz is a tremendous defensive catcher while handling the pitching staff better than most catchers in the league. As a result, his offense struggles. While the ability is there, he doesn’t have the time to commit to his offense. Until the postseason rolls around that is. Once again, Chooch is hitting very well during the playoffs. Batting .346 with a home run and seven driven in, Ruiz has been one of the best, if not the best, number eight hitter in the playoffs. He’s been rock solid behind the plate and done a phenomenal job with all the different pitchers, as he always does.

Jorge Posada had a better regular season at the plate, hitting .285 with 22 homers and 81 knocked in. He made seven errors behind the plate, compared to Ruiz’s three, and failed to block several pitches which resulted in more wild pitches. His catching skills are diminishing and he already has two passed balls in this postseason while not catching every game. His offensive abilities are still strong, but he’s better suited to be a DH. A catcher’s most important job is to be strong behind the plate and handle the pitching staff, and anything offensive is considered a bonus. Ruiz is a much better catcher than Posada is, and he’s a great hitter come playoff time.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

As if you didn't know, Phillies are in the World Series

Wow, what a wild ride! We are truly fortunate to watch this team's magical ride two seasons in a row. They are winning in every fashion, by dramatic comebacks and by bludgeoning the opposing team to death. Last night was just another beating.

Unless the Angels pull off a miraculous comeback, the Phillies will face the Yankees in the Bronx on Wednesday for Game 1. Hopefully the ALCS goes seven games. If so, New York would have to hold CC Sabathia back until Game 2 of the World Series, assuming New York won.

The Phillies have some decisions to make regarding their roster and rotation. Cole Hamels is not pitching like a number two and should be demoted. The bullpen could also use an extra arm; I'd like to see Brett Myers added to the World Series roster. Miguel Cairo was rarely used in the NLCS, getting just two at bats. The problem with subtracting a position player though, is that the Phillies will need a DH in Games 1,2,6 and 7. It will likely be Ben Francisco against Sabathia and Andy Pettite, and Matt Stairs or Greg Dobbs against AJ Burnett. That leaves the Phillies one less player available off the bench. Charlie has some decisions to make and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Game 5: t-minus 42 minutes and counting

Game 5 is upon us, less than one hour away. After an incredible Game 4, the Phillies are obviously looking to wrap up the series tonight, and beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS for the second consecutive year. They don't want to go back to LA.

We are watching an amazing team. Every time it seems impossible that they could make yet another miraculous comeback, they defy all odds and logic. Jimmy Rollins is the man, plain and simple.

Cole Hamels is the obvious key to tonight's game. The Phillies need him to be the Cole of old if they are to win the World Series. A great start from him tonight would be a step in the right direction. If LA can beat him, it will give them a lift while discouraging Hamels if he has another average outing. Hopefully Cole can lead us past the Padilla Flotilla, right into the World Series. Clinching tonight, at home, would be huge. Here we go!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cliff Lee you are the man! 11-0

Cliff Lee is one of the best signings in club history. He's been unbelievable while stripping Cole Hamels of his ace stature. Last night's 11-0 victory over the Dodgers came in a crucial Game 3. Even more crucial, the offense broke out the bats after being silenced in Game 2, and Lee dazzled in his third consecutive dominant postseason to start. It's hard to believe those three starts are his only career postseason appearances; he seems like a seasoned veteran who has been here before.

Ryan Howard is having the best postseason of his career by far, while Carlos Ruiz continues to show how clutch he is when the meaningful games roll around. He's a good hitter; he just doesn't have the time to dedicate to his offense during the season, while he's too busy handling the pitching staff. He's a busy man when the playoffs come around.

Jayson Werth continues to show how valuable he is (yes I considered saying showing his werth but I didn't do it). He snapped out of his hit-less NLCS in a big way in the first inning last night with a two-run blast to center field.

It was great to give the bullpen, minus Chad Durbin's one inning, the night off. After blowing Pedro's incredible outing in Game 2, the bullpen got to regroup and refocus last night while the Dodgers had to dig into their bullpen in the second inning.

Hopefully we don't see Cliff Lee again until Game 1 of the World Series. The Phillies are two wins away and getting a strong start would be big for the Phillies tonight. The Yankees may be making short work of the Angels in the ALCS, and if they are going to only play a four or five game series, it'd be big for the Phillies to wrap this one up in five.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Blanton will pitch Game 4

Joe Blanton will start Game 4. Blanton hasn't appeared in the NLCS and was the obvious and expected choice to take the hill. Blanton is the last of Philly's five starters who have not made a postseason start to this point. Cole Hamels will pitch Game 5, looking to find a groove and make a substantial contribution to this team. Pedro Martinez was undoubtedly pitch in Game 6 in necessary and Cliff Lee would take the mound with a trip to the World Series on the line if needed in Game 7.

Check out some interesting and funny photo shopped Phillies' cards on GM Carson's 'More Hardball.'

Bullpen, Utley cost Phils Game 2

So the Phillies have a 2-0 series lead after Pedro pitching an outstanding game as they head back to Philly. Huh? No, I guess I missed that; did I fall asleep? I wish that I had.

That was a brutal way to lose a game. Three key plays in a row in the eighth inning, all going in favor of the Dodgers, allowed LA to tie the series at 1-1. The lead-off hit than clanked off Pedro Feliz's glove and into left field, the bunt that eluded Chan Ho Park and Ryan Howard and Chase Utley's costly throwing error for a second consecutive game, botching a tailor made double-play.

Utley is costing the team right now. He started very slowly in the series against Colorado but picked it up by coming up with some big hits and putting together good at bats. But despite the defensive lapses, Utley is hitting .125 through the first two games of this series. Something has to give, but the good thing is, no one knows that more than Chase. He's either too tired to preform at a high level right now, or he will correct it. Let's hope it's the ladder.

Pedro Martinez was unbelievable. He was absolutely outstanding through seven innings. There's just nothing else to say. Seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits; that's incredible. He's been here before and has turned into a genius signing for Ruben Amaro Jr.

The Phillies still took home field advantage away from the Dodgers and they still have Cliff Lee taking the hill in Philly tomorrow. Now, Jimmy Rollins and Utley need to start hitting, our bullpen needs to shape up and Philly' hitters need to hit LA's bullpen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chooooch and Rauuulll make home field advantage ours

Last night's Game 1 victory over the Dodgers was huge for the Phils. They've taken home field advantage from LA and can play pressure free in today's Game 2. Best case scenario: they head back to Philadelphia with a 2-0 lead and a strangle hold on the series. Worst case scenario: they do exactly what they set out to do in the first place, which is take one of the games in LA. Mission accomplished.

If last night's three run blast from Raul Ibanez is a sign of things to come, this series is over. Ryan Howard is raking at the plate, and if Ibanez returns to his mid-season form at any point in the postseason, the opposition is in trouble. Carlos Ruiz, along with being an excellent catcher, is absolutely clutch in the playoffs. He came through time after time at the dish in the 2008 postseason, and he's doing it again.

Cole Hamels needs to grow up and act like an ace of this staff. He's a father now, he owns a World Series ring and MVP, but yet he still acts like a prima donna child. Yes, Chase Utley made a terrible throw on a potential inning ending double play, but that doesn't give Hamels an excuse to show up his teammates by throwing his hands in the air. He needs to bear down and get Manny Ramirez out. He thinks he's the best pitcher in the world, and if that were true then he shouldn't be worried about facing Manny with a runner in scoring position. He should show everyone how good he is by striking Manny out. Instead, he threw three consecutive change-ups, the third of which hasn't landed yet, and threw a temper tantrum in the dugout. C'mon Cole, act like a professional and start to pitch like it.

Hey Manny... RUN DUMMY!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Park and Bruntlett added, Myers and Kendrick subtracted. Pedro in Game 2

Chan Ho Park and Eric Bruntlett have been added to the roster for the NLCS. Brett Myers and Kyle Kendrick are the odd men out. Myers' subtraction is an extremely surprising move. Charlie Manuel hinted earlier in the season, after pulling Brad Lidge from the mound during his struggles, that Myers could be the front runner to close games once he returns. Myers only pitched 0.2 innings in the NLDS. He didn't allow a run but walked two and hit a batter. Kendrick didn't make an appearance against the Rockies and was an obvious choice to be left off the roster.

Manuel likely added Bruntlett because of how quickly he used his entire bench during a few games in the NLCS. Bruntlett will likely see some time as a defensive replacement late in games if nothing else.

The rotation has unofficially shaped up for the first three games. Unsurprisingly, Pedro Martinez takes the ball in Game 2 and makes his first postseason start since Game 3 of the 2004 World Series with Boston. Cliff Lee will pitch Game 3 in Philadelphia. Joe Blanton will likely make his first start of this postseason in Game 4, but J.A. Happ remains in the running to start that game as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dodgers' rotation Games 1-4

Joe Torre announced the Dodgers' rotation through the first four games, and it has a Philly flavor. After Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, former Phil Vicente Padilla takes the hill in Game 2. Hiroki Kuroda is slated for Game 3 and another former Phil, Randy Wolf, will pitch Game 4, according to Todd Zolecki's Twitter.

Kershaw, LA's Game 1 starter, is 0-3 with a 6.45 ERA in his career against the Phillies.

Philly's Game 1 starter on the other hand, Cole Hamels, has fared much better against the Dodgers. He went 2-0 against them in last year's NLCS, posting a 1.93 ERA in those two starts. He threw a shutout at Dodger Stadium this season and has a career ERA of 1.50 against them in the regular season.

Park may be added for NLCS; BetUs

Chan Ho Park may be added to the Phillies' roster for the NLCS. He threw a bullpen session in Clearwater and is flying to Los Angeles to join the team. Should he join the roster, someone would have to be removed. Who, in my mind, should be a no-brainer: Kyle Kendrick.

Park will be a long reliever out of the bullpen, just as Kendrick is. Kendrick is also the one starting pitcher on the roster who will not make a postseason start. He is expendable and Park would be an upgrade out of the 'pen.

No announcement has been made by either team regarding their starting pitchers for tomorrow's Game 1, but the Phillies will send Cole Hamels to the mound at Dodger Stadium.

Now that the Phillies don't play every day, sports fans across the Deleware Valley need something else to watch. While the Phillies and Flyers are primed to make championship runs, the Eagles are back on track and rolling over opponents every week. Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook are back in the lineup, Jeremy Maclin is emerging into a talented wideout, but their defense has been one of their biggest weapons this season.

If you do any kind of sports betting, a major stat for you to bet on in any sport is defense and even in the NFL, defenses win championships (i.e. Pittsburgh Steelers vs Arizona Cardinals). The Eagles’ D has been extraordinary so far, forcing nine interceptions (only the Saints are better with 10) and 13 sacks this season. They also rank second in the league in total defense.

Also keep in mind in close games forcing turnovers is a huge edge for any team and Philadelphia has a lot of play makers in the secondary.

In every Power Ranking listing in the nation the Eagles are on the rise every week as their defense seem to be stronger with every game they play

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beat L.A.

Bring on the Dodgers. Last night brought one of the most entertaining games of the season as the Phillies continue to defy logic and find new ways to win. Huston Street had an incredible season, nearly as good as Brad Lidge's 2008 campaign. The Phillies have gotten to Street in each of his three appearances this postseason though. In Game 2, they rallied and fell just short on a Shane Victorino line-out. Street was nailed to the wall for a loss in Game 3, and a blown save and another loss in last night's series ending Game 4.

How clutch is this team!? It's unbelievable how many times they pull off these miraculous comebacks. Rollins, for the second straight game, singled off Street to get the rally started. Rollins was 3-3 against Street in the NLDS. Utley had a great two out at bat and worked a walk, leading to Ryan Howard blasting a game tying double and Jayson Werth flicking the ball into right-center field in a great piece of hitting to put the Phils in front.

Scott Eyre did a great job in the ninth, considering he's Eyre and Charlie Manuel was asking a lot from him. Eyre allowed Carlos Gonzalez to reach, as every other Phillies' pitcher did. With two outs, Eyre went right after Helton who grounded a base hit up the middle. Going right after Helton, rather than nibbling at the corners and falling behind, is the right move early in the count. Charlie went back to Brad Lidge who struck Troy Tulowitzki out to end the ballgame and end the NLDS. Lidge is a perfect 2-2 in postseason save opportunities.

The win was huge because it allows Cole Hamels to pitch in Game 1 of the NLCS on Thursday. Friday's Game 2 should come down to either Pedro Martinez, Joe Blanton or J.A. Happ and I think it will be Pedro. Cliff Lee won't be available until Game 3 back in Philadelphia unless Charlie brings him back on three days' rest. The Dodgers haven't announced a rotation but the time off gives them plenty of time to rest their players. You can bet they won't start Randy Wolf in Game 1, as they did in Game 1 of the NLDS.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Charlie is not holding back; Phils need a win tonight

Charlie Manuel is not holding anything back while trying to win the NLDS. He's using anything and everything at his disposal at any time while attempting to defeat the Rockies.

In last night's wild Game 3 victory, he used Greg Dobbs as a pinch-hitter in the fourth, ending J.A. Happ's disappointing outing. Happ wasn't all that bad, but he wasn't locating his pitches and got himself into trouble. One would have to think the cold affected Happ, who is usually an extremely accurate pitcher.

Charlie used Joe Blanton out of the 'pen for the second time in this series, and even used Ryan Madson in the seventh inning to get out of Scott Eyre's jam after Eyre was forced from the game with an ankle injury.

He also used his bench, leaving only Miguel Cairo and Paul Bako as backups. In Game 2, Charlie used his entire bench and Cliff Lee as a pinch-runner while trying to mount a comeback. Bako was the only position player not used in Game 2, but had the Phillies tied it in the ninth, he would have entered the game to catch after Carlos Ruiz was lifted for a pinch hitter.

Charlie also said he wouldn't hesitate to use Pedro Martinez out of the bullpen, if the right situation presented itself. It's also possible that he could use Happ in relief for a batter or two tomorrow if the series goes back to Philly for a deciding Game 5.

It goes without saying that tonight's game is huge for the Phils. If they win, not only do they earn a trip to LA to face the Dodgers, but they will pick up an extra off day before facing the well rested Dodgers. Also, Cole Hamels would pitch Game 1 in LA if the Phils don't need him tomorrow.

Cliff Lee is likely not available until Game 3 of the NLCS, should the Phillies make it that far. To pitch in Game 2, Lee would have to return on three days' rest, something Charlie is unlikely to make Lee do.

If the Phillies lose tonight and win tomorrow, it's unlikely that Lee or Hamels would be available to pitch until Game 3 of the NLCS in Philly. That'd probably leave Pedro and Blanton or Happ to make a start in LA; a situation the Phillies desperately hope to avoid.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happ to start postponed Game 3, Lee in Game 4

Major League Baseball did the right thing by postponing Game 3. Games that count so much shouldn't be played under those conditions. It just so happens that the postponement is a major benefit to the Phillies.

J.A. Happ will take the mound in Sunday's Game 3. Cliff Lee will pitch Game 4 on Monday and if necessary, Cole Hamels will probably pitch Game 5 on Tuesday.

I do feel bad for Pedro Martinez. He was very, very excited to get an opportunity to start tonight's game. The Phillies simply have other pitchers who just give them a better chance to win.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pedro to start game 3

One of the better playoff pitchers returns to the postseason stage as Pedro Martinez takes the hill tomorrow night for the Phillies in game 3 against the Rockies. In a great quote when asked if he's concerned about the projected weather, Pedro responded, "I'm going to enjoy the snow. Maybe I'll be rounding the bases in a snowmobile."

Charlie chose to send Pedro to the bump after Joe Blanton threw 19 pitches in relief yesterday, and J.A. Happ's relief appearance causing him to leave the mound with an injury.

This is a scary move and depends solely on which Pedro shows up. He's had some dominant outings and some subpar starts. Pedro is a battle tested veteran who's presence on the team is valuable, but he just shouldn't be their third starter at this point. If Pedro goes out there and puts the team in a hole, they may need two straight wins just to get by Colorado is a series that started so promisingly with the Phils taking game 1.

Neither team has named a game 4 starter, which will ridiculously start after 10pm on Sunday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rockies tie the series at one as Hamels, Utley continue to struggle

The Phillies lost their first home postseason game since Colorado beat them in game two of the 2007 NLDS this afternoon. There were plenty of encouraging and discouraging things to take from the game but in the end, the Rockies took home field advantage away from the Phillies by splitting the series in Philly.

Positives: The Phillies showed their comeback spirit, falling just short of a dramatic come from behind victory in the ninth. Jayson Werth remains on fire and Raul Ibanez is hitting well, although not for power. Scott Eyre and Ryan Madson were tremendous out of the bullpen.

Negatives: They lost. Cole Hamels' inconsistent season continued as he struggled to keep the Rockies off the board. Joe Blanton was used and J.A. Happ was injured, which may force Charlie to send Pedro to the hill for game three. Chase Utley's funk continues; he picked up a hit for the second straight day but is still struggling at the plate. He's looking bad and has gone down looking three times in the last two games. As I mentioned in my mid-game post, while it'd be a radical move, Charlie may want to consider moving Utley down in the lineup. The postseason is no time to submit a lineup that is not the best it could possibly be. Utley is the best overall hitter on the Phillies but the real Utley hasn't shown up in more than a month. Werth is hitting the cover off the ball and is more than capable to fill in batting third. Ibanez could stay in the six spot or move up to fifth and let Utley hit sixth to aleviate some pressure from Chase while he struggles.

It'll be interesting to see if Charlie makes any drastic moves, who he names starter for game three and if the weather allows game three to be played on Saturday night.

Phils trailing 3-0, Utley's struggles continue... time for demotion?

The Phillies are down 3-0 in the fourth inning of game two. It seems like after dominating the Rockies in game one, that they've taken this game for granted thus far. With Cole Hamels on the mound and their success against Aaron Cook in the past, it'd be easy to possibly look past this match-up and prepare to take care of business in Colorado. Hopefully they get something going offensively, and fast.

Chase Utley has been the early disappointment of the postseason so far. His terrible September was well documented, but he's looked bad through a game and a half. He's struck out looking three times. The team can't afford that from their number three hitter in the playoffs. If he doesn't turn it around, it may be time for Charlie to make a move in the lineup. It's time to put the best possible lineup out there which gives you the best chance to win. If Utley's struggles continue, Jayson Werth could fill in the three hole nicely and either Raul Ibanez or Utley could occupy the fifth spot. The third hitter in the lineup is a crucial position and is supposed to sport the team's best hitter. Right now, that's not Utley.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Postseason is here; What's your lineup look like?

The postseason is upon us. Charlie Manuel has plenty of choices to make regarding his pitching staff and his lineup. Hopefully J.A. Happ gets the opportunity to start at least one game. He earned it and he deserves it. Also, splitting time between Carlos Ruiz and Paul Bako during the regular season is fine, but not in the playoffs.

Chooch was a rock behind the plate for the Phils last October. He was a massive part of their success and a team needs a steady catcher back there for every game. To the best of my recollection, Chris Coste didn't start a postseason game except as a DH in Tampa. Bako did a decent job behind the dish this season, but the only time he should strap on the pads this October is in a blowout.

While Ubaldo Jimenez is not your typical game one ace, he presents a challenge for the Phils this afternoon. He'll likely be tough on our right handed batters, but he can mix it up and pitch well against lefties as well. If I were to fill out the lineup card, here's how it'd look:
1. J. Rollins
2. S. Victorino
3. C. Utley
4. R. Howard
5. R. Ibanez
6. J. Werth (Werth drops to the six hole against the tough right handed pitcher.)
7. P. Feliz (If Greg Dobbs were to start a game at third, this would be the one to do it. But I doubt it'll happen and I don't think I would have made that move either.)
8. C. Ruiz
9. C. Lee

I think Charlie will leave Werth in the five hole, but I'd attack Jimenez with a left handed heavy lineup and worry about how they use their bullpen later. Hitters 1-5 would be batting left handed against Jimenez which could allow the Phillies to build an early lead. As we've seen, Cliff Lee has pitched much better with a lead than he has trailing or in a tie game.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Playoff roster is in with some surprise moves

Your Phillies playoff roster:

Paul Bako
Carlos Ruiz

Ryan Howard
Chase Utley
Jimmy Rollins
Pedro Feliz
Greg Dobbs
Miguel Cairo

Raul Ibanez
Shane Victorino
Jayson Werth
Ben Francisco
Matt Stairs

Cliff Lee
Cole Hamels
Joe Blanton
J.A. Happ
Pedro Martinez
Brad Lidge
Ryan Madson
Brett Myers
Scott Eyre
Chad Durbin
Kyle Kendrick
Antonio Bastardo

The biggest surprise player to not make the roster is Eric Bruntlett. Charlie likes Bruntlett because of his ability to run the bases and play defense at multiple positions in the infield and the outfield. Tyler Walker had a great season but was left off the roster and Clay Condrey was left off, most likely due to all the time he missed.

Phils tab Lee for game one, Hamels for two

Cliff Lee will start game one tomorrow against Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies, while Cole Hamels takes the ball for game two, the Phillies announced this morning.

Although Hamels only threw 47 pitches on Saturday, it didn't make sense to bring him back on three days' rest for the first time in his career. Lee is well rested and ready to go, and Hamels can pitch the following day while adhering to his normal routine. No word on whether Joe Blanton takes the ball for game three or if Charlie sends J.A. Happ to the mound to throw another lefty at Colorado.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lidge adds a cutter; Good time or bad time?

In what is likely a move of desperation, Brad Lidge adds a third pitch, a cut fastball, to his arsenal just in time for the postseason. Is now the best time to experiment with a new pitch?

The postseason is all about establishing a consistent effort every day. Maybe a cut fastball could give hitters something else to think about, other than just his fastball or slider. Generally, a third pitch is a good idea for a pitcher to use, if for nothing else than to keep hitters from sitting on your other two pitches and to keep them guessing. But Lidge used the pitch for the first time on Saturday. Now the postseason is starting.

One wild pitch in the eighth or ninth inning of a game with a non-established pitch could make the difference between a playoff win or loss. It's frightening that he will be throwing a pitch that he hasn't mastered yet when a playoff game is on the line. Here's to hoping the cut fastball is filthy and just what he needs to stifle batters again, but I doubt it.

Check out Todd Zolecki's blog for more about Lidge's cutter.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lineup intact for Saturday's duel with Florida

The lineup, which will likely get its share of rest for tomorrow's season finale just as it did last season, will get one final tuneup against the Marlins this afternoon.

Today's lineup via Todd Zolecki's twitter:
1. Rollins SS
2. Victorino CF
3. Utley 2B
4. Howard 1B
5. Ibanez LF
6. Werth RF
7. Feliz 3B
8. Ruiz C
9. Hamels P

Two games to go with plenty to worry about

The Phillies clinched their third consecutive NL East title on Wednesday and Phillies' fans across the Delaware Valley were left in a state of jubilation once again. But, being the worriers that we are, concerns are ubiquitous across Phillies' Nation.

Charlie Manuel, while trying to get his players some rest, tinkered with the lineup the last two nights to give certain players the night off. The results have not been good. The offense was not competitive while Cliff Lee and Joe Blanton went on to pitch sub-par games. There's not much time left to figure out the pitching situation on this team. Pedro Martinez didn't pitch well in his final regular season tuneup, but will likely will the fourth rotation spot anyway because with J.C. Romero lost for the season, J.A. Happ will likely been the trusted lefty out of the 'pen.

Who is the ace of the staff? Just two months ago the obvious answer was Lee, but he's been struggling almost every time he takes the mound. Cole Hamels, who pitches today, has been much better of late but would be pitching on just three days of rest if he were to take the mound for game one of the NLDS. The rotation will likely be Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Pedro. A month ago, that seemed like a damn strong rotation. Now, no one is sure what those guys are capable of this postseason.

The team has not announced a pitcher for tomorrow's season finale against Josh Johnson and the Marlins. It will likely be either Kyle Kendrick or someone who won't even be on the playoff roster.

Unless Charlie plugs all the starters back in there today, they will take the field in game one without playing a competitive game as a team in a week. The extra rest could be detrimental to the team if they come out lackadaisical in the playoffs.

The Colorado Rockies are on fire and stand just one game behind the Dodgers. While LA is overall a more talented team, the Rockies are red hot and maybe the Dodgers would be a better first round match-up for the Phils. If Colorado takes the next two from the Dodgers, the Rockies would win the NL West and the Dodgers would take the wild card. The records are so close between the Phils, Dodgers, Rox and Cardinals that the Phillies could finish anywhere from first through third. It will be interesting to see how these last two days play out and where the Phils will finish in the National League.