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Front Row 144

May 6, 2011 10:13 AM

30 Games and A Week Out.

April is over and the May days are upon us. The Phillies, after the first 30 games have the best record in baseball.

If however, you listen to sports talk radio shows in Philly or read the local rags, you would think that the Phillies are in a free fall because their offense has fallen off the edge of the Earth and is on its way to being non existence.

This could not be further from the truth, and the run scoring numbers prove it. One must first remember that the object of baseball is to score more runs than the other team, period. It doesn't matter if you win a game 2-1 or 9-1. A win is a win. The current run scoring numbers not only prove that the Phillies offense is holding their own, they prove, in fact, that this team is actually better than the team that won the World Series three years ago.

Before analyzing the Phillies numbers and the comparison of this year's team to the previous three years, understand that scoring is down across the board in MLB. Home runs and scoring are at the lowest levels since 1993, the beginning of the Roid Era. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, home runs are down 20%, and scoring has decreased 8%, down almost a run a game, from 9.86 to 9.08.

Knowing this, knowing that overall scoring is down, if the current Phillies scoring is adjusted by 8% and the RS value of 139 is changed to 150 and the RA value of 98 is changed to 106, their run differential then becomes an astounding +52, and their scoring is relatively comparable to the previous two years, case closed. (The Phillies actual RD of +41 by the way is second only to the white hot Cleveland Indians +49.)

But Phillie fans are refusing to get this and they are taking on the demeanor of the fading WIP and the hardcore Eagles fans. Negativity is driving their thoughts about scoring. As a lifelong resident and fan, I've come to understand the fear and loathing that a large percentage of Philly fans possess, but this is really becoming ridiculous.

Without the 8% adjustment, the 2011 Phillies have a greater RD than the two teams that went to the World Series (2008, 2009) and are only 2 runs less than the 2010 team.

It is true that their scoring is down; 2% for '08, 18% for '09, and 13% for '10, but the correlating runs against are down and down substantially. The current RA is 24% less than '08, 38% less than '09, and 16% for '10.

Plain and simple, the Phillies are beating the other teams and doing it consistently. They are better in 1 run games, better in 2 run games, and better in games that are decided by 3 runs or more.

I am a Phillies fan and I am proud of our reputation as being knowledgeable fans. Listening to local fans and their whining about the lack of scoring however, makes me wonder if this is true; after all, the numbers are right there for the reading.

                              2008         2009         2010         2011
Margin of Victory    W    L       W    L       W    L       W    L
  1 run games          6    7        4    2         4    2        5    2
  2 run games          4    3        3    2         2    3        3    1
 3+ run games         7    3        9   10       12    7      13    6
                             -----------    ----------     -----------      -----------
                            17   13      16   14      18   12      21    9

                         RS   RA      RS   RA      RS   RA      RS   RA
  RS/RA            142  129      169  159     160  117       139   98
   RD                   +13             +10            +43              +41

RS - Runs Scored        RA - Runs Against        RD - Run Differential

 

 

If the fifth month of the year is anything like the fourth month was for the Philadelphia Phillies, they should be in pretty darn good shape come the summer months. And they may even have what I like to call the "Week Out" advantage.

Very simply put, the "Week Out" advantage is a division lead that allows a team to lose every game for a week, while the team trailing them wins every game for a week, and that team would still have the division lead.

Quite obviously, any lead over seven games constitutes a "Week Out" lead. As of this morning, the Nationals and the Mets are a "Week Out".

Did you know that the Phillies are 10-0 in day games?

That when they lead after the 7th, they are 17-0?

That when they lead after the 8th, they are 19-0?

That they are 13-2 when they score first?

Peace out.

 Hasta pronto.

April 30, 2011 8:08 PM

Carl Crawford: The most overpaid athlete ever?

One of the beautiful things about our world is that it gives opportunity to view an event from different angles and develop contrasting perspectives.  Last Winter Scott Boras convinced the world that Carl Crawford was much more valuable than he appears to be right now.

Depending on your vantage point and with five months of hind sight observation in the rear view mirror, Scott Boras was either brilliant or the general manager of the Boston Red Sox demonstrated a stupidity that should render him unemployed.

At the end of last season Carl Crawford was a lifetime .296 hitter, and his eight seasons in the big leagues produced a yearly average of 11 homeruns and 74 RBI.  These are not eye popping numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but Boras convinced the Sox GM Theo Epstein to offer Crawford a contract whose value was $142,000,000. (Insert laughter here.)

Yes, a man who averaged 11 dingers a year, who never hit higher than .307, who never had more than 194 hits in a season, who had the luxury of playing half his games indoors and on artificial turf, signed a contract worth more than 1/8 of a billion dollars!  (Insert rolling on the floor laughter here.)

What the hell where the Red Sox and their management thinking?

Players whose lifetime averages are under .300 and who average fewer than 15 dingers a year are players who cannot, and do not, carry teams on their backs.  And that is exactly the kind of money the Red Sox paid Carl Crawford.

Crawford is a decent major league player with a good arm, good legs, and can be an integral part of a line up.  He cannot, and is not, a player who can be the cornerstone of a lineup, a number three or four hole hitter.

Clearly Theo Epstein had to know this.  He also had to know that the turf and playing in Tropicana Field were partially responsible for Crawford's batting statistics.  Two pedestrian facts about playing indoors are that some ground balls normally caught on natural grass become singles and doubles on turf, and stealing bases is easier since players are running on an unnaturally even surface.

Theo Epstein wasted a quarter of a billion dollars on a left fielder who cricket players would call a "tail ender".  If you want some proof, as I blog this, with 24 games under his belt, Crawford is hitting .155!  With 1 homerun and 6 RBI!  He has 15 hits in 97 at-bats with 4 doubles, 0 triples, and 4 stolen bases!

Crawford has been so bad that Manager Terry Francona has sat him two games and dropped him to eighth in the batting order.  (Again more laughter.)

Imagine that?   An eight hole hitter making 20.2 million dollars a year.

Cheer up Theo; you are not the only one wasting money.  Here are some stats of some other well known players.

 

Player                   Agent        Salary       Ave    H   HR   RBI   

Jorge Posada        ACES       13.1 Mil    .125    9    6    12

Carl Crawford       Boras       20.2 Mil    .156   15    1     6

Raul Ibanez           ACES       11.5 Mil   .161   14    1    10

Dan Uggla             Borris        13 Mil     .194   21    5     9

Hanley Ramirez     Katz          11 Mil     .202   17    0     9

Torii Hunter          RSM          18 Mil     .221   23    4    12

Jayson Werth        Boras         10 Mil     .226   21    4     7

David Wright        ACES         14 Mil    .238   24    5    16

 

We'll revisit these guys in a month to see how and if they have recovered from these anti stellar starts to this year.

Peace out.

The next post will be on the Phillies opening month and how they have taken the spot as the best team in baseball.

Oh yeah, as for my opinion, Scott Boras is deviantly brilliant.  And Theo Epstein got taken to the cleaners.

 

April 24, 2011 3:32 PM

The First 20 Games - Phillies Style

If you're a phan of the Philadelphia Phillies, I'm sure you've waivered this season between confidence and worry.  Will Oswalt hold up?  Why are the Phils hitting fewer home runs?  Where did all the power go?  Why isn't the team stealing more bases?  Or playing more smallball?   

Well fans, you're either not seeing things with clarity, or you are viewing the play of the Phillies through the negative prism of that radio station on the left end of the Philly dial.

The fact of the matter is, as of this posting, the Phillies have the best record in baseball at 15-6; they lead the Atlanta Braves by five and half games; they lead their division by a game and a half; their stud starting five are a combined 10-4 with an ERA of 3.47; and the team has 5 shutouts, tops in the majors.

Simply put, the current Phillies team is the best team in baseball.  It is however, a different type of team than those teams that have taken the field the previous five years.

Hitting is no longer the backbone of this team, pitching is.

Below are some comparative numbers through the first 20 games of this year and last year.  At first glance, the hitting numbers might be cause for alarm.  But study the numbers closely, and you might see something that will put your mind at ease.

 

              This year       Last Year    Difference
                    W   L   Pct.    W   L   Pct.
Phillies          14   6  .700    11   9  .550        +3

Runs Scored                   92            107          -15
Runs Against                   68             84          -16
Run Difference              +24            +23           +1
Singles                           131            119          +12   (+23)
Doubles                           31             43          -12   (-8)
Triples                               3              4           -1   (-1)
Home Runs                     15             20           -5   (+1)
RBI                                 89             99          -10   (+5)
Extra Base Hits                49             67          -18   (-8)
Shut outs                           5              2           +3
ERA                            3.10           4.06         -.94
Earned Runs                   63             79          -16
Games Giving Up 5+        6             10           +4 

As you can see, the power numbers are down, and rather dramatically.  It appears that the Phillies lost a lot of power with the departure of Jayson Werth and the injury to Chase Utley.  And not just home runs.  As Mike Missanelli of 97.5 The Fan was the first to point out, the Phillies are not hitting any doubles either.  They have 18 less extra base hits than this time last year, and that extrapolates out to over 160 less extra base hits over the course of an entire season.

 

But is this bad?

No.

Why?Because the pitching has improved more than the hitting has declined; so much so, that victories are up 21%, the team's ERA has declined almost a full run, and in fact, if you remove the three shaky starts by Cole and Blanton (Cole, 2.2 innings, 6 ER, Blanton, 4.1 innings, 7 ER, and 6 innings, 5 ER) the team ERA drops from 3.10 to 2.43.  So for 17 games, the Phillies pitching has allowed 1.5 runs less than last year.

So even though the run production and power numbers have declined, the pitching and runs allowed have improved more, resulting in more wins and a greater run differential.  And if you don't think run differential is important, click here and notice the numbers in green under the heading DIFF.  Notice anything?

Listen, it would be nice to have more dingers, right?  Chicks dig the long ball and all that.  But winning with pitching is just as satisfying as winning with hitting.

For those of you still not convinced that the team is okay, look at the numbers in the far right hand column inside the parenthesis.  They are the projected numbers the Phillies would have if Chase were healthy.  Once again Mikey Miss and the lack of doubles jumps out at you, but other than that, all would be well.  And oh yeah, Jayson Werth through 18 games is hitting .214 with 3 HR and 5 RBI.  This extrapolates to 27 HR and 45 RBI over the course of a full season.

Also keep in mind Phanatics, the Phillies are a late summer, end of the season team.  They heat up when the temperatures rise and build for a postseason peak.  This year is no different, except for the fact that this team is better overall, with much better front line pitching and a little less power than the previous years.  They are though, off to a much better start and are built for the long haul.

Prior to the season, expectations were high.  If the first twenty games are any indication, said expectations should be realized. 

April 11, 2011 10:24 AM

The first 10 days - East Coast Emphasis

I am in my 50th year on this planet and have to tell you that the beginning of this baseball season might be the most intriguing I've ever experienced.

Of the many interesting things that transpired over the first 10 days of the 2011 season, two thoughts captured my thinking:

     -> How wrong the baseball media is concerning steroids
        and
     -> How wrong the media pundits were who picked the Braves over
        the Phillies


Steroids and Older Players

The steroid era is over.  Everyday players in their mid to late thirties will never have the offensive statistics that the cheaters of the nineties and early years of this century have had.

I blog this because the current baseball media pundits still believe that aging players will contribute this year like they have in the past, and said writers do not fully understand the beneficial effects that steroids provided the cheating players.

Baseball writers seem to think that the only benefit steroids provided the cheating players was more bulk strength.  They seem to think that steroid usage only enhanced home run and power numbers.

The truth is, everyday strength and recovery were, and is, one of the most beneficial aspects of steroid use.  Players using steroids and HGH are stronger day in and day out, and do not tire like the players who are clean.
The baseball writers that think today's older players aren't going to have a dramatic drop off in production are naïve and rather ignorant.

Below is a small sample of what I am referring to, and I admit that it is a very small sample, but the players in italics are integral parts of teams that the baseball writers have declared as the teams to beat.
 
  Albert Pujols - .143 (35 AB)          Jorge Posada - .138 (29 AB)
  Derek Jeter - .206 (34 AB)             David Ortiz - .257 (35 AB)
  Johnny Damon - .125 (32 AB)       Vladimir Guerrero - .270 (37 AB)
  Alex Gonzalez - .250 (36 AB)         Carlos Pena - .190 (21 AB)

I am not accusing the players above of using steroids.  I am however, pointing out that because they are clean players, (except maybe Ortiz?), they cannot be expected to maintain the numbers that they generated earlier in their careers.

Baseball writers either do not expect this decline, or do not understand this.  I will revisit this theme throughout the season to confirm or disprove this theory.  And I will collect more data and player statistics.


So Much for the Braves

The Phillies took 2 out of 3 from the Braves this weekend.
They out hit the Braves .295 (31-105) to .237 (23-97), and outscored them 16-8.
And they did this without their number one ace Doc Halladay taking the mound.

In the series, Dan Uggla was 0-10 and is now hitting .158.
Brian McCann was 2-10, dropping his average from .433 to .361.
Shane Victorino was 9-13 and raised his average to .417.
Chooch Ruiz was 6-9 and raised his average to .346.

These are the respective team's second tier star players and how they play will go a long way toward dictating how successful both teams will be.

So far, the bench and non stars of the Phillies are outperforming the other team's players.

Also, the Braves are now 4 back in the loss column.  This means that for the Braves to win the Division, they have to play 5 games better than the Phillies for the remainder of the year.  Not gonna happen.

In their first nine starts, the vaunted starting five for the Phillies were 5-2.  This is what the Braves must contend with.

And think about this.  The Phillies and Braves have 15 games remaining between each other.  If the Phillies go 9-7 in those games, the Braves will have to play 7 games better than the Phils to pass them.  Again, not gonna happen.

 

Since 2001, the Phillies have the most pinch hit grand slams in the Majors, seven.  There are two other players currently on the team other than Ruiz who have a pinch hit grand slam.  Can you name them?

Peace Out. 

April 2, 2011 6:10 AM

Opening Day Ramblings, 2011

ESPN should change its name to Evil Sports Network
The fact that the Yankees were on as the opening day game in lieu of the Reds is the new defacto point that they have become too influential.  And you just know that ESPN called up Bud and had MLB change the Yankees and Reds starting times.
As for tradition of the Reds always playing and opening the season first?
The only tradition Selig and ESPN know is green.  And not the liberal bullshit kind.
May a pox descend upon all their houses, especially, Barry Larkin, who in an attempt to please all NEVER tells the truth when asked about other players.
And not the kind of pox that causes really bad affliction, just the kind that causes one to require nearness to the bathroom.

.240, 18, and 68
These are the numbers I am wishing upon Alex Rodriguez and Jayson Werth.
No injuries, just greed driven low production.
FYI - Jayson and his new team lost to the Braves Thursday, a feeling he will surely have to grow to love, along with his boatload of cash.

.296, 17, and 88
The numbers I wish for Jimmy Rollins.
If Jimmy is solid, if he can adjust to a role that calls for him to be more patient and not try for the long ball all of the time, the Phillies will win the World Series.
If he doesn't adjust, I think not only will the Phillies let him walk, but he will have blown a chance at being a very special shortstop.  He will be remembered in Philly with a fondness that is laced with "if only would have played more to his abilities and not to his ego".

The MLB Channel
I can sit for hours on end and watch this channel.  The management though, needs to lessen their effort to be fashionable.
Baseball is not a fashionable sport.  It is a pastime.  It is an event that is more than a sport.  It is family.  It is cold beer on a hot afternoon.  It is statistically based arguments at their finest.  It is the background to our Summers, and the focal point of our Falls.
You don't need tatted up, dred locked mouths rapping the trash.  Or Larry Bowa.  I love Bowa, but I've grown weary of him.  He is everywhere in Philly.

The Big Guy, Philly Style
I hope the city of Philadelphia embraces all things Ryan Howard.  So far, his numbers are historic.  So far, the city has been relatively luke warm, digging him.  They clearly do not dig him like they do Cliff Lee or Doc Halladay.  I hope this is not an underlying racial thing, and I hope it changes this summer.

Even Derek Jeter Cannot Stop The Aging Process
Derek Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Famer.  The hardcore greed he displayed this past Winter during his contract negotiations was a direct result of the denial he has about aging.
I believe it has also rooted the foundation for some ugly interaction with the fans.
Jeter hit .270 last year, 43 points below his lifetime average.  He is getting older, his bat and hands are slower, and he will hit even less this year.  I am curious to see how the NY media and fans handle it as he loses his skills to age.

One Year Wonders
The Cincinnati Reds will not repeat as the Central Division champs.  Their lineup and their pitching staff are not scary.  They are good, but not intimidating.  And the rest of the Central Division got
better.

Pujols 451
Albert Pujols will fail miserably this year.  People who earn $100,000,000 over seven years and claim to be underpaid are setting themselves up to experience serious failure.  No writer in baseball will write it, and no talking head will say it, but Pujols is not worth an A-Rod like contract (neither is #13 but that is another story).
His age and his lack of ability to do steroids means he will begin breaking down in three or four years.
This idea that he is going to get a $300,000,000 contract is ludicrous.  But it will most likely happen and whoever pays it will regret it.
I predict that Pujols will blow his elbow out in the next 24 months.
Book it.  I can see it in the baseball karma cloud.
FYI - Albert was oh for five in the Cardinals opening day loss.  Hitting in to three (3) double plays.

Remember In September
A lot of arrogant asses have gone off the board Alex, and predicted that the Atlanta Braves will win the Eastern Division.  I know these people are just trying to be cool; I know that they are just attempting to stir conversation and appear smarter than others.
The problem I have is, if this is the case, then these same people cannot, and I repeat, cannot vote for Fredi Gonzalez for Manager of the Year if the Braves do win the East.
I mean, really, if the Braves are a better team than the Phillies and their starting staff, then I could manage the team and they win.
But they are not.  And when September rolls around and the Braves are looking up at the Phightins, we all should be allowed to kick them, literally, in the arse.

Numbers
Part of the beauty that is baseball lies in the numbers; you know, those statistics we use to base our arguments of who is better.  At the end of Opening Day, and usually for a few days after, fans can get a good chuckle when these normally scaled numbers run askew because of short samplings.

John Axford - Milwaukee Brewers - ERA 54.00 (4 Earned runs in 2/3rd of an inning)
Brett Myers - Houston Astros - BA 1.000 (2 for 2; too many people are 1 for 1)
JC Romero - Philadelphia Phillies - ERA Infinite (1 Earned run without getting a hitter out)
Will Ohman - Chicago White Sox - ERA 40.50 (2/3rd of an inning)
Carlos Quentin - Chicago White Sox - BA .730 (3 for 4, HR, 5 RBI)


Peace Out.

 

March 29, 2011 7:23 AM

My Two Cents On Barry Bonds

In case you are currently living in Libya...
Or you are a person who doesn't care about baseball...
Or, worse yet, you have your San Francisco Giants loving head up your ass...
I'd like to let you know that there is a federal perjury trial underway in the town where Tony Bennett left his heart.

It is a trial to determine whether Barry Bonds perjured himself before a grand jury in December of 2003.  It seems Mr. Bonds told said jury that he did not know that he was taking steroids.

Yes, really.
I am not making this up.  This is not fiction.  This is not a false Tweet.  It is not a Facebook rumor.  It is information gleaned directly from the record of a Grand Jury.

Back in December of 2003, Barry Bonds sat before a panel of jurors and when asked if his trainer gave him steroids, said, and I am quoting from the grand jury record, "Not that I know of."

LOL
"Not that I know of."
Again, yes, really.
You can look it up.

Barry Bonds, he of the oversized head, shrinking testicles, angry demeanor and infantile personality did not know what he was putting into his body.

If anyone reading this believes for one millisecond that Barry Bonds did not know he was taking steroids, please tell me where you live, where you work, and what you do for a living.

I want nothing to do with you, or the town you call home, or your place of business.

Because if you do in fact, believe that Barry Bonds did not know that he was taking steroids, you are either in a state of denial that by comparison would make Charlie Sheen look sedate, or you are Flowers For Algernon stupid.

Forget the false testimony and cross examination.
Forget the federal charges and lame denials and excuses.
Forget the arrogance that is Barry Bonds.

I don't care anymore about Barry Bonds.  In my mind, he doesn't hold the home run record and he never will.  Mr. Class himself and the number 755 will always ring true for me.  As will 714 and the Bambino be number two.

I could care less if Barry Bonds fell ill and suffered a fate that we wouldn't wish upon Muammar Gaddafi.  He is dead to me, and I am sorry, but that is what you get when you behave like Bonds.  People grow to hate you, to despise you, to wish evil things upon your house.

I am sorry, but I no longer care about Barry Bonds; I do however, care that there are still people out there who believe that Barry Bonds did not take steroids.

I care that morally, these people are just too dense or too in denial to acknowledge that yes, Barry Bonds cheated.

I mean come on!
These people pathetically stand before us and demand that we prove that Bonds took roids!

They whine and bay at the Barry moon and worship at the foot of his big head; they cry out that other players were doing the same thing, and yes, they would be right, and look what it has gotten them.

They sniffle and wipe their nose and remind you that in 2003 baseball did not have a policy against steroids, conveniently omitting the FACT, I repeat THE FACT, that using steroids without a prescription is a FELONY!

Their blind loyalty to Bonds is frightening.  It is also a reality.  A reality that I hope is shattered by a guilty vote.

A guilty vote that I doubt very much is forthcoming.  The trial after all, is being conducted in San Francisco.  A city Bonds owns.

A city I will never visit.

 

Peace.

March 25, 2011 7:09 AM

The Key To The Phillie's 2011 Season

On December 14th, Cliff Lee signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

     Since then, millions of words have been written concerning the team and their newly assembled, possibly historic, starting pitching staff.  And a lot of questions have been asked. 

     Is this the best staff ever assembled?  Which Phillie will win the Cy Young Award?  Will there be more than one 20 game winner?  How does Joe Blanton fit in?  Are the Phillies odds on favorites to win it all?  Are the Yankees still pissed and the Mets still solvent?

 

     On and on, the questions, the articles and the words flowed up to, and then into Spring Training.  Press conferences were held, the games eventually began, and finally, the starters unveiled their arms in various stages of ready.  And guess what?

 

     Despite what I deem as some slight bumps in the road, as of this writing (Friday night 3/25), the Phillies have played at a six-twenty winning percentage, which is tied for the best in The Grapefruit League.

     And they've done this without their All-Star closer (Brad Lidge) and without their All-Star second baseman (Chase Utley), both of whom are now on the DL.  They've also done this with an alleged vacuum in rightfield created by the departure of Jason "I took the money but I regret it already" Werth, and a third baseman (Placido Polanco) with a bum elbow.

 

     This leads me to think that most of the aforementioned questions were asked in vain and that this was just an unusually busy hot stove season with rhetoric ad nauseum.

     I mean really.

     Even without Chase, even with Ryan Madson closing, this team will win 88 games simple because their starting eight is as good or better than most of the teams in the NL; because they have Ryan Howard; and because this starting staff will prove what most people believe: They are very, very good.

 

     The key questions to me are simply, will the Phillies win the Division?  The NL Pennant?  And the World Series?

 

     These are the burning questions the local media and talking heads should have been trying to answer for the last month or so instead of pondering the starting staff and their historical position.  But fret not.  I am here to provide you with the answers.

 

     Yes, the Phillies will win the East Division, and yes, the Phillies will get to the NLCS, but whether they win the pennant and the World Series depends on three things.

 

     First, a fresh Chase Utley.  For the last three years, hardcore, knowledgeable Phillies fans have complained that #26 has looked absolutely beat come the end of September.

     This year, that concern will not exist.

     Come the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, Chase Utley will be well rested and ready to replicate his 2009 Yankee World Series stretch of 5 homeruns and 8 RBI in 6 games.  His injury should actually be a blessing.  The two month delay to the beginning of this season will prevent Chase from killing himself; everyone knows how hard he plays and that this wears his body down; not this year.

     If Chase is ready by the end of June, or the middle of July, it will be a giant plus for the Phightins.

 

     Second, the bullpen only needs to be average.  Forget the cries of the local media.  Their job is to sell air time and print space.

     Brad Lidge on the DL?  Big deal.

Two out of the last three years Lidge has started the season on the DL, and still the Phillies have made it to the NLCS each of those years.

     Let Brad Lidge alone and let him get healthy.

     The Fab Five, for the most part, will go deep into most games and Charlie will have multiple options in how he uses the bullpen.

     Madson is in a walk year and wants to prove he can close.  Contrares is a good soldier.  And the idea of by committee can work with this starting staff.

     If Brad doesn't return, if his injury is career ending, or at least career delaying, the Phillies can use Madson and sign someone in the off season.  Again, this is not an insurmountable concern and may end up being a blessing.

 

     The most important thing, finally, that needs to go well for the Phillies to win the pennant and World Series is #5.

     Jimmy Rollins always give his team a Gold Glove caliber shortstop; he has also always provided proven leadership; if the Phillies want to win the NLCS and the World Series, Rollins must return to his 2008 form at the plate.

     Even though his stats in 2007 were better overall than in 2008, and resulted in Rollins winning the MVP Award, the numbers Jimmy put up in 2008 could be categorized as more important and more potent.

     He had 15% more stolen bases (47 to 41) in 25 less games; he had the same amount of doubles (38) in 153 less at-bats; and even though his batting average was 19 points less in 2008, his OBP was the highest of his career (.349).  Rollins won the MVP in 2007 because he hit 30 home runs.  He won the World Series in 2008 because he walked more, struck out less, and was on base more, something he must do for the Phillies this year.

     Even if J-Roll bats third until Chase gets back, he must be patient and make pitchers work longer and work harder.  This gives the guys on deck more looks at the pitcher and Jimmy more of an opportunity to see something he can drive.

     Jimmy Rollins is the key to the Phillies winning the pennant and the World Series.

     And he is the type of player that knows this, and relishes in it.

     He too, is in a walk year.  And that may bode very well for the local nine.

 

     If these three things break the Phillies way, their second World Series in four years is a given.

 

     Peace.

 

March 19, 2011 5:35 PM

Opening Day

When you think of Baseball and Opening Day, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

If you are a Philadelphia Phillies fan, your Opening Day memory can range from the bizarre to the sublime to the poignant.  From Kiteman and his daring, but catastrophic attempt to conquer centerfield in old Veteran's Stadium, to Jimmy leading the team onto the field on April 7th, 2004, to Chris Short rebounding from 1964 by opening 1965 with a 4 hit shutout.

Baseball's Opening Day, unlike the other major sports, falls near the beginning of a new season, and as such, is generally viewed more transitionally than other sport's Opening Days.

The weather is changing for the better and our local nine have clean slates.  Last year is a memory in the rear-view mirror, newness abounds, and hope springs eternal.

Even for the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.

Personally, I have been taking my daughter to Opening Day since 2003.

She attended the last Opening Day at The Vet, and hasn't missed an Opening Day in the history of The Bank.

untitled.JPGHere we are last year reaching for Josh Willingham's second inning home run off of Cole Hamels.

This dinger was probably the only low point of an otherwise gorgeous sunny day as our local nine won the home opener and went on to have a very good season.

This year, the Phillies open the season at home, and do so, according to the local and national talking heads, with an expectation of World Series or Bust. 

The Phillies have assembled a pitching staff the likes the League hasn't seen since the early nineties and the Atlanta Braves rotation of Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine.  And man is the pressure is on.

But not in my book.

Unlike a lot of the local Philly media and a lot of newbie fans, I do not believe the Phillies have to win the World Series to think 2011 is a success.  If they stay healthy and work hard, every game will be an event.  The parking lots surrounding The Bank will be filled with revelers, tailgaters, and jealous Eagle fans hours before every first pitch.  Phillies Red and talk will dominate the summer.

And the Phillies will be good.  Actually, they are good.  And they will be fun and the consecutive sellout streak will add another 81 games to the run.

How can this not be a success?

From April until September (and most likely October), we will see great baseball, possibly historic pitching, in the best baseball park in the land!

A World Series would simply be a cherry on top of an awesome ice cream sundae.

Enjoy this April 1st and create your own Opening Day memory.


 

July 12, 2010 2:06 PM

The Front Row 144 All Star Break Phillies First Half Review.

The All Star Break is here, and as a fan, I am somewhat aggravated.  Not over the way our local nine has played the first half of the 2010 season, but because of the way the media and some fans are reacting.

You see, I know and appreciate that the Phillies are the two time defending National League Champions.  And I know and appreciate how hard it is to repeat as champions.

As a matter of historical fact, since 1969 (the Championship Series era), only five National League teams have repeated as champions.  During that same time period, not one team has won three pennants in a row.  That's right.  Zero.  Nada.  Zip.

I get all of this, I really do.  I get how hard it is to repeat.
I dig this team, their grit, their swagger, and their commitment to excellence.

The reason I am somewhat aggravated is not because the Phillies' record this year isn't as good as it has been the past two championship seasons. In 2008 the team's record was 52-44 and in 2009 it was 48-38.  This year's record at the All-Star Break is 47-40.

To me, this is quite the accomplish considering the games they've lost due to injuries, including major time lost from their All-Star second baseman (Utley), their reigning Gold Glove shortstop (Rollins), their stud, professional third baseman (Polanco), and their steady as taxes catcher (Ruiz).

Add in the time lost by their Rookie of the Year runner up starting pitcher  (Happ), steady mid reliever (Madson), and closer (Lidge), and it is simply stunning that the Phillies are still in yelling distance of the over achieving Atlanta Braves and This It Isn't September New York Mets.

I mean really, given these injuries, how can any fan be upset at all.
I admit I'm aggravated, but I am not upset.
I don't post hateful, angry comments on any baseball or sports website about Ruben or his decisions.  I don't write columns for local papers saying how stupid it was not to try to have both Lee and Halladay at the top of the rotation.

No, I continue to support the team that is the two time defending NL champion, the team that won a world championship two years ago and has just completed a 5-2 homestand to pull within four in the loss column of the Braves because I am a true fan.  It helps also that I reasonably analyze the facts and statistics and understand why our local nine is in third place.

Fundamentally, the reason the Phillies are in third place is just a simple matter of numbers.
If one steps back with an open mind and reviews the facts before us, the analysis lessens the aggravation.

Consider that the Phillies have 34 losses where they have scored three or less runs.
The actual breakdown is:

        Games     Runs Scored    OruA
            12                     3               3
              4                     2               2
              9                     1               6
              9                     0               4

Note:  OruA is the number off times that the Opponent has scored under the league average for those games listed.


Even though the Phillies average more runs per game than the National League average (Phils average 4.71/gm, NL teams average 4.39/gm), they have lost 18 games where they scored one run or less.

That league leading offense that was as dependable the last two years as political lies is abjectly underachieving.  It is that simple.

If, (and remember, baseball and its statistics lend itself to the what if scenario much better than any other sport), if the Phillies scored the league average in half the of the games listed above, they would have fifteen more wins, lead the division, and easily have the best record in baseball.

If they scored the league average in a quarter of these games, and remember, the league average is less than what the Phillies average per game, they would have eight more wins and be leading the division.

It is that simple.  Injuries have decimated the offense that has dominated the league the last two years.
Period.

The starting pitching is doing their job; the bullpen is doing their job, with the exception of Howard, Polanco, Ruiz, and Werth in April, the offense is a shell of what it was last year.
If the team can amp up their offense in the second half, they will be fine.  If not, it will continue to be a struggle and I will continue to be a fan.
Peace out and stay positive.  The offense most likely will come around.
July 3, 2010 4:20 AM

Day One Of The New Blog

For the record, this is my first blog for Real Clear Sports.  Each Saturday morning, I will be simulcasting my blog from The Front Row 144 to The Real Clear Sports Blog Network. I am hoping this will mean more exposure.  If you are on the Front Row, take a few minutes and check out the Real Clear networks, it is way worth it. 

Now on to the subject of this blog, the Phillies.
Is it time to panic?  Is it time to accept that there will not be a third straight pennant or fourth straight division title?
Have injuries so decimated this team that it is now a bottom division dweller?
Should thought now turn to next year?
Quite frankly, no, no, no, and no.
Granted, our local nine lost their second in a row to an absolutely piss ant of a professional baseball team, but fear not Phillies baseball fans.
The team has been in this position before and is professional enough not to panic.  They have enough veteran players to weather this injury storm, and really?  Do the Mets or Braves strike fear in your hearts?
With all of that said, today is a must win!
LOL
Peace out.  I will refrain from making this a long blog.  As you will see, if you follow this blog, I tend to post long with wins, and short with losses.  I call this positive reinforcement blogging.
Esté bien.
Y déme una cerveza fría.

QHO
-- The last witch to be executed in the United States was in Salem, MA in the year 1692.  That was also the last year some one other than Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Argentina, France, or Portugal won the World Cup.  Here is to Slovakia spanking the Dutch today and moving into the finals and possibly breaking over three hundred years of seven country soccer rule.
-- Jason Werth has struck out seven times in his last ten at-bats; the way he has responded to his contract pressure leads me to think he cannot handle the pressure à la  number 6, number, 11, and number 26.  If he gets more than a three year contract, there will be many players turning over in their graves.
-- The Tour de France begins today, and count me in as a nutcase viewer.  As an ardent bicyclist, I appreciate the complexity and sheer impossibility of this race.  I am, of course, rooting for Lance.  I sure wish Hincapie was riding with him though. 

* Quick Hit Observations - This a feature of my blog where I note quick, short, insightful observations from the prior day's games, or something random that popped into my head and does not fit into the current posting.  To have an entry in this section, email it to me and if I deem it interesting, I will post and cite you for your brilliance.

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