Posted on: March 2, 2012 9:41 pm
By Matt Snyder
The 2011 Phillies sported an MLB-best 102-60 regular-season record, but then lost a heartbreaking Game 5 in the NLDS, 1-0, to the eventual World Champion Cardinals. Rubbing salt in the wound was slugger Ryan Howard tearing his Achilles tendon on the final out of Game 5. He's expected to miss around two months. With him missing time, the Phillies aging stars a year older and a much tougher division in 2012, is the window of opportunity for another World Series title starting to close with this nucleus? It's certainly not closed, but it may be headed that way.
Major additions: RHP Jonathan Papelbon, OF/IF Laynce Nix, IF Ty Wigginton, 1B Jim Thome
Major departures: OF Faul Ibanez, RHP Ryan Madson, RHP Roy Oswalt, RHP Brad Lidge, OF Ben Francisco
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Shane Victorino, CF
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Hunter Pence, RF
5. Jim Thome/Ty Wigginton/Laynce Nix, 1B
6. John Mayberry, LF
7. Placido Polanco, 3B
8. Carlos Ruiz, C
Ryan Howard will obviously man 1B and slide in the lineup at cleanup when he's ready to take the field, but it doesn't sound like that's happening until late May, if not later.
1. Roy Halladay
2. Cliff Lee
3. Cole Hamels
4. Vance Worley
5. Joe Blanton
Kyle Kendrick waiting in the wings if someone goes down.
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Set-up: Antonio Bastardo
Important bench players
C Brian Schneider, OF Juan Pierre and whoever isn't starting at 1B (see lineup above)
Prospect to watch
Domonic Brown isn't a prospect anymore and much of the Phillies top prospects are in the lower-levels of the minors, so it's slim pickings here -- as to be expected with an elite, veteran club. I'll go with Phillipe Aumont, a relief pitcher headed for Triple-A. The 23-year-old had a 3.18 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings once he was promoted to Triple-A last season. Control was an issue, as he walked 14 guys, leading to a 1.54 WHIP, but he certainly has the strikeout capability to contribute to the bullpen later in the season if he gets things figured out. Considering the Phillies are counting on the likes of Jose Contreras, Chad Qualls and Dontrelle Willis in the bullpen, the chances an injury or underperformance open up a spot in the 'pen after a few months are pretty good.
Fantasy bust: Hunter Pence
"Before you hop aboard the hype train and ride it all the way to crazy town, you might want to remind yourself that theonly aspect of his game that changed for the better last year was his batting average. He didn't gain any power. He didn't walk more or strike out less. He didn't fundamentally change as a player. He simply got better results, putting together a .361 BABIP instead of his usual .305 or so. It wouldn't be the first time. He had a .377 BABIP as a rookie in 2007, when he hit .322. But the peripherals suggested it was too good to be true then, and they do now as well. Pence is an asset in Fantasy because of his job security and 20-homer power, but he's a .280 hitter who can't take a walk." - Scott White [Full Phillies fantasy team preview]
Fantasy sleeper: John Mayberry
"General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has made the comparison. Manager Charlie Manuel has made the comparison. It's Mayberry's identity now: the next Jayson Werth. For the Fantasy owners who have played long enough to remember when Werth rose from obscurity to put together a 20-20 season in 2008, that's cause for celebration. But is it a reasonable expectation? Hey, Mayberry is more of a certainty now than Werth was then, having hit 15 homers in 267 at-bats last year. Like Werth, he's a former first-round pick who, like Werth, didn't begin to meet his potential until his late 20s. And like Werth, he happens to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage." - Scott White [Full Phillies fantasy team preview]
World Series champs. By now, anything less is a disappointment for a group with so much talent and postseason experience.
The offense badly struggles without Howard -- who falls behind in his rehab and misses three months -- with age declines limiting production from the likes of Utley, Rollins and Polanco. Worley comes back to Earth after his insane 2011 season and Blanton continues to struggle with injuries. Even with all that, the Phillies would still be good enough to be a playoff contender, even in the mighty NL East, due to the new two-wild-card playoff format. It's hard to envision enough things going wrong to have them finish below the Braves, Marlins and Nationals. Maybe two of the three -- in a worst-case scenario -- but not all three.
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Tags: 2012 spring training, Antonio Bastardo, Brian Schneider, Carlos Ruiz, Chad Qualls, Chad Qualls, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Domonic Brown, Hunter Pence, Jim Thome, Jimmy Rollins, Joe Blanton, John Mayberry, Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Contreras, Juan Pierre, Kyle Kendrick, Laynce Nix, Matt Snyder, Phillies, Phillipe Aumont, Placido Polanco, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, spring training, spring training 2012, Ty Wigginton, Vance Worley
Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: November 24, 2011 12:26 am
By Matt Snyder
What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no waivers, no minor- or major-league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams.
It's late November. The awards have all been handed out. The Winter Meetings are in a few weeks. Pitchers and catchers don't report for almost three months. So it's the perfect time to kick off a fun little series. So we're starting the Homegrown series right now. We have a landing page that will be filled out as we move forward with the feature -- on which you can see the exact date we'll be posting each individual team.
What I love most about this series is that it has the potential to either enlighten or vindicate rabid fans in heated arguments. Large-market, big-spending teams are often attacked by opposing fans as simply trying to "buy championships" without having to develop their own talent. The biggest target is the Yankees, so what better team to start the series with?
The news is pretty good for the haters. You have been vindicated. This team would be ... well, you'll see.
1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Derek Jeter, SS
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Alfonso Soriano, DH
5. Jesus Montero, 1B
6. Melky Cabrera, RF
7. Austin Jackson, CF
8. Francisco Cervelli, C
9. Eduardo Nunez, 3B
1. Ian Kennedy
2. Ivan Nova
3. Phil Hughes
4. Chien-Ming Wang
5. Jeff Karstens
Closer - Mariano Rivera
Set up - John Axford, David Robertson, Tyler Clippard, Mark Melancon, Joba Chamberlain
Long - Phil Coke? Jose Contreras?
Notable Bench Players
Jorge Posada, Dioner Navarro, Juan Rivera, Jose Tabata ... and that's about it. Unless Marcus Thames and Shelley Duncan get you excited.
That bullpen is sick. It would easily be the best in baseball, with any lead past the fifth inning seemingly being safe in the hands of Clippard, Robertson, Axford and Rivera.
Anything else. Nothing is horrible, but the lineup, defense and rotation leave a lot to be desired. What's worse, there's really no depth in case of injuries. They'd have to turn to either Coke or a minor leaguer (Dellin Betances?) in the rotation -- or convince Andy Pettitte to come out of retirement -- and Ramiro Pena is the only backup infielder. There are plenty of backup outfielders, but Tabata's really the only one with upside.
Comparison to real 2011
Well, let's see. The 2011 Yankees won 97 games en route to a division title and the best record in the American League. This team is mediocre at best. The bullpen is awesome, but how many leads would there be to protect? 75? There is an MVP candidate in Cano, but having Soriano as protection isn't near as cushy as he's used to. Since this is the first team in our 30-team series, we won't reveal many other specifics, but I can tell you that this Yankees team would probably finish fourth in the AL East. Thus, it's much worse than reality. I have no way of measuring this, but I do think this team is better than many Yankee-hating fans would have guessed. Lots of those act like the Yankees have never developed anyone. This isn't an awful collection, it's just not good.
Now, it's absolutely worth noting the Yankees lost lots of draft picks as compensation for signing free agents, so that's why they don't have any depth. But let's just remember this is supposed to be a fun exercise for the offseason.
Up next: San Diego Padres
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Tags: AL East, Alfonso Soriano, Austin Jackson, Brett Gardner, Chien-Ming Wang, David Robertson, Derek Jeter, Dioner Navarro, Eduardo Nunez, Francisco Cervelli, Homegrown, Ian Kennedy, Ivan Nova, Jeff Karstens, Jesus Montero, Joba Chamberlain, John Axford, Jorge Posada, Jose Contreras, Jose Tabata, Juan Rivera, Marcus Thames, Mariano Rivera, Mark Melancon, Matt Snyder, Melky Cabrera, Phil Coke, Phil Hughes, Robinson Cano, Shelley Duncan, Tyler Clippard, Yankees
Posted on: July 27, 2011 5:01 pm
By Danny Knobler
Yes, the Phillies made an effort for Carlos Beltran, before backing down and allowing him to go to the Giants. Yes, the Phillies talked to the Astros about Hunter Pence, although it appears now that nothing will happen, and the Astros will look to deal Pence in the winter, instead.
And as usual, the Phillies' biggest acquisition this month might well be a pitcher.
The Phillies remain among the teams most interested in Padres relievers Heath Bell and Mike Adams, although like others they continue to complain about the high prices. The Phils have looked at the Orioles and other teams, as well, in hopes of finding bullpen help.
I know, the Phillies bullpen has been among the most successful in the game this year. Their three blown saves are the fewest in the majors, and only one of the three came in the ninth inning. And after playing much of the year with three closers (Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras) on the disabled list, the Phillies now have Madson and Lidge back on the active roster.
Fine. But fast-forward to October, because the Phillies are all about October.
Do you feel comfortable with Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo pitching late in games in the playoffs? Are you sure about Madson as your playoff closer? Will Lidge be healthy and strong enough to help?
People who talk to the Phillies say they're asking all of those questions themselves, and that the answer can be seen in their efforts on the trade market.
The Phillies will likely still look to acquire a right-handed hitter, but it may well be more of a platoon bat off the bench. That could change, obviously, depending on who is available, and it would be interesting to see if the Phillies went after Carlos Quentin, if the White Sox really make him available.
The Phillies didn't get Beltran, and they almost certainly won't get Pence. Don't be surprised if they end up with a reliever.
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Posted on: May 21, 2011 2:05 pm
By Evan Brunell
Before being pressed into emergency closer duty when both Brad Lidge and Lidge's replacement in Jose Conteras went down, the closer's role was Madson's boogeyman.
From 2004-10, a span of seven seasons, Madson had an eye-popping 24 blown saves against just 20 saves, highlighted by his 0-for-7 turn in '04 and being highlighted the last two seasons with converting just 15 of 26 chances. Madson's struggles have long been odd, as his ERA over the same timespan is 3.73, dropping to 3.01 from 2007-10 and emerging as one of the game's best setup men.
Now, the 30-year-old can add vaunted closer to his resume, as he's finally dispelled the boogeyman by converting all eight save opportunities with a paltry 0.50 ERA over 18 innings on the season. His strikeout rate has spiked to a career-high and he's punched out 23 batters while walking just seven. Brad Lidge, who is hoping to return to the team in three weeks, already knows he won't replace Madson as closer. Given Lidge has yet to pitch this season, it wouldn't make sense to throw him right back in the fire as a closer. Madson's production has also eased the load on Lidge.
“Ryan’s done an incredible job, and he’s closing games as good as anybody in baseball,” Lidge said. “I would expect whatever Charlie thinks is best for the team is what he’s going to do. I’m just going to be happy to be back in the big leagues for a while. Whatever pans out is what pans out.”
Even Jose Contreras, Lidge's replacement as closer before hitting the DL, may return to his setup role once he's ready. Contreras could be activated for Sunday or Monday's game provided his rehab outing with Double-A Reading goes well Saturday night. That's how impressive Madson has been.
“When I look at him that he’s been throwing hard, but this is the best command I’ve ever seen him have of his change-up,” manager Charlie Manuel told the Wilmington News Journal. “His change-up, to me, it’s improved. And the location with it, he’s been that good.”
Madson's changeup has been a big reason for his success to date, throwing it about 30 percent of the time -- and forcing a swing-and-miss on one out of every three changeups ever since he made a mechanical tweak in mid-2010. That's a massive number. For comparison, Mariano Rivera's cutter gets a swing and a miss 8.1 percent of the time last season. Craig Kimbrel's change? 20.8 percent. Jonathan Papelbon's splitter comes close, but it's still no cigar, inducing 28 percent swing-and-misses.
The reason for the added success, Madson says, is a flaw with his pitching motion that Lidge noticed last season. When delivering a fastball, Madson's arm angle was further out from his head which allowed batters to pick up that it was a fastball easier. Given the effectiveness of a change wholly rests on being able to deceptively deliver it as a fastball, Madson wasn't getting the most out of his change.
Now he is. And now, Manuel doesn't seem interested in changing roles once Contereas and Lidge return. Even if Madson eventually transitions back to a setup role by season's end, he could have just made himself millions of dollars.
An impending free agent, Madson could be a hot name to become a closer for another team -- and with Scott Boras as his agent, you can bet Madson will hit free agency. Philadelphia hopes not, with GM Ruben Amaro saying that he wouldn't rule out trying to extend Madson in-season. That's a no-brainer, as Amaro should be doing everything he can right now to hang onto Madson, who could close for Philly for quite some time. Both Conteras and Lidge will be free agents as well.
Lidge, for his part, isn't sure what to expect when he returns after being diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation in spring training. He's been out so long and hasn't even pitched in a game situation yet. He's tossing a second bullpen session Saturday before heading out to extended spring training, then a rehab assignment. That puts his return to the Phillies sometime in mid-June. Despite that, Lidge couldn't be more pleased with how things are going.
“I’m already throwing harder than at any point this spring,” Lidge said. “I wasn’t really throwing hard at all this spring -- mid to upper 80s, I guess. I can already tell I’m throwing harder than that, so that’s very encouraging. Beyond that, I know I’ve got a few outings to get the rest back on, but it’s encouraging to know I’m past where I was in spring training.”
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Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:21 pm
By Evan Brunell
What position in baseball has the worst job security?
Has to be closers, right? Tuesday, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said that Jonathan Broxton had lost his grip on the job. While manager Don Mattingly later disputed that, it's clear that Broxton is on extremely thin ice. Joe Nathan, Matt Thornton, Fernando Rodney and Ryan Franklin have already lost their jobs while John Axford, Brian Fuentes, Joakim Soria and Brian Wilson have their hands full trying to reduce their ERA.
But enough about flailing closers, how about acknowledging the ones off to tremendous starts so far?
Entering Wednesday's games, Huston Street led all of baseball with eight saves against a scant 1.88 ERA for the surging Rockies. Street has 157 career saves already, although he hasn't been a full-time closer the entirety of his seven-season career. The 27-year-old has been a bit lucky to start the year, but his talent is for real.
Meanwhile, the ageless Mariano Rivera tops the AL leaderboard with seven saves, although his ERA currently would mark his highest since 2007. This is a 2.53 ERA we're talking about here.
In Atlanta, Craig Kimbrel has ran away with the job after opening up in a presumed platoon with Johnny Venters. Kimbrel's ERA is a spotless 0.96, and he's also struck out 13.5 batters per nine. Surprisingly that isn't even the highest for a closer as New York's Francisco Rodriguez has struck out a staggering 13 in 7.2 innings. Joining Kimbrel with ERA's under 1.00 is San Diego's Heath Bell with a 0.90 mark and five saves. Bell figures to be a hot commodity on the trade market this summer, although it's no guarantee San Diego will move him.
Tied with Kimbrel for six saves include Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan, Cleveland's Chris Perez, Florida's Leo Nunez and Oakland's Brian Fuentes. Of those, only Fuentes doesn't have a firm hold on the job, as his history indicates he's not an elite closer. That's reflected in his 4.06 ERA on the year thus far and should lose his job once Andrew Bailey returns and proves ready to assume his role.
Two other closers in Jose Contreras and Neftali Feliz with strong starts to the season only recently hit the disabled list. Of the other strong starters, Kyle Farnsworth for Tampa Bay jumps out. Here's a pitcher who's always had tremendous stuff but has been a basketcase. He seems to have become a new pitcher over the last couple years, though, and he's certainly enjoying life as a Ray with five saves and a 1.23 ERA. Still, it feels as if he's due for a blowup any time now.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 8:17 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams may not be the only squabbling manager-general manager duo in baseball -- enter Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro Jr.
On Sunday, Amaro implied reliever Jose Contrears was forced to the disabled list because he was overused. Contreras had pitched five times in seven days from April 15-21.
"He had been pitching quite a bit," Amaro said on Sunday. "I think it was just the work that he's done. He didn't indicate it was one pitch, just over time, especially after his outing on Thursday."
Contreras needed 26 pitches to get out of the ninth inning on Thursday, a 3-0 victory over the Padres for his fifth save of the season.
Manuel, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, was not very happy about his critics questioning how much the manager had used the 39-year-old Contreras.
"There's no way in hell we overused Contreras. That's how I feel. There's no way," Manuel said. "What did he pitch? The most games was three. Then he had a day off. He pitched five times in seven days. We weren't trying to stay away from him. He was closing games for us. That's how I look at it."
It was then mentioned Amaro said Contreras was used a lot.
"I don't think he had been used a lot. Really. What's today? April 25? It's April 25 and I already hear our guys need days off. Guys need this. Guys need that. I've been listening to that for about four or five years now," Manuel said. "The object of it is, like I tell our guys in the meetings, the brass, the object is for us to win the game. Every day we come to the ballpark, that's the object, to win the game. Now do you want to win or do you want to lose? To me, I want to win so I'll put the best team I possibly can on the field that day. I'll give you days off when I think so. That's part of my job too."
Manuel went on to say he doesn't need anyone telling him what to do. When asked if anyone has said anything to him about his approach, he answered, "That's none of your business."For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 5:01 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 5:06 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Today we're starting another daily feature at Eye on Baseball, On Deck will bring you three of the things you need to know for each night's game, from streaks to showdowns to pennant battles and beyond, we'll highlight three games or players each night, letting you know what to watch for in the day's slate of games.
Best matchup -- Oakland's Gio Gonzalez vs. Anaheim's Jered Weaver. I'm not a big believer in the East Coast bias myth, but will say that if this were a Yankees-Red Sox matchup, you'd already be sick of hearing about these two. Gonzalez is coming off his first loss of the season, a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Red Sox, but is still 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA. Weaver may be the American League's best starter, at least in April, leading the league in ERA (1.23) and with five wins. The game doesn't start until 10:05 p.m. ET, but it's worth staying up late to watch -- and with these two on the hill, even those on the East Coast won't have to stay up too far after bedtime. A's at Angels, 10:05 p.m. ET
Streaking -- Andre Ethier enters tonight's game against the Marlins as the owner of a 21-game hitting streak. It's the longest April hitting streak in Dodgers history, but still 10 games behind the team's best hitting streak. Willie Davis hit in 31 straight games in 1969, breaking the previous record of 29 held by Zack Wheat, set in 1916. Dodgers at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. ET
Closer watch -- The Phillies have a new closer in Ryan Madson after Jose Contreras went on the disabled list on Sunday. Contreras was already filling in for the injured Brad Lidge, but Madson has been the team's closer-in-waiting for more than a year now and will get yet another shot at showing Philadelphia he can do the job full-time. Tonight may not be his best shot, with Cliff Lee (2-1, 3.91) on the mound for the Phillies and Ian Kennedy (2-1, 5.64) starting for Arizona, there may not be much pressure -- nevermind a save situation -- in the ninth inning at Chase Field tonight. Phillies at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. ETFor more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 9:12 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
After the game, the team put the 39-year-old right-hander not he disabled list with a strained flexor pronator tendon in his right elbow. He will return to Philadelphia to see the team physician to see if there's further damage to the elbow.
Contreras is already a fill-in for closer Brad Lidge, who will be out until at least the All-Star break with a partially torn rotator cuff.
Although Bastardo got the call on Sunday, the team says Ryan Madson will take over the full-time job as the Phillies' closer, with Bastardo the main set-up man. After that?
"It's thin," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told Matt Geib of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Contreras hasn't pitched since Thursday and the move to the DL will be retroactive to Friday. He had converted all five of his save opportunities this season and hadn't allowed a run. He'd thrown five times in the previous seven games, throwing 81 pitches in that span.
The team called up right-hander Michael Stutes, who will join the team Monday in Phoenix.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.