Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Adam Eaton: Bombs Away
What's the difference between Adam Eaton and a good pitcher? Two things: mistakes and line drives. A good pitcher minimizes both. Adam Eaton minimizes neither.
Despite gaining the win last night, the Phils' No 4 starter and his shortfalls were on full display. Well, at least we know why he isn't in the bullpen. Giving up all 4 runs on his first spin through the lineup, Eaton was hit hard. He served up a HR to Craig Biggio on the first pitch of the game on a tailing fastball that came back over the plate. He then had Biggio 0-2 in the second only to throw 4 straight balls to load the bases and give way to Mark Loretta's 2-RBI double. After getting on with a single in the bottom of the 2nd and scoring on a triple by J-Roll, Eaton proceeded to give the lead right back by giving up a towering HR to Lance Berkmann. Clearly, despite his wide array of pitches, Eaton is at best, a marginal improvement over a pitcher like Ryan Franklin. The week before in Washington DC, Eaton actually pitched fairly well, but a lapse to Brian Schneider with 2 on and 2 out produced a three-run shot over the right-center wall in cavernous RFK stadium.
For the season, Eaton has given up 4 HRs in 23.2 innings, not a good ratio, but not Eaton's biggest problem. The worse part is that Eaton's ERA is above 6 while opponents are hitting just .259 against him. That is not a great average, but is a mark of a pitcher who gives up alot of extra base hits. It also may point to a location pitcher who's command comes and goes, resulting in a lower average, but more for extra bases. last night, 4 of Eaton's surrendered hits were for extra bases.
The last piece to consider is that, while Eaton's ERA will surely come down from above 6, it may not dip below 5. Eaton's career BAA is .260, but his last two seasons were at .275 in the NL and .299 in the AL. Injuries aside, Eaton shoudl be a major concern in the rotation this year -- with Brett Myers out of the rotation, the team will simply need to score more and more consistantly to win games thown by starters who can get bombed at any second.
On the other hand, Eaton appears to be a competent at the plate with a bat, any ways.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Stuck in Middle Relief with You
While some posters around the Phlogosphere are calling for the head of Ryan Madson, thanks to three bombs he's given up already this season, he is far from the biggest liability on this staff. That distinction goes to the ill-equipped, ill-conditioned, completely disinterested looking Jon Lieber, the guy who won 17 games in 2005 as the team's No. 1 starter. Shipped to the pen because of the signings of Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia, Lieber finds himself as both an anonymous middle reliever as well as an apparent injury-risk for 2007. Suddenly, a veteran starting pitcher and contract-year commodity is no commodity at all. While, the ever reliable Mike Radano has it right as usual, saying that Lieber needs to buck up and pitch like a man dispite his shitcan status as an arm with no real role, what if that doesn't do it? What if the pitcher nobody wanted is really just the pitcher ever hitter wants to face.
In Lieber's last appearance, Friday night in relief of Brett Myers, the best play the 37-year-old made was with his glove. That is not a typo. To say Lieber is a fielder of questionable value is like saying a 3-8 start os not the best way to go about making the post-season. It hurts just to think about wasting energy addressing so needless an observation. What's lost in that very nice reflex on the first pitch of his 4th inning appearance is that it was a result of something all too familar right now -- the LDOL, or "line drive off Lieber," a near epidemic among NL hitters so far.
To be concise, Lieber faced 7 hitters in his appearance. Here they are:
Biggio: Line drive back to the box, caught.
Ensberg: Line drive HR.
Berkman: BB on 5 pitches, no swings.
Lee: Line drive to RF, caught by Vicortino. Inning over.
Scott: Line drive single to RF
Burke: Bouncer to SS, double play.
Everett: Line drive shorthop to SS, Rollins bobbles but makes play at 1st. Inning over.
In theory, there are things to like about Lieber working in relief. He doesn't walk many, works quickly, and throws alot of sinkers. What's not to like about him? Well, everything else. He's a contact pitcher who attacks the strikezone without an out pitch, not striking out as many and as you can see, not exactly in his heydey in inducing groundballs. As the season wear on, entrusting any sort of lead to Lieber, or even hoping he'll keep the game close will because a pipe dream. Just our opinion, but fans will long for the likes of Meltdown Madson or whatever phase of control problems 6-Fingers Alfonseca is working through. The team thinks they have a 6th starter and possible bullpen piece. In the offseason, we thought the same. But after watching a late-30s pitcher with an aversion to conditioning yield hard-hit ball after hard-hit ball, its difficult to see what contribution he could make or what piece he could fetch in return.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Keep the Water in the Pool and the Ball in the Park
Well, if we learned one thing today at openig day, its that we shoudln't expect our club to win to many 2-1 games this year. The offense will need every bit of that 5+ runs per game average if they hope to be in the running for the top of the division. The bullpen is shakey and don't look now, but the starting rotation is probably going to give up a lot of HRs. In fact, each one of the six starters are strong candidates to give up 30+ HRs this year, if they were to pitch 180-200, with the possible exception of Cole Hamels. And only because its too soon to tell what he woudl yield.
Much has been made about Myers' ill-fated pitch in the 8th to Edgar Renteria. Of course, you don't want to throw a fastball 0-2 down the middle of the plate to any major league hitter. From the films, you can see exactly what happened:
Pitch one -- Barajas sets up away and Myers obliges with a down and away slider that Renteria chases.
Pitch two -- Barajas sets up away for presumably the same pitch. Myers leaves this one slightly over the plate, where it catches and freezes renteria for strike two. The crowd comes to its feet.
Pitch three -- On his 105th pitch of the game, Barajas again sets up away but Myers misses badly with a fastball that sits right down Boradway. Renteria catches all of it and hits it about 425 feet to dead center.
What really irks about this at-bat is that Myers was struggling with his fastball the most in the 8th, throwing a few off the outside of his hand that came in high and off the third-base side of the plate. His called third-strike to Criag Wilson was a nasty slider. The flyball Kelly Johnson hit to deep center was a fastball also out over the plate. So, the signs were there, but if Manuel is guilty of anything, its trying to squeak by in the 8th to avoid going to more than one reliever. In the grand scheme of things, managers make this call nearly every game so it can hardly be laid anyone's feet except for fatigue.
As far as pitching goes, the most telltale moment was not this HR nor the one Madson delievered, it was the first one, to Brian McCann. Here's what happened:
-Chipper Jones draws his second walk of the game in two at-bats, this time on 4 pitches. Myers misses outside twice, not by much, and is visably upset.Barajas motions for him to calm down. Myers throws a third fastball outside and seems to expect it to miss. This was the catcher's call and the pitcher seemed to have other ideas. Barajas flashed 1 finger away and Myers did not shake him off. Myers paces around slowly before throwing ball four, on what lookslike a high change-up. Bad sign.
-Andrew Jones takes a slider low and away and then another slider, maybe a curveball, outside and Myers again walks around grousing, oviously frustrated and uncomfortable. He then comes back with a fastball away that Jones pops straight up. That ball should have probably landed in Ashburn Alley, knowing Jones, but instead is an out.
-After a pickoff throw to first, Myers drops a slider low and inside to McCann who golfs it into the seats. His first time up, McCann took two pitches, one inside, one outside, before taking a pitch out over the plate to dead center (off Rowand's glove).
Again, major league hitters are major league hitters for a reason, but its hard not to think that Myers was guilty of losing focus -- again. Its the single most important thing that the New Brett Myers has to get rid now that the extra pounds are gone. Those lapses, as Tom over at Swing & A Miss will tell you, are the only thing keeping Myers from being a top tier National League starter. And, in this case, it put the home team down early on in the game. He will almost certainly have games where his location will be better. But, then again, he will almost certainly have more games where it will be more of the same. He's got get through dicey innings without throwing 2- and 3- run bombs.
Much has been made this offseason about the Phils' strengths and weaknesses. Their offense and starting rotation make them a fashionable pick as the oft-repeated "team to beat" in the East. Their bullpen makes WIP nervous, their outfield has bloggers wondering who will produce, who will surprise, and who will be gone, while their defense is conspicuously absent in most discussions. People would rather worry about the manager, we suppose.
The season's first game provided a glimpse of what it might take to win the National League this year. The Mets, behind, Tom Glavine, easily disposed of the Cardinals in a re-match of the '06 NLCS. Some teams are ready to start the season, while others aren't. Will the Phils be ready, much like the Mets were with Solid pitching, great defense and relentless offense against of the marquee pitchers in the NL? Or will they stumble out of the gate like the Cardinals, flat at home with 10 hits but only 1 run to show for it, a flubbed suicide squeeze, a runner thrown out at home, and leftfielder who turns an easy out into a costly mistake?
We'll be in attendence at opening day, as we were the past two seasons, to find out in person. This year, Scott Rolen will definitely not ruin our day, at least.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Return of the Mad Dog
Not that we're into trumpeting things we predicted and its not as if it was a hard call to make, but today, Paul Hagan mostly confirms that Ryan Madson, one of the best reliever of 2004 and still above average in 2005, will be the team's 8th innning guy.
After an inauspicious start, he has steadily improved. He has a 1.86 earned run average and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last seven outings, covering 8 2/3 innings.
As a rookie in 2004, Madson had a 1.65 earned run average in 51 relief appearances. The following year he made 78 appearances, but his ERA rose to 4.14. Last year he shuttled between the bullpen and the rotation (17 starts) and mastered neither as his ERA ballooned to 5.69.
As revelations go, this one's hardly a main event. Madson easily has the best stuff of any of the relievers outside of Gordon and is the only one with experience in both the 8th and 9th inning, aside from 6-Fingers Alfonseca, who would have been a good pick up 5 years ago.
However, what to expect from Madson is anyone's guess. He hasn't been dominant in anyway since his rookie year, when his tough changeup and low profile worked to his advantage against national league hitters. He also pitched largely in the 7th inning that year (if we recall correctly). His 2005 was not as kind, but there are some things to consider about that:
-His role shuffled around somewhat in 2005, with addition of now-incarcerated Ugeth Urbina, who promptly blew 6 games in his stint with the Phils. Madson went from being the 7th inning guy, to the 8th inning guy, back to being the 7th inning guy during the season. Truthfully, Madson's role with the team has been anything but stable during his 3 years with the club. We dont' tend to think that's terribly important, but to some pitchers, it obviously is. Good command and a solid Spring Training should definitely earn him closer-in-waiting status on this team, with this bullpen as thin as it is.
-While his work load went way up (as did his his ERA down the stretch, which went from 3.12 on Sept 9th to a full run higher by the close of the season), his K/9 jumped from 6.43 to 8.17. So, it's not as if the league completely figured him out in 2005. His stats got worse for other reason, which brings us to point 3.
-Although he made 27 more appearances in 2005 than 2004, he only pitched 10 more innings. That's ALOT of overmanagement by Manuel in terms of using his bullpen. Madson is a guy who could give you 2 quality innings, or he is probably the most likely arm in the bullpen to provide such, so it might be worth thinking about pairing him with another pitcher than can also provide 1-2 innings and alternate the two game to game. Geoffy Geary, who threw an incredible 90+ innings of last year of above-average relief, despite starting out the season as a nobody and even being optioned at one point in mid-season, would mostly likely be that guy. It might be an leap of faith to expect Charlie to handle this type of arrangement, since by all accounts, it seems to be against his 1-inning each nature. However, talent and resources being that they are, the best thing for the team might not being the traditional strategy that Manuel uses.
Right now, if one were to lay out the bullpen assignments, they should probably look this way:
First call-up: Bisenius
Is this a good bullpen? I think we all know, probably not. Not unless one of Alfonseca or Segovia force use in higher leverage innings by catching a little lightening in a bottle. Segovia will probably get shielded, much the way Fabio Castro was last year, being the new guy, but also could be thrown into the rotation mix through injuries, much the way Scott Mathieson was last year. Expecting anything more than the bare minimum of competency from Zegovia probably isn't wise or fair. That's Double-A the wildcard and most important part fo this gang. And that is something we just don't have a read on yet.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Voice of Reason
We'll take a momentary break from talking about pitching to bring you this quote from today's Todd Zolecki piece on lineup protection for Ryan Howard:
"You could put anybody behind Ryan Howard this year, it really doesn't matter," [Joe] Sheehan [of Baseball Prospectus] said. "What's going to happen is Ryan Howard is going to hit .275 with 46 homers, which would be an unbelievable year for anybody, and people are going to say, 'Well, Pat Burrell didn't protect him.' Because at this point, Pat Burrell is blamed for everything from weather patterns to kidnappings to low home prices."
At this point, there are much much bigger things to worry about. End of story.
Monday, March 19, 2007
With two weeks to go before the start of the season, and opening day tickets safely secured, our silence in these parts shouldn’t misconstrued as apathy. We’re just letting our job overwhelm us, as well as the task of starting our own indie record label. The second item has been made more difficult by a third factor, the continuing elusive whereabouts of our debut CD, currently lost somewhere in a UPS facility in Georgia (the state not the country, thank God). For those that have been following along, our first CD, called Caught Looking only because we really like the title and felt compelled to use it for something, will be officially released as soon as Brown can do something for us. For a sneak peek at the music, you can always hop on over to here.
Once the season starts, however, it will be back to baseball for this site and the dispatches from the music front will be kept to a minimum. We’ve been trying to figure out how to sustain this thing, considering we’re out of market and the explosion of Phillies blogs since last season has made the room a bit crowded. So, we think this year’s niche will most likely be pitching. Not that we don’t love the hitters and all, but really this season’s success is going to be made by how much improved the starters turn out to be and how much luck the club squeezes out of its seemingly overmatched bullpen.
Unlikely late-hour trades not withstanding, it will be interesting to see how the team solves the Lieber quandary. Move him to the pen and he may turn out to answer some questions, but doing so probably drops his trade value to an all-time low, all but quashing the hopes of landing a Scott Linebrink unless something catastrophic happens on a mound somewhere in another division. Flip him for a reliever or what-have-you and then answer me this? Who starts when Eaton gets hurt? How comfortable are you with Eude Brito (who may just make the team as the second lefty out of the pen – the Castro spot) or JA Happ starting a game in the major leagues?
In anycase, we like the Lieber out of the pen idea as a forced solution. The walks are low, he hasn’t really had arm issues since surgery, and as relievers like Bob Wickman demonstrate, it’s a good place to go when conditioning is an issue. Bringing the round guy in from the pen is almost a baseball tradition in the modern age. Lieber doesn’t necessarily hold runners on well and his fielding is lacking to say the least, but he works quickly and is a sinkerballer. On this team, 100 average innings out of the pen might be worth more than 200 average innings out of the gates.
No way to know now, but it’s worth thinking about. Especially since it looks like it’s going to happen.