caught looking

a blog about the philadelphia phillies. not to be confused, exactly, with "caught looking" the debut album by independent/unsigned/unheard of singer/songwriter greg roth, who is, coincidently, yours truly.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Curtain Calls

Well, folks that's it. Down the last weekend of the season, so close yet so far away. Again. There will be time for reflection. For now, let's just say it was fun while it lasted.

Or was it?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Black Hole Returneth

Question: Which two hitters in the Phils lineup should NOT be situated next to each other?

Hint: In the last two games, Mike Lieberthal and Pat Burrell have combined to leave 17 men on base (Burrell 7, Lieberthal 10).

Answer: The two guys who won't and shouldn't be around next year.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Is It True?

Do the Phils really have the third best bullpen in the NL? You decide.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Calm Before the Storm

At the beginning of the season, optimistic projects were that Cole Hamels, the Stave Carlton second coming to end all second coming, might be a September call-up or a mid-season replacement for the beleaguered Phillies rotation, perhaps once Ryan Franklin or Gavin Floyd were cut loose or demoted.

Well, we were sort of right.

He's here, except, now, he's essentially the ace of the staff and the expected Game 1 starter, should the team make the NLCS. How can you not like this kid? In today's Inquier, Todd Zolecki has some numbers on the kid. One surprise was the three no-hitters into the 5th inning -- didn't realize that. Here's an excerpt:

-6-3 with a 2.67 ERA in his last 10.
-1-1 with a 3.97 ERA in two starts against the Florida Marlins, the team he faces tonight.
-He has taken three no-hitters into the fifth inning.
-He has pitched at least six innings in eight of his last 10 starts.
-The rookie has walked two or fewer batters in 12 of his last 14 starts.
-He has had 10 or more strikeouts three times.

While it's exciting to see the kid flash the dominance that made his minor tenure the stuff of legend, the lesson here is not about talent. It's about attitude. While he now seems to typify an almost Bond-movie leading-man style of cool, it wasn't always that way. As referenced in Scott Lauber's piece, Hamels, through injury and self-maturation, has been able to grow out of a temper which used to hamper his pitching. he no longer gets upset aboput hits or bad calls, he shakes them off and gets down to business. To say this a valuable piece of life advice is an understatement. To point out a teammate of Hamels' who would benefit tremendously from the same self-discovery, that would not only be re-stating the obvous, it would essentially be robbing Swing & A Miss of a job. So, we'll leave it unsaid for now.

But what's most exciting in all of this is that suddenly, the team, should it make the playoffs has a rotation with potentially 4 big-game pitchers in it. Hamels is the hot hand and young gun. Myers has been the de facto ace the past two seasons and the only power pitcher on the staff. Lieber's current contract was a direct result of his 2004 playoff performance and Moyer, well, he does more with less than we've ever seen. It should not be forgotten that the last season, the Chicago White Sox won the World Series with their rotation. Not so much their offense and definitely not their bullpen. The current Phils team has a better shot at following that blueprint than any of the past year's near misses.

Now, all we have to do is get there.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Haven't We Been Here Before?

Et tu, Eude?

And so, 12 months later, we're right back where we started, outside looking into the race for the coveted wildcard playoff spot, baseball's ultimate consolation prize. And right back with us is a diminutive lefthander who could play a critical role in the final couple weeks of the chase. Eude Brito, an AAAA pitcher if there ever was one, entered last night's contest at home against the lowly Cubs to relieve possibly the most disappointed ace of any pitching staff in the league. Verdict: Might as well should have just saved his arm when when it counts. Or counts more, anyway.

Actually, its not Brito the pitcher who is a make-or-break commodity, per se, just the state of the team's bullpen which makes a brito more valuable then he should be. For exhibit A, let's turn to the Phils bullpen and check on the health/value of the cast:

-Gordon: progressively worse stats each month and a stint on the DL
-Rhodes: brutal most of the year and done for the season.
-Madson: not injured, unless you can define injured as someone who gives up baserunners at league-high rates.
-Fultz: part of the un-dynamic duo, who, along with Geoff Geary, could be the most overused tandem in baseball. still effective enough to use regularly.
-Geary: team's best reliever. Finally has a substantial role.
-Castro: shielded and unused for months, is finally insert into a tight situation and yields a go-ahead HR. might as well never be heard from again. forget that he's yielded just 7 H in 21+ innings.
-White: better than expected, which is to say alternatingly effective and terrible. the Larry Anderson of '06.

Much like last year, the bullpen is more or less out of gas. Remember that horrific loss at Shea Stadium on Sept 27th when the bullpen blew the game, not once (Urbina) but twice (Wagner)? Down 1.5 games with only a dozen to go, the team's in the same spot again, with the some of the same problems. While the starting rotation has been better as of late, it's still the offense's playoff berth to win. There can be no flat performaces against the Wade Millers or Victor Zambranos of the word.

As evidenced by last night's tanking, having guys around like Brito, who actually pitched quite well down the stretch last year, is not a luxury. This team needs them.