Tag: phillies

Lineup Comparison: Phillies

Consider this: the “team to beat” is the Phillies, so the Mets’ focus should be on putting a team on the field that is better head-to-head. I don’t believe that the Mets’ pitching staff — even with the game shortened to seven innings — is head and shoulders above the Phillies’. Where the Mets have an advantage at the end of the game, the Phillies appear to be stronger through the first seven. So the separating factor between the two teams is more likely to come down to offense — an area where they were exact equals in 2008, tying for second in the NL with 799 runs apiece.

The question is, can each team score almost 800 runs again, and/or, will one team have an offensive edge?

Comparing the two lineups, it’s a close call. The Mets have Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and most likely Luis Castillo occupying the first four spots in the lineup. The Phillies counter with a top four of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. We can argue which team is stronger leadoff through cleanup, but I tend to think that — even if Dan Murphy is the Mets’ #2 hitter — the teams are pretty close to equal. Similarly, the bottom of the orders are comparable — right now it looks like the Brian Schneider / Ramon Castro platoon hitting eighth vs. the Chris Coste / Carlos Ruiz tandem.

Where the edge will come, then, is in batting spots 5 through 7. It’s my cockamamie theory that the team strongest 5-7 will be the NL East champions in 2009.

Take a look at the comparison side by side:

Raul Ibanez | Carlos Delgado
Jayson Werth / Geoff Jenkins | Ryan Church
Pedro Feliz / Gregg Dobbs | Fernando Tatis / Daniel Murphy

The order above is interchangeable, but what I tried to do was pair up the combinations that most closely matched. Ibanez and Delgado are similar in that they’re both entering the twilights of their careers, but had strong enough finishes to their ’08 campaigns to provide optimism for ’09. I think this comparison, like the first four hitters, is a wash. I expect a dropoff from Ibanez due to the change in leagues and aging process, but CBP may artificially soften that downward trend. Delgado will still hit more homeruns, but Ibanez will swat more doubles and hit 25-30 points higher. In the end their runs and RBI totals should be close.

Where the Phillies really had an advantage last year was in the #6 and #7 holes, which featured any combination of Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz, Greg Dobbs, and Geoff Jenkins. The Werth / Jenkins tandem last year combined for .260 AVG. /33 HR/96 RBI production. Feliz had his typical injury-riddled year, dotted with hot streaks and cold streaks, and Dobbs might have hit a little over his head at .301. None of those players are guaranteed to repeat their performances, mind you, but all of them have enough history to lead you to believe they’ll come close.

That said, I’m not sure Church can approach the production of Werth / Jenkins (or Werth on his own, if that’s how it shakes out). Looking at each’s skillset, Church and Werth may well put up close to equal numbers. But that will only happen if Werth’s 2008 was his ceiling, AND Church can significantly increase his ability to divert pitches over the wall.

Just as concerning, I don’t know that the Tatis / Murphy experiment is going to be head and shoulders above the Pedro Feliz / Greg Dobbs combination. If Feliz can stay healthy — which is a big if — he’ll hit his typical .250, and probably hit 20-22 homers. Dobbs may not hit .300 again, but his 9 HRs and 40 RBI in 226 ABs were a followup to 10 HR and 55 RBI in 324 ABs in 2007. In other words, there’s a decent shot that the 30-year-old Dobbs provides similar numbers in ’09. If so, that gives the Phillies a combined #7 hitter with a line somewhere in the neighborhood of a .270 AVG., 30 HR, and 100 RBI. Can Tatis and Murphy match that? Again, there would have to be either a status quo or decline on the Phillies’ duo, and a trend upward for the Mets. Not impossible, but another case of hopes and wishes.

Of course, the Mets could remove all doubt by signing Manny Ramirez. However, all indications suggest that won’t happen. In fact, the Mets likely won’t sign either of the other two impact bats still available — Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu. Beyond those three, there might be a few veteran hitters who, with a little luck, could tip the lineups into the Mets’ favor — someone like Andruw Jones, Kevin Millar, Garret Anderson, Jonny Gomes, or Ken Griffey. Millar, in particular, would seem to be a nice fit, as he could spell both Delgado and Church, and/or be the platoon partner for Murphy in left, and provide a solid RH bat off the bench. But, Millar could be looking for a regular job elsewhere, and even if he is interested in wearing the orange and blue, Tony Bernazard still holds a grudge against him for crossing the picket line in 1994 (Bernazard was an important pencil-pusher for the MLBPA back then).

But in the end, none of the free agents appear to be on the Mets’ radar, and it’s hard to see a situation where the Mets can import one via trade. Their top trading chips for an MLB position player are Murphy, Jon Niese, and Fernando Martinez, and they’d probably have to trade at least two of those three to get back an impact bat. The chance of that happening is about as likely as Eric Byrnes arriving in return for Luis Castillo — slim and none.

In short, the Mets and Phillies, as currently constituted, appear to be equal again offensively. The Phillies are probably done making offseason moves. So, if the Mets can acquire one more big bat, it would give them an edge — at least, offensively.

Unfortunately, the Mets still have to make three or four moves to improve the pitching staff, and their “one thing at a time” approach suggests that bat may not make it by spring training.


J.C. Romero Busted for PEDs

MLB has suspended Philadelphia Phillies reliever J.C. Romero for 50 games for violating the league’s drug policy.

Reportedly, MLB offered to cut the suspension in half — to 25 games — if Romero agreed to sit out the postseason. Romero declined the offer and filed an appeal instead.

Romero won Games 3 and 5 of the World Series, and had a perfect 0.00 ERA through 7 1/3 IP in the postseason.

6_oxo.jpgInterestingly, the substance that Romero claims he took — something called “6-OXO Extreme” — is a legal supplement that can be readily found in nutritional chain stores such as GNC.

There is a long sob story about how Romero didn’t know that the product he was supposedly taking would produce androstenedione.

“Basically, I am being punished for not having a chemistry lab in my house to test everything I put in my body, because reading the ingredients on a label is no longer good enough,” Romero said in a statement. “I am all for catching the guys that cheat and punishing them. But I feel like I’m the victim of a system where a player like me is punished because other players before me have blatantly broken the rules.”

Wah wah. Excuse me if I don’t empathize. Perhaps it’s because if someone handed me $4M per year to appear for 5 minutes in 75-80 baseball games, with the caveat that I cannot have a specified list of chemicals in my body while doing so, guess what? I’m going to make damn sure that those chemicals are not in my body.

And how can we be certain that Romero wasn’t knowingly taking andro, and blaming the positive test on 6-OXO Extreme? According to reports, the supplement has been known to possibly contain traces of andro, despite not listing it on the label. Players know this, and several had called the MLB hotline to find out its status (apparently, Romero was not one of those players). Sounds to me like the supplement was a nice scapegoat.

Which leads me to another point. It’s not as though players are clueless and have no recourse when it comes to questionable supplements. In addition to being given an exact list of substances one cannot have in their urine test, players are also educated on the dangers of OTC supplements every spring, are provided the hotline and a website, and are given a list of 12 manufacturers that produce supplements that are safe. You want to go outside that safe dozen? Make a phone call. Check the website. Make certain what you’re taking is in compliance.

Regardless of whether Romero is guilty of taking a banned substance or of sheer stupidity, he’ll be out of action for the first 50 games of 2009 — until about June. In case you’re wondering, the Mets play the Phillies five times before June, then have a three-game series with them beginning June 9.

In addition to the suspension of Romero, MLB also suspended former Marlins pitcher Sergio Mitre for 50 games — also for taking a banned substance that supposedly was in an OTC supplement. Mitre recently signed with the New York Yankees after an injury-riddled career in Florida.

The substance Halodrol was found in Mitre’s system. Unlike Romero, Mitre owned up to his mistake — only the second player in MLB history to take responsibility (Guillermo Mota was the first):

“I did take the supplement in question, and accept full responsibility for taking it,” Mitre said. “It contained a `contaminant’ amount of an illegal, performance-enhancing drug. This was not listed as an ingredient on the packaging, should not have been in the supplement and certainly should not have been available for legal purchase at a store. Despite this, I do accept my punishment because, as a professional, I have a responsibility for what I put into my body.”


Phillies Sign Moyer, Park

The reigning World Champion Phillies have signed pitchers Jamie Moyer and Chan Ho Park to fill out their 2009 starting rotation.

Two decent moves by the Phillies, assuming that Park is used similarly to the way Joe Torre employed him last year in Los Angeles — as a long reliever and occasional spot starter.

However, in a press conference in Korea, Park intimated the opposite. From the Korea Times:

Park, who has made it clear that he wants to be a starting pitcher, said the Phillies only viewed him as a starter.

“I was a little worried about the Citizen Bank Park, the home of the Phillies, which is hitter-friendly, but as they considered me as a starter, I signed with Philadelphia,” he said.

Perhaps there was something lost in the translation.

The Phillies’ rotation now looks like this:

1. Cole Hamels
2. Brett Myers
3. Joe Blanton
4. Jamie Moyer
5. Kyle Kendrick / Adam Eaton / Chan Ho Park / Carlos Carrasco

Wow. Not wow as in overly dominating but wow as in pretty damn deep. What was once a weakness now looks like a strength. Hopefully Carrasco will need another full year in the minors or the Phillies could have the strongest one-through-five rotation in the NL East.

Park is something of a head scratcher. It appears he fits on the staff as a guy to give the Phils 2+ garbage innings once or twice a week, helping to mop up for whomever turns out to be the #5 starter. He did make five starts with LA last year, posting a 2.16 ERA, but he averaged only 5 innings per start. As a reliever he was OK — not great — as hitters had a .775 OPS against him while he spun a so-so 3.84 ERA. In Citizen’s Bank Park, his homerun rate will likely increase — and he allowed one homer every eight innings calling cavernous Dodger Stadium his home.


Put Up or Shut Up

Pitchers and catchers have yet to report … indeed, it’s not even Christmas yet … and the Mets – Phillies verbal rivalry has already begun.

Perhaps ignited by Cole Hamels’ admission that the Mets are “choke artists”, recently signed closer Francisco Rodriguez pronounced that his new Mets are “the team to beat”.

Unfortunately, that phrase was already used by Carlos Beltran, who whispered it last March. Beltran, of course, stole the words from Jimmy Rollins — who originally made the proclamation a year earlier.

The verbal sparring is wonderful for the media and exciting for some fans, as it helps to stoke the rivalry between the Mets and Phillies — which in turn sells tickets and newspapers and drives up the blog comments and website pageviews. A win-win for everyone in this down economy, in fact.

But the crux of the matter is this: for every Mets fan that gets riled up by K-Rod’s quote, there are another ten who wish the players in orange and blue would simply keep their mouth shut. The more the Mets talk, the more pathetic they look in the end, when they can’t close the deal.

Aside from the 1986 Mets, there haven’t been too many Flushing squads (if any) who had both the talent and the fortitude to see through such brazen declarations. Looking back, that cocky bunch spoiled us, and helped open the lid on big mouths in sports.

Today, however, the Mets do not have the talent to steamroll over the rest of baseball. It looks like they’ll have a good team, one that can compete for the NL East title. I’m not saying they won’t run away with the flag next year — I’m saying that right now, they don’t appear to have an exceptionally dominating team.

Further, K-Rod and J.J. Putz by themselves will not drastically change the mentality in the clubhouse. The Mets remain a leaderless team, and devoid of the “killer instinct” necessary to throw their opponents down to the ground and stomp on their necks. Again, it doesn’t mean they can’t win in ’09 — it simply means they don’t have any business making public announcements regarding winning or talking trash. Not yet, anyway.

In retrospect, Beltran’s utterance last spring was all-too-revealing. It was said off the cuff, after taking some BP, with a laugh, and seemed he was half-joking. From the Daily News:

“Let me tell you this: Without Santana, we felt as a team we have a chance to win in our division. With him now, I have no doubt that we’re going to win in our division. I have no doubt in that.

“We’ve got what it takes. We have good chemistry as a team. He fits great because he’s a great guy. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. Who doesn’t want to have him on any ballclub? Without him last year we did good, until the end of the season. So this year, to Jimmy Rollins, we are the team to beat.”

With that, Beltran walked off, amused and chuckling as he told unnerved P.R. man Jay Horwitz, “Have a happy day.”

Judging by what happened (again) in the last weeks of September, perhaps Beltran WAS joking.

The irony, of course, is that Beltran’s last at-bat of the 2006 NLCS — the one where an Adam Wainwright yellow hammer froze him and ended the Mets’ season — is symbolic of the team’s reputation as chokers, making Beltran’s quote all the more embarrassing now. More damaging is that not only did the Mets not deliver on Beltran’s preseason boast, but that they choked again.

So when Cole Hamels agreed that the Mets were “choke artists”, we fans really had no response — except to bow our heads and nod in agreement. And when K-Rod comes out and starts the cycle all over again, we Mets fans want to run and hide, cover our faces, muttering “please, not again!”.

It’s kind of like watching a TV show or a movie, and the lead character (Archie Bunker comes to mind) is about to say or do something you know he/she is going to regret — you yell at the screen, “no, don’t SAY IT!”. Or when you’re sitting around the Christmas tree, and conservative Uncle Bob has had too much egg nog, and he’s about to start talking politics with liberal cousin Joan. Some things should just be left unsaid, before everyone is embarrassed.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the idea of a rivalry between the Mets and Phillies. But let’s see it erupt on the field, not in the headlines. Instead of continuing to talk about how great and unbeatable you are, please, New York Mets, take a page from the Nike book and just do it.


Phillies Sign Raul Ibanez

According to various reports, the Phillies have signed Raul Ibanez to fill the left field position vacated by Pat Burrell.

Sounds good to me. First, it keeps Ibanez off the Mets — let him stumble around CBP rather than Citi Field next season. At 36 years old, his all-around skills are diminishing quickly and he’s simply not worth the three years and $30M the Phils have given him. Though Ibanez supposedly is a good clubhouse presence and a fine, upstanding citizen, that doesn’t replace the fact he’s never played on a winner, and it’s too much money and too many years.

Of course, he’ll likely prove me wrong and have a monster season in homer-happy Citizen’s Bank Park, which I suspect was built according to Ripken Baseball dimensions.

Besides taking too many years and too much money from Philadelphia, I like that it puts another lefthanded hitter in the middle of their lineup. Now, it’s time to stop fooling around and re-sign Oliver Perez. Give him 4 years / $55M. Let him have the patented Boras opt-out after two if necessary.

Further, I also believe that Ibanez — who has spent his entire career in the AL — will have trouble adjusting to the National League. Watch him struggle for at least the first few months as he faces pitchers he’s never seen before.

With Ibanez off the table, what corner outfielder to the Mets go after next? Unfortunately, probably Bobby Abreu, who is worse than Ibanez. I don’t care that Johan Santana wants Abreu — the Venezuelan national team plays in March. In April we play the real games, and need real players. If the Mets are hell-bent on putting a circus clown in left field, let’s make it Adam Dunn. Or heck, why not Pat the Bat?


Mets May Have to Bid for Manny

When he was available as a free rental, the Mets passed on Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline. If they can avoid it, they will not get into the bidding war for Manny. However, there is one situation where the Mets absolutely, positively, MUST not only make a bid for Manny, but be sure that they sign him. No matter what the cost.

That situation would be if (when?) the Philadelphia Phillies get into bidding.

The scary thing is, it’s not a far-fetched possibility that the Phils will make a play for Manny. They have a hole in left field and $14M off the books by letting Pat Burrell walk. There were rumors that they were in trade talks with the Rockies to obtain Matt Holliday, so their aim is high. And then there is the fact that manager Charlie Manuel would absolutely love to reunite with Ramirez.

Think about it: no matter what team Manny winds up with, that team almost certainly improves themselves, possibly by ten or fifteen wins. He’s that valuable — just ask Joe Torre. (Actually, I’m sure a sabermetrician can give us the exact numbers.) The Phillies already have one of the top offenses in the NL — they finished tied the Mets for second in the league in runs per game with 4.93 — but now imagine that Philadelphia offense with Manny Ramirez standing in the middle.

Oh boy.

Suddenly, the Phillies have not the best offense in the NL, but perhaps in all of MLB. Some might argue that their top four would be the strongest in history:

1. Jimmy Rollins
2. Chase Utley
3. Manny Ramirez
4. Ryan Howard
— fill in the rest —

Also, the fact they can split up Utley and Howard by sandwiching Ramirez, rather than the streaky, .250-hitting Burrell, means a LOOGY is less valuable. Jerry Manuel might fill his bullpen with eight lefties as a best defense.

Considering the impact that Manny Ramirez would have on the Phillies’ offense, it would behoove the Mets to do whatever possible to keep him out of Philadelphia — even if it means signing him themselves (which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world). Not unlike the Yankees signing players to keep them from the Red Sox, and vice-versa, if the Mets want to keep it a fair fight in the NL East in 2009, they might have to sign Manny Ramirez.

Hopefully, Manny will stay on the West Coast, or move back to the American League, so this scenario becomes moot. But it will be interesting to see Omar Minaya’s reaction should the Phillies become serious bidders in the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes.


George Sherrill Available

Add Baltimore lefthander George Sherrill to the list of “available” closers, according to Nick Cafardo of Boston.com / The Boston Globe.

Sherrill will be 32 years old when the 2009 season begins, and is coming off a 31-save year — his first as a full-time closer. However, his ERA was an unsightly 4.73 and his WHIP zoomed to 1.50 (it had been 0.98 in 2007, when he was used as a LOOGY). Sherrill’s ERA and WHIP are a good indicator of what will happen if someone decides to use Joe Beimel in an expanded role next year.

Sherrill’s 58 strikeouts in 53 innings were impressive, but his walk total — 33 — was not. Again I bring up good ol’ Braden Looper — though Looper didn’t walk nearly as many batters. There’s a good chance Sherrill will benefit from leaving the AL (B)East.

Also of note in that article: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel would love to reunite with Manny Ramirez. Great, so if the Phils don’t get Matt Holliday, Manny could be an option. Perish the thought.

Finally, Cafardo had a quick interview with Shea Hillenbrand, who is attempting a comeback. Hmm … righthanded hitter who can play all the corners. Maybe if he changes his first name to “Citi”.