Posts Tagged ‘Chase Utley

07
Apr
11

PHILLIES: Starting Off Strong

So, it appears that the era of the 4 aces and overwhelming expectations has gotten off to a pretty solid start.

With the first week of the MLB season coming to a close, the Phillies are sitting at 4-1 in their first 5 games, with Thursday’s series-finale rubbermatch against the Mets hanging in the balance.

Yes. I am well aware that we are only 5 games, or roughly 3%, through the season.

But, considering Chase Utley, Brad Lidge, and top prospect Domonic Brown have been out action since the first pitch was thrown at Citizens Bank Park last Thursday, the opportunity to win five out of their first six games would go a long way to silencing any critics who said that the Phillies season was doomed from when Cliff Lee signed that dotted line in December.

Speaking of Lee ( 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER. 11 K’s in a 9-4 win over the Houston Astros), he was just one of quite a few Phillies that have stood out so far.

(Statistics accurate as of 4/7)

Ryan Howard: For all those who were worried that the Big Piece’s production would suffer with the absence of Utley in the lineup, let’s just hope the first week was not just an admiration. Howard is what baseball scouts would like to call “locked in” at the plate right now. So far, the Phillies 1B and cleanup hitter is 11-for-21 (.524) with 2 HR, and is already leading the National League in RBI’s with 8. The only blemish for Howard is that, like usual, the strikeouts are not hard to come by (6 in 5 games).

Placido Polanco: Was a little worried about Polly going into the season. Getting up there in age, had off-season elbow surgery, production diminished greatly at the back end of the 2010 season. However, like last season, Polanco has gotten off to a scorching hot start. However, in contrast to 2010, where a power was the story for Polanco, a .450 BA with 4 RBI’s and a .522 OBP has made him quite the catalyst in the early going for the Phillies.

Ben Francisco: Talk about making the most of an opportunity. In the absence of Domonic Brown, who is scheduled to return later this month after undergoing surgery for a broken hambone, Francisco has absolutely been tearing the cover off the ball so far during this 2011 campaign. While his .333 BA, 2 HR, 5 RBI’s says a lot, it is impossible for a simple statline to include 2-3 balls hit that were knocked down by the wind at Citizens Bank Park that would have been as good as gone if they were hit in June or July.

Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Rollins (.368 BA hitting out of the 3-hole), Raul Ibanez (.300 BA, 4 RBI’s), Wilson Valdez ( .294 BA, 2 RBI’s), Roy Oswalt (6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 6 K’s in first start), Antonio Bastardo ( 1-0, 1 Hold, 2.2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 K’s)

24
Feb
11

PHILLIES: Spring Training Opener

IT’S HERE!

Well, sorta.

As the Phillies take part in their traditional spring training opener with their bitter rival that is the Florida State Seminoles, here is their first official lineup of the 2011 season.

LINEUP

Victorino CF, Polanco 2B, Ibanez DH, Howard 1B, Francisco LF, D. Brown RF, Ruiz C, Orr 2B, Valdez SS

Notable Absences: SS Rollins, 2B Utley

PITCHING

Starting Pitcher: D. Naylor

Bullpen: E. Bonine, J. Perez, J. De Fratus, M. Stutes, M. Schwimer, S. Mathieson

04
Nov
10

PHILLIES: Off-Season Questions

By now, you know the grim reality.

The Phillies we unable to make it to their 3rd straight Fall Classic. They were outplayed and beaten by a group of castoffs that compromised the San Francisco Giants roster, a team that eventually won the World Series against the Texas Rangers.

To sum up these chain of events, it’s actually quite easy. The Phillies did not deserve to have a chance to win there second World Series in 3 years. In addition to out-performing the undisputed most talented team in the National League, the most surprising element of the series was that the Giants were clearly more motivated than the Phillies.

What does the future hold for the Philadelphia Phillies?

It was almost like you were watching the 2008 Phillies when you saw the Giants and how they performed on the field. Opportunistic, clutch, always able to come up with the big play, manufacture that one run, or come up with that big pitch, a team who had not been to a World Series in eight years dismantled a Phillies team who was expected to roll to the World Series based on their overall talent and experience. In terms of comparing this Giants team to the ’08 Philadelphia team that won the title, their NLCS run was awfully remnicent, in regards to their play and their approach, to how the Phillies took apart the heavily favored Dodgers in 2008.

Well that, and both teams had one common link that helped carry them to victory.

The one, the only, Pat Burrell (and his .143 BA this postseason).

All jokes aside, while it still irks me that Burrell and Cody Ross (who was on the Marlins of all teams three months ago) are celebrating a World Series title while the city of Philadelphia is not, the show must go on.

The show, in this case, is the off-season.

Here are 3 questions the Phillies need to answer before Spring Training starts.

1. Will Jayson Werth be the starting RF for the Phillies on opening day?

Is Werth worth it? In this case, if his rumored asking price for a long-term deal is true (15-18 mil a year for 4-5 years), I am inclined to say no. I think the Phillies will echo that as well, especially with Domonic Brown, the #1 overall prospect in all of baseball in 2010, waiting in the wings. With letting Werth go, and implementing Brown as the starting RF imposes a clear lineup imbalance (over-abundance of LH hitters), a possible platoon for a year with Brown and another RH hitter (Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr., or a FA) seems to be economical move, and in my opinion, the right one. Unless Werth is willing to take a paycut (11-13 mil a year over 3-4 years), the most popular player (at least according to the female demographic) on the Phillies will no longer be able to call his home Philadelphia come the 2011 season.

2. Which members of the 2010 roster will no longer a member of the club come 2011?

If Werth goes, who else will join him? Just a couple days into the off-season, we likely know a couple of those names. The Phillies front office decided against exercizing the contract options SP Jamie Moyer, LHP J.C Romero, and UTIL Greg Dobbs, while the contract of 1B coach Davey Lopes was not renewed. With Lopes gone,  Moyer  likely headed towards the retirement home, and Dobbs to the minors,  the only one who even has a chance to come back is Romero, who would have to take at least a 50% paycut and and accept a 1-year deal. Don’t really see Romero as one who would make many concessions when it comes to something like that.

Outside of Romero, Moyer and Lopes, there are only a couple Phillies who are not locked up in long-term deals they could hit the highway. For all those that think SS Jimmy Rollins and OF Raul Ibanez may be on their way out, don’t. That’s not going to happen. Well, at least not this year. The starting lineup outside Werth is almost guaranteed to remain the same. The bench, predicting that the contracts of INF Wilson Valdez, 1B Mike Sweeney and 1B/OF Ross Gload will be renewed, should stay the same as well (although I think they will add an outfielder who specializes in hitting LHP pitching). As of right now, the pitching staff is where the most turnover could be. While the starting rotation seems to be set outside the 5th starter spot, there are four names that could potentially be on other teams at the start of the season.

RHP Chad Durbin (FA)

RHP Danys Baez (Outright release)

RHP David Herndon (Trade/Outright Release)

SP/RP Kyle Kendrick (Trade)

My prediction on this. Even though Baez under contract, I believe he has the highest chances out of the four of not being on the roster due to an extreme lack of productivity this year. And that’s putting it kindly. Outside of that, I think it’s likely that the Phillies bring back Herndon and Kendrick because they are as both under contract as well, and if Durbin is willing to take a one year deal, he should be back as well.

3. Are the Phillies to old?

If the Phillies playoff roster happens to be the 2011 opening day roster, with Brown supplanting Werth and the addition of John Mayberry Jr. as a utility OF who hits right-handed, they will still only have seven players (out of 25) under the age of 30. That will make them the undisputed oldest team in baseball. Now with that, they aren’t THAT old.  There are 3 players who will be 30, and Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins will all be 32 years of age or under, which means that they should be still within the prime of their respective careers.

The point I’m trying to make is that while the Phillies aren’t a kernel of puppies by any stretch of the imagination, they aren’t a softball team at an old age home either. With the way the contracts lay out though, there are not many ways they will get any younger throughout the season. A large majority of the current big league team is, as I said before, under contract, and even if the organization wants to get younger, the Phillies traded away a good majority of their pro-ready prospects in deals to acquire Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt in the past year and a half.

So to answer this question, I don’t think the Phillies are too old right now, but it’s also clear that they aren’t in any position to get any younger.

As long as they win, age won’t be an issue.

05
Oct
10

PHILLIES: NLDS Schedule and Roster Set

While the Phillies do not need to send in their 25-man roster until 10 AM on Wed., after their most recent workout at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon, the details surrounding the divisional series against the Reds are now officially finalized. Here is the schedule and NLDS roster (information via “The Phillies Zone” writer Matt Gelb).

SCHEDULE (With Probable Starting Pitchers)

Game 1 (Wednesday at 5:07 PM at Citizens Bank Park): Phillies (Roy Halladay) vs. Reds (Edison Volquez)

Game 2 (Friday at 6:07 PM at Citizens Bank Park): Phillies (Roy Oswalt) vs. Reds (Bronson Arroyo)

Game 3: (Sunday at 7:07 PM or 8:07 PM at Great American Ballpark): Reds (Johnny Cueto) vs. Phillies (Cole Hamels)

Game 4: (Monday at 5:07 PM or 7:37 PM at Great American Ballpark if needed) Reds (TBD) vs. Phillies (Roy Halladay)

Game 5: (Wednesday at 6:07 PM or 8:07 PM at Citizens Bank Park if needed): Phillies (Roy Halladay) vs. Reds (TBD)

ROSTER

PITCHERS (10)

SP Roy Halladay, SP Roy Oswalt, SP Cole Hamels, SP/RHP Joe Blanton, RHP Chad Durbin, RHP Jose Contreras, LHP J.C Romero, LHP Antonio Bastardo, RHP Ryan Madson, RHP Brad Lidge

Those who were left off the roster: SP Kyle Kendrick, SP Vance Worley, RHP David Herndon, RHP Danys Baez, LHP Mike Zagurski

INFIELDERS (8)

1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley, SS Jimmy Rollins, 3B Placido Polanco, 1B Mike Sweeney, 1B/OF Ross Gload, UTIL Wilson Valdez, UTIL Greg Dobbs

Those who were left off the roster: SS Brian Bocock, 3B Cody Ransom

OUTFIELDERS (5)

LF Raul Ibanez, CF Shane Victorino, RF Jayson Werth, OF Ben Francisco, OF Domonic Brown

Those who were left off the roster: OF John Mayberry Jr.

CATCHERS (2)

C Carlos Ruiz, C Brian Schneider

Those who were left off the roster: C Paul Hoover, C Dane Sardinha

30
Sep
10

PHILLIES: Projecting The NLDS Roster

Now that the Phillies have not only clinched a playoff birth, but have also locked up yet another NL East crown and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, it’s time to erase the next week of meaningless baseball from our memory and actually focus on what’s important.

Yes folks, would be the Phillies fourth straight appearance in the postseason.

As I said in my last post, I would break down the potential playoff roster once everything was clinched. Well, I am a man of my word, and since the Phillies 2010 playoffopener will officially be played Wed, October 7th with an opponent that will TBD, it looks like it is about time to see how the current 33-man roster will dwindle down to 25 once the NLDS starts.

PITCHERS (11): In this breakdown, I have the Phillies keeping four starters and eight relievers. In reality, with the way the schedule looks as of right now (Games on Wed, Fri, Sun, Mon, Wed.), they will most likely use three starters, in which Doc should be ready to go if a fourth game is needed on 4-days rest. With that said, Joe Blanton will most likely be on the playoff roster as a possible 4th game starter, and if not, a middle-reliever if need be.  With Blanton on the roster, along with Danys Baez, who was signed to a deal in the off-season basically to give this team another veteran hard-throwing RHP for the month of October, that means both David Herndon and Kyle Kendrick will be left off, as their normal spot on the 25-man roster should be fulfilled by a second LHP as you will see below. I also project Cole Hamels to start game 2, so he will have the opportunity to pitch at Citizens Bank Park in front of a home crowd, something that worked quite well with him in the last two previous postseasons.

SP: Roy Halladay (Game 1 Starter)

SP: Cole Hamels (Game 2/3 Starter)

SP: Roy Oswalt (Game 2/3 Starter)

SP: Joe Blanton (Game 4 Starter/Middle Reliever)

RHP: Chad Durbin

RHP: Danys Baez

RHP: Jose Contreras

LHP: J.C Romero

LHP: Antonio Bastardo

Setup: Ryan Madson

Closer: Brad Lidge

CATCHERS (2)

This is pretty simple. In a 5-game series, barring injury concerns, there is no need to have three catchers on the roster. With Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz and primary backup Brian Schneider, fortunately, there aren’t any of those concerns. With that said, look for the Phillies to keep a veteran backstop, that being Paul Hoover, in the bullpen as a nice little security blanket close by if the injury bug bites in the NLDS.

C: Carlos Ruiz

C: Brian Schneider

INFIELDERS (7): Aside from the normal starters and Wilson Valdez, Phillies management has some tough decisions to make on this end. Do they keep an extra outfielder with speed such as Domonic Brown or John Mayberry Jr.  instead of Greg Dobbs, who would usually be a shoe-in to play in the postseason if not for his struggles this season? At this point, in a NLDS 5-game series, I think yes. Also, the mid-season addition of Mike Sweeney limits the need for Dobbs as the combination of he, Vladez, Ross Gload have proven that they are able to play the positions that Dobbs can at an even higher level.

1B: Ryan Howard

2B: Chase Utley

SS: Jimmy Rollins

3B: Placido Polanco

UTIL: Ross Gload

UTIL: Mike Sweeney

UTIL: Wilson Valdez

OUTFIELDERS (5): Another tough one here. Aside from the everyday starters and Ben Francisco, the final outfield spot comes down to three guys. Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., and yet again, Greg Dobbs. As a stated before, Dobbs’s lackluster performance this year really leaves him in a difficult position to make the postseason roster in any capacity. When it comes down to Dobbs and Mayberry, the biggest thing here is need. If the Phillies take Mayberry, that leaves only one possible LH situational hitter (Gload) on the bench. While it does depend on who they play in the NLDS, I don’t see Charlie Manuel and company feeling comfortable with that regardless of the opponent. I just don’t. Along with that rationale, taking Brown along for the postseason ride would go a long way towards giving him the proper experience that would allow him to properly implant Jayson Werth in the Phillies outfield once Werth bolts for the allure of dollar signs come the offseason.

RF: Jayson Werth

CF: Shane Victorino

LF: Raul Ibanez

OF: Ben Francisco

OF: Domonic Brown

Well, that was my stab at it. The two toughest calls here are obviously the battle of the last utility spot between Brown, Mayberry, and Dobbs and the decision of who’s going to be the 11th pitcher between Baez, Kendrick, and Durbin.

While I know the anticipation is killing all of you, the good news is that you only have to wait until next Wed. to find out.

17
Aug
10

PHILLIES: The Final Push

With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both speculated to return to within the next week, or via some reports even as early as Tuesday, it looks like the Phillies will finally have their full arsenal of weapons available to them for one of the only times all season sooner rather than later.

Perfect timing.

As of Monday morning, a off-day away from returning home for a four-game series with the San Francisco Giants, the Phillies are just two games behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL East lead, and are all knotted up for the NL wildcard berth with, go figure, the San Francisco Giants.

Needless to say, it would be very beneficial for a former MVP and one of the best middle-infielders in the game to return to a Phillies team that is still is looking to be the first club in over a half a century to represent the National League in the World Series three consecutive years in a row.

When Utley and Howard return to action though, they will join a team who is arguably playing their best baseball of the season, something that has been done without their usual contribution.

Don’t get me wrong; getting them back in their normal spots in the middle of the Phillies order and right side of the infield will only HELP this team. No one in his or her right mind with any credibility in the baseball world (not saying that I have any either) can deny that.

However, with Howard and Utley being activated to the active roster comes a move that will take away a big-league job two players who have made positive contributions to this team in the absence of the two superstars.

So, who will be moved to make room for Utley and Howard?

At this point of the season, especially with the addition of Mike Sweeney, consistency issues to the bullpen, and an influx of talent in the outfield, this will be a  very difficult decision for Charlie Manuel and company to make.

Just looking at the roster, it appears that a likely candidate for designation on the surface, Wilson Valdez, will stay this time around. Valdez, who has already been placed on waivers and designated for assignment on two separate occasions this year, is the now the only utility infielder on this roster (Juan Castro was released in late July). With Utley returning just 8 weeks removed from major surgery, and a questionable health status of both Jimmy Rollins and Placido Polanco, Valdez’s worth to this team is obvious when you acknowledge that he is a guy who can play those three positions (2B, SS, 3B) at a above-average level defensively in comparison to his big league counterparts.

If you think that’s farfetched, just look at his defensive stats.

For those who are most likely on the way out, one guy who sticks out right now is Domonic Brown.

If Domonic Brown is sent back down to the minors, it will only be a temporary move.

Yes, I said it before; it is possible that the decision to send him back to Triple-A will stunt his growth to becoming a formidable big-leaguer.

It still might.

But, with the rosters able to expand in just under two weeks (September 1st), sending Brown back for that duration of time to get everyday at-bats should be viewed and compared to a rehab stint rather than a demotion. If it were two months instead of two weeks I would think differently, but there is no question Brown, if sent back down now, will be back with the big league club at the end of the month.  Plus, Brown is one of the few players on the Phillies active roster that does not require to be placed on the waiver wire if he is involved in a move (has not been moved before and was already a member of the 40-man roster prior to the season). So, in this case, sending him back down without any roster consequences is undoubtedly a better move than designating a veteran player for assignment and losing him to a potential contender who has extra room on their roster.

Losing a talent like Brown for two weeks and possibly slightly delaying his transformation into a star is just a small price to pay at this point of the season, especially when you are chasing teams for a playoff berth instead of being chased.

In addition to this move, which will probably be made for whichever player (likely Utley) who makes his return first, a corresponding roster decision will have to be made for the second player (likely Howard) who is activated to the 25-man roster.

To make room for Ryan Howard, Greg Dobbs might be on his way out of Philly.

The latter of these moves is tricky. Again, after taking a gander at the roster, it looks that the Phillies will either have to designate a veteran, likely Greg Dobbs, for assignment and hope that he passes through waivers, or place someone on the disabled list until September 1st, where they can be activated without any corresponding roster move.

With that said, as most of you know, a team can’t place a guy on the disabled list if he, well, not disabled. Major League Baseball mandates a distinct medical process that determines if a player injury qualifies him for the DL, a process that severely limits teams from using this roster-exemption loophole.

However, the Phillies may be able to use this tactic with one of their own without being penalized. Ross Gload, who left last Tuesday’s game with the Dodgers with a groin strain, would be able to be placed on the disabled list without any repercussions due to the fact that he received an MRI that night that showed the extent of the injury that night.

The question is, do you want to risk losing the production Gload, who had been tearing the cover off the ball prior to his injury (9-for-24 in his last 10 games) for 15 days or until September 1st, just to keep a player like Dobbs, who has been ineffective for the majority of the season but has certain appeal to the Phillies and home fans due to his versatility and overall disposition, on board?

Once Chase Utley and Ryan Howard return to action, we have no other choice but to find out.

_____________________________________________________________

UPDATE ( Tuesday 2:50 pm)

According to Anthony Gargano of CBS Radio Philadelphia (610 WIP), Chase Utley has been activated from the disabled list. To make room for him on the 25-man roster, Greg Dobbs was designated for assignment.

An option brought up earlier in the post, this is now the second time he has been designated for assignment this season. For Dobbs, the next step is being placed on waivers, in which he will either be picked up by another team, or if he clears waivers without being picked up, will either be granted his release or most likely accept an assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

For more Utley updates, follow Phillies Beat Writer David Murphy at the ballpark  here.

07
Aug
10

PHILLIES: The Unsung Heroes

It’s August 7th, and with 15 disabled-list stints, an inconsistent offense, and without any semblance of a bullpen, the Phillies are just one game behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL East lead.

Baseball is a strange game.

Although, if their recent play is any indication, the adjective “strange” may be an understatement.

In the last 2 1/2 weeks or so where all-stars Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, and Ryan Howard have been out of action for the good majority of the time, the Phillies are 13-2 in their last 15 games and have successfully creeped back into the pennant race.

Tell me how that makes sense.

Now, I didn’t have much doubt that Phillies would be back in the hunt at this point of the season, but the way the players on the field are fueling this sudden rennisance with three superstars on the DL is what will make the last 55 games of the regular season all that more special.

That is if the Phillies make the postseason of course.

Here are three guys that are helping to make that ultimate goal seem possible with their elevated play.

C Carlos Ruiz

A streaky hitter by trait, “Chooch” is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball right now. By that, I mean he’s raised his batting average 35 points in the last 11 games. While he doesn’t have that many overall at-bats because of an injury that kept him out of action almost a month, that’s still an astonishing jump when you think about it. In addition to that, Ruiz leads the team in hitting with runners in scoring position, is the Phillies second-leading hitter overall (.302 BA is second to Placido Polanco) in terms of average, and is hitting at a scorching hot .454 clip (20-for-44) in his last 10 games. He’s also hit three of his five HR’s this season during that stretch for good measure.

OF Raul Ibanez

For all those who thought the 38-year old was washed up at the end up June when he was hitting a season-low .227, it’s time for you to go crawl into a corner. Actually, I’ll come join you. To prove all the doubters like myself wrong, all Ibanez has done in the past five weeks is raise his average an impressive 47 points (to a season-high .274), and solidified his status as an integral part to the middle of the order. Recently, he’s been even more impressive. During his present 14-game hitting streak (a season high), Ibanez is hitting .431 (22-51), with 3 HR and 13 RBI’s. Coincidentally, the Phillies are 12-2 during that stretch.

P Kyle Kendrick

Can’t believe I am actually casting Kendrick in this positive of a light, but since his short demotion last month to Triple-A Lehigh Valley he’s been downright phenomenal. As the much-maligned member of the rotation by default (Jamie Moyer’s injury), Kendrick has gone 2-0 in his last three starts, with just 4 ER given up in 19.1 IP, a figure that good for a sub 2.00 ERA. He’s the fifth starter for crying out loud. You can’t expect much better from Kendrick than that.

Before this post about “unsung heroes” of the Phillies most recent play is over and done with, you can’t talk about guys making outstanding contributions without mentioning  Placido Polanco. His gold-glove and all-star pedigree makes him impossible to be unsung, but his worth to the lineup, with or without the injured players who are sidelined, needs to be noted. I was a huge proponent of keeping Pedro Feliz in the fold instead of any other FA third basemen during the off-season, but Polanco’s .321 BA, stout defense at both 2nd and 3rd base, leadership capabilities, and recent hot-hitting (has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games with .400+ BA during that span) has made me rethink my initial stance.




The Philly Phour

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