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After an off-season filled with mostly serious analytical posts here at Crashburn Alley, we need some levity. Take your thinking caps off and relax for a bit. What I am going to attempt to do today is assign key Phillies players a theme song for 2010 based on songs in my iTunes library. For the sake of simplicity, the relationship is entirely based off of the song’s title.
I invite you to share, in the comments section below, your suggestions for theme songs.
Without further ado…
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1B Ryan Howard
The Mars Volta, “Goliath”
The Phillies need Howard need to be the goliath out of the #4 spot in the lineup if they are to defend their throne as the National League’s most potent offense. Howard has hit no fewer than 45 home runs and driven in no fewer than 136 runs since getting regular playing time in 2006.
However, his production against left-handed pitching has been trending down each season and this weakness was exposed to the world by the New York Yankees in the World Series, holding the slugger to a .631 OPS in 25 at-bats. It’s bad news if teams finally catch on to this and abuse the mis-match.
2B Chase Utley
Dream Theater, “Constant Motion”
It seems like Utley is always in constant motion, whether he’s on the bases or in the infield with his trusty leather glove at second base where he has consistently been one of baseball’s best defenders.
Tommy Bennett of Baseball Prospectus put Utley’s base running prowess in an historical context:
Last year, Chase Utley stole 23 bases. That is a good number. In fact, it was a career high for the Philadelphia Phillies’ All-Star second baseman. Even more remarkable was that Utley was not caught stealing once all season.
Since caught stealing statistics were first consistently recorded in the National League in 1951, there have been three major leaguers who have stolen at least 20 bases in a season without being caught once. Kevin McReynolds did it in 1988 with the New York Mets, and Paul Molitor matched the feat in 1994 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
3B Placido Polanco
Soundgarden, “Never the Machine Forever”
Aside from a pressing need for a better third baseman than Pedro Feliz, one of the reasons the Phillies signed Placido Polanco is his bat control. He has a reputation for striking out very rarely, putting the ball in play and often in a way that advances base runners. However, his OBP last year fell nearly 20 points below his career average. Additionally, he set a career low GB% and a career high FB%, contributing to a .295 BABIP that is — surprise — twenty points below his career average.
As is the question with Jimmy Rollins, do these signs point to the beginning of the end of a fantastic career, or is it a simple blip on the radar screen? Polanco can’t be a machine forever.
SS Jimmy Rollins
Silversun Pickups, “Growing Old Is Getting Old”
Was his sub-par season — both at the plate and in the field — an aberration, or is it the first step towards the end of Jimmy Rollins’ career? It seems that his problem last year was due to hitting too many fly balls, nullifying his speed. From 2008 to ’09, he had an increase of 10.5% in fly balls hit. As a result, his BABIP hit a career low .253 compared to his career average of .295. If Rollins can get back to getting on base at an above-average rate, then he can also get back to putting his speed to good use. Should Rollins bounce back, the Phillies may have one of the most dangerous 1-2 punches in baseball in Rollins and Polanco.
LF Raul Ibanez
From the start of the season until June 17, Raul was indestructible, compiling a triple-slash line of .312/.371/.656 along with 22 HR and 59 RBI in 280 plate appearances. When he returned on July 11, he was a different player. In the 285 plate appearances between his return and the end of the season, he put up a triple-slash line of .232/.323/.448 with 12 HR and 34 RBI.
I’m pretty sure the 2010 Raul wants to call upon the indestructible Raul from the first half of last season.
CF Shane Victorino
Coheed and Cambria, “The Running Free”
After attempting 41 and 47 stolen bases and successfully stealing 37 and 36 in 2007 and ’08 respectively, Shane Victorino dropped to merely 25 bags in 33 attempts last season. It wasn’t because he was getting on base less — his on-base percentage improved by .006; he was likely being more tentative on the base paths. The Shane we all know and love runs free on the bases.
RF Jayson Werth
Chevelle, “To Return”
Jayson Werth is a free agent after the 2010 season comes to a close, and most of us have come to grips with the fact that he likely will not return. He has become a superstar, a five-tool player and he will get paid like one. However, all of us will have hope that Werth will want to return to the franchise that turned him into a superstar — the franchise that gave him a shot when no one else was willing.
SP Roy Halladay
Boston, “More Than A Feeling”
This doesn’t really need an explanation. If Phillies fans aren’t in love with Roy Halladay when they see him pitch in spring training, they will when they see him on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals. And yes, that will be much, much more than a feeling.
SP Cole Hamels
A Perfect Circle, “Weak and Powerless”
Hamels has, for several years, been considered the future of the Phillies. He dominated Minor League hitters, then came up to the Majors and left opposing hitters befuddled from 2006-08. He hit a rough spot last year and everybody attributed that to character flaws and off-the-field activityinstead of an abnormally high BABIP (.325). Hamels is supposedly weak and powerless now, but he’ll be out to prove his detractors wrong in 2010.
SP Jamie Moyer
Audioslave, “Your Time Has Come”
Jamie’s time has come. He’s 47 years old and on the mend from several off-season surgeries. We all know he, like Brett Favre, can play forever and they’re “like kids out there”. But unlike Favre, the jury’s out on whether or not Moyer can still play at a high level. If last year — 4.94 ERA in 25 starts — is any indication, the answer is no.
SP J.A. Happ
Silversun Pickups, “There’s No Secrets This Year”
As we’ve gone over countless times here on the Interwebs, J.A. Happ is expected to regress in large part due to that low BABIP of his in 2009. That may not be his only contributor to a downfall in 2010, however.
He threw a fastball 85% of the time last season: 70% four-seam and 15% cut. Happ will need to utilize off-speed pitches (change-up and/or a curve ball) more often going forward so that hitters are kept honest and can’t sit on his fastball. If he doesn’t, there will be no secrets and he’ll be victimized on a more frequent basis.
CL Brad Lidge
Aesop Rock, “None Shall Pass”
In 2008, “None Shall Pass” was his motto, as he never allowed a meaningful base runner to cross home plate. He went perfect in save opportunities not just in the regular season but in the post-season as well. All told, he was asked to close the door 48 times and he closed the door 48 times.
2009 was a different story. In fact, it was about the exact opposite of his ’08 campaign — he was allowing meaningful base runners to score on a nightly basis it seemed. 2009 was a nightmare of a season for him any way you slice it — a period of time Lidge would like to completely erase from his mind going into a brand new season.
RP Ryan Madson
Between the Buried and Me, “The Primer”
Primer is a coating used to prepare your walls for painting. According to Wikipedia, primer “ensures better adhesion of paint to the surface, increases paint durability, and provides additional protection”.
Similarly, Ryan Madson will be Brad Lidge’s set-up guy. If he is able to be the dominant eighth-inning reliever that had a 3.55 K:BB ratio last year, the back of the Phillies’ bullpen is on its way to looking like a Rembrandt.
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That’s what I’ve got. What say you?