A Rousing Success

Roy Halladay dazzled in his regular season debut with the Phillies against the Washington Nationals. After a shaky first inning in which he threw 19 pitches and allowed one run, Halladay breezed threw his final six innings. He finished with nine strikeouts as he had command and control of all of his pitches. Of his 88 pitches, 30 were cut fastballs, 23 were two-seam fastballs, 16 were curves, 15 were four-seam fastballs, and four were change-ups. The curve was especially vicious as the Nats swung and missed at six of the 16 he threw today.

The other star of the game was Placido Polanco. The third baseman was also making his debut (second debut, that is) with the Phils and was impressive both offensively and defensively. He turned a nifty 5-4-3 double play in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the seventh inning, Polanco broke the game wide open, hitting a grand slam to left field to bring the score to 11-1. He finished the day with three hits and six RBI in five at-bats.

Every Phillies starter, including Roy Halladay, finished the day with at least one hit. Jimmy Rollins looked to be back to his 2007-08 self, notching two hits, two walks, and a stolen base in six plate appearances. Ryan Howard, after an off-season in which his handling of breaking pitches was analyzed from every conceivable angle, launched a John Lannan slider into the seats in right field to start the Phillies’ scoring in the fourth inning. Overall, the Phillies drew nine walks to complement their 11 hits in an easy win over the Nationals.

There wasn’t much to criticize. Raul Ibanez continued to look lost at the plate and Antonio Bastardo wasn’t sharp in his two-thirds of an inning, but nothing should sound the alarms.

Some Opening Day notes:

  • Polanco became the 14th player in Major League history to drive in six or more runs on Opening Day. The record is seven, held by Corey Patterson (2003) and Brant Alyea (1970). Adam Lind drove in six runs last year with the Jays. No Phillie has ever driven in six runs on Opening Day.
  • Carlos Ruiz drew three walks, a great sign. The catcher has gradually become a more complete offensive player. He may find himself in the second-tier of catchers by the end of the season.
  • Halladay’s start, while good, does not even begin to crack the list of best Opening Day pitching performances. His game score of 68 ranks only 18th-best among Phillies Opening Day starts. Chris Short lays claim to the two best starts in 1965 and ’68. However, the Phillies haven’t had an Opening Day start as good as Halladay’s since Curt Schilling in 1998 when he threw eight shut-out innings.
  • The Phillies drew nine or more walks eight times last year. Unsurprisingly, they won all eight and scored double-digit runs in four of them.

Photo via Yahoo! Sports via Getty Images. Game graph via FanGraphs.

Phillies: Best Case, Worst Case

Notice anything new? Yes, I did get a haircut, thanks for noticing! But I was talking about the blog. If you direct your attention upwards, you’ll notice a navigation bar for the ESPN Sweetspot network. I encourage you to use that throughout the season to keep tabs on the other teams around Major League Baseball — I know I will.

As part of the Sweetspot expanding from 8 to 18 members today, ESPN has asked us to post a short “Best Case, Worst Case” for our respective teams. I encourage you to post your own “Best Case, Worst Case” in the comments below.

Best Case

The best case is actually a very realistic case. The Phillies have had one of the best training staffs in baseball exemplified by their winning¬†the Baseball Prospectus Dick Martin award last year. So long as the team can stay healthy — and despite the woes of Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, and Joe Blanton, they probably will — the Phillies are the heavy favorite to return to the World Series. We all know the Phillies will hit, they just need to keep their arms healthy.

Worst Case

It can all unravel for the Phillies if their bullpen becomes a mess, and there’s a chance it will. Both closer Brad Lidge and lefty J.C. Romero will not be ready for Opening Day, and the team is desperate for a left-hander in the bullpen. They auditioned Sergio Escalona and Mike Zagurski and passed on them two weeks before the end of spring training. Antonio Bastardo won the spot by default but he is no sure thing. Furthermore, Ryan Madson was not effective filling in for Lidge in the ninth inning last year, and there’s no guarantee that he will be in 2010 despite his electric fastball and whiff-inducing change-up. The bullpen is the biggest question mark for the Phillies this year.

Philadelphia Is Ready to Fall in Love Again

The city of Philadelphia is in a bit of shock today. Many went to sleep thinking they would wake up only to be told it was just a dream. Alas, it is not; the Donovan McNabb era is over in Philly. Number five brought the Eagles mere yards from their first ever Super Bowl in 2004 and reached the NFC Championship so frequently one was bound to think the Eagles had a pre-punched ticket. McNabb also holds many franchise records in individual statistics as well.

Most of Philly will be in quiet mourning today. Well, until about 1 PM when baseball finally resumes after a five-month hiatus. The Washington Nationals will take the field against the Phillies in the nation’s capital, presumably the only time the two teams will be alike in record.

Philly’s relationship with one star has ended, but a new one is just beginning.

Today, Philadelphia falls in love with Roy Halladay.

For three and a half months analysts, bloggers, and fans debated the merits of the trades that brought him here. On one side of the aisle, the Phillies were accused of not doing enough to win now; on the other side, they were accused of not getting enough in return for Cliff Lee, the ace pitcher we had come to enjoy over a four-month period of time in which the team came within two wins of a repeat World Series championship.

The time for talk has ended. GM Ruben Amaro’s decision to balance the future and the present has brought Roy Halladay to Washington, D.C. where he will make his first start with his new team. We will all pulling for him to succeed regardless of our interpretation of the road he traveled, as we should have been with McNabb.

If you’re not on the Halladay bandwagon yet, allow yourself to be swayed by his artful carving of hitters at home plate. You will be left mouth agape following one of his un-hittable curve balls or his two-seam fastball that runs back towards the plate. Say goodbye to #5 and say hello to the new #34.

It’s Opening Day. Let’s play some baseball.

Saturn ascends
Choose one or ten
Hang on or be
Humbled again