Phillies Bullpen Falters

Kyle Kendrick held a dangerous Atlanta Braves lineup in check through eight innings, but the Phillies’ bullpen could not successfully hold the Braves to two or fewer runs with three outs to go. Ryan Madson forked over three runs on a two-out, two-run home run by the seemingly-impotent Troy Glaus and a game-tying bomb to center field by Jason Heyward. Jose Contreras would make it a quick extra-innings affair by serving a game-winning home run to the also seemingly-impotent Nate McLouth.

The graph to your right says it all. Kendrick gave the Phillies a death grip on the game after eight innings. His sinker was effective all night, helping him escape the rare jam and otherwise ending innings very quickly compared to Braves’ starter Tommy Hanson.

Hanson left after four and two-thirds innings having thrown 102 pitches. Kendrick, meanwhile, threw 109 in eight innings of work. Of the 24 outs, 16 of them came via ground ball. He allowed only four hits and just one extra-base hit. Like Hamels on Sunday against the Florida Marlins, Kendrick certainly pitched well enough for a win but the bullpen did him no favors.

Ryan Madson started off the ninth inning in fine fashion, inducing a ground ball out from Martin Prado. However, he could not find the strike zone against Chipper Jones, who walked. Brian McCann flied out and it appeared to be a relatively easy inning. But Madson left a fastball over the plate to Troy Glaus, who entered the game with an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .195/.283/.268 and was 0-for-3 with a GIDP and 4 LOB. Glaus got a hold of it for his second home run of the season.

Phenom Jason Heyward tied the game with a well-hit home run to center field on a decent pitch from Madson — a sinker away.

Nate McLouth ended the game in the bottom of the tenth when he pulled a Jose Contreras curve over the right field fence. Contreras had worked him away the entire at-bat, going slider-curve for two quick strikes. McLouth refused to bite on two fastballs outside of the strike zone.

Both Heyward and McLouth are to be credited for their approaches at the plate as neither hit junk pitches.

In the aftermath of another shaky outing by the Phillies’ bullpen, the performance of Kyle Kendrick will be lost. His performance tonight likely earned him at least two more starts given that the status of J.A. Happ is unknown aside from his missing his next start, which was scheduled for tomorrow. Joe Blanton made a rehab start in Lakewood today — he pitched well — but isn’t expected back for another one to two weeks.

Roy Halladay will oppose Tim Hudson tomorrow as the Phillies look to get back on a winning path. They have lost four out of their last five games since rattling off five wins in a row against the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. Three of the team’s eight wins have come on days Halladay has started.

Injury Updates

  • As mentioned above, J.A. Happ will miss his next start which was scheduled for tomorrow. He is dealing with a mild flexor pronator muscle strain in his left forearm. Todd Zolecki reports that both Brad Lidge and J.C. Romero had to have off-season surgery to deal with similar injuries. The Phillies tend to be conservative so it is very possible that Happ will miss more than one start. He will throw a bullpen session on Thursday to see where he stands.
  • Joe Blanton had an uplifting rehab start today in Lakewood. In two innings, Blanton threw 13 pitches (all fastballs), 11 for strikes, striking out two batters. He is dealing with a left oblique strain but has come along fine and should be activated either for the series in San Francisco against the Giants April 26-28 or at home against the Mets starting April 30.
  • Brad Lidge will make a rehab start in AAA Lehigh Valley tomorrow night. If all goes well, he could be activated to join the Phillies some time during the last half of the road trip, but it is more likely that he will join the Phillies at home against the Mets.
  • J.C. Romero struggled in his recent rehab outing with Lehigh Valley. In one inning, he threw 19 pitches, walked three batters, and uncorked a wild pitch. Still, it was reported that he had good movement on his pitches and did not experience any health set-backs despite rolling his ankle landing after throwing his first pitch. Romero is ahead of Lidge and Blanton and could join the Phillies during the last half of their road trip.

Game graph via FanGraphs.

Playing the Stock Market

Dented cans are half price; Microsoft went down 3 points. We gotta save some money.

Blog post title made explicitly to post that video clip? Guilty. Well, since you’re here, I figure we’ll look at the Phillies as if they were businesses into which you could sink your hard-earned money. Depending on how well-received this post is, this may be a recurring theme. Thus more excuses for me to post funny video clips.

Essentially, this is a short-term forecast of various players that may also help your fantasy baseball team(s). Feel free to post your thoughts or your own tips in the comments below.

Buy

  • Ryan Howard, 1B

Howard has slumped over the past week after starting the season on fire. The next three games will be against the Braves in Atlanta where he will face back-to-back-to-back right-handed starting pitchers in Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and Derek Lowe. Hanson has pitched well in his first two starts, but has struggled with control. Hudson has struggled to strike hitters out and his .190 BABIP will start climbing skyward. Lowe has struggled in two of his three starts. In his one good start, he walked seven batters in six innings against the San Francisco Giants. With the Phillies becoming one of the most patient teams in baseball, Howard should get plenty of opportunities with men on base in situations where the Braves will have to pitch to him.

Career vs. Hanson: 1-for-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI

Career vs. Hudson: 12-for-34, 5 HR, 10 RBI

Career vs. Lowe: 4-for-25, 1 2B, 4 RBI

  • Chase Utley, 2B

Pretty obvious. Utley won’t be 1.287 OPS good, but he appears primed for a much-deserved MVP run this season. His BABIP is about 45 points lower than his career average. While he won’t be hitting home runs at his current torrid pace, he should see some more singles and doubles especially in the cavernous outfield at Turner Field. Utley, like Howard, will also benefit from a Braves starting rotation heavy on right-handers.

Career vs. Hanson: 1-for-4, 1 3B, 1 RBI

Career vs. Hudson: 8-for-36, 5 RBI

Career vs. Lowe: 9-for-23, 3 3B, 2 HR, 3 RBI

  • David Herndon, RH RP

“But Bill,” you say, “Herndon was horrendous his last time out. He nearly blew a six-run lead for Roy Halladay!”

In that game on April 16 against the Florida Marlins, Herndon fell victim to plain ol’ bad luck. He faced six Marlin hitters and caused five of them to hit ground balls, only one of which was converted into an out by the Phillies’ infield. Herndon made one mistake which resulted in an RBI double for Gaby Sanchez.

Aside from that appearance, Herndon has been fantastic for the Phils. He had tossed four straight scoreless appearances which included zero walks. His sinker has been heavy in every outing so far and that .496 BABIP of his will sink like a rock as the season progresses.

Career vs. Braves: Never faced

  • Shane Victorino, CF

More BABIP. Victorino’s current BABIP is one hundred points lower than his career BABIP. You know what that means — regression to the mean. His .286 on-base percentage doesn’t look good, particularly since he’s filling in for Jimmy Rollins atop the Phillies’ lineup. However, that OBP will be lifted up significantly by the end of the month.

Victorino’s absence on the base paths is part of the reason why the Phillies have only attempted three stolen bases through the first 12 games, quite a turnaround from the aggressive-efficient runners we had come to know.

Career vs. Hanson: 1-for-2

Career vs. Hudson: 8-for-25, 1 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI

Career vs. Lowe: 2-for-14

Sell

  • Kyle Kendrick, RH SP

A right-handed sinkerballer who can’t strike anybody out going against a lefty-heavy Braves lineup is a huge disadvantage. Kyle Kendrick will open up the series tomorrow in Atlanta, where he will be forced to hold the left-handed Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Nate McLouth and the switch-hitting Chipper Jones and Melky Cabrera at bay.

Career vs. Braves: 38.1 IP, 3.29 ERA (5.61 FIP), 39 H, 5  HR, 14 BB, 13 K

  • J.A. Happ, LH SP

Picking up from last year, Happ has benefited from some extraordinary luck early on this season. He has yet to allow an earned run, but he has walked eight in just 10 and one-third innings. Somehow, Happ has stranded 94% of the runners that have reached base against him, mostly due to his BABIP resting in the .270′s.

Happ may miss his next start (Wednesday) due to left forearm soreness. The Phillies have yet to make an official decision. But Happ’s stock will likely fall with his due regression and this nagging injury. The Inquirer’s Matt Gelb reported that pitching coach Rich Dubee attributed Happ’s lack of control in his last start to a “dead arm”.

In the coming weeks, once Happ recovers, he should see his strikeouts and hits allowed increase while his walk rate will decrease.

Career vs. Braves: 32.1 IP, 2.23 ERA (5.76 FIP), 24 H, 5 HR, 12 BB, 18 K

  • Danys Baez, RH RP

Three out of every four pitches Baez has thrown so far has been a fastball. Major League hitters picked up on it during his sixth appearance of the season against the Washington Nationals. Adam Dunn launched a home run to right-center field and Ryan Zimmerman lined another round-tripper to right field back on Tax Day. Baez throws hard — averaging 95 MPH on his fastballs so far — but it’s straight and he doesn’t have much else in his arsenal, just a seldom-used curve ball.

With J.C. Romero due back within the week, Baez’s role in the bullpen will be reduced to the sixth and seventh innings. With the lack of deception, though, it doesn’t matter which innings he pitches — Major League hitters are going to crush that straight fastball all day.

Career vs. Braves: 6.0 IP, 0.00 ERA (3.33 FIP), 5 H, 0 HR, 1 BB, 2 K

Stocks to Watch

  • Placido Polanco, 2B

Polanco will certainly regress given that his BABIP is 60 points higher than his career average and his HR/FB percentage is double his career rate. However, he may compile his best offensive season to date at the age of 34. He has been hitting more line drives and more ground balls than normal, which may help offset some of that regression.

  • Nelson Figueroa, RH SP

Figgy has pitched well since he left the New York Mets. He has allowed only two runs in seven and one-third innings, but he has walked five. However, Figueroa may find himself in the rotation given the struggles of Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick as well as the sore left forearm of J.A. Happ. As the de facto swingman, Figueroa — chronically underrated — may help determine quite a large portion of the Phillies’ success early in the season.

  • Raul Ibanez, LF

Ibanez had an awful spring training and an awful start to the 2010 season. He will certainly regress upwards, but it is hard to tell how much of his struggles are due to bad luck (.212 BABIP) and how much is due to age — he’ll be 38 in June. The good news is that even while his bat has been ice cold, he has still been drawing walks.

BDD: Zero Tolerance for Vicente Padilla

At Baseball Daily Digest, I detail Vicente Padilla’s history of intentionally throwing at opposing hitters and call for Major League Baseball to step in and stop him.

In 2006, he led the American League in hit batters with 17. He hit two batters in five different outings, including one against the L.A. Angels that incited a benches-clearing brawl. In ‘07, he finished with the ninth-highest hit batters total with nine. In one start against the Oakland Athletics on September 16, he intentionally threw at Nick Swisher — the #2 hitter — in the bottom of the first inning. Swisher charged the mound and both players were ejected.

[...]

To date, Padilla has hit 85 different players. He has hit 15 of them (18%) multiple times, including Mark Teixeira thrice. Padilla and Teixiera were teammates in Texas, but their history dates back further to Padilla’s time in Philadelphia.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

Thank you, Baseball Reference. Below is a graph of the total number of players on each team with ten or more runs batted in. The Phillies have four such players: Ryan Howard (13), Placido Polanco, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino (each with 11). No other team in the National League has more than one player with double-digit rib-eyes.

In case you’re wondering which players have the double-digit RBI totals, they are: ARI (C. Young), LAD (Kemp), FLA (Cantu), ATL (Heyward), MIL (Braun), STL (Pujols).

Only five of 14 American League teams have a player with double-digit RBI’s and none has more than one player. They are: TBR (Pena), TOR (Wells), BOS (Pedroia), CHW (Quentin), TEX (Cruz).

Just when you thought this offense couldn’t possibly look any better.

Manuel Outmanaged

The headline above is a phrase commonly heard by fans of the New York Mets. Lately, it has evaporated from the Philadelphia lexicon given the Phillies’ incredible run of success over the last three-plus years. Most of Charlie Manuel’s poor managerial decisions have been washed away either by the Phillies’ monster offense or — at least in 2008 — covered up by the pitching staff.

The Phillies went into today’s game with a 7-1 record, looking at a series sweep of the Washington Nationals. The offense, of course, had been on fire and the bullpen had been better than expected. However, the team was trying to compensate for the loss of Jimmy Rollins and a subpar opening to the season by the starting pitchers (sans Roy Halladay).

Even as potent as the Phillies are with the bats, they can’t be expected to score eight runs every night, so every now and then Manuel will have to pull a managerial ace out of his sleeve. Unfortunately, he was not able to do so this afternoon. There were several instances of Manuel slipping up and failing to maximize his team’s chances to score or prevent runs.

Bottom of the third inning: Carlos Ruiz led off with a double to left-center, which gave Manuel the no-brainer decision to order pitcher J.A. Happ to sacrifice bunt to move Ruiz to third base. It’s a no-brainer — right? Not so. Using the run expectancy matrix from Baseball Prospectus, we see the following situations yield different expected run totals:

  • Runner on second, 0 out: 1.14 runs (Starting situation)
  • Runner on third, 1 out: 0.96 runs (Successful sacrifice)
  • Runner on second, 1 out: 0.69 runs (Failed sacrifice)
  • Runner on first, 1 out: 0.53 runs (Failed sacrifice, Ruiz is thrown out at third)

As luck would have it, Ruiz was tossed out at third on Happ’s sacrifice bunt attempt, effectively cutting the Phillies’ expected runs in half. In fact, they scored no runs in the bottom of the third. Manuel should have let the left-handed Happ take a swing there.

Top of the eighth inning: Manuel seemed to have gotten cozy with the idea of using Madson for more than three outs. Madson got four outs in his first appearance of the season. Today, however, Manuel didn’t have Madson warming up while Danys Baez came in for the eighth inning. Perhaps he was super-confident in Baez. After all, three of his five appearances have been perfect. On the other hand, Baez had already pitched in five of the team’s first eight games while Madson had only appeared in three, and has not yet pitched on back-to-back days.

Manuel stuck with Baez after Adam Dunn led off the inning with a home run to right-center. And after Baez walked Ivan Rodriguez to put a runner on first base with one out and Ryan Zimmerman due up. Madson had not yet been warming up, perhaps a mistake in and of itself. Baez would surrender another home run — and the lead — to Zimmerman, who hit a line drive over the right field fence.

It’s easy to second-guess, but it is surprising that Madson wasn’t at least getting loose in the bullpen while Baez was struggling.

EDIT: As Dash Treyhorn of The Fightins pointed out to me via Twitter, left-hander Antonio Bastardo could have started the eighth inning to face the left-handed Adam Dunn. The pitcher did not bat in the inning prior, so there would have been no penalty to leaving Bastardo in for one more batter.

Bottom of the eighth inning: The Nationals started the inning by replacing right-hander Tyler Clippard with lefty Sean Burnett to face Raul Ibanez. Despite hitting southpaws well last year, Ibanez has typically struggled against them over his career. Right-handed Ben Francisco was available on the bench to pinch-hit, but Manuel chose to let Ibanez take his cuts against Burnett. Ibanez hit a weak grounder to second base for the first out of the inning.

Carlos Ruiz later came up with a runner on first base, this time against the right-handed Matt Capps. The left-handed Brian Schneider was available off the bench, but again, Manuel chose to ignore the bad platoon match-up for his team and let Ruiz hit against Capps. Ruiz grounded out weakly to third base.

Lastly, this may be an indictment more of the coaching staff or just missed opportunities by Ruiz, but the Nationals have run wild against the Phillies. In the three-game series to open the season, the Nats stole four bags. Yesterday, they stole three and another four today. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 11 stolen bases, 10 of them stolen while Ruiz was behind the dish. With a bullpen on the road to burnout, having pitched 40% of the team’s innings thus far, the team can ill afford to be granting free bases to opposing runners.

Hamels and Release Points

I’ve been pawing through some Pitch F/X data on Cole Hamels and the only significant finding is his differing release points.

Yesterday, he was releasing higher and more towards first base. The effects weren’t significant:

  • He threw 64% of his pitches for strikes yesterday as opposed to 61% in Washington
  • He had slightly more vertical movement on both his four-seam fastball and cutter

The differences are small enough that they could have been caused by complete randomness given the relatively small sample of pitches (103 and 109 respectively).

For comparison, here is a graph of Hamels’ release points on all of his pitches from last year.

Last year, Hamels released the ball from a slightly higher point than he did during his April 7 start. It appears Hamels actively made a decision to alter his release point for yesterday’s start. It will be interesting to find out if this was something he did on his own or if it was suggested by pitching coach Rich Dubee, manager Charlie Manuel, or someone else.

Dear Philadelphia: Deal With It

As if February’s fisking wasn’t enough, I must once again take up arms for one Colbert Richard Hamels. Why, you ask? Why defend the indefensible seven runs in 10 and two-thirds innings, the sloppy curves, and the waist-high fastballs?

Because Philadelphia could run yet another athlete out of town. Not this year, but eventually, Philadelphia could pack Hamels’ bags and send him to greener pastures.

Pardon the drama, but I cannot get over the fact that Hamels was booed yesterday. Yesterday, of course, was the Phillies’ home opener at Citizens Bank Park, a joyous day for millions around the City of Brotherly Love. 44,791 fans flocked to the gates, eager to see their Phillies for the first time in 2010. The scent of hot dogs and the booming voices of vendors let us know baseball was finally back.

Despite the baseball holiday, tension quickly filled the stadium in the second inning when Josh Willingham led off the top of the second inning with a solo home run to left field. Willingham turned on an up-and-in Hamels fastball and it landed several rows beyond the left field fence. The score went from 0-0 to 1-0 and the crowd started to boo. I kid you not.

In the top of the second inning.

After a solo home run was hit.

With the powerhouse Phillies offense waiting to come to bat eight more times.

The crowd started to boo.

Would the crowd have booed J.A. Happ in that instance?

I love Philadelphia and its fans, I really do. It’s a shame how Philly is forever connected to the Santa-snowball incident from 50 years ago. I hate how Philly fans are known for hurling batteries when fans of other teams have committed much worse offenses (example: click here, go to #3 with an eye for the Saints). Sometimes though, in an event such as this, the reputation is warranted. I felt embarrassed to be a Phillies fan, to associate myself with the boorish people in the stands at Citizens Bank Park on Monday afternoon.

Cole Hamels probably set the bar too high for himself. He dominated in the Minor Leagues with a 1.43 ERA in four seasons. In his first full season in 2007, he was a crucial component of the team that broke the Phillies’ long playoff drought. The next year, he finished the regular season with an ERA a smidge above 3.00 and was immaculate in the post-season as the Phillies earned their first World Series championship since 1980. He won the MVP award in that series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

What else is there for him to accomplish? Philadelphia fans expected him to continue to get better and better. He, of course, would not.

Somehow, Philly fans conflated almost-unavoidable struggles with an inborn psychological weakness and an inability to improve. It was never more evident than this past off-season when GM Ruben Amaro traded Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners. Phillies fans salivated at the thought of a 1-2 punch of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee going up against the New York Yankees in a World Series rematch, but it was not to be. That dream bubble evaporated and reality set in: it will be Halladay and Hamels in 2010.

Maybe Phillies fans resent Hamels because his reputation as a skillful pitcher gave Amaro the confidence to trade Lee. If Hamels was viewed by upper management as a worse pitcher — the pitcher the fans see — Lee would still be here. The Phillies can’t make a post-season run with Halladay and Adam Eaton Lite, they think.

But what most fans don’t get is that their constant criticism of Hamels is completely counter-productive. Sure, it makes for a nice blog entry — it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. “Cole Hamels Sucks… Again!” However, the Phillies absolutely need an effective Hamels during 2010. What do the fans hope to accomplish with the criticism? Will Hamels take it to heart and try even harder (as if he hasn’t been trying hard enough) to improve?

Imagine a group of strangers stops by your office tomorrow morning and observes you while you perform your duties. You pick up the phone to make an important phone call and you stammer on a couple words. You leave out an important detail. You didn’t clarify how your e-mail address was spelled, so now you can’t download that important document.

What if, after every mistake, you were booed and criticized by that group of strangers? Would that make you want to improve?

Doubtful. Like most people, you would want to curl up in the fetal position. You would consider quitting your job.

As fans, we often hold athletes to a higher standard than regular people, but the fact remains that athletes, aside from their outstanding physical prowess, are regular people. They have the same insecurities as the rest of us. Thus, there are exactly zero benefits to booing a struggling player.

If you boo Hamels, you are actively rooting for the Phillies to fail. Dislike him for whatever irrational reasons you may find, but to boo him is to hurt the very team whose logo adorns your shirts and hats and bumper stickers and posters.

Hamels will likely never be as good as he was in 2007 and ’08. That is a fact that Phillies fans are simply going to have to understand. He is not Tim Lincecum. But you know what? A 3.50 ERA pitcher is not bad — in fact, that’s pretty damn good and it’s something to be appreciated.

I would much rather see Hamels tossing up a 3.50 ERA in a Phillies uniform than in another team’s uniform. If the boorish behavior from Phillies fans continues, Hamels may trade in his red pinstripes for another team’s colors in 2011 or ’12. I fear, though, that that ship has sailed and Hamels is destined to test free agency after the 2011 season. Why should Hamels play for a team with a fan base that harbors such ill will towards him?

Phillies fans: you need Cole Hamels much, much more than Cole Hamels needs you.

Halladay Wins Battle Roy-ale

Phillies broadcaster Tom McCarthy called Roy Halladay a “surgeon” when he’s on the mound. Halladay was just that today against the Astros. He tossed nine efficient innings. 75% of his 111 pitches were strikes. If not for two fielding snafus in the sixth inning, Halladay would have notched his 16th career shut-out along with his 150th victory and 50th complete game.

The Phillies offense finally faced a legitimate starting pitcher in Roy Oswalt, who held them to two runs. Oswalt competed very well with Roy Halladay, striking out eight in six innings. However, he was not able to overcome a Jimmy Rollins lead-off home run and aggressive base running in the second inning.

Coming into the game, Phillies hitters were on a roll. In five games, they had racked up only 26 strikeouts behind 32 walks.

Rollins, Utley, Ibanez, and Ruiz are drawing walks at rates well above their career averages.

Utley, Howard, and Werth are striking out well below their career averages.

The team’s five wins and one loss marks the best start since 1993, when the to-be National League champions won eight of their first nine. Their win today keeps them a game in front of the Florida Marlins, two in front of the Washington Nationals, and three in front of the New York Mets.

Cole Hamels will take the bump tomorrow in the team’s home opener. He will be opposed by Jason Marquis, who struggled in his first start of the year against the Phillies.

The Inquirer’s Matt Gelb has a list of the events scheduled for tomorrow.

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

Everybody Hits

Curb your enthusiasm. It’s just the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. Still, it’s hard not to feel good about the way the Phillies have opened up in April. Four games, 52 hits. The only two Phillies who haven’t appeared ready to hit were Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino.

Ibanez broke out tonight against the Astros, collecting three hits, three rib-eyes and a walk in five at-bats. Victorino was the only regular who failed to collect a hit in the Phillies’ 8-0 win in the series opener in Houston. Jimmy Rollins continued to draw walks — his two tonight give him six on the season. Placido Polanco and Chase Utley still have not struck out yet this season. Polanco had four hits and two RBI in five at-bats while Utley had two hits (including his first home run), a walk and 2 RBI.

Even the pitchers — the crack in the Phillies’ armor — have thrown well in the first four games. While starter J.A. Happ wasn’t economic with his pitches tonight, he was effective enough to avoid damage and pitched into the sixth inning without allowing a run. David Herndon, a Rule-5 pick from the L.A. Angels, continued to impress with two shut-out innings of relief including a bail-out of Happ in the sixth. Overall, Phillies relievers have compiled a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings so far this season.

As mentioned previously, though, curb your enthusiasm. There is going to be a lot of regression especially as the Phillies play more competitive teams in the second half of April. Last year, among National League teams, the Astros ranked 14th in runs scored per game and 12th in runs allowed. The Nationals had a mediocre offense but the absolute worst pitching staff in the league last year. The Phillies have the Astros for two more games and then the Nationals again for three for the home opener at Citizens Bank Park starting April 12.

Old Man Moyer will get the start tomorrow tonight. In doing so, he will become the seventh pitcher to play in four different decades (per Tom McCarthy during tonight’s broadcast).

Game graph courtesy FanGraphs.

BDD: Cliff Lee: A Love Story

At Baseball Daily Digest, I investigate the hype surrounding Cliff Lee following the trade that brought him to Seattle.

The inclinations of Schilling, Rollins, and scores of Phillies fans about Lee’s skill is built on a solid foundation, even if they do tend to exaggerate. However, the Phillies’ ability to retain Lee would have come at the cost of a weak Minor League system. Furthermore, even the Major League team in 2011 and beyond may have been weaker because GM Ruben Amaro may not have been able to sign then arbitration-eligible Joe Blanton, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Ruiz to multi-year deals. And the organization may not have been able to sign Roy Halladay to an extension to keep him in Philadelphia until at least 2013.

Friday’s fantasy baseball article is up at Baseball Prospectus. There, you’ll find out three pitchers who I think are underrated and could help your team this year.