Ryan Howard and 30 Home Runs

Thirty homers. It’s a nice, round number. It’s a decent benchmark for power during the season, and it’s a level Ryan Howard used to reach regularly. And he thinks he can do it again.

His contention is that injuries have kept him from being full strength (understandable) and that age is really just a number (less so). There’s no arguing the injury point; Howard’s missed tons of time over the last two seasons, and even when he was in the lineup, he generally produced – much less just slugged – far below his career averages.

But in baseball, age isn’t always just a number. Sure, now and then you get guys who defy the odds, who put together solid-to-good-to-great seasons well into their 30s (from Raul Ibanez on up through Barry Bonds and Randy Johnson), but this isn’t the norm, especially when the most accessible examples are Hall of Fame-level talents. Howard is not a future Hall of Famer, but he was an elite slugger at one point. That point wasn’t recent, but at least it exists.

So, on its face, the claim that Howard could hit 30 homers isn’t a silly one, but there’s enough to leave one dubious.

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2013 Phillies Report Card: Carlos Ruiz

It’s sort of arbitrary, but I always figured mid-2009 for the time when Carlos Ruiz turned it around at the (side of the) plate. Through games played on July 19th of that year, Ruiz had posted a .688 OPS, following a rough 2008 season (in which he nevertheless provided some choppy World Series heroics). That doesn’t sound too bad, I know, but this is 2009, when the league as a whole was still hitting baseballs.

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2013 Phillies Report Card: Freddy Galvis

Freddy Galvis is rooting around the Venezuelan Winter League right now, playing shortstop for los Aguilas de Zulia. When he returns stateside, he’ll almost certainly have a spot with the big league club in 2014. Galvis has two seasons of non-arbitration team control remaining, and has established himself as exactly the kind of utility player any manager would love to have in reserve for the league minimum (or possibly more).

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Can the Phillies Win the East in 2014?

Dan Szymborski ($) seems to think so. Szymborski’s argument for not counting out the Phils making a serious push to the top of the division hinges around payroll flexibility, acknowledging that Roy Halladay‘s money is off the books and a new television deal is on the horizon, so even though Ruben Amaro has made it clear he wishes to stay below the $189M luxury tax threshold, the safety net is almost in place.

But the amount of work left to do is sizable, and I think we all realize this. Having the resources to accomplish most (if not all) of it doesn’t seem like an outlandish thing to believe; as always, it’s a question of how the resources are allocated.

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2013 Phillies Report Card: B.J. Rosenberg

Many years ago, when I first started dating the woman who is now my wife, we were driving on a highway and passed a B.J’s Wholesale Club (pretty much a Costco as I understand it) that was under construction. Her father is apparently fond of shopping there for things, and, accordingly, she exclaimed “Oh! My dad loves BJs!” I laughed, a lot.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 78: Ted Williams Shift

The other night, when I was watching a Cardinal (I believe Carlos Beltran), hit a screaming line drive straight into the Ted Williams Shift for an out, I remarked that if I were dictator of baseball, I’d outlaw the shift, which generated this response:

@SamMillerBP: “Why?”

Fair question.

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2013 Phillies Report Card: John Lannan

We should probably have seen John Lannan‘s acquisition coming. The Phillies were intimately familiar with Lannan, for reasons both good (the Phils had smacked him around for a collective .899 OPS over 448 plate appearances) and bad (he was ejected from his debut for hitting Chase Utley and Ryan Howard consecutively, the former derailing a possible MVP season). So Ruben Amaro opted for the traditional boring fifth starter play, taking the divisional guy that could grind away some innings and, theoretically anyway, keep the game winnable. It wasn’t a bad idea, either. Prior to 2013, Lannan had been essentially league average in terms of ERA, which would have been more than effective enough for the last slot in the rotation on any team.

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Amaro Hints at Analytics Incorporation

With the way Major League Baseball operates in the year 2013, little things like this shouldn’t necessarily be news. But given the organization’s stubbornness and obstinance vis a vis the incorporation of analytics into player evaluation, this quote from a piece by MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki feels important:

“We’re going to make some changes,” Amaro said. “I think we’re doing some stuff analytically to change the way do some evaluations. Look, we are going to continue to be a scouting organization. That said, I think we owe it to ourselves to look at some other ways to evaluate. We’re going to build more analytics into it. Is it going to change dramatically the way we go about our business? No, but we owe it to ourselves to at least explore other avenues. We may bring someone in from the outside, but we have not decided that yet.”

Whether this is the first step toward a total renovation of player evaluation or merely a placation of a growing portion of the fanbase remains to be seen, but it’s encouraging nonetheless. A moment of lauding for the much maligned RAJ, either way.

Relievers and This Winter’s Checkbook

The bullpen! It needs help! And although the lingering fear is that the best fix is to go with an influx of external candidates, pouring free agent money out the taps and dishing pint after pint of it to the latest and greatest relief arms to grace the free agent pool, there may actually be a way to avoid such a money dump.

Right now, the relief corps looks pretty crappy. September call-ups on tryout, lethargy in the air and the absence of other names via injury or suspension have rendered the bullpen a place of shame and dread, its gate-opening an act to be regarded with the utmost distaste. Hell, even the best arm currently available within gets booed nearly every time out, regardless of performance.

It’s a sad place. But the good news is that brighter days may be ahead in 2014! That’s easy to say about nearly any aspect of this Phillies club, but we need to go one thing at a time, lest our gripes pile upon our chests to a suffocating weight before we’re ready to bear them.

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