Gerry Fraley, You Can Not Be Serious

As promised, I am going to delve into the new look of the Phillies’ outfield, and I also want to criticize Gerry Fraley for a ridiculous article he wrote for The Sporting News. Being the lazy person that I am, I’d like to kill two birds with one stone. I’m going to break it down Fire Joe Morgan-style (his words in bold; mine will follow in regular typeface).

In two seasons without center fielder Aaron Rowand, the Chicago White Sox are a .500 team and heading south.

You know this is going to be a pro-Rowand article based on the title, so let me just get this out of the way right off the bat: the White Sox are not bad because Aaron Rowand left. In 2007, they had the league’s worst offense, and the third-worst pitching. Rowand can’t pitch and I’m pretty sure he’s not potent enough to bring his team from a 4.28 runs per game average to around 5 per game, which would put them slightly behind sixth place. Barry Bonds might have been able to do that, but certainly not Aaron Rowand.

The White Sox were bad in ’07 because Paul Konerko had a .091 point decline in OPS from the previous season, Jermaine Dye had a .204 decline in OPS, and Jim Thome was the only potent offensive force in the lineup. Jon Garland has been decidedly mediocre, and the back of their starting rotation was about as unproductive as it could have been. And aside from Bobby Jenks, their bullpen was nearly as bad as the Phillies’.

After saying he wanted to stay with the Phillies, Rowand swerved and signed a five-year, $60-million deal with San Francisco. His change of heart puts the Phillies in a bind.

“Bind” is hyperbole. The Phillies would have preferred to keep Rowand in his age 30-32 years, but he wanted five years at $12 million, which is what he got from the Giants. He simply wasn’t worth it.

Jayson Werth isn’t a terrible Plan B, and Rowand’s departure simply made the Phillies look for a Plan B2 and B3, which was searching for either another regular center fielder (Cameron), or moving Victorino to center and finding a platoon partner for Werth (Geoff Jenkins).

Look at it this way, using simple OPS:

Aaron Rowand: .779 OPS vs. RHP (68% of career PA); .862 vs. LHP (32%); .805 vs. both.

Shane Victorino: .741 OPS vs. both.

Mike Cameron: .767 OPS vs. RHP (75% of career PA); .843 OPS vs. LHP (25%); .786 vs. both.

Geoff Jenkins: .883 OPS vs. RHP (76% of career PA)

Jayson Werth: .864 OPS vs. LHP (29% of career PA)

Here are the expected OPS, based on career averages, out of the possible CF and RF combinations:

Rowand/Victorino: .773 OPS

Cameron/Victorino: .764

Victorino/(Werth+Jenkins): .787*

* Because Jenkins will face RHP, and batters see RHP about 3 times more than LHP, I weighted Jenkins and Werth’s OPS to reflect this. I assumed that the two will combine for 625 at-bats (which is generous considering how potent the Phillies’ lineup is and how adept they are at getting on base).

Jenkins: Averages 1 base every 2.0 at-bats. With 75% of 625 at-bats, that’s 469 at-bats, giving him about 235 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .501.

Werth: Averages 1 base every 2.3 at-bats. With 25% of 625 at-bats, that’s 156 at-bats, giving him about 68 total bases, and a slugging percentage of .436.

(.501 * .75) + (.436 * .25) = (.376 + .109) = .485 SLG

Then we’ll just weigh their career OBP’s.

(.347 * .75) + (.352 * .25) = (.260 + 088) = .348 OBP

Add ’em together (.485 + .348 ) and you have an expected .833 OPS out of right field. *

Phew.

Even if you have your home by the beachside throughout your life, possibly you never had the time to travel around all the beaches even if there is a chance to get your hands on cheap flights. One of the best cheap vacation ideas is to discover about a remote beach and rent a hut there that is close to car rental. Feel the sand, go bring together seashells and look at the sunset from the hotels windows. This won’t charge you a penny and absolutely these are some fine things that are open out there for everyone who loves cruises!

They previously traded center-fielder-in-waiting Michael Bourn to Houston in the Brad Lidge deal. Plan C for the Phillies calls for moving Shane Victorino, whose durability is in question, to center and going with a platoon of Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins in right.

While the Phillies had some expectations of Bourn when he was considered a top prospect in their farm system (not hard to be, actually), he only showed Juan Pierre-esque ability: great speed, ability to bunt, and above-average range in the outfield. They already have a guy like that (but better) in Shane Victorino. Bourn simply didn’t fit and was thusly expendable.

And Fraley has the plans all messed up! Bourn is Plan B? Any team who has a Plan B as replacing a center fielder with decent defense and some power potential with a slap-hitter is clearly a team general-managed by Ned Colletti.

Shame on this guy also for not tiering the Plan B’s.

The Phillies will also learn what the White Sox now know. Rowand is harder to replace in the clubhouse than on the field.

Whenever sports journalists wax romantic on intangibles, the cholesterol lining my arteries gets a little bit harder. But I should know — intangibles have been tangiblized (hat tip to FJM).

Rowand is an NFL free safety masquerading as a center fielder. He plays relentlessly, a style the Phillies privately feared may shorten his career, and that rubs off on teammates. He is a leader in the true sense of the word.

First, I don’t see how being akin to an NFL free safety makes you a valuable baseball player. Then Gerry contradicts himself by saying the Phillies didn’t like his balls-out style of play because it increases his risk of injury and a “shortened career.”

Gerry, however, rebounds by saying that this career-shortening style of play is rubbing off on teammates! Hopefully not in the way it rubbed off on Chase Utley.

That is why the White Sox and the Phillies both wanted to sign Rowand. They have seen first-hand how valuable he is to the dynamic of a winning team.

Phillies players as or more important to the NL East pennant than Rowand: Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, J.C. Romero (arguably).

I get it: take Rowand away and the Phillies don’t win the East. But that can also be said of Russell Branyan, who was with the Phillies for all of 9 at-bats, one of which won them a game in Washington. And the Phillies won the East by one game.

Seasons of catering to Barry Bonds turned their clubhouse into a nest of apathy. Near the end of the season, manager Bruce Bochy said the last-place club lacked “a warrior spirit.”

The king of the team lacking “a warrior spirit” put up an OPS+ 170 with a knee that gets regular fluid injections at age forty-two. Forty-two. Save his injury-plagued 2005 season, Bonds has led the National League in on-base percentage every season since 2001.

The Giants were bad last year because, aside from Bonds and Randy Winn (barely), no one in the lineup was hitting at or above the league average, which makes it easy to believe that they had the league’s second-worst offense. They had a good, but not great starting rotation, and a decent bullpen. Blaming Bonds for the Giants’ failures last season (or in any season) is beyond reprehensible and downright ignorant.

San Francisco may remain stuck in last in the demanding National League West, but the Giants will not go quietly.

Earlier in the article, Fraley contends that teams that have Aaron Rowand win, and teams that lose him end up losing. Now Fraley says that the Giants get Rowand… but they “may remain stuck in last”?

In explaining the signing, general manager Brian Sabean said Rowand was “far and away a plus” in the areas of concern for the Giants.

“His no-nonsense approach is known throughout the game,” Sabean said. “Including inside the clubhouse.”

So, the areas of concern for the Giants aren’t offense, starting pitching, and the bullpen? It’s a no-nonsense approach? No wonder they haven’t reached 77 wins in three seasons.

At least Rowand can barbecue.

Dumpster Diving

No, I’m not talking about Rosie O’Donnell’s favorite pastime. I am talking about what Phillies GM Pat Gillick should be doing now that there are non-tendered players out there, waiting to be plucked up by another team.

I mean, look at this list! I think these guys might be better than the actual free agent market!

I’d like to highlight a few of the players on that list the Phillies should be interested in picking up.

Dallas McPherson

Formerly a top prospect, third baseman Dallas McPherson battled injuries in 2007 and never caught fire in the Major Leagues in his 360 at-bats between 2004 and 2006.

The Phillies, having just traded “third baseman of the future” Mike Costanzo to the Astros (who just traded him to the Orioles in the Miguel Tejada package), are in need of a third baseman now, next year, the year after that, the year after that…

A Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs platoon at third base likely isn’t going to cut it unless Helms can revert to his second-half of ’06 ways. Let McPherson rehab in the Minor Leagues, hope he gets healthy, and call him up. It’s a win-win situation — a cheap roll of the dice that can result in big winnings. After all, McPherson hit 40 HR, drove in 126 runs, and put up a 1.054 OPS between AA and AAA in 2004.

2007 salary: $382,500

Josh Towers

The Phillies were interested in pitcher Josh Towers at one point. What’s easy to dislike about the guy — his career ERA of almost 5.00 — is offset by what you really like about him, which is his ability to throw ground balls, a must in a hitter-friendly stadium such as Citizens Bank Park. In 2007, 43.9% of Towers’ batted balls were of the ground ball variety, just one whole percent over his career average, so it’s not an aberration.

His BABIP has been a bit higher than the league average throughout his career (.314), and his WHIP isn’t awful (1.38). With exceptional defense in the middle infield with Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, Towers would thrive in Philadelphia.

Go get him, Pat.

2007 salary: $2.9 million

Emil Brown

After getting regular at-bats in Kansas City starting in 2005, outfielder Emil Brown showed that he can put up above-average production. In ’05, he put up an OPS of .804, .051 points above the league average. In ’06, he improved to an .815 OPS, but that was .034 points above the league average.

Brown would be a sturdy addition to the Phillies’ bench, which, as it stands currently, is weak. Said bench includes Chris Coste, Eric Bruntlett, Greg Dobbs, Chris Snelling, and T.J. Bohn.

2007 salary: $3.45 million

Chad Durbin

Durbin, a pitcher released by the Detroit Tigers, is another ground ball-prone pitcher. He would be an excellent low-cost, high-reward chance to take. 44% of Durbin’s batted balls were ground balls, slightly higher than his career average (40.3%), but good nonetheless.

Besides, wouldn’t you rather have Chad Durbin than J.D. Durbin?

If he can’t make the rotation, he could serve a purpose in the bullpen.

2007 salary: $385,000

Mark Prior

Maybe it was the Cubs system of developing pitchers that has tarnished his arm health, and maybe another organization can halt his D.L. stints. It’s the epitome of the low-risk, high-reward move.

Sign Prior to a multi-million, but incentive-laden contract. If he gets hurt again, meh, the Phillies wasted a few million with a potential right-handed Cole Hamels. I’d certainly prefer an injury-prone ace push an injury-prone Adam Eaton out of the starting rotation, than actually have to watch Adam Eaton attempt to make 33 starts in 2008.

Prior also throws a decent amount of ground balls (40.3% over his career), strikes out a lot of hitters, and doesn’t walk too many.

If there’s one player on this list that I would suggest Pat Gillick to sign, it’s Prior, without question.

2007 salary: $3.575 million

Morgan Ensberg

When I said that Mark Prior should be #1 on this list for Pat Gillick, Ensberg is #2. As mentioned, the Phillies have no legitimate third baseman now or in the future, and Ensberg could fill that void at least for a couple years.

For starters, he plays excellent defense. In 2006, he was second behind Scott Rolen in RZR, and 7th in plays made out of his zone. In 2005, he led all NL third basemen in RZR, and was a short second (80-to-79) to then-Phillie David Bell in plays made out of his zone.

Then you get to his offense, which nowadays is merely referred to as potential. In 2005, he put up a 144 OPS+ with 36 HR and 101 RBI and he was envisioned as one of the top third basemen in baseball for years to come. His power has waned as he’s battled injuries, but when he’s healthy, he gets on base at a great rate (nearly 37% of the time he’s at the plate).

If Phillies fans were ever allowed to have their cake and eat it, too, we’d see both Prior and Ensberg in Phillies pinstripes in 2008.

2007 salary: $4.35 million

While these kind of players come with risks, such as injury histories and downward trends in production, they are risks worth taking when your other option is marching forward with the status quo. The Phillies are oh-so-close to being a powerhouse in Major League Baseball. They already boast the National League’s best offense. Small tweaks to the pitching, and keeping the 6-7-8 part of the lineup afloat offensively will ensure the Phillies are playing October baseball once again.

Crashburn Crapshoot

The Tigers/Marlins Trade

There’s no doubt that the acquisition of Miguel Cabrera alone makes the Tigers instant World Series contenders. Then you factor in that they also got Dontrelle Willis, whose 2007 season might have just been a fluke (though it’s not hard to fathom that, given his irregular mechanics, he’s lost his touch).

In return for a top-three third baseman and a #2-esque left-handed starting pitcher, the Tigers had to give up six — count ’em, six — prospects including Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.

Frankly, I’m surprised that the Tigers got them that cheaply. Think about it — the Tigers get four collective arbitration-eligible years with Cabrera and Willis, and if they walk to free agency afterwards, they get four high draft picks as compensation, basically recouping what they gave up to get them in the first place.

As for the Marlins, well, what reasons do they have left to convince Floridians to show up to their games? For the team’s sake, I hope this trade precedes a move out of Miami to somewhere where they get more than a handful of fans per game and can afford to keep their star players for more than a few years.

They are getting some good prospects in return, though, and could be contenders as soon as 2009. Of course, they could also pull a 2006 and contend in ’08 (am I being confusing here?).

The Inge Effect

Now that Miguel Cabrera is taking over third base for the Tigers, that likely makes Brandon Inge available. He’s owed about $17 million over the next three years, which is affordable when you think about the contracts that have been offered both this off-season and last. With Pat Gillick urging Tadahito Iguchi (a second baseman) to re-sign with the Phillies as their regular third baseman, he should take a look at trying to acquire Inge instead.

Inge is exceptional with the glove and isn’t too shabby with the bat. Rather than have Iguchi play a position he’s unfamiliar with and might not be able to play, just trade a mid-level prospect to the Tigers and third base is a problem solved. The only advantage Iguchi has over Inge is his ability to get on base.

Body Image

With the controversy over some pictures of Jennifer Love Hewitt resulting in her concern about other girls’ body images, I thought it’d be funny to apply it to the one player in baseball that gets a lot of heat about his weight: Miguel Cabrera.

As you may recall, ESPN ran a column in mid-July about Miguel Cabrera’s weight. The author, Jorge Aranguire Jr., said:

Florida fans from Hialeah to Homestead are wondering if he’s eating his way out of an all-time great career.

I’m going to make a much-belated response to that on the behalf of Cabrera.

This is the last time I will address this subject.

I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way baseball players’ bodies are constantly scrutinized. To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all of the baseball players out there that are struggling with their body image.

250 pounds is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being 222 pounds doesn’t make you beautiful.

What I should be doing is celebrating some of the best days of my career and my fresh start in Detroit, instead of having to deal with sports journalists writing invasive articles from bad angles. I know what I look like, and so do my teammates and coaches. And like all baseball players out there should, I love my body.

To all baseball players with butts, beer guts, flab and a waist, put on a uniform — put it on and stay strong.

Try Again, Mutts

The rumors have the New York Mets offering Phil Humber, Aaron Heilman, and Carlos Gomez to the Baltimore Orioles. MLB.com‘s Jim Molony said that offer was “politely declined.”

That may be putting it nicely.

Given that Bedard is in demand, if I’m the Orioles, I’m asking the Mets for Gomez (who compares to Willy Taveras), Pedro Feliciano (same ceiling as Heilman but he’s left-handed), Humber, and Mike Pelfrey (who looks like a #4 pitcher at best). Still, that might not even be worth it.

Regardless, adding Bedard doesn’t really push the Mets too far in the proverbial power rankings. They’ll need not only Bedard, but another pitcher as well, to have a rotation that compares favorably to that of the Phillies.

Those Crazy Zebras

The Baltimore Ravens have only themselves to blame for their last-minute loss to the still-unbeaten New England Patriots. That was a hold on fourth down by Jamaine Winborne. And that was unsportsmanlike conduct by Bart Scott.

But yes, it is questionable whether Jabar Gaffney had control of the ball or not. Even if he didn’t, it still benefited the Ravens to get the ball back with around 45 seconds left. If it’s second and goal, assume another 8 seconds or so gets ticked off. Third and goal, another 8 seconds. Fourth and goal, another 8 seconds.

Now, it’s beneficial to the Ravens assuming the Patriots do get that touchdown. Granted, the Ravens played decent defense on the Patriots all night, but the only reason the Patriots were even behind with one minute to go in the fourth quarter is because of so many dropped passes by Patriots receivers. Given the Pats’ offensive proficiency, they’d get that touchdown more often than not.

So, it was better for the Ravens to get it back with 45 seconds or so instead of, perhaps, 20. It didn’t work out for them anyway, but the ability to throw over the middle and subsequently call a time-out or spike the ball was there, adding to the chance to score.

The referees did not cost the Ravens the game. And no, Tim Dahlberg and other conspiracy theorists, the NFL is not fixing games in the Patriots’ favor.

The Anthem (Warning: Soapbox)

There was some unrest as a result of Pittsburgh’s failure to play the national anthem before their rain- and mud-soaked fultili-fest with the Miami Dolphins on November 26.

Can we please stop being so concerned with symbolism and ritual? The national anthem has been played so much it has lost any meaning it may have had, especially post-9/11. It’s simple economics, the more of something you have, the less valuable it becomes.

I’m willing to compromise. Just play the anthem before the Super Bowl, and cut it out of every other game. In baseball, play it on Opening Day and before the first game of the World Series. Other sports can follow suit. And for all sports, play the anthem on holidays like Memorial Day.

As for the article I linked to concerning this subject, notice the bad logic used:

Bad enough football has taken away all our free time in the fall and early winter. Now, it’s going to take away our patriotism?

Now it’s unpatriotic to not play the national anthem? Sorry, you’re not patriotic because you have an affection for a song, adhere “Rah-rah, America!” bumper stickers to the back of your car, and fly a flag in front of your house. True patriots don’t need quasi-religious jingoism to reassure them of their allegiance to this country. True patriots don’t follow the pack; true patriots question and hold accountable those in charge instead of accepting the status quo in a false hope that this makes them “real Americans.”

And personally, I refuse to honor The Star-Spangled Banner while this current administration is in power (and probably the next, given the dearth of good candidates running for the ’08 presidency). Am I unpatriotic for that — for not supporting the un-American, unconstitutional, and inhumane policies of the Bush administration?

Pardon.

Conlin’s Losing Numbers [UPDATED TWICE: See end]

As you might recall from late August, I picked on Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News for his close-minded and immature diatribe against proponents of Sabermetrics in baseball.

I’ve found another target. Bill Conlin, also of the Philadelphia Daily News, recently wrote an article called Rollins’ Winning Numbers. Fire Joe Morgan has done a great job of dissecting his article.

I sent Conlin an E-mail, but before I reveal those, I’d just like to point out the snippet of his article which deserves much ire.

Despite his defensive contribution being backhanded by Red Sox front office stat man Bill James – baseball’s most influential cybergeek – the league’s managers and coaches awarded him a Gold Glove.

Apparently, James decided that a Range Factor based on successful chances (putouts plus assists) times nine innings, divided by number of defensive innings played is more important than the result – for example, a friggin’ out. Despite his No. 3 fielding percentage of .985 (behind Troy Tulowitzki’s .987 and Omar Vizquel’s .986) Rollins rated No. 15 in the James Range Factor. Fortunately, the baseball men who vote for the Gold Gloves depend on what they see, not laptop science. Jose Reyes, a nimble windshield wiper, ranked No. 25 in RF.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of that article:

  1. Conlin attempts to insult Sabermetricians, who devalue Rollins’ defense compared to baseball statistical traditionalists, because he was given a Gold Glove anyway. Remember how meaningful the Gold Glove is when you are reminded that Rafael Palmeiro was given a Gold Glove at first base in a season in which he logged just 28 games at that position.
  2. Conlin shows his ignorance of basic math by making Range Factor out to be more complicated than it really is. Range Factor is (Putouts plus Assists) divided by Innings Pitched. Fielding Percentage is (Putouts plus Assists) divided by (Putouts + Assists + Errors). Which one is more “complicated”? In addition, he wrote, “James decided that a Range Factor […] is more important than the result – for example, a friggin’ out.” If only the result of putouts and assists wasn’t “a friggin’ out.”

As many other “cyber-geeks” did, I decided to send Conlin an E-mail.

Hi Mr. Conlin,

Hope all is well. My name is Bill as well, and I run a blog called Crashburn Alley. Needless to say, I’ve read many of the blogs bashing your article, such as Fire Joe Morgan and the discussion at Baseball Think Factory.

So, I’m not going to bash you since it’s already been done. And hey, I already picked on your colleague Marcus Hayes.

I do want to ask you, though, what makes Rollins better than New York Mets third baseman David Wright as a National League MVP candidate?

Wright hits for more power (.546 SLG to Rollins’ .531), gets on base at a higher rate (.416 OBP to Rollins’ .344), fields his position about equally as well as Rollins fields his (shortstop is defensively more demanding, however, but not enough to make a huge difference), and has comparable speed to Rollins (34 SB, seven less than Rollins’ 41).

The Sabermetrics really make the case for Wright, but I know you’re not a fan of those and won’t waste your time with them.

What does Rollins do better, besides being a hairline better than Wright defensively and on the basepaths (whereas Wright is more than a hairline better than Rollins at getting on base and slugging, the two things a hitter is paid to do)?

My personal top-five NL MVP rankings would go Wright, Albert Pujols, Chipper Jones, Rollins, and Matt Holliday.

It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow — to make the case against Rollins — being a die-hard Phillies fan, but I try to be objective. I don’t even think Ryan Howard deserved the NL MVP award last season over Albert Pujols.

Thanks for your time,

Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Conlin deftly dodges my questions and stated facts with a simple response.

Know what, pal? Bash this. . .Tell your bloggers, my career against theirs. . .

If I felt like being smarmy, I could have pointed out to him that this is just an appeal to authority. A statement is not any more right because someone more important is saying it. For instance, is 2+2=4 any more correct if Albert Einstein says it than if George W. Bush says it? You don’t have to go to accounting college to know that.

Anyway, I let him know I was disappointed in his failure to address any of my points.

Well, Mr. Conlin, I have to say that I’m disappointed. I know your colleague Marcus Hayes responded with little tact, but I guess it’s a trait of those who work at the Daily News.

I will take it by your evasion of my questions and the facts I’ve stated that you are unable to make any legitimate case for Rollins over Wright for MVP. But, hey, whatever helps you sell papers.

You have given me an easy decision, with your tactless, factless response, not to ever buy a newspaper from the Philadelphia Daily News or to watch their program on Comcast SportsNet, at least until you and Mr. Hayes resign, or in a more likely scenario, are fired.

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

— Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Note in my initial E-mail to Conlin that I identified myself as a Phillies fan, and in both E-mails, I linked him to my blog. So, there should be no confusion that I am a fan of any other team but the Phillies, right?

Wrong. He responded thusly.

Don’t you need to contact the 30 electors–including the two Mets beat writers–who failed to give write a single first place vote instead of a commentator who does not vote for the awards. You’re a Mets fan and you had your little bubble of arrogance and smugness burst. Your team choked big time, an epic gagaroo. At least the 1964 Phillies had an excuse–they were probably no more than the Cardinals, Reds, Braves, Dodgers and Giants that year. One question: When a Mets team chokes in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a gagging sound? Next time bring more to the table than wishful fan numbers that bear no semblance to reality. I wonder how it feels to be the Phillies bitch

That would hurt so much… if I was a Mets fan. I’m a Phillies fan making an objective case for David Wright.

So, this is twice now that a journalist from the Philadelphia Daily News has been both tactless and unable to present a legitimate factual case for anything they’ve posited. I truly hope that Conlin isn’t a microcosm of American sports media — ignorant and close-minded.

As for Wright over Rollins, the facts make it plain to see.

Rollins

.875 OPS (.344 OBP; .531 SLG)

41-for-47 in stolen bases

9th out of 14 qualified NL SS in Revised Zone Rating; third in Out of Zone plays.

Wright

.962 OPS (.416 OBP; .546 SLG)

34-for-39 in stolen bases

5th out of 12 qualified NL 3B in Revised Zone Rating; first in Out of Zone plays.

And that’s only using the most basic of Sabermetrics, and only for defense.

Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), which accounts for both offense and defense in one handy statistic, puts Wright at 12.7 WARP. Rollins is at 11.5. For fun, Matt Holliday is at 11.9, but he’s purely a product of Coors field.

So, not only was Conlin disrespectful and close-minded, he was flat out wrong.

CORRECTION: Thanks to reader Double D for correcting me. I had said that Conlin voted for the awards this off-season, but Double D asserted that only active beat writers get to vote.

UPDATE: Conlin just responded with what may be the quote of the decade

I said:

Mr. Conlin,

I linked you to my blog, and I called myself a die-hard Phillies fan in my initial message to you. Remember? I said:

It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow — to make the case against Rollins — being a die-hard Phillies fan, but I try to be objective.

So, I enjoyed the Mets’ collapse as much as you did. 🙂

Though I don’t appreciate your tact, I do appreciate that you respond to those who contact you. A lot of journalists don’t even do that.

Toodle-oo,

Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Conlin said:

The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler’s time on earth–I’m sure he would have eliminated all bloggers. In Colonial times, bloggers were called “Pamphleteers.” They hung on street corners handing them out to passersby. Now, they hang out on electronic street corners, hoping somebody mouses on to their pretentious sites. Different medium, same MO. Shakespeare accidentally summed up the genre best with these words from a MacBeth soliloquy: “. . .a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. . .”

UPDATE #2: Conlin clarifies his Hitler statement. Before that, though, he said:

Just make sure you bring a higher level of literacy to go with your decimal points. Most of you guys are unreadable. That’s one of my gripes. And while many of you–not all–can get away with a level of insult and ridicule that would be actionable in a publication governed by standards and libel and slander laws, professionals must abide by those standards and laws. My columns are read by a minimum of three editors for fact, style, fairness and balance. Despite that scrutiny,errors still filter by the goalies. In my Rollins column that has upset so many of you, the only thing I would remotely take back was having Holliday performing his Game 163 heroics against the Diamondbacks when, of course, it was the Padres. D’Backs were on my mind as the soon-to-be-vanquished division champions when I wrote the line. Any editor worth his salt should have caught the error. However, most of them are so intent at catching the bad stuff they let the obvious error slip by. Who checks your facts and deletes a line that is over the edge of good taste or might demean or defame an athlete or subject? Did you take a course in the libel and slander laws? Or do you merely throw it against the wall and see what sticks? That’s what most of you do. I can’t pin that on you specifically because I have never read your blog.

I said:

Mr. Conlin,

Unfortunately, your words about Hitler have sparked quite a firestorm. I don’t think you actually meant what you said there…

As for your last response to my E-mail, you bring up a host of great points. Bloggers don’t have anyone to answer to besides advertisers (if any). However, the lack of censorship can bring about a lot of good things. Subjects that you’d never be allowed to touch (for instance, would you be allowed to have a pro-steroids article published?) can easily be covered by bloggers.

The hard work you and others have put in as journalists is something I truly admire and is something I am currently striving for myself. So, yes, I am familiar with libel and slander and all that journalistic stuff.

If you responded to your readers the way you just responded to me, you’d probably enjoy bloggers a lot more than you currently do.

Please let me know if you’d like me to post a clarification of sorts on my blog for you, as a lot of people took your words the same way I did — not very kindly. I never set out to sully your name, and feel bad that you’ve drawn much ire. And hey, it might be a golden opportunity to turn over a new leaf with bloggers.

Thanks for the discourse,

Bill B. (Crashburn Alley)

Conlin responded:

I think I’ll let the words I wrote after the death of my dear friend and colleague, the former local Associated Press Bureau Chief Ralph Bernstein and the nearly half century relationship my wife and I have had with Ralph and his family through good times and bad represent me against any contrived and baseless attempt to slime me as an anti-Semite. I was a speaker at Ralph’s Memorial service. Quite obviously, the Hitler line was used in a satiric response to what has turned into a concerted assault on my Jimmy Rollins column and on my career. It was quite obviously used in a personal e-mail. I did not publish the insulting things said about me. As editor of the Temple University News in 1960-61, I received death threats from the White Citizens Council after writing an editorial denouncing Gerald L. K. Smith and his anti-black and anti-Semitic hate-mongering newspaper “The Cross and the Flag.” I was one of the most outspoken critics of Marge Schott’s blatant anti-Semitism to the point some of my columns had to be toned down. Ditto my stand on Al Campanis, a friend, by the way, and Jimmy The Greek Snyder. I also had a long and close relationship with the late, great Dick Schaap, who wrote about my impact on The Sports Reporters at length in his autobiography, “Flashing Before My Eyes.” I am heartened that both a clear conscience and the First Amendment will be at my side.

Gillick Isn’t Slumbering This Time

After about a one-week hiatus following a move to a new apartment, I am back in front of my computer monitor, much to the dismay of the rest of the Internets (to those of you sending me mail bombs, please note the change in address).

The Phillies have been the noisiest team thus far in the offseason, unless you count all of the meaningless banter in the media about Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees, and everyone else in between. If you’re a Phillies fan, you have to be happy with the way Gillick has attacked the pressing needs facing the 2008 team.

Despite the in-season rumors of the Phillies attempting to acquire Brad Lidge in a trade with the Houston Astros, it was still surprising to read about the move in the newspaper (yes, I was reduced to that archaic form of media sans Internet, sans cable, sans telephone).

The Phillies sent outfielder Michael Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary, and Minor League third baseman Mike Costanzo to the ‘stros for Lidge and utility infielder Eric Bruntlett.

It’s a good trade for both sides, even though Lidge, a free agent after the ’08 season, may only be a one-year rental for the Phillies, who are, in reality, poised for an “’08 or bust” campaign.

Let’s first parse through who the Phillies gave up.

Geoff Geary

Geary is an enigma if there ever was one. He’s been an above-average reliever for each of the past three seasons, with last year’s 105 ERA+ being a severe drop-off from his 158 ERA+ in ’06. He gives up a fair share of base runners (1.399 career WHIP) and his career BABIP is .311, which is only slightly higher than the league average, showing that his propensity for allowing base runners isn’t fluky. In addition, his K/9 of 5.82 shows that he doesn’t have particularly overpowering stuff and he’ll only get more and more hittable as hitters become more familiar with him and as his stuff wanes.

Geary’s departure doesn’t increase the importance of anyone in particular in the Phillies bullpen, just anyone who would potentially be used in middle-relief (for instance, Ryan Madson).

Michael Bourn

Bourn has always been a prized prospect of the Phillies, but it was only because the Phillies’ farm system is so barren. Bourn has the ceiling similar to that of Juan Pierre or Wily Taveras — a singles hitter that can steal some bases and put his above-average speed to use in the outfield.

While with the Phillies for the entire season in the pinch-runner/defensive replacement role, Bourn did show that he is capable of handling an everyday workload if needed. He got on base at about the league-average (Bourn’s .348 to the league’s .349) and was 18-for-19 in the stolen base department.

Fortunately for the Phillies, they already have a guy akin to Bourn, only with a much stronger arm and a bit more power, in Shane Victorino.

Bourn’s loss makes the back-ups in the outfield — Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs — a bit more valuable.

Mike Costanzo

According to Phuture Phillies, Baseball America ranked Costanzo among the top-20 prospects in the Eastern League.

Last season in AA Reading, Costanzo made huge bounds from the previous season, in which he put up an OBP of .364 and a SLG of .411, to put up an OBP of .368 and a SLG of .490. He hit 27 HR and drove in 86 runs to go along with that.

While his offense looks appealing, his defense does not. He committed 25 errors in ’06 and 34 last season in only 133 and 135 games, respectively. That is an aggregate average of about one error every 4.5 games.

In 2008, the Phillies will use a platoon of Wes Helms, Greg Dobbs, and Eric Bruntlett at third base, so Costanzo’s move doesn’t increase anyone’s immediate value, though the Phillies will have to find a reliable third baseman after the season.

Now let’s take a look at who the Phillies acquired.

Brad Lidge

Phillies fans pessimistic about the trade will cite Lidge’s ’06 effort as an indication that he isn’t everything he’s cracked up to be, but if his ’07 season means anything, then it was just an aberration. His K/9 rate has always hovered above 10 (with a career average of 12.6) and he keeps runners off the bases (1.197 career WHIP).

The interesting part about the Lidge acquisition, though, isn’t Lidge himself — it’s how the move will affect Brett Myers, who is now a part of the Phillies’ starting rotation, just shortly removed from a season in which he was the Phillies’ lights-out second-half closer (2.87 ERA and 21 saves in 53.1 IP). Myers made it clear throughout the season that he liked being a part of the bullpen as someone the team could count on game after game, instead of just once every five days. If Myers doesn’t perform well back in the rotation, proponents of the team chemistry concept will point to Lidge as a reason.

Should Myers be amicable and return to his above-average ways as a starter, this move has gold stars written all over it.

Eric Bruntlett

To Phillies fans, he’s “that other guy” acquired along with Lidge. Yeah, he’s essentially listless offensively (career .323 OBP and .364 SLG) but he has above-average speed (20-for-26 in stolen bases in his career) as well as above-average defense (.847 RZR in 348 defensive innings last season as a shortstop, which would rank slightly behind fifth place if he had enough innings to qualify).

Expect Bruntlett to be used in as a pinch-runner or as a spot-starter at third base in the odd event that Greg Dobbs starts in the outfield and Wes Helms is sitting on the bench.

In the immediate future, the Phillies are clear winners, but don’t be fooled: Geary and Bourn can be cogs in a now youthful Astros roster, with Craig Biggio retired. The Astros could use an outfield of Carlos Lee (31) in left, Bourn (25) in center, and Hunter Pence (24) in right.

Shortly after the Lidge deal, the Phillies re-signed left-handed reliever J.C. Romero to a three-year, $12 million deal.

J.C. Romero

Plucked off the waiver wire by Gillick in June from the world champion Boston Red Sox, Romero quickly become one of only three reliable arms in the bullpen, along with Myers and Tom Gordon, both of whom were injured during the season.

Romero walked his share of hitters (25 in 36.1 IP), but otherwise kept hitters at bay (1.101 WHIP). He averaged just a shade under a 1/1 K/IP ratio, but the most important aspect — his left-handedness aside — is his ability to throw the ground ball, an absolute must in a hitter-friendly stadium such as Citizens Bank Park. In ’07, 60% of his outs were of the ground ball variety, only slightly above his 54.3% career average.

With those deals fleshed out, let’s look at what the Phillies’ 25-man roster should look like, as it stands, come Opening Day.

C – Carlos Ruiz
1B – Ryan Howard
2B – Chase Utley
3B – Wes Helms
SS – Jimmy Rollins
LF – Pat Burrell
CF – ? / Shane Victorino
RF – Jayson Werth

C – Chris Coste
IF – Eric Bruntlett
IF/OF – Greg Dobbs
OF – Chris Roberson
OF – T.J. Bohn

That ? in center field could be Aaron Rowand, it could be another outfielder acquired via free agency or trade, or it could be Victorino, simply taking Rowand’s place.

The Phillies’ outfield reserves currently include Chris Roberson and T.J. Bohn, both of whom are rather unappetizing, so here’s hoping they sign someone like Geoff Jenkins to a one-year deal and use him in a platoon with Jayson Werth in right field (Jenkins, .883 career OPS vs. RHP; Werth .864 career OPS vs. LHP).

SP – Cole Hamels
SP – Brett Myers
SP – Jamie Moyer
SP – Adam Eaton
SP – Kyle Kendrick

The last two spots are tentative. I don’t know this for a fact, but I imagine the Phillies are very open to using blase Adam Eaton in a long-relief role. The Phillies are also hoping to allow Kendrick to develop a bit more in the Minor Leagues, perhaps to develop a put-away pitch that he lacked in his impressive rookie season in ’07.

Rumors have the Phillies most interested in Randy Wolf and Bartolo Colon, but both would be risky propositions given their injury histories. Further down the list are Livan Hernandez and Kyle Lohse. Hernandez is a fly ball-prone pitcher, and Lohse’s agent is Scott Boras, whom the Phillies absolutely detest (see: Drew, J.D.).

Carlos Silva, with his ground ball tendencies (47.5% in ’07; 48.7% career), should actually be the #1 target for the Phillies in terms of cost/effectiveness.

RP –
RP –
RP –
RP – J.C. Romero
RP – Ryan Madson
SU – Tom Gordon
CP – Brad Lidge

The three open relief pitching slots could go to just about anyone who shows up in Spring Training. “Anyone” could include Fabio Castro, Clay Condrey, Julio Mateo, Scott Mathieson, Francisco Rosario, and Mike Zagurski.

One of Castro and Zagurski will make it by the sheer fact of their left-handedness, giving the Phillies increased flexibility with two lefties in the ‘pen.

Mathieson is coming off of “Tommy John” surgery, and Mateo still has some personal problems that prevented him from joining the team last season when he was picked up from Seattle for a handshake.

Logically, that leaves Condrey and Rosario to the last two spots, assuming the Phillies are done acquiring relief pitchers. In all likelihood, they are not done shopping, so they could still target someone like David Riske or LaTroy Hawkins to set up for Lidge, and moving injury-prone Tom Gordon to a role in which he is not expected to pitch 70 games throughout the season.

As for the other fun-packed part of the off-season: awards…

How did Jimmy Rollins get the Gold Glove at shortstop over Troy Tulowitski? If there’s one thing both baseball statistical traditionalists and Sabermetricians can agree on, it’s that Tulowitzki was the better defensive shortstop. Rollins is a hell of a defender, but even as a Phillies fan, even I cannot give him the nod on this one.

Compare the statistics.

Rollins: .808 RZR, 65 OOZ

Tulowitzki: .861 RZR, 87 OOZ

Good to see that Aaron Rowand got a Gold Glove, but again, I take exception with it this year. He was sixth among qualified NL center-fielders in RZR (.861) and second in OOZ (69). His 69 OOZ aren’t too much more than the three behind him (5th-place has 63), so if you look at the five ahead of him in RZR…

A. Jones: .921 RZR, 80 OOZ

Beltran: .915, 64 OOZ

Pierre: .902, 63 OOZ

Cameron: .894, 53 OOZ

C. Young: .875, 66 OOZ

…you can find three slightly more deserving candidates. I’m not saying it’s a travesty that Rowand won, but if we’re being specific, he was just a shade under the cut.

Charlie Manuel, who placed second in Manager of the Year voting, should have won over Bob Melvin. His Diamondbacks were fluky, out-performing their Pythagorean W-L by an historically large 11 games. My reasoning for Manuel was laid out here:

Like Torre, Charlie Manuel has had a ton of injuries, a bad pitching staff, and media scrutiny to deal with all season long.

In this article, I listed the 15 Phillies to be put on the disabled list at the time. Since then, Cole Hamels missed time with a strained left elbow, and Antonio Alfonseca was described by Manuel as “out of gas.”

Manuel has had to make do with a horrible bullpen that GM Pat Gillick failed to improve during the off-season. In fact, the bullpen was so lousy that Manuel moved then-starter Brett Myers to the set-up role for Tom Gordon (Myers became the closer when Gordon was injured).

Myers’ statistics as a closer: 45.2 IP, 1.226 WHIP, 2.96 ERA, 56 K, 16 BB, 17 saves in 20 opportunities.

In addition, despite the injuries to 2005 Rookie of the Year and 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, 2007 MVP candidate Chase Utley, speedster Shane Victorino, and a horrid first-half for Pat Burrell, the Phillies have, by far, the National League’s best offense. First in runs, triples, walks, hit batsmen, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Second in at-bats, hits, doubles, home runs, and stolen bases.

When the Phillies lost to the Mets on April 17, Charlie Manuel blew up at “journalist” Howard Eskin during the post-game press conference, the team dropped to a 3-9 record, quickly 5.5 games behind the Mets for fourth place in the NL East. Now, the Phillies are 12-games above .500 — an 18-game swing — and are battling for playoff berths in either the NL East or in the Wild Card, as they are 2.5 GB the Mets and Padres, respectively.

Tulowitzki should have won NL Rookie of the Year over Braun, and while there weren’t any mind-blowing AL candidates for the award, I still think Jeremy Guthrie should have taken it over Dustin Pedroia.

Good to see the voters got something right through in awarding the AL Cy Young to C.C. Sabathia.

We’re still waiting on the NL Cy Young award (Jake Peavy, obviously) and both MVP awards. John Brattain makes an interesting case for Jimmy Rollins as the NL recipient. I don’t agree, but as a Phillies fan, I won’t complain if Rollins wins it. If he does, it will be the first time a team has had two different players win back-to-back MVP awards since Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds in 2000 and ’01.

What’s Out There?

If anyone is in a helpful mood, please link me to anything interesting that was written in the past week in which I’ve been gone. It’s quite overwhelming to have to catch up on so many blogs, so point me in the right direction! I’ll probably be putting up a “links” blog soon, so E-mail me (CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com) if you’d like me to link to you.

Looking into the Future

The Phillies put up their tentative 2008 schedule on their website for all to see. Let’s slice through it in a few ways.

Strength of Schedule

March/April — .499 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 10 series.

May — .484 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 9 series.

June —  .498 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

July — .506 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

August — .487 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 9 series.

September — .480 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 8 series.

OVERALL —  .492 opponent ’07 winning percentage over 52 series.

Before any off-season wheeling and dealing, and based solely on the teams’ 2007 performances, the Phillies appear to have an easy schedule ahead of them in 2008.

Interleague

Even though it’s not really special anymore, it is still worth noting which A.L. teams the Phillies will face.

May 16-18: Toronto Blue Jays (83-79, 3rd in AL East in ’07)

June 16-18: Boston Red Sox (96-66, 1st in AL East in ’07)

June 20-22: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (94-68, 1st in AL West in ’07)

June 24-26: at Oakland Athletics (76-86, 3rd in AL West in ’07)

June 27-29: at Texas Rangers (75-87, 4th in AL West in ’07)

Those five series yield an average record of about 85-77 (.525).

The Phillies are home against the “good” teams, which bodes well both from a perceived home field advantage standpoint, and from a ticket sales standpoint.

Divisional Rivalries

The number of times the Phillies face division rivals by month…

March/April — 9 games out of 28 (32%)

May — 8 games out of 29 (27.5%)

June — 7 games out of 27 (26%)

July — 18 games out of 25 (72%)

August — 8 games out of 29 (27.5%)

September — 21 games out of 26 (81%)

I think it’s safe to assume that July and September are the most important months of 2008 for the Phillies.

Reservations

Finally, a look at the Phillies home/away match-ups…

March/April — 14 games home out of 28 (50%)

May — 15 games out of 29 (52%)

June — 11 games out of 26 (42%)

July — 13 games out of 25 (52%)

August — 15 games out of 29 (52%)

September — 13 games out of 25 (52%)

Every month, the Phillies have more home games than road games besides June, so that also bodes well.

The worst trips for Eastern teams like the Phillies, obviously, are westward. The Phillies head West four times:

  • April 21-22: Colorado for 2 games
  • May 5-11: Arizona and San Francisco for 7 games (4 ARI; 3 SF)
  • June 24-29: Oakland and Texas for 6 games (3 apiece)
  • August 11-17: Los Angeles and San Diego (4 LAD; 3 SD)

As mentioned, the Phillies’ 2008 schedule is tentative — it is subject to change.

In Other News

Bad news if you’re a Philadelphian: You’re ugly. Per Dayn Perry’s $8 Beers (per With Leather (per Yahoo! News)):

Philadelphia is home to the least attractive people in the United States, a survey of visitors and residents showed on Friday.

The city of more than 1.5 million people was also found to be among the least stylish, least active, least friendly and least worldly, according to the “America’s Favourite Cities” survey by Travel & Leisure magazine and CNN Headline News.

I was just getting some confidence in my self-image back, and then I hop onto the Internet and read this. That’s it! No more Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteaks! No more Italian ice or pretzels! No more hoagies!

I think I’m going to start a group and go on a field trip to Los Angeles to get some plastic surgery, too.

Oh, nevermind, I just read more of the article and now I realize that while I’m not attractive, I’m also not unattractive:

[…] [Travel & Leisure senior editor Amy] Farley pointed out the results don’t mean people in Philadelphia are ugly or the city is a bad place to visit.

“We were asking people to vote on attractiveness, not unattractiveness. Travel & Leisure editors believe there are a lot of attractive people in Philadelphia,” she said.

Phew. I almost made a rash decision.

Blog Hoppin’

Check out these quality blogs:

  • Vancouver has a fool-proof plan to earn the right to host the 2010 Olympics. [100% Injury Rate]
  • Taco Bell is intensely patriotic with this new marketing ploy. [Babes Love Baseball]
  • The Eagles are so bad, Philadelphians are already counting down to Spring training. Only 115 days left! [Balls, Sticks, & Stuff]
  • Dusty Baker: The new Jack Handey? [Between the Lines]
  • Settle down, folks! We know it’s Willie Green season! [Broad Street Bastards]
  • The guy responsible for the Indians’ seventh-inning baserunning blunder is the leading candidate for the job as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. [Bugs & Cranks]
  • How Scott Boras became the most hated man in baseball. [I’m Writing Sports]
  • It’s fun to blog when your favorite teams are winning. [Josh Q. Public]
  • Keyshawn Johnson’s interview with Chad Johnson is ironic. [Signal to Noise]
  • Jonathan Papelbon knows how to celebrate. [Six Pack Sports Report]
  • Jesus will be forced to pick sides in the World Series. [Ump Bump]

Crashburn Alley Itinerary and Anniversary

Since the Phillies’ season is officially over, and since I focus mainly on the Phillies, things will slow down slightly in terms of content posted here. I haven’t posted since October 1 (mostly since my thoughts on the Phillies’ collapse are pretty much the same as most of the other Phillies bloggers out there) but I do plan to put up a few thorough pieces right after the World Series on the Phillies’ work to be done in the off-season.

That will come in installments following the conclusion of the World Series, when the wheeling and dealing officially begins. I’ll try to stick to the schedule of putting up one new post per day highlighting each position and what the Phillies can do to improve.

Other than that, expect a slightly higher amount of non-sports-related topics until about March, when spring training exhibition games begin.In the meantime, I might create some “segments” like a video of the day.

On another note… today is the two-month anniversary of Crashburn Alley! I had been writing on the Internet, to my own website hosted by Tripod and to the FOX Sports blogs, for years prior to my purchasing of this domain, but I never really “blogged” (interacted with other writers, networked, etc. besides on FOX Sports) and I have to say that it was a huge mistake not to jump in sooner. I have been fortunate enough to associate with a bunch of great bloggers (you can find them in my blogroll to the right) who have been exceptionally helpful to me.

I have even been so fortunate as to have my work featured on FOXSports.com’s main MLB page and on FOX Funhouse. Admittedly, my writing shouldn’t lay side-by-side with the work of writers like Dayn Perry, but I’m not complaining.

So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been gracious enough to put up with me, a blogging newbie, and I look forward to keeping this thing going for a long time. Hopefully, that “long time” includes witnessing a Phillies World Series championship at least once (I can dream).

Phillies Surmount 500-to-1 Odds Against — UPDATED

You read right. 500-to-1. They were that much an underdog on September 12, seven games behind the New York Mets in the National League East (Baseball Prospectus goes over some of the biggest collapses here, and mentions this year’s playoff hunt).

Today, on October 1, the Mets are officially out of the playoffs (the second-worst collapse in baseball history, after the 1964 Phillies and the worst since divisional play began in 1969), while the Phillies are officially in for the first time since 1993.

I’ve mentioned in other articles of mine the vicious rash of injuries the team has endured. I have also mentioned the insane luck against them when they lost to the Braves on September 5. And I have mentioned how many games the bullpen has blown.

And hell, even I was disheartened at one point. But I’m a fan of the Phillies — can you blame me?

The 500-to-1 odds really undershoots what the Phillies did, though.

  • They lost to cancer the one man most emblematic of the Phillies franchise — John Vukovich — on March 8 and wore “VUK” on their sleeves all season.
  • Jayson Werth thought his baseball career might have been over before he signed with the Phillies.
  • Before the season started, Jimmy Rollins declared that the Phillies were “the team to beat” and they started off 4-11.
  • Manager Charlie Manuel berated “journalist” Howard Eskin and was on the “hot seat” until about mid-season.
  • The coaching staff acted rashly and moved their then-ace Brett Myers to the bullpen to pitch the 8th inning (when Tom Gordon went down with an injury, Myers moved to closer).
  • Ryan Howard, the reigning NL MVP, had a horrible April (.390 SLG) and then missed two weeks from May 10 to 24.
  • Pat Burrell had a mind-bogglingly awful first-half of the season (.408 SLG).
  • They started the season with six starting pitchers (Garcia, Lieber, Hamels, Eaton, Myers, Moyer). By season’s end, only one of them would not spend a day on the disabled list — the 44-year-old, who ended up pitching Sunday’s game, the biggest Phillies game in 14 years. In addition, the Phillies set a club record for most pitchers used in a season (28).
  • More than a month after moving Myers to the bullpen, he got injured closing out a game in Florida and missed the next two months. By season’s end, nine Phillies have recorded saves (Myers, Alfonseca Gordon, Condrey, Madson, Mesa, Rosario, Durbin, Ennis).
  • Wes Helms showed himself to be a free agent bust, and saw his playing time significantly reduced in the last two months in favor of the offense of Greg Dobbs and defense of Abraham Nunez.
  • The franchise reached 10,000 losses on July 15.

And despite ALL of that…

  • The Phillies won the most games in a season (89) since 1993 (97).
  • Jimmy Rollins, en route to a possible and likely NL MVP award, recorded the fourth 20 2B/20 3B/20 HR/20 SB season in baseball history, joining Curtis Granderson (also achieved this year), Willie Mays, and Frank Schulte. In addition, he played in all 162 games, and set records in at-bats and plate appearances, surpassing Willie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra, respectively.
  • Pat Burrell followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with at least 30 HR for the third time in his eight-year career.
  • Ryan Howard followed up his awful first half with an amazing second half (1.016 OPS) and finished the season with 47 HR and led the National League with 136 RBI.
  • The Phillies overcame the one-month loss of then-MVP candidate Chase Utley to a hand injury when Pat Gillick made a quick acquisition of Tadahito Iguchi, who instantly took to the red pinstripes.
  • The Phillies overcame the three-week loss (and light use following his return) of Shane Victorino, and the six-week loss of Michael Bourn (both lost in the same game in Chicago) with the help of Jayson Werth (.950 second-half OPS), who at one point hit safely in nine straight at-bats, breaking Pete Rose’s mark of 8 at-bats.
  • The starting rotation changed from Hamels, Moyer, Lieber, Garcia, and Eaton at the start of the season to Hamels, Moyer, Kendrick, Lohse, and Eaton by season’s end. Kendrick is a solid candidate for some third-place Rookie of the Year votes.
  • J.C. Romero put up an insane 369 ERA+. A 100 ERA+ is considered league-average.
  • The Phillies led the league in humanitarian efforts.
  • In their campaign against the Mets, the Phillies beat them in eight consecutive games, including sweeps of a four-game series in Philadelphia and a three-game series in New York.
  • 44-year-old Jamie Moyer, born in Sellersville, PA, pitched the biggest game for his hometown team since 1993. He went 5 and one-third innings, giving up only one unearned run on five hits and no walks, striking out six.

There were far too many great storylines for this year’s Philadelphia Phillies, and far too much going against them. Yet they persevered. It couldn’t have happened to a more likable group of guys or a more deserving group of fans.

Advantage: Phillies

The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies play a one-game playoff to determine the Wild Card winner at Coors Field tonight. The Padres will send Cy Young candidate Jake Peavy (176 ERA+) to the mound to face Rockies starter Josh Fogg (99 ERA+).

This is beneficial for the Phillies for a few reasons.

  • Both teams will be at the disadvantage of having played an extra game, adding to the risk of injury, and adding to the already high level of fatigue in most of the players.
  • If the Padres win, they will have burned their “ace in the hole” in Peavy until at least Game 3 of the NLDS. It’s even more beneficial when you consider that the Padres’ starting rotation hasn’t been great. Chris Young, for example, has a 5.96 ERA since returning from his injury. Meanwhile, the Phillies will have their ace, Cole Hamels, pitching Game 1 and likely Game 4.
  • While not a long flight, the Padres are at another disadvantage for having to go on the road. The Phillies get to rest until Wednesday.

Give ’em Credit

The Phillies’ 2007 run at the post-season will forever be linked to the biggest divisional collapse in baseball history by the New York Mets. Due to this fact, the Phillies will likely not be given much credit for winning themselves so much as winning by default because of the Mets’ inadequacies.

The Phillies played .623 baseball in August and September, and, as mentioned, beat the Mets in eight consecutive games. Not only was this due to the Phillies’ league-best offense, but the settling down of the pitching staff. They had their occasional bad games, but nothing like the first half when it was commonplace. Since September 13, the Phillies have given up 68 total runs in those 17 games, an average of exactly 4 runs per game, more than a full run better than their seasonal average of 5.07 runs per game.

While the Mets definitely were in a position to cinch the deal in the NL East, let’s give credit where credit is due — to the Philadelphia Phillies.

When Words Aren’t Enough

Yahoo! has some great pictures from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Getty Images.

The Phillies website has some great video footage.

When Words Are Enough

The blogosphere’s reaction to the Phillies and the Mets, looking towards the post-season:

When Words Are Too Much

From SI.com:

[…]Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas sang “High Hopes” over the public address system.

You have to have seen and heard it to appreciate it. Kalas won’t be on American Idol any time soon, but it was a moment where every one of his off-key notes sounded infinitely harmonic.

Please advise me if a video of this is posted on the Internets!

CrashburnAlley [at] Gmail [dot] com.

UPDATE: Thanks to an E-Mailer, here is the Harry Kalas video!

Smoltz and CBP to Seek Counseling Together

As I’ve chronicled here and here, the Braves are far and away the best… at whining. They tend to do it a lot when two stars align: the Braves are playing in Philadelphia, and John Smoltz starts one of those games.

They did indeed align, and as expected, Smoltz whined after the game about the Phillies’ home ballpark.

Last night, the Phillies beat the Braves 6-4 and moved into a tie for first place with the ever-so-slightly collapsing New York Mets, simultaneously eliminating the Braves from playoff contention.

The Phillies needed to make no outs in putting up a four-spot in the first inning off of Johnny Boy.

NL MVP candidate Jimmy Rollins swung at Smoltz’s first pitch of the game and singled up the middle.

Speedster Shane Victorino, making his first start in a week, followed with a bunt down the third base line. Smoltz, rushing, threw errantly to first baseman Mark Teixeira and the ball rolled around in foul territory in right field. Rollins came around to score, and Shane Victorino landed at third base.

Chase Utley then hit a routine grounder to Teixeira, but he booted it, allowing Victorino (who was not going on contact) to score, and Utley to reach first base safely. And, as all the highlights have shown, Ryan Howard torched a Smoltz “didn’t really slide” slider for a line drive two-run home run down the right field line.

Smoltz, ironically, did not whine about this homerun (perhaps because the pitch was a mistake), but just in case he does whine about it, let’s get the facts out of the way. Howard’s home run would have gone out of Turner Field, too.

Admittedly, my method for proving this is rather rough (hey, Hit Tracker hasn’t put it up yet), but if MLB Gameday is in any way accurate, then it should at least drive the point home.

Howard CBP HR

In the above screenshot, we see where Howard’s home run landed in last night’s game at Citizens Bank Park. I will lay this on a screenshot of Turner Field.

Turner Field

I superimposed Turner Field on Citizens Bank Park, aligning them at home plate, and, indeed, Howard’s HR would have gone out in Atlanta, too:

Burrell TF HR

Smoltz didn’t whine about Howard’s hit, though. He whined about Burrell’s third-inning two-run (eventually game-winning) home run. From the Braves website:

Burrell’s ball isn’t a home run. But that’s just what this park can do for you. You get the ball in the air and you can get lucky. Obviously, they feast off it.

I’ll use the same rough experiment.

Burrell at Citizens Bank Park…

Burrell CBP HR

Burrell if he hit it at Turner Field…

Burrell TF HR

[Start Imaginary one-sided conversation with Mr. Smoltz]

Still a homer, John. Your claims are unfounded.

It couldn’t have been that you left a slider up in the zone (you can watch the home run here, under Thursday, September 27). And it couldn’t have been that Burrell put a good swing on the ball.

Six runs (five earned) in four innings. It’s got to be the ballpark.

You, Teixeira, and Kelly Johnson played superb defense throughout the game, right?

And if the ballpark is such a beacon for home runs, then your bullpen most definitely would not benefit from it right? It’s not like your bullpen pitched 5 scoreless innings of relief last night, allowing only two hits and two walks.

[End Imaginary one-sided conversation with Mr. Smoltz]

As the Braves find themselves watching the playoffs from home for the second year in a row, after 14 consecutive seasons of watching them first-hand, they might need to learn how to cope.

Phillies fans are always available to tell you how to deal with it.

The Most Exciting Three Days of the Season

Here are the match-ups for the Mets and Phillies as they begin the final regular season series with the Marlins and Nationals, respectively:

Friday, September 28

WAS (Redding, 123 ERA+) @ PHI (Hamels, 129 ERA+)

FLA (Kim, 79 ERA+) @ NYM (Perez, 128 ERA+)

Saturday, September 29

WAS (Chico, 92 ERA+) @ PHI (Eaton, 72 ERA+)

FLA (Seddon, 62 ERA+) @ NYM (Maine, 105 ERA+)

Sunday, September 30

WAS (Bergmann, 101 ERA+) @ PHI (Moyer, 89 ERA+)

FLA (Willis, 82 ERA+) @ NYM (Glavine, 103 ERA+)

The pitching match-ups certainly favor the Mets, but you never know.

In the Event of a Tie

Per the Phillies website, here’s how the tie-breakers will go down, if they occur:

  • If there’s a five-way tie — yes, it’s possible — with the Mets, Phillies, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies, New York and Philadelphia kick off the party with a one-game playoff on Monday at Citizens Bank Park to determine the NL East winner.
  • Meanwhile, the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres then grapple for the NL West. Colorado, by virtue of the best head-to-head record among those three, could choose whether to play two games at home or one game on the road.
  • Once the divisions are settled, the remaining trio must determine the NL Wild Card, starting another three-team playoff on Wednesday and Thursday. Colorado, if involved, would again have the best head-to-head record, and choose between two home games or one road game.
  • If it’s an NL West club, the Wild Card winner would start the playoffs in either New York or Philadelphia. If it’s an NL East team, the NL West winner hosts.

Gillick Done After 2008

Phillies GM Pat Gillick has impeccable timing. With a week left in the regular season, and with his team in a position to earn a playoff berth, he dropped the bombshell that he won’t be returning to the Phillies after the 2008 season, when his contract expires.

Pat Gillick

Even though he succeeded Ed Wade as GM of the Phillies, Gillick hasn’t enjoyed any popularity while in Philadelphia, and it’s justified. The blunders that have occurred under Gillick’s watch have done more to set the Phillies back than to set them ahead.

He let Brett Myers make his next start following his domestic abuse episode in Boston. He traded Bobby Abreu for rags. He gave Adam Eaton $24.51 million over three years and a mutual 2010 option worth $9 million. He signed Rod Barajas when he already had a catching duo of Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste. He failed to upgrade the bullpen — an obvious problem as early as the beginning of last offseason — and Charlie Manuel has had to work with relievers found off the scrap heap (Jose Mesa, Antonio Alfonseca, among others) and rookies (Mike Zagurski, Francisco Rosario, among others).

Gillick’s offseason moves have been awful, but his mid-season moves have been a Band-Aid of sorts (Jamie Moyer, Rick White, Tadahito Iguchi, Kyle Lohse), so he hasn’t been all bad, technically speaking.

After dealing Abreu, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier, and David Bell in July of 2006, Gillick expressed no confidence in his team:

It will be a stretch to say we’ll be there in ’07. We’ll have to plug in some young pitchers and anytime you do that you’ll have some inconsistency. It’s going to take another year.

It makes no sense for Gillick to tell us all that 2008 will be his last season as a general manager. It makes even less sense to say that while his team is fighting for a playoff spot. With a week left, why not keep your mouth shut until the Phillies are eliminated from playoff contention, or from the playoffs (should they make it)?

Manager Charlie Manuel and shortstop Jimmy Rollins have already taken veiled shots at Gillick for his failure to give the team an adequate bullpen. Phillies fans don’t like him.

Just quit now. Based on Gillick’s quotes, it’s obvious being a GM of a Major League Baseball team isn’t his top priority, and if it has been that way for Gillick since he joined the Phillies, it’s evident. Don’t keep the team in limbo and give a reason for everyone to second-guess.

In hoping for Gillick’s ouster, we have to think about a successor. Speaking realistically, that successor will likely come from within the Phillies organization — namely Ruben Amaro, Jr. (who was candidate #2 for the Houston Astros GM job given to Wade) and Mike Arbuckle, both assistant GM’s.

Amaro presents a glass half-full or glass half-empty scenario. Is he a bad candidate because he worked under Wade and Gillick, learned from their antiquated notions, and is doomed to repeat them? Or is he a good candidate because he worked under Wade and Gillick, learned from their antiquated notions, and will not repeat them?

In an interview with Rob Neyer, Arbuckle gave one reason why he might be a good candidate:

Neyer: Do you have much use for the sabermetric approach that seems to be inching its way into baseball these days? Have the Phillies ever employed, or considered employing, somebody as essentially a statistical analyst?

Arbuckle: No, we haven’t. I do think there’s some value in that approach, but mostly at the professional level. At the amateur level, the competition level varies so much that you can outsmart yourself.

At the professional level, it adds something to the equation, but if you start saying that element is going to outweigh the experience of the scouts — most of the time, multiple scouts have seen the player you’re talking about — then you can get in trouble. I do think it’s a good supplementary tool, if you’re going to make a deal, that may clarify some gray areas.

While Arbuckle hasn’t hopped on the Sabermetric bandwagon as much as I personally wish he would have, he is at least open-minded to the “new school” method of player evaluation.

In an ideal world, however, the next Phillies GM will come from outside the organization, one who is not clouded by the notion that veterans are inherently better than their younger counterparts, or that you can slug your way into the playoffs without a solid pitching foundation, or that offseason acquisition mistakes can be patched up with July and August waiver pick-ups.

The most important aspect of the next Phillies GM is that he is not a yes-man for the Phillies front office, whose main concern is with the profit margins, rather than a .590 winning percentage over .540. The next Phillies GM cannot trade away valuable cogs because they are open about their displeasure with the management, as was the case with Scott Rolen and Curt Schilling, both of whom were traded for next to nothing.

Rolen turned down a 7-year, $90 million contract from the Phillies because he didn’t like the direction in which the franchise was heading.

Ed Wade referred to Schilling as “a horse every fifth day and a horse’s ass the other four.”

When we’re dealing with a city that hasn’t tasted a championship since 1983, dealing with key players that way is unacceptable.

So, here’s hoping that A) Gillick is fired/resigns after this season; and, B) The Phillies organization replaces him with someone quite capable of delivering.

While I’m daydreaming… is Mark Cuban interested in buying the Phillies?

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, I read the following via ESPN:

Phillies general manager Pat Gillick says he may or may not leave the team when his contract runs out next season.

[…]

“I think the reporter kind of got a little over zealous,” [Gillick — ESPN attributed this quote to Manuel, but I think they made a typo] said on XM Radio’s “Baseball this Morning” program. “We were talking about Charlie Manuel’s contract because it’s running out at the end of the season, and he asked about my contract, and I told him it ends at the end of next year and I’ll probably retire or do something else … it wasn’t any big deal. They’re trying to make a big deal more than it is. It’s basically my contract is running out and I don’t know right now. There is a possibility it could go past next year…”