Monthly Archives: March 2010

This Valdez not sunken, lifts Phillies to walk-off win

It was bound to happen soon enough.  I mean Cole Hamels is human.  We all know that from last season’s World Series hangover where we saw Hamels struggle all year and in the playoffs.

Hamels has been working on new pitches to add to his arsenal this season.  He is mixing in a curve and a cutter to go along with his fastball and change-up.  And so far this spring they have been working.  In over 10 IP, Hamels has only given up 5 hits and 2 earned runs while striking out 9.  Today against the New York Yankees he lasted only 4 innings surrendering 9 hits and 6 runs.

Lucky for him some guys new to the Phillies uniforms helped bailed him out.  After Hamels gave up a first inning run, the Phightins came right back with a five spot in the bottom half thanks to a two-run home run from new third baseman Placido Polanco and a three-run double from catcher Dane Sardinha who later hit a solo shot to tie the game up at 7-7 in the bottom of the eighth.

Hamels really got into trouble in the 4th inning giving up a triple to Ramiro Pena, who finished 2 for 4, and a two-run homer to Mark Teixeira to give the Yankees a 7-5 lead.  Teixeira would go on to finish 4 for 4 and Hamels would barely finish the 4th inning.  His day was done after recording the final out to end the 4th.

The Phillies then brought in a Rule 5 pick up David Herndon who has not given up a run in eight innings pitched this spring.  He pitched two scoreless innings to keep Philadelphia in the game.  Antonio Bastardo then came in with a little of the same not allowing a run in two innings while striking out three.  Michael Stutes pitched a scoreless ninth to set of some more Philly dramatics.

Wilson Valdez hit a two out, two-run walk off home run scoring Greg Dobbs for the Phillies.  It still is Spring Training but a win is a win.

On a side note – Sardinha was catching today for the regular everyday start Carlos Ruiz who was out with the flu.

The Phillies are 9-7-1 this Spring.

Follow me Twitter @kierancarobine

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NL East Preview: Phillies

Well here we are.  Just about 2 weeks and some change from Opening Day for Major League Baseball.  Teams are shortening up their rosters and pitchers are lengthening their innings.  All the prep work, all the sweating, the BP, the stretching.  It’s all about to pay off.

So what can you expect from the Phillies this season?   This is the question that Crashburn Alley asked 16 Phillies Bloggers.  We were asked about Cole Hamels and company to see how well we thought our beloved Phightins would fair this season.  You can check out Crashburn Alley’s site to see what everyone had to say.  Below you can read how I responded to the questions.  Hopefully this will stir up some conversation.

  1. How concerned are you about Cole Hamels going into 2010?

When a pitcher comes off a frustrating year there is always going to be a little bit of concern.  Last season Hamels showed some his 2008 form but had problems putting together a string of good starts.  I think what happens is, is that a lot hitters now are making the adjustment better than before.  What I mean by this is a pitcher is going to use what works for him.  And with Hamels it was his fastball and then his amazing change-up.  Now, Hamels could throw the off speed pitch in any count so it kept hitters guessing.  But last year the hitters were jumping on first pitches and ‘need to throw a strike’ pitches, so he got roughed up a little.  Mid-season is hard to incorporate a new pitch especially when you aren’t comfortable throwing it.  The curve was giving him a lot of problems, and then was causing discomfort in his elbow so that was out.  I think for this season, we will see his wins up and ERA down.  He has always been a strikeout pitcher so I am not worried about those numbers.  His fastball is showing life this Spring, his change-up is still nasty and he is liking the way his curve and cutter are progressing.  My biggest concern for Cole Hamels this season is how to get a fitted hat on his big head in 2011 once he regains his domination this year.  Hamels cockiness is as much a problem as it is a blessing.  He needs that edge.   Too many times last year you could see his frustration on the mound when he didn’t get calls or his defense got soft.  Be cocky yet humble, and be great with no mercy.

2. Give the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee mega-trade between the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Mariners a letter grade and explain your grading process.

Well obviously now that Roy Halladay has a 0.90 ERA through 15 innings this spring Cliff Lee just got tossed in the third inning of his game, I would have to say the Grade is an A.  And I think throughout this season it will stay that way.  The major characteristic of this trade that we need to look at is how it affects the Phillies farm system.  I, personally, do not feel they replenished it properly.   But only time will tell.

3. What should the Phillies do about Jayson Werth and his impending free agency?

I think it is very possible to resign Jayson Werth after the season.  Raul Ibanez will be a FA after the 2011 season.  It is very possible to sign Werth to a heavy ended contract to save money while Ibanez plays out his final year as a Phillie.  Also, Werth has never seemed like the kind of guy that was worried about money but you never know.  The Phillies are a good fit for him.  They are the only team that stuck with him through his injuries and gave him a real chance to play every day.

4. Jimmy Rollins says he wants to hit .300, accrue 200 hits, score 150 runs, steal 50 bases, and commit 3 or fewer errors. Give us your AVG, H, R, SB, and E predictions for Rollins in 2010.

AVG .293

H 183

R 130

SB 45

E 5

Jimmy is good.  But those numbers are out of this world.  Would I love to eat my words?  Of course.  Do it up Jimmy.

5. Is the duo of Ryan Madson and Danys Baez reliable back-up for ailing closer Brad Lidge?

Absolutely.  I think Brad Lidge is feeling good and confident about this upcoming season.  Baez is an established pitcher who has pitched in bug games before.  Madson has gotten hit this spring training but I feel he will make the right adjustments to get the job done.

6. Which team in the NL East worries you the most?

The Braves remind me of the Phillies of 2005 and 2006.  Their prospects (the good ones) are all maturing at the same time it seems.  Tommy Hanson is a very good pitcher and it is only a matter of time before we see Jayson Heward in the lineup for Atlanta.  And that day will most likely be opening day this season.  Heward has unbelievable power and does all the little things correctly.

7. Teams have been approaching Ryan Howard with a steady diet of left-handed pitching and breaking balls and by employing the shift on the right side of the field. Will this trend continue in 2010, or will Howard make the appropriate adjustments?

I think Howard will make the right adjustments but never quite be completely comfortable at the plate against lefties.  His bat is so heavy that there is always a chance of him becoming off balance out on the front foot.  But that is ok, I think.  He can keep putting the ball to the opposite field.  This season we should see his batting average rise while his strikeout numbers go down.

8. Placido Polanco is making the switch from second base to third base. How good will he be defensively?

Polanco has a great glove.  The biggest different between second and third is reaction time.  I am not worried about his glove work but am a little concerned with his arm.  He definitely does not have the arm strength Pedro Feliz had.  Other than that, whatever other flaws come with him switching positions, his bat will make up for it.

9. Who should win the #5 spot, Jamie Moyer or Kyle Kendrick?

For baseball’s sake, Kyle Kendrick would win the #5 spot for the Phillies.  He has showed great command this spring and is still getting better.  He is, however, giving too many warning track power fly balls.  He would definitely need to keep the ball down more.  Now with that said, I think Moyer will likely get the nod.  There is no way Charlie Manuel is going to justify putting an 8mil a year almost 50 year old in the bullpen.  It is just not going to happen.  Unless they release Moyer, Kendrick starts in the pen.

10. The bench was great in 2008 but disappointing last year. Will the additions of Brian Schneider, Ross Gload, and Juan Castro help?

I think the addition of Smalls, Hambone and Squints would have been a better bench than 2009.  These are great pickups for Rube and company.  Brian Schneider is a legitimate starter on another team and to have him as a number 2 is awesome.  Ross Gload and Juan Castro are not going to hit .325, but if they can hit for situation then they will suffice perfectly.

11. Will J.A. Happ come close to his 2.93 ERA from 2009?

A sub-3 ERA from J.A. Happ would be incredible.  I am not buying into the whole ‘last season was a fluke’ thing or that it was based on luck.  I think Happ is number 3 starter at best right now in his career.  I also think a sub-4 ERA is very doable and we could very well see his win total rise from last year.  Prediction 14-8, 3.69 ERA

12. The Phillies essentially swapped Chan Ho Park for Jose Contreras. Thumbs up or thumbs down and why?

Thumbs way down.  Park got into some trouble last season, but kept his composure.  He stayed in games, or better yet, he kept the Phillies in games.  From what I have seen this spring, Contreras just looks ‘content’ to be pitch.  I hate the words ‘content’ and ‘hungry’ but that is not what the Phillies need in their pen.  They need a Major League pitcher ready to rock.   I don’t think Contreras is that guy.

13. Which Phillie(s) is/are we most likely to see dealt by the July 31 trading deadline?

I think there is a very good chance we could see Brian Schneider and/or Ross Gload get traded.  Depending on how well they do in spot starts/at bats, they could seem attractive to teams suffering from injury behind the plate and in the field.

14. The Phillies have had one of baseball’s best defenses for several years running according to most metrics. Does this trend continue?

Of course.  With Ryan Howard showing up early to Clearwater to work on fielding and the addition of Polanco the defense has definitely gotten better this season.

15. What will the team get from Domonic Brown this season?

Barring injuries to the current team, the Phillies will get a September call up and monster Minor League season from Brown this season.

Predictions

Phillies W-L, place in division: 99-63 1st in NL East

Playoffs: (Do the Phillies reach the post-season? If so, how will they fare? Be specific.)

Phillies will beat LA in NLDS, as will St Louis over Atlanta(WC).  Phillies will then beat StL in NLCS 4 games to 2.  In WS they will beat Boston in 7 games.

Team MVP: Chase Utley

Team Cy Young: Roy Halladay

Biggest Rookie Contributor: John Mayberry Jr

Breakout player: (can be the same as above) Mayberry Jr

Under-the-radar: (player who is underappreciated by fans and media) Carlos Ruiz

Feel free to send in your own answers to the questions above.

Follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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Shining a Light on Manuel

Let there be light.

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

Since my good friend, Andy, here at Philliesmania.com has poetically dubbed me KC Sunshine I thought it only fair to let it shine.  We are a package deal.  Sunshine is like Ben Francisco to my Cliff Lee.  Ouch, too soon?

Anyways, it’s got something to say.  It is time to shed some light on different aspects of the Phillies.  And throughout the rest of Spring Training I will take a look and break down the Phightins leading up to the big day.

Today’s Sunshine Spotlight is on the boss, the leader, good old country boy himself Charlie Manuel.  It is impossible to look at a team without first taking a peak at their fearless leader.

Manuel is an old school dude.  He has played in the Majors but his real success came during his time in the Central and Pacific Leagues of Japan.  He would go on to be one of the best foreign players Japan has ever seen.   In 1979 he was awarded the MVP, the first American to win in 15 years, hitting .324 with 37 homes runs and 94 RBIs.

During his time in Japan he hit 189 homers, played for three different teams, once used a football facemask attached to his helmet for hitting, and had three metal plates inserted in his head after he was beaned during the ’79 season.  Yes, the season he won the MVP.  Dude’s got heart.

After Japan Manuel came back to the states and continued with that success coaching in the minor league systems of the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians.  He won over 50% of his games coached, was named Manager of the Year three times and coached the IL All-Star game in 1993.  There was a 1993 Phillies reference I wanted to make there but for some reason my fingers won’t let me type it.  Nice job Mr. Carter.

Since arriving in Philly, Manuel has been winning.  But with no World Series titles, he wasn’t exactly winning over hearts.  The city of Brotherly has been waiting, and not very patiently I might add, for a championship.  And not just a baseball one.  The city hasn’t seen one of their four major sports teams win a title since the 76ers won the NBA championship in 1983.

Well jump to current day and this Spring Training.  Manuel has led the Phillies to three consecutive NL East crowns, two NL pennants and two straight World Series appearances.  And as I am sure you all know, World Series Champions in 2008.  Thanks to the Nutrisystem Meal Plan, he is now 56 pounds and leading the team in sliding drills.  Ha, ok no sliding for Charlie but still he is looking good and feeling good.

But don’t worry; Manuel is the same old school kind of guy, keeping it simple.  Losing weight was for the offseason.  For this season?

“Same old thing — get to the World Series and win, that’s our goal.”

Follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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The Beard Made me Do it.

Now before we get any further into this ‘I write something, and hopefully you read it’ relationship I feel obliged to tell you that baseball will be at the very core of most of my writings.  It may not be apparent at first but in time it will all become very clear to you.

So with that said, let’s talk facial hair.  Beards are awesome.  And I am not talking Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean beard.  I am talking full on, gnarly Tom Hanks Castaway type beards.   Ok, maybe not that much but you get the picture.

I know what you are asking yourself.  Do I have a beard?  And yes I do.  It is a very nice beard too.  However, it is no relation to the beards of Jayson Werth, Johnny Damon circa 2004, Harry from the Hendersons, or Allen from the Hangover.  My beard is my very own.   But we are not here to talk about my beard.  Don’t laugh, that may come up.

I want to bring attention to Jayson Werth.  The 30-year-old right fielder for the Phightins showed up to Clearwater this past February with not only a chip on his shoulder, and with good reason; killer season, but also some excess facial hair.  At one point in the season last year, I thought Werth was a burn victim with the way his, excuse my French, D-Bag tag was crafted on his chin.  There were times in the season he seemed tight, and frigid.  He was ending swings on one knee and looked confused on breaking pitches.  Now I am not trying to take anything way from his career year.  He was amazing for the Phillies.  He just needed an edge.  And I think he has it.  Werth looks more limber, stronger, and more relaxed.  He also looks like he just got back from excursion in Alaska’s deep snowdrifts.

I don’t care.  The beard needs to stay.  This could be his strength.  Like Sampson and his hair, like Sloth and his Baby Ruth, hell like Pig Pen and that damn cloud of dust.  A gentlemen’s one-two punch to all the critics out there that say professional athletes need to look, well, ‘professional.’

The thing you have to understand here is there is really no scientific proof that a beard can improve performance.  But let us not forget certain people of history with amazing facial fuzz.  There was George Clooney in Perfect Storm, Jesus, Rick Ross, Charlie Daniels, and Allen from the Hangover.  I think you get the point.

Keep the beard.  If you do anything else, just keep the beard.  Well that and win another Championship.  Not too much to ask.

You can follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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Nomar says No More, Announces Retirement

Without a team this offseason and after 14 years in the big leagues, Red Sox infielder, at least today, Nomar Garciaparra is saying good bye to baseball.  And he is doing it gracefully.  Many players wait too long to hang up the cleats, and spend year after year taking up roster spots thinking they have good years left.  Now on the contrary, I think Garciaparra had some years left, but some people think he may have been a little overused by the Athletics last season which may have caused unusual wear and tear on his 36-year-old body.

The one thing that is certain about Nomar is that he was a great ball player.  He grew up in California and led his high school team to league championships in 1990-91 and took MVP honors in ’91.  This success continued through college where he played at Georgia Tech where his team, unfortunately, lost to Oklahoma in the College World Series in 1994.  While in college he was a first team All-American in 1993 and ’94.  On that same team with Nomar was his former Red Sox teammate Jason Varitek where they became the first two Georgia Tech players to be All-Americans twice during their college careers.

After college, Nomar was drafted in the first round in ’94 by Boston and spent three seasons in their minor league system before an August 31st call up during the 1996 season.  It didn’t take long for him to get into the swing of things, literally.  Against Oakland, Nomar had his first Major League hit; a homerun.  This would be the first of 229 he had during his career.  Nomar was one of the greatest hitting shortstops baseball has seen in my opinion.  Over 14 seasons his career batting average was .313 and drove in almost 940 runs.

Since then it’s been over 1400 games played wearing four different uniforms.  Obviously his time spent in Boston meant a lot to him.  He showed this by signing a minor league contract allowing him to retire wearing a Red Sox jersey.

With Boston, Nomar played over 900 games, was a 5-time All-Star selection, Silver Slugger Award winner and the 1997 AL Rookie of the Year.  During his press conference he said he felt at home in a Red Sox uniform and thanked his fans, family, friends and many front office personnel for his time in Boston.  He went on to say, “While I had the privilege of playing with other legendary teams, I always saw myself retiring in a Red Sox uniform. Today, I am honored to live that dream.”

Now the only question critics are asking is whether or not Nomar is a Hall-of-Famer.  I guess we have five years to discuss that one.  I’ll let you talk amongst yourselves.

Kieran Carobine

You can follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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Strasburg Debuts, Delivers on Hype

I must admit this was a day I have been waiting for all spring.  Since the day the Nationals made the San Diego State star their number one pick overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, I was not the only one counting down until Spring Training.  Stephen Strasburg was hitting triple digits, regularly, on the radar gun in college.

Well that day came.  Amongst all the hype and excitement Strasburg toed the rubber for his first action of Spring Training 2010 against the Detroit Tigers at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida.

And he did not disappoint.  In his first inning he threw only seven pitches.  With none of them registering lower than 96 mph on the radar gun.  He fell behind the first two hitters 2-0 then got them both to ground out.   In the second inning, things should have been a bit more difficult for the young right hander, with some of the core guys for the Tigers coming to the plate,  but he made easy work of Miguel Cabrera with a 98-mph heater and getting Carlos Guillen to ground out to third base on a 97-mph fastball.  After allowing two consecutive singles, Strasburg then fell behind 3-0 to Brent Dlugach only to strike him on the third consecutive strike looking; an 81-mph curveball.   Strasburg finished the day pitching 2 IP, 2, H, 2 K, and 0 BB.  He threw 27 pitches, 15 for strikes.

For the most part, Strasburg looked sharp.  His fastball obviously had some zip on it but what surprised me the most was his hook.  His curveball froze Cabrera in the second inning for a called strike.  And when he came back with a top shelf 98-mph fastball, it just wasn’t fair.   Now a little of his success, I guess, can be attributed to the Tigers having never seen this kid throw before.  But in no way can you take away from how this kid throws.

In college, he threw two pitches.  His fastball and a breaking pitch.  It seems at the Major League level, Strasburg will throw two types of fastballs; a four-seam and a two-seamer which both have good movement.  He also has a breaking ball and a change-up.  There has been rumors of him developing a cutter, but we didn’t see it in his debut.

It still appears to be a pipe dream for Strasburg to start the year in Washington with the big club, but a September call up would not be out of the question.  When asked about the possibility of Strasburg making the Opening Day roster, Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman had this to say, “I think it’s going to come down to a philosophical decision more so than a performance decision.”

“We anticipate that he is going to throw great. I think it’s going to come down to, what is going to be best for Stephen Strasburg as an organization? I have been very impressed, and I continue to be impressed.”

My guess is he will start at Class-AA Harrisburg for eight to ten starts before moving up to Class-AAA Syracuse until a possible September call up.

Kieran Carobine

Follow me on Twitter @kierancarobine

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St Paddy’s Day prep work….

From those awesome dudes at http://www.vbhappyhour.com

Ah the luck of the Irish is with us all.  Well on St Patrick’s Day it will be.  It is an annual feast day celebrating Saint Patrick.  While a public holiday in most parts of Ireland, St Patrick’s Day in the US, as in many other countries, is widely celebrated but not recognized as a national holiday.

St Patrick’s Day is so infamous that although it falls during Lent, if it does fall on a Friday, the rules of fasting and abstaining from meats are superseded by those of St Paddy’s Day as a day of a first class feast eating the finest meats.

So how do we celebrate St Patrick’s Day in the US?  We have parades of course.  It has become almost an art form.  Chicago, Boston, Savannah, and NYC have parades with some bringing in over 400,000 observers.  Some cities paint their rivers green like those in Jamestown, NY.  Others, like the ones on St Pat’s Board Alumni from Missouri University, paint 12 city blocks the color of the leprechaun; green.

But for those of us not going to parades it means house parties and backyard BBQs.  So what better to bring than some homemade green beer.  No, you are not going to make the beer; but you will make it green.  And it is actually pretty easy to do so.  Just add 5 to 6 drops of green food coloring to any light colored ale.   It does work with the darker brews like Guinness, but only 5 or 6 drops is going to turn it a pale yellow color and I don’t think I need to remind you of what that looks like.  The amount of food coloring it would take to turn a pint of Guinness green is the same amount it takes to turn your teeth green as well.  So, if you want to have your teeth match your attire be my guest.  But keep it simple, go with a light beer.

If green beer is not your thing or you want to impress your guest with some Irish drink making abilities try these cocktails:

Everybody’s Irish (at least today they are)

Ingredients:

2 oz Irish whiskey

1 Tbsp crème de menthe, green

1 Tbsp Chartreuse, green

cocktail olive for garnish

Preparation:

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.

Shake well.

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with the olive.

For those of you who like to mix your holidays, here is a great St Paddy’s Day drink with a side of Cinco de Mayo.

Irish Cactus

Ingredients:

2 oz Irish cream liqueur

1 oz tequila

Preparation:

Pour the ingredients into an old-fashioned glass with ice.

Stir.

All drink recipes were taken from http://cocktails.about.com No matter what you do this St Patrick’s Day make sure you do it safely and responsibly.

Erin Go Braugh!

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