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February 28 2007

In 2007, the Phillies will look to start strong coming off of back-to-back seasons in which they went 10-14 in April.  My bias is to blame the slow starts on the pitching -- I have visions in my head of Gavin Floyd getting shelled that aren't going to die easily.  The fact is that while the pitching has been wretched for the Phillies in April for the past two seasons, the hitting has been about as bad.

Here's a look at the runs the Phillies have scored and allowed compared to the other teams in the NL during April over the past two years:

 

Pitching
Year G RA NL-Rank RA/G
06 24 131 T-13 5.46
05 24 122 15 5.08
         
Hitting
Year G R NL-Rank R/G
06 24 108 T-12 4.50
05 24 93 14 3.88

While most people would point to the rotation work of Madson and Floyd last season as being key factors to the slow start, Jon Lieber also struggled early.  In his five April starts Lieber went 0-4 with a 7.04 ERA.  Madson was 2-1 with an 8.05 ERA in his four starts and Floyd was the best of the trio, going 2-2 with a 6.57 in his five outings.

On the hitting side, the '06 season saw Bell struggle in April, hitting 247/286/411 in 73 at-bats.  Rollins, who has been a slow starter for much of his career, hit 268/318/392 in 97 at-bats.  Fasano (207/258/414 in 29 at-bats) and Nunez (226/250/258 in 31 at-bats) were awful.

In 2005, Padilla went 0-3 with an 11.45 ERA in three starts, Wolf was 1-3 with a 6.42 ERA in five starts and Gavin Floyd got the Phillies again.  He appeared in four April games, two of which were starts.  Overall he went 1-1 with a 14.14 ERA.

On the hitters side in '05, Bell again started slow, hitting 205/258/313 in 83 at-bats.  Jim Thome hit 203/347/304 in 79 at-bats and Lieberthal 239/316/338 in 71 at-bats.  Jimmy Rollins hit 257/306/376 in his 101 at-bats and Placido Polanco hit a respectable .271 but managed just two extra-base hits and a .305 slugging percentage in his 59 at-bats.

A lot of the players that have hurt the Phillies in the early going over the past two Aprils won't be back this year.  Bell is going to have to hit .205 somewhere else.  Ditto Floyd but with pitching .205.  Jimmy Rollins has put tremendous pressure on himself as the season begins -- hopefully he gets off to the quick start the team needs from him.

The Phillies play their first game of spring training today against Florida State, which will give us our best chance so far to see whether or not Jim Ed Warden is a real person or not.  I feel good if it comes down to field goal kickers.

Scott Linebrink had a minor back problem yesterday.

Some Marlins are not happy that Joe Girardi helped Lieber last season.  Their quotes seem to suggest they are only moderately unhappy.

More on Mike McTamney here.

The Phillies payroll is nearing $100 million.

Kevin Mench has a "loose body" in his elbow.

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