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March 22 2007

Everybody knows that Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell are no strangers to the strikeout.  In 2006, Howard was second in the NL with 181 and Burrell struck out 131 times in just 462 at-bats.  Burrell's 131 was tenth-most in the NL and enough to throw Mike Schmidt into a
tizzy.  What some forget is that Chase Utley was right up there with Howard and Burrell in whiffdom excellence.  He fanned 132 times, tying him for eighth in the league.

There have been some rumblings about all of the strikeouts from Howard this spring.  Burrell isn't really lighting anything up either.  I'm pretty sure nobody's going to be complaining about anything Utley does unless he suggests a sing along or something, but in the case of spring training numbers the lack of complaints is justified.  He's been smoking the ball.  I did wonder if those guys really have been striking out more frequently this spring than they did last season.

Not counting last night's game, in the first 21 games of spring training Howard had struck out 13 times in 47 plate appearances, Burrell nine times in 41 plate appearances and Utley ten times in 45 plates appearances.  Here's a look at how many times those guys would strike out in 2007 if they struck out at their spring training rate from this year and got the same number of plate appearances in '07 as they did in '06 (doesn't include last night's game):

 

  2006 2007 Spring '07 at spring rate
  PA K PA K PA K
Howard 704 181 47 13 704 195
Utley 739 132 45 10 739 164
Burrell 567 131 41 9 567 124

The big question is whether it makes sense to worry about anything at this point.  And I'm pretty sure the answer is no, at least not until they play a game where there aren't people running laps in the outfield in the late innings.  If you wanted to worry about something, though, I'd go with Utley's strikeouts before Howard's or Burrell's just because he's been striking out at a higher rate than he did last year while the other two have been pretty close to last year's rates.

If the Phillies start the season with six healthy starters the plan is to have Lieber go to the pen.

It looks like there's a good chance the Phillies won't start the season with six healthy starters.

Carlos Ruiz has tightness in his shoulder that kept him out of last night's game.

The March 26 issue of Sports Illustrated includes a preview for each MLB team in which four blogs or fan's sites are mentioned and readers are asked to vote on which site has the best information about the team.  Philliesflow was one of the four for the Phils, along with Beerleaguer, the 700 Level and The Phillies Fan Page.  There were clearly several excellent Phillies' blogs not included on the list, but congratulations to Jason, Enrico and The Phillies Fan Page (whose author's name eludes me).  You can vote at si.com/philliesvote.

The Phils beat the Blue Jays last night, winning 10-6 to improve to 8-13 this spring training.

Freddy Garcia was the big news of the game. Garcia got the start for the Phils and allowed three runs in the first inning on an RBI-double and a two-run homer. Toronto got five hits and a walk in the inning.  The inning could have been worse but Michael Bourn threw a runner out at third.

Garcia did not return for the second inning due to tightness in his right bicep.  Fabio Castro took over for Garcia and went three innings, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks.  Frank Thomas hit a two-run homer off of him in the second.

Clay Condrey followed Castro and was very solid. He went two scoreless innings and allowed just one single. Eude Brito came into the game to start the seventh and was good again. He allowed a two-out double but got out of the inning without further damage. Flash followed Brito in the eighth, protecting a two-run lead.  He walked two and hit a batter but got out of the inning by getting a ground out with the bases loaded and two down. 

Jim Ed Warden pitched the ninth and allowed a two-out triple but kept the Blue Jays off the board.

Utley was 2-for-4 with a home run, a triple and three RBI. Wes Helms hit a home run and was 2-for-4 with four RBI. Rollins was 3-for-4 with three singles.

Michael Bourn was 1-for-3 with two walks and an RBI. He stole a base and was picked off second. Karim Garcia played first base and went 2-for-5 with two singles.  Ron Calloway was 3-for-5 with three singles and is hitting .391 this spring -- he's not going to make the team but Roberson's fall from favor moves him up on the organizational depth chart.  The organizational depth chart at outfield really isn't so impressive.

Spring training has been a huge mess for the Phillies, who have big expectations for the 2007 season. The bullpen can't get anybody out. The team has lost a ton of games.  Karim Garcia is playing first base.  Gordon, Freddy Garcia, Ruiz and Chris Coste are at least a partial list of significant players we know of who are dealing with injury issues.  But we knew the bullpen was bad already and it's hard to care too much about spring training records.  We'll have to wait and see on Garcia, but his injury could prove to be the worst news yet if one of the team's strengths, the depth of the rotation, takes a huge hit.

If Garcia is on the DL to start the year it would mean an extra slot is open in the bullpen.  My guess is the Phils would take two relievers from the group of Brito, Castro, Condrey, Warden and Bisenius rather than one.  They probably need one of Brito or Castro to give them another lefty in the pen in addition to Smith. 

If yesterday the Phillies were desperate to trade Lieber, today they can't.  Yesterday they were desperate to trade him because the bullpen is awful.  Today it's still just as bad.

The Phillies play Boston this afternoon.

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