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December 1 2006

You hear it time and time again:  Charlie Manuel is "folksy" -- apparently a word we in the Northeast use to describe anyone who talks like they aren't from the Northeast or California.  I started doing my best to skip over the jokes about Manuel being befuddled by a double-switch after four or five hundred.  I'm not saying that Manuel doesn't have a problem executing double-switches, just that if he does I haven't noticed it.  I think you can, however, argue that he struggled in other areas last season and that the way he used his bullpen was one of them.

Whether Manuel is to blame or not, the Phillies weren't good in one-run games last season.  And that made it tough in a division where they were chasing the team that was the best in all of baseball in one-run games. 

The Phillies and the Mets both had outstanding offenses last year.  The Phillies were a little better, scoring 865 runs, which was the most in the NL.  The Mets scored 834, which was the third-most.  Overall, the Mets' pitching was far better, allowing the third-fewest runs in the league while only three teams allowed more than the Phillies.  For the year, however, their pens were both good.  But there was a huge difference between the teams in one-run games.

 

Team Record in 1-run games
NYM 31-16
PHI 22-23

The difference is dramatic.  The Mets were 15 games over .500 in their 47 games while the Phils were a game under in their 45.

In close and late situations the Phillies' batters more than held their own.

 

Batting close and late, 2006

 
Team AB NL-Rank R NL-Rank OPS NL-Rank
             
PHI 949 2 144 2 791 3
NYM 831 12 120 10 756 6

The Phillies were better than fine.  Using OPS as the measure they were better than the Mets hitting in close and late situations.

And here's what the bullpens did for both teams last year:

 

Bullpen pitching, 2006
             
Team IP NL-Rank R NL-Rank ERA NL-Rank
             
PHI 539.0 4 243 12 3.79 3
NYM 542.2 3 219 15 3.25 1

Both pens were good and threw a lot of innings.  New York's was probably the best in the league but, over the course of the year, the Phillies were very solid as well. 

And here's the problem.  The Phillies' pitching just got blown up in close and late situations while the Mets shined:

 

Pitching close and late, 2006
             
Team IP NL-Rank R NL-Rank ERA NL-Rank
             
PHI 237.2 7 121 1 4.43 16
NYM 245.2 4 68 T-15 2.20 1

The Mets' pitchers kept it together when the game was on the line.  The Phillies' pitchers, many of which were the same guys that made them one of the better teams in the league under other circumstances, were the worst in the league.  Not only that, but in close and late situations no team in either league allowed more runs or earned runs.  How can we explain that?  The pitchers just choked?  All of them?  They were used poorly?  It's a coincidence?  Whatever the answer, it's an area where the Phillies can and will improve before they become a legitimate contender for the NL East.

This article suggests that Gillick denied 1) the Phillies are interested in Mike Piazza, 2) the Phillies and Rangers are talking about Pat Burrell and 3) the Phillies have made an offer to David Weathers.  That's a lot of denying. 

If the Phillies and the Rangers make one more deal I may drop out of society and put together a crack team of investigators to find out exactly is going on.  And if there's some kind of master plan to put the Rangers and Phillies together and try to make one good team, I sure hope it's the Phillies. 

This article says that the Rockies do not plan to trade Brad Hawpe despite interest from multiple teams that include the Phillies.

Adam Eaton is a done deal.  Gillick must be trying to get his entry for understatement of the year in under the wire:  "we've probably got a better starting rotation than we had at the beginning of 2006."

The Red Sox may offer Trot Nixon arbitration.

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