Archive for February, 2014

Third time plucky

Phils topped the Tigers 10-6 this afternoon for their first spring victory.

Kyle Kendrick started the game for the Phils and got hit hard in the first, allowing three runs on two walks, a single and a three-run double by Nick Castellanos. He allowed a leadoff walk and uncorked a two-out wild pitch in the second, but kept the Tigers off the board.

The Phils came into the game with starters Cliff Lee and Roberto Hernandez having allowed three runs in four innings pitched in their starts combined. Kendrick goes two innings, allowing three runs on two hits, three walks and a wild pitch. So after three games, the starters have allowed six earned runs in six innings on eight hits and three walks (9.00 ERA with a 1.83 ratio).

Kendrick made 30 starts last year and walked more than two in five of them. Walked three in two innings today.

Righty Sean O’Sullivan struck out two in a 1-2-3 third. He came back for the fourth and retired the first two before hitting Luis Exposito with a pitch. O’Sullivan retired the next hitter on a popup to Hernandez at second to end the frame.

O’Sullivan suddenly seems like he has a shot for some early starts, given the combination of injury questions around pitchers like Hamels, Martin and Pettibone and the miserable early opinions around Gonzalez. The 26-year-old righty had a 6.14 career ERA over 193 2/3 innings in the majors before throwing to a 3.96 ERA in 25 innings for the Padres in 2013. He had a 1.80 ratio to go with his 3.96 ERA last year — 31 hits and 14 walks as opponents on-based .393 against him. He didn’t pitch very well, 3.96 ERA or not. Pitched well today, throwing two scoreless innings without allowing a hit or a walk while striking out three.

Aumont pitched the fifth, coming off of a miserable outing his first time out and set the Tigers down in order.

Luis Garcia made his first official appearance in the sixth and allowed three runs on two singles and a double. Only one of the runs was earned due to a Reid Brignac error at short.

Cesar Jimenez threw a 1-2-3 seventh in his first official appearance and followed that up by setting the Tigers down in order in the eighth. The 29-year-old lefty walked ten in 17 innings for the Phils last year, which is a lot. Had a 0.00 ERA and an 0.89 ratio in nine innings through his first eight appearances and a 7.88 ERA and a 2.00 ratio over eight innings his last 11 times out (and walked seven in those eight innings). Did a better job at preventing walks at Triple-A, throwing to a 3.12 ERA and a 1.31 ratio while walking 26 in 66 1/3 innings.

Justin De Fratus made his first appearance in the ninth. He allowed back-to-back singles to the first two batters he faced before striking out the next three to end the game with runners on first and second.

De Fratus struck out 42 in 46 2/3 innings for the Phils last year. Walking 25 was the problem and it led to a 1.50 ratio to go with his 3.86 ERA. Walk rate of 2.0 per nine innings in 424 1/3 innings in the minors and 4.8 in 61 1/3 innings in the majors. I would guess his walk rate will go down in 2014.

The Phillies scored eight runs in a bottom of the third that featured three walks, two singles, a hit-by-pitch, a Tiger error and a three-run homer by J-Roll.

Rollins’s shot came off of righty Jose Valdez with two outs in the third. He was 1-for-1 with a home run and two walks in the game.

Gwynn started the game in center for the Phillies and went 0-for-3 with a walk. He’s 0-for-3 with two walks so far. Think we should be following what he does offensively and especially defensively when playing center given the Phils seemingly neverending problem trying to backup center field. Things I know for sure: 1) John Mayberry is really, really not the answer 2) Cesar Hernandez, a backup infielder, really, really is not the answer. The Phils have so many problems it’s hard to feel like backup center fielder should go near the top of the list. I think there’s potential for a moral victory here, though.

Utley started at second and went 1-for-3.

Franco started at third and was 0-for-1 with a walk and no errors. He’s seen action in all three official games and gone 0-for-5 with two errors and two walks.

Byrd 2-for-3 with two singles and 3-for-5 with an RBI in the early going.

Howard 0-for-3 and struck out twice. 1-for-5 with a single so far.

Brown 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. 1-for-6 overall.

Ruiz 0-for-1 with a walk and an RBI. 0-for-3.

Lou Marson doubled to start the bottom of the eighth, which led to a Phillie run. He was 1-for-1 with a double on the day in his first action.

Ruf 1-for-3 with a single that drove in a run in the second inning. 1-for-3 with two RBI on the day. 2-for-6 with two walks so far.

Yankees tomorrow.

Take two

Wasn’t a lot better than the first one.

The Phils fell to Toronto for the second straight day this afternoon, losing 7-5.

Cliff Lee started the game, coming off of a 2013 campaign in which he was the best Phillie by a wide margin. He went two innings in the game, allowing a run on two hits while striking out three.

He allowed a run on back-to-back doubles to righties Jose Bautista and Moises Sierra in the first and struck out two in a 1-2-3 second.

Brad Lincoln started the third and should have set Toronto down in order. Didn’t happen. With two outs and nobody on, Sierra hit a ball that Asche fielded at third. Asche threw to first, but Maikel Franco didn’t handle the throw at first and was charged with his second error in two days. Bautista followed that with an RBI-double before Lincoln got Edwin Encarnacion looking to leave Bautista at second.

Franco charged with a fielding error at first after making a throwing error fielding Chris Getz‘s bunt at third yesterday. He appeared at first eight times in 2013 at Double-A after not appearing there at all in any previous years.

Diekman pitched the fourth and faced seven batters, allowing two runs on four hits, all singles.

Not a good start for Diekman, but I’d guess he has a good shot to start the year with the team despite his 5.70 ERA in 30 innings at Triple-A last year. He fared much better while with the Phils, throwing to a 2.58 ERA with a less impressive 1.30 ratio.

Ethan Martin pitched the fifth and it wasn’t good. He faced four batters and all four reached on walk, single, double, double. Michael Stutes took over for him and faced four batters, three of which he retired and one of which reached on a throwing error by the catcher Nieves.

Awful for Martin, who left the game with discomfort in his right shoulder, but a nice showing for Stutes in his first appearance.

Mario Hollands pitched the sixth for the Phils and set Toronto down in order. The 25-year-old lefty made 27 appearances (20 starts) between Clearwater and Reading in 2013, throwing to a 2.86 ERA with a 1.23 ratio.

Rosenberg followed Hollands. He set Toronto down in order in the seventh and again in the eighth.

Great day for Rosenberg. Threw to a 2.45 ERA with a 1.09 ratio in his first 16 appearances before allowing six runs in five innings his last six times out for the Phils last year. May be older than you think — he turned 28 in September.

The Phillies scored five runs in the game. Ruf hit a two-run homer off of righty Esmil Rogers and Mayberry hit a solo shot off of lefty Aaron Loup. Revere scored on a passed ball in the first and Franco scored in the eighth on a play that featured a throwing error by Toronto first baseman Andy LaRoche on a might-have-been double-play.

Ruf was 1-for-3 with a walk and a two-run homer after drawing a walk in his only appearance yesterday. Was good (269/363/500) against righties last year and homered off of one today.

Mayberry 2-for-3 with a solo homer in his first action. Didn’t appear in center field even once today, which should be lauded.

Revere was 3-for-4 with three singles. 4-for-6 in the early going.

Abreu 0-for-2 with two more walks. 0-for-3 with four walks.

Franco, Nieves, Frandsen, Asche all went 0-for-3. Franco drew a walk. Galvis 0-for-4.

Franco made an error on a non-catch and Nieves a throwing error.

This from Ryne Sandberg on Ryan Howard: “You want to see if he can make [lefties] throw the ball over the plate. Be patient, be relaxed in those situations. Get a good ball to hit. Make the pitcher come to him. If it means being patient and taking walks, that’s for the betterment of the team. Spit on it, take the walk and be a baserunner. Will that result in some walks? Seventy-five to 100, 120? Probably.” I offer two related predictions: 1) Ryan Howard will walk less than 120 times in 2014 2) if Ryan Howard walks 120 times in 2014 the Phillies will win the World Series. Howard has averaged 24 walks a season over the past two years, walking 48 times in 609 plate appearances. He walked more than 100 times in a season twice — 108 in 2006 and 107 in 2007. Walking a hundred times in a season is hard. Across both leagues, three players did it in 2013. Joey Votto (135), Shin-Soo Choo (112) and Mike Trout (110).

I really don’t see a lot of reason for left-handed pitchers to walk Ryan Howard, either. Howard hit 173/218/321 against lefties in 2013 after hitting 173/226/378 against them in 2012. He’s walked eight times against left-handed pitching over the past two seasons (193 PA).

Tigers tomorrow with Kendrick expected to pitch.

First thud

The Phillies saw their first official spring action today, falling 4-3 to Toronto in a game called due to rain after the top of the seventh.

Roberto Hernandez started the game, seeing his first action for the Phils having thrown to a 5.03 ERA over his last 146 appearances in regular season action. He went two innings, allowing two runs on four hits and no walks. Jose Bautista hit a solo homer off of him in the first and he allowed another run on back-to-back doubles to start the second. Both of the doubles were off the wall, the first, by righty Brett Lawrie, was off the top of the wall and nearly out of the yard.

Seems a good a time as any to point out that Hernandez has allowed 46 home runs over his last 302 1/3 innings pitched, which is about 1.37 per nine innings. Nobody on the Phillies who threw 65 or more innings in 2013 allowed more than one home run per nine innings. Among the guys with at least 65 innings, Lee had the worst rate at 0.89 per nine innings. The righty Bautista got Hernandez in the first, but lefties hit 305/369/537 against the righty Hernandez in 2013 with 17 home runs in 315 plate appearances.

Phillippe Aumont pitched the third, coming off of a 2013 effort in which he walked 51 in 55 innings between the minors and majors. He walked the two first batters he faced and the Blue Jays scored two runs charged to him in the inning on a single, two walks and a wild pitch.

Righty Jeff Manship, who has struggled to retire hitters at the major league level, struck out two in a 1-2-3 fourth and kept the Blue Jays off the board in the fifth as well. One hit, a single, in two scoreless innings for Manship as he strikes out three and gets Bautista to ground into a double-play. The less good news is the career 6.42 ERA and a 1.62 ratio for the 29-year-old righty in 116 1/3 career innings. Righties have hit 329/375/556 against him for his career.

Bastardo pitched the sixth. He allowed a two-out triple to righty Moises Sierra, but retired Dioner Navarro on a fly ball to center to leave Sierra at third.

25-year-old righty Kevin Munson, a Rule 5 pick (be afraid, be very afraid), pitched the seventh. Chris Getz bunted for a single to start the frame with Maikel Franco fielding and throwing it away for an error that left Getz at second with nobody out. The Blue Jays bunted the runner to third with the first out, but Munson struck Kevin Pillar out with one down and the man on third. He walked Anthony Gose before getting Dan Johnson to line to short to leave runners on the corners.

Two hits and a walk in the frame, but Munson keeps Toronto from scoring with the help of the big strikeout with a runner on third and one out. He struck out 66 in 54 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013.

The offense plated three runs in the game — two in the bottom of the first on RBI-singles by Howard and Byrd and the third in the bottom of the fifth when a one-out walk to Tony Gwynn, Jr was followed by a Ronny Cedeno double.

A day after singling and homering off of lefties in an intrasquad game, Howard lined an RBI-single into center off of lefty JA Happ in the bottom of the first. He flew to left in his other at-bat.

Abreu was at DH for the Phils and went 0-for-1 with two walks.

Cedeno’s double in the fifth after the Gwynn walk was the only extra-base hit of the game for the Phils. Cedeno 1-for-1 with a double and Gwynn 0-for-0 with a walk.

Byrd 1-for-2 with an RBI-single and a strikeout.

Ruf walked in his only appearance.

Revere 1-for-2 with a single and Rollins 0-for-1 with a walk.

Brown 1-for-3 with an infield single and a strikeout.

Utley 0-for-2, Asche 0-for-2, Ruiz 0-for-2.

Franco 0-for-1 with the game’s only error at third.

Blue Jays again tomorrow with Cliff Lee and Ethan Martin expected to pitch for the Phils.

Honestly, there’s a pretty good chance your guess is better than mine at this point

Spring training games aren’t too far away, so it seems as good a time as any to guess who might be joining the Phillies when the season starts for real. It looks to me as if there are eight hitters who are locks to start the year with the team. Here’s the eight, along with some of the other candidates to fill the remaining hitting slots:

1 C Ruiz W Nieves
2 R Howard C Rupp
3 C Utley T Joseph
4 J Rollins L Marson
5 C Asche S Valle
6 D Brown
7 B Revere D Ruf
8 M Byrd K Frandsen
9 M Franco
11 F Galvis
12 C Hernandez
13 R Brignac
14 R Cedeno
A Blanco
J Mayberry
B Abreu
C Thomas
T Gwynn
L Castro

I think all eight of Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Marlon Byrd and locks to make the team if healthy at the start of the year.

Beyond those eight, I think Wil Nieves and Kevin Frandsen are the best bets to make the squad. I’d really love someone to convince me Kevin Frandsen isn’t going to be on the team as a backup first baseman and a backup third baseman who never plays third. Anyone? Sure seems like Darin Ruf would be a good choice for backup first baseman, or even, well I’m not going to say it, but it rhymes with latoon flayer at worst face. Hoping for the best but expecting, well, you know, more Kevin Frandsen, mostly cause he hit 311/409/459 against lefties in 2013 after hitting 400/426/554 against them in 2012.

That puts the Phillies at ten players, which probably leaves them with three hitting slots.

Of the remaining spots, one has to be filled by a backup middle infielder. They also only have three outfielders on their team, suggesting the other two slots go to outfielders.

I’d guess Freddy Galvis is the backup middle infielder. That’s eleven.

That leaves space for two outfielders, one of which has to be “able” (see John Mayberry, Cesar Hernandez from recent years) to backup center. I pretty much have no idea on this one. Seems like it’s two out of the group of Mayberry, Bobby Abreu, Darin Ruf and Tony Gwynn, Jr. There’s really only one guy in that group who can play center, although the Phillies may think there are two. I’ll go with Ruf and Mayberry, but if Abreu crushes the ball in spring training I think he makes the team. The Phillies really, really don’t need both Ruf and Frandsen backing up first base. They really, really, really don’t need all three of Mayberry, Ruf and Frandsen backing up first base. Especially if they’re never going to play the backup first baseman.

That gets the guess up to 13 — Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Asche, Brown, Revere, Byrd, Ruf, Mayberry, Nieves, Frandsen and Galvis.

Here’s the pitchers, where I think seven guys are sure to start the year on the team if healthy, assuming the Phillies somehow acquire AJ Burnett before the year starts:

1 C Lee M Gonzalez
2 AJ Burnett J Pettibone
3 R Hernandez
4 K Kendrick P Aumont
5 J Papelbon J Diekman (L)
6 A Bastardo (L) L Garcia
7 J De Fratus J Horst (L)
8 B Lincoln
9 E Martin
10 K Munson
11 BJ Rosenberg
12 J Savery (L)
13 M Stutes
J Biddle (L)
S Camp
K Giles
M Hollands (L)
C Jimenez
J Manship
S O’Sullivan

Cliff Lee, AJ Burnett, Roberto Hernandez and Kyle Kendrick in the rotation with Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo and Justin De Fratus pitching out of the pen.

That leaves the Phils with seven slots used and, presumably, five open. One for a starter and four slots in the pen.

That doesn’t include Cole Hamels and Mike Adams, both of which are locks to start the year on the active roster if they’re healthy.

Looks like Miguel Gonzalez and Jonathan Pettibone the primary candidates for the fifth starter role to me. Truly no idea, but I will guess Pettibone with close to no confidence. Have you read the every article about Miguel Gonzalez’s velocity? They aren’t so hard to find. Not good appears to be the consensus.

Among the relievers, it seems lefty Jake Diekman might have an edge over the rest of the candidates, coming off of a year in which he threw to a 2.58 ERA for the Phils with a 1.30 ratio and 41 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings. Less impressive were his numbers in the minors, but I think he takes a spot in the pen, leaving the Phils with two lefties in the bullpen and three open spots.

Then we’re pretty much back in no idea land. I think the Phils really wish Ethan Martin were going to be something special in relief. 6.08 ERA overall last year, but much better in his seven innings in relief than in his eight starts.

Every Phillie fan should be afraid of Rule 5 pick Kevin Munson. The righty did pitch well between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013, throwing to a 4.12 ERA, but with a 1.17 ratio and 66 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. Those of us who have followed Michael Martinez‘s 396 plate appearances with the Phillies over the past three seasons or remember his appearance in the ’11 NLDS (which the Phillies lost, you may recall) may have good reason for concern when it comes to the team’s handling of Rule 5 guys.

Michael Stutes pitched well at Triple-A last year and great in his first 11 appearances with the Phils from late May to early June. He ran into biceps problems in late June and allowed eight runs in two innings over three outings, but I think he’s got a good chance to make the squad.

I’m going to guess Stutes and Martin take two of the three remaining spots.

One left. Brad Lincoln, because he was the fourth pick overall once (Brad Lincoln four, Clayton Kershaw seven, Tim Lincecum ten and Max Scherzer eleven, you can look it up), Munson, cause the Phillies can’t help themselves, Joe Savery and Luis Garcia are the guys that stick out for me. Garcia was atrocious last year, 3.73 ERA over 31 1/3 innings or not. He walked 23 in those 31 1/3 frames and opponents on-based .370 against him. Savery was good in both the minors and in 20 innings with the Phils, but would still be the third lefty in the pen.

Lincoln got at least four outs in 13 of his 22 appearances in 2013, throwing to a 2.57 ERA with a 1.43 ratio in those outings. I wonder if that might appeal to the Phils with a need for a long man out of the pen, so I’ll go with him for the final slot.

Twelve pitchers: Burnett, Lee, Kendrick, Hernandez, Pettibone, Papelbon, Bastardo, De Fratus, Diekman, Martin, Stutes and Lincoln. Hamels and Adams on the DL.

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