Welcome to your nightmare, welcome to my breakdown

Did you see The Big Kahuna? It’s about salesmen. At one point young salesman Bob says something like it’s time for the others to throw him and the water and see if he can swim. Kevin Spacey’s grizzled veteran Larry Mann breaks it down for him: “I think you’re missing the point here Bob, we’re about to throw you off a cliff and see if you can fly.”

And somebody cue Joe Blanton. Starting in New York against Johan Santana for a team that suddenly can’t score runs with the Mets and Phils locked in a tie for first place in the NL East.

Blanton has made two starts against the Mets in his career. Here’s what his numbers look like:





15.0 0 8 1 10

Not bad. The two starts came in 2005 and 2007, which were Blanton’s best years. On June 14, 2005 in Oakland, Blanton went seven shutout innings against the Mets, allowing three singles and striking out four without allowing a walk. Oakland won the game 5-0. He wasn’t exactly pitching great coming into the game — he came into the contest with a 6.13 ERA having allowed 17 earned runs in his last 18 innings (8.50 ERA).

On June 23, 2007 in New York he tossed eight more shutout innings, allowing five hits and a walk. Ricky Ledee hit a sixth-inning double against him in that game. The Mets won the game 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth when Wright doubled off of Santiago Casilla to plate Ramon Castro. Blanton had been pitching much better coming around that start — he came into the game with a 3.43 ERA having allowed five earned runs in 31 1/3 innings over his last four starts (1.44 ERA).

Blanton (5-12, 4.96) faces lefty Johan Santana (8-7, 3.10) tonight in New York. Santana allowed five runs in four innings in Cincinnati on Thursday, allowing home runs to Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion. For Santana it was the first time in 11 starts he had allowed more than one home run in a game. The Mets have lost six of the last eight games that Santana has started. He has made two starts against the Phillies this season, going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA but an 0.67 ratio. He hasn’t walked a batter in 15 innings in those starts. Utley is the only current Phillie to have an extra-base hit against Santana in their career — he’s 2-for-7 with a home run. Blanton last pitched on July 9, so he’s well-rested if nothing else. He hasn’t allowed a home run in his last three starts and has walked just three in his last 17 innings.

Men on fire

In case you missed it, the Mets are playing well these days under new skipper Jerry Manuel. Manuel has been at the helm for the last 26 games and the Mets have gone 17-9 in those games.

Whatever it is that’s going on with the Mets it didn’t start in June. In the 13 games that Manuel managed the Mets in June they went 6-7. Compared to their averages for the season, they scored fewer runs per game and allowed more.

And then came July and the Mets couldn’t lose. 11-2. In 13 games in July the Mets have scored more runs (81) than any other team in either league and allowed fewer runs (35) than any other team in either league.

Here’s the runs the Mets have scored and allowed in the games that Manuel has managed in 2008 (and the runs scored and allowed per game):




June 13 48 (3.69) 64 (4.92)
July 13 81 (6.23) 35 (2.69)
Total 26 129 (4.96) 99 (3.81)

And here’s what they did in the 69 games that Manuel did not manage:



69 331 (4.80) 322 (4.67)

Despite the unremarkable June, thanks to an unbelievable July the Mets are overall scoring more runs and allowing fewer per game under Manuel than they were before him.

Overall, the difference between the Manuel and non-Manuel pitching numbers is far more dramatic than the difference between the Manuel and non-Manuel hitting numbers. The Mets are scoring about 4.96 runs per game since he took over compared to about 4.80 per game before he took over, but the difference between the pitching numbers is much larger. After allowing about 4.67 runs per game before Manuel took over, the Mets have allowed about 3.81 runs per game since.

That, because of the weak offensive output in the games Manuel managed in June, hides a little that the Mets are crushing the ball in July. As mentioned above, no team in either league has scored more runs. That means they should have some hitters that are seeing the ball well and they do: Tatis, Delgado, Reyes and Wright have all posted an OPS of at least .940 during July.

But they’ve also allowed just 35 runs in 13 games. That means that there’s a big group of players pitching well also. Here’s what the guys that have gotten the 13 starts for the Mets in July have done:





Pelfrey 3 22.0 1 0.41
Martinez 3 14.1 7 4.40
Santana 2 13 2 1.38
Perez 2 13 1 0.69
Maine 2 10.1 6 5.23
Armas 1 8.1 7 7.56
TOTAL 13 81 24 2.67

If Johan Santana is going to be the third-best starter in the Mets’ rotation the Phillies are going to lose. Sorry. In seven July starts, Pelfrey, Perez and Santana have combined to throw 48 innings and allow four earned runs. That’s an 0.75 ERA and there’s nobody on the planet you can trade Lou Marson for that makes you better than the Mets if they keep pitching like that.

The good news is that no matter what kind of mad genius Dan Warthen is, they’re 100% guaranteed to get worse.

Finally, it would be great news for Phillies’ fans if it proved to be the case that part of the Mets’ success under Manuel is because he’s blowing out the bullpen. But he’s not. Mets’ starters are throwing about 5.88 innings per game under Manuel compared to about 5.82 innings per game before he arrived. The Mets remain in the middle of the pack (8th in the NL) in terms of innings pitched by relievers. That said, the bullpen has also been fantastic for New York in July. In 38 1/3 innings they’ve allowed 10 earned runs (2.35 ERA).

The AL beat the NL in the All-Star game last night, winning 4-3 in 15 innings. Utley was 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout. Lidge started the bottom of the 15th with the score tied at 3-3. He allowed two singles and a walk before Michael Young hit a fly ball to right that scored Justin Morneau to give the AL the win. Lidge got two outs and threw 19 pitches.

Phils have the right Manuel for the job

Charlie Manuel has managed five full seasons and in each of those seasons his team has played over .500 in the second half. In four of the five his team has played to a better winning percentage after the All-Star break than they did before the All-Star break. It’s enough to make you wonder if pinch-running for Pat Burrell in the sixth, 322 at-bats for Abraham Nunez and turning Brett Myers into a DL-bound reliever is the way to go.

Here’s what Manuel’s teams have done in the five years he’s managed before and after the All-Star break:



Before AS

After AS

2000 CLE 44-42 (.512) 46-30 (.605) 90-72 (.556)
2001 CLE 49-36 (.576) 42-35 (.545) 91-71 (.562)
2005 PHI 45-44 (.455) 43-30 (.589) 88-74 (.543)
2006 PHI 40-47 (.460) 45-30 (.600) 85-77 (.525)
2007 PHI 44-44 (.500) 45-29 (.608) 89-73 (.549)
TOTAL CLE/PHI 222-213 (.510) 221-154 (.589) 443-367 (.547)

The record after the All-Star break with the Phillies is particularly impressive. In his three full seasons with the team the Phillies are 133-89 after the break (.600).

The Mets’ Jerry Manuel has also had success after the break. Jerry Manuel has managed six full seasons, all with the White Sox. In four of those his team played to a better winning percentage after the break.



Before AS

After AS

1998 CWS 35-51 (.407) 45-31 (.592) 80-82 (.494)
1999 CWS 42-43 (.494) 33-43 (.463) 75-86 (.466)
2000 CWS 55-32 (.632) 40-35 (.533) 95-67 (.586)
2001 CWS 41-44 (.482) 42-35 (.545) 83-79 (.512)
2002 CWS 42-46 (.477) 39-35 (.527) 81-81 (.500)
2003 CWS 45-49 (.478) 41-27 (.603) 86-76 (.531)
TOTAL CWS 260-265 (.495) 240-206 (.538) 500-471 (.515)

The 1999 White Sox are the most curious thing there, going a miserable 33-43 after the break after playing a game under .500 in the first half. In Jerry Manuel’s defense, it’s tough to win when you give 55 starts to guys that end the season with an ERA over 6.00 (Jamie Navarro (27), John Snyder (25) and Aaron Myette (3)).

In other news, there’s nothing wrong with the Mets/Phillies rivalry that Chase Utley muttering an expletive in the general direction of booing fans in New York can’t fix. The phrase he chose, to borrow from Dave Barry, rhymes with “duck shoe.” Good news for Jimmy Rollins, at least, who could use the break.

Ready, set, Met

Despite what has been considered by virtually all Phillies fans a successful April, the Phils come into the last day of the first full month of the season at 15-12, percentage points behind the 14-11 Mets in the NL East. Andrew Vazzano from The ‘Ropolitans answered a few questions about the state of the Mets.

Think of it as really advanced scouting on a team the Phils don’t play again till July.

1) What do you see as the most significant developments for the Mets since the start of the season?

Well, most of the fans thought we were indestructible after we landed Johan Santana, so now that we’ve played a few games, we’ve seen that we’re just as good as everyone else and this is going to be a dogfight all season. I’m also very surprised by the back end of our bullpen (sans: Aaron Heilman). With Joe Smith, Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wagner closing out games, I’m very confident if the team has a lead late, they’ll hold it. (Obviously, since I said this, they’ll blow a few of the next bunch of games!)

2) There seems to be a loud, large contingent of fans that are unhappy with the direction of the team or at least some of the Mets’ players. Is this just frustration with the early results or does it go deeper than that? How do you expect the situation to play out?

It all stems from last season. As far in the past as it is, most fans are yet to get over the collapse. When guys like Carlos Delgado and Aaron Heilman got off to extremely rocky starts, fans regressed to last September, and the boo birds came out in full force. Obviously, we’re not even through a quarter of the season, so I think it’s still way too early to start driving a guy out of town. The players need to pick up the pace, but I think it will all even out in the long run. Only if the player continues to struggle do I see anything coming of this. Again, it’s all from last season, it haunts us.

3) How do you expect the situations in left field and at first base will be resolved? Right now it looks like Pagan may be seeing a lot of time in left — do you think he can make it through a whole season there? What are the other options for the Mets at first base if Delgado doesn’t come around?

Well, Moises Alou just had his ankle checked out, and he should rejoin he team in Arizona. Obviously, there is no way he’s going to make it through a whole season without getting injured again, so time will be split between Angel Pagan and Endy Chavez. There’s no way Pagan can last a whole season, as we’ve already seen him hit a cold snap. Chavez and Pagan are decent in left, a big upgrade defensively over Alou, but Alou can absolutely rake at the plate. On Delgado at first, I think the team needs to wait it out until he *really* starts to tank. The two home run day against the Braves was huge, and with or without a curtain call, it should be a big boost to his confidence. A lot of people have been calling for AA player Mike Carp to get called up. Through 4/29, Carp is batting .376 with 6 home runs, 20 RBI, and 16 runs scored. People seem to think he’s the first baseman of the future, and with Delgado taking a downturn at first, Carp might be called up sooner rather than later. I’d rather see Marlon Anderson or Damion Easley fill in at first, with the majority of the time still going to Delgado. Carp may be called up in September, but I don’t think it will happen before that.

4) What is your expectation about how the rotation is going to shape up behind Santana/Maine/Perez the rest of the way? Do you think it’s likely that most of the other starts will come from Pedro, El Duque, Pelfrey and Figueroa? Do you feel comfortable with that group at the bottom of the rotation? Is there anybody else in the mix?

Stick a fork in El Duque, he’s done. I don’t expect him to come back, ever. I see the rest of the season being split between Nelson Figueroa and Mike Pelfrey, with Pedro Martinez getting the bulk if/when he gets back and if he stays healthy. With Jorge Sosa struggling so far, when Figueroa or Pelfrey gets bumped by Martinez returning to the rotation, one of those two might find themselves as the long man out of the bullpen. Figueroa would probably be the best guy out of the pen, so I think that’s what might happen.

5) Is Willie Randolph the right person to manage the Mets? How safe is his job?

No. He’s good, but not for this team. These players need a leader and with David Wright being so young, and probably the most outspoken player on he team, he doesn’t really fit the bill. I think the Mets need someone like Jim Leyland who isn’t afraid to yell after a lazy loss or poor play. If the Mets don’t make the postseason this year, I doubt Willie returns.

Thanks a lot to Andrew. Remember to check out his blog, The ‘Ropolitans.

I am not saying they are overrated; I am just saying that if Hanley Ramirez played in New York they would have to implement some sort of tithing system

I’m generally against anything that makes the Mets better offensively, but it might be worth it if it meant we got to see Mets’ fans have to bring a tenth of their goats, cows and comeliest women and leave them at the door of Hanley’s apartment.

Five teams in the NL East. This is what the player that played the most innings defensively at shortstop and the player that played the most innings defensively at third base did with the bat last year:







FLA Ramirez 639 .332 .386 .562 .948
FLA Cabrera 588 .320 .401 .565 .965
FLA Total 1227 .326 .393 .563 .956
ATL Renteria 494 .332 .390 .470 .860
ATL Chipper 513 .337 .425 .604 1.029
ATL Total 1007 .335 .408 .538 .947
NYM Reyes 681 .280 .354 .421 .775
NYM Wright 604 .325 .416 .546 .963
NYM Total 1285 .301 .384 .480 .864
PHI J-Roll 716 .296 .344 .531 .875
PHI Nunez 252 .234 .318 .282 .600
PHI Total 968 .280 .337 .466 .803
WAS Lopez 603 .245 .308 .352 .659
WAS Zimmerman 653 .266 .330 .458 .788
WAS Total 1256 .256 .319 .407 .726

Reyes and Wright are fantastic. Last year they were just less fantastic than the duo of Chipper and Renteria, though, and less fantastic than Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez. More fantastic than the offerings of the Phillies and the Nats. Reyes was almost inarguably the fourth-best hitting shortstop in the division and, well, there are only five teams in the division.

Hitting isn’t everything, of course. The chart above doesn’t account for the contribution through the stolen base. Or defense. Ramirez and Cabrera in particular pale in comparison defensively to Wright and Reyes.

The Phillies, meanwhile, were not fantastic. Their numbers look bad as they are and they are actually skewed positively for the Phils in the chart above. Because Rollins got so many more at-bats than Nunez his numbers are more heavily weighted, resulting in a higher OPS. At the same time, Lopez was miserable for the Nats at short last year while Guzman hit the ball well. So the Nats numbers are a bit lower than if they were actually reflecting the offense they got from the position rather than just from Lopez. If you use the numbers of all Phils’ third baseman and recalculate, and all the Nats’ shortstops, the Phils still post a .789 OPS, higher than the .769 for the Nats. But closer. And closer still when you consider that the Nationals play in a much worse place to hit.

So it’s nice to see that Reyes and Wright haven’t been dominating the division. Couple of problems, though, and they’re are spearheaded by these: Reyes and Wright are going to get better and the rest of the division is going to get worse. Of the guys who outpaced them in ’07, two of them, Cabrera and Renteria, now play in Detroit where their impact on the NL East is likely to be minimal.

In 2008, Yunel Escobar will replace Renteria at short for the Braves. He has just about zero chance at producing the offense that Renteria did last year (I would also guess he doesn’t have much chance to produce the offense that he produced last year, either). Chipper also arguably comes off his best season in the last eight, so the chances are good his numbers will be down. I think Reyes/Wright hit better than the Braves’ second and third combo in ’08.

The Fish, meanwhile, will replace Miguel Cabrera with a motley cast of characters. It’s kinda ugly but at the moment it looks like a combination of Dallas McPherson, Jose Castillo and Jorge Cantu. Ramirez’s numbers last year were other worldly — chances are good they’ll be down in ’08 as well.

Going into the season you’d have to pick Wright/Reyes to be the best duo of hitters. I’d go Chipper/Escobar behind them, but it’s close with the Marlins. Feliz and Rollins for the Phils and Zimmerman and Guzman for the Nats seems destined to drag up the rear in ’08 as well.

The Phillies played two games yesterday and are 4-4 in spring training after splitting the pair.

In one of the games they beat the Blue Jays 6-1.

Myers got the start for the Phils and pitched very well, allowing three hits over four shutout innings. He didn’t walk a hitter. Shane Youman followed Myers and tossed three scoreless frames, holding Detroit to two singles. Madson pitched the eighth and the ninth and allowed a run on two hits.

Utley was 1-for-3 with a double and drove in two runs. Ruiz was also 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI, he’s hitting .455 (5-for-11). Helms had two hits, going 2-for-3 with a double. Val Pascucci hit a solo home run in his only at-bat. Rollins was 1-for-2 to raise his average to .133.

In the other game the Phils lost to the Tigers 6-2.

JD Durbin got the start for the Phils and allowed three runs over four innings, all on solo home runs. Carlos Guillen got him twice and Magglio Ordonez hit the other one. Happ followed Durbin and allowed a run on two innings on two singles and a double. Condrey pitched the seventh and allowed another run on two singles and a double. Holdzkom pitched the eighth and allowed a run when walked the leadoff man, balked him to second and he came around to score on two sac flies.

Brandon Watson had two hits, including a double, for the Phils. Burrell went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .154. Snelling was 0-for-2 with a pair of walks, he’s hitting .167.

Phils play the Devil Rays today.

Kris Benson will pitch in a minor league game on Saturday.

Rowand doesn’t give an expletive where the Giants hit him.

This says that Lidge is still hopeful he can return by opening day. It also says that Rollins is not worried by his early slump.

The Mets’ Moises Alou will have hernia surgery today and will miss four to six weeks.

Tell us about the boys from New York City

Regis Courtemanche of Metsblog answered some questions about the Mets:

Who deserves to shoulder the blame for the disappointing finish to the Mets’ season in 2007? How do you expect last year’s finish will impact the early part of the upcoming season?

Well, where do we begin? As much as I try to look ahead to 2008, last season’s finish still lingers in my mind. It’s hard to point fingers in such a team sport, but that being said, it is up to the coaching staff to do what they need to do to keep the team focused and fresh. Many players admittedly got a little bit too relaxed and over-confident and it came back to haunt them. As for this season, I don’t know how any player couldn’t use such a frustrating finish as motivation for the future. Apparently Jimmy Rollins’ comments weren’t enough to make them fight until the end, but hopefully for us Mets fans, losing the division by one game is.

Given the injury risk with Alou and the struggles that Church has had hitting left-handing pitching so far in his career, it seems that the Mets’ depth in the outfield is questionable. Is that a misconception? How often do you think we’ll see Church playing against lefties and who else do you expect will be getting time at the corner outfield positions for the Mets?

Church will be the regular right fielder regardless of who is pitching. Sure, Endy Chavez will get some starts, but other than that, Church will have to prove his worth, as I fully expect him to do. He has a .340 batting average at Shea, which is a much friendlier park than RFK was, especially now that Citi Field is theoretically blocking the funky Shea winds.

Moises Alou invented the disabled list, but he is extremely tough and can play through most anything. Carlos Beltran has spent time on the DL as well but usually powers through. Sometimes this is to his detriment, but for the most part he is a solid, gold-glove center fielder.

As far as depth is concerned, I agree with you that there are few options right now in terms of backups, but Fernando Martinez is waiting in the wings and may see some action later in the year if the need presents itself. I hope it doesn’t and he can continue to develop in the minors, but I am excited for his imminent arrival.

After miserable seasons in 2005 and 2006, Oliver Perez was fantastic last year, winning 15 games with a 3.56 ERA. What do you expect from him this year and how do you think the Mets would respond if Perez or Orlando Hernandez struggled at the back end of the rotation?

Two words…contract year. With Scott Boras as his agent, Perez will be looking to improve on last year’s performance to maximize his free agency return. I feel that Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson was instrumental in his success and I wonder about Perez’s progression if he leaves the Mets, but as for this year, yes, I think he can win 15+ games for sure. He is one of the best #4 pitchers in the entire league, and would surely place higher if not for Pedro and Santana.

If El Duque does win the 5th spot and struggles, you will see Mike Pelfrey take over his role and El Duque will probably be placed in the bullpen.

What’s left for the Mets to decide during spring training?

Pitching. All of the position players are set. Infield backups still need to be determined but that’s not the big issue here. A few middle relief spots are up for grabs and I expect to see a lot of shuffling throughout the spring which will more than likely trickle into the season. After trading a slew of talent to the Twins, there are still several young players such as Eddie Kunz, and Brian Rustich who will vie for a spot. The team and the fans are also placing a lot of faith in Duaner Sanchez’s return, which will hopefully bolster that middle relief core as well.

Like I said earlier, the five hole in the rotation has become a competition between El Duque and Mike Pelfrey. I feel that we will see El Duque win out at first, but Pelfrey will surely get into the mix at some point, especially if Duque’s health breaks down.

How do you see the NL East shaping up this season?

What, no “rivalry” questions? Many see this as a three horse race between the Phillies, Mets, and Braves. I’m going to stray from this a bit and say that only the Phillies and Mets will be in it come September. The Braves’ rotation is older than Abner Doubleday, and the Phils staff should be rather good IF they can stay healthy. The addition of Johan Santana gives the Mets the clear advantage pitching-wise in the division.

Offensively, the Mets and Phillies both sport very good lineups. Do I think the Mets’ lineup is better? Yes, particularly off the bench with Ramon Castro, Endy, and Marlon Anderson. I don’t put a lot of stock into predictions, but my objective opinion (if that’s possible) is that the Mets will win the division, with the Phillies falling just short, and the Braves, Nationals, and Marlins finishing up the pack in that order. But hey, as last year dictates, it ain’t over til it’s over.

Thanks, Regis. If you’ve never visited Metsblog I wouldn’t wait one minute more.

This mailbag from the Phillies’ web site suggests there’s not much chance Kyle Lohse is coming to the Phils. It also says that Werth and Taguchi are the primary backups in center field. That’s good news if true, I would think it would be primarily Taguchi and Bruntlett. As I’ve mentioned multiple times in the past I’m hoping that Werth sees a lot of time in center this season. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Article about the Phillies’ Australian prospects here.

Davey Lopes will have surgery for prostate cancer.

The Phils beat the Mets yesterday, beating Pittsburgh 3-1 to improve to 3-2 in spring training.

After being hit hard their first times out, Savery and Outman both had nice outings. Savery went two scoreless innings, Outman three. Segovia followed with two shutout frames of his own. Romero allowed a run on three singles in the eighth. Bisenius tossed another scoreless inning, allowing back-to-back singles with one out but getting the next two hitters to keep the Pirates off the board.

Pittsburgh didn’t have an extra-base hit in the game.

Bruntlett was 3-for-4 with three singles and two RBI for the Phils. Victorino drove in the other run with a ground out in the fifth.

The Phillies play the Braves today.

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