Tag: Brian McCann

Chance-to-see-stuff-that’s-stastically-improbable giveaway night in Atlanta largely a hit

Overall I’d say people feel like they got their money’s worth with Halladay being unable to hold a six-run lead and Ruiz driving in seven runs in a game his team lost. My impression is people might have felt Contreras, Schwimer and Sanches not pitching so well fell a little flat.

Wild one last night in Atlanta, which the Braves won 15-13 on a walkoff two-run homer by Chipper Jones in the bottom of the eleventh.

Staked to a 6-0 lead, Roy Halladay allowed eight runs in 5 1/3 innings in the game. The Phils failed to hold leads of 6-0 and 12-8 in the contest.

Carlos Ruiz went nuts, driving in seven runs, including three in the seventh on a three-run homer and three in the eighth on a three-run double.

Neither team got a lot of outstanding work from their pen, but the Braves got the last laugh in that department. After Savery and Bastardo went 1 2/3 scoreless frames, Contreras, Schwimer and Sanches combined to allow seven runs in three innings. With Qualls and Papelbon both in the pen having been used heavily over the past four days, the Phils brought Sanches out to start his third inning of the game in the eleventh. He didn’t get an out before Chipper won the game with a walkoff home run.

The Phillies are 12-13 on the year after losing to the Atlanta Braves 15-13 in 11 innings last night. The teams have split the first two games of the series.

Halladay got the start for the Phillies and went 5 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on 12 hits. Two of the hits went for extra-bases, a double and a grand slam. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out five.

Martin Prado and Freddie Freeman singled back-to-back with one out in the bottom of the first, putting runners on first and second for Brian McCann. McCann hit a ball to first. Wigginton fielded, went to second for the first out and Rollins threw to Halladay covering first to complete the double-play and end the inning.

Great play by the Phils. Rollins did a great job at second, holding the ball long enough for Halladay to get to first while Freeman slid in hard.

Halladay set the Braves down in order in the second.

He started the third with a 4-0 lead and set Atlanta down in order.

McCann singled with two outs in the fourth, but Halladay struck Dan Uggla out behind him.

Halladay started the fifth with a 6-0 lead. Chipper Jones, Eric Hinske and Taylor Pastornicky all singled to start the frame, loading the bases with nobody out. Lefty Juan Francisco hit for the pitcher Cristhian Martinez and Halladay got him to pop to third for the first out. Michael Bourn was next and he singled into right, moving everyone up a base. Chipper scored and it was 6-1. Prado followed with an infield single, again moving everyone up a base. 6-2. Freeman popped to Galvis for the second out. McCann was next and he hit a 2-1 pitch well out to right, tying the game at 6-6. Halladay struck Uggla out looking to end the inning.

First home run allowed by Halladay since September 19, 2011. At least he made it memorable.

Hinske singled with one out in the sixth and a double by Pastornicky moved Hinske up to third. Lefty Jason Heyward hit for the pitcher Livan Hernandez and singled into right, scoring both runners to put Atlanta up 8-6. Savery took over for Halladay. He got Bourn swinging as Ruiz threw Heyward out trying to steal second, setting the Braves down.

Savery dropped his ERA on the year to 1.42 with the outing. In 6 1/3 innings, he has allowed one earned run on two hits and a walk.

The Phillies were up 9-8 when Bastardo started the seventh. Pitching for the third day in a row, he set Atlanta down in order on three fly balls. Two of the outs came on nice plays by Mayberry in left. He made a diving play to take a hit away from Prado for the first out and retired Freeman as he crashed into the wall for the second.

After not going a full inning in any of his first six outings on the year, Bastardo has now done so twice in the last two days. Over the last two days he’s thrown two perfect innings in two times out.

Contreras started the eighth with the Phillies on top 12-8. Uggla led off with a single. Chipper was next and hit a ball back up the middle that the Phillies might have gotten two on, but Rollins didn’t handle it for an error and the Phils didn’t get any. Righty Matt Diaz hit for the pitcher Kris Medlen and Contreras struck him out swinging for the first out. Pastornicky singled to center, scoring Uggla (12-9) and moving Chipper up to second. Contreras walked Heyward on a 3-2 pitch, loading the bases. The righty Schwimer took over for the righty Contreras, coming in to pitch to the lefty Bourn. Schwimer walked Bourn on four pitches, forcing in Chipper to make it 12-10. Prado followed with a single into center, scoring Pastornicky and Heyward, making it 12-12 with men on first and third. Freeman was next and flew to left for the second out. Bourn tagged and scored, putting Atlanta on top 13-12. McCann flew to center for the third out.

Schwimer comes in to face Bourn with Bastardo and Savery having already pitched in the game.

Contreras and Schwimer were both awful in the inning. Far from a sure thing, but if the Phillies had turned a double-play on the Rollins error ball, Conteras would have faced three hitters in the inning and put up a zero. Instead, the next two hitters he faced reached base. So a little bit of tough luck for Contreras in the frame, but that doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t look like he can offer much help out of the pen at this point and hasn’t for a while.

Schwimer faced four batters in the inning, allowing a walk, a single and a sac fly. It was his third appearance of the year for the Phils. Two of them have been bad.

It was 13-13 when Sanches started the ninth, making his first appearance for the Phils since 2007. He allowed back-to-back singles to Chipper and Jack Wilson with one out, putting men on first and second. Righty David Ross hit for the pitcher Craig Kimbrel and Sanches struck him out swinging for the second out. Sanches walked the lefty Heyward on four pitches, loading the bases for another lefty Bourn. Bourn flew to center for the third out.

Sanches came back to throw a 1-2-3 tenth.

He started the eleventh, but didn’t get an out. Uggla led off with a single to left. He got ahead of Chipper 0-2, but Chipper hit Sanches’s 41st pitch of the game, a 3-2 offering, out to right-center. Braves win 15-13.

You really want to try to avoid bringing Sanches back for a third inning if you can help it at all.

In the game, the pen goes 4 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs (six earned) on seven hits and three walks.

Sanches threw 41 pitches. Contreras 21. Bastardo has thrown three days in a row and threw 11 pitches in the game. Schwimer 15 and Savery six.

The Phillies lineup against righty Tommy Hanson went (1) Rollins (2) Polanco (3) Victorino (4) Pence (5) Wigginton (6) Nix (7) Ruiz (8) Galvis. Galvis stays in the lineup despite miserable offensive results with the lefty Orr on the bench.

Polanco singled to center with one out in the top of the first. Victorino struck out behind him for the second out and Pence flew to center for the third.

Wigginton walked to start the second and moved to second when Nix followed with a single into center. Ruiz was next and grounded into a double-play, leaving a runner on third for Galvis with two down. Galvis struck out swinging at a high 2-2 pitch that was way out of the strike zone.

Rollins and Polanco singled back-to-back with one out in the third, putting runners on the corners for Victorino. Victorino singled into right, scoring Rollins to make it 1-0 and moving Polanco up to third. Victorino stole second before Pence walked to load the bases. Wigginton fouled out to Chipper at third for the second out, but Nix blasted a ball to right that went over Hinske’s head in right for a three-run double, putting the Phils up 4-0. Hanson hit Ruiz with an 0-2 pitch before Galvis flew to center for the third out.

Hinkse probably should have caught the ball that Nix hit to right, although Nix hit it well. Wigginton can’t bring the runner in from third, popping out with the bases loaded for the second out.

Polanco and Victorino singled back-to-back with two outs in the fourth. Righty Cristhian Martinez took over for Hanson and get Pence to ground to short for the third out.

Wigginton started the fifth with a single and scored on a one-out double by Ruiz, putting the Phils up 5-0. Galvis followed that with a double, plating Ruiz to make it 6-0. Halladay moved Galvis up to third with a ground out to second for the second out. Rollins grounded to third to leave him there.

It was 6-6 when the Phils hit in the sixth. Livan Hernandez set the Phils down in order.

The Phillies were losing 8-6 when lefty Eric O’Flaherty started the seventh. Wigginton led off with a walk. Mayberry hit for Nix and singled softly to right, putting men on first and second for Ruiz. Ruiz pounded a 1-0 pitch out to left, putting the Phils up 9-8. Kratz hit for Savery and grounded to third. Rollins flew to center for the third out.

Righty Kris Medlen started the eighth for the Braves. He got Polanco and Victorino before Pence and Wigginton singled back-to-back, putting men on first and second for Mayberry. Mayberry walked to load the bases. Ruiz ripped a double into right field, clearing the bases and putting the Phils up 12-8. Galvis flew to center for the third out.

Six RBI in two at-bats for Ruiz. Three-run homer in the seventh and a three-run double with the bases loaded in the eighth.

First walk of the year for Mayberry. One walk in 54 plate appearances.

The Phillies were down 13-12 when the hit in the ninth. Righty Craig Kimbrel walked Pierre on four pitches. Pierre stole second before Rollins struck out looking at a 3-2 pitch that surprised many observers cause it was so far off the plate. Polanco grounded to short for the second out with Pierre moving up to third. Victorino was next and hit a ball up the middle. Wilson nearly made an incredible play to end the game, fielding, spinning and making a strong throw to first, but Victorino just beat it out for an infield single. Pierre scored and it was 13-13. Pence struck out swinging to leave Victorino at first.

Fantastic job by Pierre to draw the walk and steal the base, helping to create a huge run for the Phils that kept the game alive.

Jonny Venters struck out Wigginton and Mayberry in a 1-2-3 tenth.

Chad Durbin got Galvis, Sanches and Rollins in the top of the eleventh.

Galvis tried to bunt for a hit, but Durbin threw him out at first. Sanches hits for himself in a tie game having already thrown two innings. The Phils had Schneider and Orr on the bench and Qualls and Papelbon in the pen. Qualls had thrown two days in a row and three of the last four. Papelbon had also thrown two days in a row and three of the last four.

Rollins was 1-for-7 in the game. He’s 7-for-his-last-22.

Polanco 3-for-6 to raise his average to .268. After going 0-for-1 against Arizona on April 24, he was hitting .196 for the year. He’s gone 11-for-26 since.

Victorino 3-for-6 with two RBI, including a huge one to bring Pierre home with two outs in the top of the ninth. He came into the game 5-for-his-last-42 (.119).

Pence was 1-for-5 with a walk. He only has one walk in his last 48 plate appearances.

Wigginton 2-for-4 with two walks. 362/424/517 over his last 66 plate appearances. Started a nice double-play early.

Nix 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI. 8-for-his-last-18 with three walks and five extra-base hits. Mayberry was 1-for-2 with a walk in the game.

Ruiz 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run and seven RBI. He leads the Phils with a .575 slugging percentage for the year. He drove in more runs in last night’s game than Galvis, Rollins, Polanco, Pierre or Mayberry have for the season.

Galvis 1-for-6 with a double, an RBI and two strikeouts. His on-base percentage for the year is down to .222.

Blanton (2-3, 3.81) faces righty Randall Delgado (2-2, 6.30) this afternoon. Blanton has walked just three hitters in 26 innings for the season and allowed just one home run. The bad news is that opponents are hitting .318 against him. Delgado hasn’t gone more than 5 1/3 innings in any of his four starts and has walked 12 so far in 20 innings. Lefties have hit 357/417/449 against him so far and righties 211/362/277. So lefties have pounded him and righties haven’t done much in the way of getting a hit, but Delgado has walked about 14.9% of the right-handed hitters he has faced.


Don’t look at me — I don’t know why you go to extremes either

The Phillies ended the first half of the season with a pair of beautifully pitched games and 1-0 wins. You can’t really win when you score one run, except when you do. So far in 2010 the Phillies have won seven times when they scored one run or two runs. In the 486 regular season games they played in 2007, 2008 and 2009 they won a total of nine games in which they scored less than three runs.

If you want to win scoring one or two runs the formula isn’t complicated. You’ve got to flounder offensively and get a great outing from your pitcher. You probably won’t have much trouble guessing who was on the mound for the Phils this year in the seven games they won when they scored less than three runs: Halladay four times (4/11, 4/21, 5/29 and 7/10), Hamels twice (5/4 and 7/11) and Moyer once (June 22).

It sure seems like they Phillies were at the extremes in the first half when it came to scoring runs — like they would either put up a ten or a one, but not much in between. But were they? The chart below shows the percentage of games this year in which the Phillies scored less than four runs, more than six runs, or four, five or six runs. It also shows the percentages for the other 15 teams in the NL this year and for the Phillies 2007-2009 and how the teams did in those games.

 
’10 Phillies

’10 Rest of NL

PHI ’07 thru ’09
             
# of runs
scored
% of
games
WPCT % of games WPCT % of games WPCT
             
0,1,2,3 49.4 .256 45.0 .206 33.3 .105
4,5,6 18.4 .563 34.5 .631 38.7 .654
> 6 32.2 .964 20.5 .882 28.0 .919

The chart shows that the Phillies scored less than four runs in 49.4% of their games in the first half. That’s more than the combined results for the other 15 NL teams and a lot more than 33.3% of the games that they put up less than four from ’07 through ’09. Thanks to some rather outstanding days on the mound they managed to go 11-32 in those games. In addition to the games listed above that they won when scoring one or two runs, they also won four times when scoring three (Halladay, Halladay, Kendrick and Figueroa).

That makes six games so far this year that the Phillies have won when they scored less than four runs and Halladay started. They have scored three runs or less in 14 of his 19 starts.

The chart also supports the suggestion the Phillies have been more likely to score in the extremes this season. The Phils have scored four, five or six runs in just 16 of their 87 games. The rest of the NL has been almost twice as likely to put up four, five or six in a given game and the Phils were more than twice as likely over the three previous seasons.

Pretty much everyone wins the games when the score more than six and the Phils play in more than their share and win more than their share. They’re 27-1 in games when they’ve scored more than six runs this season and have managed the feat in nearly a third of their games (here’s the one if you can handle it — it required the Twinkies to score nine runs after the end of the eighth inning). You might conclude that this is because the Phils have scored more runs in their >6 games than the comparison groups. They have, at least compared to the rest of the NL this year, but maybe not by as much as you would guess. The Phils have scored an average of 9.29 runs per game in the 28 games they have scored more than six runs this season. The other 15 NL teams have scored an average of about 9.09 runs per game in theirs while the ’07-’09 Phillies also scored an average of 9.29.

The real point of the chart is that the Phillies can’t be scoring less than four runs in half (okay, 49.4%) of their games in the second half. Being pretty good at winning when you don’t score is nice, but it would be a whole lot nicer if it wasn’t necessary.

Finally, I wanted to reiterate yet again the important distinction between scoring three runs in a game and four runs in a game (at least for the Phillies in recent years). From 2007 through the first half of 2010, the Phils are 21-56 (.273) when they score three runs and 43-32 (.573) when they score four. There’s no doubt at least a little flukiness at play there — they are, for example, are 4-4 this year when they score two runs and 4-10 when they score three.

The NL beat the AL 3-1 in the All-Star game thanks to some excellent pitching and a three-run double from Brian McCann. Halladay got two outs in the sixth and wasn’t charged with a run despite allowing a pair of singles. Howard was the DH for the NL team and was 0-for-2 with a strikeout.


Panama jacks

Carlos Ruiz came into the season with 13 career home runs, but started last night’s game hitting 287/381/515 with six home runs in 162 plate appearances since the All-Star break. That .896 OPS for the second half was better than the second half OPS put up by a bunch of his teammates, including Utley, Ibanez, Rollins and Victorino. Of the eight regulars for the Phillies, only Howard and Werth have put up a better OPS in the second half.

Ruiz hit 235/335/367 in the first half of the season, but his second-half thunder has him up near the top of the list of the best hitting catchers in the league for the season. Here’s the list of the players in the league for the season who have posted the best OPS while playing the position and gotten at least 250 plate appearances (does not include yesterday’s games):

Player OPS
M Montero .861
B McCann .826
C Ruiz .791
J Baker .784
C Ianetta .781

In the AL there were three players going into yesterday’s games with at least 250 plate appearances for the year as a catcher and an OPS better than Ruiz’s .791. Mauer (1.090), Posada (.905) and Pierzynski (.814).

Here’s how Ruiz’s numbers overall in the second half look compared to the five players in either league who have posted a better OPS for the season while behind the plate (they are ordered by their OPS for the second half of the year):

   
Second half
  Season OPS PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Mauer 1.090 240 372 429 596 1.025
Montero 861 199 337 387 576 963
Ruiz 791 162 287 381 515 896
Posada 905 182 276 346 540 886
Pierzynski 814 198 339 378 443 820
McCann 826 211 260 303 490 793

Ruiz is third in that group for OPS since the break. Fourth in batting average, third in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging percentage.

Chan Ho Park hurt his right hamstring in last night’s game. It sounds and looked like we shouldn’t expect to see him again any time soon.


Lowed down

The Phils faced Derek Lowe for the third time since the end of the 2008 regular season last night. For the third time Lowe pitched well, but this time there was no throwing error from Furcal to fuel a Phillies rally and no late drama from Matt Stairs. Lowe and the Braves got the win as the Phillies lost on opening day for the fourth year in a row.

There will be two big topics of conversation among Phillies fans regarding last night’s game. One is a miserable first two innings from Myers and another will be the Phillies lineup that featured three straight lefties and didn’t come through in the ninth against Atlanta lefty Mike Gonzalez. Myers allowed four runs in the first two innings, but pitched well after allowing a double to Yunel Escobar to start the third. The Phillies don’t have enough right-handed bats and that problem isn’t going to go away. The problem that can and likely will go away is Utley, Howard and Ibanez hitting all in a row.

Lowe was really the story of the last night, though. He was simply outstanding. He held the Phils to two hits over eight innings, one of which was a double that may have been foul and came in an at-bat where the batter should have been retired on a foul ball that went off the glove of the right fielder. The three through seven hitters in the Phillies lineup combined to go 0-for-17 in the game.

The Phillies lost their opener last night, falling to the Braves 4-1.

Brett Myers got the start for the Phillies and went six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and one walk, which was intentional. Five of the hits went for extra-bases, two doubles and three home runs. He struck out six.

He got the first two in the first before Chipper Jones flipped a single into left. Brian McCann was next and he got ahead 2-0 and blasted a ball out to right, putting Atlanta up 2-0. Myers got Garrett Anderson to ground to first for the third out.

Jeff Francoeur hit Myers’ first pitch of the second inning out to left to put Atlanta up 3-0. Myers struck out Casey Kotchman for the first out, bringing Jordan Schafer to the plate. Schafer was making his major league debut, but Myers quickly got behind 2-0 before throwing a 3-1 pitch in a terrible spot in the middle of the plate. Schafer crushed it out to center and it was 4-0. Myers got the next two.

Yunel Escobar led off the third and bombed a 1-0 pitch high off the wall in center for a double. Myers did a nice job to leave him stranded, though. He struck out Chipper for the first out and got McCann to foul out to Feliz for the second. Anderson grounded to third to set the Braves down.

Impressive job by Myers to keep Atlanta off the board, especially with Chipper and McCann looking to drive Escobar in. Those guys have killed Myers over his career and got him in the first.

Myers got the first two in the fourth before Schafer singled up the middle. Lowe was next and he lined a ball into the gap in right-center, but Werth tracked it down to end the frame.

Myers got the first two in the fifth before Chipper drove a ball to the left of Victorino. Victorino made a long run, but the ball went just over the end of his glove and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. Myers struck McCann out on three pitches to turn Atlanta away.

Anderson led off the sixth and chopped a ball off the glove of Myers that bounded away from Utley for a single. Francoeur was next and hit a ball hard to third. Feliz didn’t field it cleanly and had to go to first for the first out with Anderson moving to second. Kotchman was next and hit a soft ground ball to second for the second out. It moved Anderson to third with two down and Myers walked Schafer intentionally to bring up the pitcher Derek Lowe. Lowe tried to bunt Myers’ first pitch but popped it up foul. Myers got ahead 0-2 and struck Lowe out looking 3-2 to leave the runners stranded.

Jack Taschner made his Phillies debut in the seventh against the top of the Atlanta order. He got the first two, with Escobar grounding hard to Utley for the second out, before striking Chipper out looking to end the frame.

Scott Eyre started the eighth with the Phils still down 4-0. McCann led off the inning and Eyre got behind him 3-0, but came back to strike him out for the first out. McCann’s fellow lefty Anderson was next and flew to left for the second out. Durbin came in to pitch to the righty Francoeur and struck him out looking 1-2 for the third out.

Lidge started the ninth in a non-save situation with the Phils not scheduled to play today and set the Braves down 1-2-3. After Lidge got the first two, Greg Norton hit for Lowe. Lowe had allowed two hits through eight innings and hadn’t walked a batter. He had thrown 97 pitches.

Great game for the Phillies bullpen. They went three innings without allowing a hit or a walk. Taschner threw 17 pitches and everyone else was ten or less the day before an off-day.

The Phillies lineup against righty Derek Lowe went (1) Rollins (2) Werth (3) Utley (4) Howard (5) Ibanez (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Three lefties in a row in Manuel’s lineup three through five. I think we’ll likely see Werth moving down to break up the lefties and Victorino hitting second before too long. Victorino had a weak spring and I wonder if that was a factor. Coste almost always catches Myers, or at least he did in 2008 (Coste caught about 77% of the hitters Myers faced last season).

The Phils went 1-2-3 in the first. Utley flew to the warning track in right for the third out.

Howard struck out to start the second. Ibanez was next, getting his first at-bat as a Phillie, and grounded to short. Victorino grounded to short to end the inning.

Feliz popped to Johnson in shallow center for the first out of the third. Ruiz was next and popped the first pitch of his at-bat down the first base line. Francoeur and Johnson both went after it near the foul line, but Francoeur had the ball go off his glove in foul territory. It gave Ruiz new life and he took advantage of it, doubling down the third base line for the first hit of the year for the Phils (looked foul to me). The Phils couldn’t bring him in, though, Myers grounded to short and Rollins flew softly to left.

Lowe got Werth, Utley and Howard on three ground balls in the fourth.

Ibanez slapped another ground ball to short for the first out in the fifth. Lowe struck out Victorino and Feliz to end the inning.

Ruiz grounded to short for the first out in the sixth. Dobbs hit for Myers and drove a ball to the warning track in right, but Francoeur took it for the second out. Rollins was next and he singled up the middle for just the Phils’ second hit of the night. Werth lined a 2-2 pitch back up the middle, but Lowe snared it for the third out.

Dobbs, Rollins and Werth all hit the ball well in that frame, with three big lefties due to hit behind them. Just one hit, though, with Dobbs flying out and Lowe putting Werth away.

Lowe set Utley, Howard and Ibanez down on six pitches in the seventh.

He needed just eight pitches to set the Phils down in order in the eighth. Victorino and Ruiz both swung at the first pitch and grounded out.

Lefty Mike Gonzalez started the ninth with a four-run lead. Bruntlett hit for Lidge and hit a 1-2 pitch into the left-field corner for a double. Rollins flew to right for the first out, deep enough to move Bruntlett to third. Werth was next and he smashed a single into left, scoring Bruntlett to cut the Atlanta lead to 4-1. Utley walked on a 3-1 pitch that was way outside and it brought Howard to the plate as the tying run. Howard took a 2-2 pitch just low to run the count full, but struck out looking at a 3-2 fastball that had a lot of the plate for the second out. Ibanez waived at a 3-1 slider that was out of the zone and then struck out swinging at a fastball to end the game.

Had Bruntlett not ripped a double, there would be much lamenting the right-handed pinch-hitting options for the Phils. Bruntlett, Cairo and Coste just isn’t an especially impressive group offensively and that’s going to be a problem all season long (even if it wasn’t last night).

Rollins was 1-for-4.

Werth 1-for-4 with an RBI.

Utley 0-for-3 with a walk.

Howard 0-for-4 and struck out twice.

Ibanez 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

Victorino 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

Feliz 0-for-3 and struck out twice.

Ruiz 1-for-3 with a double.

No game today. The Phils and Braves play again tomorrow night.

Update: The Start Log is now updated for last night’s game. By the game score of the opposing pitcher, I believe that Lowe’s outing last night was the best against the Phillies since the end of the 2006 season with the exception of Rich Harden’s start against them on June 26, 2008. Oakland beat the Phils 5-0 that day and Harden had a game score of 88 (Lowe 82 last night). Harden allowed two singles, both to Victorino, and struck out 11 (he walked one).


Left doubt

Off the Mets now and on to the lineup and whether or not it’s a big deal that the Phils hit Utley and Howard back-to-back as well as the general problem with the lack of right-handed hitters on the team. Three related points coming in this and upcoming posts: 1) (today!) Utley and Howard get a higher percentage of their plate appearances against left-handed pitching than many of the other elite left-handed hitters in baseball 2) this is a bigger deal for Howard than it is for Utley and 3) whether it’s because they hit back-to-back or not, in 2008 Utley and Howard both had numbers against relief pitchers that were a) bad and b) worse than they had been in recent years.

Pretty much I’m thinking that a lineup that goes Utley-Howard-Ibanez 3-4-5 isn’t the way to go (or the way the Phillies will go).

Today’s point is that Utley and Howard get more of their plate appearances against left-handed hitting than many of the other best left-handed hitters in baseball.

In 2008, Howard and Utley each got about 38% of their plate appearances against left-handed pitching. By OPS, Utley was the best left-handed hitter (.915) in the NL in ’08 and Howard was fifth best (.881). If you compare the percentage of their plate appearances that came against lefties for 2008 to the percentage of plate appearances that came against lefties for the four other top hitters in the NL, Utley and Howard faced lefties more often.

The chart below presents, for the six left-handed NL hitters with at least 500 plate appearances in 2008 who posted the best OPS, the percentage of their plate appearances that have come against left-handed pitchers in 2008 and in ’06 and ’07:

nlvleft.jpg

In 2006, Adam Dunn got 32.8% of his plate appearances against lefties while Howard got 32.0% of his plate appearances against lefties. Since then, though, none of the rest of the group has gotten as high a percentage of their plate appearances against lefties. That adds up to a lot of plate appearances. Brian McCann, for example, has had 1,617 total plate appearances over the past three years and 480 (29.7%) have come against lefties. Utley has had 2,059 total plate appearances and 752 of them, 36.5%, of them have come against lefties. So Utley has had 442 more total plate appearances, but 272 of them have come against left-handed pitching.

Utley and Howard are also getting a higher percentage of their plate appearances against lefties than the top left-handed hitters in the American League. By OPS, here are the top six left-handed hitters in the AL from 2008 and the percentage of their plate appearances that have come against lefties over the past three years:

alvleft.jpg

The highest mark for that group for the last three years is the 35.5% of Justin Morneau’s plate appearances that came against left-handed pitchers in 2008. Utley and Howard have both faced a higher percentage of lefties in each of the last two seasons.

It should also be noted that, like Utley and Howard, in 2008 Morneau hit almost exclusively behind another very good left-handed hitter. The Twins lineup regularly featured Joe Mauer hitting third and Morneau in the cleanup slot.

Interesting Q&A with Pat Gillick here in which he suggests the Phillies might have been willing to bring Burrell back but the length of the contract that Burrell was looking for was a problem. I also find it fascinating given how regularly Gillick wins the World Series that when asked why he pushed for the Ibanez signing the first thing he mentions is that Ibanez will be a positive influence in the clubhouse. Gillick also suggests that Ibanez may hit for more power at Citizens Bank Park and that he hits left-handed pitching well.

In this article, Charlie Manuel says that Ibanez has hit lefties well for the last few years. Ibanez smoked lefties to the tune of 305/368/497 in 2008, but hit 256/294/356 against them in 2007 and 243/301/362 against them in ’06.

This article says that Feliz hasn’t swung a bat since his surgery in November. Also says that Feliz expects to be ready for the start of the season.


Papa don’t preach, but try to get Howard up late with somebody on base

On June 16, 1986, Jamie Moyer made his major league debut for the Chicago Cubs. Pitching against the Phillies and Steve Carlton, Moyer was hit hard but got the win. He allowed five runs over 6 1/3, taking a 7-2 lead into the seventh before the Phils scored three times in the inning to make the game close. James Parr was four months old.

Twenty-two years later Moyer is still on the mound and Parr has learned to walk. They pitched against each other last night. Neither of them pitched well, but Moyer had an advantage that Parr didn’t: All of the sudden his team refuses to lose.

The Phils went into the seventh in Atlanta down 7-4 and cut the lead to 7-6 with a pair of runs. In the eighth a two-run blast by Howard put them on top to stay.

Not without some drama, though. After Madson cruised through the bottom of the eighth, Lidge took the mound in the bottom of the ninth clinging to a one-run lead. If Lidge doesn’t get another out this season he’s already done more than enough for the Phils, but he brought to this game a look in his eye that we haven’t seen a whole lot of this season. I’m pretty sure it was holy-crap-how-am-I-gonna-get-anybody-out-with-this-slop. Lidge tried throwing a whole bunch of sliders out of the strike zone for a while and it didn’t work real well. He walked the bases loaded before striking out Gregor Blanco to end the game.

Despite the fantastic outcome for the Phils, it’s hard to ignore Burrell’s night. 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. Seemed worse than that somehow, though. It was a little tough not to notice with Burrell hitting fifth and Werth and Howard in the three and four spots combining to go 7-for-9 with a walk, a triple, two home runs and five RBI.

The Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves last night, winning 8-7 to improve to 84-67 on the season. Seventeen games above .500 is the best mark of the season for the Phils. They have won five in a row. They lead the NL East by a half game.

Moyer got the start for the Phillies and went 5 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on six hits and four walks. All of the hits were singles and he struck out six.

Moyer walked Chipper Jones with two outs in the first, but Brian McCann grounded out to Rollins on the right side of second base with the big shift to end the inning.

Omar Infante started the second with a single. Casey Kotchman was next and grounded to second with Infante forced at second for the first out. Jeff Francoeur flew to center for the second out before Moyer got Brent Lillibridge swinging for the third out.

He started the third up 3-0. He struck out the pitcher Parr to start the inning, but hit Josh Anderson. With Martin Prado at the plate, Anderson took off for second on a pitch in the dirt. Ruiz threw to second and they may have had Anderson, but Rollins dropped the ball. Moyer walked Prado and Chipper singled into left, loading the bases. McCann was next and he singled into center and everyone moved up a base. Anderson scored to cut the lead to 3-1. Moyer struck out Infante for the second out. With the bases still loaded, Kotchman laced the first pitch of his at-bat into center for a single. Prado and Jones both scored, with Chipper sliding in just safe ahead of the tag from Ruiz, to tie the game at 3-3. Francoeur flew to right to leave the runners stranded at first and third.

Moyer threw a 1-2-3 fourth with the Phils up 4-3.

With two outs in the fifth, McCann bunted for a single against the big shift. Moyer struck out Infante again to end the inning.

Francoeur singled with one out in the sixth. Moyer then walked Lillibridge and pinch-hitter Greg Norton, who was pinch-hitting for the pitcher Buddy Carlyle. Anderson was next and got ahead 3-1 and hit a ball hard to first, but Howard took it and went to first for the second out as Francoeur scored to tie the game at 4-4. Nice play by Howard. Durbin came in to pitch to Prado and lefty Kelly Johnson hit for Prado with two outs and men on second and third. Johnson hit an 0-1 pitch back through the middle just out of the reach of Rollins for a two-run single. 6-4. Johnson went to second as the throw came home, but it hit the mound and there was no play at the plate. Durbin walked Chipper intentionally. Eyre came in to pitch to the lefty McCann and McCann singled into center. Johnson scored without a throw to make it 7-4. Infante grounded to short for the third out.

Miserable inning for all three Phillies pitchers. Moyer lost his control and Durbin and Eyre both gave up big hits. The Braves scored four runs in the frame without an extra-base hit (they didn’t have one in the game).

Madson threw a 1-2-3 seventh. He came back to throw a 1-2-3 eighth with the Phillies down 7-6.

Lidge entered in the ninth to protect an 8-7 lead and walked Chipper on four pitches to start the inning. McCann was next and popped a 3-2 pitch up to Utley for the first out. With Jones on the move, Infante smashed a ball to third but right at Feliz. Feliz threw to first for the second out with Jones going to second. Kotchman walked on five pitches to put men on first and second. Francoeur was next and worked the count full, then fouled off four pitches in a row before drawing a walk that loaded the bases and brought up Gregor Blanco. Lidge quickly got ahead of Blanco 0-2 before delivering a pitch in the dirt. Blanco tried to hold up and the third base ump ruled he checked his swing (looked like he went around to me). Lidge delivered another ball to make it 2-2 before Blanco went down swinging to end the game.

Lidge labored badly, needing 33 pitches to get through the inning. He seemed to use his slider almost exclusively at the start of the inning. He tried to throw fastballs past Francoeur and just couldn’t do it as Francoeur fouled off four straight before drawing the walk. McCann just missed the pitch he popped up to Utley and Infante smashed the ball to third but right at Feliz.

Great to see him get through the inning and it’s a big win for the Phils. But there’s a lot of reason for concern when it comes to the pen. Durbin and Eyre were both ineffective again. Madson pitched great, giving the Phils a 1-2-3 seventh down three runs and a 1-2-3 eighth up by one. Madson hasn’t been charged with a run over his last eight appearances.

Overall the pen went 3 1/3 innings and was charged with a run on two hits and four walks. Durbin allowed a two-run single to Johnson in the sixth and the runs were charged to Moyer. Lidge threw 33 pitches, Madson 22, Durbin and Eyre six each. Phils should try to let someone besides Lidge close tonight.

Romero didn’t appear in the game. Manuel may have thought the sixth was too early to bring him in to pitch to McCann. Romero has pitched just two innings in September — I’d be surprised if the reason for that is that he’s feeling fine and Manuel doesn’t want to use him.

The Phillies’ lineup against righty James Parr went (1) Rollins (2) Utley (3) Werth (4) Howard (5) Burrell (6) Victorino (7) Feliz (8) Ruiz. Werth drops to third in the lineup with Utley up to second. Feliz at third with Dobbs on the bench. Ruiz catches.

Rollins led off the first with a single, but the Phillies went in order behind him.

Victorino singled to right with one out in the second, but Feliz and Ruiz both flew out behind him.

Rollins and Utley doubled back-to-back with one out in the third. Rollins scored to put the Phils up 1-0. Werth was next and hit a 3-2 pitch out to left, scoring Utley to put the Phils up 3-0. Howard followed with a single before Burrell struck out for the second out. Victorino followed with a double to right, but Howard was thrown out at the plate (by a lot) to end the frame.

Ruiz hit a 2-1 pitch out to left with one out in the fourth, putting the Phillies up 4-3. Moyer and Rollins went down behind him.

Werth and Howard singled back-to-back with one out in the fifth. It put men on first and second for Burrell, who struck out for his third time in three at-bats. Victorino grounded to first for the third out.

Ruiz walked with one out in the sixth and Moyer bunted him to second. Rollins struck out swinging to leave him stranded with the Phils up 4-3.

The Phils started the seventh down 7-4. Werth singled with one out and scored when Howard followed and drove a ball to left that Infante played badly, turning it into a triple. 7-5. Burrell struck out again for the second out, but Victorino picked him up with a single into right. Howard scored and it was 7-6. Feliz followed with a ground ball to short. Lillibridge fielded but mis-flipped to second and everyone was safe. Dobbs hit for Ruiz with righty Jeff Bennett on the mound and walked to load the bases. Stairs hit for Eyre and ripped a ball down the left field line but just foul before he grounded to first to end the frame.

Awful, awful game for the struggling Burrell. But that was the worst of it, striking out with a man on third in the seventh with one out. Huge hit for Victorino. Howard overshadowed himself with the home run in the eighth, but the RBI-triple in the seventh and the defensive play he made on Anderson in the sixth were also both critical in the game.

Still down a run, Werth walked with two outs in the eighth. Lefty Mike Gonzalez came in to pitch to Howard and Howard hit a 3-2 pitch out to left to put the Phils up 8-7. Burrell struck out for the third out.

Feliz walked with one out in the ninth. Coste struck out for the second out before Jenkins hit for Madson and struck out to leave Feliz stranded.

Rollins 2-for-5 with a double.

Utley 1-for-5 with a double and an RBI. He’s hitting 255/328/353 in September.

Werth had a huge game that nobody will remember cause of Howard and Lidge. 3-for-4 with a walk and a two-run homer.

Howard 4-for-5 with a triple, his 45th home run and three RBI. Two big hits late in the game and a nice play at first in the sixth.

Burrell 0-for-5 and struck out five times. Slumping terribly, but had shown some signs of breaking out of it against the Brewers.

Victorino 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. Picked up Burrell with a huge hit in the seventh.

Feliz 0-for-4. 2-for-his-last-13. After slugging .290 in August, Feliz is slugging .290 in September. He has two extra-base hits since July 19 (75 at-bats).

Ruiz 1-for-2 with his fourth home run of the year and a walk.

JA Happ (0-0, 5.71) faces righty Jair Jurrjens (13-9, 3.62) tonight. Jurrjens has thrown to a 4.68 ERA with a 1.47 ratio in his 11 starts since the All-Star break. He has allowed just 11 home runs in 176 1/3 innings on the season. Feliz is 3-for-3 with a home run against him this season. Happ gets the nod over Kendrick for the Phils. He’ll be making his third start of the season. Among the 53 NL players who have thrown at least 140 innings this season, Kendrick’s 5.44 ERA is 51st (doesn’t count last night’s games). Since the end of July, Kendrick has made seven starts and allowed 29 earned runs in 29 innings (9.00 ERA). He hasn’t gone five innings in either of his last two starts and hasn’t gone six innings in any of his last six.


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