Tag: Mike Koplove

Jack and Giles

The biggest news of the past three days is that the Phils traded Ronny Paulino to the Giants for left-handed pitcher Jack Taschner. The Giants then traded Paulino to the Marlins.

The Phillies also released Brian Giles and sent John Mayberry and Carlos Carrasco to minor league camp. The linked article also says that Mike Koplove and Pablo Ozuna will not make the opening day roster.

I’m not a fan of the Paulino trade. I’d rather have Paulino than Taschner and would have liked to see the Phils give Happ a chance to pitch out of the pen to start the year. I would love to see it happen, but it’s hard to imagine that Taschner is going to make a significant positive contribution to the Phils this year. Despite a miserable spring, I have much less trouble imaging Paulino help a team this season.

In terms of the Phillies opening day roster, I think it leaves us with 12 hitters surely on the team: Howard, Utley, Rollins, Feliz, Ruiz, Coste, Ibanez, Victorino, Werth, Bruntlett, Jenkins and Dobbs.

Jenkins is the guy who is questionable on that list, but I would be surprised to see the Phillies trade or release him.

That leaves Stairs and Cairo as the 13th and maybe the 14th hitter if the Phils carry 14. Stairs still seems to be a candidate for a trade, but it hasn’t happened yet.

These ten pitchers seem sure to be on the team: Hamels, Blanton, Myers, Moyer, Park, Madson, Condrey, Eyre, Durbin and Lidge. Taschner, Happ and Majewski look like the guys that will fill out the staff. I would say that the chances are good that Taschner will make the team given his contract — I think that would be a mistake, though, and hope the Phils send him down to start the year. Assuming they don’t, it would seemingly leave Happ and Majewski both out if the Phils carry both Stairs and Cairo at the start of the season.

The Phillies have played three games since the last post. After going 1-2 they are 11-16 this spring.

Yesterday they pounded the Astros 13-3. Park got the start and allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings on six hits and a walk. Only one of the runs was earned and he struck out seven. In 21 1/3 innings this spring, Park has a 2.53 ERA and a 1.03 ratio. He has struck out 25 and walked two. Really he has. Condrey and Koplove both tossed scoreless innings as well.

The Phillies got home runs from Ruiz, Rollins, Bruntlett and Howard in the game. Bruntlett was 3-for-4 with four RBI and is hitting .364. Ruiz was 1-for-4 and is hitting .367. Rollins went 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .280. Ibanez 1-for-1 with two walks.

Sunday Boston topped the Phils 3-1.

Blanton pitched very well, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings. Chris Carter hit a solo home run off of him in the second, but the other three hits went for singles. Durbin allowed a run in the eighth to raise his spring ERA to 1.69. Madson kept the Red Sox off the board in the ninth to drop his ERA to 2.19.

A walk to Howard in the third forced in Rollins for the Phillies’ only run of the game. Ibanez went 3-for-4 in the game to raise his average to .290.

On Saturday the Pirates beat the Phillies 10-4.

Moyer got the start and got blasted, charged with seven runs over 5 2/3 innings on 11 hits and a walk. He struck out seven but gave up six extra-base hits, five doubles and a home run. His spring ERA raised to 5.40. Majewski threw a scoreless seventh to drop his ERA to 3.00. Lidge allowed a three-run homer to Garrett Jones in the eighth.

Ruiz had a double and a two-run homer. Howard hit a solo shot, his eighth of the spring.

Happ also pitched in a minor league game on Saturday morning and allowed five runs over 5 1/3 innings.

Cole Hamels will not start opening day.

Chan Ho Park didn’t go with whatever’s-best-for-the-team when asked if he would be upset if didn’t win the fifth starter spot. Park has been outstanding this spring and outpitched the other players who were said to be competing for the job.

The Phillies play the Blue Jays tonight with Brett Myers expected to pitch.

Francisco Rodriguez and Brad Lidge won’t both win the Rolaids Relief Man Award this season. You can follow the leaderboard here.

Update: The Phillies released Geoff Jenkins. So I guess I’m surprised.

More update: Chan Ho Park has won the fifth starter job.


2009 one last time

We won’t have to wait that much longer to actually see who’s going to be on the Phillies opening day roster, so here’s my final guess.

Still looks like ten hitters we know for sure are on the squad:


Player

Position
1
Ryan Howard

1B
2 Chase Utley
2B
3
Jimmy Rollins

SS
4
Pedro Feliz

3B
5
Shane Victorino

OF
6
Jayson Werth

OF
7
Raul Ibanez

OF
8
OF
9
Carlos Ruiz
C
10 C
11
Eric Bruntlett

UT
12
Greg Dobbs

3B/OF
13
UT
14

Assuming the Phils start the year with 13 hitters, which I think they will, there are three spots left. One has to go to a catcher and another to a fourth outfielder.

The top candidates for the three spots look to include Marcus Giles, Miguel Cairo, Pablo Ozuna, Ronny Paulino, Chris Coste, John Mayberry, Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins.

Of the three spots, one has to go to either Paulino or Coste. Jenkins is a strong front-runner for the second. I think Jenkins is on the team as the fourth outfielder, partly because he’s harder to trade than Stairs because of his contract. He is also far better defensively.

One of Coste or Paulino has to make the team as the second catcher along with Ruiz. Both can be sent to the minors if they’re still in the organization when the season starts and both have been awful this spring. Paulino has hit just 185/267/333 in 27 at-bats. Coste has been slowed by injury and gone just 2-for-18 (.111) with two singles.

I’ve been saying all along that I thought Paulino would make the team. He has gotten a big chance this spring and done nothing with it. Multiple reports, including this one, suggest the Phillies are looking to trade Paulino. The linked article suggests Robert Andino as possible fruit of a Paulino trade. Ew. I would be a little surprised to see Paulino traded, I’ve been assuming Coste is the guy they want to trade. I’m going to flip on this one nonetheless and guess Coste at this point.

That leaves one spot for Cairo, Ozuna, Paulino, Giles, Mayberry or Stairs. I don’t think the Phils will keep three catchers, especially given how badly Paulino has hit this spring. Giles also got a chance, but he has hit just 182/289/273 in 33 at-bats this spring. Despite his solid 279/323/525 line this spring, I think Mayberry is going to the minors. His .323 on-base percentage shouldn’t be overlooked, given that his career on-base percentage in the minors is .330.

I would be more surprised to see the Phils keep Ozuna than Cairo. Ozuna has actually outhit Cairo. Pablo has been on fire this spring and put up a 364/432/455 line in 33 at-bats compared to an also impressive 302/348/535 line for Cairo over 43 at-bats. My guess is if it’s one or the other it will be Cairo rather than Ozuna, mostly just based on the fact that the Phils have given Cairo more time this spring.

That leaves Stairs. I would guess that he will not be with the organization when the season starts. If he is, though, he’s on the team, either in the spot I just gave to Cairo or as the 14th hitter with the Phils going with 11 pitchers.

Ten of the Phillies pitching spots are likely to be filled by these guys:


Player

Position
1
Cole Hamels (left)

SP
2
Brett Myers (right)

SP
3
Joe Blanton (right)

SP
4
Jamie Moyer (left)

SP
5
SP
6
Ryan Madson (right)
 RP
7
Chan Ho Park (right)

SP/RP
8
Clay Condrey (right)

RP
9
Scott Eyre (left)

RP
10
Chad Durbin (right)

RP
11  
RP
12
Brad Lidge (right)

CLOSER

In part because of the minor injury problems with Hamels and Park, I think the Phillies will go with 12 pitchers to start the season despite having three off-days before they play their eighth came of the season. Especially with Hamels having been unable to work up his pitch counts, I think the Phils will want to carry seven relievers.

I think Park won the fifth starter’s job this spring. I think Happ is still on the team to pitch out of the pen as the second lefty. That assumes the Phillies do not add another lefty before the start of the season.

That leaves one spot, assuming the Phils carry 12 pitchers. I think that goes to Majewski or Koplove and both have been very good this spring. Majewski has a 3.27 ERA and a 1.27 ratio in 11 innings. Koplove has pitched less, just 6 1/3 innings, but thrown to a 1.42 ERA with a 1.11 ratio. I think it’s interesting that Majewkski has thrown significantly more innings than Koplove, which may mean the Phils are leaning that way. I think Koplove has a better chance to make a significant positive contribution this season, though, so that’s the way I’ll guess.

That slot seems like it would be the one to go if the Phils carried just 11 pitchers, presumably with Stairs being the 14th hitter. The other issue is that if Stairs does get traded, the deal may bring in a player that will start the year with the team and take up a roster spot. That move would also presumably knock off Majewski or Koplove. It could also knock off Happ for the first few games of the season if he proved to be the winner of the fifth starter competition rather than a guy who will pitch out of the pen.

Here’s my guess then:

Hitters (13): Howard, Utley, Rollins, Feliz, Ibanez, Victorino, Werth, Ruiz, Bruntlett, Dobbs, Jenkins, Coste, Cairo.

Pitchers (12): Hamels, Myers, Blanton, Moyer, Park, Madson, Happ, Condrey, Eyre, Durbin, Koplove, Lidge.

The Phillies did not play yesterday. They play the Yankees today with Carlos Carrasco expected to pitch.

Philliesflow still has a Twitter page.


Can’t tell the players without a program (and they sometimes look kind of similar even with a program)

For bullpen candidates Dave Borkowski, Gary Majewski and Mike Koplove, here’s the percentage of hitters over their careers who have struck out, walked or been hit by a pitch, hit a fly ball, ground ball, line drive or bunted:

gbfb.jpg

Majewski has actually had a higher percentage of the batters he’s faced hit ground balls than Koplove. He’s also struck people out less regularly than Koplove (and walked them less frequently), though, and the rate at which he’s given up fly balls is much higher than the rate for Koplove. If you look just at the batters that don’t walk or strike out, Koplove’s ground ball rate is a little better. Of the batters they’ve faced that did not walk or strike out, Koplove has gotten 51.7% of those batters to hit a ground ball while Majewski has gotten 49.4% of them to hit a ground ball.

Still, though, when you factor in all of the hitters, Majewski has been more likely to get a hitter to hit the ball on the ground than Koplove over his career.

Here’s what right-handed batters have done against the three over their careers:

bmkvsr.jpg

Koplove clearly has the best numbers against righties of the group.

Here’s what they’ve done against lefties:

bkmvl.jpg

The average and slugging are still impressive for Koplove against lefties, but the on-base percentage takes a huge hit. Over his career, Koplove has faced 620 right-handed hitters and walked just 26 of them — that’s about 4.2%. He’s walked 77 of the 465 left-handed hitters he’s faced, which is about 16.6%. That’s too many.

Lefties have hit 294/385/472 against Borkowski over his career, which makes him tough to use against left-handed batters.

Oddly, by OPS, Majewski has been a little better against lefties than righties over his career. Righties have hit 309/368/438 (.806 OPS) against him while lefties have hit 291/367/420 against him (.787). Of the three he has also faced lefties with the least regularity — 40.5% of the hitters he’s faced have been left-handed compared to 42.9% for Koplove and 44.3% for Borkowski.

Yesterday the Phils and Blue Jays played to a 7-7 tie. The Phils are 7-10 with one tie in spring training.

Happ got the start and went four innings, allowing three runs on three hits and a walk. Happ gave up two home runs in the game, a two-run shot Brad Emaus and a solo homer to Jason Lane. Majewski followed Happ and threw two innings, allowing a run on two hits and a walk to raise his spring ERA to 2.00. The Phillies led 7-4 to start the top of the ninth, but Joe Bisenius gave up three runs in the frame.

Jayson Werth broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the seventh with a three-run homer. He was 2-for-4 on the day and is hitting .357 this spring. Cairo went 0-for-5 to drop his average to .303. Donald 0-for-1. Coste 0-for-2 with two strikeouts and was twice hit by a pitch. He’s 0-for-8 in spring training. Paulino is hitting .200 after going 0-for-3. Mayberry went 1-for-3 with a single.

The Phillies play the Marlins today.

The Phillies have three off-days between their first game of the regular season and their eighth game of the regular season. All that rest could allow them to carry just 11 pitchers to start the year, a possibility Manuel talks about here.

Roundtable discussion of Phillies bloggers at We Should be GM’s.


Ski trip

Chan Ho Park has been impressive in the battle for the fifth starter job so far this spring. If he were to win the job it would open another spot in the bullpen and righties Mike Koplove, Gary Majewski and Dave Borkowski would be among the top contenders for the opening.

That’s a lot of skis and it can be tough to tell them apart.

Majewski is 29-years-old. Koplove and Borkowski are both 32.

Koplove basically hasn’t pitched in the majors in the last three years, throwing just nine innings. Borkowski and Majewski have both thrown at least 23 innings in each of the past three seasons.

Borkowski has started 21 games in his career. His most recent start came in 2004. Majewski and Koplove have only worked in relief.

All three have been very good in spring training so far. Here are their numbers:

 
G

IP

ER

H

BB

SO

ERA

Ratio

Borkowski
5
5.0
0 2 3 4
0.00

1.00

Koplove
4
4.0
0 1 1 5
0.00

0.50

Majewski
4
7.0
1 5 1 6
1.29

0.86

And here are the career numbers for the three pitchers:

 
G

IP

ERA

Ratio

H/9

BB/9

SO/9

Borkowski

181

346.3

5.87

1.56

10.19

3.85

6.89

Koplove

222

254.7

3.82

1.31

8.16

3.64

6.18

Majewski

229

240.3

4.61

1.58

10.90

3.33

5.32

Koplove has the best career numbers, but he’s hardly pitched in the majors over the past three seasons. Here’s is what the three have done over the past three years:

 
G

IP

ERA

Ratio

H/9

BB/9

SO/9

Borkowski

130

178.7

5.44

1.52

10.07

3.58

7.00

Koplove
7
9.00

5.00

1.67

11.00

4.00

5.00

Majewski

134

133.3

5.81

1.73

12.35

3.17

5.40

All three have some ugly numbers. Advantage Koplove, though, for not pitching much. He didn’t pitch at all in 2008 and threw six innings for the Indians in ’07 and three for Arizona in ’06.

Here’s what opposing batters have done against them over their careers:

  PA AVG OBP SLG % H % BB % SO % XBH %HR
Borkowski 1564 .285 .357 .469 25.1 9.5 16.9 9.4 3.1
Koplove 1085 .246 .331 .359 21.3 9.5 16.1 5.7 1.8
Majewski 1092 .302 .367 .430 26.6 8.2 13.0 7.6 1.6

Despite being about three years older than Majewski, Koplove has faced about the same number of hitters over his career.

Majewski has issued walks less regularly than Koplove or Borkowski over his career, but has also struck batters out at a lower rate. Borkowski, who has spent the last three years pitching in Houston, has allowed extra-base hits and home runs at a much higher rate than the other two.

Borkowski has pitched seven seasons and never posted an ERA+ of 100 or better.

Majewski was solid in 2004 and 2005, throwing 107 innings with a 3.11 ERA and a 1.40 ratio. He has struggled since, throwing to a 7.14 ERA over the past two seasons after an uninspired 2006. .302 is a lot for opponents to hit against you over your career — it’s a little worrisome when your ratio is 1.40 when you’re at your best.

Koplove was effective from 2001 through 2004. He threw 196 innings for Arizona, pitching to a 3.44 ERA and a 1.28 ratio in those years combined. He was hit hard in 2005, putting up a 5.07 ERA and hasn’t pitched more than six innings in a season since.

Yesterday the Phils beat the Reds 8-1 to improve to 7-10 in spring training.

Myers was fantastic. He went 5 2/3 shutout innings. He allowed four hits and didn’t walk a batter. He struck out seven. Borkowski finished off the sixth for him, walking a batter before getting a strikeout to end the inning. Durbin and Condrey each pitched a scoreless frame to keep their spring ERAs at 0.00.

Mayberry had two more hits, going 2-for-5 with a double. Ozuna 1-for-1 with an RBI. Cairo 0-for-1. Giles’s average is down to .143 after an 0-for-2. Ibanez was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. Stairs was 1-for-4 with a double and three RBI.

The Phillies play the Blue Jays this afternoon. JA Happ is expected to pitch.

Team USA eliminated Puerto Rico last night with a dramatic win in the World Baseball Classic. Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Victorino started the inning with a single off of JC Romero. Brian Roberts moved Victorino to second with another single off Romero. Romero got Derek Jeter to fly out for the first out before walking Jimmy Rollins to load the bases with one down and the US team down by two runs. Fernando Cabrera replaced Romero and walked Kevin Youkilis to force in a run. 5-4 with the bases still loaded. David Wright singled to right, scoring Roberts and Rollins and giving the US a 6-5 win.

Rollins was 0-for-2 with two walks in the game. Victorino 3-for-4 with an RBI. Romero went 2/3 of an inning for Puerto Rico and was charged with three runs on two hits and a walk. For the tournament, Romero made three appearances. In 2 2/3 innings he allowed three runs on four hits and a walk.

The US plays Venezuela tonight in a non-elimination game.

Mexico was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic with a 7-4 loss to Cuba on Monday night. Rodrigo Lopez did not pitch in the game. He made two appearances in the tournament, allowing a run over two innings on two hits and a walk.

Rich Dubee says it’s a long shot that Hamels will pitch on opening day. I would guess that Hamels isn’t a long shot in the same way that you and I are, though.

This offers encouraging news about Hamels’ elbow.


And not just that, but the hide-your-eyes per nine innings for Kendrick continues to skyrocket

Yesterday I mentioned that Chan Ho Park lowered his walk rate last year compared to his career numbers while pitching mostly in relief for LA. That’s a good sign, because overall relief pitchers tend to walk more hitters than starting pitcher.

Here’s how many walks per nine innings NL starters and relievers have issued over the past five seasons, along with the numbers for the Phillies:

bbper9.jpg

As you can see, the blue lines for the NL walk rates are pretty stable, with the relievers consistently walking more hitters than the starters. The lines for the Phillies flail about a little more. Phillies starters actually walked batters at a higher rate than their relievers in 2004 — that season the Phils relievers were outstanding at preventing walks, they had the third best rate in the NL, while the starting pitchers were closer to the league average.

Finally, the tremendous success of the 2008 bullpen wasn’t built on preventing walks. The ’08 pen actually walked batters at a rate slightly higher than the league average. They did manage to reduce the walk rate significantly from 2007, however.

Kyle Kendrick. Kyle Kendrick did not have a good day yesterday. He got bombed for the second straight outing as the Phils lost to the Braves 12-10. The Phillies are 4-7 in spring training.

Coming off a weak start on Friday where he was charged with four runs in 2 2/3 innings, Kendrick went three innings yesterday and allowed eight runs on ten hits and a walk. Over his last two starts he’s allowed 12 earned runs on 15 hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings. That’s a 19.06 ERA and a 2.82 ratio.

Yesterday Clint Sammons hit two home runs off of him, a two-run homer in the second and a solo shot in the fourth. Kendrick started the fourth down 4-1 and failed to retire any of the four batters he faced in the inning before being pulled.

Kendrick is likely to get three more starts in spring training. But if he ever was in the driver seat for the fifth starter job he’s knocked himself way, way out of it and into a deep hole. To have a chance now he’s going to have to pitch a whole lot better than he has been and he’s also going to need Happ and Park, especially Park, to pitch worse.

Assuming that doesn’t happen, with Eyre as the sole lefty in the pen, unless the Phillies add another left-handed reliever before the start of the season I think Happ goes to the pen. That would make Park the fifth starter and open another (Park’s) spot in the bullpen. Gary Majewski, Dave Borkowski and Mike Koplove look to me to be the prime contenders for the extra spot in the pen if one opened. All three pitchers in the group have pitched well, but Koplove is the favorite in my eyes if one them makes the team. Majewski and Borkowski both pitched yesterday. Majewski was charged with two runs on three hits in an inning (only one of the runs was earned) to put his ERA at 1.29. Borkowski allowed a hit in a scoreless eighth to keep his official spring ERA at 0.00 — he’s allowed two hits in 3 2/3 innings this spring without walking a batter. He also threw a perfect inning against Team Canada last Wednesday, which doesn’t count towards his official stats.

Koplove, meanwhile, did not pitch yesterday but has tossed three innings without allowing a run or a hit. He has walked one.

Offensively, Mayberry homered again for the Phillies. He hit a solo shot in the fourth off of Jo-Jo Reyes and finished the day 2-for-3. Donald had another fantastic day as well, going 3-for-4 to raise his spring average to .379. Giles 0-for-2 with a walk. Cairo was 1-for-2 with a solo homer in the ninth.

Team USA lost to Venezuela yesterday, 5-3. Rollins was 0-for-4 with a walk and Victorino 1-for-2. It’s on to round two for the US team. They will play Puerto Rico on Saturday. Venezuela plays the Netherlands, also on Saturday.

Mexico beat Australia 16-1. Harman went 0-for-2. Drew Naylor got one out and was charged with three runs on two hits and a walk. Rodrigo Lopez pitched for Mexico in relief. He threw a perfect 1 1/3 innings, striking out two. Australia was eliminated with the loss. Harman went 3-for-9 with three singles and a walk in their three games. Naylor’s only action came against Mexico. Mexico plays Cuba today to determine the winner of Pool B, but both teams will advance to the second round and play either Japan (today’s winner) or Korea (today’s loser).

Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands 5-0 to win Pool D. Romero did not pitch.

Manuel talks about the possibility of keeping a veteran like Stairs or Cairo and letting Donald and Mayberry start the year in the minors in this article.

Feliz, Lidge and Durbin all played in an intrasquad game yesterday. The linked article also says that Manuel thinks Utley will play in a game next week.

The Phillies play Tampa Bay this afternoon. Happ is expected to pitch.


Relief grief

The final point I’d like to make on Utley and Howard related to having them hitting back-to-back is that in 2008, both Utley and Howard didn’t fare well against relief pitching. This is a change from recent years when, by OPS, they had both put up very good numbers against relievers and numbers that were much closer to their overall OPS for the season.

There were 12 hitters that got at least 200 plate appearances for the Phillies in 2008. Of those, four put up a higher OPS in their plate appearances against relief pitchers than they did in their plate appearances against starting pitchers. Here they are, ordered by the difference between the OPS they put up against starters and relievers:

  Total vs Starter vs Reliever  
 
PA

OPS

PA

OPS

PA

OPS

Diff

Victorino
627
.799
409
.749
218
.892

.143

Rollins
625
.786
412
.744
213
.872

.128

Burrell
645
.875
424
.835
221
.955

.120

Ruiz
373
.620
221
.614
152
.628

.014

So by OPS, Ruiz was better against relief pitchers than he was against starting pitchers, but just by a tiny bit. Victorino at the top of the list was better against them also, but by a wider margin.

And then there’s a longer list of players who were better against starters. Here they are, again with the players with the largest difference between what they did against relievers and starters at the top:

  Total vs Starter vs Reliever  
 
PA

OPS

PA

OPS

PA

OPS

Diff

Utley

707

.915

470

.990

237

.763

.227

Howard

700

.881

445

.962

255

.737

.225

Bruntlett

238

.594

129

.684

109

.484

.200

Dobbs

240

.824

131

.904

109

.727

.177

Werth

482

.861

295

.927

187

.753

.174

Jenkins

322

.694

200

.745

122

.608

.137

Feliz

463

.705

266

.729

197

.672

.057

Coste

305

.748

171

.768

134

.722

.044

Utley and Howard are at the top of that list, and the difference in what they did against relievers and starters is larger than the difference for any of the players in either group.

Even while the difference between their total OPS and OPS against relievers is very large, it’s important to realize that Utley and Howard still hit relief pitching well compared to the other guys on the team. For example, they both have a bigger difference between their total OPS and OPS against relievers than Bruntlett, who hit a miserable 158/252/232 against relief pitching in ’08, but that’s because they had a lot further to drop. Utley’s .763 OPS against relievers is still better than anybody on the team except for three guys on the top list who hit relievers better than starters, Burrell, Rollins and Victorino.

The huge drop off in numbers against relievers in 2008 is something new for Utley and Howard.

Looking back at 2006 and 2007, in 2006 Utley was about as good against relievers as he was overall. In 2007 he put up an OPS against relief pitchers that was better than his OPS overall. But 2008 was a different story:

utleyvsrel.jpg

For Howard, his OPS against relievers wasn’t quite as good as his overall OPS in ’06 and ’07. But he was still hitting them hard, putting up an OPS of over .900 against relief pitching in both years. And then it dropped way down in 2008:

howardvsrel.jpg

All of Howard’s OPS-related numbers were down in 2008, but his numbers against relievers were down by even more.

The why of all this is the hard part. I don’t know. It’s tempting to suggest that the two lefties hitting back-to-back is the problem in that it allows a team to bring in its best left-handed reliever to deal with both of them. The problem with that is that the Phils hit Utley and Howard back-to-back in the three and four holes regularly in 2007 and both players pounded relief pitching.

I still think I’d be looking to put a right-handed hitter in-between Utley and Howard. I don’t think the Phillies will, though, based on what they’ve done in the past and the issues they have with the right-handed hitters in the lineup for 2009.

Utley says he likes the balance of the offense in terms of lefties, righties and switch-hitters. I agree that the three righties, three lefties and two switch-hitters is nice — I think the issue is that of the three righties, two of them (Feliz and Ruiz) are players whose value comes a lot from their defense rather than what they do with the bat.

This suggests that Utley could return to game action before the end of March.

Article about Mike Koplove’s ties to Philadelphia here.


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