Tag: Tom Gordon

Sigh of the tiger

Apparently you can put your Adam Eaton for Cy Young hats and party favors away. I don’t wanna be a stick-in-the-mud, but you might want to think about canceling that party altogether. After back-to-back solid spring starts, Eaton was hammered yesterday as the Phils dropped to 12-16 with a 14-5 loss to the Tigers in their final spring training game in Florida.

Eaton got the start and went 4 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and two walks. Six of the hits went for extra-bases, five doubles and a home run. He struck out one. Eaton came into spring training with a lot of people worried about his 6.29 ERA last season. His spring ERA puffed to 7.94 with yesterday’s outing. Of the ten pitchers sure to make the team, Eaton didn’t even have the worst day. Not even close, but more on that in a minute. Condrey followed Eaton and he was just fine. He gave up a single in 1 1/3 innings to drop his ERA to 4.05. Romero was next and he allowed a single in another scoreless frame. His ERA is a sparking 2.25.

Then came Flash. One out, six runs on three hits and three walks. Clete Thomas hit a two-run homer of him and Mike Hessman had a two-run double. The walks are almost as bad — three walks in a third of an inning isn’t the way to go, especially if you’re gonna have baseballs leaving the building at the rate Gordon has been. Gordon’s spring ERA is up to 12.38. 28-year-old righty Jason Anderson got the last two outs of the game but was charged with a run on two singles and a walk. The Phils signed Anderson to a minor league contract in May of last year and he pitched both Double and Triple-A, throwing to a combined 4.59 ERA with a 1.31 ratio in 64 2/3 innings. Anderson has appeared in 32 major league games in his career with the Yankees, Mets and Indians, throwing to a 6.39 ERA in 38 innings.

Pedro Feliz socked a three-run homer, his fifth of the spring. He was 1-for-4 on the day. Victorino had two singles in four at-bats to raise his average to .270. Helms 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Burrell 0-for-2 with two walks. Ruiz was 2-for-4 with another double, he’s hitting .372.

The Phils play the Blue Jays tonight in Citizens Bank Park and again tomorrow. Sunday they play Triple-A Lehigh Valley before opening against the Nationals in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon.

Brad Lidge pitched to a few hitters yesterday and only one of them homered.

If you’re willing to read about the details of the Phillies’ travel yesterday and Pat Gillick’s love of plane schedules, this article suggests that Chris Snelling has been put on waivers and that Wes Helms may be the 14th hitter. More on Snelling and waivers here. The Phillies will presumably have an eleventh pitcher, too. Might be JD Durbin if he clears waivers, but beyond that if you think you can pitch I wouldn’t wait another minute before giving the Phils a call. The bad news is that if you really could pitch the Phils would have called you by now.


Phils pitching looking more likely to run out of glass to break than emergencies

If the minor league stats or how-low-can-you-go strikeout rates don’t worry you when it comes to Kyle Kendrick, how ’bout a bad spring training start? Keeping with an early trend that has seen key Phils’ hurlers struggle early this spring, Kendrick took it to another level with a miserable outing against the Braves yesterday as the Phils fell to Atlanta, 10-1. With the loss the Phils are 3-3 in spring training.

Kendrick was pounded for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. He allowed nine hits, seven singles and two doubles, and walked a batter. Over his 20 career starts Kendrick has allowed more than eight hits in a start just once despite the fact he generally pitched deep into games — he went less than five innings just once.

The games won’t matter till they matter, but there are going to be a lot of people looking for signs of a Kendrick collapse. I don’t think a collapse is inevitable, but at the same time I don’t think it’s reasonable to count on Kendrick to put up his ’07 numbers again over 30-plus starts in 2008. The whole thing just has to make you nervous. The fact that he won’t turn 24 till August. The comparison of his minor league numbers to what he did in ’07. The .321/.379/.549 that lefties hit against him last season. Above all is the lack of options if he does struggle — the Phils have a weak rotation with a solid Kendrick. They’ve already had their emergency, already broken the glass and came up huge. But the well where you call up the 22-year-old from Double-A and he goes 10-4 with a 3.87 ERA in 20 starts isn’t one you want to count on going to very often.

Kendrick is going to get a lot of chances this season and he’s earned them. I don’t think the question is whether his ’08 numbers are going to be worse than his ’07 or not. It’s how much worse. And while a replication of his ’07 numbers seems unlikely, it’s important to remember that he could be significantly less effective in ’08 and still be the Phillies’ third best-starter.

In yesterday’s game, after Kendrick got hammered Rosario came in and was brilliant, which would have been the story of the day had it not been for the early innings run-the-bases day for the Braves. The out of options Rosario threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings, holding the Braves to two hits while striking out four. Vic Darensbourg followed with a scoreless frame before Gordon started the bottom of the eighth with the Phils down 7-1 and had another bad outing. He gave up three runs on three hits, including two doubles and a walk. Due to an error by Dobbs, only one of the runs was earned.

Dobbs’ error was one of three the Phillies made on the day.

Despite all the warning signs about Kendrick, if you only have time to worry about one guy and have to choose between Gordon and Kendrick, I don’t think you can go wrong with picking Gordon.

At the plate the Phils scored their only run on an RBI-single by Howard in the first. Victorino had two hits, including a double, which was the only extra-base hit for the Phils on the day. Bruntlett stayed hot with another hit in his lone at-bat, he’s hitting .467 early.

Split-squad action today against the Blue Jays and Tigers. This lists the Phils expected to pitch in each of the games.

This suggests that Kendrick’s outing yesterday wasn’t as bad as the numbers suggest.

Smoltz suggests Hamels “just pitch.”

Ruben Amaro says he thinks Randy Wolf didn’t want to play in Philadelphia in this article.


First in war, first in peace, and just about the last group of people on the planet to think Cristian Guzman should play every day

Chris Needham, who writes about the Nationals at the excellent blog Capitol Punishment, took the time to answer some questions as we head towards the start of the 2008 season.

Nationals Park is finally here. How do you expect it will play?

The dimensions are a lot smaller than RFK, but that’s not really telling us much, since RFK was so huge. On the surface, it looks like it’s going to be neutral, perhaps a slight pitcher’s park. Even if it is a slight pitcher’s park, that’s a pretty big offensive bump for the team. The wild card in all of it is going to be the wind. The stadium is just off the water and it has open concourses. If the wind passes through the stadium and jets out the outfield through the buildings beyond the walls, things could be dramatically different.

The Nats stated plan relies heavily around improving the minor league system and by all accounts they have been successful in doing so. If you look at the roster and count the young, excellent players, though, it’s not clear how long that list is beyond Milledge and Zimmerman. Who are the other young players in the organization we should be excited about seeing in 2008? How and when does the plan that revolves around building up the minor leagues transition into success at the major league level?

On the offensive side of the ball, there aren’t a ton of ready MLB contributors. We’d expect catcher Jesus Flores to get more playing time, especially if LoDuca’s and Estrada’s injuries linger. We can’t forget (much as we want to) Elijah Dukes either. For his many, many, many, many, many, many problems off the field, the guy’s an all-world talent. Can he harness his potential?

Pitching’s going to be where the kids have a chance, especially with an injury prone 1/2 combo of Shawn Hill and John Patterson. The Nats have lots of competent arms, none of whom are likely to excel, but might someday be decent #3s. You’ll remember John Lannan quite well, I’m sure! Other younger guys who are likely to get a chance: Tyler Clippard (who came over from the Yankees in the offseason), Colin Balester (the org’s former top pitching prospect), Garret Mock and last year’s first-round pick, Ross Detwiler, a tall, lanky lefty.

As far as their time line for success, it’s probably going to be another two years or so before some of those picks from the last two excellent drafts emerge. They’ve got some interesting bats in the low minors, but they’re a long way from setting foot in the NL.

What was your opinion about Manny Acta’s first year at the helm of the Nats? What do you see as his strengths and weaknesses as a manager?

There’s a lot to love. It certainly seems like he has a mastery of both sides of the job: handling the clubhouse, and in-game strategy.

He’s relentlessly positive, which was a must given how terribly (9-25) this team started out last year. He never let the team give up and assured them that they were better than they were, and he got hard work out of all 25 players on the roster. He also loves his stathead strategy, rarely bunting, and only stealing when it makes sense, and when there’s a high chance of success.

What remains for the Nationals to decide before the season starts?

There are some public battles for the starting rotation, but option and health status is going to settle many of those arguments. The two big decisions confronting the team are Nick Johnson or Dmitri Young at first. If the team’s serious about winning, DY rides the pine, but there have been plenty of grumbles about trades. I’m a bit skeptical, but we’ll see. The other big battle is on the infield, where Felipe Lopez is trying to rebound from a David-Bell-like season at the plate. The team has talked about Ronnie Belliard being the starter at 2B, but I think that’s mostly been a ploy to light a fire under FLop’s butt.

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

It looks like it’s going to be a pretty exciting race! I liked Philly last season, and I’m not sure I’d pick against them this year. Sure, the Mets got Santana, but Brett Myers moving to the rotation seems like it’s a pretty solid (and underrated) move as well. The Braves seem like an interesting pick, but they’re relying on a lot of old and injury prone pitchers. Guess I’d go 1) Phillies 2) Mets 3) Braves 4) Nats 5) Marlins

Thanks again to Chris. Remember to follow the Nats at Capitol Punishment.

The Phillies have played three games since Friday’s post, which have pretty much been characterized by pitchers key to the team’s success this year getting hit hard. Eaton, Chad Durbin, Gordon and Hamels all had weak outings. You have to believe the Hamels is going to be just fine. For the other guys, well, at least it’s early.

On the plus side, among the players with close to no shot to make the team, Carlos Carrasco was fantastic yesterday. Greg Golson has made with contributions with his bat, his glove and his speed. NRI Casey Smith has just been on fire.

Yesterday, the Phils and Yankees played to a 7-7 tie in a game called after nine innings. The Phils are 2-2 in spring training with one tie.

Hamels got the start and gave up four runs on three hits, including two home runs, over two innings. Castro allowed two runs in two innings, but Carrasco followed him and struck out three in three scoreless frames. Holdzkom allowed a run that was unearned due to his own error. Ron Chiavacci struck out two in a scoreless ninth.

After hitting a home run the day before, Golson had a single, stole a base and made a terrific defensive play in center field. Burrell hit a solo home run and drew a walk. Taguchi and Coste both went 2-for-3 with two singles. Rollins went 0-for-3 to drop is early average to .100. Coming off a big day on Friday, Smith had an RBI-single.

On Saturday the Yankees beat the Phils 9-3. Eaton got the start and went two innings and gave up three runs on five hits. All of the runs came on a three-run shot by Shelley Duncan. Gordon couldn’t get through the ninth — he got two outs but allowed a two-run homer to Wilson Betemit. Chad Durbin also pitched and allowed two runs over two frames.

Phils’ bats were mostly quiet. Golson had a solo home run. Ruiz was 2-for-2 with a double.

On Friday they beat the Pirates 5-4. JD Durbin allowed two runs in two innings. Shane Youman walked four and allowed two runs in his inning. Joe Bisenius, Gary Knotts and JA Happ both tossed two scoreless frames.

Casey Smith was 3-for-4 with two doubles and a solo home run in the top of the ninth that put the Phils ahead to stay.

The Phillies play the Pirates this afternoon. Savery, Outman, Romero and Bisenius are all expected to pitch.

Brad Lidge says the rehab of his knee is going well. The same article says that John Ennis cleared waivers and re-signed with the Phillies.

Cole Hamels doesn’t like his new contract.

Bobby Abreu was pleased to see the Phillies make the playoffs.


Back in a flash

Brad Lidge will have surgery on his right knee and will miss three to six weeks. That’s bad news for a lot of reasons. Among them, it ensures the next round of Myers-to-the-pen talk will happen sooner than expected. Early results have Gillick saying that Myers absolutely will stay in the rotation and that the plan is for Gordon to close if Lidge misses time.

The other thing I think it means it that the chances that the Phils would carry 11 pitchers, allowing them to keep Helms on the roster, have diminished.

Regardless of whether Lidge is ready to go on opening day or not, and consensus seems to be chances are good he won’t be, the injury reinforces how precarious the pitching situation is for the Phillies. The Phils would have been weak in the bullpen if Lidge was healthy — they have a core of four guys out there most people would feel comfortable with and if this isn’t the injury that shelves one of them for a long time that injury is coming. Without a significant addition to the pen from outside the organization during the season or a major contribution from a player not currently considered to be part of the pen, the Phils’ relievers are going to struggle as a group this year. The good news, though, is that over the last couple of years the Phillies have been really good at improving their team after the season starts.

This article seems to suggest that the Phillies’ pitchers, and Myers in particular, were unsure about Ruiz last season.

Geoff Jenkins is apparently a swell fella.

In talking about Eric Bruntlett, Charlie Manuel says that he thinks he has shown that he will get people playing time if they deserve it. Insert your own Abraham Nunez joke here.

This article says that Benson had a good day throwing yesterday and that Benson thinks he’s just a week behind the other pitchers in camp. It sure seems like there’s a potential for problems with Benson if he thinks he’s ready before the Phillies do.

Aaron Rowand says was bothered by Gillick’s comments about his ability to avoid injury in this article.


Pen storms ahead with mediocre in its sights for 2008

In 2007, the Phillies’ opening day roster had 24 players, including six that were expected to be used primarily in relief. Here’s who they were and how their numbers looked at the end of the year:


G

IP

ERA

Ratio
Gordon 44 40.0 4.72 1.33
Geary 57 67.1 4.41 1.44
Madson 38 56.0 3.05 1.27
Smith 9 4.0 11.25 3.75
Alfonseca 61 49.2 5.44 1.85
Condrey 39 50.0 5.04 1.54

Of those six, Madson had a very nice season and Geary and Gordon not quite as nice. Condrey and Alfonseca gave the Phils a lot of innings, but their numbers overall were pretty ugly by the end of the year. Matt Smith was miserably ineffective and proved not to be a factor.

Segovia started the year on the roster but did not pitch in relief. He started the sixth game of the season against Florida and gave up five runs in five innings. It would prove to be his only action of the year.

The Phils played their first game on April 2 and added Joe Bisenius to their roster that same day. Bisenius would pitch just two innings all season. On April 5 they traded for Francisco Rosario.

At the end of the season, these were the ten Phillies who had pitched the most innings in relief and what they had done:


G

IP

ERA

Ratio
Geary 57 67.1 4.41 1.44
Madson 38 56.0 3.05 1.27
Myers 48 53.1 2.87 1.20
Condrey 39 50.0 5.04 1.54
Alfonseca 61 49.2 5.44 1.85
Gordon 44 40.0 4.72 1.33
Mesa 40 39.0 5.54 1.36
Romero 51 36.1 1.24 1.10
Rosario 23 26.1 5.47 1.78
Zagurski 25 21.1 5.91 1.69

Myers, Mesa, Romero, Rosario and Zagurski proved to be the guys who got the most innings in relief despite not being part of the bullpen picture on opening day. Without the contribution that the Phils got in the pen from Romero and Myers, there’s no chance the Phils would have made the playoffs. Myers made his first appearance in relief on April 18. The Phils called up Mike Zagurski on May 25, signed Jose Mesa on June 9 and JC Romero on June 22.

Back to the list of the ten pitchers who got the most innings in relief in 2007. I knew I had some point to make about that. Oh yeah, that list is miserable. Romero great, Myers great, Madson really good. Full stop. Geary did give the Phils a ton of innings and I believe he’s going to be harder to replace than most fans acknowledge. But overall those guys were mostly miserable.

Replacing Myers’ contribution in relief is non-trivial. Ditto for Romero. Unlike Romero, it seems like Madson has a good chance as being as effective as his ’07 self for the Phils.

Still, overall, if you look at the guys who started the year last year side-by-side with the guys who are going to start in the pen this year, I think most would agree that the Phils are going to be better off in the bullpen on opening day.

Here again are the six guys in the pen to start ’07, along side the five guys most think are in the pen to start ’08 as well as the list of candidates for the remaining two spots.


2007

2008
Gordon Gordon
Madson Madson
Geary Lidge
Smith Romero
Alfonseca Chad Durbin
Condrey  
   


Castro
Blackley
Condrey
JD Durbin
Youman
Rosario
Bisenius
Mathieson
Darensbourg
Outman
Happ
Ennis
Segovia
Knotts
Mazone
Holdzkom
Chiavacci

Pick whoever you think is the worst candidate, or the two worst candidates, from that list and I still think the pen that goes into 2008 is better than the pen that went into 2007. The question is how much better and what position they’re in to respond to the issues that arise once the season starts — the Phils had one of the worst pens in the NL last season and a minimal improvement in an area where they were so weak would be disappointing.

Todd Zolecki talks about PECOTA here, which projects the Phils finish third in the NL East this season behind the Braves.

Anderson Garcia was claimed by the Mariners.

If Kris Benson is not on the major league roster by March 25 he can request his release.


All due respect to Jet, but apparently you do need money when you look like that, honey

The Phillies and Kris Benson agreed to a minor league deal. This article suggests that Benson could make over $5 million this season.

Benson was taken by Pittsburgh with the first pick of the 1996 draft and has started 195 games with the Pirates, Mets and Orioles, throwing to a career 4.34 ERA with a 1.38 ratio.

A healthy Benson would be a huge boost to the Phillies. Here, for example, is how his career numbers compare to Brett Myers’:


G

GS

IP

ERA

Ratio
Myers 192 143 923 4.34 1.35
Benson 195 195 1207.1 4.34 1.38

The difference, of course, is that Benson is almost six years older than Myers. The best year of his career will likely prove to be 2000 while the best year of Myers’ career is likely yet to come. Still, on a team with pitching woes as deep as the Phillies I have a hard time seeing the addition of Benson as anything but a gamble worth taking.

The article linked above suggests that he was recently throwing at about 60 to 70 percent, which means that his chances to win a job out of spring training are just about zero. You have to believe you’re going to see him before long for the Phils, though, given all the issues the team has after Myers and Hamels in the starting rotation.

Benson missed the 2001 season coming off of Tommy John surgery and all of 2007 with a torn rotator cuff. He last pitched on September 27, 2006 against the Yankees and had a miserable outing. He went just 2 2/3 innings and allowed eight earned runs, puffing his ERA from 4.49 to 4.82.

Benson made his debut with the Pirates in 1999 and for the first two years of his career was an extreme ground ball pitcher. When he returned from injury in 2002 he still got more of his outs on the ground than in the air, but the numbers weren’t nearly as dramatic as they had been in ’99 and ’00. Over the last three seasons he pitched he got about the same number of outs in the air as on the ground.

His strikeouts have generally trended downward over his career as well. In 2000 he struck out 184 batters in 217 2/3 innings, 7.61 per nine innings. The last year he pitched was 2006 — in that season he struck out 88 in 183 innings or 4.33 per nine innings, the lowest strikeout rate of his career.

In 2006 he also had a big problem with the long ball as his home run rate shot to the highest level of his career. In 183 innings with the Orioles in ’06 he allowed 33 home runs, which was the fourth most in the American League (it was also the only year of his career in the AL, which may help explain the increased home run rate).

And then there’s the lefties. Here’s what Benson has done in his career and 2006, the last year he pitched, against righties and against lefties:


PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS
Career v R 2703 .248 .300 .379 .679
Career v L 2496 .288 .364 .469 .833
’06 v R 382 .270 .313 .430 .743
’06 v L 399 .303 .370 .540 .910

Those numbers against lefties are a little scary. But it shouldn’t be lost on anyone either that the numbers against righties, particularly the career numbers, are tremendous.

This is almost inarguably a good move for the Phils. We’re not going to know for a long time how healthy Benson is. But whenever we do, if the answer is that he can get back to close to where he was before his injury there’s no question he can help the team. From Benson’s perspective, he gets a team with a chance to go far this season as well as a team that’s going to have a ton of opportunity for anyone who can pitch.

The Phillies are looking into their options around a team chiropractor, something that Cole Hamels has been suggesting for a while. No word about adding some sort of fashion consultant to prevent the kind of wardrobe malfunction like the one that led to Hamels starting a playoff game on a hot day in long sleeves, but check back often. It may just be that everyone is going to have to dress themselves. Adding a chiropractor, or at least making sure that the players have easy access to one, seems like a no-brainer to me given the amount invested in player salaries and the consequences of injuries.

Marcus Hayes calls Eaton a head case in this chat. If Eaton’s problems were primarily caused by mental and not physical problems, that would be good news. In the same chat he calls the Helms acquisition a joke and says he thinks that Travis Blackley will make the team.

Scott Mathieson says that the discomfort in his pitching elbow is not a big deal. Same article says that Zagurski thinks he’s a long shot to make the team and won’t start doing mound work till March 1. More on Zagurski here.

This says that Gordon and Lidge both looked good throwing yesterday.


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