Tag Archives: Philadelphia Phillies

Making Sense of Latest Trades, Phillies Overpay

Jason Marquis to Arizona– The Diamondbacks, much to the surprise of everyone, enter the trade deadline right in the middle of the playoff picture. While many wondered if the D-Backs would be able to keep pace through the summer to become a buyer at the deadline, they’ve done just that. A recent run of 8 wins in 11 tries was enough to convince the teams brass that they were indeed in position to stay in contention all year.

The addition of Marquis does two things. One, it bolsters the back end of the rotation that’s been surprisingly solid this year. Two, perhaps more importantly, it will strengthen the bullpen. Either Micah Owings or Josh Collmenter will be moved to the pen, where along with the return of a healthy J.J. Putz, they will look to strengthen what was perceived as their biggest weakness. Marquis wasn’t the biggest arm available, but he’s one who is the epitome of an under the radar name that in the right position can make a big impact. It’s still an up-hill climb for Arizona to make the playoffs, but they’ve managed to hang around this long, improving the staff all around should keep them around through September.

Derek Lee to Pittsburgh- No team was faced with a more difficult deadline decision than the Pirates. Nobody predicted back in April that this team would enter the deadline contemplating being buyers for the first time in nearly 20 years. Sure, everyone knew there was a lot of young talent, and more on the way, but 2011 wasn’t the year targeted to make the jump to contender status. With that in mind, surprisingly hanging on in the NL Central, the Pirates had to decide how much of that bright future they’re willing to part with for what would still be a very outside shot at winning something this year.

The Derek Lee for Aaron Baker deal is actually one that might work out as well possible. Baker is a big time power prospect, no question about that. However, still at A ball, Baker wasn’t exactly in line to break through to big club in the very near future, especially with Matt Hague and Matt Curry higher up in the system. As Braves fans found out last year, there’s not a whole lot Lee can offer a club. However, one thing he can offer is a veteran presence accustomed to pennant races, and on this youthful Pirates team, that alone can’t be too overlooked. I still don’t see Pittsburgh crashing the post-season party, and certainly don’t think that if they do they will make any noise. However, they managed to improve this year’s team without doing any damage to the exceptionally bright future this organization has. All told, it’s a decent move for the Pirates.

Orlando Cabrera to San Francisco- This is one that just boggles my mind. The Giants aren’t exactly loaded with top level outfield talent in their minor league system, and while Neal isn’t exactly a top level prospect, he’s easily the most likely to be ready to play at the big league level. This is critical for the Giants since newly acquired Carlos Beltran is a rental and will be a free agent next year as will Cody Ross and Pat Burrell. Beyond that, Aaron Rowand is about to turn 34, and next year is the last of his deal.

While the Giants aren’t blessed with great production out of the shortstop position, Orlando Cabrera has done his best this year to convince Braves fans that Alex Gonzalez is not the worst offensive shortstop in baseball. Parting with big time pitching prospects to get Beltran made sense, but this deal by the Giants goes beyond head scratching.

Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland– This is one of those, “talk to me next year”, type of trades when it comes to proper evaluation. The Indians, thanks to ridiculously hot start and struggles by the expected favorites in this division find themselves just 1.5 games out of first place. In a division where nobody has taken it and run with it, the Indians may as well be 1.5 up. There is no question the Tribe should be in the thick of the race for the remainder of the year, and adding pitching help is crucial to that.

Once you get past Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin, little by way of the Indians starters will scare anyone. Jimenez, even with his struggles this year, easily would be the Indians third best pitcher, and probably, with his upside, their number two. Yes, the Indians indeed gave up the farm to get Jimenez, as they sent their two best pitching prospects to Colorado. However, thanks to Jimenez being under team control through 2014, Jimenez offers them an opportunity to obtain the services of a potential true ace without having to ante up in free agency. With the Cleveland financial restraints what they are, it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

Koji Uehara to Texas- There’s no secret the Rangers desperately felt their bullpen needed to be stronger if they wanted to make another run to the World Series. In fact, with the resurgent Angels, just to make the playoffs may very well call for an improvement. Well, they certainly got it. They give up a nice young pitcher in Tommy Holland, but they add a reliever who’s been as dominant as just about any in baseball this season. Being able to have confidence in the guys leading up to Neftali Feliz will be critical in the coming months and possible playoffs.

The Rangers had a goal to improve their bullpen, and when it comes to accomplishing what teams set out to do at the deadline, few hit the nail directly on the head like Texas did.

Hunter Pence to Philadelphia- Sure, this is the second sexiest trade flashing across your screens behind the Carlos Beltran deal, but this might be due in large part to a great deal of airbrushing. Hunter Pence is a good baseball player, there is no argument there. Yes, I would have loved if the Braves were able to obtain him. Well, I should amend that statement. I would have loved if the Braves were able to obtain Pence without giving away a slew of our most talented prospects. A good baseball player? Yes. A Carlos Beltran type difference maker? No. Hunter Pence will absolutely come and make a good team better, and be a strong presence in any lineup. However, he’s not a guy who can carry a team, and he’s not the end all be all difference maker some have made him out to be. To be worth forgoing the two best prospects in your system, a player needs to be these things.

As a Braves fan, part of me smiles at this deal. Every regular starter for Philadelphia, save Pence now, is 30 years old or older. This not a young team. Cliff Lee is 32, Roy Halladay is 34. Their bullpen is bolstered at the back end by guys in their 30s as well. In other words, the Phillies need to have young prospects at the ready. This even more true in their case as thanks to a ton of money thrown at long term contracts to their aging veterans. Thoughts that the Phillies will just continue to throw money at whatever problems or holes arise may be misguided.

This of course is just looking at it from what Philadelphia gave up. To be fair, we have to also look at what they received closely too. Pence, for his career, has a BAbip of .30 higher at home in Minute Paid Park than he does on the road. This is not a coincidence, it’s the product of playing a super hitter friendly park. The good news for Pence and the Phillies is that he’s going to another hitter friendly park in Philadelphia. The bad news, the Phillies will still be playing games on the road. Pence’s OPS was .115 higher in his home park in Houston than he was on the road. That’s a staggering difference. Away from the little band box in Houston, Pence boasts a very pedestrian .325 OBP and an also mediocre .767 OPS. In other words, you get Pence out of Houston, and he’s clearly not the type of impact bat that Carlos Beltran has been, and certainly not the type to command the type of ransom Houston got in return.

When it comes to overpaying at this years deadline, Philadelphia takes the cake. Yes, Pence improves their outfield and makes them better. And who knows, maybe his bat is the difference in winning another World Series this year and being put out early. With the pitching as good as it is in Atlanta and San Francisco, the playoffs promise to be full of low scoring, close contests. So it’s possible, Pence makes a big impact for the Phillies in October. But on that same token, it’s very possible the Phillies still win the World Series with little or no contribution from Pence. And for that, this was a terrible trade.

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Braves Staff Not Ready to Bow Down to Phillies

Terms like “best ever” have been thrown around to describe this Philadelphia Phillies pitching rotation, and with worthy reason. However, some in baseball, and many fans, including yours truly in a moment of overreaction, have anointed this Phillies team National League East champions already on the merits of this pitching staff. People are making statements that no team in the National League has a pitching staff that can even remotely compare.

Simply put, that’s not true. Not only do teams in San Francisco and St. Louis disagree with this, there’s another one located within the Phillies own division that probably is already tired of reading and hearing about how great these Phillies are.

The Atlanta Braves, remember, pitched pretty well last year. Fielding, well, that became a different story. Their pitching though, was outstanding. Never mind that the Braves bullpen enters the 2011 season head and shoulders above the Phillies, their starting rotation actually has the ability to compare pretty favorably.

Keep in mind that of the Phillies big four, three of them are in their 30s. Yes, the Braves also have two of their big four in their 30s as well, ¬†however, they also have two who are among the brightest young pitchers in the game. Halladay, Oswalt, and Lee could all see declines this upcoming season, though I wouldn’t at all bet on it. It’s just something to think about though. How much longer will those guys keep throwing 200 innings? The Phillies need them to, because they don’t want that bullpen throwing many innings this year at all.

It’s not age though that’s important, it’s on field production. On the field, the Atlanta Braves pitching staff has the potential and ability to rival the Phillies, and come close to equaling them, if they don’t indeed perform on an even bar with the Phillies.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Tim Hudson was a very viable Cy Young candidate last year. Fully recovered from Tommy John, Hudson was outstanding. Hudson’s ERA+ was better than that of the mighty Cliff Lee last season. It’s likely he probably won’t repeat the performance this year, due in large part probably to a weaker defensive infield for the Braves. However, the good news is, he doesn’t have to.

Jair Jurrjens was hurt all year last year pretty much, never able to get going. Perhaps you forget that in 2009 he posted an ERA+ that was on par with Roy Halladay’s performance last year. It’s funny how many people forget how good he pitched in 2009. His performance in 2009 would be the ace of just about any staff in baseball, including this years Phillies rotation.

Derek Lowe did indeed struggle to begin the year, mightily in fact. However, some adjustments got made during the year, and the results cannot be argued with. In 10 of his last 14 starts, including both in the playoffs, Lowe allowed two runs or less. This cannot be ignored.

In the seasons final three months, Tommy Hanson allowed 3 earned runs or less in 15 of his 18 starts. In fact, in EIGHT of those starts he allowed one run or fewer. In 25 of his 34 starts Hanson allowed two earned runs or fewer. That’s 5 more times of 2 or fewer earned runs than one Roy Halladay.

Just some food for thought for those who think this Braves rotation can’t keep pace with the one in Philadelphia.

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Where Did That Come From?

So what do the Atlanta Braves do now? It seemed as though the team was in prime position next year to make a real run at the National League East title.

Then this.

If you want to talk about a bombshell, or a stab straight through the heart, this is it.

Cliff Lee is a Phillie. The Philadelphia Phillies now have a rotation that arguably is as good, or better, than any the Atlanta Braves have ever trotted out. And that’s saying something.

Teams with pitching like that win division titles, and usually win them with two or three weeks left in the season. Teams like that win 90 games. Actually, a team like this could win 110 games.

Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels could very well be worth 70 wins from those four alone next year. You don’t think the Phillies can scrounge up 30 or so from their 5th starter and bullpen?

This division race may be over before it even starts.

So now what can the Braves do to counter?

For starters, we can hope they draw the Giants in the opening round next year.

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Those Bitter Philadelphians

“The only NL East team truly capable of keeping the Phils out of the postseason isn’t found in an opposing dugout but in the mirrors of their own clubhouse.” Those are the words of Bob Ford, sports writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and well, a very uninformed baseball man.

The Atlanta Braves are six games ahead of the Phillies simply because they are a better team. Ford does his very best to belittle the accomplishments of the Braves and to make them appear as just a mediocre team lucky to be in first place, but it is either because he’s only paid attention to the Braves when they are playing his beloved Phillies, or it’s because he’s a typical Philadelphia fan who is completely blind to the sports world outside of his wonderful city full of peace, love, and harmony.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise though. We know Philadelphia natives would much rather bash, and bemoan their own players than dare give credit to an opponent. They would much rather boo their players and coaches and trash their management officials than acknowledge that someone else just might be better.

For example, when discussing Brian McCann and Troy Glaus, Ford states that they, “have decent power numbers, but they are also easy outs.” Excuse me? He is aware that Ryan Howard makes outs at a more frequent rate than his first base counterpart Troy Glaus, correct? Perhaps not.

I guess he’s also completely unaware of the fact that Brian McCann boasts an on base percentage of .382. That’s all of one measly point behind Chase Utley, the current leader for Philadelphia among players with enough at-bats to qualify.

Furthermore on the Atlanta catcher, McCann’s production has spiked significantly as of late, and that’s not a coincidence that it has coincided with what seems to be a better solution for the vision troubles that plagued him early in the season. If Mr. Ford would actually pay attention to the teams he chooses to write about and dissect, he would have known this. Alas, this must not be the case.

Yeah, easy outs, right?

Maybe Ford has also chosen to ignore the little issue of the Braves having five players with over 200 plate appearances sitting with an OPS of over .800. Philadelphia’s apparently superior squad only has three such players.

Ford likes to cite the injuries and inconsistencies with Chipper Jones.. Okay, fair enough. However, last I checked, Chase Utley is currently hurt himself, and Jimmy Rollins spent quite a bit of time on the DL as well. So injuries to key cogs aren’t a problem for Philadelphia, just Atlanta?

In regards to Chipper Jones, Ford fails to recognize the surge in Jones’ power numbers since talk of retirement came up, as well as his still impressive .376 on base percentage. Ford’s ignorance doesn’t just end with the offense though, oh no, he’s an equal opportunity uninformed sports columnist.

While Ford does acknowledge that the Braves bullpen has been better, the credibility gained from at least admitting this is quickly lost with the next statement he makes. “The real question, though is whether, with one game to save, you would feel any more comfortable with (Billy) Wagner than you do with Brad Lidge. By the end of the season, the difference could be minuscule.”

Are you serious? One pitcher has a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.9, 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings, a WHIP of 0.821, and ERA of 1.15. The other pitcher’s line reads of a 2.75 strikeout to walk ratio, 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, a WHIP of 1.380 and an ERA of 4.32. Yeah, obviously this is an exceptionally close call. Of course, coming from the same man who called Troy Glaus an easy out while his own first basemen has proven to be an easier out this year, this should come as no surprise.

He rightfully refers to Tim Hudson as a staff ace, but, predictably picks apart the rest of the Braves rotation.

Derek Lowe’s high ERA is cited, which is fair enough, many Braves fans themselves have had issues with Lowe, though it should be noted that over his last seven starts Lowe’s ERA has been 3.27, including starts against the Twins, White Sox, and *ahem*, the Phillies where he went at least 7 innings while allowing 2 earned runs or less. Just thought that should be pointed out.

Ford’s questioning of Medlen’s ability to hold up down the stretch is a valid concern, as it will be interesting to see what happens to the youngster with a much heavier work load being heaped on him. However, this is simply Ford’s way to discount what has been a very, very impressive first half for Medlen, and of course, no Philadelphia person ever wants to recognize the strengths of any opponent if they can help it.

It is true that Tommy Hanson does indeed have a 4.19 ERA. However, let’s not get crazy here, 4.19 is not THAT bad. After all, the Phillies team ERA is an amazingly low 4.09. Oh wait, it’s not that low after all, is it? Keep in mind that in Hanson’s last 10 outings, he’s allowed two runs or less in seven of them. Some really, really, horrendous outings have marred Hanson’s season, and there is no question the pitcher who has barely been in the big leagues for over a year needs to be more consistent. However, more often than not, he’s been a very effective starter. Again, if Mr. Ford would look at the big picture and not just one simple stat, this might become apparent.

The more interesting case though is his dismissal of Jair Jurrjens as a front line starter. His description of Jurrjens reminds us that he’s, “just back from the disabled list and carrying around a 4.75 ERA.”

Indeed, Jurrjens is fresh off the disabled list, all the more reason to further discount that abnormally high of his. Since his return, Jurrjens has pitched just like his usual, ace of the staff type self. He’s 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA and the league has an OBP of .300 in those three outings.

Once again, Ford simply looks at the ERA and uses that to discount how good Jurrjen is, and really, has been, this season. There was that nightmare of a start against San Diego in April where he was rocked for eight runs. However, aside from that dismal outing, he hasn’t given up more than three runs in any other start all season (granted, one of those was when he allowed three in the opening frame, coincidentally, the game he injured himself and went on the DL).

Mr. Ford can look at a few numbers here and there, and nothing else, and convince himself the Braves aren’t for real all he wants. He can convince himself the Phillies just have to play to their potential and they’ll return to their rightful place atop the National League East. If he were to look for the rest of the story, he’d clearly see otherwise. Not that he’d admit it though.

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Lee To The Yankees? Please Say It’s So

Normally I am completely, and 100 % whole heartedly opposed to the New York Yankees obtaining star players. They have enough, they get enough, you get the picture. The Yankee haters reasons for hating the Yankees are known, and it’s a dead horse not worth beating anymore.

This time though it’s different. The Seattle Mariners are actively shopping Cliff Lee, arguably the game’s best pitcher and a guy who is absolute money in the post-season. Of course, pitching in Seattle, post-season prowess is rather irrelevant.

Six teams have been linked as the most likely destination for Lee, with those six being the Rangers, Twins, Rays, Yankees, Phillies and Mets. The Reds name has been brandished about as well, but they seem the least likely of the bunch to pull the trigger.

There are two names in particular that stand out of that bunch, the Phillies and the Mets. The Mets likely don’t have the pieces to make an offer strong enough to entice Seattle to send Lee to play for the Mets.

The Philadelphia Phillies however do.

It’s been pretty well documented that Jayson Werth is a potential trading piece from the Phils as they try and tinker away at their roster, as well as protect themselves from Werth’s pending free agency. This is important because the Mariners have made it clear they want a big bat in exchange for Lee, in addition to some young prospects (or an elite prospect with a big bat, as well as some other pieces). The Mariners also have the capability to get an extension done with Werth, or re-sign him if they so choose, making him an attractive player to them in their attempt to shop Lee.

While the Mets technically enter this final weekend of games before the All-Star break as the Atlanta Braves closest competition in the National League East, most fans and experts alike believe that the biggest threat to Atlanta sending Bobby Cox out with another division title comes from Philadelphia.

That being the case, Cliff Lee going back to the Phillies could very well tip the scales in the favor of the Phillies, and in the very least set them up to take the wild card route to the playoffs.

Once in the playoffs, a tandem of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee would be downright close to unbeatable. It would be very akin to the Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling duo from Arizona nearly a decade ago.

In other words, the Braves do not want Cliff Lee pitching for Philadelphia, at all.

If the best way to prevent that is for him to join the Evil Empire, fine.

Now the argument could be made that it would be just as fine if Lee went to the Twins, Rangers, or Rays, all American League teams, and all not named the Philadelphia Phillies.

The one problem with that would be the re-signing of Lee. It’s very unlikely he would be anything but a rental (and how ridiculous is it that under that scenario, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball would have played for 5 different teams in less than 18 months) should he be dealt to any of those clubs.

This becomes an issue for Atlanta because at this point Lee then would hit the open market, and now, the Mets are in play for his services. No longer having to try and come up with the necessary bartering chips in a trade, they can just throw good old hard cash at Lee to try and lure him to the Big Apple. Now the Braves would have the prospect of having a still very dangerous Phillies team, a young and talented Marlins team, an up and coming Nationals squad, and a Mets team with Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, and Cliff Lee in its rotation. Not exactly a gauntlet I’d be stoked about navigating every year. It’s absolutely not a Mets squad I’d want to deal with next year.

However, if Lee goes to the Yankees, it’s very likely that he would then re-sign with the Yankees, and thus, not be a detriment to the Braves hopes of winning any National League pennants.

It’s doubtful the Yankees would be willing to tp with top prospects, especially catcher Jose Montero, if they didn’t feel they had a good opportunity to re-sign Lee, or in the very least, if they weren’t going to make every effort to.

Now, once the Evil Empire obtains Lee for the long term, then I may not be so happy with the notion. Then again, Jorge Posada isn’t getting younger, and Montero was slated to be his success, so the Yankees will be weakened at an important position. That’s however neither here, nor there at the moment.

Back to the topic at hand. Lee with the Yankees long term doesn’t excite me. However, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox won’t be Braves for the long term, so getting the most out of them means keeping Cliff Lee out of the National League East.

If Lee beats the Braves in the World Series, I can live with that. But I’d hate to have him send Cox packing in the NLCS.

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