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Phillies Off-Season: Jayson Werth — Gone, Cliff Lee Signs

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Jayson Werth    Jayson Werth

Cliff Lee  ——>Cliff Lee —–>Cliff Lee —–>Cliff Lee By now, all Phillies fans must know, unless they’re in reclusive hybernation, that Jayson Werth went free agency and signed for 7 years, $126 million with the Washington Nationals and that lefthanded Cy Young-winning starter Cliff Lee, spurning lucrative offers from both the Yankees and the Texas Rangers and leaving millions on the table, returned to the Phillies, the scene of his 2009 2nd half and 4 win post-season heroics, signing a 5-year, $120 million deal with a vesting option for an additional year.

Dealing with Werth’s signing with the Nationals first.  All due credit to the Nats’ front office for getting aggressive in signing the former Phils’ rightfielder.  But after losing Adam Dunn to the Chicago White Sox, a few major questions come up:  How will the Nats make up for the homer shortfall losing Dunn and his average 40 plus homers and 100 plus RBIs vs Werth’s average 29 homers and 80 plus RBIs over the last three seasons — the maturation of his career?   The strikeouts are basically a wash, although Dunn has struck out approximately 5.5% more than Werth over the past 2 seasons.  

Will Werth’s defensive prowess and durability as well as steadier offensive production compensate for the loss of Dunn’s power numbers?  Time will tell.   Is Jayson Werth at age 31, the same age as Dunn, really worth $3 million more than Dunn over the next 4 seasons and worth the risk of 61 million more over 3 additional seasons?   And how do the Nationals afford to spend an average $18 million on 1 player when they only averaged 22,500 per game attendance in 2010 in Nationals Park, a stadium which holds close to 42,000?  

Granted, the Nationals have phenom Stephen Strasburg, who it is hoped will be back full-force from Tommy John surgery for the 2012 season, and some other seeming upside potential starting pitchers, along with newly-acquired outfielder Rick Ankiel, 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Werth, 20 year veteran catcher Ivan Rodriguez and 1st baseman/outfielder Michael Morse.  But will Werth be what it takes to move up over any one of the four clubs who finished above them in the NL East?  Never mind any thought of challenging for the division, ain’t gonna happen!   But the Nationals will be interesting to watch in 2011.

Now, for THE DEAL…   Cliff Lee, after a 2010 sojourn with the Seattle Mariners and after being integral in the Texas Rangers’ 2nd half drive to their 1st ever appearance in the World Series, spurned an attractive offer from the Rangers and steered clear of the Yankees with their drama and intrigues returning to the site of his 2009 heroics with the Phillies.  With Lee onboard, one would be hard-pressed to find, anywhere in MLB history, a starting rotation foursome on paper as impressive, dynamic and seemingly unbeatable as the Phillies’ Four Aces: righties Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and lefthanders Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.  

But looking back through MLB annals, you would have to go back to those Baltimore Orioles of the 1970’s with lefthanders  Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally and righthanders Pat Dobson and Jim Palmer or those Atlanta Braves rotations of the 1990’s of Steve Avery and Tom Glavine going from the left side and righthanders Greg Maddux and John Smoltz to find a rotation to approach the dominance, on paper, of the Phillies Four Aces of 2011.

Here’s a caution about the possibility of unrealistic expectations: the position of pitcher is the MOST vulnerable position on the field — a 95 mph fastball line-smashed back through the box — there’s not much a pitcher can do unless he’s lucky enough to get the glove hand up or, somehow get out of the way.

Having lost Werth to free agency, the Phils look to outfielders, including top prospect Domonic Brown, as well as Ben Francisco and possibly John Mayberry Jr., to either break-out individually or to collectively make Werth’s departure relatively painless.   And, of course, the rest of the starting lineup need stay clear of injuries and put together consistent production, both with regard to power and in small-ball, such as they’ve shown to be capable of in previous seasons.   The June/July swoon last season, the long string of shutouts against them, the power-outage and failure to play small-ball during that 2 month period all were nerve-wracking for Phillies fans.

Having said all of the above, each over the four aces consistently went deep into games and completed a combined total of 20 games between them in 2010.  Hopefully, in 2011, the Phils middle relief and set-up men won’t be over-used getting to the closer.   And a Brad Lidge, hopefully closer to 2008 form, would support the starters with plenty of light’s-out ninths when the aces need closer help.

I do not presume here to know the entire financial picture surrounding Werth’s departure and Lee’s signing.  But here is what I’ve pieced together in terms of the plus/(minus) for 2011 [this may or may not be complete];

  1. Werth’s departure frees up $7 million in 2011 (based on his 2010 earnings — source: USA Today
  2. Lee’s 1st season pay:  $11 million in 2011 (source: NBC Philadelphia)
  3. Possible trade of Joe Blanton: 2011 pay: $8.5 million (source: MLB Fanhouse) If traded, the Phils may have to eat a portion of Blanton’s 2011 pay to do the deal and free up funds in both 2011, as well as a full $8.5 million in 2012.
  4. Roy Oswalt’s final gauranteed season is 2011: he’s due $16 million ( source: NBC Philadelphia)
  5. Raul Ibanez makes $11.5 million in 2011, the final season of his deal (source: ibid)

Here are a group of great related articles dealing with all Four Aces, as well as other pertinent off-season pieces regarding Werth’s signing by the Washington Nationals and prior-season pieces regarrding other Phillies:

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Phillies: Off-Season 2010 – 2011

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

After taking a long rest over the past 2 months since the Phillies’ season ended, it’s time to start talking about off-season events.

Tim Lincecum          Giants Win 2010 World Series         After 56 Years

Everyone knows that the Texas Rangers beat out the New York Yankees in 6 games in the ALCS and that the San Francisco Giants subsequently downed the Rangers in the 2010 World Series to emerge as MLB Champions.  For the Giants, it was their 1st World Series Title in 56 years, since 1954 when they swept the Cleveland Indians in 4 games.  The Giants had gone to the World Series two other times since moving to San Francisco, in 1962 when they lost by 4 games to 3 to the Yanks, losing game 7 by a 1-0 score as Giants slugger Willie McCovey slammed a liner snagged by Yanks 2nd baseman Bobby Richardson with a 2 out runner on 3rd base to nail down the title, and in 1989 when they were swept by one of their state rivals, the Oakland Athletics.

And I’m sure that all ML Baseball fans know by now that 3 icons of the sport passed away in the off-season, 2 of them  Hall of Famers.

Sparky Anderson                Sparky Anderson

Former Phillies 2nd baseman Sparky Anderson, who went on to lead the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” of the 70’s to four World Series appearances, winning two Titles, and later leading the Detroit Tigers to a World Series Title in 1984, defeating the  San Diego Padres in 5 games.   Anderson passed away at 76 years old in Thousand Oaks, Calif. from what was reported to be complications of dementia.

Ron Santo              Ron Santo

Early this month, former Chicago Cubs great 3rd baseman, and later 21 year broadcasting veteran Ron Santo passed away in December in Arizona.  It was reported that Santo died from complications from bladder cancer.
Bob Feller              Bob Feller
In mid-December, Hall of Fame former pitching ace for the Cleveland Indians, Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller passed away from acute leukemia at a hospice in Ohio.   Durring his Hall of Fame career, he amassed six 20 plus win seasons with the Indians and led them to two World Series appearances — in 1948 when they won the Title and in 1954 when they were swept by the then New York Giants.

Cliff Lee      Cliff Lee

Jayson Werth       Jayson Werth

Finally, all Phillies fans must know by now that rightfielder Jayson Werth went via free agency signing with the Washington Nationals for a reported $126 million over 7 years and that lefthander Cliff Lee, the hero of both the 2nd half of the Phillies 2009 season, as well as the post-season, has returned to the Phils, reportedly spurning more lucrative offers from the Yankees and Texas Rangers to return to the Phillies’ friendly confines.  Lee reportedly signed a 5 year, $120 million deal with the Phils.  There will be more commentary on those major signings in subsequent posts.

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Myers, Astros Edge Phillies as Offense Sputters Again

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

The Phillies collected 9 hits off of Houston starter Brett Myers.  But the offense blew numerous chances plating only 2 runs off of the former Phil.  Both runs came in the third inning when catcher Carlos Ruiz led off with a homer off of Myers.  After a ground out, 2 singles, and a fielders choice play at the plate, 2nd baseman Chase Utley looped a single into shallow centerfield to score the 2nd run.  Phillies starter Joe Blanton came up with another fine performance going seven innings and giving up a first inning run and 6 hits while striking out 9 and walking none.  With the Phils leading 2-1 starting the eighth inning, reliever Ryan Madson blew the lead giving up 2 runs as Myers and the Astros edged the Phillies by a 3-2 score as the offense sputtered again in the series opener.

The Phils blew their 3rd opportunity in 5 games to gain ground on Atlanta and remained remained 2 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Braves who were edged by Colorado.  The Phils wildcard lead dropped back to 1 game over the San Francisco Giants who pounded Cincinnati. Both the third place  Florida Marlins and the 4th place Mets had the day off but each picked up a 1/2 game on both the division-leading Braves and 2nd place Phillies.

Blanton retired the next 11 straight hitters after after giving up a run on 3 hits in the first inning.  Then he gave up a single hit in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.  In addition, he singled to shallow center in the third but, being slow afoot, he was rubbed out at home on centerfielder Shane Victorino’s fielder’s choice grounder.   With shortstop Jimmy Rollins at 3rd base after following Blanton with a single, Utley drove him home with his single to centerfield. 

With Madson in the game in the eighth and Astros on 2nd and 3rd base with 2 out, leftfielder Carlos Lee singled to shallow leftfield driving in both runs.  Madson was charged with the loss.

Manager Charlie Manuel was tossed from the game in the eighth for arguing a call when Astros centerfielder Michael Bourn bunted safely, barely eluding a tag attempt by 1st baseman Ryan Howard.  Manuel was tossed for claiming that Bourn step out of the baseline on the play.  Manuel was tossed by the same umpire under similar circumstances 2 months ago for arguing when Victorino was called out for running out of the baseline.

Winning pitcher Myers similarly fanned 9 Phils while walking 1 in his seven innings.  All 9 of Myers’ strikeouts were recorded against the 3rd through 6th hitters in the Phils lineup.  Howard alone accounted for 3 of strikeouts — that’s 112 strikeouts in 107 games.

Closer Brad Lidge tossed a scoreless ninth inning while Astros reliever  Brandon Lyon notched his 7th save. 

For more on another moribund offensive showing by the Phils, click here for AP’s game recap for Yahoo.

To view the scores of all of Monday’s games, click here.

In Tuesday’s game 2, lefthander Cole Hamels opposes Bud Norris.

To view the schedule of all of Tuesday’s games, click here.

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Oswalt, Phillies Bullpen Shut Out Dodgers

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

        Domonic Brown    Roy Oswalt   Raul Ibanez

Newly-acquired Phillies starter Roy Oswalt was on his game winning his 1st game as a Phil on Wednesday shutting down the L.A. Dodgers for seven innings. Meanwhile, rightfielder  Domonic Brown grounded into a fourth inning bases-loaded fielder’s choice to plate the first of 2 Phillies runs off of Dodger starter Chad Billingsley.  Leftfielder Raul Ibanez, who’s hitting streak is now at 18 games, drove in the 2nd run with a double in the sixth.  When Oswalt left after seven innings, Reliever Ryan Madson took over pitching a scoreless eighth inning, only giving up a double.  Closer Brad Lidge, who is starting to resemble the Lidge of 2008, tossed another lights-out ninth inning for his 15th save as Oswalt and the Phillies bullpen shut out the Dodgers by a 2-0 score in game 2 of their 3 game series.

With the win, the Phils remained 2 1/2 games behind the NL East division-leading Atlanta Braves who pounded the Houston Astros. The 4th place  Mets dropped their game to the Colorado Rockies and are now 9 1/2 games behind the Braves and 7 games beneath the Phils. The Florida Marlins jumped into 3rd place, 1/2 game ahead of the Mets with their win over Washington.

Oswalt brushed aside 2-men-on threats in the second, third and fitfth innings with a doubleplay wiping out the second inning threat.  He threw 109 pitches through seven innings while walking 2 and striking out 5.  The Dodgers’ mounted their only serious threat — a fifth inning 2nd and 3rd base 2 out situation.  But a fielders’ choice grounder ended the fifth as Oswalt nursed the 1-0 lead brought about by Brown’s sacks-loaded, 1 out fielder’s choice RBI.  Back-to-back doubles by 1st baseman Ross Gload and leftfielder Raul Ibanez put the 2nd run on the board.  Although Billingsley also pitched a fine game, the Dodgers could privide no run support as Oswalt, Madson and Lidge made the 2 runs stand up.  Gload went down injured limping into 2nd base with a with a strained right groin on his leadoff sixth inning double.   Recently acquired pinch-runner Mike Sweeney scored the 2nd run on Ibanez’s sixth inning RBI double.  Sweeney finished the game at 1st base.

Madson gave up a leadoff double before finishing off the Dodgers in the eighth on 2 strikeouts and a fly out.  Lidge was even better going clean in the ninth on 11 pitches getting a groundout and 2 strikeouts to end it. 

                           Brad Lidge

Lidge has to be feeling mighty good about this one having brought back his memories of the many Oswalt games that he saved when they both pitched for Houston.

To view the scores of all of Wednesday’s games, click here.

The Phils hope to come away with 2 of the 3 games as Joe Blanton is opposed by 22 year old lefthander Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers in Thursday’s series final.

To view the schedule of all of Thursday’s games, click here.

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Phillies Split Games With Mets, Getting Shut Out by Santana

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Newly-acquired 1st baseman Mike Sweeney got 2 hits and an RBI on Friday amidst a Phillies 6 run eighth inning rally against Mets relievers Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano. Mets starter 23 year old lefthander Jonathon Niese held the Phils to 1 run and 4 hits over seven innings in a duel with  Joe Blanton.  Down 2-1, the Phils sent 11 hitters to the plate in the eighth and emerged with a 7-2 lead after reliever Chad Durbin put down the Mets in their eighth.  But relievers Danys Baez and J.C. Romero nearly blew things after the Phls comeback as the Mets scored in the ninth on recent callup Mike Hessman’s pinch-hit 3 run homer.  With 2 outs, Brad Lidge came on with a strikeout to end the game as the Phils won the opener by a 7-5 score.

On Saturday, lefthanders Cole Hamels and Johan Santana locked up in a classic 0-0 pitchers duel for six innings before rightfielder Jeff Francoeur led off the seventh against Hamels with a homer.  Up until the homer, Hamels was tossing a 5 hit, 11 strikeout masterpiece for the Phils.  But the Phils offense short-circuited in this one and the 1 run stood up as closer  Francisco Rodriguez shut down the Phils over the final 1 2/3 innings in a  Mets 1-0 shutout.

With their split of the weekend games, the Phils remained 2 games behind the NL East division-leading Atlanta Braves who also their games with the  San Francisco Giants. The 3rd place Mets, remained 8 games behind the Braves and 6 games beneath the Phils and 1 game up on the 4th place Marlins.

On Friday, young lefthander Niese again handcuffed the Phils, just as he did on April 30 with almost the same stats — 1 run, 4 hits, 7 strikeouts, but this time he walked 5 but still, Phils could only plate a single run against him.  But when the Mets bullpen took over in the eighth, things began to happen for the Phils — Sweeney’s 2 hits, with centerfielder  Jayson Werth, rightfielder Ben Francisco, 2nd baseman Wilson Valdez, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and 3rd baseman Placido Polanco all coming up big in the 6 run outburst.  And Lidge came on big again, coming in with 2 outs in the ninth after Hessman’s 3 run shot put the Mets within striking distance.  Durban was credited with his 3rd win against 1 loss with Lidge nailing down his 13th save in 17 opportunities.

On Saturday, both Santana and Hamels were masterful, although, until the seventh inning in appeared that Hamels had much the better of the going.  But Francoeur homered to rightfield on Hamels’ 2nd pitch of the seventh to provide the run the Mets needed.  Santana held the Phils hitless through 5 2/3 innings only issuing 3 walks.  But leftfielder Raul Ibanez reached with 2 out in the sixth on a third strike-wild pitch and Polanco followed with a single.  However, Santana eased out of the mild jam getting Sweeney to ground out.  Later in the game, Ibanez singled to extend his hitting string to 14 games.  The Phils threatened again in the seventh on Werth’s leadoff double.  But Werth was nabbed at 3rd base on a fielder’s choice grounder and, with 2 out, Valdez reached on a bunt single.  However, Santana got pinch hitter John Mayberry Jr. to ground out to end the threat. 

The Phils loaded the sacks with 2 out in the eighth getting 2 hits off of Santana and receiving a free pass from closer Francisco Rodriguez. But Rodriguez got pinch hitter Ross Gload to ground out to end the threat.  Rodriguez then went clean on the Phils in the ninth to nail down the win.

One can view the highlights of both games on the AP game recaps for Yahoo by clicking here and here.

To view the scores of all of Friday’s and Saturday’s games,  click here and  here.

The Phils hope to come away on Sunday with 2 of the 3 games as ace Roy Halladay is opposed by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.  The Phils have an off-day on Monday, followed by a 3 game series with the L.A. Dodgers to complete the 6 game homestand.

To view the schedule of all of Sunday’s games, click here.

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Phillies Beat Marlins as Kendrick Gets Support, Brown Drives in 3

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

          Domonic Brown    Kyle Kendrick    Raul Ibanez

Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick spread out 8 hits thru six innings on Wednesday while giving up a second inning solo shot and working out of first, third and fifth inning jams, only allowing a fifth inning RBI single.  Recently called-up and highly touted prospect rightfielder Domonic Brown drove in 3 runs against Florida starter Anibal Sanchez and the Marlins bullpen with a single, a sacrifice fly and by reaching 1st base safely on a throwing error.  Brown saved a run on defense too, throwing a runner out at home in the third inning on a base hit which he tracked down in the rightfield gap.  Leftfielder Raul Ibanez added 2 hits and 2 RBIs as the  Phillies beat the Marlins by a 7-2 score with Kendrick getting offensive support and Brown driving in 3 runs in game 2 of their 3 game series.

With their win, the Phils remain 2 games behind the NL East division-leading Atlanta Braves who pounded the 3rd place Mets. The Mets now sit 7 1/2 games behind the Braves, 5 1/2 games beneath the Phils and 1/2 game up on the 4th place Marlins.

The game got started nearly an hour later than scheduled due to a rain delay.  The delay in starting apparently affected Sanchez far more then Kendrick as the Phils sent up 7 hitters while plating 2 runs on 3 hits in the inning.

Kendrick gave up 2 singles which put runners on the corners with 1 out.  But then he got 2nd baseman Dan Uggla to pop out and got centerfielder Cody Ross to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the threat.

The AP game recap for Yahoo sports notes game highlights:

Gaby Sanchez went 4 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI. Fellow rookie Mike Stanton hit his 10th homer for the Marlins, who have lost three straight.

With a 2-1 lead in the fifth, the Phillies opened the inning with three straight singles off Sanchez, including an RBI single by Ibanez. Sanchez was eventually lifted in favor of  Taylor Tankersley, who limited the damage by allowing just a sacrifice fly by Brown.

After Ibanez sacrificed in a run in the sixth, the AP game recap continues:

The Marlins had an opportunity to cut into a 5-2 deficit in the eighth as the first two batters reached base against Ryan Madson, who then retired the next three hitters.

Second baseman Dan Uggla’s throwing error on Brown’s potential inning-ending, double-play grounder helped the Phillies score twice in the ninth.

Relievers Jose Contreras and Madson gave up a hit apiece in the seventh and eighth innings before closer Brad Lidge came on with his 2nd consecutive lights-out clean ninth inning to preserve Kendrick’s 7th win vs 4 losses.

To view the scores of all of Wednesday’s games, click here.

The Phils hope for a series sweep on Thursday as new acquisition Roy Oswalt is opposed by Chris Volstad.  The Phillies return home on Friday for a big 6 game home stand beginning on Friday with a 3 game weekend series against the Mets followed by off-day on Monday, followed by a 3 game series with the L.A. Dodgers.

To view the schedule of all of Thursday’s games, click here.

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