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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

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I noticed the same thing, but I think it may be a function of the umpire who was working last night. He had a pretty big strike zone and called one low and away pitch a strike.
Howard looked really bad, but that pitch will usully be a ball, so hopefully he can learn to lay off.

I am confident he will adjust. I still think the lineup should be changed to:

Rollins
Nunez/Gonzalez
Utley
Burrell
Howard
Abreu
Rowand
Lieberthal/Fasano
Pitcher

You know, I actually like Rowand in the 2-hole.... that silly bunt aside, he showed me good contact, good bat control, and good speed on the bases. I realize our 7-8-9 is incredibly horrible, and you may be trying to balance out the lineup a bit, but getting Rollins and Rowand on base will eventually get us way more runs that we're seeing right now.

Low and away describes the pitching philosophy for the Braves for the past 15 years. It's actually pretty surprising that more teams don't make that kind of commitment. Everything that I've ever read about the Braves pitchers always say the same things: If you can hit the low and away strike consistently, you will be successful in the major leagues.

I hate the Braves just as much as the next Phillies fan, but I must give credit where credit is due. There is a reason they've won 14 straight divisional titles...their pitching. They don't have great pitchers, they have smart pitchers. Smart pitching will get you into the playoffs, talent alone will not. Just look at the Phillies, they have talent all over the field at most positions, but they don't play smart. Baseball analysts keep talking about the comeback of "small ball". Well, I welcome it for one. Bunting, stealing, moving runners, situational hitting...all key aspects of a winning club...Phillies don't have that yet.

Tom...Abreu hitting sixth? I can hear him whining all the way out here in AZ. Also, I noticed a lack of Bell in that lineup. Do you have some inside information?

By the way, because I had no interest in writing more about last night's game, David Bell had a spectacular game. The balls that were hit to him were bullets.

I don't get to watch as much baseball as I would like too, but I thought Howard was setting up too far off the plate last night myself. I don't think he usually is that far off, but I could be wrong...

I wouldn't worry at all about Howard. He's a good hitter, not some clueless, all-or-nothing bruiser. He's shown an ability to adjust and understand what's going on more than an experienced guy like Burrell (stat: *70* called third strikes last year), for one. Besides, he looks like he has pretty good plate coverage to me. Outside of that homer on opening day, he hasn't used left field too much this year. But if pitchers start using the outer part of the plate, he can learn to look for it and do something with it. I'm not saying he has no holes, or flaws, but I think the league would have 'exposed' him a lot sooner last year if he had any large enough to cause people concern.

Bell looked really good last night. I can't ever remember his swing looking that sharp. Burrell, meanwhile, looked like a dunce. His two homers this year have come with the scores 10-0 and 5-0: not a coincidence. His double play ball in the seventh when they had Villereal on the ropes was the turning point in the game.

Two things:

No one has to worry about Howard. Why is everyone already trying to mes with his swing/plate stance? Just let him go. He's gonna have funks like eveyrone else. If he can still hit 290 while in a funk, just think what he'll do when he's "on"

Bell? He always has made the tough plays while screwing up the simple plays. He stinks so bad I cannot watch him anymore. His inside-out swing is just the pits ... what Charlie is doing is giving enough rope to hang himself with. Once that plays out, you'll see the platoon.

I agree, Rick. Bell did look good last night. Maybe this simple "Milt Thompson" approach is working for him. But Lieberthal I just cannot stomach anymore. Did he have a frontal labotomy done a couple years back? There is not even a hint of emotion from this guy and catcher is the worst position on the field for a personality like that.

There are a few things going on with Howard right now. One, notice he isn't extending his hand out in front of him and holding the bat upright nearly as long as he did in the past (including the pre-season). After each pitch he is running his hand up the bat, a move not seen last year. Granted, these are very small things, but they confirm what he himself has said: he isn't really feeling comfortable at the plate. Once he does, he should adjust. He is one smart guy and he doesn't have that brooding makeup that makes Pat Burrell (when he slumps) look like he just lost his last friend.

Oh, and about Abreu batting sixth... Too bad. He would help the club more in that spot.

How would it help the club more batting Abreu 6, and getting him possibly one less at bat per game?
And why does everyone think he should bat leadoff. He should not bat leadoff at all. Even sixth is better than leadoff.

Agreed, Abreu should be in the 3 hole and nowhere else. He fits that slot in the lineup probably better than anyone in baseball. I think his average dips when he's any lower in the order.

I've been thinking about a lot of comments people have posted about the Braves playing smart baseball as opposed to the Phillies (and everyone else). I think there's a lot to it. It isn't that Bobby Cox is a genius, but a lot of people in that organization really know what's going on. From evaluating players and assigning roles, to implementing extremely precise pitching patterns and philosophies, it seems that the approach taken by the team as a whole - and there is total unification, always, regardless of what the roster looks like - is far more important to its success than the individuals themselves. The success of Oakland and St. Louis is similar, but the Braves are just freakishly uncanny.

I've defended Mike Lieberthal more than most on this site and through the years, but I'm beginning to understand just what makes him a blight to this team. For all his years, for all his experience, he never has emerged as a guy who will employ this knowledge to help the pitchers in any discernible way. And that's hurt the Phillies significantly. Brett Myers should be better than he is by now. Though his stuff isn't great, it's definitely well above average. But by and large he doesn't win as much as he should because he falters frequently during games. Either he loses his command or he makes unintelligent pitches. That's something a stronger presence behind the plate can help correct. Lieby's a great guy who's been a productive offensive player despite some serious injuries over the years. But he's emblematic of the Phillies' lack of emphasis on playing smart baseball. A catcher who is passive and not known for ever helping pitchers make any strides is really not what you want, especially with a perpetually shaky pitching staff. True, the pitching coaches and manager share in the responsibility, but no one has a larger in-game effect as the catcher. And yet the Phillies plod on with him and his contract, saying that he's still a decent offensive catcher and that he isn't the reason why they won't win. I think they miss the point entirely. Do you get more out of a Mike Matheny, even a Todd Pratt for the stability and understanding they bring to the pitcher, or a guy like Lieberthal who has occasional pop in his bat and who also happens to be a catcher? This a basic question which seems to elude the Phillies.

There are accidents in baseball. Tuffy Rhodes hitting three homeruns on opening day. David Bell hitting for the cycle. But the results of the NL East standings for the past twelve seasons are no accident. Many people picked the Phillies over the Braves before the past three seasons, as they seemes to have a edge in talent. The Phillies organization does not seem to comprehend that it is more than talent alone that wins. I wonder if Gillick knows enough to possibly wake everyone else around him out of their doldrums, if he's the one who can possibly change the way this team *thinks*. Because until that happens, it's always going to be just as it's been.

I couldn't have stated it better myself RickSchuBlues. I complete agree with your analysis of the Phillies situation. Phillies have tons of talent, but talent doesn't always produce. Playing the game the "right" way is going to lead to more wins than just going out there and swinging and throwing. Swinging and throwing is what the Phillies do. They know how to swing the bat and throw the ball, but they don't know what they want to get from it. They simply go on about their business without a real philosophy of what needs to be done (a.k.a. "smart" baseball).
By the way, Lieberthal is what he is, and he used to be an excellent offensive catcher. But his inability to play defensive, call games, and help the pitching staff make him a BIG part of the problem...just like you said.

Despite the Phillies "off day", they dropped to the worst record in the NL due to the Pirates winning last night. Why does a team get an off day while they are on the road in the middle of a three game series? What do the players do when they are off in Atlanta? Does Foghorn take them to Stone Mountain for inspiration stating, "Fellas, imagine the ball looking as big as this mountain."

What they should have done was head over to Clearwater and pretend they were starting all over again. They seem to have left all their good baseball behind there.

The problem is Howard batting 6th is ridiculous. He is the main slugger and should be in the #4 spot where he belongs.
This forces pitches to pitch to him not the corners.

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