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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

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Well said, JW. We can find all the little things they're doing wrong, but overall, they're taking care of business and winning games. That's all we can ask. Oh and by the way, this team is really damn fun to watch.

Didn't Kendrick infect this team with winningitis in '07. Kind of makes your argument circular.

It has been referenced here at BL that the Phils are good and they know they are good. The corollary of this is that the opposing players also know that the Phils are good. After the Phils tied the game in the bottom of the first, don't forget for a moment that the guys in the other dugout began to think "Here goes the game." (Phils tie the score = "game over.")

That's got to be part of the evolving aura that is the Phil's baseball sucess. And it's great to behold (after 6 decades of following the Phils!).

Well put, KF.

Just another chapter in the long tradition of winning baseball in Philadelphia.

No doubt about it, the Philles (line up, in particular; Doc secondly) scare the ever-living crap out of every other team in the NL. Over the last 3-4 years, the Phils have had to get used to this notion, as it's something that's never really been seen before to this magnitude with this franchise. Now that the Phillies know it, in addition to the rest of the NL, the attitude to accompany the skill is downright scary.

I, personally, feel that this team cultivated this swagger beginning about 4 years ago when they were the darkhorse/underdog, yet somehow found a way to pull out all of those late inning games. It got to the point that you could NOT turn off a Phils game, even if they were down by a handful in late innings, because this team was relentless. The "comeback" to win the division from the Mets (regardless of whether or not you want to call it a "Mets collapse) further cemented their never-give-up mantra. Now, they've parlayed that confidence into an absolute "step on their throats early and don't look back" kind of mindset that is virtually unbeatable when things are clicking. Truly a damn fun team to watch and something that is 180 degrees from everything 95% of us on this site are used to seeing from this franchise in our lifetimes.

I'm waiting for the day I check this blog and see "Phillies have extended Werth for 3 years" ... hoping the infectious win cycle and multiple runs by Werth win over RA's mind and get Werth a new contract with the Big Red Machine.

I think there is a lot of truth to this. I read a book called Summer of 49 (a terrific read BTW) that followed the 1949 Red Sox (led by Williams) and the Yankees (led by Dimaggio).

One of the younger players for the Yankees commented on the incredible level of stress and pressure there was in being associated with those Yankee teams. Guys like Dimaggio and his Yankee veteran peers pretty much expected to be in the WS every year. Winning at that level was really all they knew, and if you were a young player breaking in, you did NOT want to be anything approaching a weak leak in that chain.

I don't think there is so much of that type of negative pressure - fear, really - in today's environment. But when you look around the locker room and see the depth of talent in this Phillies team; and at this stage, their track record of success, well it is something a young player would want to be part of, and would do everything he could to elevate his game to stay on the same level as these guys. You know they are going to pick you up, AND that they will expect the same of you.

And I don't see fear, but maybe a good form of intimidation, perhaps. If I were a young player and I was going through the process of deciding who I wanted to emulate, on this team I would not see any Milton Bradleys or Mannys. I would see Utley, Halladay, Howard, and Rollins within 20 feet and see what they did to prepare and how they play the game, and that is the example I would try to follow.

If I were a struggling rookie trying to catch on, I would not think it would be a comfortable situation to loaf going down to first base after having watched Chase Utley blast down the line on a routine chopper back to the mound in a meaningless game. Or for an aspiring pitcher to get knocked out of the box in the first inning beacause he showed up to pitch with a hangover, after having seen the depth and effort of Roy Halladay's preparation and excellence. No way, shape or form.

Interesting post, Jason.

I think it all goes back to a single moment: The Jesus Sanchez trade transformed this clubhouse and team.

Winning environment? Sorry JW, BL is devoted to the proposition that if it can't be measured by a stat it doesn't exist.

Still, try to imagine Hanley's "play" taking place yesterday on the same team whose 38 year old baserunner runs hard with 2 outs on a routine fly to shallow center and scores easily from 2nd when the ball is dropped.

As Wilson Valdez and Paul Hoover were getting hits in their last few games, I was thinking the same thing, JW - that they were part of a confident team and that winning attitude was passed on to them in the clubhouse. I also heard Shane Victorino address it in an interview, saying the new guys know they don't have to do too much, don't have to press, that everyone on the team just goes about their business.

On another note, I heard part of a discussion on MLB on XM a little while ago (I get it in my car) - What exactly happened with Hanley Ramirez? Something about a ball hitting off his foot/getting kicked inadvertently, that he initially ran to field but then stopped and made no effort to retrieve it quickly. He claimed his foot hurt. So he let down his teammates, was the first point (made by Jim Duquette). Then he dissed his manager, twice, first by saying "You were never in the major leagues, you don't understand," then by saying "Freddie who?" Wow. Duquette thinks MLB needs to step in b/c of the disrespect factor - doesn't like the idea of passing along to kids that it's ok to disrespect your manager - and said Ramirez will have to be fined and suspended, as well as the GM needing to sit down with Gonzalez and Ramirez and back the former 100%, get a public apology from Hanley to the team and manager....

Did others see the play or hear the interviews in question?

NEPP: If you asked me the moment in which I thought the Phillies finally broke through, it would be that crazy 12 inning game against the Mets in 2007. That game is one of my top 10 Phillies memories for sure.

And I'll be back griping, possibly as early as tonight, depending on what happens. But my son and I were talking last night as the game wound down, about how the Phils were not only a really good team that was usually fun to watch, they also seemed (as much as we can know) to be a group of good guys.

I was not a big Myers fan, but if you go through the roster, there is not a single player that I don't like and pull for to do well, above and beyond how it contributes to winning the game. He may be gone as a result of his own success, but I want Jason Werth to have a monster year, not just because it will help the team, but because I like him and respect how he has elevated his game over the past few years.

denying the mental aspects of the game is just plain bigotry.

This winning attitude has affected the entire roster, except Hamels, who has turned to a pile of girlie-goo ever since that miraculously lucky performance in '08.

Hanley Ramirez fouled a ball off his ankle/foot/leg earlier in the game and claimed thats why he couldnt run after the ball...

He said his jog towards the ball was as fast as he could go. If that was as fast as he could go he wouldnt have made it to 1st base on a ground ball to left field...

So either he was being lazy (which it looked like to me) or he was so hurt he shouldnt have been playing. Either way, his manager was right to pull him and ramirez were totally out of line...

GBrettfan: You can see the play on MLB.com. He just missed a pop-up, he then inadvertantly kicked it, and then jogged after it while two runs scored. He was moving slower than Pat Burrell, if that tells you anything. Freddie benched him at the end of the inning for dogging it.

Today, Ramirez pretty much disrespected both his manager, "Freddie who?" and the rest of the team, "Plenty of guys on this team dog it and they don't apologize." Every team has instances of players dogging it (remember J-Roll?), but no one on this team would think of saying things to the media like Hanley did.

Yes.

All that.

Plus, having El Diablo de la Panama, el Jefe del plato minding your backstop is also a huge help to guys like Kendrick.

You do not get to this level if you are not generally confident and mentally tough. The talented head cases have largely been weeded out as have the super competitive but marginally talented guys. As a result, there is less variation in confidence within this level then across baseball as a whole and less room for confidence to have an impact.

That said, there is always some variation in confidence over the course of the season and this is going to contribute, even in a small way, to performance. Given that the margin for error is so small for these guys, little things can make a clear difference.

In general, my sense is that a high level of confidence allows you to be consistent in your approach. You are not trying to figure things out - you are, instead, relaxed and able to react to what you see. This is a very good thing in baseball. So, it is not that confidence makes you good, it simply makes you more consistent - talent determines if that is put to good use.

"Still, try to imagine Hanley's "play" taking place yesterday on the same team whose 38 year old baserunner runs hard with 2 outs on a routine fly to shallow center and scores easily from 2nd when the ball is dropped."

Imagine it taking place on a team where the 47 year old pitcher works the count and fouls off multiple pitches, and finally breaks open a game with the Mets by drawing a 3-2 walk off Santana.
There's a lot of things to criticize about the Phillies (if you want to look for them) but for the most part, they do not appear to have prima donna attitudes or lack of work ethic.

Agreed with JW that the atmosphere on this team is one in which Kendrick could thrive.

Which makes the antipathy directed toward Kendrick by his detractors on this site that much more disappointing and perplexing. It has seemed this season that Kendrick's critics were rooting more for peripheral stats than the Phillies.

After asking for money back with Halladay and dumping Cliff Lee, it is apparent that Amaro has brushed against an ownership imposed salary cap. If affordable, back of the rotation Kendrick fails, it likely decreases money available for a closer this year and certainly diverts resources available to retain Werth for the future.

No one would deny Kendrick was inadequate at the beginning of the season, but it was the glee of his critics that was so striking. My favorites were the pilers-on who mocked Kendrick for working so hard in the off-season. So now we mock Adam Eaton for his indifference AND KK for dedicating himself, but failing in his first few starts.

As if it would be a victory for us all to send Kendrick packing and promote juggernauts like Figeroa, Drew Carpenter or Josh Fogg. Or we could blow another 5 million on Pedro.

Kendrick succeeding as a #5 starter and long reliever/starter depth husbands resources on a team tapped out of top prospects and apparently salary space. He may not succeed, but if he fails, it will be no cause for celebration.

GBrettFan: definitely go and watch the play. I heard it on the radio first (I hate Fox Sports Radio, but it is the only thing in the area and Jim Rome is pretty amusing). But it wasn't until I actually saw the play online that I was like, WHOA.

That said, the MLB definitely shouldn't get involved. Let the Marlins handle it as they wish, but there is no need for the MLB to stick their fingers into the situation.

I personally think that the Marlins should sit Ramirez for a while, especially in lieu of any kind of apology.

I think it all goes back to a single moment: The Jesus Sanchez trade transformed this clubhouse and team.

Great, NEPP. I hope this doesn't open a HUGE can of worms.

No one thinks that the "mental" aspect of the game doesn't exist. Of course it does. If I were building a team, I'd quite obviously want to investigate things like the work ethic and mental makeup of guys I was drafting/signing.

That said, most experienced baseball people (not "stat" types) will tell you that talent trumps everything else--in fact, Buster Olney was reporting today that he'd talked to multiple GM's who said if Hanley was available they'd love to have him.

I think that actually goes to what JW is saying. It's not just that the guys in the Phillies' clubhouse are great guys and that's why they win. They're extremely talented, and so they win, and so they create "chemistry", which helps supplement the talent that is already there and the basis for the winning. What you want most is talent AND chemistry. You can win with talent but not chemistry, it's just harder. And you can't win at all with chemistry but not talent.

baseball is not played in a vaccuum.

There is absolutely no need for MLB to get involved with the Hanley slo-mo jog. It's not like he broke the rules or committed a crime. He just dogged it and then compounded the problem by making an ass of himself in the media. If the Marlins organization can't handle the problem internally, that's more a reflection of their own managerial problems than of some larger creeping problem that could infect the whole institution of baseball.

For the record, what he did was certainly no worse than what Manny has done a dozen times or more. Not to excuse the behavior, just pointing that out.

Jack - I kind of thinking the same thing especially in a sport that is dominated by 1-on-1 matchups and a very long season. Wheat almost always gets separated from the chaff over 162 games.

For KK, his sinker is a MLB-caliber pitcher & he would be likely able to help a number of teams in MLB even if it was only out of the bullpen as a long-man. Yeah playing on a winner helps but the bigger issues last year for the Pirates was that they just don't have the offense to come back down 4 or 5 runs early on. Different story if the Phils are playing a team with more HR power like the DBacks or Nats.

@Jack - "And you can't win at all with chemistry but not talent"

Oh yeah? Tell that to that Lou Brown coached Indians teams back in the late '80's. Willie Mayes Hayes, Rick Vaughn, Pedro Cerrano, Jake Taylor, et al were by no means anywhere NEAR talented enough for the success that they found. That was founded almost singly on chemistry (and maybe a little bit of voodoo).

Wait, what?

Francisco plays LF tonight and Castro starts at 2nd in place of an ill Utley.

Even with the proliferation of multiple news outlet, it has become even harder to really get a sense of a team's 'chemistry' simply because reporters access is often quite limited. They don't travel with the players anymore, don't eat & dine with them, and in some cases don't even get much conversation at all from them. Teams also seem to be more careful of protecting their players & employing more marketing techniques.

If Hanley Ramirez played for the Phillies that stuff wouldn't happen because he'd actually have to answer to 1) fans and 2) Utley/Halladay/Cholly.

Can you imagine him talking about Cholly like that in the press? Woo, boy. Remember Eskin?

"Francisco plays LF tonight and Castro starts at 2nd..."

Gload pitching?

doubleh: Exactly. No one on this team would even think of talking about Charlie in that way... nor would it get to that point because of the strong team leadership.

On MLB on XM, they said the clubhouse leader was Wes Helms. That about says it all. Don't mean to speak badly about Wes, but clubhouse leader?

I thought it was superior scrappiness that drove the Phillies?

This is the post of the year, so far, by JJG calling out the losers on this blog:

"No one would deny Kendrick was inadequate at the beginning of the season, but it was the glee of his critics that was so striking. My favorites were the pilers-on who mocked Kendrick for working so hard in the off-season. So now we mock Adam Eaton for his indifference AND KK for dedicating himself, but failing in his first few starts.

As if it would be a victory for us all to send Kendrick packing and promote juggernauts like Figeroa, Drew Carpenter or Josh Fogg. Or we could blow another 5 million on Pedro."

NEPP - Glad to see that you referenced that trade correctly.

Jack: You are correct. OPS + ERA = Chemistry level.

It may be the house Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro Jr. built, but Charlie Manuel has made it a home to 25 team-first players.

Whatever metaphysical term you want to use concerning winning starts and stops with Manuel.

I don't always agree with Manuel's game tactics, but I haven't seen a coach before get as much out of his players than him.

Jason Donald has an OPS of 2000 this season thus far. He must be the King of Chemistry using Clout's logic.

kuvasz: "I don't always agree with Manuel's game tactics, but I haven't seen a coach before get as much out of his players than him."

Some would argue he gets that much only because his players are so talented. Which is wrong. For how many seasons were the uber-talented Mets predicted to win the East over Charlie's bunch?

I know some people on Beerleaguer hate the fact that Charlie never calls out his own players, but that's why they'll give everything they've got for him. He'll never sell them out.

Regarding KK, I am not a fan, and do not express glee that he's had his struggles. I think he's an OK 5th starter, which is a valuable player, but I do wish we had a better one and he was plying his trade elsewhere.

As for last night, I just want to point out this: Against RHP, the Pirates have an OPS+ of 79 (100 is average). Kendrick for his career has an OPS+ against RHB of 71. Most of the Pirates' best hitters are righties, inclding their only player with a VORP of over 6 (McCutchen), so it was a case of strength vs. strength.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course. KK provided some value last night, and has on several games this year. But you should not mistake what KK is doing for anything other than a decent pitcher doing well against a hapless group of hitters who he happens to match up well against.

He still needs to be able to get lefties out to be a consistent pitcher. This year his OPS+ against lefties is 166, which is actually worse than his career split. Until he can throw a major league change up, or curve ball, he will never be anything much more than what he is now, a spot starter/ROOGY reliever/AAAA pitcher.

Following up, I did go and watch Hanley Ramirez's play. It wasn't as bad as I'd been expecting after what I heard about it on MLB on XM - I agree with Laramie, it's something like what you'd see Manny do - but it wasn't good, either. His comments after being benched are the worst part. I agree with HH that he'd have to answer to fans and teammates if he were a Phillie. Not that the answering teammates part would be public knowledge. (Remember Cole's frustrated gesture at Jimmy and Chase last season? We never heard whether anything was said to him by teammates, but that doesn't mean it was or wasn't.)

And I would also think, with other posters here, that this can be handled internally w/o MLB needing to be involved. Jim Duquette went a little overboard in his reaction.

"My favorites were the pilers-on who mocked Kendrick for working so hard in the off-season."
You mean the people with a sense of humor? They weren't making fun of Kendrick, but what became Beerleaguer CW that because Kendrick followed Halladay around all offseason the awesomeness was gonna rub off on him. Everyone seemed to think that the only reason Kendrick wasn't in the starting rotation was Moyer's contract, because it was just so obvious he was the best choice. When he got blown up early, the silliness of that notion became apparent. There was no glee in Kendrick's failure. We just didn't take ourselves too seriously.

I like Kendrick, like when he does well, and think it's a cool story that he's had so much success with just marginal stuff and great poise and work ethic. I just also think that's he's destined to be nothing more than what he is right now, a marginal starting pitcher with a 5.24 ERA.

Spitz: Jason Donald has a what of what? Where?

Donald got called up today Clout. When I wrote that message, he was 2-2 with 2 singles and a walk. Dude is on fire!

CJ, simply, I think that it is a matter of trust between Manuel and his players, as opposed to the manager-player dynamics with Bowa.

PhilsStarters Go Deep

Phils bullpen has fewest innings in baseball.

Talent. Chemistry. I would say that these concepts are very difficult to define and overlap in a variety of ways. We certainly think of baseball talent as involving a large degree of innate athletic ability (and my dreams of being the next Mickey Mantle died very young indeed), but that has to be nurtured by a desire to put in the effort and the ability to develop the mental skill required to utilize that talent in some extraordinary way. Studies of professional musicians, for example, found that the only clearly identifiable factor in success was how much work each individual put in and having the interest to do that work. Was Ted Williams a great hitter because of his athletic talent alone, or did his talent depend on the intense effort he put into studying hitting and developing the discipline to carry out his ideas consistently? I would also suggest that these factors interact to the extent that it is hard to sort one out from the other.

Chemistry, I guess, has something to do with how a group of players, a team, interacts with each other and what the impact of that interaction is on their individual performances. This clearly can't be measured, but perhaps it is observable. I think there are probably many kinds of good chemistry—interaction that produces wins. We have seen teams motivated by internal friction (although this has to be challenging as a winning formula), by group paranoia (us against all of them), etc. Players have to have some "talent," but the right kind of chemistry can contribute to better concentration, harder work, more confidence.

For me, this Phillies edition combines huge quantities of both talent and chemistry and it is hard to sort out which is which. Having guys like Rollins and Halladay and Utley who push themselves towards better play almost all the time makes for great individual contributions, but must also have an impact on those they play with. Would Howard have worked as hard to improve the last several years if he had been on the Pirates? Did Werth and Victorino develop the way they have because of hidden talent that Pat Gillick recognized, or was their ability also nurtured by the environment on the Phillies?

If anybody knows the definitive answers to questions like this, let me know. In the meantime, this sure is a team I love to watch.


Dan in Philly: "Until he can throw a major league change up, or curve ball, he will never be anything much more than what he is now, a spot starter/ROOGY reliever/AAAA pitcher."

Fine analysis, I suppose, until you consider the fact that he IS currently more than what you suggest. He's currently the 5th starter on the 2-time defending NL champs.

Spitz: In that case, I agree with you. If he can maintain that OPS for a full season, he will indeed be the King of Chemistry.

CJ, I know he is, but I wish he weren't, and I would like to point out that he's only the 5th starter because of injury, which technically makes him what I said, a spot starter.

As I said, he does provide value, and for a team like the Pirate he'd likely be the 4th starter. That's probably where he'll end up when he hits FA, if he hangs aroung that long.

Dan in Philly: I'm curious as to who you consider teh Pirates' "best hitters". I'll give you McCutcheon. Then who? Jones and Doumit? They're not righties.

To your point, I thought Kendrick did reasonably well, albeit not against a stalwart group. Still, of the five hits he surrendered, I think 4 were by lefties. Not alot of hits but, probably good for .300+ average on the game. I think he'd be a valuable bullpen guy if you could match him up against righties but, right now, he's plugging a hole in the rotation and I don't see anyone on the 40 man who clearly should be there instead of him.

Dan: I'm with you. I wish 24-year-old Juan Marichal was our 5th starter.

CJ, another thought. When Happ comes back up, what will happen to KK? I suggest he'll be either a reliever called upon to get righties out, or he'll be sent back to AAA.

What do you call a player who bounces from AAA to ML and back again a lot?

I stand by my analysis, despite the consideration you thoughtfully raised.

Hugh, I specifically mentioned they have exactly one hitter with a VORP over 6, and he's a rightie. Most of their lineup is below replacement level, meaning that even though KK didn't do well against them, they were unable to really make him pay for his lack of effectiveness (as would, and will, better teams).

One more time, everyone go to baseball reference and look up KK's splits, and tell me one other pitcher who has found long term success with a total lack of ability to get lefties out.

Dan - I was just asking the question as to who you were talking about. If it's really "their only good hitter is right handed", I'll buy that.

Dan in Philly:

1) So a guy who was in the rotation at the start of the season and has made 8 starts in turn is a spot starter? Really? You act as though there are no other choices. If the guy was really that worthless, I'm sure they'd have someone else doing the job.

2) What do I call 25 year old pitcher who's made 60 career starts already and has posted a W-L record of 26-15 with a career ERA+ of 94? I think it's someone who has a pretty good shot as a career as a back-end of the rotation starter.

You think Jamie Moyer is back next year?

Keith Law released a new Top 25 prospects list and writes this:

7. Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia. The Jayson Werth replacement is laying waste to Double-A, with a .337/.402/.653 line that must give the Phils' front office confidence that they can stand to lose Werth to free agency without too much of a hit to their chances of contending. Previous ranking: No. 14

Few things are more polarizing that Kyle Kendrick and Cole Hamels on this site.

K/9 and other peripheral stats coming any minute now....

More from Keith Law:

15. Brett Wallace, 1B, Toronto. Another player in super-two purgatory, Wallace is hitting .310/.369/.614 in the cozy hitters' environment of Las Vegas. He's still more of a hitter for average first and for power second, but the hot start has to encourage the Jays to throw Lyle Overbay overboard sooner rather than later. Previous ranking: No. 20 (Lots of talk Phils should have dealt for him to be our 3B prospect, but he's been moved to first and never really sohwed the defensive ability to pull off 3B.)

19. Michael Taylor, OF, Oakland. Not hitting; the first time you could say that about Taylor since his short-season experience in 2007. Previous ranking: No. 24 (Interesting that he's really struggled so far this year but still moved up 5 spots thanks to players who moved on to the majors and can't be considered prospects any more.)

Honorable mention


Jarred Cosart, RHP, Philadelphia. He could also qualify as the player who made the biggest jump. I may be getting slightly ahead of myself here, but Cosart showed up in spring training sitting in the mid-90s, prompting one evaluator to tell me he was "the second-best arm in the minors," after the guy at the top of the list. And so far, Cosart is lighting up the Sally League, with 33 whiffs and just only walks in 28.2 innings. Previous ranking: NR (Wow... didn't realize Cosart quite had that much buzz. Great to see these power arms in the low minors. Will any be our lottery ticket?)

Yo, new thread.

For those in the area, does it look like they will get this game in? A rain delay during a Halladay start would be disappointing.

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