In the spirit of maximum effort, here's my take on an issue I'd otherwise pass on addressing.
As manager, Charlie Manuel needs to stay consistent in addressing a lack of hustle, which is why he benched repeat offender Jimmy Rollins during Thursday's matinee. But in eight seasons as skipper, controversy like this rarely finds his Phillies. Players - in general, and to our knowledge - play the games hard and arrive on time. If they don't, it's dealt with privately and doesn't become part of public discourse, which is the unfortunate downside to benching a player, particularly one of Rollins' stature.
What Jimmy did was a shame more than anything. He hung his head in frustration and jogged to first when an outright dash would have gotten him to second … maybe. Not that it matters or affected the outcome. But a manager must be a manager. As much as Manuel is perceived as being "Good Times Charlie," he's entitled to be firm. Maximum effort is tough to achieve. By now, we recognize that Rollins - who is still among the best at his position - does not give maximum effort all of the time. He just doesn't. But if he's the worst offender on a ballclub - as seems to be the case - than Manuel has done something right. His record speaks for itself. Players enjoy playing here and sign long-term deals to stay. And they play hard for him.
Pierre clears waivers: There's a report on Twitter from Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports that Juan Pierre has cleared waivers. If that's the case, look for the outfielder to be dealt within the next few hours. Clearing is something of a surprise since there are teams that might have only been interested in blocking a move. Pierre's contract is far from a burden on the Phillies. Ruben Amaro Jr. may have forced interested teams to pass on a claim in order to open the door for the best offer.
Tomorrow is deadline for teams to add players who can be eligible for post-season rosters, and the Phillies have at least one useful offering in Juan Pierre, who would make many a lineup look better.
Beerleaguer: Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports reported two weeks ago that his sources said Pierre had yet to be placed on waivers and would likely get claimed given the relatively small amount left on his contract. The Phils, likely to pull Pierre back in order to negotiate the most value, have little use for Pierre these days, except for mentoring Domonic Brown. With rosters set to expand, and Nate Schierholtz likely to rejoin the outfield collection, teams must know Pierre is there for the taking. A team like the Reds would be happy to have him. The 35-year-old outfielder is hitting .300/.343/.363 with 32 steals in 37 attempts. Other players who've likely cleared waivers include Ty Wigginton and Placido Polanco, but Pierre is the only player who could send any real value the Phillies' way. And giving a veteran like Pierre a postseason opportunity is also the right thing to do, similar to what they did for Jim Thome.
Vance Worley, who was diagnosed with loose bodies in his pitching elbow in May and has been largely horrible ever since, will head to the disabled list and undergo elbow surgery within the next 10 days.
Beerleaguer: Well, yeah. The Phils displayed a rather surprising lack of caution with their young right-hander, even after conceding the season well over a month ago. There was that terrible start at home Aug. 6 against the Braves, which was blamed on a stomach bug. But when he didn't turn it around the next turn, or the next, the Phils should have really considered cutting it short there. Offseason surgery was in the cards anyway. They're playing for pride. So enjoy the offseason, Vance, and we'll see you in spring. Tyler Cloyd will replace Worley on the roster and pitch tonight, so the events of the last few hours appear well calculated.
Domonic Brown, who missed the previous two games nursing a bruised knee, was yanked from Tuesday's game in the 10th inning when he gingerly chased down a ball in left field. Staying on the field has been a major concern for the 24-year-old outfielder, whose most complete season included just 114 games for Low-A Lakewood back in 2008. In 99 plate appearances since his promotion, he's hitting .258/.330/.366 with one homer, no stolen bases, a shaky glove, but a keen eye for recognizing balls and strikes. Frankly, I still haven't seen nearly enough to be convinced that Brown can contribute as a Major League starting corner.
Meanwhile, Vance Worley's second-half spiral continued with a 62-pitch dud, in which he surrendered nine hits over 4 1-3 innings. Opponents are hitting .350 against the right-hander over the last two months, which coincides with the diagnosis that he's pitching through a bone chip in his elbow. Between Worley, Josh Lindblom and BJ Rosenberg, the Phillies wasted valiant efforts by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, who hit their ninth homers of the season, for Howard, a grand slam. The veteran pair has added 55 RBIs to the lineup since their return.
Right-hander Justin De Fratus would have been in the Phillies' plans had it not been for a right elbow strain suffered in early spring. The soon-to-be-25-year-old reliever returned to the IronPigs in mid-July and has made 16 effective appearances.
Beerleaguer: De Fratus pitched three shutout innings - a longer than usual load - in the IronPigs' 13-inning loss to Scranton Monday. De Fratus, who appeared in five games with the Phils last season, was considered the club's seventh best prospect entering the year by Baseball America and should be considered as something of a sleeper for next 2013 if he can put his elbow problems behind him. The right-hander uses a sinking fastball that tops out at 95, a slider and a change-up. But his best asset is that he's a strike thrower. In 19 2-3 innings with Lehigh Valley this season, he's boasting a 20/3 K/BB ratio.
Call-up primer: Saturday marks the date in which rosters expand, so we'll see whether the Phils feel comfortable extending De Fratus' season by a month. The Phils have several bullpen options still on the 40-man roster, including left-handers Jake Diekman, who they could showcase in more favorable matchups in September, Joe Savery, who has struggled with Lehigh Valley and could not distinguish himself in Philadelphia, and right-handers Michael Schwimer, a no-show at Lehigh Valley following his disagreement with management over his recent demotion, plus J.C. Ramirez, who has been a hot hand of late and showcased a live arm in spring training.
The Phils typically call up a conservative number of players in order to preserve team chemistry, but it's unclear what they'll do this season as they look toward 2013. I like the idea of De Fratus and Diekman. Aside from them, I'd like to see more from their current collection of active roster relievers instead of diluting the water with guys like Schwimer and Savery.
Ruf homers: Scorching hot 1B/LF/DH Darin Ruf socked his 36th homer Monday, placing him a homer shy of tying Ryan Howard's Reading franchise record of 37. Unbelievable.
Nineteen of the Phillies' remaining 34 games come against the worst teams in the league: the Mets, Marlins, Astros and Rockies. The other 15 come against Atlanta, Washington and Cincinnati, a favorable set-up for a minor miracle.
"The Beerleaguer conversation has shifted, over the last week or so, from making funeral arrangements for this season (i.e. draft picks if we tank the remaining games, trade everybody, fire everybody ) to checking the body one more time for a pulse. We aren't in a pennant race just yet, but there's still a little life left in '12. Might as well hang around and see what happens." - Bubba
"I came to Beerleaguer this morning to post something very similar. As much of a long shot as it is, they can really make up ground when they play those 19 games. And as Pblunts pointed out: '…we should at least pay attention until the 7.5 with 17 to play mark.' Stranger things have happened." - R. Billingsly
"So given recent Phillies history, we should at least pay attention until the 7.5 with 17 to play mark (referring to overtaking the Mets in 2007). But still too many teams to pass when before there was one. I'm not a Cholly guy so take this in context, but I think we end up close enough to the wild card to look back on the seson and wonder about those 10+ games where our $50M closer sat on the bench during those tied road games." - Pblunts
"9.5 GB in the WC? No chance. If they were sitting where Arizona is (6.5 GB), they might have a chance. Just too many good teams to climb over in such a short time span including the Braves, Cards, and Dodgers." - MG
"What people forget about 7.5 with 17 to play in 2007: Phils took the lead within 15 games, and also had caught up in the Wild Card race against everyone else who was involved with that, but the WC didn't matter since the Mets choked away the division." - EastFallowField
Mike Drago, Reading Phillies beat writer for the Readnig Eagle, polled two dozen major and minor league Phillies insiders to assemble his annual end-of-season list, which includes more than a few surprises. Here's your new Top 10.
1. Jesse Biddle, LHP
2. Tommy Joseph, C
3. Jonathan Pettibone, RHP
4. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
5. Sebastian Valle, C
6. Trevor May, RHP
7. Adam Morgan, LHP
8. Lisalverto Bonilla, RHP
9. Ethan Martin, RHP
10. Maikel Franco, 3B
For a complete look at the Top 25, including names like Tyler Cloyd, Darin Ruf and Phillippe Aumont, along with full evaluations of the Top 10, click here.
Beerleaguer: Drago also published his own ballot, and I like his thinking. He rated Cesar Hernandez as the best player in the system and breakout third baseman Cody Asche third. In Hernandez, the Phils have a young, outstanding second baseman who can handle the stick. Asche, meanwhile, has made huge strikes, but failed to make believers out of those polled, all except Drago, who's watched the 22-year-old hit like crazy over the last few weeks. Also take note: Drago has seen Tyson Gillies for parts of three seasons and didn't include him in his Top 15.
Had Beerleaguer submitted his ballot in time (sigh - sorry, Mike), it would have read like this:
1. Jesse Biddle, LHP
2. Jonathan Pettibone, RHP
3. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
4. Sebastian Valle, C
5. Tommy Joseph, C
6. Phillippe Aumont, RHP
7. Trevor May, RHP
8..Ethan Martin, RHP
9. Roman Quinn, SS
10. Cody Asche, 3B
I buy into Aumont's big-time upside. The right-hander fell to 18th in Drago's poll, but he's still only 23 and is finally settling into his future role as a late-inning reliever. Trevor May, last year's top prospect, has really struggled in his first season at Double-A. As Drago notes, he's lugging a 5.68 ERA since May 1. The organization believes his issues are mechanical. Meanwhile, I'm putting Sebastian Valle ahead of Tommy Joseph based on his 17 home runs. Joseph, who was acquired in the Hunter Pence deal and has earned raves from those in the industry, is just 21, a year younger than Valle, but seems like an overly ambitious No. 2 on the Drago poll. Roman Quinn has lots of errors and strikeouts, but he's 19 with big tools. I'm basically including Asche in the Top 10 because of Drago's huge endorsement and a big-time finish (1.301 OPS in last 10 games with four homers).
Overall, it's an improved system - simply because they have an improved outlook in two critical areas: catcher and third base.
Final note - nobody drank the Tyler Cloyd Kool Aid.
The Phillies welcome another new face as they get set for their series with Washington.
The Phils have once again lost Brian Schneider to the disabled list, and with Carlos Ruiz lost to injury, and Sebastian Valle just getting his feet wet at Triple-A, out of necessity more than anything, the Phils have purchased the contract of one Double-A catcher Steven Larud, 27, who was a non-roster invitee with the Phils this spring. Larud, a career minor leaguer who was a third round pick of the Pirates in 2003, has appeared in just 35 games with Reading this season, hitting .235/.350/.304 in 120 plate appearances (lot of walks, pretty decent on base, whatever, this guy's not going to play). Recall the Phillies, volunterily, depleted their "ready" catching depth right before the trade deadline when they gave Tuffy Gosewisch to the Blue Jays for nothing. Gosewisch, an organizational good soldier, was a spring training staple and good handler. And recall that the Phillies signed veteran Jake Fox out of the independent leagues after Chooch wen to the disabled list, but appearantly, he wasn't an option here.
Needless to say, the catching situation is grim indeed. Good thing there's nothing riding on these last 37 games. Enter the Washington Nationals, owner of a 19.5-game edge over Larud and the Phillies.
Darin Ruf clubbed his 33rd homer, and closer Justin Friend recored his 21st save in 21 opportunities, last night in the R-Phils' 7-6 win over Erie.
Ruf's homer, a massive 400-foot grand slam, moved him into a tie with Greg Luzinski (1970) for third among single-season home run leaders in Reading history and he is now just four off the record set by Ryan Howard (37) in 2004. Thursday's homer represented his 15th this month and fourth in five games. Meanwhile, Friend, who is 2-0 with an 0.25 ERA and 38/14 K/BB in 34 appearances (36 IP) for Reading, recorded a five-out save, striking out the side in the ninth, to preserve the win. Neither Ruf nor Friend rated in Baseball America's Top 25 Phillies prospects before the season.
Beerleaguer: Even if they are a little long in the tooth for the league, it's hard to ignore a pair of prospects who are threatening to rewrite the record books in a very competitive Double-A setting, particularly Ruf, who is keeping elite company among Reading's best All-Time sluggers. I did not think Howard's mark would ever be broken. Considering how white-hot he is, the 26-year-old Ruf's got a shot.
And he doesn't pitch for the Phillies.
More than one Phillies' national award recipient has benefited from playing on a winning team over the years, which is one of the big reasons why Cole Hamels should not be in the Cy Young conversation alongside tonight's counterpart Johnny Cueto and a host of suitable contenders, particularly those pitching for our National League East oppressors (Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez). At 57-67, it's time for some humility, and even though Hamels has been rock solid this season and very strong lately, the Phillies are a non-factor and it's time to recognize that Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Los Angeles are performing at a higher level and are anchored by more deserving pitchers. Statistically, Hamels rates as the 12th best pitcher in the National League, according to Fangraphs.com WAR. He's tied for third, behind Cueto and Zimmerman, in the Baseball-Reference WAR metric.
So the numbers say he's not the guy anyway. Unless Hamels runs the table, voters need to recognize that Hamels and the Phillies need to stand aside when the hardware is awarded after the season.
Transaction: Michael Schwimer was optioned to make room for Jeremy Horst, who's back from paternity leave. Schwimer has been up with the club for almost three-straight months, in addition to his first call-up in late April-early May. All told, he's pitched 34 1-3 inning with a 4.46 ERA and 36/16 K/BB. Not great, but he's shown flashes. He'll likely return when rosters expand.
… how 'bout that Josh Lindblom?
Beerleaguer: Lindblom. More like Lind-BOOM. The newly acquired right-hander pitched a 1-2-3 seventh before serving up his third home run in eight innings (nine appearances) in what turned into the winning run in Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Reds. In eight innings with the Phils, he's allowed seven runs (7.88 ERA) and is also carting a 8/7 K/BB. In addition, all four of his inherited runs have scored.
Offensively, we saw more evidence to support why the Phils rate below league average in many of the important categories (SLG, OPS, R/G).
Pence, Vic updates: On a positive note, the Phils haven't really missed Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. Pence has struggled since the deadline trade to the Giants. He's hitless in his last 11 at bats and is hitting .193/.239/.313 overall. Meanwhile, Victorino has also gone cold. He's 3-for-21 in his last five games and has been held without an extra-base hit since Aug. 17. He's hitting .244/.293/.349 since the trade.
Side-by-side, they've been outperformed by the modest combination of John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown, who launched his first homer of the season Thursday and has shown terrific judgement at the plate.
So 22 days into the post-Pence era, the Phillies have suffered no real side effects and injected young talent while gaining some flexability to add more pieces this off-season.
Placido Polanco replaces Kevin Frandsen, who played an incredible game Tuesday, when the Phillies play the third of four with the Reds.
Maybe I misread this, but Frandsen looked physically spent when they cut to a shot of him in the dugout following his second highlight reel defensive play Tuesday. So I'm not sure if that's behind Charlie Manuel's decision to go with Polanco tonight. If not, it's veteran loyalty; an addiction the Phils' probably need to break with their 36-year-old injury prone third baseman. Veterans are the crack cocaine of the Phillies, man. Meantime, Vance Worley searches for his first good start since Aug. 1. He's really been one of the weaker links of this team the second half of the season.
Right-hander Jonathan Pettibone walked three and fanned four in the 103-pitch, three-hit effort.
With the win, the 22-year-old righty improved to 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five starts since joining the Triple-A IronPigs. Between Lehigh Valley and Reading, he's 13-7 with a 2.95 ERA. Pettibone rated as Baseball America's 4th best prospect prior to this season and has been making a steady climb through the system. He could be an option for the Phillies' rotation as early as next season. Next February would mark his first spring training with the big club, where he could audition alongside teammate Tyler Cloyd, who would be another newcomber.
The win, which occurred in the opener of Tuesday's doubleheader, moved the IronPigs into the Internaitonal League Wild Card lead.
The Phillies used to win games like Tuesday night's 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Reds. But once again, familiar problems held them back.
Beerleaguer: First theme: Charlie Manuel hasn't been pushing the right buttons this season, a problem that resurfaced in Jimmy Rollins' failed 9th inning bunt attempt against flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. Glaring miscalculations like that have hurt, but it's more like a drop in the bucket compared to the broader issues: a general lack of talent; aging and underperforming players. Once again, I watch Jonathan Papelbon and wonder how he manages to get anyone out. Somehow, he gets results, but I look at his fastball sometimes and wonder. Chris Wheeler is quick to point out the runners left stranded with less than two outs. Over the course of a season, it's certainly a major part of why the Phils are out of contention. There's that, and also those fatal errors that more often than not have bitten the Phils hard.
The Phillies used to win these games. This season, they're just not doing enough to win them, from the calls coming in from the bench to the last man in the bullpen.
Updates on the Phillies' first three selections in the June draft and other news down on the farm.
- Right-hander Shane Watson, who was taken with the Phillies' first pick (40th overall) has been eased into four games (5 IP) with the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Phillies and has allowed just two hits while striking out seven. Right-hander Mitch Gueller (GCL) is 1-4 with a 4.88 ERA in 7 games (24 2-3 IP). Outfielder Dylan Cozens, who was taken in the second round, belted his fifth home run this afternoon. He's hitting .258/.349/.444 and has three home runs in his last seven games.
- Rookie ball shortstops then and now: Jimmy Rollins in 1996: 46 games, 20 errors. Roman Quinn in 2012 for Williamsport: 50 games, 22 errors.
- Per Phuture Phillies, Scott Elarton has not won a game in three months and is 0-10 with a 7.19 ERA in his last 17 starts.
- Right-hander Ethan Martin, who was acquired in the Shane Victorino deal, is a perfect 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA in four starts with Reading.
- Also per Phuture Phillies, Tyler Cloyd leads minor league baseball with 15 wins.
- The man who may be deemed the top prospect in the Phillies' system at the end of the season, catcher Tommy Joseph, is hitting .254/.347/.365 in 70 plate appearances with Reading. The 21-year-old catcher went 3-for-3 Monday night.
- J.C. Ramirez has not been scored upon in his last 10 2-3 innings (7 appearances) at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He's on the 40-man roster and is an option for a September call-up.
Right-hander Phillippe Aumont, who was part of the 2009 Cliff Lee bounty, will replace reliever Jeremy Horst, who was placed on paternity leave.
Beerleaguer: Aumont got knocked around in his last appearance. He walked one, hit one and gave up three hits and four runs, which skews his numbers a bit. That's fairly typical of Aumont it seems; a handful of meltdown innings peppered among unhittable ones. Opponents are hitting just .209 against him on the year with 59 strikeouts in 44 1-3 innings. Walks and wildness continue to be an issue, with 34 free passes allowed.
Aumont, who was the 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft, rates as the fifth-best prospect in the chain by Baseball America and seventh best by MLB.com's standards. Baseball America calls his fastball-curveball offering the best two-pitch combination in the Phillies' system, a fastball that can hit 98 mph and a late-breaking curveball. At 6-7, he's an intimidating presence with a closer's mentality. His command, rooted in an unorthodox delivery, will always be his Achilles heel.
He's a prospect for sure, at at 23, it's time to see what he's got for next season. It's possible we see all three Cliff Lee kids - Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez - when rosters expand next month.
Preview: Losing Joey Votto has been no big deal to the first-place Reds, who've been red hot and have managed to climb to 74-48, marking the second-best record in baseball. The Central division leaders visit Citizens Bank Park for the first of four beginning at 7:10. Roy Halladay (6-7, 3.80) tries to build on his recent stretch of quality starts. He's opposed by Mike Leake (5-7, 4.29). Cincinnati's strength stems from a well above average offense, rotation and perhaps the best bullpen in baseball. They're a very strong candidate to represent the National League in the World Series. ... Meanwhile, the Phils welcome Placido Polanco back to the club. The Phils, who are hovering 11 games off the pace in the Wild Card race, will bat Polly seventh tonight as they hope to gauge what he has left in the tank. Hector Luna was optioned to clear space.
Light posting today but back on schedule tomorrow. (I've been traveling for work since Tuesday). Didn't have a chance to discuss Kyle Kendrick, who has a knack for turning it on when he absolutely must. It must be the fifth time in his career he's fought back from the brink after it appeared he'd pitched himself out of the rotation.
Kyle Kendrick tries to build on Tuesday's seven-inning shutout effort in the Philiies' season series finale against Randy Wolf and the comparably matched Brewers. First pitch is 2:10 from Miller Park.
Notes: With the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline looming, also marking the date in which a player must be added to teams' rosters in order to qualify for the postseason, it's worth keeping an eye on several Phillies, including one who is starting in left field today. Ty Wigginton gets his first taste of left field and bats fifth in Charlie Manuel's lineup. Left field is actually nothing new to Wigginton, who made 16 starts at the position last season for Colorado and has appeared 75 times, overall, in the outfield over his 11 year career. Wigginton has almost certainly cleared waivers already and could be attractive to teams in need of bench or corner infield help. The Yankees were mentioned as a possibility before the July 31 deadline.
In addition, Placido Polanco, who went 1-for-4 in his third rehab game with Class A Clearwater on Saturday and could be activated Monday, also reportedly drew interest before landing on the disabled list with lower back inflamation. Polanco's glove keeps him top of mind for teams needing a true third baseman, but Manuel, himself, has suggested that Polly couldn't shoulder a full-time load anymore. Kevin Frandsen has also played well in his absence.
Then there's Juan Pierre, who continues to play well in limited chances. Ken Rosenthal's sources suggested that Pierre has not been placed through waivers and would likely get claimed given the relatively small amount left on his contract. However, the Phils could always pull him back in order to receive value for the outfielder. Rosenthal listed the Giants as obvious candidates who would be a fit for Pierre. The Reds were linked to him most in the days leading up to the non-waiver deadline.
Tonight's starter, Cole Hamels, hasn't allowed a run in his last 22 innings and is coming off back-to-back complete-game shutouts. The Phillies hand it off to their ace left-hander in hopes of snapping out of their Miller Park malaise tonight beginning at 7:10. Baseball has a funny way of exposing weak links, which was the case in the first two games of this series and basically the season on the whole for the Philadelphia Phillies. One can't help but wonder whether Vance Worley might be just another flash in the pan. Meantime, there's no doubt about tonight's starter. In the absence of Chooch, Hamels has been the Phillies' best player. [Jump to the newest comments]
The Phillies have 99 problems and hustle ain't one. The 44-game learning experience continues when Vance Worley takes the hill against Yovani Gallardo in the second of four from Miller Park. First pitch is 8:10. The Phils' bullpen has blown two-straight games. All-Star and $50 million closer Jonathan Papelbon, pictured right in case you've forgotten what he looks like, goes in search of his seventh inning of work this month. [Jump to the newest comments]
Bench Jimmy Rollins for Michael Martinez? Um, no.
With the Phillies clinging to faint playoff hopes, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel keeps his shortstop on the field, despite the annual "lack of hustle" dust-up, when the Phillies open a four-game set in Milwaukee. First pitch is 8:10. Cliff Lee has the honors. Readers recall that it was a four-game sweep of the Brewers in September of 2008 that sparked their stretch-run charge. They're hoping for the same type of lift here, only this time, it's likely a last-ditch effort.
So why wouldn't you start Rollins?
The issue is that he’s having marginal impact on a Phillies team that needed a big year from their franchise shortstop.
Let’s face it: as you can tell by the frequency of posting, Beerleaguer isn’t exactly running out grounders these days, either. And this "leading by example" nonsense is so overrated. Lead whom? Roy Halladay? Cole Hamels? Right.
Before we get to Jimmy, a little housekeeping. Right-hander Ryan O’Sullivan, 21, became the player to be named later in the Joe Blanton deal to the Dodgers. He was assigned to Clearwater, and you can take a look at his numbers here. Over on Phuture Phillies, he’s drawing comparisons to Kyle Simon, the right-handed reliever acquired in the Jim Thome deal to Baltimore. A fourth -round pick of the Dodgers in 2011, he ranked in the top 25 in the Dodgers’ chain, according to Baseball America. He’s had a history of elbow issues. Nevertheless, he sounds like more than just filler. Interesting the Phils seem to have focused more on guys who keep the ball down and locate rather than pure fireballers for the 'pen the last few years.
As for Jimmy, look, I get it. Good help is hard to find at shortstop, and his 3.1 WAR makes him the fifth-best shortstop in the league. But he's selling the Phils short on his best, there's no doubt, and I have to believe the Phils feel the same. He’s hitting .246/.308/.413, a bad average and bad on-base, and too many of the bad habits haven’t changed.
For the last four seasons, I feel like I’m constantly wrestling with how much he’s actually giving them, and wondering if I’ll be doing the same through 2015.
Roy Halladay (6-6, 3.80) hopes to add to his club's recent collection of dominant starts when the Phillies try for the sweep against Mark Buehrle and the Marlins today at 12:40. Halladay's last two starts have been terrific, including an eight-inning, two-hit carving of the Cardinals on Aug. 10. Doc's breaking ball, in particular, has been "Perfecto" nasty; his 2010 perfect game happened in South Florida over two years ago, and what I remember most from that game was an unhittable bender he located anywhere he damn well pleased.
Luna in left: Charlie Manuel stacks the right-handed thump in this no-holds barred arrangement: Rollins SS, Frandsen 3B, Utley 2B, Wigginton 1B, Luna LF, Brown RF, Mayberry CF, Kratz C.
Kyle Kendrick used a tricky change-up to his advantage, and threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes, in a revitalizing seven-inning, five-hit, shutout effort against the Marlins Tuesday night. That means we won't hear about Triple-A soft-tosser Tyler Cloyd for at least five days. With the 1-0 victory, the Phillies improved to 17-12 since the All-Star break and have won 7 of their last 10 series, which means it's time for another cruel look at the Wild Card standings. Ten back. Sigh. Nevertheless, .500 baseball seems well within range, and the Phils are going to overtake the Mets for third in the East, possibly tonight. Say what you want about the Phillies' season (It is rubbish), but at least the starting pitching appears intact, with several good takeaways in other areas.
Jimmy Rollins will lead off and play shortstop for the Phillies tonight, giving him 1,731 games at SS for the organization, breaking Larry Bowa's franchise record.
Rollins will be facing Josh Johnson (7-8, 3.88), while the Phillies will counter with Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.86). Kendrick is 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA in two starts since replacing Joe Blanton in the rotation. Not only is he potentially pitching for his job in the rotation, but he also is trying to lead the Phils to a third straight win for the first time since sweeping the Brewers last month.
The Phils lineup: Rollins SS, Pierre LF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Brown RF, Mayberry CF, Frandsen 3B, Schneider C, Kendrick P
With the Phillies' playoff hopes all but dashed and the potential for a Red October appearing like a virtual impossibility, it's a fair question to ask:
-Is it the Dodgers, a nemesis of the Phillies in years past, though a team that now sports former Phils in Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton?
-Is it a 2012 overachiever and World Series longshot, like the Pirates, White Sox, A's or Orioles?
-Is it a team that has never won the World Series, like the Rays or Rangers, or a team that hasn't won a title in more than two decades, like the Reds or Tigers?
-It's not an NL East rival like the Braves or Nationals ... right? And it can't be the Giants or Cardinals, the last two teams to knock out the Phillies? And you're certainly not rooting for the Yankees to win championship #28, are you?
Beerleaguer: I'm eliminating teams like the Pirates, A's, Orioles and Rays, since I believe that ultimately they're too flawed to realistically have a shot at the World Series this season. And it's just not in my nature to root for the Yankees, Braves, Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers or Giants. So, I'd say that I'm rooting for the Tigers, Rangers and Reds, probably in that order.
The Phillies and Marlins entered the season with high expectations and find themselves mired in the National League East cellar. The two sides open a three-game series. Cole Hamels (3.08 ERA) tries for his 13th win.
Beerleaguer: Tough break for outfielder Nate Schierholtz who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured big toe this afternoon. Schierholtz, who struggled for playing time with the Giants, has been given a relatively wide open shot to prove himself since his July 31 trade from San Francisco. In 37 plate appearances, he's hitting .219/.278/.344 with 1 homer and has been tested in center field for the first time in his career. At 28, and arbitration eligible until 2015 when he becomes a free agent, the loss of Schierholtz becomes a tough break for the Phillies as well as they gauge how best to allocate resources after the season. Clearly, they will be looking for help in the outfield, but the extent of it depends a lot on how Schierholtz, John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown perform over the final weeks.
The injury could also open up the door for Reading outfielder Tyson Gillies in a September try-out. Gillies, who is on the 40-man roster, has had trouble staying on the field, but was impressive during spring training and is hitting .293/.371/.441 over 216 plate appearances with Reading. With a wide-open hole in center field, and with a need to get more defensive in the outfield (and younger in general), Gillies could find himself on good footing for next season, despite his missteps.
Beerleaguer missed most of this series, but those who stuck around to watch the Phillies clip the Cardinals in extras Sunday offered positive words on a few unsung heros (besides the obvious one, Erik Kratz). By the way, the Phils have won six of nine series since the All-Star break.
Horst: "Jeremy Horst had a really nice outing. Had great command today and good fastball control. Did a really nice job working the outside corner on hitters with his fastball. Got Matt Holliday on a pitch that was knee high on the corner that is the kind of pitch a hitter just fouls off or hits a very weak grounder if they make contact. Been surprised by how Horst has been able to locate his fastball on the outside corner. Also been surprised by his off-speed stuff. Even if Horst doesn't pitch quite as well down the stretch, he definitely has worked himself into the conversation for a roster spot next spring as the second lefty ahead of Jake Diekman on the depth chart due to Diekman's continued bouts with command issues." - MG
Frandsen: "Kevin Fransden had only struck out once in his 46 PA this year, which struck me as a surprise(along with everything else he's done so far) - but then I looked at his career numbers:
MLB: 53 K in 614 AB (8.6 %)
MiLB: 205 K in 2294 AB (8.9 %)
Nice little skill set, his career BABIP is low so maybe he just needs some standard ~.300 BABIP (.333 in 2012 so far) to actually make himself a somewhat useful player off the bench." - lorecore
Utley's glove: "Chase Utley missed a few balls today that he used to turn into outs. Wonder if the Phils are going to consider moving him to LF next year just so they can get 120-130 GS out of him and keep his bat in the lineup. Obviously has a lot more value playing 2B, but wonder due to health concerns if they don't at least consider putting him in LF next year." - MG
We're talking rubber match, and Cliff Lee, on this beautiful Sunday in Philadelphia.
Game chat: Vance Worley (6-7, 3.83) tries to rebound from his shortest start of the season when the Phillies wrap up their series with Lance Lynn (13-5, 3.52) and the Cardinals. First pitch is 1:35. Meanwhile, Saturday night proved to be more of the same for Cliff Lee and the struggling offense as sinkerballer Jake Westbrook took it to the Phils in a 4-1 defeat. Lee, who has been nothing short of a disappointment this season even though he receives generally less scrutiny than other stars, has yet to win at home and has yet to rattle off a dominant run of starts the way he did last summer. In Lee, the Phils were counting on a Cy Young caliber effort and he hasn't delivered anything close. Dating back to Game 2 of the NLDS, it's time for the Phillies to start asking "What have you done for me lately?"
Meanwhile, the offense has yet to discover its post trade-deadline identity. Saturday night was rough as Westbrook pitched his type of game.
Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee are scheduled for Saturday night's second game between the Cardinals and Phillies. First pitch is 7:05. Until then, here are some general team stats worth considering.
Offense: There's more evidence to support the notion that in order to be taken seriously next season, the Phils need to zero in on at least one, big bat this off-season. Weakened (on paper) by a pair of trade deadline moves (although neither Shane Victorino nor Hunter Pence were lighting it up and one could argue they've improved with Domonic Brown and Nate Schierholtz at the corners), the offense hasn't gained any traction and has posted a middling .236/.305/.396 post-All Star slash line, worse than what they produced the first half. After climbing to the league average in offensive production following a steady May and decent June, fueled by a lot of base hits, they've fallen five from the bottom in National League OPS+ (91).
Defense: Perhaps the biggest season-over-season regression has come in this department. Playoff teams routinely rate at the top defensively, just as the Phils did last season, posting a .703 Baseball-Reference Defensive Efficiency, good for third in the National League. This season, they're at .685, which is five from the bottom. Washington, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles are this season's best defenders, which, aside from San Diego, is reflected in the standings.
Pitching: They've gotten a number of very strong outings from their starting rotation lately, including Roy Halladay's last two starts, Cole Hamels' complete-game shutout his last turn and a handful of quality starts from Joe Blanton leading up to his trade to the Dodgers. Post-All Star, they're 14-11 with a 3.48 ERA. On the whole, they're the best K/BB team in the league and second best K/9. Unfortunately, those numbers are counterbalanced by the third-most HR/9 and, generally, too many meltdown innings from the bullpen.
Conclusion: So what are the Phillies? They're tire-spinners, essentially, hurt by a lack of defensive playmakers, late-inning relief and a below-average offense that needs to become this winter's No. 1 priority. But you knew all that.
Notes: Charlie Manuel suggested Friday that Kyle Kendrick will take his next scheduled turn. Right-handed farmhand Gabriel Bermudez, who was pitching with the Venezuelan affiliate, was suspended 50 games for testing positive for metabolites.
Mike Lieberthal will be inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame tonight before the Cardinals and Phillies open a weekend set at 7:05. Former Phillie Kyle Lohse and Roy Halladay are slated.
Beerleaguer: Lieberthal's "homegrown" era never lived up to "home-spun" hype, but crack open the Phillies' media guide and he's right at the top of most franchise catching categories, well ahead of the pace maintained by fan favorite Carlos Ruiz, who will also be on the wall someday. A two-time All-Star, he's the all-time leader in games caught (1,139) as well as home runs and hits. If ruinous knee injuries hadn't derailed his career, right in his prime, he would have produced much more. Even so, he enjoyed a very productive 14-year career, 13 with the Phillies, finishing with a career OPS of .783. Not shabby. He's the third backstop to be honored on the Wall of Fame, joining Bob Boone and Darren Daulton. One can make an educated case that he had a better career than either one, even if he's less beloved.
First baseman Darin Ruf continued his torrid pace for the Reading Phillies this week, including six hits and a homer in his last two games.
Ruf, 26, is hitting .310/.405./.565 with an Eastern League-leading 23 home runs and tied for the second-most RBIs with 72. His .310 batting average places him fifth. Reading's season concludes Sept. 3, should he remain at Double-A the rest of the year. A 20th-round pick out of Creighton, Ruf started piecing it together last season in Clearwater and was named an All-Star. Reading skipper Dusty Wathan, who managed Ruf in Clearwater in 2011, told the Reading Eagle at the season's midpoint that he should have been considered Florida State League Player of the Year.
The white-hot first baseman, who made his second All-Star team this season, is in the midst of perhaps his best outburst of the season, a seven-game stretch that includes 12 hits, five of those leaving the yard.
"He's got power to all fields," Wathan told Reading Phillies beat writer Mike Drago at the All-Star break. "He's not only a guy who can hit home runs, but he can hit for average. He doesn't strike out a lot. He's not getting a lot of good pitches to hit. That makes it really difficult to stay disciplined like he has and still get some hits out of it. The thing that's overlooked about him is his defense. He's saved us a ton of errors this year."
Ruf, who is old for his league, went unranked in last season's Phillies Baseball America top 30. Reading seems to have a guy like Ruf - an older, non-defender, triple crown candidate - literally every year: Matt Rizzotti, Tagg Bozied, Neil Sellers, Randy Ruiz, Gary Burnham, John Castellano. On and on ...
Strong debut for Martin: Right-hander Ethan Martin, who came to the Phils in the Shane Victorino deal with the Dodgers, is off to a strong start with Reading. In two starts, the 23-year-old prospect is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA and eight strikeouts.
Using the remaining 51 games to identify potential rotation and 8th inning help would be time well spent. That means breaking from the status quo with Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo in their customary roles.
Kendrick, who allowed six runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 1-3 horrid innings, continued his starting rotation tailspin. As a starter, he's allowed an opponent slash line of .293/.356/.477 with 12 homers over 82 2-3 innings, a span of 15 starts. “I wasn’t throwing strikes at all,” Kendrick admitted to Comcast SportsNet following the game. “I couldn't get ahead or find the zone, so that was the main thing.” As for Bastardo, it's been the same tale of inconsistency. The Phillies have arrived on a full calendar year, dating to last season, where the 26-year-old left-hander just hasn't been dependable, let alone the lights-out late-inning reliever we saw in the early part of 2011.
Kendrick has been Phillies' conservative choice to occupy the last spot in the rotation, he may well have pitched his way out of the starting five for good. Tyler Cloyd's turn at Triple-A came last night (6 2-3 IP, 4 ER, 8 K, 4 BB). The Phils and Cloyd could stand to benefit from a trial run to see how his repertoire translates to the Majors. BJ Roseberg is another darkhorse possibility to take Kendrick spot. Cloyd or Rosenberg may not work, but the Phils have the luxury of treating the rest of the season as exhibition.
Meanwhile, dropping Kendrick to the bullpen would allow Charlie Manuel more flexibility to play around in the 'pen with Bastardo and others, or at the very least, the ability to put Bastardo in spots where he can succeed and perhaps regain confidence for next season.
A third consective series win hangs in the balance tonight when right-handers Tim Hudson (11-4, 3.45) and Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.45) joust in the rubber match between the Braves and Phillies. First pitch is 7:05. Lineups are basically the same as last night except for Erik Kratz and Nate Schierholtz trading spots at six and seven. Not much else to say about this one, or observe about Tuesday night's clinic held by Cole Hamels, who showed why the Phillies made the massive commitment, and sacrifices, late last month to keep him in Philadelphia for the next six years. [Jump to the newest comments]
Charlie Manuel avoids his fussy left/right lineup instincts with left-hander Mike Minor on the bump tonight as Cole Hamels and the Phillies look to rebound from a sloppy loss Monday night. First pitch is 7:05.
Notes: With the exception of replacing Brian Schneider with hot-hitting right-hander Erik Kratz behind the plate, it's a similar lineup to last night: Rollins SS, Brown LF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Mayberry CF, Kratz C, Schierholtz RF, Frandsen 3B, Hamels P. Juan Pierre hasn't started a game this month. John Mayberry Jr., who needs to make the most of these last two months, is 5-for-15 with a homer and a pair of doubles in his last four games. Better Mayberry in center field than Michael Martinez, which, as I said previously, was just plain dumb.
Morgan promoted: Rising left-hander Adam Morgan, who was named the July pitcher of the month in the Phillies' chain, will get a taste of Double-A hitters to finish out the season. Morgan, 22, was 4-10 with a 3.29 ERA and 140/28 K/BB ratio in 123 innings with Clearwater. His 140 strikeouts led the Florida State League; Morgan, lefty Jesse Biddle and lefty Austin Wright rank 1-2-3 in the league in strikeouts. Opponents were hitting just .227 off Morgan.
We can all agree Vance Worley looked like dog meat in Monday's loss to the Braves. Turns out the right-hander was battling stomach issues, not just channeling Brett Myers.
Worley has been pitching this season with a bone chip floating around his elbow and seems hell bent on making it to the finish line. That's fine and all … actually, it's not fine. He shouldn't be making the call. We watched Roy Halladay pitch through pain from February until the end of May only to spend six weeks on the disabled list, and that was back when the Phillies had a fighting chance. The games don't matter now. The Phillies would be wise to exercise a ton of caution with Worley, who's 24, good, vitally important going forward and starting to ratchet up some miles.
Just don't tell that to the team that just won two-straight series, is technically still in it and has been playing much better ball of late. The Revitalized Nine continue their homestand with the first of three against the Wild Card-leading Braves. First pitch is 7:05 with Vance Worley pitching and Domonic Brown batting second. Meanwhile, Erik Kratz gets the night off in favor of Brian Schneider. Three of the last four Beerleaguer posts have featured pictures of back-up catchers BTW. The Phils also made a roster move before the game, adding left-hander Raul Valdes off the disabled list and sending Hector Luna back to Lehigh Valley. [Jump to the newest comments]
Beerleaguer says his piece about departed right-hander Joe Blanton.
Care to read on if the headline hasn't already spoiled the premise.
I listened to a lot of talk radio while driving around this weekend and heard a good share of revisionist high praise for Blanton, using phrases like "very solid" and "vastly underrated." There was even some heated grumbling and fist pounding over letting him slip past the non-waiver trade deadline without getting something in return.
But let's face it: the reason he slipped into August is that he's not a major difference maker, and not someone who'll give any team a real edge in the postseason, head-to-head, against higher-caliber pitching. Aside from 2008 - a comfortable win over the Brewers in the NLDS, then a homer in a blowout Game 4 of the World Series, you're getting a boatload of forgettable starts, inconsistency and injury over five seasons, ending with the final year of his three-year, $24 million deal. There were times, like the opening halves of 2009 and 2010, when he was kind of intolerable. For three winters, the Phils made him available, and nobody budged.
Perhaps the most "underrated" part about Blanton was how inconsistent he was. There were lows, but there were certainly highs. When he was on, he helped considerably and played a big role in guiding the Phils slog through a 162-game schedule. He was steady in those second halves of 2009 and 2010 and was having a pretty good season, overall, here in 2012, including some of the best strike-throwing of his career. His 5.71 K/BB rates as tops in the league.
From the moment he arrived in Philly, Blanton went about business in a low-key way. The "four aces" spectacle made him an unfortunate, and undeserved, punchline. Even his name - Joe Blanton - denotes utility and a workman's ethos.
But let's not get carried away on either side: the fat jokes are just as uncalled for as letting him drink free in Philly for the rest of his days. He was Joe average, a league-median, 97 ERA+, back-of-the-rotation starter.
Not that there was anything wrong with that.
As expected, the Phillies have bolstered their catching inventory following the loss of Carlos Ruiz to injury.
The Phillies have signed 30-year-old catcher Jake Fox to a minor league contract and he has already taken the field for the IronPigs, going 2-for-3 Sunday as the IronPigs' DH. Fox had been playing for the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League after beginning the season with the Pirates Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis. A former third-round pick of the Cubs in 2003, Fox split the 2011 season between the Baltimore Orioles and their Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk and has spent parts of four seasons in the Bigs with the Cubs, A's and Orioles. For his career, he is a .237/.288/.425 hitter with 20 home runs, his best season coming in 82 games with the Cubs in 2009 in which he hit .259/.311/.468 with 11 homers. The day before signing with the Phils, the Somerset Web site reports that Fox went 4-for-5 with two homers.
Fox, who bats from the right side, has experience behind the plate, first, third and left field, but is known more for his ability to pound Triple-A pitching than his glove work, making him a positionless journeyman, at the age of 30, clinging to his baseball hopes in the independent leagues.
Which means he's not unlike former Phillie and Beerleague favorite, Chris Coste, although they'd traveled very different roads to the indies.