A Moment of Appreciation

One fear of mine is that with this run, we Phillies fans will go the route of the Red Sox fans.  The one thing that I want to avoid as much as anything else is a feeling of entitlement, a feeling that we have been chosen to win the National League and probably the World Series, a feeling that those red pinstripes will just keep winning because, well, that’s what they always seem to do.  In 6 short years since the miracle title in 2004, it seems as if “Red Sox Nation” has completely forgotten the 86 years of heartache and depression that preceded it.  Now, as their team “bumbles” along to a mere 90 wins this year, the fans get turned off and agitated.  This is not at all meaning to be an indictment of all Red Sox fans, but more of a reality-check and a reminder of just how lucky we are to be fans of the Philadelphia Phillies.  Most people reading this have felt the heartache, felt the pain, suffered many of the 10,000 losses that came before Chase Utley declared the Phils “World F’ing Champions.”  And, a couple of things going on in baseball have motivated me to take a quick moment to appreciate what we have with our team, and so I invite you to do the same on this off-day before the second quarter of the season kicks off in CitiField.

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now just how ridiculous Hanley Ramirez behaved on and off the field last week.  I’ll save you from having to read yet another opinion on the matter save this:  I happened to be watching the play live (on MLB Tonight–maybe the greatest show of all-time) and couldn’t believe what was going on.  And, then, I nearly vomited when I heard the utter contempt that Ramirez showed for his manager and, basically, the game of baseball with his post-game comments about how Fredi Gonzalez would understand because he “never played in the big leagues.”  You have got to be kidding me.  Now, as awful as I want to feel about this and how I want to paint pro athletes in this broad brush of entitled, disrespectful punks who only care about the money they can make, I actually took a lot of positives from this–and it made me want to write this post.

Two weeks ago, our old friend Cliff Lee made his first start of the season for the Mariners, after missing Spring Training and the first month of the season with a minor injury.  Lee pitched great (as expected) and appeared to be the perfect gentleman afterwards (as always).  However, behind the scenes, the grumblings began.  Just seven innings into his Seattle Mariners career, there was already talk (from his agent, primarily…as expected) about him wanting to leave town as soon as possible.  Again, we could throw this as another example of how pro athletes are mere mercenaries who follow the almighty dollar, but instead I am choosing to focus on the positive–and put it in this post.

The team next on the Phils schedule is the New York Mets.  Not even three years ago, the Mets roster was the envy of baseball GMs around the league.  They had superstars in their mid-20s at the incredibly difficult to fill positions of shortstop, third base, centerfield, and #1 starter.  And, they had an income stream that enabled them to be big players on the open market.  So, what happened?  Some people might point to the inadequacy of Omar Minaya at finding the little pieces to make a good team great (the anti-Pat Gillick).  Others may point to untimely injuries to key players.  Some might even point to the regression of stars such as David Wright and Jose Reyes.  And, a whole lot of people might even point to faulty leadership, be it Willie Randolph or Jerry Manuel as manager, or I’ve even heard blame spewed at pitching coach Dan Warthen and hitting coach Howard Johnson.  But, if you ask me, I think it’s really simple what happened to the Mets–clubhouse chemistry.  Everyone nowadays seems to think that clubhouse chemistry is overrated and overstated, especially in baseball, which is often construed as a collection of individual encounters making up a team sport.  But, I don’t agree.  For four years now, the Mets just plain don’t like each other.  That is why they haven’t done anything with the supreme talents of Wright, Reyes, Beltran, and Santana.  Once again, this example could be used to cast the selfish, arrogant stone at pro athletes saying “they’re on the same team–literally–why can’t they work together?”  But, instead I choose to look at the positives of this situation–and write this post.

There’s a ying to every yang, an up to every down, a left to every right.  And, fortunately for us Phillies fans, we’ve got the best of the best wearing our colors right now.  Take a moment to appreciate just who is going to don the red pinstripes tomorrow in Queens. 

How many times have you seen Chase Utley dog it after a ball as the other team circled the bases?  Never.  We only see the opposite–the best player on the team (and maybe in the league) hustling as if he’s a 22-year old rookie trying to make the team out of Spring Training. 

How many times have you heard Jimmy Rollins throw his manager under the bus after being benched for not hustling?  Never.  We only see the opposite–the most outspoken player on the team defending his manager for benching him…twice.

How many times have we heard a Phillie (or their agent) talk about how they can’t wait to leave for free agency?  Never.  We only hear the opposite–Roy Halladay actually took less money to come and stay here in Philly.

How many times have we heard anything that even resembles the chemistry problems that are prevalent in New York?  Never.  We only hear the opposite–a bunch of guys that absolutely LOVE playing with one another and bust their butts for the good of the team.  David Wright is 27 years old and getting significantly worse.  Jayson Werth is 30 years old and getting significantly better.  John Maine has been one of the top pitching prospects in baseball for about six years now, but was removed from the game by his manager the other day out after one hitter because of his attitude and genuine disgruntedness.  Shane Victorino let go in twice in the Rule V draft, only to lead the NL’s best offense in RBIs.  Carlos Beltran had offseason surgery four months after the season ended and still hasn’t returned to the Mets lineup as a result.  Chase Utley has had surgery within a week of the the season ending each of the past two years, and hasn’t missed one regular season game because of it.  Brad Lidge has had several surgeries immediately after the seasons have ended and the only flaw in his recovery is that he cared so much about his team that he tried to come back too soon.  Jose Reyes has as much talent as anyone in the big leagues, but just seems completely unable to address simple flaws that bring his game down from superstar to ordinary.  Ryan Howard won the Rookie of the Year in 2005, the MVP in 2006, a World Series title in 2008, the NLCS MVP in 2009, and now the biggest contract in Phillies history in 2010, yet he works tirelessly on the things that he doesn’t do well–his defense, his baserunning, his contact.  Oliver Perez refuses to go to AAA after being ineffective as a starter and no one on the team says anything.  Brett Myers is asked to take a demotion, doesn’t like it, but is met with such incredible pressure/support from his teammates, that he accepts the demotion, gets his head on straight and comes back to the majors with a new attitude just in time to lead the team to a World Series title.

All of these examples is not at all meant to say “see, our team is awesome, your team sucks.”  These examples are intended to do the exact opposite–to keep us Phillies fans humbled and honored that we get to root for not only the most talented group of guys in the National League, but quite possibly the hardest working, most professional, and closest group of guys in all of baseball.  In pro sports, the talent level between the best players and the bench players is so minute, that a lot of times it is attitude, camaraderie, and genuine desire that separates mediocre teams from championship teams.  And, the ones that achieve greatness because of these things are the truly legendary ones.

So, let us take a moment today to remind ourselves that we, as humble Phillies fans who are not “entitled” to anything, currently have the privilege of not only rooting for a collection of great players, but rooting for a collection of great players that, more importantly, make up one great team.  And, that maybe, just maybe, this great team might become legendary.

Phillies First Quarter Report Card

After last night’s win over the Red Sox in the first interleague game of the season, the Phils own the best record in the NL (26-15) as the season’s first quarter comes to a close.  The grades below are based on the performance at each position so far this season, taking into account the expectations for that position coming into the season.  The BSB Phils Weekly Report will be on hiatus for the next month….

Catcher:  The emergence of Carlos Ruiz continues.  The quiet, little guy is not as good offensively as he’s shown these first two months, but he’s definitely improved.  Not only is he hitting .309, but his .443 OBP ranks second in the NL, as he’s taken full advantage of hitting 8th in the line-up and forced pitchers to throw him strikes or put him on and go after the pitcher.  He’s also one of the premiere defensive catchers in the game, which adds so much to the success of this team every day.  He hasn’t been throwing base-stealers out this year, but that’s been more on the pitchers than him.

Grade: A

First Base:  It’s been a fairly standard first quarter for Ryan Howard.  He hasn’t really got the power stroke going yet, but he usually doesn’t until the second half of the season anyway.  His walks are down quite a bit, but that probably has a lot to do with Jayson Werth raking from the 5-hole.  His strike-outs are also down, which is a good sign, but could be a bit of a fluke.  Hopefully not though, because when the big man puts the ball in play, he hits it hard and it’s tough to catch, and that’s why he’s hitting .310, a number he hasn’t approached over a full season since his MVP season in 2006.

Grade: B+

utleySecond Base:  Unlike Howard, Chase Utley is becoming known for his hot starts.  His numers right now (.308 BA/.432 OBP/.587 SLG) make him an early entrant in the MVP race.  With 10 homers, he has a decent shot of topping his career high of 33.  Of course, he also continues to set the tone for the team with his intense focus and all-out effort on every play, every game.

Grade: A

Shortstop:  It’s been a really tough first quarter at the shortstop position, and there was more bad news last night, as Jimmy Rollins re-aggravated the calf muscle that forced him to miss 30 games already.  He’s day-to-day and possibly headed back to the DL.  Unlike last season’s first half, Jimmy’s been highly effective when he’s played, but he’s only managed 50 AB’s to this point, and it’s looking like he may not be totally healthy for the rest of the season.  Juan Castro has handled most of the SS duties, and though his numbers aren’t good, he’s had a bunch of clutch hits and played solidly in the field.  Wilson Valdez has also seen a fair amount of time here, and he performed similarly to Castro.

Grade: B-

Third Base:  Placido Polanco’s return to Philadelphia has definitely been a success to this point.  Like Ryan Howard, Polanco’s season has definitely been affected by the man hitting behind him, in this case Utley.  Polanco averaged 8 home runs a season over the last five years.  This year, thanks to Citizens Bank Park and more strikes thrown his way, he’s on pace for 20, which would be a career high.  Polanco has never been a player that took a lot of walks, but he’s taking even less with Utley behind him.  But with a .302 average and .450 SLG, nobody is complaining.  He’s also made the transition back to third smoothly, and has filled in at second base a few games.

Grade: B+

Left Field:  Raul Ibanez is the one hitter on the team that’s been a disappointment so far, though after his bad second-half last season and his terrible spring training, it’s not like it’s been a total shock.  His .246 average would easily be his lowest since becoming a full-time player in 2001, and he’s on pace for just 12 homers, which would also be a career low.  On the positive side, he’s been taking a lot of walks and has had a few key hits over the last month.

Grade: D+

Center Field:  It’s been an unusual season at the plate for Shane Victorino, and possibly that’s because he came into the year expecting to be the 7-hitter, but has spent most of his time as the lead-off man.  The numbers he’s posted, for whatever reason, look much better for a 7-hitter than a lead-off hitter.  His average (.264) and OBP (.317) are well below the numbers he’s posted over the last few seasons, but his power numbers are up.  He’s on pace for 32 homers and over 120 RBI, and already more than halfway to his career highs in those categories of 14 and 62, respectively.  I think we’ll see Shane’s average come up and power come down, but is it possible that the Flyin’ Hawaiian could be a 30/30 guy?

Grade: B+

Right Field:  We’ve gone through all these hitters that have had great first quarters, and now we get to the best of the werthbunch, Jayson Werth.  When is this guy gonna stop getting better?  He went from a nice platoon guy in ’07, to a solid everyday player in ’08, to an All-Star in ’09, and if he keeps going like he has so far this season, he could be an MVP in 2010.  He’s hitting .329 with a ridiculous .658 SLG.  He sits at or near the league lead in a slew of categories, including his 21 doubles, which is five more than any other NL player.  He’s well-known for punishing left-handed pitching, but he’s hit ALL 9 of his homers so far this season off righties, including one off John Lackey on Friday night that was hit about as hard as you’ll ever see a ball hit.  A dominant start to the season from Mr. Werth.

Grade: A

Bench:  As noted above, Castro and Valdez were serviceable fill-ins at shortstop, but other than that, the Phils have gotten very little production from their bench.  The three main bats, Greg Dobbs, Ben Francisco, and Ross Gload, are a combined 17/86 on the season, a .198 average, with 2 home runs.  The new backup catcher, Brian Schneider, has also been ineffective in limited playing time, with just 3 singles in 18 at-bats.  The bench gets credit for added defensive flexibility with Castro and Gload replacing Bruntlett and Stairs.

Grade: D+

Starting Pitching:  The rotation has been set-back due to injuries to Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ, but they’ve still acquitted themselves pretty well.  Roy Halladay has been as advertised, and then some.  He has 4 complete games in 9 starts, and a 1.64 ERA.  After a mediocre April, Cole Hamels looked really good in May, and he could be on his way to a really strong season.  Jamie Moyer has been steady, and turned in the start of the season so far (besting anything Halladay has done) with a two-hit shutout a few weeks ago.

Kyle Kendrick has been up-and-down, and will most likely be out of the rotation when Happ returns, but he’s had some really strong outings and still has the potential to have a solid career in the big leagues, whether it’s in Philly or elsewhere.  Blanton has been decent since coming off the DL, and Happ was solid in just two starts before his injury.

Grade: B

Bullpen:  The pen was the biggest question mark coming into the season, and though it certainly still holds that title, the group has definitely held their own.  With Brad Lidge limited to just three innings thanks to two DL stints so far, and Ryan Madson out for an extended period of time thanks to a broken toe, other guys have had to step up.  The main one to do that has been Jose Contreras, who’s 0.63 ERA has been a life-saver.  Chad Durbin has been the other key contributor, with a 2.79 ERA in a bullpen-leading 19.1 innings.  The lefties, J.C. Romero and Antonio Bastardo, have been fine in limited work, and Danys Baez and David Herndon have had their struggles, though both have also shown flashes of ability.

Grade: B-

Overall:  They’re on pace for 100 wins and they have the biggest division lead in baseball, so there’s no denying that it’s been a very successful first quarter of the season.  Especially when you take into account all of the injuries they’ve had to deal with, the .630 winning percentage is that much more impressive.  Right now, they have a Cy Young candidate and two MVP candidates.  They need to get more luck with their health, because the lack of production from the bench means they can’t really count on those guys for long stretches.  They also need to keep finding a way to hold things together in the bullpen, and be prepared to add a piece there later in the season, if needed.

Grade: A- 

Hello Evan, Goodbye Andre

With the Elton Brand albatross of a contact hanging over a franchise that is still trying to get over the one-year Eddie Jordan Era, the Sixers needed something…anything.  And, they got a big something on Tuesday night, as they won one of the only two prizes that mattered in the 2010 Draft Lottery.  There is a national consensus that has dubbed this draft a two-man draft, so the two winners were the Wizards and the Sixers.  John Wall will almost assuredly be a Wizard, leaving the Sixers with Evan Turner, who is apparently friends with current Sixer, Andre Iguodala.  That will be great for him to catch up with Andre…when they play against each other next year.

That is to say that as we welcome in the newest “face of the franchise” here in Philly, it’s time to say what is, in my opinion, a long-overdue farewell to the current face of the Sixers.  Iggy, who has undeniable athletic ability, is just not a winning player.  He made a nice jump from college athlete to pro basketball player.  There was even a time when I thought he could be a superstar in this league, but he just unable (or refuses to) improve on the aspects of his game upon which he must improve to become a star, namely jump-shooting and consistent effort defensively.  For this Sixers team, as currently constructed, to play its best ball, Iguodala has to be able to play the 2-guard.  But, he can’t (or won’t).  But, you know who can?  Evan Turner.

So, here is what Ed Stefanski has to do (ya know, after hiring Doug Collins, which is pretty much a foregone conclusion, at this point):  draft Turner, trade Iggy (and possibly Louis Williams), and plan for three years down the line, building around a solid nucleus of a young, big, athletic foursome of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, and Marreese Speights.  Plus (unfortunately), there is no reason to think that they won’t be in the lottery again next year, so nab your future big man in the 2011 draft.  This sounds like a playoff team again in 2013, but more importantly, the team will be immediately interesting again, for the first time since the original A.I.

Phillies Semi-Weekly Report Card #6

Record since last Report Card: 5-1

Overall Record: 24-13 (1st in division)

contrerasA second straight strong week saw the Phils take over the best record in the NL and a 5-game lead in the division, which is easily the biggest lead for any team in baseball.  The team was apparently unaffected by a start-and-stop beginning of the week, thanks to a rain-out on Tuesday, another rain-out for the second game of a double-header on Wednesday, and an off day on Thursday. 

Of course, an injury update is needed.  First, the bad news, Brad Lidge is back on the DL with an elbow problem.  It’s a shame, because he was really starting to show some positive signs, but now it just seems like it will be hard for the team to move forward under the assumption that he will be the closer.  Carlos Ruiz missed a few games with a knee injury, which left the Phils with their third-stringers at shortstop (Wilson Valdez) and catcher (Paul Hoover) for the Milwaukee series, which they swept anyway.  The really good news is that Jimmy Rollins and Carlos returned to the line-up on Monday night in the 12-2 rout of the Pirates.

Position Players:  It was the best showing from this group since they dominated over the first 8 games of the season.  They scored 9 runs or more in 4 of the 6 games.  Considering that stat, nobody had a monster week, though Victorino and Howard each had 10 hits, with Howard adding a grand slam and 6 RBI against the Pirates on Monday.  Ruiz stayed hot at the start of the week, going 4-5 with a homer in a win in Colorado.  His replacement, Hoover, made a huge contribution in the Brewer series, going 5-10 with 3 walks and scoring 6 runs in the 3-game sweep.  Solid contributions continued from Utley, Werth, and Polanco, while Ibanez continued to be the lone disappoinment offensively.

Grade: A

Starting Pitchers:  It wasn’t a spectacular week for the starters, especially compared to last week, but they were solid and they deserve credit for continuing to prevent over-exposure of the short-handed and not-so-great bullpen.  The starter went at least 6 innings in every game, which really goes a long way towards making your bullpen look better than it is. 

In his third start of the season, Joe Blanton looked pretty good again but he ended up with yet another unimpressive line.  He’s a had a little bad luck and could be on the verge of being the guy he was last season.  Halladay, pitching in his hometown of Denver for the first time, fought his way to a no-decision on a day when he didn’t have his best stuff.  Surprisingly, his start was the only game the Phils lost on the week.  Hamels and Kendrick closed out the week with two strong starts.  Hamels gave up back-to-back solo shots to the Brewers in the 6th inning, but was unscathed aside from that in his 6.2 innings of work.  Kendrick went 8 strong against the lowly Pirates, giving up 2 runs for his second win.

Grade: B

Bullpen: Another nice week from these guys, which is impressive with Lidge and Madson both out.  On the other hand, with the starters eating innings and the offense putting up big numbers, they weren’t pitching in many pressure situations and they were well-rested.  Any week that goes by without Nelson Figueroa appearing in a game is probably going to be a good week for this team.

Jose Contreras has been the story, and he’s taken over the closer role.  It will be interesting to see if he gives it up at any point for the rest of the season.  In 13.1 innings so far, he’s given up 1 run and struck out 18.  On Friday, he came into the game with the Phils leading 10-6 with one out in the 9th, and runners on 1st and 2nd.  He walked the first batter he faced, to load the bases, then threw two balls to the next batter, who represented the tying-run.  After a timely visit from Rich Dubee, Contreras unleashed a series of perfectly placed high-90’s fastballs and splitters to strike out the next two batters and end the game.

With Contreras unavailable on Sunday, J.C. Romero got the save opportunity and he responded with a 1-2-3 9th inning to secure the 4-2 win.

Grade: B+

Up Next:  The homestand that began last night continues.  One more with Pittsburgh, then two with the Cubs, and Boston comes to town over the weekend.  The rotation, starting tonight, sets up as Halladay, Moyer, Blanton, Hamels, Kendrick.  That means Halladay will be on the hill against the BoSox on Sunday.

Baseball Challenge: April Results

So, Doogan and I have been throwing around a “mock” $100 on MLB every day (or, at least, a lot of days) to see how we would do as professional MLB gamblers.  It’s what we’re calling the 2010 MLB Challenge.  If you like statistics or gambling or even just baseball, I think this stuff will be really interesting.  Personally, I do, obviously, enjoy sports handicapping, but I find these numbers actually more interesting from a fan’s perspective than a gambler’s because I think it gives you a real way to measure how teams are performing against expectations.  It is the best figure we have to normalize for pitching matchups or tough schedules or what-not.  The Rays have played a ridiculously tough schedule and it shows with their profits so far.  So, as a fan, I find this stuff even more relevant than I do as a gambler.

[NOTE: If anyone wants to join us in their picks, just let me know via email or a comment below, and I’ll start sending you the morning lines.  All you have to do is wager “BSB dollars” on any MLB games you want.  The dollars can be divied up any way you wish, up to $100 each day.  We’ll track the progress periodically on the blog.  There is no obligation at all.  Do it every day, once a week, once a month, or whatever.  I’ll even keep track of your “performance” on a monthly basis, along the lines of how you’re about to see for the April picks.]

One of the most interesting things about this (and the impetus for this “challenge”) is tracking to see how you would do if you rode one team all year.  Or, if you bet against one team all year.  Seeing what teams do better than “Vegas” says they would do, etc.  So, I have all of those numbers for the month of April and will present them below.  Now, I know we’re almost halfway through May, but life has been busy for me recently.  I do have the tracking numbers as of April 30, though.  Here are the April numbers:

Home Road Splits by League
How big is home-field advantage in MLB?  That’s a question that’s always bandied about in sports debates because the answer isn’t obvious like it is in the NFL or NBA, where there is a clear home-field advantage.  And, does it change, by league?  Does the DH have any affect on the home-field advantage because the home pitcher waits an extra inning before having to hit?  Do the more potent AL lineups make it more important to bat last?  Well, I don’t think that these numbers will answer these questions, but they might shine some light on them.  Here are the numbers:

  • Overall it looks like Vegas gives too much deference to home teams, as betting on the ROAD team was 1.8 times more profitable than betting on the home team in April.  But, this doesn’t tell the whole tale because there were some astonishing results when you break it down between the two leagues.
    • In the American League, betting on the ROAD team was over TWELVE TIMES more profitable than betting on the home team.
    • But, in the National League, betting on the HOME team was almost TEN TIMES more profitable betting on the road team.

I’m not sure what to make of these numbers, and it might have to do with the flukiness of the schedule or things like that, but it is pretty interesting to have such a huge discrepancy over the course of a whole month.

Home Favorites/’Dogs vs. Road Favorites/’Dogs
In football, you always hear about the “home ‘dogs” and how profitable they are.  Well, is that the case in baseball?  And, if not, is there another combination that is better?  Well, here are the April numbers:

  • Overall, the UNDERDOGS were nearly SEVEN TIMES more profitable bets than the favorites.
  • The HOME ‘DOGS were nearly EIGHT TIMES more profitable than the home favorites.
  • The ROAD ‘DOGS were about FIVE TIMES more profitable than the road favorites.

Betting On The Same Team Every Game
There were 13 teams that would have netted a profit were you to bet the same amount on them every game this year.  There were 17 teams on which you would have lost money.  Here are all 30 teams and the amount of money you would have made or lost (negative numbers shown in parentheses), had you bet $100 on every game they played.  The top team (Tampa Bay) and the bottom team (Baltimore) might not surprise anyone, but right after them come some teams you might not think of.  The surprisingly good starts of Washington and San Diego turned incredibly large profits, while Atlanta, the White Sox, and Milwaukee were all incredibly disappointing.  Teams like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Cincinnati were profitable bets, while teams like Philadelphia, Florida, and Colorado were not.  Here is the complete list:

  1. Tampa Bay = $838.34
  2. Washington = $818.24
  3. San Diego = $752.20
  4. Minnesota = $448.75
  5. N.Y. Yankees = $266.26
  6. N.Y. Mets = $255.00
  7. Detroit = $252.86
  8. Cincinnati = $225.98
  9. St. Louis = $196.39
  10. San Francisco = $179.80
  11. Toronto = $33.77
  12. Pittsburgh = $20.91
  13. Kansas City = $12.96
  14. Texas = ($57.18)
  15. Arizona = ($88.49)
  16. L.A. Angels = ($104.63)
  17. Oakland = ($113.03)
  18. Seattle = ($121.36)
  19. Cleveland = ($142.67)
  20. Philadelphia = ($148.21)
  21. Florida = ($195.89)
  22. Chi Cubs = ($332.04)
  23. Colorado = ($396.08)
  24. Houston = ($411.02)
  25. Boston = ($444.02)
  26. Milwaukee = ($476.70)
  27. L.A. Dodgers = ($508.77)
  28. Chi W.Sox = ($643.32)
  29. Atlanta = ($835.86)
  30. Baltimore = ($1,049.00)

Betting Against the Same Team Every Game
“A subtle difference,” you say, “between tracking the winnings of betting on a team and those from betting against them.”  And, yes, you would be right.  But, over the long haul, there is certainly a tangible difference, so we’ll track them both.  Below are the 30 teams in order of how much money you would make if you had bet $100 AGAINST them every game this year.  Notice that because of the “jig” associated with MLB bets, there are several teams (Cleveland, Texas, Seattle, and Oakland) where you would have lost money whether you decided to bet every game on them or every game against them.  There is one team where you would have turned a profit whether you bet on or against them every game…Kansas City.  Though, not surprisingly, you would have made more money betting against the lowly Royals.  I think the reason for this is that 4 out of 5 games, they are pretty substantial underdogs, so they can make up for losses with wins.  And, then on that fifth day, when they have Greinke pitching, they become heavy favorites, sometimes, but don’t really win that much.

  1. Baltimore = $735.25
  2. Atlanta = $532.65
  3. Boston = $478.00
  4. Chi W.Sox = $424.55
  5. L.A. Dodgers = $415.19
  6. Milwaukee = $410.06
  7. Chi Cubs = $364.08
  8. Houston = $207.81
  9. Kansas City = $155.63
  10. Philadelphia = $107.04
  11. Florida = $95.75
  12. L.A. Angels = $56.82
  13. Colorado = $53.98
  14. Arizona = $18.00
  15. Cleveland = ($5.56)
  16. Texas ($85.83)
  17. Pittsburgh = ($116.43)
  18. Seattle = ($117.47)
  19. Oakland = ($123.65)
  20. Toronto = ($155.18)
  21. Cincinnati = ($219.11)
  22. Detroit = ($279.03)
  23. N.Y. Mets = ($284.00)
  24. San Francisco = ($388.52)
  25. Minnesota = ($482.71)
  26. St. Louis = ($546.47)
  27. N.Y. Yankees = ($613.85)
  28. Washington = ($614.56)
  29. Tampa Bay = ($918.25)
  30. San Diego = ($980.03)

 (Quick note:  I just did the numbers on the Royals.  If you were to bet $100 ON them every time anyone other than Greinke pitched, you would have made $326.00.  And, then, if you were to have bet $100 AGAINST them every time Greinke did pitch, you would have made another $320.49.  That total of $646.49 would be the fifth most profitable bet behind betting ON Tampa Bay, Washington, and San Diego, and betting AGAINST Baltimore.)

20 Most Profitable Pitchers to Bet Against
And, what about if you decided to bet $100 AGAINST a certain pitcher every game?  Well, here are the 20 most profitable choices for the month of April:

  1. Tom Gorzelanny (CHC) = $423.33
  2. Brett Anderson (OAK) = $418.00
  3. Jason Hammel (COL) = $412.34
  4. Joe Saunders (LAA) = $351.97
  5. Jake Peavy (CHW) = $342.57
  6. Kyle Kendrick (PHI) = $323.80
  7. Zack Greinke (KC) = $320.49
  8. Felipe Paulino (HOU) = $314.48
  9. Charlie Morton (PIT) = $313.34
  10. Kenshin Kawakami (ATL) = $311.24
  11. Greg Smith (COL) = $306.67
  12. Gil Meche (KC) = $279.98
  13. Javier Vazquez (NYY) = $279.24
  14. Matt Cain (SF) = $274.21
  15. Tim Wakefield (BOS) = $268.00
  16. Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) = $259.43
  17. Edwin Jackson (ARI) = $256.90
  18. Charlie Haeger (LAD) = $252.86
  19. Dave Bush (MIL) = $251.21
  20. Matt Harrison (TEX) = $248.97

Phillies Starting Pitchers
Wonder how the Phillies pitchers have done through April?  Well, here is your profit/loss, if you were to have bet $100 on every game started by a Phillies pitcher below:

  • Roy Halladay = $98.43
  • Cole Hamels = $45.19
  • Jamie Moyer = ($4.81)
  • J.A. Happ = ($37.50)
  • Kyle Kendrick = ($356.52)
  • Nelson Figureoa = $107.00
  • Joe Blanton = didn’t pitch in April

So, we will update these numbers for each month for the rest of the season.  But, what we will also do is to track how Doogan and I (and anyone else who wants to join us) are doing in our own picks.  All of the following figures are through April 30:

Overall
The month went back and forth, with Doogan going crazy early, Bry coming back with a couple big days to take a lead, and then finally them settling in just about even.

  • Bry = $80.67
  • Doogan = $75.29

Splits – Home/Road
The home/road split is an interesting facet to track between us because we both tend to pick a lot more road teams, in trying to find the “values” of the night.

Doogan definitely had a high propensity for picking the road teams throughout the month, as over 80% of his bets were placed on the road team.  When he did go with a home team, though, he usually nailed it.  In fact, he got 11 of his 16 bets on the home team correct, for a profit of over $100.  He actually came out behind on his 67 road bets.

Though not quite as drastic, Bry also favored betting on the road teams by nearly a 2-to-1 ratio.  Bry did fare better with the road picks, though he did barely turn a profit on both sides.

  • Doogan
    • + $109 Home (16)
    • – $34 Road (67)
  • Bry
    • + $1.82 Home (46)
    • + $78.85 Road (88)

Splits – League
There might be some interesting findings when you break down each of our bets by league.  We are both definitely die-hard Phillies fans, but I think you could probably characterize us both as die-hard National League fans, as well.  And, at the very least, it’s pretty safe to say that we watch a lot more NL baseball than AL baseball, simply from collateral Phillies fandom.  But, does that translate into better “wagering” on NL games?  And, does it even factor in on how many of each league we select?

Doogan did favor the NL games slightly, as 55% of his picks were NL games.  He also turned a slightly better profit, in total and in average per bet (I didn’t do the exact ROI, Return on Investment–that might come in the subsequent months).

Bry, on the other hand, had no preference for league when selecting the bets, as he had exactly 67 bets on both leagues.  In fact, you can say that he has a slight preference for selecting AL games, since there are more NL games, as a whole.  And, then you look at profit and it’s extraordinary.  Bry is $160 in the black on AL games, while $80 in the red on NL games.

  • Doogan
    • + $32 AL (37)
    • + $43 NL (46)
  • Bry
    • + $160 AL (67)
    • – $80 NL (67)

 Splits – By Favorite
Obviously, if the bookmakers know anything (and there are large buildings in the Nevada desert that says they do), the favorites will win more often.  But, with baseball betting, in particular, it’s definitely important to find the right underdogs because the whole system basically relies on the money lines, or the “odds” that Team A will beat Team B on that given night.  So, it’s important to pick the favorites that are rock-solid and then take smart, calculated shots at underdogs from time to time.  There is money to be made in both, it’s just a bit of a different approach.

Interestingly, Doogan has placed as many bets on favorites as he has on underdogs.  And, just as interestingly, he has made pretty much the exact same profit on each.  Taking it further, when betting on the favorite, it doesn’t really affect him home or away, as he is a winner on both, but when talking underdogs, Doogan has CLEANED UP on home ‘dogs.  He’s only placed 8 bets on home ‘dogs, but has come away with a cool $94 profit.  Road ‘dogs, on the other hand, have been tough on him, as he’s down $63 on his 32 bets of road ‘dogs.

Bry’s affects are much more closely tied to how good he is at underdogs and how bad he is at picking favorites.  He is down $122 from picking favorites.  Fortunately, for him, he’s almost twice as likely to pick an underdog (85 ‘dogs to 45 favorites), and he’s making his money on the longshots.  In fact, Bry is best with the longest odds.  He has placed 12 bets on a team with odds of +170 (1.7-to-1) or worse, and he’s won half of them, turning a profit of $74 on these longshots alone.  If only he could pick the teams that were supposed to win a little bit better than he does.

  •  Doogan
    • + $32 Favorites (40)
      • + $18 Road Favorites (32)
      • + $14 Home Favorites (8)
    • + $31 Underdogs (40)
      • – $63 Road ‘Dogs (32)
      • + $94 Home Dogs (8)
    • + $12 Pick ‘Ems (3)
  • Bry
    • -$122 Favorites (45)
      • – $85 Road Favorites (26)
      • – $37 Home Favorites (19)
    • + $205 Underdogs (85)
      • + $157 Road ‘Dogs (59)
      • + $48 Home ‘Dogs (26)
    • – $2 Pick ‘Ems (4)

Splits – Betting ON Certain Teams
So, Doogan and Bry both have their individual trends with teams that they like to bet on.  Both have bet on the Phillies and White Sox a whole lot of times, with very poor results.  Both have also struggled betting on small market teams such as Florida and Oakland, but both have made money betting on small market teams like the Rays, Twins, and Padres.  Doogan has ridden the Yankees all year, while Bry has made real good money on Detroit.  Doogan has done well with Colorado, while Bry has lost money on the Rox.  Bry, on the other hand, has turned a decent profit on Seattle, while Doogan has been slaughtered by them.

DOOGAN’S MOST PROFITABLE TEAMS TO BET ON

  1. N.Y. Yankees = $65.01 – 7 bets
  2. Minnesota = $59.89 – 3 bets
  3. Arizona = $32.18 – 3 bets
  4. San Diego = $29.00 – 1 bet
  5. Tampa Bay = $28.80 – 3 bets

DOOGAN’S LEAST PROFITABLE TEAMS TO BET ON:

  1. Seattle = ($59.66) – 6 bets
  2. Philadelphia = ($41.07) – 7 bets
  3. Oakland = ($35.00) – 2 bets
  4. Chicago W.Sox = ($29.00) – 4 bets
  5. L.A. Dodgers = ($25.00) – 2 bets

DOOGAN’S MOST POPULAR TEAMS TO BET ON

  1. N.Y. Yankees = 7
  2. Philadelphia = 7
  3. Atlanta = 6
  4. Seattle = 6
  5. Florida = 5 

BRY’S MOST PROFITABLE TEAMS TO BET ON

  1. Tampa Bay = $86.73 – 7 bets
  2. Detroit = $85.75 – 7 bets
  3. Toronto = $48.25 – 3 bets
  4. Minnesota = $45.50 – 6 bets
  5. Chicago Cubs = $32.90 – 3 bets

BRY’S LEAST PROFITABLE TEAMS TO BET ON

  1. Philadelphia = ($98.32) – 8 bets
  2. Chicago W.Sox = ($64.00) – 8 bets
  3. Texas = ($33.30) – 5 bets
  4. Florida = ($31.50) – 8 bets
  5. Oakland = ($24.00) – 7 bets

BRY’S MOST POPULAR TEAMS TO BET ON

  1. Chicago W.Sox = 8
  2. Florida = 8
  3. Philadelphia = 8
  4. several tied at 7

Splits – Betting AGAINST Certain Teams
There are also trends of betting against certain teams.  Both have bet often and successfully against the Orioles.  Both have bet often and unsuccessfully against the Giants.  Detroit has been a profitable team for both to bet against, as have Arizona, Colorado, and the Angels.  Both are losing money betting against Seattle, Texas, and Pittsburgh.  Interestingly, Bry seems to have a firm grasp on the Tigers and Cubs, as he has made significant money both betting on them and against them.  Doogan has that connection with Arizona and Colorado.  Bry is stumped by Florida, as he has lost significant money betting both on and against them.

DOOGAN’S MOST PROFITABLE TEAMS TO BET AGAINST

  1. Baltimore = $58.88 – 7 bets
  2. Washington = $34.89 – 2 bets
  3. Cleveland = $34.47 – 3 bets
  4. Boston = $34.25 – 3 bets
  5. Houston = $31.79 – 5 bets

DOOGAN’S LEAST PROFITABLE TEAMS TO BET AGAINST

  1. San Francisco = ($78.00) – 6 bets
  2. Toronto = ($39.00) – 4 bets
  3. L.A. Dodgers = ($30..00) – 2 bets
  4. Texas = ($24.66) – 4 bets
  5. Pittsburgh = ($23.89) – 3 bets

DOOGAN’S MOST POPULAR TEAMS TO BET AGAINST

  1. Baltimore = 7
  2. San Francisco = 6
  3. Houston = 5
  4. N.Y. Mets = 5
  5. many tied at 4

BRY’S MOST PROFITABLE TEAMS TO BET AGAINST

  1. Baltimore = $64.86 – 9 bets
  2. Chicago Cubs = $61.83 – 8 bets
  3. Boston = $59.00 – 9 bets
  4. Detroit = $50.00 – 3 bets
  5. Kansas City = $41.50 – 2 bets

BRY’S LEAST PROFITABLE TEAMS TO BET AGAINST

  1. Cleveland = ($56.30) – 5 bets
  2. L.A. Dodgers = ($56.25) – 8 bets
  3. N.Y. Mets = ($47.00) – 5 bets
  4. San Francisco = ($38.00) – 3 bets
  5. Florida = ($35.00) – 3 bets

BRY’S MOST POPULAR TEAMS TO BET AGAINST

  1. L.A. Angels = 10
  2. Baltimore = 9
  3. Boston = 9
  4. Chicago Cubs = 8
  5. L.A. Dodgers = 8

Splits – Betting ON Certain Pitchers
It’s interesting to see which pitchers strike the fancy of the gamers.  Doogan has been riding the backs of Yankees Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett–three times each for serious profits.  Bry has turned the clock back to 2003, as he has ridden the backs of Dontrelle Willis, Livan Hernandez, and Barry Zito to some nice profits.  Chris Volstad is the only pitcher on which Doogan has placed two losing bets.  Bry has lost three times with Josh Johnson for a $30 loss, and three times with Kyle Kendrick for a $65 loss…ouch!

DOOGAN’S MOST PROFITABLE PITCHERS TO BET ON

  1. Andy Pettitte (NYY) = $60.43 – 3 bets
  2. Francisco Liriano (MIN) = $30.00 – 1 bet
  3. Nick Blackburn (MIN) = $29.89 – 2 bets
  4. A.J. Burnett (NYY) = $29.58 – 3 bets
  5. Chris Young (SD) = $29.00 – 1 bet
  6. Ian Kennedy (ARI) = $29.00 – 1 bet

DOOGAN’S MOST POPULAR PITCHERS TO BET ON

  1. Andy Pettitte (NYY) = 3
  2. A.J. Burnett (NYY) = 3
  3. many tied at 2

BRY’S MOST PROFITABLE PITCHERS TO BET ON

  1. Dontrelle Willis (DET) = $47.25 – 2 bets
  2. Livan Hernandez (WAS) = $43.50 – 2 bets
  3. Francisco Liriano (MIN) = $42.00 – 2 bets
  4. Barry Zito (SF) = $38.18 – 4 bets
  5. Andy Pettitte (NYY) = $32.19 – 2 bets

BRY’S LEAST PROFITABLE PITCHERS TO BET ON

  1. Kyle Kendrick (PHI) = ($65.00) – 3 bets
  2. Todd Wellemeyer (SF) = ($35.00) – 2 bets
  3. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) = ($35.00) – 2 bets
  4. Gavin Floyd (CHW) = ($30.00) – 2 bets
  5. Josh Johnson (FLA) = ($30.00) – 3 bets

BRY’S MOST POPULAR PITCHERS TO BET ON

  1. Barry Zito (SF) = 4
  2. many tied at 3

Splits – Betting AGAINST Certain Pitchers
And, the other part of the equation is the pitcher you bet against.  There are some different approaches to this.  Doogan has taken the tried-and-true approach of betting against bad pitchers.  He’s won multiple times on Oliver Perez, Brad Bergesen, David Huff, and Bud Norris.  Bry, on the other hand, seems to try and find “value” in inflated lines against “big-name” pitchers.  He has won multiple times on Carlos Zambrano, Tim Hudson, Javier Vazquez, Joel Piniero, Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, and Jon Lester.

DOOGAN’S MOST PROFITABLE PITCHERS TO BET AGAINST

  1. Brian Matusz (BAL) = $43.58 – 2 bets
  2. John Lackey (BOS) = $31.25 – 1 bet
  3. Justin Verlander (DET) = $30.00 – 1 bet
  4. Ted Lilly (CHC) = $29.00 – 1 bet
  5. Edwin Jackson (ARI) = $29.00 – 1 bet

DOOGAN’S MOST POPULAR PITCHERS TO BET AGAINST

  1. many tied at 2

BRY’S LEAST MOST PROFITABLE PITCHERS TO BET AGAINST

  1. Tom Gorzelanny (CHC) = $42.00 – 2 bets
  2. Joel Piniero (LAA) = $40.69 – 2 bets
  3. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) = $38.08  2 bets
  4. Justin Verlander (DET) = $30.00 – 1 bet
  5. Tim Hudson (ATL) = $28.65 – 2 bets

BRY’S LEAST PROFITABLE PITCHERS TO BET AGAINST

  1. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) = ($45.00) – 2 bets
  2. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) = ($40.00) – 1 bet
  3. Jonathon Niese (NYM) = ($39.50) – 3 bets
  4. Ryan Dempster (CHC) = ($30.00) – 2 bets
  5. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) = ($30.00) – 2 bets
  6. Ricky Romero (TOR) = ($30.00) – 2 bets

BRY’S MOST POPULAR PITCHERS TO BET AGAINST

  1. David Hernandez (BAL) = 4
  2. Jered Weaver (LAA) = 4
  3. Chad Billingsley (LAD) = 3
  4. Jon Lester (BOS) = 3
  5. Jonathon Niese (NYM) = 3
  6. Javier Vazquez (NYY) = 3
  7. Adam Wainwright (STL) = 3

Hope this is even half as interesting to anyone else as it is to me…probably not.  Either way, there will be another update in May with the numbers from the first two months of the season.  Good luck, Doogan.

Phillies Semi-Weekly Report Card #5

Record since last Report Card: 5-2

Overall Record: 19-12 (1st in division)

After a hot start to the season, the Phils were 7-9 in their previous 16 games coming into this week.  Although the offense hadn’t been great, the pitching was the main culprit.  That changed this week.  The starting pitchers, in particular, had an incredible week, and the bullpen also bounced back from a rough stretch.

Position Players: An up-and-down week with the bats, but fairly solid for the most part.  Jayson Werth continues to rake, with 8 extra base hits on the week (3 HR, 5 2B).  He’s hitting .349 on the season, slugging .688, and the dollar signs in his eyes keep getting bigger.  He’s just become such a lethal hitter.  In the 1st inning on Thursday, he came to bat with two runners on-base.  With the count 1-2, Kyle Lohse threw him an excellent slider that broke off the outside of the plate, and Werth just watched it go for a ball.  The next pitch, he took an outside fastball the opposite way for a 3-run homer.  STUD.

The Hit of the Week Award goes to Carlos Ruiz, who hit a walk-off homer to beat the Cards 2-1 on Tuesday night. A couple pitches before the homer, Carlos hit the longest ball I’ve ever seen him hit, but it went just foul down the left-field line.  Maybe the most shocking stat of the season so far: Carlos is leading the NL in on-base percentage (.465), and by 20 points! In other catcher news (and obligatory injury news), Brian Schneider hit the DL with a strained leg muscle, so journeyman Paul Hoover will backup Carlos for the next two weeks.

Defensively, Shane Victorino deserves a mention for the best catch I’ve seen by a Phillie yet this season, on a full-out sprint to deep right-center, he made a full extension grab a few feet in front of the wall.  All in all, a pretty run-of-the-mill week for this offense, but they did get the job done when they needed to, for the most part.

Grade: B-

Starting Pitchers:  This group was absolutely the story of the week, and it was certainly a welcome sight.  During themoyer four-game winning streak from Tuesday to Friday, they had one of the best string of starts you’ll see.  Cole Hamels started it off with a dominating effort, taking a shut-out into the 9th inning before giving up a run and exiting the game.  You could tell he was poised for a good game just from looking at his stuff.  His fastball hit 95 a few times, and the change-up was nearly unhittable.  I’m almost afraid to say this, but he looked like the ’08 Cole.

The next night, Kyle Kendrick was pitching to keep his rotation spot, and all he did was pitch 7 shutout innings in a 4-0 win.  Then came Doc Halladay’s turn and he provided your standard Halladay start: 7 innings, 2 runs (only 1 earned), and 9 strikeouts.  His 6 wins are tied for the league lead.  One thing I’ve learned about Halladay is that, as mild-mannered as he seems normally, he is fiery when he’s out on the mound.  It was the second straight start where he was really jawing at the ump and shaking his head when he didn’t get strike calls.  It seems like the umps have respect for him though.  After the incident in this game, he was talking to the ump after the inning and they were both laughing.

The final start in the stretch was the best of the bunch, as 47-year-old Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher in ML history to pitch a shutout.  Not only was it a shutout, but he also gave up just two hits (both singles) and no walks, in a complete dismantling and domination of the Braves offense.  As you’d expect, it was just Moyer at his best, keeping hitters off-balance all game and not letting them get the barrell on the ball.  The final tally for the starters in that 4-game stretch: 31 innings, 2 earned runs.  That’s how you get on winning streaks, I guess.

Aside from those four starts, Joe Blanton made his first two starts of the season and looked pretty good both times, even though he took two losses.  They were definitely encouraging starts though.

Grade: A

Bullpen:  Considering what the starters did, there wasn’t much of a workload for this bunch, but they did an excellent job when they got the chance.  After Nelson Figueroa gave up two runs in Monday’s loss, the relievers only gave up one more run the rest of the week.  Brad Lidge came into Tuesday’s game in the 9th inning with a man on 2nd and no outs, and the game tied 1-1.  He looked really good in getting three straight outs and keeping it tied.  Jose Contreras, who’s ERA on the season is now under 1, pitched a scoreless 10th inning and got the win.

Lidge didn’t pitch again until Sunday, when had a 1-2-3 9th for the save.  So, he’s taken back his closer role, which is great.  His fastball velocity looks good, and the slider seems to be improving and, hopefully, building back to where it was in ’08. And Contreras is definitely the main set-up man for the time being.  Chad Durbin also continues to pitch well.

Grade: A-

Up Next: The team hits the road for six games in Colorado and Milwaukee.  Phils starters for the Rockies series, starting tonight, will be Kendrick-Halladay-Moyer.  Halladay will be pitching in his hometown for the first time in his career.

Back to the Roots

The main impetus for Doogan and I to start this blog was the fact that we both found ourselves writing emails back and forth with our friends and each other about current events in the sports world and how they relate to the Philadelphia sports teams and the general sporting landscape.  We found ourselves often exchanging decent-sized emails and then sending them off to various people for their own opinions.  Well, we decided that, instead of keeping that dialogue between us and those whom we happen to add to the CC line, the discourse would be greatly improved if we opened it up to all of our friends and family, as well as anyone who might stumble upon www.broadstreetbelievers.com.  

Personally, I am pretty happy with our ability to keep a friend-to-friend (or, cousin-to-cousin, in our case) feel to the site, so I don’t feel like we have recapture our mission or anything, but I got an email the other day from a friend of mine (and highly valued follower of the site) asking my opinion on a couple Phillies-related questions.  It was so reminiscent of the impetus for BSB’s creation (not to mention the fact that they are very well-thought-out and thought-provoking questions) that I decided to answer the questions, well, in this post.

1). So Halladay has been all he was advertised to be, and everyone is very excited–rightfully so–but I don’t understand why people (fans and media, mostly) say that the Phillies are a better team this year than they were last year and picking them to win the World Series.  I just don’t see how they are improved at all, from a World Series perspective.  Cliff Lee won both of his [World Series] starts.  We can assume Halladay will win both of his [World Series] starts if they get back there.  The rest of the starters are the same, right?  Are we expecting Cole Hamels to come around to who he was in ’08?  Lidge?  I mean I hope they do, but until they start showing it, I don’t see how they are better-equipped to win the World Series this year than they were last year.

This is a very insightful and complex questions, with many different levels to it.  Let me see if I can give some opinions that may work as proxies for actually answering the question here.

  • Yes, it’s hard to argue that Halladay (or anyone) will perform better than Lee did in the playoffs last year, so your argument that it is a wash is pretty solid.  But, Halladay is much better than Lee, and I’ll see if I can explain why I think that
    • First of all, it would be crazy to think that even Cliff Lee will be as good as Cliff Lee was last year.  It’s hard to imagine that he gives you what he did last year.  In fact, I think that Halladay has a much better chance of throwing a complete-game shutout in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium in 2010 than Lee does, even though Lee did it last year.  Not sure if that makes sense, but Halladay is a more consistently dominating pitcher, so you can more safely anticipate dominance from him than you can from Lee.
    • One thing you said was “Lee won both of his starts…we can assume Halladay will win both of his starts.”  The key word in that quote is BOTH.  Cliff Lee has never in his life pitched on three days’ rest, so the Phils were apprehensive to do it last year.  Whether you agree with the decision or not, there is no way of knowing if Lee could have won Games 1, 4, and 7.  Halladay, on the other hand, is a workhorse, who would most likely relish the chance to pitch on three days’ rest in the World Series.  Though you got two wins from Lee last year, you might get THREE from Halladay.
    • Cliff Lee only threw 7 innings in Game 5.  Yes, this is incredibly nit-picky because he “only” threw 7 innings in a World Series victory.  But, I think you can more likely expect Halladay to throw 8 or 9 than you can with Cliff Lee.  The Phils did have to use Chan-Ho Park and Ryan Madsen in Game 5 to close out Lee’s victory.  Granted there was an off-day in between, but they were both needed again in Game 6.  Halladay’s effect on a bullpen (over the course of the season, let alone single playoff series) is enormous.
  • The second point is your mentioning of Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge and can we expect them to be any better than last year.  Well, I hate it when people answer questions like this, but…can they be any worse?  Brad Lidge was absolutely abysmal last year.  I have heard talk that it may have been the worst season for a closer in the history of baseball.  Cole Hamels was also pretty bad in the postseason last year.  I think it is safe to say that any real contribution is an upgrade from what they gave the Phillies last year.  So, to answer your question–chances are, yes, they will both be better because they clearly have the ability and were both gawd-awful last year.
  • All your questions revolve around pitching, which I really like to see from a developing baseball fan.  Yes, this game completely revolves around pitching, but it’s not quite everything.  This offense is better than it was last year.  Placido Polanco is a huge upgrade over Pedro Feliz.  Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are becoming even BETTER hitters than they were just last year.  Plus, the bench seems a good bit better than last year.  Castro is definitely an upgrade over Bruntlett, Schneider is an upgrade over Bako, and Ross Gload is probably an upgrade over an aging (but AWESOME) Matt Stairs.  So, if you throw in a healthy J-Roll (who was hitting MUCH better than he did last year), I think you’ve got a certifiably better offense this year.
  • So, all in all, I think that this team is definitively better than the ’09 version.  Does that mean they will win the World Series?  Not necessarily.  It doesn’t even mean that they will win another pennant or even a single playoff series because baseball is a sport best played over the course of a marathon 162-game schedule.  Anything can happen in short series.  But, would I take the ’10 Phillies to beat the ’09 Phillies?  Yes.  Would I take them to beat the ’08 Phillies?  Definitely–and that team won the whole thing.

2). Did Howard change his approach at the plate to beat the shift and/or not strike out as much?  Although I’m sure this will make him a MUCH better overall hitter, will his dinger total suffer?

This is a very interesting question.  I think Howard changed his overall approach at the plate for a couple reasons.  One, I think he definitely wanted to strike out less, but two, I think he just wanted to be an overall better hitter–hit for a higher average, draw more walks, etc.  Personally, I think it’s fantastic……..IF it doesn’t really affect his power.  And, I think it won’t.  I have seen a lot of baseball players in my day, and I think I can honestly say that I have never seen a better “mistake” hitter than Howard.  If you make a mistake to the guy, you can pretty much guarantee that you just gave up a home run.  I’ve guys who would crush mistakes (Bonds, Pujols, Pete Incaviglia come to mind), but no one who would crush every mistake.  And, honestly, I don’t think that his new approach will lessen his ability to absolutely destroy a bad pitch in the zone.  In fact, I think that it might actually help him because, if he starts to show more discipline at the plate, he will start to get into more “hitter’s counts,” and these are the times when many more mistake pitches come.  So, while his raw home run numbers might not increase because he’s not going after first-pitch fastballs and he’s taking that pitch down-and-away up the middle for a single, I think he will be a better power hitter than he ever has been.  So, no, I don’t think his dingers will suffer, in the long-run.  I think he can make himself into a more compete hitter without losing that ability to just destroy the mistakes.

Thoughts?

Phillies Semi-Weekly Report Card #4

Record since last Report Card: 3-3

Overall Record: 14-10 (1st in division)

Well, it was a third consecutive 3-3 week, but last week was fairly uneventful, while this week was not.  Off the field, Ryan Howard became the sports story of the week after signing his 5 year, $125 million extension.  Also, the injury news kept coming.  Ryan Madson hit the DL with a broken toe after blowing a save and kicking a chair, and J-Roll and Happ both had their return dates pushed back.  On the plus-side, Brad Lidge returned and Joe Blanton will be back this week.

howardOn the field, there was also plenty of news.  It looked like Jayson Werth might’ve sparked a turnaround from the lackluster play, when he hit a three-run double to tie the Giants in the 9th inning on Wednesday.  The Phils won it in 11 innings.  But those hopes were dashed with an all-around ugly loss to the Mets on Friday.  The team sat 1.5 games back from the Mets at that point.  But, Mr. Halladay and the bats came to the rescue, with Halladay posting another shut-out on Saturday and the offense putting double-digit run totals both Saturday and Sunday to take 1st place back.

Position Players:  The offense certainly delivered a message loud and clear to the upstart Mets, putting up 21 runs combined in two games started by the Mets top-2 pitchers.  We should really see these things coming from this team at this point.  And while we’re on the subject, the baseball world really over-reacted to Mike Pelfrey’s hot start and 27 inning scoreless streak.  Not that Tim McCarver is the voice of reason, but he referred to Pelfrey as “almost a #1 starter” on Saturday.  Let’s see the guy do it for more than a couple weeks in a row before we hand him a Cy Young, Ok?

The Phils other win of the week came in a game started by Tim Lincecum, though he did pretty much shut them down.  Oddly though, they were dominated by Todd Wellemeyer and Jonathan Niese.  Aside from Werth’s double, the other hit of the week was Victorino’s grand slam on Sunday night, that put the Phils up 8-5.  The guy has a knack for the big hit. 

That 4th inning was one of the best regular season innings I’ve ever seen.  It deserves a quick recap.  With two outs, Utley was on second and the Phils were down 5-2.  Singles from Ibanez and Castro were followed by a Ruiz walked to load the bases.  Then Jamie Moyer came up, and it became pretty clear that Santana just couldn’t find the strike zone.  The fans went crazy the whole at bat, in a scene reminiscent of Brett Myers’s walk against the Brewers in the ’08 NLDS.  And just like that Myers walk, this one was followed by a Victorino Slam against one of the best lefties in the game.  And they weren’t done.  Polanco singled and then Utley hit a moon shot into the right-field seats.  If the Bank had a roof, it would’ve blown off at that point.  They added ANOTHER run for good measure on a Werth double.  10 runs off Johan Santana, 9 runs in the inning, all with two outs.  Just incredible.

Having said all that, our grade for the week will have to take into account the three games when the offense couldn’t get anything going at all.  Other quick notes:  Victorino didn’t run out a dropped strike three on Friday.  He’s forgiven after the Slam.  Great to see Howard and Ibanez get big hits off lefties.  Juan Castro continues to deliver timely hits.

Grade: B-

Starting Pitchers:  As brilliant as Halladay was on Saturday, it was the only outing that resembled a quality start on the week.  The most amazing thing about that shutout though:  through 4 innings, he was at about 72 pitches.  That means over the final five innings, he threw 46 pitches and didn’t allow a hit.  I wonder if the umpire was intimidated by him, because he was really barking at him as he came off the mound after the 4th.

Other than that though, it was mediocrity, at best, from the Phillie starters, including Halladay’s first start of the week, when he gave up 5 runs to the anemic Giants offense.  The other members of the rotation pretty much went out there and gave up their 4 or 5 runs in 5 or 6 innings.

Grade: C+

Bullpen:  Another poor week for this group.  The highlight came on Sunday night, when they managed 3 scoreless innings in a no-pressure situation.  It was surprising that they didn’t get Lidge out there in that spot.  He made his debut on Friday night, and promptly surrendered a homer.  Other than that: a poor outing from Durbin on Tuesday.  Madson blows the save on Wednesday, and Figueroa very nearly blows it again an inning later (only an outstanding play from Brian Schneider saved the lead).  And Danys Baez got shelled for four runs on Friday.  Now Madson is on the shelf for a month, and the concern is building, but we still have to see how this situation shakes out.  There is time.

Grade: D

Ahead This Week:  Joe Blanton makes his season debut tonight as the Cards come to town for 4 games.  They’ll miss Chris Carpenter in the series.