TTB

Blogging about the 5x NL East Champion Phillies

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Series Preview: Astros

PHI: 0-0; HOU: 0-0
Where: Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia, PA)

Probable Pitchers
Friday: Roy Halladay (0-0, 0.0) vs. Brett Myers (0-0, 0.0)

Saturday: Cliff Lee (0-0, 0.00) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00)
Sunday: Roy Oswalt (0-0, 0.00) vs. J.A. Happ (0-0, 0.00)

Broadcast Info
Friday, 1:05, CSN
Saturday, 7:05, CSN
Sunday, 1:35, MyPHL 17
All Games on 1210 AM

Player to Watch – Hunter Pence: Pence is arguably one of the most underrated players in the game and is the best player on this Astros team. He does it all. He hits home runs and average. He even stole 18 bases last season proving that he has some speed. He has hit exactly 25 home runs a season in each of the past three seasons and his RBI totals continue to increase every year. He’s a very dangerous hitter that guys like Halladay and Lee will need to watch out for especially when Michael Bourn is occupying a base.

Overview: The 2011 baseball season is finally here. Amidst a ration of injuries, the Phillies remain one of the favorites to make it to the World Series. They start off their quest at home where they will host the Houston Astros. 2010 National League Cy Young winner Roy Halladay will take to the mound for the Phillies.

It will be interesting to see how the lineup does in their first official game. For the first time in years, Jimmy Rollins will not be leading off. He will be batting third while Shane Victorino will be batting leadoff. I think this gives the Phillies more power with Rollins in the three hole. Victorino will have to be more patient than he has been in the past. He will have to take more pitches and make sure he gets on base.

Ben Francisco is also a player to keep an eye on. He tore up the Grapefruit League hitting .361 with five home runs and 14 RBIs. He will need to drive in a significant amount of runs this season if the Phillies are going to be successful. One thing I’d like to see from him is hitting off-speed pitches better than in previous years. Francisco can destroy a fastball but he needs to be a more consistent hitter against the off-speed stuff. This is his chance to step out of the bench role just as Jayson Werth did during the 2008 campaign.

The start of the regular season is very easy for the Phillies as they open up with the Astros then host the Mets at home. Opening Day will bring an opportunity for Brett Myers to “stick it” to his old club. That remains to be seen. The pitching matchups clearly favor the Phillies as they will be sending Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt to the hill against subpar competition. This series should end with many runs being scored for the home team and Doc likely won’t disappoint the Philly faithful on Opening Day.

Phillies accept fan-made HK statue

The Phillies front office released this statement today. Thanks to Phillies Nation for getting the news out on their blog (vote for them in the Phield!)

The Phillies have gratefully accepted the fan-funded gift of a 7½-foot bronze statue of Harry Kalas for placement at Citizens Bank Park, Mike Stiles, Senior Vice President, Administration and Operations, announced today.  The statue was presented to the Phillies as a gift from Dear Harry, Inc., a fan-based group organized solely to create a statue dedicated to the memory of the Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster.  The sculptor, Lawrence J. Nowlan, has received important commissions for public sculpture across the country and overseas.

“A group of us from the Phillies went to the Laran Bronze Foundry in Chester to see the statue for the first time a few weeks ago,” said Stiles.  “We were very impressed.  It’s a wonderful likeness of Harry that really captures his spirit.  There are interesting details that I don’t want to give away.  I think fans will be very excited to see this statue of Harry at the ballpark.

“The Phillies are very grateful to all the fans who contributed to this effort, as well as to Larry Nowlan for his impressive work.  We accept the gift, with gratitude, in honor of the memory of our beloved colleague and friend, Harry Kalas.”

Details about the location of the statue at the ballpark and date and time of the unveiling have yet to be determined.

My only questions is why did the fans have to pay for this statue? But nonetheless, it just proves how amazing and great our fans really are to commit $80,000 of their hard-earned money for a dedication to Harry Kalas, the voice of this city.

Happy Opening Day, folks

The Phillies Opening Day may be tomorrow but tonight, the MLB season finally kicks off.

Today features the first real baseball of the season with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals at 1:05 PM. ESPN will also be airing the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers at 1:05. There are also four more games being played today.

So I leave you with this to get your mind set for baseball:

TTB staff makes their preseason predictions

The 2011 baseball season is full of potential to be one of the best yet. Last season gave fans of pitching a real treat with the __ perfect games and no-hitters (and a few close calls). It also saw the San Francisco Giants, carried by pitching and a lightning-in-a-bottle offense, win the World Series.

Questions asked heading into this season include:

Were the Giants a one-year wonder? Will the Phillies super rotation carry them to the top? Are the Red Sox the best team in baseball? Is baseball a pitcher’s game again?

So the TTB staff of seven (yea, we’re growing like Shaq in second grade) got together to make their preseason picks of division winners and annual awards. Don’t worry, I didn’t make them pick Silver Sluggers or Gold Glovers or else I would have lost all six of them.

Division Winners & Wild Cards*

Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta seemed to be main-stays in everybody’s picks. Oakland, Colorado and the Angels got surprise picks. There is always going to be a surprise team or two that makes the playoffs each season. It will be interesting to see who gets it this year.

John: BOS, CWS, TEX, TB*, PHI, MIL, COL, ATL*
Dan: BOS, CWS, TEX, NYY*, PHI, MIL, SF, ATL*
Chris: BOS, MIN, TEX, NYY*, PHI, CIN, SF, ATL*
Brian M.: BOS, MIN, OAK, TB*, PHI, CIN, SF, ATL*
Brian J: BOS, MIN, LAA, NYY*, PHI, CIN, SF, ATL*
Christian: BOS, MIN, TEX, TB*, PHI, CIN, SF, ATL*
Allison: BOS, CWS, OAK, NYY*, PHI, MIL, SF, ATL*

Pennant Winners

I don’t think there is any question on who is going to win the American League. Even though I went with the tide, I’m surprised the White Sox didn’t get as much love as I thought.

John: Phillies, Red Sox
Dan: Giants, Red Sox
Chris: Phillies, Red Sox
Brian M.: Phillies, Red Sox
Brian J: Phillies, Red Sox
Christian: Phillies, Red Sox
Allison: Phillies, Red Sox

World Champion

Boston and Philly. No surprise here.

John: Red Sox
Dan: Red Sox
Chris: Red Sox
Brian M.: Phillies
Brian J: Red Sox
Christian: Phillies
Allison: Phillies

MVP’s

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, 1B

This is where the picks started to get interesting. Brian J’s pick of Jason Heyward to win the NL MVP was the big surprise. Brian M picking Benny Fresh had to either be a joke or he needs to get his head examined.

John: Joey Votto, Robinson Cano
Dan: Prince Fielder. Adrian Gonzalez
Chris: Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez
Brian M.: Ben Francisco, Josh Hamilton
Brian J: Jason Heyward, Ichiro Suzuki
Christian: Albert Pujoles, Adrian Gonzalez
Allison: Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton

Cy Young’s

Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox, SP

Everybody loves Roy Halladay and Jon Lester to win. Dan thought we would see a repeat of last year’s winners while Brian and myself went in different directions and picked Cole Hamels and Zach Grienke respectively. I was mulling my Grienke pick a bit because he’s going to miss most of April but I think he’s going to absolutely destroy the NL Central when he returns.

John: Zach Grienke, Jon Lester
Dan: Roy Halladay, Felix Hernadez
Chris: Roy Halladay, Jon Lester
Brian M.: Roy Halladay, Jon Lester
Brian J: Cole Hamels, C.C. Sabathia
Christian: Cliff Lee, Jon Lester
Allison: Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez

Managers of the Year

Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves, manager

This is practically a crap shoot. Manager of the year usually goes to a team that isn’t necessarily the best. I liked seeing Freddy Gonzalez and Bob Geren getting picks. I took Maddon because everyone is writing off the Rays. I’m not.

John: Jim Tracy, Joe Maddon
Dan: Fredi Gonzalez, Ozzie Guillen
Chris: Fredi Gonzalez, Bob Geren
Brian M.: Charlie Manuel, Bob Geren
Brian J: Dusty Baker, Terry Francona
Christian: Fredi Gonzalez, Terry Francona
Allison: Charlie Manuel, Ozzie Guillen

Comeback Players of the Year

Manny Ramirez, Tampa Bay Rays, LF/DH

Rooting for a team in the AL East, we all realized that there are some players in need of a bounce back year. Oh, and I’m not just picking Manny Ramirez for comeback, I’m guaranteeing it.

John: Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez
Dan: Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore
Chris: Chipper Jones, Carlos Pena
Brian M.: Jimmy Rollins, Brian Roberts
Brian J: Chipper Jones, A.J. Burnett
Christian: Francisco Rodriguez, A.J. Burnett
Allison: Jimmy Rollins, Manny Ramirez

Rookies of the Year

Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals, 3B

Another crap shoot. Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas and Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman have grabbed some attention before the season already. Aroldis Chapman is a solid pick as he could either turn into a closer or a starter by mid season for Cincy. I like this Jeremy Hellickson kid from Tampa a lot. Brian J.’s pick of Kyle Drabek stood out the most. I can’t wait to see the former Phils prospect in the majors.

John: Freddie Freeman, Jeremy Hellickson
Dan: Aroldis Chapman, Mike Moustakas
Chris: Freddie Freeman, Mike Moustakas
Brian M.: Domonic Brown, Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Brian J: Bryce Harper, Kyle Drabek
Christian: Domonic Brown, Kyle Drabek
Allison: John Mayberry, Jeremy Hellickson

Phillies release 25-man roster

Michael Stutes, Delwyn Young and Luis Castillo out. David Herndon, Michael Martinez and Pete Orr in.

Stutes and Young were sent to the minors while Castillo was released earlier today. The final spot was between Young and Orr with Charle Manuel opting for speed and offense over defensive versatility.

Those were the three wrong spots I had for the Phillies 25-man roster, which was released about an hour ago.

Here is the 25-man roster and athletes put on DL courtesy of The Philly Phans.

Pitchers:

Bullpen: Danys Baez, Antonio Bastardo, Jose Contrares, David Herndon, Kyle Kendrick, Brad Lidge (DL), Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, and Brian Schlitter (DL)

Starters: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton

Fielders:

Catchers: Carlos Ruiz, Brian Schnieder

Infielders: Ryan Howard, Wilson Valdez, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Pete Orr, Michael Martinez, Brian Bocock (DL), and Chase Utley (DL)

Outfielders: Ben Francisco, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, John Mayberry Jr, Ross Gload, Domonic Brown (DL).

Castillo released; Martinez will make team

The run for Luis Castillo was very short-lived.

With only a week to make the team, the second baseman failed to do so, being released by the Phillies. But cutting Castillo now, the Phils won’t have to pay him a single penny of the $414,000 they signed him for or the $6 million the Mets owe him.

Castillo managed only one extra-base hit in 50 at-bats this spring for the Phillies and Mets, batting .280 with a .368 OPB and .300 slugging (and a miserable .668 OPS).

In other roster news, Michael Martinez could have locked up a spot on the 25-man roster, that is according to a quote by Charlie Manuel.

“Wilson (Valdez) and Martinez are both going to play some there,” Manuel said in reference to who is going to replace Chase Utley.

Martinez was solid this spring. Though his .239 average kinda stunk, he hit three doubles, two homers and drove in eight runs while playing some very strong defense. It’s going to be interesting to see how much time Manuel gives him.

So with the Phillies cutting Castillo and sending first baseman Matt Rizzotti to AAA Lehigh, that opens up one more spot on the bench.

Delwyn Young and Pete Orr, both infielders but Young also plays the outfield, should be the best candidates to win the 25th spot on the roster.

Young is versatile, something the Phillies needed. He batted .267 with two doubles, a homer and eight RBIs. But the fact he can play in the infield and outfield will prove to be a huge bonus for the Phils.

Orr hit four doubles and four triples. He’s got some serious speed and is a real threat on the base paths. The second baseman finished with a .273 average while driving in two runs and had an OPS of .777.

Young’s defensive versatility gives him the advantage but Orr is a better offensive player. We will find out tomorrow it appears.

Jamie Moyer has a job in baseball!

Jamie Moyer is not retiring from baseball this season.

Well, sort of.

It was announced today that the 48 year old left handed pitcher has signed with ESPN to be a guest analyst for Baseball tonight.

Moyer will appear on the show periodically throughout the season to give insight and analysis, and will make his TV debut tomorrow for ESPN’s Opening Day coverage.

“It’s a new challenge and I look forward to this forum as a chance to elaborate on the art of pitching as I rehab from injury this season” said Moyer in a statement.

Personally, I love this move by ESPN. I usually don’t like when they make former athletes into analysts, but in Moyer’s case I think it’s a good fit. To me great athlete doesn’t equal good analyst (see NFL Network), or in the case of Trent Dilfer, mediocre athlete doesn’t equal great analyst.

Moyer is a well-spoken individual, and if you have heard his interviews you know he offers great insight into pitching. If Jamie can’t find a job as a pitcher with another club, I see this as great second career for a guy like Moyer.

The only problem for Moyer is Baseball tonight is usually only a half hour to full hour program. For whatever reason Moyer talks really slow and talks for a really long time (I think it’s an old person thing).

This can come into conflict when Moyer is breaking down Tim Lincecum’s pitching technique and frankly won’t shut up.

Either way, I’m pulling for you Jamie. I already hate 90% of the analysts, so hopefully you succeed, so my eyes and ears won’t bleed when watching ESPN.

 

Season Preview: NL Central

Cincinnati Reds

Expectations: Aroldis Chapman throw a 373 MPH fastball.
Key addition: Edgar Renteria
Key loss: Orlando Cabrera
Projected record: 92-70
Summary: The Cincinnati Reds were among one of the biggest surprises in baseball. In 2010, the young Reds overtook the reigning NL Central champion Cardinals and made their first postseason appearance since 1995. They have a very talented young core in 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. Sprinkle in veterans like Scott Rolen and Edgar Renteria and they should be back on top of the Central division. Their starting rotation is very strong and is full of veterans. Youngster flamethrowers Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto help anchor the ship. Bronson Arroyo and Travis Wood should help bring stability and gives them a very deep rotation. The Reds should get a challenge from Prince Fielder and the Brewers but no Wainwright for the Cardinals makes this division race a little less intriguing.

Milwaukee Brewers

Expectations: The franchise folds as they realize they can’t move on without Cutter Dystra.
Key Addition: Zack Greinke
Key Loss: Alcides Escobar
Projected Record: 87-75
Summary: The Milwaukee Brewers finished with a record of 77-85 last season but made significant moves in the offseason. After Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke was considered the runner-up prize for many teams and the Brewers landed him. They parted with a few prospects and Alcides Escobar to obtain Greinke. Greinke brings over a boatload of talent. His career numbers are 60-67 but most of that is the product of playing on a bad team. In 2009, he boasted an ERA of 2.16 and could do more of the same in the competitive NL Central. The Brewers also added outfielder Nyjer Morgan in a trade. Morgan brings over a ton of talent and a bad rap. He is famous for charging Marlins’ pitcher Chris Volstad and plowing over catchers. Morgan will challenge Carlos Gomez for the centerfield job and can provide speed at the top of the Brewers’ lineup. They have a lot to be proud of heading into this season and should contend with the Reds for the division crown.

St. Louis Cardinals

Expectations: They amputate Wainwright’s arm and find him a new one and he wins the Cy Young.
Key Addition: Lance Berkman
Key Loss: Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery)
Projected Record: 83-79
Summary: The Cardinals finished second place in the Central last season and were hoping to take back the crown. But that became a little more difficult within the last month. With Adam Wainwright slated to miss the entire with Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals rotation will certainly be a lot weaker. Aside from Chris Carpenter, their starting rotation is very weak, especially when you compare it to some of the rotations around the National League. Behind Carpenter, they have Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia. Westbrook was acquired from the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline last season and signed a two-year extension. Westbrook went 4-4 with a 3.48 ERA with the Cardinals in the second half last season. Garcia had a very good rookie campaign and could be the #2 starter in the rotation. He went 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA. The young Garcia certainly has great stuff but the loss of Wainwright will just be too much. You’re replacing a Cy-Young award winner which is not easy to do. They did add Lance Berkman who should bring some more pop to their lineup. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday should be among the most talented duos in baseball and Berkman could definitely add 60-70 RBIs to the club. But in the end, the pitching just won’t be strong enough. The Cardinals should be competitive but the other teams in the Central are very good and have made significant strides this offseason.

Chicago Cubs
Expectations: Steve Bartman is finally able to show his face in the city of Chicago again.
Key Addition: Matt Garza
Key Loss: Derrek Lee
Projected Record: 80-82

Summary: The Chicago Cubs are coming off a not-so-impressive season in which they finished in fifth place. They turned around and pulled off a blockbuster trade to acquire pitcher Matt Garza. Garza will help to anchor a solid Cubs rotation that also includes Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. Garza was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 2010 for a first place Tampa Bay Rays team. They also let aging first baseman Derrek Lee walk in free agency. They signed another former Ray in first baseman Carlos Pena. Pena is a career .241 hitter and brings some much-needed power to the Cubs lineup. In the past four seasons, Pena has hit 144 home runs and knocked in 407 RBIs. If Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez can be solid contributors along with Pena, the Cubs could stay alive in the Central. However I just don’t think they have enough offense to keep up.

Houston Astros
Expectations: Ed Wade trades with a team other than the Phillies.
Key Addition: Clint Barmes
Key Loss: Matt Lindstrom
Projected Record: 72-86
Summary: For the first time in eight years, the Astros Opening Day starter won’t be Roy Oswalt. It will be Brett Myers. Perhaps that says it all about this Houston Astros team. Their starting rotation is very weak and will be led by the former Phillies hot head. Wandy Rodriguez and J.A. Happ are both very solid but don’t strike fear into opponents. Their offense can be very good at times. Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence should combine to hit around 50 home runs and knock in 175-200 runs. Michael Bourn does a great job setting the table for the Astros. He led the National League with 52 stolen bases and also scored 84 runs last year. Their infield may hurt them this season though. Their best infielder is Bill Hall. Yes Bill Hall. The youth movement in the infield features Chris Johnson at third base, Angel Sanchez at shortstop, and Brett Wallace at first base. There isn’t much major league experience there and I think there will be some growing pains this season.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Expectations: What expectations? It’s the Pirates.
Key Addition: Lyle Overbay
Key Loss: Zach Duke
Projected Record: 67-95
Summary: The Pittsburgh Pirates begin every season thinking that this year will be better than the previous one. I actually hold that to be true. Well at least by Pirates standards. While this team is very far away from being anywhere close to a successful franchise, I think they will be better this year. Their infield is very solid and should generate some excitement. They added Lyle Overbay at first base which allows Garrett Jones to move to right field. Overbay adds some nice pop to the Bucs’ lineup. Youngsters Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker will turn some heads this season. Alvarez will get to start the year with the big club and could hit 25 home runs for a struggling Pirates team. Walker hit well last season and ended up with a .281 average. He will likely be hitting third in the Pirates lineup and could hit between 75-90 RBIs before the year is through. Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and Jones round out a very talented outfield. Former Brave Matt Diaz will be coming off the bench. The rotation as usual, is the downfall of the team. Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, and Ross Ohlendorf will be the top three starters for the Pirates. It’s safe to say that the Pirates could actually be decent one day if they got some good pitching.

Lights Out Lidge… out for 3 to 6 weeks

So we now know what is ailing our fragile closer. Brad Lidge has a right rotator cuff strain. According to ESPN.com and many of the beat writers, Lidge will be sitting for the next month and a half or so, he will not need surgery. Which is awesome news, considering the state of the Phillies right now.

Some tweets from Ryan Lawerence, Phillies beat writer for the Delaware County Times explain what the deal is:

RT @ryanlawrence21: Ruben Amaro Jr. says Lidge’s posterior rotator cuff strain will have him sidelined 3-6 weeks. #Phillies

RT @ryanlawrence21: How does out 3-6 wks translate to out for 1st half? He’ll still need to build arm back up. So if out 6 wk, it’d take another month to do so.

RT @ryanlawrence21: Basically, a pitcher who misses significant time has to go through same arm building up process as they do in spring training.

Total time on DL (minimum): 60+ days. Figure at least 3 to 4 weeks for it to properly heal, plus the additional month or so it takes to build arm strength back up again.

So in Lidge’s stead, Jose “Big Truck” Conteras will be closing, NOT “Mad Dog” Madson. This comes as a surprise to pretty much everyone.But I guess Charlie Manuel knows what he is doing.

Look at the injury front. Man the injury bug is spreading… like a virus. Quick, cover your mouths and noses so you don’t catch it!

Chase Utley: right knee tendonosis

Placido Polonco: hyper-extended left elbow

Domonic Brown: broken right hand

The Fans: hypertension

I think I’ll just stay home, that way I don’t get injured.

Oswalt Shelled But Phils Win

Roy Oswalt didn’t have his best start as the Phillies returned to Citizens Bank Park for the On Deck Series. He was hit around heavily but the team still edged the Pirates 8-5.

Oswalt allowed five runs on five hits while striking out four and walking four in four innings tonight. This brings Oswalt’s final spring ERA to 6.11.

Ben Francisco continued his stellar spring play as he hit a solo home run off Ross Ohlendorf. Jimmy Rollins also had a pair of RBIs in the win.

Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Ross Gload, and Luis Castillo all added an RBI as well. Castillo is developing a strong case to make the Opening Day roster.

Reliever Michael Stutes continued to impress as he struck out the side in a save opportunity in the ninth inning. Stutes was arguably the most impressive Phillie in camp and should definitely be called up at some point this summer.

The Phillies face the Pirates one more time at Citizens Bank Park tomorrow at 4:05.

2B: Orr (4). HR: Francisco (5).

WP: Oswalt (1-2). LP: Ohlendorf (0-5). S: Stutes (1).

Boxscore

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,625 other followers