April 11, 2005

Phils-Cards series wrap

Torrid offense and solid starting pitching from Jon Lieber, pictured, and rookie Gavin Floyd helped the Phillies reassert themselves in a 2-1 series defeat of the Cardinals. (AP Photo)

Before we get to Pat the Bat's bad-to-the-bone weekend, here's my favorite aspect of the season thus far: With men in scoring position and two outs, the Phillies have scored a league-best 25 runs. That's 10 runs better than No. 2 Cincinnati. Breaking it down, it's 14 hits, three homers, good for a .359 batting average and .615 slugging. In yesterday's blowout, I counted nine hits with two outs, driving in seven runs.

Lead by Burrell, the Phillies basically destroyed Cardinals pitching this series, and blew apart Chris Carpenter in three-plus innings yesterday, tagging the veteran for 10 hits, eight runs, and one monster blast from Burrell.

The Bat has 15 RBIs now, already an outstanding month's worth, and is closing in on a Phillies record for April – 22, set by Von Hayes in 1989 (Thanks for the correction, Bob). While the rest of the lineup has been excellent, Burrell has been a one-man wrecking crew and is easily the NL’s offensive player of the week. Bobby Abreu also reestablished himself this series, going 3-4 with 4 RBIs yesterday.

Aside from the first six innings against Esteban Loazia in the Nationals series, the Phils bats haven't gone hot or cold so much as been steadily good, and really came alive the last two games of this series. In each game, they've had the lead going into the 8th inning and would be 6-0 is it weren't for the bullpen.

Utley vs. Polanco
As for the hot-button issue on Chase Utley versus Placido Polanco, Utley played the last two games of the series and went 4-10 with a homer. One gets a feeling Utley will play until he hangs an 0-fer, then Polanco will play a game. That’s the way I expect it to go until one of them – probably Polanco – gets traded.

Utley in 15 AB: .333 BA, .313 OBP, .533 SLG, 1 HR
Polanco in 13 AB: .308 BA, .400 OBP, .308 SLG, 0 HR

If Kenny Lofton goes on the DL, Utley and Polanco both do nicely hitting second, and I'm not sure Lofton should be hitting second anyway.

David Bell
Lost in all of this, and overshadowed by the third baseman in the opposite dugout, Scott Rolen, David Bell played exceptional defense at third base this series, including two great snags in Friday's game. He has some kind of cannon, and is deadly accurate with it.

What to do about Gavin Floyd?
The big issue now is what to do with rookie Gavin Floyd once Vicente Padilla comes off the DL. My first reaction was keep him up and send Pedro Liriano down to Scranton. On a team with an excellent shot at the post season, there’s simply no room for a guy that spent most of last season in Triple-A, and didn’t do all that well there (5.20 ERA). That means Floyd would have to move to the bullpen, or one of the other five starters would assume that role.

You can call me out for going with conventional wisdom, but I don’t see Floyd in the bullpen. He’s slower to the plate than any pitcher on the staff, making him a bad choice to come in with men on base. Pujols stole a base standing up in the first inning Saturday. His slow delivery has always been a big knock on him. Plus (and I forget where I read this so don't quote me) scouts have him pegged as 100 percent A-grade starting pitcher, meaning, he has the makeup of a starter, is deliberate in his preparation, and is best when used when he knows he’ll be used.

If someone has to be moved to the bullpen, I’d rather see Lidle there, to come in with men on and induce double play ground balls. Lidle pitched well Friday afternoon against the Cards, but I viewed his performance as the worst of all the starters so far.

In reality though, there's nothing wrong with sending Floyd back to Triple-A at this early, early stage in the season. It’s a long way until October, plus there’s no guarantee he can maintain it. Manuel needs to see how he adjusts to CBP with his curve, which is more of a sinking curve, unlike Wolf's.

In any event, after Saturday's game, I saw a pitcher ready to face big-league hitting. Their decision will be tough, either way.

Jon Lieber, the real deal
The Phils can win any game Jon Lieber pitches if he repeats what he did yesterday – eight innings, two earned runs. I thought it was the best Phillies start of the season so far.

Stats don’t do his outing justice, because the two homers he surrendered happened because he fell asleep up 12-1. It’s also tough to concentrate when you sit 20-30 minutes between innings.

So far, the big Alabamian, now 2-0, shows no reason why he can’t run with any No. 1 in the league.

Not the same Cardinals
What was up with the Cardinals defense this series? Scott Graham and Tom McCarthy, the radio guys, were commenting on how much the Cards miss catcher Mike Matheny already. Einar Diaz was as bad as they get Saturday behind the plate, allowing lots and lots of passed balls. And what was Edmonds doing on that play yesterday?

Phillies vs. Marlins
Here it is: The Phils first crack at the hated Marlins in Florida, where they've had almost no luck in the past. Both teams are 3-3, as Brett Myers (0-0, 1.39 ERA) takes to the hill vs. Al Leiter (0-0, 1.59 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. tonight.

Marlins pitching enters the series with the best team ERA in baseball, with a 1.07 ERA.


At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

Outstanding analysis, Jason, especially about Floyd. Let's let him keep his head on straight as a starter, shall we?

At 2:31 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

Something tells me I read that stuff about Floyd in Baseball America a while ago, and was reminded of it Saturday when Pujols stole second. I checked BA ... he tried to emulate the delievery of Kevin Millwood for a while. Maybe he can pick up the pace - who knows? He was a snail Saturday though. It's a good thing he retired 19 straight.

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

The Phillies record for RBIs in a month is 22 by Von Hayes in April 1989. You can verify this with today's Press Pass Game Notes from MLB.com.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

It appears you are correct, Bob, and I fixed it and gave you credit.

On Floyd's pitch count in the first inning Saturday, I checked that and it looks like we were both wrong. I counted 27.

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

Bob - what's the name of your blog BTW, eCache? I would like to add it to my roll.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger el123chico said...

i have lidle on too many fantasy teams for him to be allowed to go to the bullpen.

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

Yes, my blog is eCache.

As for Saturday's first inning . . .
my scorecard has 26 pitches and it matches MLB.com's Gameday (click on link from that page), which also has 26 pitches. I am pretty certain of the accuracy of this.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

Chico - I'm not sure sending Lidle to the pen is the best idea either, but it's the best I can come up with.

Bob - OK, I'm sold on Floyd's pitch count.


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