Phillies Bullpen Woes

Posted September 25, 2009 by Phila Dude
Categories: MLB, Philadelphia Phillies

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Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson

Brad Lidge, the perfect closer from last season, has 11 blown saves.  Yet, Charlie Manuel keeps giving him opportunities to regain his form, because there isn’t anyone else to fulfill the role.  Ryan Madson has thrived as a set-up man last season and currently.  Brett Myers isn’t healthy enough to perform the closer role that he successfully manned a few years back.  Tyler Walker, a former Giants closer, could hold down the fort, but I really haven’t seen him close a game or pitch a tight inning since he has been with the Phillies.  None of the other relievers on the roster have the mentality or the power to close out games.  In fact, there is a rumor flying around that J.A. Happ could be the closer.  I’m sure Happ can close games, but a promising starting pitcher with some nagging injuries doesn’t the mental games that being a closer would bring. The hole at the closer position is going to be a huge problem come playoff time.

Quite frankly, the pressure is now heavily upon the starting pitching to provide at least 7 full innings of work.  Also, the offense will feel the pressure to provide significant run support for the starting pitching knowing that their bullpen is faltering.  Conversely, the opposing teams will do everything they can to get to the much maligned Phillies bullpen.  Having this glaring weakness on this Phillies team could not only be an issue dealt with each game, but could be extremely detrimental to entire psyche and mental state of this Phillies baseball team.

A simple solution, that I am not sure is the right one, would be to install Madson as the closer.  I think he could easily handle this duty if he is afforded the opportunity to prepare like a closer from the physical to mental aspects of the game.  Each game the Phillies go out and play without a designated closer, it supports each member of the bullpen to NOT have the mentality to close a game.  By designating Madson the closer, he’ll know and the rest of the team will know that Madson is their guy and each player can prepare for their roles appropriately.  Will it happen?  I doubt, I think we are stuck with some significant bullpen issues heading into a tough playoff field.

An Eagles Conspiracy Theory

Posted September 25, 2009 by Phila Dude
Categories: NFL, Philadelphia Eagles

Tags: , , , , ,
Kevin Kolb on his way out?

Kevin Kolb on his way out?

After the Eagles defense dominated Carolina in week 1, one would expect a decent performance against a much better team, the New Orleans Saints.  Wrong.  The defense and special teams came out flat.  Their game plans were awful.  The offense looked decent as can be with a high school quarterback, Kevin Kolb.  Kolb didn’t play badly, but didn’t help the Eagles cause for scoring points.  I have some thoughts, but try out this conspiracy theory:  The Eagles coaches didn’t game plan appropriately for the Saints in an effort to prevent Kolb from having a solid game to validate their future decision to dump Kolb if Michael Vick performs.  Yep, I said it.  The Eagles don’t want to see Kevin Kolb do well – not for McNabb’s sake, but to save face when it comes to making roster decisions.  I think they already lost of the battle when it comes to the 2nd round draft choice.

Here’s some proof:

The Eagles rarely blitzed.  Ok, Drew Brees can read the blitz and get rid of the football.  However, if you blitzed even half as much as you did at Carolina, there would have been at least a few plays Brees threw the ball away or even would be sacked, especially on 3rd and long plays.  Also, the Eagles played a safety up in the box to prevent the run, when we all know the Saints’ passing attack is virally potent.  Why wasn’t the safety playing over top?  Ok, maybe the Eagles were trying to hide their linebacking deficiencies with a safety, but still.  Finally, the special teams decision makings and schemes were not designed for optimal efficiency.  In fact, if I am the special teams coach, I would remind players before the play to remember when to field and not field punts. 

Yes, these are all blunders that the Eagles coaching staff made last weekend against the Saints.  The reason I think they could have been intentional is because these same examples were executed flawlessly in week 1.  I don’t think a team regresses that much from week to week.  I don’t think the Eagles coaches planned to lose the game, just make it bad enough to prevent Kolb from performing well.  It back fired, because Kolb played decent and the rest of the Eagles units were terrible.

We’ll see how the Eagles respond this week, knowing they need a big win heading into the bye.

Phillies Get Two More Wins

Posted September 17, 2009 by Phila Dude
Categories: MLB, Philadelphia Phillies

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Jayson Werth's Grand Slam (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Jayson Werth's Grand Slam (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

On Tuesday night, the Phillies, led by a complete game from Cliff Lee, shut out the Washington Nationals.  Last night, led by an impressive performance from Joe Blanton and a grand slam from Jayson Werth, the Phillies again defeated the Nationals.  Of course, the only real coverage of this game was the little girl who threw the foul ball back.  It was cute. 

While it’s important to note that the Nationals are a terrible baseball team, the Phillies still played very well.  They scored runs and got great pitching from two starters and a host of bullpen arms.  It’s good to see the Phillies win games they are supposed to, especially while putting up runs and getting strong pitching.  Hopefully, this will continue into tonight’s game and the 20 or so games remaining in the season.

I am concerned that the Phillies might clinch the playoffs soon and potentially take the rest of the season “off.”  I’ve read a few different opinions regarding teams that cruise into the playoffs have a tougher time winning their first round series.  In fact, teams who have to struggle to make the playoffs have fared much better.  I think this makes sense.  It is important for a team to get to the playoffs while in their stride and playing top level baseball.  If the Phillies were to clinch and rest their big time players and pitchers, I would be concerned that they would have a hard time staying in a focused, game playing mentality.  While I hope the Phillies clinch and guarantee their spot, I want them to be able play real and focused baseball in the remaining games as a primer for the playoffs.  Charlie Manuel needs to ensure his players understand the importance of routine and consistency – otherwise, I worry about a repeat performance against the Colorado Rockies from 2 years ago.

Eagles Flurry of Roster Moves

Posted September 17, 2009 by Phila Dude
Categories: NFL, Philadelphia Eagles

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Jeff Garcia playing for the Eagles in 2006.  He'll wear #9 in 2009.  (Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press)

Jeff Garcia playing for the Eagles in 2006. He'll wear #9 in 2009. (Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press)

Usually, the end of pre-season is the most hectic in terms of roster moves.  Well, after an impressive week 1 win and an injury to Donovan McNabb, the Eagles made some significant roster moves to solidify their team heading into week 2 against the Saints.  First, the Eagles announced the signing of Jeff Garcia.  Second to make room for Garcia, the Eagles placed Shawn Andrews on IR (as discussed in an earlier post).  Third, the Eagles activated Michael Vick so he can practice.  Finally, to make room on the active roster for Vick, the Eagles cut Hank Baskett.

Jeff Garcia will provide the Eagles some insurance at the quarterback position this weekend.  Kevin Kolb in unproven and quite frankly, looks terrible in game situations – pre-season and regular season.  Kolb will be given all the first team repetitions this week in practice and will have every chance to lead the Eagles offense.  However, I think he may have a short leash as the Eagles should be able to put up points against a weak New Orleans Saints defense.  Detroit scored 27 points against the Saints last week.  If Kolb doesn’t perform well, I expect the Eagles to replace him with Garcia in this game and then the following week’s starter will be up in the air.  There is some precedent here.  Koy Detmer played amazing in his one start after McNabb was hurt.  Unfortunately, he shredded his elbow in that game.  A.J. Feeley, now with Carolina, has made many starts to help the Eagles team and won a few games.  Also, Jeff Garcia led the Eagles to a 5-1 record after McNabb tore his ACL.  However, Mike McMahon started a few games and was just awful.  We’ll see how Kolb does, but I have very low expectations.

With Michael Vick practicing, my assumption is that Coach Reid wants to have Vick on the field for the week 3 game against the Chiefs.  Depending on McNabb’s health and the play of Kevin Kolb, will really dictate how much Vick will play.  I am hoping for a healthy McNabb – none of the other QB’s on the roster really excites me.  

Hank Baskett was caught up in the numbers game and contract situations of the wide receivers on the team.  I was hoping the team would trade Baskett, but no trade partner became apparent – most likely due to the money Baskett would be owed.  So, the Eagles released him.  He passed through waivers, as no one wanted to pick up his salary, and was subsequently signed as a free agent with Indianapolis Colts.  Basket is a good blocker and decent special teams player, but hasn’t seen much action as a receiver, nor on special teams with this year’s version of the Eagles.  While we like Baskett as a football player, he wasn’t anything special and his contributions to the team will be picked up by other players.  I guess the question is – what are the Eagles going to do with Reggie Brown?  I think they will keep him.  He is good insurance in case the Eagles suffer an injury to the receiver position.  Besides, his contract is slightly prohibitive, so it makes sense.  I think he can still play.

Even with all of these moves, I expect a few more, especially along the offensive line.  Andrews is on the IR and Todd Herremans is still having foot issues – he might not be back until the end of October.  Nick Cole and Winston Justice are filling in admirably, however, the depth is extremely questionable.

Shawn Andrews to the IR

Posted September 15, 2009 by Phila Dude
Categories: NFL, Philadelphia Eagles

Tags: , , , , , ,

In the most bizarre set of circumstances, Shawn Andrews was place on the injured reserve list ending his season with the Eagles.  Last season, we all knew about Andrews’ depression and back injury.  He missed all but two games.  This year, he apparently spent the off-season healing and getting in shape.  He doesn’t practice at training camp because he hurt his back doing wind sprints.  He practices with the team for a few days and then abruptly his back flared up and he was ruled out the of the season opener.  Just like that, he was placed on IR and his season is done.  The Eagles needed the roster spot for the addition of Jeff Garcia.

At this point, it is unclear if this is injury related or non-football related.  Could Andrews be suffering from depression that is impeding his recovery from the back injury or is the back injury that severe that he needs another year to have it heal?  Whatever the situation, Andrews is done for the year and Winston Justice will play for time-being in his place.  

Justice played well against the Panthers, but had a lot of tight end help.  Also, the Eagles dominated, so he wasn’t able to really show how far he has come as a NFL player.  The Eagles did run the ball to his side and he proved capable in run blocking.  My concern will be when it is time to throw the ball or play from behind if Justice can handle an end one on one.  Regardless, Justice is in and Andrews is done.  I guess the question is – will the Eagles bring in another tackle?  Jon Runyan is still available.

Eagles Big Win at Carolina Comes at a Cost

Posted September 15, 2009 by Phila Dude
Categories: NFL, Philadelphia Eagles

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Donovan McNabb writhes in pain after scoring a TD (AP Photo/Rick Havner)

Donovan McNabb writhes in pain after scoring a TD (AP Photo/Rick Havner)

By now, we all know that the Eagles won the season opener on the road against Carolina with a punishing defense and a capitalizing offense. The Eagles defense came to play and really put on a show related to the way they pressure the quarterback. Don’t forget that the Panthers won 12 games last year and were expected to be a top team in their division.

Of course, with every win comes some significant questions. The rib injury to Donovan McNabb is troublesome, disappointing and upsetting. Here at PhilaTude we are huge McNabb fans. We think that the Eagles best chance to win is with McNabb and not another quarterback. More importantly, the injury causes more of a distraction. Already the media – national and local – have been trying to get under McNabb’s skin about Michael Vick being eligible in week 3 and Kevin Kolb getting to practice with the first team, so he should be better. The good news for McNabb is that the rib injury will heal most likely after the bye week (week 4) and Kolb isn’t any good. Michael Vick isn’t ready to play yet and will only be a shadow of his former self when he is. Barring any other injury to McNabb, he will be entrenched as the starter for this season, which is excellent news to PhilaTude.

Back to the Eagles defense – the entire defense played a remarkable game. Sean McDermott did a great job planning and preparing his team for this game. They got sustained pressure, caused turnovers and held Carolina at bay. McDermott needs to ensure he has an even better game plan for next week against the Saints, since Drew Brees is an infinitely better QB than Jack Delinterception.

Since I am a real Philadelphia fan, I have to be somewhat negative and explain that there were areas I’d like to see improved. David Akers should have field goals blocked. Kevin Kolb as a starting quarterback scares me. He is not a good football player, makes bad decisions and for some reason, I don’t think he has the respect of his teammates. Maybe his teammates don’t think he is any good. Whatever, I want to see the Eagles win, so whoever plays quarterback, I’ll have to deal.

Obviously, with McNabb’s injury and Vick still suspended, the Eagles got some roster help with Jeff Garcia. He’ll be Kolb’s back-up unless things go sour against the Saints. You never what can happen with an Eagles quarterback coached by Andy Reid.

Shawn Andrews Out for Opener

Posted September 11, 2009 by Phila Dude
Categories: NFL, Philadelphia Eagles

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Winston Justice

Winston Justice

Standard.  I guess I shouldn’t have expected that he would play.  The Eagles will be out with their starting right tackle.  Replacing Andrews in the line-up will be none other than Winston Justice.  The last time Winston Justice got a meaningful start it was a disaster.  Hopefully, he has improved and will draw on some experience to play a solid game.

While I am not a Winston Justice fan, I will give him a shot to prove himself in the opener.  The more important issue is that Shawn Andrews isn’t healthy.  This back issue of his has been consistent since game 2 of last season.  What’s the issue?  Also, if his health was a considerable concern and it should have been this past off-season, why didn’t the Eagles address the issue?  It seems like they expected Andrews to be ok, but they did subtle moves, but none that I will think help them.  They brought big Jon Runyan in for a workout yesterday, they moved Justice from the left side to the right side and signed Stacy Andrews to play guard, but spent last season playing tackle.   Shawn Andrews is disappointing me at this point in his career.  I thought he would be a dominant lineman and mainstay on the Eagles line.  While injuries and his public bought with depression were definitely the cause, I would have hoped he would have done more to get himself ready to play.  You can’t fault him for depression – a serious issue and you can’t fault him for injuries, but you can speculate that his work ethic and dedication to football and the Eagles is not where it should be for a pro-bowl lineman.  

This Shawn Andrews playing/not playing issue could be a moot point if Winston Justice comes through.  I’m not holding my breath…yet.