Posted tagged ‘Cliff Lee’

Don Draper/Cliff Lee?

October 29, 2009

don and cliffAnyone? Anyone? Maybe that’s what I get for watching this week’s Mad Men (thank you new roommate’s DVR!) and the Phillies game in the same night. They might not be twins, but there’s no question that they’re both damn good at their jobs. One down. Go Phils!

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Phillies Clinch

October 2, 2009
Philadelphia Phillies Clinch the N.L. East

Philadelphia Phillies Clinch the N.L. East

It should feel great that the Phillies clinched another playoff birth.  Though, for some reason, I’m just a little anxious.  I guess the only thing that would make me feel great is if I was confident in the Phillies winning a playoff series.

I have significant questions about the Phillies, specifically, their starting pitching and closer slot.  The Phillies boast a solid roster of starting pitchers, especially on paper.  However, the likes of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Pedro Martinez aren’t really pumping out the dominating performances we need to get over the playoff hump.  Lee has been mediocre at best since his strong start here in Philadelphia.  Hamels is wildly inconsistent and hasn’t gotten any run support.  Pedro has pitched ok, but he doesn’t have the ability anymore to crush opponents and win games on his own.  Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ both have looked good, but aren’t top of the rotation guys right now.  In fact, Happ is battling a little bit of the injury bug.  Further complicating things is that the old stand-by, usually good for a solid start and long relief, Jamie Moyer is done for the season with some groin and hamstring issues.  They key to this situation is that the starters need to pull it together.  We need the dominating performances out Lee and Hamels.  Pedro and Blanton need to step it up.  There is nothing else that can be done.  We have to rely on our starting pitching.  If these guys want it bad enough and they should, I think that Lee, Hamels and the crew will prove they are capable of providing dominating playoff performances.

Even scarier is the closer situation.  Brad Lidge, Tyler Walker, Ryan Madson and even Brett Myers will be on the post-season roster.  Yet, we’re not sure who will show up as the closer.  As discussed in previous posts, we think Ryan Madson should be handed the role and be able to prepare like the closer.  Keep Lidge off the post-season roster and let Walker and Myers battle it out for the set-up role.  Whatever happens, the Phillies post-season relies on the bullpen, specifically the closer role.

As I look forward to the playoffs and the determination of the match-ups, I sit and wonder – which Phillies pitching staff will show up for the defense of the World Series title?

Phillies Get Two More Wins

September 17, 2009
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.

Cliff Lee’s First Loss with the Phillies

August 31, 2009

I guess it had to happen.  He isn’t invincible, I like to think so.  But Cliff Lee was really due for a loss.  After pitching gems to begin his career with the Phillies, Cliff Lee had a horrendous 6th inning this past Saturday night against the Braves.  He pitched well through 5 innings.  My guess is that after pitching deep into his last 5 starts his arm got tired.

A few weeks ago, it was proposed, in a few media outlets, that the Phillies go to a 6 man rotation to help prevent the pitchers from getting tired.  Perhaps, it could be argued that the Phillies are using a 6 man rotation.  Pedro Martinez and Jamie Moyer have been splitting starts due to rain delays.  I don’t think Lee was tired or anything was wrong.  He just had an off night, it happens. 

Regardless, Cliff Lee has been pitching well and I fully expect that to continue as the Phillies head towards the post season in defense of their World Series title.  

In other Phillies news, Ryan Howard is having his standard end of August/beginning of September “heat-up.”

A Triple Play, Utley Errors, Cliff Lee and a Sweep

August 25, 2009
Eric Bruntlett after he completed the unassisted triple play

Eric Bruntlett after he completed the unassisted triple play

The Phillies sweep the Mets, although it was anything but weird.  Of course, Brad Lidge gets into trouble in the ninth – two runners on with nobody out.  The Mets put on the double steal; a line drive to second base, Eric Bruntlett makes the catch, tags the sliding runner from first and steps on second base to end the game.  An unassisted triple play completed by Chase Utley’s reserve second basemen.  Utley had the day off.  The final game, yesterday, Chase Utley makes two errors in the first inning.  Both of those errors led to runs, Cliff Lee’s only runs of the game.  Cliff Lee pitched another stellar game, giving up no earned runs and only 6 hits through 7 innings.  The Phillies extended their lead in the NL East to 7 games and now hold the second best run differential in all of baseball.

While the triple play was amazing, even better that it ended the game and gave the Phillies a big win, it doesn’t hide the fact that Brad Lidge is still struggling to get outs and be consistent.  A closer for a prominent and well playing team should not let the first two runners on base and not record a single out.  He got lucky that Bruntlett was lucky and in the right place.  Lidge pitched well yesterday, but still doesn’t make up for his inconsistent play.  He needs to get it together for the stretch run and apparent playoff games.  Chase Utley’s errors were really only a blip on the radar.  Maybe his one day off affected his game?  Although, one has to be concerned that Utley did commit the two errors in the same inning and that they led to runs.  I think this will be quickly forgotten.  Finally, how great an acquisition was Cliff Lee?  The dude has been nothing but dominant.  He really solidified this pitching staff and made the Roy Halladay rumors and requests all worth nothing.  Let’s hope he keeps it up.  In fact, he is one of the more interesting pitchers to watch.  He has great command not only of the mound, but the entire game.  He lands pitches in crucial spots and never waivers in his consistency.  His motions and wind-up are always the same and when they vary it is because the situation demands.  I think the Cliff Lee trade has been worth it, so far, and it should continue to reap benefits for the Phillies.

Cliff Lee’s Debut and the Phillies Weekend

August 3, 2009
Cliff Lee's Phillies Debut (AP Photo)

Cliff Lee's Phillies Debut (AP Photo)

Cliff Lee was impressive in his first start with the Phillies.  He handled the San Francisco Giants with ease, allowing only 4 hits and 1 run.  If Cliff Lee continues to have solid outings like his debut, the Phillies rotation will definitely be solidified for the home stretch and hopefully, the playoffs.  

Lee significantly impressed me with his enthusiasm and excitement to play for the Philadelphia Phillies.  I think it is seldom seen these days that a player is enthusiastic about being traded to contender or even playing in a city that loves their sports and athletes (although we show it in strange ways).  Lee wasn’t worried about money or logistics, all he wanted was a chance to play on a winning team in a great city.  From my perspective, Lee is everything the Phillies could have asked for, without giving up anything that was going to be part of the Phillies future.  While I’m not really sure how Roy Halladay would have reacted to being traded to Philadelphia, it wouldn’t have been as great as Cliff Lee’s.

After Lee pitched a beauty of a game this past Friday, Joe Blanton went out and threw an excellent game.  The only issue, Tim Lincecum (one of the greatest pitchers I have ever seen throw) pitched an even better game.  The Phillies players couldn’t hit him.  On Sunday, Hamels had a shaky outing causing the Phillies to drop their second in a row.  It didn’t help that the Phillies couldn’t hit either. 

With Blanton and Lee’s excellent outings and hopefully Hamels picks up his game, the Phillies rotation is set.  Let’s see what Pedro brings in his Phillies debut – which I would assume to be in the week.

Phillies Grab Cliff Lee

July 30, 2009
Cliff Lee (McIsaac, Getty)

Cliff Lee (McIsaac, Getty)

The trade of Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp for the 2008 Cy Young award winner, Cliff Lee, and an outfielder, Ben Francisco, should easily stabilize the Phillies pitching rotation and almost make them a lock to come out of the National League and play for the World Series.  Most people wanted Roy Halladay as opposed to Cliff Lee, but the cost for Lee was significantly less and he brings almost as much as Halladay would have.  

Jason Donald, a shortstop, wasn’t going to crack the Phillies line-up for a few years because of Jimmy Rollins, making him dispensable.  Carlos Carrasco, a strong pitcher who lacks intensity and consistency, became expendable with the emergence of young pitching talent Kyle Drabek, Kyle Kendrick and JA Happ.  Jason Knapp is a hard throwing 18 year-old prospect that could develop as a solid reliever or even starting pitcher, but the Phillies could grab another one of those type prospects next season.  Finally, Lou Marson may have been the only player that could cause a hole in the Phillies organization.  Marson, a catcher, was the heir to the duties behind home plate for the Phillies.  Keep in mind; the Phillies have done a solid job filling the catcher hole with a middle talent veteran, Carlos Ruiz.  The Phillies will be all right at catcher without Marson.  From my perspective, the Phillies gave up nothing to get Cliff Lee, so this trade was a no brainer.  In fact, the Phillies kept their three best minor league prospects – Dominic Brown, Michael Taylor and Kyle Drabek. 

When I saw the Phillies put together the package for Cliff Lee with the Indians, I thought they were trying to get the Blue Jays to drop their asking price for Halladay.  I guess I was wrong OR the Blue Jays are very stubborn, pricing themselves out of the market for moving their high salaried player.  Regardless, the Phillies got a high level pitcher.

With the acquisition of Lee, this does bring up some issues with the Phillies current pitching rotation.  Obviously, Cole Hamels remains your number 1 starter with Cliff Lee assuming the number 2 spot.   This leaves a few pitchers for three spots – Pedro Martinez, JA Happ, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Rodrigo Lopez and Antonio Bastardo.  Looking at this list, Bastardo either goes back to the minors or pitches out of the pen.  Lopez can make his last start tonight and return to pitching out the pen or head to the triple A.  Moyer leads the Phillies in wins and is a solid veteran presence.  Joe Blanton has excellent experience and has pitched well.  JA Happ, a rookie, has pitched some impressive games and looks like he should be a rotation guy.  Who knows what to do with this rotation?  With a four man rotation heading into the playoffs, assuming that Pedro gets his form back, you send out Hamels, Lee, Martinez and Blanton and I guess if I needed a fifth starter, it would have to be JA Happ.  I think Jamie Moyer is just going to break down by the end of the season and players will figure out how to hit his junk.  Luckily, I am not the pitching coach or manager of the Phillies, so I won’t have to deal with these decisions.  However, I do get to complain or comment on the decision.

The Phillies went out and made a great move to help their ball club.  I look forward to all the great things to come this season.