Anyone? 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!
Posted tagged ‘Phillies’
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?
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.
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.
It’s about time Cole Hamels steps-up and pitches like he can. He pitched a complete game and 2 hit the Giants. The Phillies didn’t provide much run support – scoring only 1 – but that’s all that Hamels needed. Hamels seemed to have his mechanics and motion in a dominant rhythm, similar to his playoff performance last year. Also, he seemed to stay calm, quite the opposite that we have seen in some of the struggling starts he has had this year. Hopefully, he will continue his dominant pitching through September and into the playoffs.
I’m impressed with Charlie Manuel sticking with Hamels without even making any reference to it. He never thought Hamels was having problems, nor did he think there was anything that needed to be done. More concerning is that the Phillies only were able to generate 1 run. Hamels is the ace of the staff, there is not reason the Phillies shouldn’t be able to support a tremendous pitching effort. The Phillies line-up is based on power. I expect and think the Phillies are capable of scoring 4 or more runs every night. That’s how they did it last year. This year will be much tougher. The competition will be better and if they make it to the World Series, they won’t be playing a soft team like the Rays from last year. The Phillies are going to need special starts from their pitchers – just like Cole Hamels did last night – if they want to repeat.
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.”
The Phillies come from behind in the 9th inning to take the lead over the Pirates, only to have their supposed ace closer blow another save and game. Brad Lidge, the maligned Phillies closer, couldn’t even record an out. Lidge has issues and it’s now a problem that better be addressed heading into September and most likely the post season.
In fact, yesterday’s poll on Philly.com/Sports asked a question related to “Is Lidge back on track?” I voted no, but it surprised me how many people thought that Lidge had turned the corner and his problems were gone. While I don’t consider myself to be one of those pessimistic Phillies fans, I am a realist. I realize that Lidge’s problems aren’t going to be solved in one game. Also, it’s not that Brad Lidge is pitching poorly; it’s that he is pitching poorly with game control issues. If he could control the game and still pitch poorly, he would record some outs and not get into as many jams as he has been in. Lidge has to call upon the skill and dedication he showed last year. He has to take each game one at a time and just focus on controlling the game.
If I was Charlie Manuel, you better bet that I would have a back-up plan in place. There are a few options. Ryan Madson, while struggling on his own, could close a few games if necessary. J.C. Romero is coming back from injury and could provide an inning of shut down work. Even more intriguing is that Brett Myers, fresh off of hip surgery, is throwing rehabilitation games and could slide back into the closer role he performed a few years back. Of course, the whole injury thing to Myers could throw that for a loop. Finally, I think Manuel needs to do whatever it takes to get Lidge back on his game.
The Phillies starters have given the team strong 6 to 7 innings each outing. The starters should be able to rely on their bullpen and especially their closer to finish off the games.