Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Love A Parade

This site- which links to the City of Philadelphia’s application for a parade permit- might be very useful very soon!

Certainly, Bill Conlin seems pleased in the PDN:
I don't know if there is an all-points bulletin out for Ruben Amaro in Ohio, but there should be. Grand Theft. Really grand.
Everyone seems pleased- as the Phillies were able to acquire Cliff Lee, the 2008 Cy Young Award winner, for none of the untouchable top four (J.A. Happ, Kyle Drabek, Dom Brown and Michael Taylor). I won’t pretend to know anything about the four prospects the Phillies did send- other than to say the Phillies are about 2009 and 2010- and this trade obviously makes them better now.

Lee’s won-loss record isn’t great- but everything else is good. The ERA of 3.14 was generated in a hitters’ park- and should decline with the weaker bottom half NL line-ups he’ll now face. He leads the AL in innings pitched and doesn’t walk people- a huge criteria for success in Philadelphia where even the best pitchers are going to give the long ball. He should drop neatly into as a role as a huge “plus” number two starter. And let’s face, for five years or so now- since Brett Myers, the Kevin Gross of our generation, was anointed the number two option, this has been a glaring need for the Philadelphia Phillies. Of the ten or so key players you need to win a title, Game Two and Six starter was the weakest element of the Phillies hand. And this step solves that problem.

Plus, Lee is only 30- and makes about half of Halladay. These are not insignificant considerations. Should the Phillies want to lock him up, the fact that Lee is scheduled to be grossly underpaid next year gives them leverage- and I’m a lot less concerned about tacking four years onto the end of his deal than a pitcher who was two years older.

As predicted here, the Phillies seem an increasingly lock to win the NL East. With 100 games in the bank after tonight, the math starts to work ruthlessly against the division rivals- teams needing to win 2/3rds of their games for eight weeks? That is a hard road. With the best-of-five first round, married to this bullpen’s current back-end cast of characters, nothing in the play-offs is going to be routine. In fact, now that the Phillies have surplus rotation options, Happ still looks real trade-able to me. He is still a guy at the top of his value; Happ is never gonna be 7-2 making rookie money again, right? And the Phillies have a need for more lights-out ‘pen options.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Scheduling Woes

Along with other outlets, WDSU is reporting that the 2010 home game between Tulane and LSU will be replaced with North Carolina playing LSU in Atlanta.

It might be much ado about nothing- but many Tulane people are agog. Frankly, a year is an eternity in football terms. LSU has three other out of conference dates to fill- and a future decade to switch games around in- pay if forward, as it were. If Tulane wants the game so bad, a new date can be arranged. It is not like anything 2010 C-USA schedule is set in stone.

People overestimate the rancor between these institutions. There are what, 119 Division I-A schools- maybe 40 in or near the cotton South. Figure there are five senior athletic department officials per school (if that many)- and you’re talking some 200-250 professionals.

I mean, my high school graduating class had more folks than that. These people all know each other- and while they support their institutions first and foremost, they are not looking to be uncooperative either. They’re all looking for their next job, keeping the lines open. Promotion paths are very narrow at one school- and really not that broad across the industry- so your rep and favor delivered in the past matter. You don’t think there isn’t a goodly amount of aspiration in the Tulane athletic department to go to a BCS program. Guys like Kenny Berthelot did not end up with cushy run out the clock jobs at Nicholls by being incorrigible- but by helping folks out when he can.

So, if Tulane can accommodate the Tigers, they will and they should.

And if LSU wants out that bad- they are going to get out. LSU is the draw in this situation and probably has the wherewithal to buy itself out. And they obviously look at this ten year home and home deal as a mistake. They just don’t ever seem to actually make it to New Orleans much. So I wouldn't surprise if they offered Tulane a chunk of cash to go away. The last time they played in New Orleans, the game sold 50K tickets- but I doubt Tulane got the revenue for more than half those seats- so I don't think Tulane is going to the wall over it. But again, LSU will look to accommodate Tulane. It is not war- but buisness. And again, they will and they should.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dealing With Underachievement

I am not a fan of Marty Biron. I’m not exactly a detractor either; Marty is a journeyman player. He isn’t bad. Marty is simply average- and that is not a guy you can build a serious Stanley Cup run around. So the news is not exactly surprising:
Biron, who saw his Flyers job given to free agent Ray Emery, signed a 1-year deal yesterday with the New York Islanders, reportedly for $1.4 million.

It was neither the money he was seeking nor the situation he could have wanted. The Islanders already have Rick DiPietro under contract through the 2020-21 season after he signed a 15-year, $67.5 million deal in 2006.

DiPietro missed all but five games last season with a knee injury. The Islanders expect DiPietro to start skating again in August and to be ready for training camp in September.

If that is not enough, the Islanders signed free agent Dwayne Roloson to a 2-year, $5 million contract on July 1. That makes Biron the third goalie if DiPietro is healthy.
The Islanders are categorically not lining up for a championship run- and they are the very definition of team looking for journeyman goalie play: a guy who can both quietly back-up and step in play during Pietro’s frequent absences. Mind you, there is a role in the NHL for such a player. But not at the guaranteed multi-year numbers Biron’s camp was throwing around.

A lot of hockey people in Philadelphia were sort of grudging Biron supporters- pointing out that just two years ago he played very credibly in getting the Flyers to the conference final. But I think this contract is indicative that attitude didn’t spread much further than locally. A one year deal at $1.4M as the third goalie option with a bottom feeder franchise is code for “zero league wide interest” in Marty.

So I’m fine with his departure. I guess you could win some play-off games with the guy. But when you start banging heads with Pittsburgh, your goalie needs to be a big plus, not someone you kinda get by with. I have no idea where Ray Emery will come down- but he is an inexpensive, low risk commitment that might just work if he plays back to, or hopefully improves upon, his work in 2007 in Ottawa. At least there is a unromantic reasonable chance- whereas with Marty Biron, real deep success was simply not possible. Obviously, the entire NHL is on to that as well- and the Flyers probably not only did the right thing letting him walk but also dodged a big dollar bullet driven by an organizational tendency to overrate your own talent.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Get A Job

JP got a job!

They're being snarky. JP Losman was always a hard guy to embrace- but he played at Tulane with verve. Plus, he wore the jersey, won some big games (Hawai'i Bowl!). I think this move is the best of limited moves available to him. If JP is ever going to start again, he has got to play- and the only NFL options available to him were buried deep on the depth chart.

This UFL will end up being a higher quality League than NFL Europe (fewer players, less emphasis on youth, more emphasis on guys who had a cup of coffee in the League)- so why can't qbs rehab themselves here? And Jim Fassel, for all his faults as a head coach, did good work with pro-qbs: Elway, Collins, Simms.

Fassel has as good a chance to fix him as anyone- and JP is gonna get a chance to play rather than languish. The guy needs to change something- and this makes a sort of sense. If, at the end of the year Fassel signs off on him and JP shows good attitude and has success, the dearth of qb play in the NFL, plus the need to have two guys ready to go, means JP will get another shot. A year hanging out on the bench in the NFL merely makes him a salary cap casualty waiting to happen.

The few hundred thousand dollars he gives up leaving the NFL as a deep reserve probably aren't much to a guy who had a multi-million dollar bonus at one point- particularly considering the upside if he is successful in this UFL stint. Frankly, I like this move for JP.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vote For Pedro

The Philadelphia press reaction to the Phillies’ signing of Pedro Martinez has been muted. Not here at Frank Helps You Think It All Out- the vote here is a resounding “yes”.

Sam Donnellon argument is probably best summed up here:
"I want to get between the white lines and see what I can do," Martinez said at one point. "I might surprise you. I might not. But it's going to be really fun to go and find out."

No, it's not. It's going to be tedious, torturous and potentially distracting to a team that already has enough ifs and buts to fill a jelly-bean jar. Cole Hamels has a tired arm. Jamie Moyer is pitching as if he's 47.

All of that might be true- but it is not as if the departure of Pedro tomorrow solves any of those problems: the fifth spot would still be a stressful collection of “ifs and buts”, Hamels would still have a tired arm and Moyer would still be 47-ish.
Pedro is the exact opposite. He isn't adding to the problems, he is an attempt to solve one. For August, there will be ifs and buts who the fifth starter is. It’ll be Pedro- rather than some amalgamation of Bastardo, Park, Kendrick, Carpenter and all the other characters they’ve run out there. Even if Pedro pitches to a five-plus ERA, Philadelphia isn’t losing anything. That is what they get right now.

And there is upside with little risk, right? A Pedro story of a dozen successful starts, as opposed to three dozen, is a lot easier to believe. Back in the spring, he pitched well in the Baseball Classic: 2 games, 6 IP, 0 ER. Maybe he has got 75 innings at a 4.00 ERA still in there. Wouldn’t knock me over with a feather? And yes, I’m willing to pay a couple of million to find out. So as "Napolean Dynamite" taught us, I vote for Pedro.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Awarding Grades

One thing I’ve always loved about the All-Star break is when local newspapers give mid-season letter “grades” to the players. Mind you, I’ve never been into grades- a checkered academic career has been my oeuvre (starting with a well deserved "D" in high school physics). But I think I could get into awarding grades!

Anyway, I’m basing my grades- like any good academic- on a seemingly random series of criteria: how the player has performed versus common expectation. As I am the sole determiner of common expectation, criteria will be random and without review. But it does insure the curve will be harder for those with big dollar contracts (Cole Hamels) as opposed to my affordable pets (Jamie Moyer).

Today, let’s begin with the starting pitchers:

Joe Blanton: Joe’s been all over the map- an April and May where he was terrible (yet the team won seven of his first ten starts), snake bitten during the Phillies June swoon, steadily better. The Phillies had him slotted after Hamels and Myers- and he probably needs to be more than 9-8 in his seventeen starts on a team that should win 90+. But he has been better lately... a hard guy to grade: C+

Cole Hamels: a .500 pitcher, an ERA very near 5, only three more IP than Jamie Moyer… disappointing. Not getting better either, two of his last three starts have been 5+ ERs. Probably the most disappointing Phillies player (along with Lidge). Amazing how the Phillies have got nothing from their top starter and closer- and still are up big in NL East: C-

J.A. Happ: Wonderful. After a good stint in the bullpen, when the ‘pen was under pressure, he has been the Phillies most consistent rotation option for more than a month now. Has been asked to ton of different things- spot start, start, long relief, situational relief, short relief- and has adjusted accordingly. Perhaps most importantly, has pitched himself into one of the most important commodities in baseball: the guy that can be traded as young, cheap and “major league ready” for real, immediate difference making help: A

Jamie Moyer: He’s a bottom of the rotation guy at this point- but the team is 10-7 in his starts and he has outright won his last four turns. He hasn’t had a disaster since 5/13… face it, he takes the ball without fail every five days, and he is on pace to win fifteen-sixteen games and pitch 185 innings: B-

Brett Myers: a popular Philadelphia whipping boy- but really wasn’t that bad. Pitched through the sixth inning in eight of his first nine starts: won four, lost three. Obviously, a lost year for the guy- but he has been a .500 pitcher for a few years now- probably these sorts of numbers are expected. Everyone thinks he is gone- but I’m not so sure. He seems popular in the clubhouse, I think he is going back to the ‘pen for the second half of his career, and the Phillies are one a few teams that are able to pay big bucks for secondary relief pitchers: C-

Chan Ho Park: Fail: F

But I’ll evaluate Park with the relievers too.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Back To The Soft NL East

Here at Frank Helps You Think It All Out, I did a pretty good job holding it together this past month. Yes, the Phillies certainly played a quality of baseball that was hard to internalize. Near the beginning of June, pointing out the Phillies suspect rotation, their .500-ish record ex-Nats and brutal June schedule, I opined I would be satisfied with a slightly below .500 month and remaining in first place.

Well, the Phillies just could not get there. After opening with a smart 7-3 road swing thru the west and Mets, things unraveled against the AL East much like last year. A sweep at home versus Atlanta did not help- but the Mets provided a restorative. Let’s call that the end of the brutal stretch (as last night’s 22-1 beat down indicates, home versus the Reds and Pirates is a significant step down)- and mark those thirty-one games at 14-17.

Look, those AL East teams were a bad match-up for a Phillies team dealing with rotation problems and a bullpen down a pair of effective members (Lidge and Eyre). Throw in the absence the of the team’s best first half player-Raul Ibanez- and a slumping Madson, there were apt to be problems.

Let’s face it, Toronto or Tampa Bay would be real contenders to win NL East. Baltimore would be an 85 win team over here. Those big AL East offenses go right at the Phillies pitching problems- see the two Toronto series. And there was a lot of travel too. I’m inclined to give the Phillies a pass- and suspect now that they are back to playing the National League, teams that generate less offensive pressure, the Phillies will soon be back to playing .570 ball. Certainly, the last four games suggest the competition is a little softer here, away from the AL East powers.

Ultimately, Philadelphia is pretty much where they started, except substitute the Marlins for the Mets- and make it a four game lead in the loss column rather than two. They still need to add a pitcher- but I have a feeling this lead will be eight games before Labor Day.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Get Rollins Out Of There

David Murphy makes me a little nuts in today’s PDN:
It was difficult not to look at the box score and see the top of the Phillies' lineup, particularly the very top, where Jimmy Rollins ended a four-game benching with an 0-for-5 night that included two strikeouts, two groundouts and a pop-up.

Manuel gave the verbal equivalent of a shrug when asked about Rollins' performance. At this point there isn't much more to say, isn't much more to do except wait for the 2007 National League MVP to emerge from his epic funk.
I realize David is utilizing some hyperbole here- but as Rollins recent mini-vacation proved, the Phillies don’t need to sit around and “wait”.

They have options. Frankly, Jimmy ought to be about fifteen more pathetic at-bats away from being asked to take the Brett Myers road: take one for the team via a little detour to AAA ball to get himself figured out.

Frankly, if Rollin comes out of the gate here and still struggles- all that means is Jimmy again needs to try to play rather than rest in order to get himself straightened out. And the Phillies can’t banish him to the bench or AAA for more than a week because they have zero credible everyday shortstop options. But if there was ever a guy who needed 25 at-bats somewhere else, Jimmy Rollins is it.

He isn’t going to fix it here. Frankly, he’s been declining weekly since his MVP award. Last year, he missed 35 games, hit 11 HRs, hit .277 and an OBP under .350. And this year he is a disaster.

The one good thing about this slump and the team’s recent swoon is that so much can be laid at the feet of the most misbegotten experiment of the last three years: Jimmy Rollins, Lead-Off Hitter. This killer three year experiment is probably, finally, a week from being over- and Rollins can begin his half-decade as a bottom of the order (sixth, seventh) National League hitter. He might actually help there with 11HRs and .277 average- numbers more in line with what the Phillies can expect going forward.