Don’t Expect Hamels to Go Anywhere

The Zo Zone

Cole HamelsDo not expect Cole Hamels to be traded before Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

There has been plenty of speculation recently about his availability, but sources told on Tuesday that the Phillies have had no substantive talks with any team about him. That includes the Dodgers. There are multiple reports that the Dodgers and Phillies have been in contact recently, and the Phillies have requested the Dodgers’ top three prospects to make a deal.

But one source said the Phillies have made no such requests because the two teams have not talked that in depth.

The Phillies have made teams aware they would need to be thoroughly impressed to trade Hamels, but talks have never gotten much further than that. Hamels allowed six hits and struck out eight in eight scoreless innings last night against the Mets to improve to 6-5 with a 2.55 ERA. He has a 1.58 ERA…

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Adapting is key for the Phillies’ struggling offense

Ask any Phillies fan and they will tell you that these first few weeks for the Phillies has been anything but what they would have hoped. The pitching has been there, but the offense has sputtered through the first month squandered a myriad of good pitching performances by the Phillies’ aces.

The slow start has helped cause a wave of panic and worry among Phillies fans; myself included. Now there are normal slumps that team’s go through, but these struggles seem to branch out further than that. The Phillies hitters are simply not struggling, but failing to adapt to the changing climate of their lineup and the league itself.

The days of the 2008/2009 Phillies are long gone. The Phillies lineup is no longer set to outslug their opponents. Gone are the days of the home run dependency. Now are the days of the strong pitching staffs and low scoring offenses. The Phillies are not immune to this change, they simply must learn to “outscore” their competition rather than “outslug” them. This process better known as “small ball” is a simple process that requires players to change their approach at the plate.

However the Phillies hitters are failing at developing this new look and that, my friends, is the problem with this current roster.

A new approach at the plate could be just what the doctor ordered for jimmy Rollins and the Phillies' offense. (Philly)

I don’t see any reason why Jimmy Rollins or Shane Victorino go up to the plate with a plan. Taking the current circumstances (count – runners on base – score) into account, they know when they need to take a pitch or swing away. Swinging at a 2-0 pitch in the dirt,especially following a walk, is NOT acceptable. It doesn’t hurt taking a walk instead of swinging like crazy trying to park a ball over the park.

A walk if the equivalent of a hit; it produces base runners. The Phillies are at the bottom of the league in pitches seen per at-bat, walks taken, and runs. Runs are all that matter in this game, no matter how you manage them. Its the hits, walks, moving runners over by trying to hit the ball to a certain part of the field, making contact with a runner on third, that encompass this simple system. With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley missing from this lineup, this is a vital time for the Phillies to adapt this small ball type attitude.

Aside from missing those key players, the league has gotten stronger on the mound. The National League has stacked up the pitching with teams like the Braves, Nationals, Mets, Marlins, Cardinals, Reds, Brewers, Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and even Padres having above average starting staffs. Nobody in the National League is going to be putting up monster runs total this year so this small ball system is vital to competing, and winning, this league.

Don’t buy this approach? You clearly didn’t watch the NLDS last year. What set the Cardinals apart from the rest of the league was their small ball ability plus a hot streak they needed to just get into the playoffs. St. Louis thrived at making contact, working the counts, fouling off pitches that were close, taking walks when they needed to, and moving runners over. Most importantly, they made pitchers work. They raised our starters’ pitch counts and caused early exits.

Need some examples?

Let’s look at the third game of that series. Crazily enough, the Phillies actually won 3-2, mainly thanks for Ben Francisco.

In that game, Cole Hamels threw 117 pitches in just 6 innings of work. Close to 20 pitches per inning. The Cardinals pitchers, for the entire game, threw just 4 more pitches; 121 total. Overall, the Phillies pitchers threw 167 pitches over those 9 innings. During that game, the Phillies saw 3.36 pitches per at bat while the Cardinals saw just about 4 pitches per at bat. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, in the end, it makes a vast difference.

In the final game of that series, the Phillies pitchers threw 30 more pitches than Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals hitters saw an uncanny 4.25 pitches per at bat while the Phillies just saw 3.6 per plate appearance.

The reason for my fear?

I honestly think that some of the Phillies hitters are too stubborn to even consider this change. Not with Shane Victorino jumping at the first pitch he sees each time while Jimmy Rollins constantly tries to lift every single pitch he sees out of the park, resulting in a frustrating number of high pop-ups in the middle of the diamond. Hunter Pence will most likely never be disciplined enough to accept this approach, but what he has been doing has worked thus far, so we’ll leave him out of this. We’ll also exclude Freddy Galvis from this because he’s a rookie and has time to be developed and molded. Sometimes, even Carlos Ruiz has shown impatience, but he is having a career year at the plate.

How bad is it? As a team, the Phillies have drawn the 29th most walks in all of baseball. They have drawn only one more walk than the 30th-ranked Pirates. Their .293 on base percentage sits 25th out of 30 within the MLB.

And, who has produced solidly this season?

Ty Wiggington has been a bright spot in the Phillies offense this year. (AP)

Well, it is really no surprise that it has been the new guys; Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix, and Ty Wiggington. Those 3 guys have the 3 highest on-base percentages amongst all the Phillies hitters. These are all players that were not in the Phillies system last year and are well aware of the new style of play in the National League. No, I am not blaming Charlie Manuel for this nor the hitter coach, but somebody has to wake these players up to the reality.

Don’t get me wrong, at times this team has put together successful innings. However, there is no consistency.

Look at last night’s game for example. The Phillies had a brilliant first inning scoring those 4 runs and giving Vance Worley a big enough lead. After that first inning, there was nothing. In fact, that lack of extra runs nearly cost them last night. Now that 8th inning was solid, but still, this team lacks this consistency that championship teams have.

Maybe it is a simple approach change, maybe they need a shakeup of the roster. Either way, something has got to change and soon.

Alright. Now that I have broken down some of these negative aspects of these teams, let us take a look at the positive points from this issue.

First off, this is something easily corrected. The very definition of the game of baseball is adaptation. Players adapt their hitting approaches and pitchers change their pitching styles all the time. As the game changes, so must the players. The Phillies can become the small ball team that they need to be and turn this offensive slump around.

Secondly, our starting pitching is astonishing (no comment on the bullpen) and always seems to keep us in games, but as the 10-11 record shows, we still need to improve upon the offense.

The final spark of hope is that the division leading Nationals are in the exact same spot we are in. Their starters have been exceptional while their offense has scored even less than the Phillies have. Thanks for their current 4 game losing streak, the Phillies sit just 3.5 games out.

This race is not over by a long shot.

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Taking the positives from the Phillies’ early struggles.

My Fellow Phans,

Roy Halladay has once again been his dominant self this season. (Wikipedia)

Let’s face it. This season hasn’t started like we imagined. The Phillies have struggled to score runs at times, the bullpen has had a few, eh less than stellar performances thus far, and even the defense at times has made one scratch their head. Currently, they sit with an 9-10 record; good enough for 4th place in the division and 5.5 games back of the surging Nationals.

However, the Phillies just won their first series this week which is a definite positive and that isn’t the only positive aspect thus far this season. Let’s look at some of the good points in this Phillies season as the team looks to turn around what has been a rocky start.

1. The Rotation:

Well this was no surprise. With the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels in the rotation, it is bound to be a strong points. Throw in Vance Worley and none of the Phillies big 4 have ERAs over 2.73. Their 2.80 ERA overall as a rotation sits 4th in the NL.

2. The New Guys:

Juan Pierre has solidified the top of the Phillies order. (Lehigh)

Don’t look now, but the three key off-additions are topping the Phillies offense this season. Jaun Pierre (.339), Ty Wiggington (.304), and Laynce Nix (.348) are tops on the team in batting average. The trio has hit a pair of homers and drove in 16 RBIs combined.

3. The Bottom of the Order:

Could this be the year that Carlos Ruiz finally makes that elusive All-Star team? Could be. Chooch has been hot early hitting .302 while doing most of this batting from the 7th spot in the lineup. He has already hit a pair of homers and his .472 slugging is tops among Phillies regulars

Freddy Galvis is a future gold glove winner. (AP)

Right behind Chooch in the order sits young star Freddy Galvis. Although he hasn’t hit that well (batting .200), he leads the Phillies in doubles (tied with Nix) and has played Gold Glove caliber defense. If there was ever a gold glove star in the making, Galvis is it.

Now the moral to this tale:

So, while we have struggled, keep on trucking Phillies fans. This team will get back on track and when it does, we will rule the National League once again. They don’t call us the phightins for nothing!

Until we meet again Phillies Phans; Happy Readings and Go Phillies!

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New kids on the block: meet the Phillies new faces.

My Fellow Phans,

While the Phillies have retained their strong foundation, there are several new faces on the roster. Let’s take time to welcome and get to know the newcomers here in the City of Brotherly Love. Some of these guys are new to the franchise, but they are faces that we haven’t seen on the major league level that often.

So, let’s meet the new guys.

Meet Jim Thome:

Jim Thome is back in Philly! (ESPN)

Now, I know Thome is familiar with all of us fans as he was the starting first baseman during the year that we opened Citizens Bank. We all got to witness that majesty of this slugger as well as enrich ourselves in his charming personality.

He played with the Phillies from 2003-2005 amassing 96 homers during that span including his 400th homer. He was traded to Chicago in 2005 to help pave the way for a young Ryan Howard.

Since he trade from Philly to Chicago in 2005, Thome has joined the 500 and 600 home run club while playing for the White Soxs and then later the Twins. He currently sits 8th overall and 2nd among active players with his 604 home runs.

Last season Thome hit 15 homers and drove in 50 while playing just 93 games. So the signing should help improve the Phillies bench.

I’m sure I speak for many fans when I say I am happy to see Thome back in a Phillies uniform.

Meet Ty Wiggington:

Ty Wiggington looks to see considerable time with the Phillies this year. (ESPN)

Acquired in a trade from Colorado, Wiggington is a rare breed in baseball these days. He is a quality major league hitter that can play a myriad of positions. During his career he has amounted at least 168 starts at first, second, and third base. He has also played a good amount in the outfield giving the Phillies a player that can play all over the place.

Unlike most “utility” players, Wiggington can also hit for power. During his career, he has averaged 22 homers a season including a career high 24 in 2006. Last season he hit 15 homers and knocked in 47 runs while playing for the Rockies.

Meet Juan Pierre:

Juan Pierre provides a leadoff hitter's mentality in Philadelphia. (MLB)

Like Wiggington, Juan Pierre is a rare breed these days. He is probably the closest thing that equates to a true “leadoff hitter” in today’s game. He is fast, gets on base, and makes things happen. Its something that the Phillies haven’t seen since the Doug Glanville days, and I am not really sure that I would cast him as a true leadoff hitter.

Pierre was a minor league signee that broke the Phillies roster after hitting very well this spring. Philly fans should expect to see him a lot this season as Manuel has already stated that he is a big fan of Pierre’s style.

He is a lifetime .296 and is the active career leader in stolen bases with 554 swipes. He is just 2 years removed from a 68 stolen base campaign back in 2010 with the White Soxs.

If the Phillies are looking to play more “small ball” than Pierre is key. I expect him to start for the Phillies today and bat leadoff.

Meet Laynce Nix:

Laynce Nix takes Ben Francisco's spot on the bench as the Phillies' 4th outfielder.

Nix agreed to a two year deal with the Phillies this offseason taking the spot of the traded Ben Francisco. He spent last year playing with The Nationals and before that spent time with The Brewers, Reds, and Rangers.

Nix had a few solid seasons during his career within the last few years. He hit 15 homers with 46 RBIs in 2009 while playing in just 116 games. Last year, he hit 16 home runs with 44 RBIs in just 124 games.

He provides the Phillies with a second power hitting left handed pinch hitter off the bench to compliment Thome. Although, he is described as the Phillies 4th outfielder, I expect him to see less playing time than Pierre.

Meet Chad Qualls:

Qualls gives the Phillies a durable arm out of the pen. (Maialetti)

Qualls has been one of the more durable and reliable relievers in all of Major League Baseball over the past few seasons. In fact, since 2005, Qualls has appeared in more games than any other pitcher. He went 6-8 last year with an 3.51 ERA for the Padres.

His best season came in 2008 when he posted an 2.81 ERA in 77 games with the Diamondbacks. During his career, he’s also pitched with the Astros and Rays.

Qualls give the Phillies that can pitch quality innings during any part of the game and can do so on back to back days.

Meet Jonathan Papelbon:

Pappelbon is the new Phillies closer. (AP)

The final new face on the Phillies roster this season is the newest closer, Mr. Jonathan Pappelbon. I figured I would save him for last since he is the last pitcher that we will frequently see out of the bullpen.

Oh, there are so many things that I could say about him, but I will get keep it simple.

Pappelbon quite the character. I’m sure if you haven’t realized that by now, this is something you will come to discover during this season. We have four years here to embrace this ecstatic righthander. Just ask any Red Soxs about that one.

Pappelbon has been an elite pitcher since his entrance into the league in 2005. Through his 7 year career, he has averaged over 30 saves a season with a career 2.33 ERA. Last season, he saved 31 games with a 2.91 ERA. He is a true strikeout pitcher registering 87 punch outs last year in just 64.1 innings.

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Phillies finalize roster; Orr, Savery, Galvis in; Luna, Podsednik out.

My Fellow Phans,

You may be sitting there asking yourself, well what players can I expect to see today on the field.

Well, here’s your answer.

The 2012 Opening Day Phillies Roster:

Right-handed pitchers: Joe Blanton, Roy Halladay, David Herndon, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Papelbon, Chad Qualls, Michael Stutes, and Vance Worley

Left-handed Pitchers: Antonio Bastardo, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Savery.

Catchers: Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider.

Infielders: Freddy Galvis, Pete Orr, Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, Jim Thome, and Ty Wigginton.

Outfielders: John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix, Hunter Pence, Juan Pierre, and Shane Victorino.

There weren’t a lot of surprises.

With the injuries to Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Michael Martinez, and Jose Contreras (all of which are going to start the season on the disabled list), Orr, Galvis, and Savery find themselves spots on the roster.

Utility infeilder Hector Luno and outfielder Scott Podsednik found themselves on the outside looking in after both had solid springs.

I will break this down more on my Phillies preview later today.

Until we meet again Phillies fans; Happy Readings and go Phillies!

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The Boys are Back! Phillies Opening Day Basics

My Fellow Phans,

I want to start by wishing each and every one of you a very happy Opening Day. Unfortunately, it is not an official holiday, at least not yet, but we’ll see what a well worded petition can do to change that.

I know I didn’t post during the spring, but I was taking a little breathier, but now that the season is back, it is time to roll.

I hope this post gives you all the basic information on this great day.

First off, the game:

Philadelphia Phillies @ Pittsburgh Pirates
Time: 1:35pm
Pitching matchups: Roy Halladay vs. Erik Bedard

Note: Although the Phillies game starts at 1:35, the coverage on MyPhl starts at 11:30am when they will be showing the 2011 Phillies video yearbook followed by a 30 minute preview show at 1 before the opening day game at 1:30.

There is so much to do, so much to do before the game today. I will have posts flying at you today. I will be breaking down the Phillies roster later and introducing you to the new faces on the squad. I will also give you my prediction on how I think the Phillies will fare this season.

Stay tuned for all that and more!

The boys are back!

Until we meet again Phillies fans; happy readings and go Phillies!

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Let the games begin: Phillies open Grapefruit League today!

My Fellow Phans,

It’s that wonderful time of the year again! The Phillies officially open their Grapefruit league schedule against those infamous New York Yankees. Cole Hamels is on the mound for the Phillies opposed by righthander Ian Nova for the Yankees.

Here’s how your Phillies will lineup today:

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Shane Victorino, CF
3. Hunter Pence, RF
4. Jim Thome, DH
5. Ty Wigginton, 3B
6. John Mayberry Jr., 1B
7. Domonic Brown, LF
8. Erik Kratz, C
9. Michael Martinez, 2B

Former Phillie Raul Ibanez is scheduled to DH for the Yankees in this afternoon’s game.

You can watch the game on TV on CSN or listen to it on WPHT-1210 and WIP.

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