The Phillies Four Aces

It wasn’t inconceivable that at the end of the year, you could rank the Phillies Four Aces in any order.  Sure, Halladay was Mr. Perfect last year and won a Cy Young, but Lee has won a Cy Young too, Cole Hamels was the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, and Oswalt has been one of the best pitchers in the game over the last decade.

In April, Manuel decided to set up the aces in his rotation as Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels.  Now, with 62 games in the books and 100 to go, if we had to set the rotation in order of their performance this year, here’s how I’d do it.

1 – Halladay (13 starts)

8-3 / 2.56 ERA / 97  Strikeouts / 14 Walks / 98.1 Innings Pitched / 4 Complete Games

2 – Hamels (13 starts)

8-2 / 2.58 ERA /  91 Strikeouts / 18 Walks /  90.2 Innings Pitched / 1 Complete Game

3 – Lee (13 starts)

5-5 / 3.62 ERA / 100 Strikeouts / 20 Walks / 87 Innings Pitched / 1 Complete Game

4 – Oswalt (10 starts)

3-4 / 3.05 ERA / 33 Strikeouts / 14 Walks / 56 Innings Pitched / 0 Complete Games

If the season ended today, and the Phillies only needed three starters in the postseason, Oswalt would be an attractive option in the bullpen.  He could give you innings and a different look coming in after leftys like Hamels, Lee or Bastardo.  He gave up the winning run last year in an NLCS game against San Francisco out of the bullpen, but that was an emergency appearance.  If he is told he’s going to be a reliever, and he prepares that way, he could be quite effective.

But, the season is only 38 percent done.  A lot can still change.  For now, Halladay and Hamels might be each others biggest competition for the 2011 NL Cy Young Award.

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Phillies on a Mission From God?

1 – Rollins (SS)

2 – Polanco (3B)

3 – Utley (2B)

4 – Howard (1B)

5 – Ibanez (LF)

6 – Victorino (CF)

7 – Brown (RF)

8 – Ruiz (C)

9 – Hamels (P)

 

Enough Said.

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Top 10 Major League Ballparks

Everybody has a different opinion on what makes a great ballpark.  It ranges from food and amenities to the quality of the team or the ballpark’s surrounding neighborhood.  The best way to get a sense of the best parks in the country is to take a bunch of opinions and average it out.

So, using eight top-10 lists of the best ballparks (many using different criteria), I’ve compiled the 10 that stood out among the rest.

T – 10 – St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers (tie)

9 – Philadelphia Phillies

8 – Colorado Rockies

7 – New York Yankees

6 – Seattle Mariners

T – 4 – Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants

3 – Pittsburgh Pirates

2 – Boston Red Sox

1 – Chicago Cubs

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If the Phillies Could Hit…

If the Phillies could hit, they would have the NL East locked up by Labor Day.  They could take a month off, rest players and still get enough work in to not be rusty heading into the playoffs.

If the Phillies could hit, they would challenge Seattle’s 2001 record of 116 wins in a season.

The problem is simple.  The Phillies can’t hit.  They rank in the middle or bottom of the 16-team National League is every major offensive statistical category.

Runs Scored:  228 (8th)

Batting Average:  .250 (9th)

On Base Percentage:  .317 (9th)

Slugging Percentage:  .379 (11th)

Home Runs:  47 (8th)

Stolen Bases:  39 (8th)

If you took these stats and didn’t associate them with any particular team, you’d think this is an average team.  But, this is the best team in the National League.  Pitching and defense have carried the Phillies through the first third of the season, but in order to remain atop the league, Charlie Manuel’s offense needs to take advantage of “Hittin’ Season”.

In Pittsburgh on Friday, Manuel should be able to write out his full, ideal lineup for the first time all season with the return of Shane Victorino.

When you break down the stats, the Phillies pitching and defense truly are impressive.

ERA:  3.21 (2nd)

Complete Games:  6  (1st) (More than Milwaukee, New York, Washington, Cincinnati, Arizona, San Diego, Houston and Chicago combined)

Shutouts:  7 (T-1st)

Save Percentage:  94.7 (1st)

Home Runs Allowed:  27 (3rd)

Strikeouts:  455 (1st)

Walks Allowed:  147  (1st)

Fielding Percentage:  .989 (1st)

Errors:  23 (1st)

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Must See Video: Dad Drops Kid to Catch Foul Ball

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Ryan Howard: Gold Glover?

Over the last five seasons, Ryan Howard has averaged 149 starts each season at first base.  They haven’t all been pretty.  From booting grounders to throws into left field, Howard has struggled with his defense over the course of his career.

After 19 errors in 2008, he arrived at spring training early in 2009 to work with then third base coach Sam Perlozzo on his defense.  Although he improved in 2009 and 2010, he has taken a giant leap forward this season.

From 2006 to 2010, Howard has averaged 14.6 errors per season (about one error per 10 starts).  This year, through 54 games, Howard has not made a single error.

Adrian Gonzalez and Adam LaRoche (who have only made double-digit errors once in their careers) and Joey Votto are the only other everyday first basemen with at least 40 starts this year to remain without an error.

The season is now one-third over, but at this point in the season, Howard would be among the contenders to capture the National League Gold Glove at first base.

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Phillies Interested in Heath Bell

It started as a major question mark.  The outlook was worse in spring training.  Yet, through Memorial Day, the Phillies bullpen has been great.

After Brad Lidge got hurt in spring training, the Phillies used Jose Contreras (maybe a bit too much).  Despite an injury, he has a 0.00 ERA in 10.2 innings pitched.  He has only allowed four hits, and he’s 5-5 in save opportunities.

When The Big Truck went down, the Phillies relied on free-agent-to-be Ryan Madson.  Now, he’s having a career year.  Madson is 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA, and he’s 12-12 in save opportunities.

Brad Lidge has begun his rehab assignments in Florida and is expected back by the end of June.

The Phillies have also benefited from a youth movement in the pen.  The young guns of the bullpen, Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes have stepped into key late-inning roles.  In 21 appearances, Bastardo is 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 19.1 innings pitched.  The rookie, Stutes, has a 2.53 ERA in 14 appearances and is averaging more than one strikeout per inning.

With four aces in the starting rotation, the Phillies bullpen is the least used in the National League, which will help to keep it fresh heading into October.

Even with fresh, productive arms, the San Diego Union Tribune is reporting the Phillies are interested in their All-Star closer, Heath Bell.  The news on Bell is toward the end of the story.

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