Thursday, May 04, 2006

Billy Who?

Who can blame Charlie Manuel for going to the well over and over again when the water is this sweet!?

Clearly Tom Gordon doesn’t object.  Let’s just hope his body goes along for the ride.

For the fourth straight game the 38-year old Gordon earned a save as the Phils returned home and beat Atlanta at the Bank last night.  This isn’t Hoyt Wilhelm out there, folks, serving up 58 MPH butterflies.  Mr. Gordon is bringing serious heat and benders every time out.  In the process he has taken over the NL lead in saves with nine.  And, oh, by the way, the guy he replaced, what’s his name, blew his third save of the season last night though his team eventually won in 12 innings.

The other feel good story is the continued heroics of Aaron Rowand.  The Phils knew they had acquired a terrific centerfielder in Rowand, but the concern was could he regain his batting form after a somewhat disappointing 2005 that included too many strikeouts.  Thus far Rowand has hit well including the game-winners two nights in a row.   But his defense and offense may not be Rowand’s greatest contributions to this team.  Listening to interviews with him and reading his comments in the paper it is abundantly clear this is one upbeat guy, a quality not found in great quantity on this mostly dour team.

The Phils win last night against John Smoltz featured a key element when facing the great Atlanta right-hander:  score on him early.  Smoltz had his wicked slider working from the get go, but every time he tried to sneak a fastball by someone the Phillies were all over the pitch.  When he was removed in the seventh inning Smoltz appeared to be getting stronger not weaker.

On the other side, Brett Myers pitched well except for a hanger Andruw Jones deposited somewhere just south of Trenton.  Myers was staked to a three-run lead by his mates and managed to hold the fort before surrendering the home run to Jones that knotted the score a three apiece.   By all standards it was a good outing for Myers who now holds the distinction in this rotation of being the only guy who consistently keeps his team in the game.


enrico said...

Billy "3 blown already" Wagner is not helping my fantasy squad. I was hoping Rowand would come into the form he has been showing of late.

Tom Goodman said...

enrico: with all apologies to your fantasy squad, Wagner is doing wonders for my fantasy life!!

George S said...

One key to Gordon's success and his ability to go four straight nights is that he has been economic with his pitch counts so far this year. Last night he needed only 9 pitches to retire the side, and that includes two Ks. He used 40 pitches total for the previous 3 games.

You can compare Gordon and Wagner this year so far. Both have pitched in 14 games, Wagner has thrown 15 innings with 18 Ks. Gordon has thrown 13.2 innings with 21 Ks.
Wagner has thrown 267 pitches and Gordon just 200. That's probably 3-4 innings worth of pitches, so in theory Gordon could close 3 more games and have the same wear on his arm as Wagner has now.

If Gordon can continue to be that economic, then appearing 3 or even 4 days in a row would not be that much of a risk.

Tom Goodman said...

I just got back from my weekly lunch with a friend and he mentioned reading or hearing an interesting piece that noted pitch counts overall are up substantially in this era for starters when compared to much earlier periods. I am going to try and locate the piece and if I do will pass it along.

RickSchuBlues said...

Interesting to consider that the Phillies' failure to fulfill their "No. 1 off-season priority" - re-signing Wagner - hasn't left them an ounce for the worse.

And yet the problems that dogged the team last year remain pretty much the same otherwise.

If only the Phillies had pursued a quality starting pitcher with the gusto and urgency which used to pursue Gordon immediately after Wagner had moved on. Despite the nebulous jumble of starting candidates, it was obviously just as big a need. But for some reason, closers are about the only thing the Phillies will pay close attention to and pay high dividends for.

Tom Goodman said...

I don't know if this is the article to which my friend referred, but it is a very good one on the changing nature of pitching in the bigs: