Monday, May 29, 2006

Dumb Baseball

The catalog of mental errors grows daily and contributes in no small measure to the Phillies’ mediocre record as summer begins.
Base running.  Batting.  Pitching.  Fielding.  In all facets of the game these Phillies continue to stumble and bumble their way through virtually every game and the fault, dear fans, doesn’t only lie with the players.
Here are a few examples from yesterday’s game, a rare win over Milwaukee.
The first batter in the bottom of the second inning had walked.  The next batter was hit by a pitch.  After the third batter popped up the next batter was also hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out.   Up came the pitcher, who was 3 for 12 for the season, a good mark by any standard.  But what was the proper “play” in this situation?  Your opposite number has just faced four batters, walking one and hitting two.  Obvious conclusion?  The guy is having major problems with his control.  So, do you swing at the first pitch?  No way. Not a chance;  unless, of course, you play for the Phillies.  So, Ryan Madson is presumably given the green light here, and if he was on his own someone should have sent a clear signal he emphatically did not have a green light.  But Madson swung, tentatively, at the first pitch and the appeal said he went around.  A few pitches later he went down on strikes, swinging.  Jimmy Rollins followed and popped out to end the inning and bail out the Milwaukee pitcher.  Three runners left on base.  No runs.  No hits.  Several errors, one egregious, all by the offense.
Let’s jump ahead two innings.  The Phils trailed at that point 2-0.  Ryan Howard led off with a single and moved to third on a double by Aaron Rowand.  Men on second and third and no outs.  David Bell follows with a grounder to third.  Howard, apparently under orders to go on contact, breaks for home and is gunned down at the plate.   What is the world were Charlie Manuel, Bill Dancy, and Howard possibly thinking here?  A slow runner breaks for home on a ball virtually hit directly at him, no force play on and no one out and is thrown out at home.

Don’t talk to me about the double by Ryan Madson that followed two batters later (after Sal Fasano flied out), scoring two runs.  If the Phillies are counting on their pitchers for extra base hits that drive in runs it is going to be an even longer season than it has been to date.  Had Howard stayed at third all kinds of things could have scored him, even with one out.  Virtually the only play that couldn’t was the one on which he ran.

As mentioned in my previous post, too many Phillies pitchers get ahead of batters 0-2 on breaking stuff or changeups only to try and sneak fastballs with nothing on them by the batter for the third strike.  Some may call that an aggressive approach, going after the batter.  I call it dumb baseball.  Sure, a fastball is going to look like 190 mph after a 68 mph curve, but the batter and everyone else in the 215 area code knows what’s coming, and unless that fastball really is clocking in a 190 mph and has some movement, most major league batter will be sitting on it and cream it.  The pitcher can’t afford another breaking ball when he’s ahead in the count 0-2????  

Dumb baseball.

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