Friday, May 05, 2006

Lucky Or Good?

Every time a runner arrives at first or third base and the coach walks over to him, places his arm on his shoulder and points somewhere on the field I ask myself, “What could they be talking about that the player doesn’t or shouldn’t already know?”

Now, I realize a rookie or veteran new to the league might need some instruction.  So-and-so has a gun for an arm so make sure the ball is hit deep enough.  They’re playing back, conceding a run.  Go on contact.  Something on that order.  But what instructions does a veteran need?  Play it half way on a fly ball?  Well, I guess if that veteran is Pat Burrell he needs more coaching than I ever imagined.

Considering Burrell’s many base-running adventures of the recent past, I would suggest the Phils just let him hit not run.  I’m sure in the late innings that is precisely what we will see.  Speed, of course, is not my point.  Keeping his head in the game is.

All of this preamble is really about the mistakes the Phillies continue to make.  At the plate, on the bases, and especially in the field.

The horrible fielding continues to mystify everyone.  Stupid mistakes.  Endless mistakes.  Costly mistakes.  Guys not communicating.  Guys not concentrating.  And guys simply not executing.

There are some bright spots despite all the gaffes.  Once again, when Jimmy ignites this team, they win.  Any talk of moving him out of the leadoff position is premature at this point.  Yes, his OBP is lousy for a lead-off guy.  That will change.  The Phillies haven’t been losing primarily because Jimmy has been struggling until recently.  They have been losing because their starting pitching has been struggling.  But when Jimmy is rolling this team catches fire.

There is good news, too.  The relief corps has been largely outstanding.  Even MIA Aaron Fultz showed up last night and pitched well.  And Flash Gordon must have sent a note in from the bullpen that, yes, he loves to pitch all the time, but on second thought maybe he should skip a day now and then.  So in steps Arthur Rhodes who records his first save since 2004.

The five game winning streak is great.  Back at sea level for the first time since the season began.  All that can be said is the Phillies are happy to be lucky rather than good.


J. Weitzel said...

I'm frustrated with the lack of focus, too. On the other hand, the most important player on the field yesterday kept his focus, and that's Cory Lidle, who pitched a very effective game. One guy on my site called him a "Poor Man's Maddux," and I think that's a good name. Actually, I think I called him that before. He sets up pitches with previous pitches, largely keeps the ball on the ground, and something new this year: strikeouts. Lieber, Myers and Lidle are starting to settle in, and that's very important. That's probably the biggest reason they've won 5-straight.

Tonight, the question is how will Floyd handle Bonds and pitch on the main stage, and can his teammates finally play crisp baseball this series? The Giants may be old, but they're still a dangerous team.

Defense and mental mistakes ... but lets not forget two pitchers that have really struggled.

Nat said...

Bad baserunning has been a Phillies hallmark for several years, but this defensive ineptitude is a new thing and hard to understand. Can a team be in a slump defensively? It doesn't seem likely. Just a fluke of making a disproportionate share of a season's worth of gaffs in the early going? We can only hope.

One might expect Howard's play at first to improve as he gains experience. (Note that he executed the double play grounder to him last night -- the same play he botched a week or so ago.) But the rest of these guys are veterans and their slippage is troubling -- Rowand diving for a ball and turning a single into a triple, for example.

Now that they are back on the winning track, it would be nice to see them win a game or two without any defensive faux pas.

Tom Goodman said...

Jason: You are on the money about the veteran starters. The youngsters still scare me.

Nat: I also noticed Howard made a few nice scoops. On that double play he started, his throw nearly landed J-Roll on the DL, but they did pull it off. You may be correct: they are bunching all of these uncharacteristic gaffes into the early going and will revert to their norm.

J. Weitzel said...

Something else I realized yesterday that illustrates how well Howard was protected last season against LHP and bad matchups. The Phils faced a rare string of left-handed pitching recently, and Howard during that stretch was kind of floundering, at the plate and in the field. Last night, he came back after his second game against right-handed pitching and got three RBIs and a home run. I believe this speaks to how well Manuel used Howard last season, and also how much further Howard must go in this game.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

While Bobby Abreu may be the guy who should lead off, I agree that as Rollins goes, so goes the offense. He can make so many things happen.

Burrell may need coaching until he retires. I am convinced he lacks a lot of focus. But when his head is in the game he is great. That's what makes his lapses in focus so maddening. This guy could be an elite hitter, but instead he will stay in the very good realm as long as he has these lapses. It will be the difference between being a hall of famer and just a very good hitter but not great.

Tom Goodman said...

Jason: I give Manuel a lot of credit for knowing how to handle young hitters. He did it with Utley and, as you point out, with Howard. Howard can be fooled, but he always seems to adjust. Over time, that process should speed up. At times Howard seems to be late on his swings and I wonder if he needs to move back in the box a little against left-handers.

Ruby Legs said...

Anyone think Burrell thought there were two outs because Utley had been called out stealing second? (only to have the out undone by Abreu getting the walk on the play)

Tom Goodman said...

Yikes!! Burrell couldn't be that many batters behind, could he?