Wednesday, May 24, 2006

To The Point

You stop by here for commentary and analysis. Let me be brief today:


You want more? A beleaguered Ryan Madson makes what could arguably be called the relief appearance of the decade by any pitcher and still ends up losing on a walk-off home run. The long ball remains his nemesis.


J. Weitzel said...

While everyone on my site wants to lay this on the feet of Manuel, most are forgetting two unforgivable plays by Abreu and Howard to let the Mets come back. From there, you could go with bullpen. Personally, I think the golf shot Reyes hit off Franklin was very lucky, but that's the way it goes. Some wanted Rhodes to pitch another inning, but statistically, you take the inning and run. Rhodes has been even more horrible than Franklin. Then, the Mets turned to left-hander Darren Oliver, and the offense shuts down.

Positives in this game: David Bell had his best night of the season. This outing should also build Madson's confidence to pitch with the game on the line. What an outstanding appearance, perhaps the best by any pitcher this season, and certainly the best relief appearance.

Negatives: Certain players were exposed offensively. Nunez, Fasano, Roberson and Rollins were dead weight to that lineup.

Tom Goodman said...

Defense continues to kill them. Can't blame Charlie for that.

J. Weitzel said...

They're not going to out-bullpen many teams, and certainly not the Mets.

I will say this about Mets bullpen: Sanchez is their best arm, not Wagner. I don't know if you saw Wags: 91-93 fastball, looks VERY hittable.

Anonymous said...

Bobby Abreu loses more games with horrendous defense than he wins with his bat. I've never seen a major league outfielder look so pathetic in all my years.This may be one time where I wish we had a dh. He's killin us out there!

Oisín/Wizlah said...

Rollins doeth my head in at this point. the only sensible thing to do is drop him down the order until he rights himself. Who to leadoff in his place though? Utley, with Bobby at number two?

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

You know what frustrates me?

Rollins and Abreu... two guys that have proven in the past that they are much better than what they are currently doing. Offensively, and lately defensively, they are both having lapses. And they shouldn't.

The middle of the bullpen is what it is. Quite honestly, if the starters take you deeper into games, you shouldn't have as many problems. The pitching staff on the whole has been inconsistent, with the exception of Gordon, Myers, and Hamels.

This wasn't Charlie Manuel's loss. Though I think he should have gone to Cormier in the 16th. Just my opinion. Madson was showing signs of fatigue in his 7th inning.

Tom Goodman said...

I know others have posted their thoughts on this subject before (including George S., who may have added to the discussion via an email) but here it goes: Managers today, not just CM, seem to think five or six innings is it for starters. I know most starters and their agents see it that way. Consequently, every team has to carry a retinue of sixth, seventh and eighth inning guys to say nothing of closers and, frankly, there aren't enough pitchers out there to fill those roles on all the rosters. I know I sound like I am demanding a return to 19 cent a gallon gasoline here, but why not develop pitchers who can go seven innings or require that from those who are capable of it physically if not mentally, but have a clause in their contracts guaranteeing only that they deliver a "quality start" every now and then instead of a complete game? "Qaulity start"!!! Boy, if that term hasn't become a watered down joke, perfect for the age of the specialist and the guy who thinks in terms of personal numbers not team numbers.

RickSchuBlues said...

I'm not going to lay it on Manuel. Some people want to blame him and him alone whenever they lose a game, and it's a joke. It's not his fault he has a bunch of garbage to work with in that bullpen.

Tom, I agree with the over-emphasis on bullpens in general...I don't understand why a pitching staff now consists of practically half the roster. It's not necessary to have chumps like Cormier and Fultz around to pitch two-thirds of an inning per week, and furthermore their presence comes at the expense of options off the bench - which is just one more thing that hurt the Phils as they went deep into extras last night.

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: As is always the issue, who among the GM's and managers are going to have the guts to say, "Enough of this carrying so many relief pitchers; from now on we are going to demand more than five innings from our starters and we're going to let them know that before they go out there and think they only have to get 15 outs and they can head for the whirlpool." There are dozens of Terry Adams types out there hanging on to pitch 65 innings a YEAR. Surely there is a better way.

RickSchuBlues said...

That's why we need Bill Giles back. There was a man with guts. He's the one responsible for having the major league roster size expanded from 24 to 25, you know.

(Yes, I'm kidding.)

Status quos can get established and go unchecked for decades in baseball, as anywhere. People are too afaid of criticism if a move against the grain were to backfire. So they play it safe. This is the era of 'pitch counts' and never-ending pitching changes (hm, why are all these games three and a half hours, anyway?).

It's more like, we need another Bill back to help buck the trends...Bill Veeck!

Tom Goodman said...

You just dated yourself with that one, RSB. I remember Bill Veeck well.

As for not blaming Manuel, while I agree too many guys are making too many mistakes on their own, his management of the bullpen and starting rotation (especially when to remove guys and when not) leaves much to be desired. Check out the latest post over at Pawnking's site for an interesting link to an article in Baseball Prospectus on last night's game and decisions regarding the bullpen.

RickSchuBlues said... if Rick Schu doesn't date me enough, eh?

I do agree that Manuel makes some questionable decisions, and fairly routinely at that. But ultimately this team's fate is tied to its personnel, which only seems to gel at sporadic intervals and cannot be relied upon to win consistently. This remains an infuriating team, and while Manuel doesn't help that at times, I don't think he carries any more than a marginal share of the blame.

Anonymous said...

The flip side of the 5 or 6 inning starter issue is that if that is the way you're going to go then you can't settle for these 1 inning or less stints out of your relievers. You might be able to burn through a starter plus 4 relievers just to get to the ninth like Charlie did last night once in a while, but not as a regular thing.

It's not all Charlie's fault by any means. I think it's just a case of a so-so manager who happens to be managing a so-so team. A better manager might get a little more out of this so-so team and a better team might win a few more games despite this so-so manager. But it is what it is.


RickSchuBlues said...

Anonymous, that's probably the most succinct assessment of the Phillies and Manuel known to mankind.

George S said...

OK, let’s look at Gillick and Manuel at this point in the season.

1) Who’s responsible for the fact that good players like Nunez and Delucci cannot get enough playing time to be effective? Delucci hit 29 HRs and batted about 500 times last season and he can’t get a couple of starts now and then?
2) Even though the team was supposed to be improved defensively with the addition of Rowand, I haven’t seen the defense play this badly in a couple of seasons. Mental lapses and lack of focus are everywhere. Who responsible for these lapses?
3) Despite having at least 4 players who have shown they can steal bases (Abreu, Rollins, Utley and Victorino), why does this team have no running game at all?
4) Who’s responsible for the fact that at the end of May the bullpen, with the exception of closer, has no defined roles? Relievers do not know where and when they will be used. This affects performance.
5) Who’s responsible for the fact that a player than cannot get on base continues to lead off? How many F-7’s does it take?
6) Who handles pitchers using a secret formula that apparently disregards how well or how poorly the pitcher in the game is doing?

As for Gillick, he has his own set of challenges.

1) What are you going to do about Abreu? I think you need to move him and get what you can. If you were able to get value for Thome, given his health, his contract and his performance at the time of the trade, it should be easy to get value for Bobby. Rowand’s catch affected Abreu and he has become an embarrassment in RF. It’s hurting the team. Neither is he aggressive at all at the plate.
2) Jon Lieber looks and probably is cooked. You need to replace him. When your so-called #1 carries an era around 6.00, is giving up HRs and losing his control, he’s might be finished. What signs are there to make you think otherwise? Can Franklin be worse (ok, yes he could be, but what have you got to lose?)
3) You need to find a catcher, probably before the season is over. It says a lot about the state of the position that we are eagerly awaiting the return of Mike Lieberthal, offensively a turtle-slow player with no power. Mike’s body has given up about all it can, and I cannot see him lasting the season without at least 1 more trip to the DL. Fasano and Ruiz don’t cut it.
4) The bullpen needs some help. First off, get rid of those relievers who cannot consistently throw strikes. But I still believe the bullpen is getting somewhat of a bad rap (at least some of them) due to the poor defense and lack of defined roles.
5) Time to consider dropping Manuel. That this team can be so consistently inconsistent and streaky is his responsibility. They seem to turn off the offense once they get a lead. They have no life on the basepaths. They have no killer instinct (when was the last Phillies win that was a ‘laugher’? I can’t remember one). There are no consequences for failure or lack of execution on CM’s team. The regulars start and the bench sits, no matter how bad a slump you’re in, how many mental mistakes you make, how many times you swing at bad pitches, or how many times you leave runners stranded with fewer than 2 outs. I know that players play the game on the field, not the manager, but a team reflects it’s manager, and that’s what we’re seeing. Things going well? Great. This is fun. Things going badly? Oh, that’s ok, don’t worry about it. We'll be ok soon enough.

If Gillick wants to save 2006, he must make a major move to shake up this team. To me that means either trading Abreu or canning Manuel. Personally, I would fire Manuel first and see how the team responded to the new manager, especially Abreu. Then I would look at moving Bobby.

RickSchuBlues said...

George, that's less concise but certainly just as succinct.

If someone is able to *intelligently* discuss Manuel's shortcomings, I'm more inclined to pay attention. You make excellent points regarding his dubious leadership qualities - the kinds of things that have more of an overall effect than the fodder for the nightly second-guess party. I still believe that the agonizing traits displayed by the core of this team were in place before he was hired, but I will agree that he isn't exactly the answer to what ails them, either. When the team goes on a roll, it seems like they'll never come back to seems like they've finally turned a corner and are ready to play like a winning team, and hey, maybe Charlie's got the right touch. But it's simply an illusion. They're not good enough, period. And Manuel probably hurts at least as much as he helps. I often am moved to defend him against the obviously prejudiced individuals who lambast his every move - but this is the truth.

Now, if someone will kindly remind me of this during the next nine-game winning streak...

RickSchuBlues said...

Okay, before anyone calls me on it, I have the wrong usage for "succinct". Let's just call it perceptive.

George S said...

Forget pitching for a moment, and evaluate the manager and coaching staff just on the offense and fielding. Among your 8 regulars, you have 2 all-stars, a ROY, and at least 1 more all-star in the making. 2 of the other 4 regulars are good-to-very good players (Burrell and Rowand). Only 2 are what would be considered 'old'. Three of your bench players are doing well or have solid track records as everday players (Victorino, Delucci and Nunez). You have speed and plenty of power. You have RH-LH balance, including 2 switchhitters. Getting on base is not a big problem. Hitting with RISP is.
I cannot believe that a capable manager cannot get that much talent in synch and producing consistent offense. This is not a mediocre group of players by any stretch from an offensive standpoint.

The team is nowhere near as strong defensively, I admit. There is a large hole at 1B, in LF and in RF. But if you look at the defensive problems just at those 3 positions, I would estimate 75% of them are tied to focus (Howard bobbling easy grounders with regularity), effort (Abreu shortarming anything within 50 ft of the wall) or intelligent play (Burrell double-pumping because he’s not sure which base to throw to, where the cutoff man is, or who should be catching that short pop). Only 25% or so are due to physical breakdowns or ‘mistakes’ as such (a dropped fly ball, a bad throw, etc).

These offensive and defensive problems will not self-correct. It’s why there is a manager and there are coaches. If they can’t correct these problems, if they cannot improve and maximize the available talent (and I think it’s considerable) it means you either have uncoachable players, or you have an ineffective manager and coaching staff.

CM has many admirable qualities, including integrity, fairness, no lack of intelligence, self-control, experience, and loyalty. But I suspect that subconsciously winning is not the most important thing to him. He wants to win, but not at the risk of his relationships with his players. That’s just my opinion, but I think that’s the difference between him and Gillick. And that’s also why he should not be managing a contending team.

Apologies for the long-winded response..

Nat said...

As the above described "succinct" Anonymous poster, let me say no apologies needed for long-windedness. I enjoyed every word of your analysis.

In counterpoint to your summary of the Phillies line-up, let me note that the team we are currently watching consists of the following: one rookie starting in center, another behind the plate (when that position is not occupied by a guy who defines “journeyman”), still another rook in the starting rotation and, if everything was going the way they really wanted, there'd be even yet another rookie starter. Then you've got a sophomore at first who, despite his big award, is still a work in progress (at least we hope there's progress).

Now, I’m all for youth, but this is way too much green. When Lieberthal and Rowand get back, some of that will be corrected. True, it’s worth a giggle, if not a full-throated guffaw, to think of Lieberthal’s return as “eagerly awaited,” but it will be an improvement. As for Rowand, he’s now an anointed bullet-proof local hero and could probably hit .220 the rest of the year without hearing a discouraging word from Phillies fandom. But if his return puts Victorino back on the bench, it’s a net loss for the Phillies offense. We’re talking their leading hitter by average and their No. 3 guy in terms of OBP and OPS. Maybe he can’t maintain that status as an everyday player, but wouldn’t we like to find out before consigning him to a bench role? Of course, when Rowand comes back he’ll bring his stellar defensive play to centerfield. But honestly, before The Catch there were some balls that landed in his vicinity that he might have played better -- caught even, and without running into a wall. So while he’s been elected by acclamation as Aaron the Great, I’ll be the lone dissenting juror, withholding my ballot until I see if he’s really all that or if he’s one of those guys who makes the spectacular catch but then flubs the more routine plays.

Which brings me to the real comment I wanted to make: The defense. And I don’t know what to say beyond what you have said. It really baffles me. With the exception of Rowand this is the same defensive alignment they had last year, so how can they crash so bad? Abreu is what he has always been, but I don’t remember Howard being such a stumble bum at first last year. And Rollins -- what’s up with him? He seems to be taking the same approach to playing shortstop that he brings to the plate -- trying to do too much. I wonder if he is trying to be one of those “carry the team on his back” guys. It would be nice if the Phillies could get someone to do that, but Jimmy is not that guy, and I don’t think Albert Pujols is available. If Rollins would just stay within his God-given abilities, instead of trying to be God, he would serve the Phillies better.

One other thing. You mentioned what Gillick should do to save 2006 and I can’t argue with your suggestions. But I think, and have all along, that Gillick is really targeting 2007 with this team. Let Lieberthal and Bell play out their contracts. Give CM all the rope he needs to hang himself. Keep shopping Abreu (and maybe Burrell, too) but waiting for the right deal, not in desperation. He’s going to need a third baseman and a catcher next year and, of course, pitching. The injury cloud hanging over Hamels just got bigger and darker, so that complicates things. Floyd and Madson -- who knows? But the Phillies have to find out this year, so things could get a lot uglier in the process.

Now it’s my turn to apologize for being long-winded. In the future, I’ll try to keep it succinct, but not anonymous.

RickSchuBlues said...

"If Rollins would just stay within his God-given abilities, instead of trying to be God, he would serve the Phillies better."