Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Of Crashes

[Update: Rowand’s ankle is broken. He is expected to miss at least five weeks.]

Harry Kalas said it all, over and over again.

“Oh, no. Oh, no.”

Aaron Rowand and Chase Utley had just collided violently chasing a pop fly ball and both went down hard. Utley immediately bounced up and appeared shaken but uninjured. Rowand, who took an awkward head-over-heels spill, lay on the ground face down for a minute or two before getting up with the help of two teammates and limping off the field. If he “only” sprained his ankle as preliminary reports indicated, he is very fortunate indeed after landing hard on his head. The temptation to note the unusually solid construction of that body part is great, but this constant testing of its durability precludes any levity.

Rowand plays the game all out, making him a fan favorite wherever he goes, but his abandon is dangerous to himself and others. Utley clearly signaled for the ball but the hard-charging Rowand either didn’t see him or, if Utley was also yelling, didn’t hear him. Once fired up, Rowand looks unstoppable. Teammates beware!! There have been numerous near collisions and mix-ups throughout the season apart from The Catch and last night’s came closest to having disastrous consequences for him as well as one of the team’s two franchise players.

Rowand isn’t going to change the way he plays the game. The larger question the Phillies must address at some point is whether or not his style benefits the club. Rowand’s overall play has been a disappointment this season. He has struggled at the plate at times and, frankly, in the field. He gets to nearly everything in front of him but hasn’t impressed this observer when going back on the ball. He plays too shallow for Citizens Bank Park. His arm is erratic.

The guess here is he will remain with the club at least next year. David Dellucci is not likely to re-sign; the Phils seem determined to move Pat Burrell; and the kids in the minor leagues are not ready to step in.

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Speaking of collisions, Pat Burrell did his best fullback impersonation last night as he lowered his shoulder and bowled over the Cubs’ Henry Blanco in another violent collision, this one at home plate.

Burrell is an enigma. Generally, he shows little emotion on the field other than the pained expression he exhibits when he strikes out looking or pops up with men on base. Once in a while he will smash his bat on the ground when he fails to deliver in the clutch. For the most part, though, he plays things close to the vest.

Burrell has seen his playing time cut dramatically lately and his popularity with the fans hit an all-time low. The boos grow louder and more constant at Citizens Bank Park with each passing appearance. That may be why last night’s game was so notable. Not only did he crash into the opposing catcher on a play at the plate, he made a terrific diving catch in the outfield that proved critical as the Cubs rallied from a 6-0 deficit before falling to the Phillies 6-5.

Burrell may be better off playing on the road permanently.

* * * * * * * * *

The Inquirer’s Todd Zolecki had an interesting note on Jimmy Rollins in this morning’s paper:

We wrote here Aug. 8 that Jimmy Rollins' speed makes him a much better leadoff hitter than people give him credit for.


His ability to steal bases, score from first, break up potential double plays and cause other havoc on the bases makes him more dangerous than a leadoff hitter like David Eckstein, who has a higher on-base percentage but can't run nearly as well. For proof, nobody other than Pujols has scored more runs than Rollins since 2004.

Perhaps surprisingly, John Dewan, a noted sabermetrician who works closely with Bill James and helps crank out The Bill James Handbook every year, agrees.

"You'd like to see your leadoff hitter have an on-base percentage of about .370, but Jimmy has above-average speed and his on-base percentage is average or just above the league average," Dewan said. "So that probably makes him a better than average leadoff hitter."


Corey & Carson said...

Jimmy looks like the Rickey Henderson of leadoff men when he's on. He has power and speed...but problem is, Rollins is streaky. When he's cold, the offense is cold. When he scores, the team wins. It's amazing the correlation.

I'd love to see Pat Burrell make a resurgence over these last games...would go a long way to helping the club win and improve his tradability.

We need bench help pronto!

dane said...

signing jose hernandez should help but lets hope he is not the second alex gonzalez