Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Right Stuff

With each successive outing Cole Hamels gives further indication he is the real deal. The strikeouts are impressive. The bases on balls continue to decrease. The home runs are coming less often. His command of all three pitches grows. Most impressive, however, is his poise and confidence. This kid never lacked the latter and with each start demonstrates the former. Not only does he belong in the big leagues, he knows it. Speaking to reporters after last night’s start in Atlanta, he had this to say: "I feel comfortable out there. I feel like I'm meant to be out here. My routine is down. There hasn't been too many days off, which has been nice. And I think I just feel more focused."

There are more than a few veteran pitchers on this staff who might take note. As is always the case, major league pitchers rarely get by on stuff alone; what’s inside matters in the end. When Hamels was brought up in June, the company line was there was nothing left for him to learn at the minor league level despite his brief exposure there, a tenure made even shorter by the number of injuries he’d suffered. Here was yet another kid thrown into the breach, forced to learn on the job as the Phillies literally scrambled for healthy, reliable starting arms. The most notable failure on that front was Gavin Floyd, awarded a starting job out of spring training but clearly never up to the task once he faced a steady diet of big leaguers. Fortunately, it turns out the alleged brain trust was right in their assessment of Hamels’ skills and character.

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I needn’t write of Ryan Howard’s prowess with the bat (see Jason Weitzel’s Beerleaguer for a superb poetic take on that subject), but it is worth mentioning two other facets of his game. Howard’s defense has improved considerably since the early season when a lack of concentration, not skill, plagued him. He routinely makes the tough scoops and his throwing is much more consistent. He handles foul balls near the railing with considerable skill as well.

The other facet is his base-running. For a big guy Howard shows remarkable speed and agility. Though he was thrown out at third last night trying to stretch a double into a triple, he made the play close. Only a perfect throw to the cut-off man and his perfect relay nailed him. Howard cuts the bag with the agility of a small man and his slides, head or feet first, are equally adept. There aren't any holes in this kid's game except for the high number of strikeouts, which will come down with experience.

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I remain convinced the Phillies have little or no chance of signing David Dellucci, but it is becoming more evident they should try to talk extension with him before the season concludes. Dellucci has started nearly every game since Bobby Abreu departed, mostly in right but occasionally in left spelling the slumping Pat Burrell. As his playing time has increased, so has his offense, though scouting reports suggest his historic weakness against lefties limits his effectiveness as an everyday player. Defensively, he doesn’t have much of an arm but at least he is fearless, which makes him as good if not superior to one of the guys he has replaced.

Based on his performance to date and his relatively cheap salary, Dellucci can expect to receive a lot of interest in the off-season. That prospect alone makes it unlikely the Phils will have much of a chance to re-sign him if they cannot get a deal done prior to the end of the season.


Corey & Carson said...

Phils will at least offer David "Dude I'm getting a" Dellucci arbitration. If they guarantee him playing time, I bet they'll retain him.

Afternoon game today, and very pivotal!

dane said...

there has been some critism of howard's attempting for a triple but it was a great effort. As you said it took two perfect throws to get him. if you remember delluci came up next and grounded out to deep first on which howard could have scored from third had he been safe. If he stopped at second he would have advanced to third on the groundout then probably be stranded there. It was an agressive risk and came within about a foot of paying off.

RickSchuBlues said...

I agree with the sentiment that Dellucci hopefully will be retained, but if I'm him, I have to wait to see what exactly that Phillies have planned for the outfield next season. I'm sure he wouldn't sign here unless he was guaranteed a starting role, and there are few guarantees in that outfield right now. I think that ideally, the Phillies would be able to go with a four-outfielder rotation, with DD, Victorino, Rowand, and a right-hand hitting other to be determined later each getting 100-plus starts but none getting 150-160. If he elects not to come back, it's going to create a real hole...and I wouldn't want them to use it as an excuse for keeping Burrell. He must go at all costs.

Tom Goodman said...

They are truly hamstrung with Burrell. Each at bat lowers his market value another notch. I cannot see anyone taking him off our hands unless it is for little or nothing in return and the Phillies' committment to pick up a portion of his remaining salary. That would make two guys whose salaries we were paying who aren't even on the team. (If I recall correctly, Abreu is getting a $1.5 million buyout from the PHils this year but nothing beyond that.)

I could live with a Dellucci, Victorino, Rowand rotation, but it would be nice to have one sweet swinging righty among them as you point out. I think the Phils are stuck with Pat the Not Bat.

dane said...

yeah i forsee the phils being stuck with burrell for the rest of his contract. is there any thought that maybe they could just buy out his contract and let him go. i can't take watching him in left field anymore. its awful

RickSchuBlues said...

Well...I guess if one observes the lineup variations since the all-star break, the four-way rotation is exactly what we've been looking at. Burrell and Rowand are sitting more frequently than they had, and Dellucci and Victorino are starting far more often. If we had to live with this arrangement next year, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Too bad if Burrell doesn't like it. I haven't read anything about him complaining, but it actually surproses me that he hasn't yet.

George S said...

There are few things more irritating to me than watching Pat Burrell at the plate. I truly wish the Phillies could trade him for something of value. But with his contract that will most likely not happen. And if Gillick can't get a fair deal, both in $$ terms and in exchange of talent, then he should not trade Burrell.

One must keep in mind what one is 'stuck with' here: a player that is on pace to hit 30+ HRs, have 100+ RBIs and 90+ walks this season. While some might criticize his 'laid back' style, I have never heard anything to suggest that he is a clubhouse problem or unpopular with his teammates.

Any manager worth his salt should be able to structure a lineup that maximizes his offensive strengths and minimizes his weaknesses (streakiness, lack of speed and mobility). A 4-man outfield rotation would do that somewhat, and I don't think Burrell would complain too much.

The Phillies will not become winners by getting $.10 on the dollar in trades.

Corey & Carson said...

Great post George S.- as I am a Burrell fan. I know his weaknesses, but we as Phillies fans must not be blind to his attributes. If he played everyday he would put up fine numbers like you suggested. However, his defense is weak because of the foot problem, and he has a mediocre batting average. He reminds me a lot of Pete Inky from the '93 squad.

dane said...

burrell hasn't complained because he is making 10 million dollars each year. What does he have to complain about? a little less playing time