Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Still Mediocre At The Quarter Pole

The Phillies can't stand success, at least as they define the word. Three times they have climbed back to dead even for the season and three times they have lost the succeeding game to fall one under. To make matters worse, last night they had a two run lead going into the sixth inning with their ace on the mound. You have to win those sort of games.

Cole Hamels struck out eight batters but didn't appear to have his best stuff. There were a lot of long, loud, hard outs prior to his meltdown in the sixth inning when the balls coming off the Marlins' bats continued to be long, hard and loud but not out. Hamels surrendered four runs in that fateful half inning and the game was lost.

Prior to that, Jason Werth was given the start in right field and homered in his first two at-bats to account for all three Phillies runs. The rest of his teammates accounted for a mere three hits among them and threw in two errors (by Wes Helms and Chase Utley) along the way. Colorless analyst Sarge Matthews noted that the two-run pinch-hit double by 37-year old journeyman infielder Jason Wood, who entered the game batting .200, might have been catchable had Aaron Rowand not been playing so shallow. Replays failed to confirm or deny this point because they never showed just how shallow Rowand was playing. Nevertheless, this is an ongoing issue raised here many times before. Rowand simply does not go back well on the ball, The Catch notwithstanding. The only other positive on the evening was the return from the DL by Ryan Madson, who threw two scoreless innings of relief. The Phillies have now played more than a quarter of the season and have never been over .500.

Charlie Manuel continues to shuffle players in and out of the lineup with Abraham Nunez and Greg Dobbs seeing considerable playing time lately and Werth getting a rare start, too. Shane Victorino sat last night (he did pinch hit) and Helms started at first. Meanwhile, Jimmy Rollins' average continues to fall in his new role as the number three hitter. Manuel apparently doesn't notice or doesn't care.


David said...

Aaron Rowand is a good outfielder, but not half as good as he thinks he is. He doesn't misjudge fly balls so much as he appears to misjudge his own ability to track them down. Perhaps in his Chicago days, he was fleet enough to catch anything hit within a wider radius, but this is not the case now and one wonders when he is going to realize that his hot-dogging bravado is costing his team regularly. It's not about diving around like a kid on a slip-and-slide and getting on Plays of the Week; it's about *getting to the damn ball*, and putting yourself in the best position to do so. Rowand has average speed at best, so why would he imagine that he can get away with playing a few steps in back of second base?

Hamels needs another pitch, period. He seemed stunned that the Marlins got to him but what's more surprising is that more teams don't get to him in the middle innings after a couple go-rounds. He can get away with it sometimes because one of those pitches is great, but hitters pick out patterns and adjust. Even an alteration like a cut fastball would help Hamels immensely; imagine if he could run that on hitters' fists like Al Leiter.

Tom Goodman said...

I absolutely agree with you, David, regarding both points. I've had it with Rowand's poor positioning, which has cost more than a few games.

As for Hamels, he seems to have abandoned the curve, though he threw it once for a strikeout. I don't know whether he mistrusts it of feels it isn't of sufficient quality but it's hard to judge when he throws it so seldom. He does need that third pitch, as you point out, and since he has a curve reputed to be a good one I cannot figure out why he doesn't throw it more.

J. Weitzel said...

They said Hamels threw 17 curveballs in the game against Milwaukee. That's pretty many. He'll get it established eventually. In the meantime, his changeup has to be one of the best pitches in baseball right now. Hitters are missing it 37 percent of the time.

Tom Goodman said...

Jason: I am surprised to learn he threw that many. It didn't appear he threw many last night and indeed the announcers even mentioned one batter late in Hamel's stint where a curve would be in order. If I recall correctly, there were games he started where he avoided the curve almost entirely.