Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Uh Oh, I Am The Variable

I spent the Memorial Day weekend in New York celebrating the marriage of my niece and thus missed all three broadcasts of the Phillies' stunning sweep in Atlanta. I returned to Philadelphia in time to view the last part of their loss to Arizona. Clearly, I have to stop watching for the Phillies to win, a nearly impossible predicament for a devoted fan.

Ryan Howard has returned from the DL with a vengeance. Not having seen the games I must rely on the box scores alone, which provided much evidence of the return of his power stroke. I did note with delight his home run last night was to the opposite field, where nearly half of his round-trippers went last season. All good signs.

Greg Dobbs also continues to produce in the clutch, last night delivering a dramatic pinch-hit home run. Pat Burrell, however, is not producing and is sitting as the Phils give Michael Bourn more opportunities to show whether he can hold down a starting job. Thus far, Bourn hasn't hit and Charlie Manuel has rotated Jayson Werth with him in left field.

Abraham Nunez is also getting regular playing time, which he has earned over Wes Helms.

Freddy Garcia pitched his best game as a Phillie last night but took the loss. Ryan Madson deserved to be the loser but escaped on a technicality. Rules of reason vs. rules of administration. Madson has been so unpredictable and unreliable over the last few seasons it is difficult to imagine him sharing the closer role as the two pitchers who would normally be holding down that spot reside on the DL.

Speaking of one of the real closers, an article in this morning's Inquirer by Todd Zolecki makes a strong case that Brett Myers was not being overused by his manager when he suffered his strained shoulder. Zolecki uses all kinds of numbers in making his case but ultimately he isn't convincing because the one factor he does not adequately explore is that Myers was performing in a new role and could not have adequately prepared himself for its demands. For Myers to say he throws a lot all of the time and was thus not being over-taxed does not address the different preparation and recovery periods for a starter vs. a reliever. Others have argued he hurt himself trying to literally overthrow one final pitch (throw it "through" catcher Carlos Ruiz is how one person put it), but the number of times he appeared over a two week period remains the number one suspect from this viewer's perspective.

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