Monday, August 31, 2009

The Greatest Shirt in History

We here at The People's Phillies Blog felt we had to share with you the fact that we've recently discovered the greatest of all possible shirts. We'll let it speak for itself:

Needless to say, this is a must for every true Phillies fan, or at least every true Phillies fan who wants to own this shirt.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pedro Wins Debut with Plenty of Help

It wasn't vintage Pedro Martinez, but with the Phillies offense backing him, it didn't need to be. Pedro won his Phillies debut handily, defeating the Cubs 12-5.

It's always nice to start out with a lead and Pedro had that in his favor. The Phillies scored two runs in the top of the 1st, as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each drove in a run. Shane Victorino hit a two-run homer in the 3rd to give the Phillies four runs.

Then came the 4th inning. Carlos Ruiz drove in a run and, after Pedro grounded out, Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija was pulled for Sean Marshall. Jimmy Rollins greeted Marshall with a three-run shot, then got to coaching. After Rollins gave Raul Ibanez some sage advice, Ibanez hit a three-run homer of his own. Pedro Feliz drove in the Phillies' final run of the inning (and the game), giving the Phillies 12 runs.

For his part, Pedro was solid. He only had one 1-2-3 inning (the 4th) and got into trouble a couple of times; most notably in the 5th inning, when he gave up two runs. He showed impressive breaking stuff and his fastball, while typically hovering in the high-80's, touched 92 mph once or twice. All in all, he allowed 3 runs in 5 innings, allowing 7 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 5 batters.

After one start, it's unclear whether or not Pedro is any better than Jamie Moyer. However, for his first major league start of the season, it was somewhat encouraging. Both his control and his stuff is better than that of Moyer and one has to think he'll have similar success against the teams Moyer typically fared well against, while standing a better chance against the more disciplined teams that hammerred Moyer.

It's unfair to grade Pedro on one start, but, if nothing else, he seemed to fire up the Phillies, who backed him up with one of their better offensive performances of the season. We'll see how it lasts, but at the end of the day, Pedro is 1-0 as a Phillie.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pedro to Rotation, Moyer to Pen

After weeks of intrigue, the Phillies finally decided on how to deal with their excess of starting pitching. The team announced today that Jamie Moyer would move to the bullpen to make room for Pedro Martinez.

On the surface, this is the most sensible move for the Phillies to make. Moyer, despite his 10 wins, has been the Phillies worst starter all season, with a 5.47 ERA. The only reason he has a winning record (10-9) is that he's gotten excellent run support.

Not that there's any guarantee Pedro will be any better. He posted a 5.61 ERA last year with the Mets and he's gone 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA in three minor league starts this year. However, one has to think he'll be at least as good as Moyer, if not better. He'll most likely be a replacement-level player (in other words, a Rodrigo Lopez), statistically, but that would still be better than Moyer.

In a way this is a unique opportunity for this Phillies team because they get to upgrade the rotation by replacing their worst starter, and doing so in a way that won't rile up the fan base. The only way the team could justify pulling Moyer (to the fans AND the clubhouse) is by replacing him with a future Hall of Famer.

While this move shouldn't upset the clubhouse, one does have to wonder what it means for Moyer. Do the Phillies honestly think he can be an effective bullpen pitcher? Unless they think his 82 mph "fastball" can serve as a super-changeup of sorts, to throw off opposing hitters' timing (which is a possibility, especially if he follows or is followed by a guy like Lidge or Madson), it's hard to see his value as a reliever. He doesn't have swing-and-miss stuff anymore (if he ever did).

One has to hope the team at least has the sense to keep him in the dugout when he's not being called to warm up so he can continue to impart his knowledge on the younger pitchers (i.e. everyone). It's hard to see Moyer getting much use out of the bullpen, but now perhaps the Phillies can start to seriously groom him as a pitching coach.

We'll see how it plays out, but for now it seems like the right decision, if a difficult one. Kudos to Moyer for having the professionalism to handle this move. Few in his position would take it so well in stride.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pedro Belongs in the Pen

While neither of them would ever admit to thinking of it this way, Pedro Martinez and J.A. Happ were dueling last night. With Pedro about ready to complete his rehab and return to the big leagues, the Phillies can't stall much longer in making a decision about how the back-end of the rotation will look.

On paper, it's a duel that Happ clearly won. He dominated the Colorado Rockies last night, pitching a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts in a 7-0 victory. Martinez, meanwhile, had a solid outing of his own. He struck out 11 in six innings against the Yankees AA affiliate. However, he did give up three runs.

That clearly seems to favor Happ. He had the better game and did so against better competition. But this is not an even playing field. For Happ is but a 26 year-old rookie and Martinez is a three-time Cy Young Award winner who will have a plaque in Cooperstown in the next ten years.

Despite Martinez's credentials, this start should convince the Phillies that Happ needs to stay in the rotation. Happ is now 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA. He is a NL Rookie of the Year candidate and has been the Phillies' most effective starter this year. Martinez, on the other hand, struggled in the majors last year and has not been overly dominant in the minors. This last start was encouraging, but aside from the strikeouts, it's no more than a quality start.

But the Phillies signed Martinez to be a starter and it's hard to imagine him accepting a spot in the bullpen. The real problem may be Jamie Moyer, who is complicating this decision with his continued struggles. In most cases, the worst starter in the rotation would be jettisoned -- end of story. But that's not a viable option with Moyer, who is a fan favorite and an essential part of the locker room. Not to mention that it's hard to picture him pitching effectively out of the bullpen.

With that in mind, the best option for the Phillies would be to try and coax Pedro into the bullpen. He's not the dominant ace he used to be, but he still has the stuff to get hitters out. If he could strike out 11 in six innings yesterday, why can't he dominate for an inning or two of relief? Better to experiment with that than to remove a starter who ranks 6th in the NL in ERA and 7th in WHIP and who has pitched 6+ innings in each of his last nine starts.

Unfortunately, it's hard to see Pedro putting his ego aside and taking a seat in the bullpen, which means we may have seen the last of Happ in the rotation this season. If that's the case, it would be a bit of an outrage. It's one thing to pull a solid fifth starter, but in this case, Happ figures heavily into the Phillies' postseason plans. Not just in helping them make the playoffs, but if the playoffs started today, Happ would have to be the fourth starter, or maybe even the third starter. I don't think there's any question that everyone, from the fans to the front office, would feel more comfortable with Happ pitching Game 4 of the NLCS than Martinez or Moyer.

Here's hoping all involved come to their senses and send Pedro to the bullpen. Hell, let him close if that's what it takes. Just don't pull the likely Rookie of the Year for an aging starter who hasn't pitched a complete game since 2005.


This afternoon, Ruben Amaro announced that Happ will not be removed from the rotation. It's unclear what will happen, but there was mention of trying out a six-man rotation. Not sure how I feel about that, as it takes starts away from Hamels and Lee during the stretch run, but maybe it's a good move. They can get a good look at Pedro and, who knows, maybe he'll light it up and beat out Happ/Moyer to be the fourth starter in the playoffs. Plus it ought to ease the burden on the rest of the rotation, and Hamels could probably use the rest. Not to mention it would simplify matters in the event of a doubleheader (i.e. no more Andrew Carpenter spot-starts), and the Phillies already have two doubleheaders scheduled for September (9/13 vs Mets, 9/22 vs Marlins).

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lee Dominates in Phillies Debut

The Phillies wanted an ace and, after last night's start, it's clear they got him. Cliff Lee was brilliant in his first start as a Phillie, pitching a complete game against the Giants while allowing just one run and four hits.

Lee struck out Randy Winn for his first out with his new team, and it got better from there as he carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning. He looked sharp the entire night, both on the mound and at the plate. Entering the game batting a career 2-for-32, Lee doubled his career hit total with a pair of hits. That included his first career extra-base hit and run scored, as Lee doubled to lead off the top of the 8th, then scored on a sacrifice fly from, rather fittingly, Ben Francisco.

For a while it looked like the Phillies were content to sit around and watch their new ace perform, without providing much offensive help. Through six innings, the only run scored by either team came by way of a Jayson Werth solo homer. However, the Phillies tacked on some insurance in the seventh. Rollins and Utley walked and Howard was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ibanez then drew a walk and Werth followed with a single to center that scored two runs. That put the Phillies up 4-0. Lee's run in the eighth made it 5-0 and, though the Giants would score on a sac fly in the bottom of that inning, the outcome of the game was never in doubt.

Coming into the game there were questions regarding whether this trade would be enough to put the Phillies over the top as favorites to win a second straight NL pennant. Now the only question that remains is "Roy who?"