Thursday, July 29, 2010

Phillies Close to Landing Oswalt

According to ESPN, the Phillies are on the verge of landing Roy Oswalt, giving their rotation a major boost for the stretch run. Supposedly the Phillies and Astros have agreed on terms and it's just a matter of Oswalt waiving his no-trade clause. Thus far the players involved have not been announced, save that J.A. Happ would likely be dealt. One has to think he will jump at the chance to leave the cellar-dwelling Astros and join a team who, with him, has to be back in the conversation as elite title contenders.

Even without Oswalt, the Phillies have made a strong push lately. They current sit just 2.5 games out of the wildcard and 3.5 out of the division. And this run has come without Chase Utley. Just getting Utley back in September (assuming he's at full strength by then) could give the Phillies the spark they need to win their fourth straight division title, but adding Oswalt greatly increases their chances to make the playoffs yet again.

Oswalt's 6-12 record this season is certainly underwhelming, but that has more to do with the Astros' poor record than anything else, as he's posted a very respectable 3.42 ERA. What's more impressive is his 1.11 WHIP; his best since his rookie year in 2001, when he went 14-3 with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.

He may not be as good as the Phillies' other Roy, but he is an established ace and a workhorse. He has no injury history to speak of and, despite his poor records in the last two years, has shown no signs of slowing down. What's more, he shouldn't have any trouble pitching in Citizen's Bank Park because he's already in a hitter's park. He has fared significantly better on the road this season than at home (Home - 2-9, 3.96 ERA/Road - 4-3, 2.61 ERA). Even if he posted an ERA around 4.00, that would still be an upgrade over the back of the Phillies' rotation.

Should the Phillies complete the trade and continue on to the postseason, one would have to like their chances even better than last year's. In 2009, the Phillies rotation consisted of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Pedro Martinez, and Joe Blanton. The projected 2010 rotation would have Roy Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, and Blanton or Jamie Moyer (or Happ, if it turns out he's not part of the trade). Switching Lee for Halladay is effectively an even deal. Halladay is a slightly better pitcher, but he'll be hard-pressed to match Lee's postseason mastery in 2009. Oswalt should be an upgrade over Pedro, though Pedro did perform fairly well last year. In addition, Hamels has shown far more poise this season than last and it would not be a surprise to see him return to his 2008 postseason form (or close to it, anyway). The 1-2-3 punch of Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt should make the Phillies extremely tough to beat in any series.

Of course, it must be pointed out that the Phillies had the opportunity for a Halladay-Lee-Hamels rotation. If the Phillies have to give up top-level prospects for Oswalt, it will not reflect well on Ruben Amaro's abilities as GM. It would be yet another short-sighted move. But if they can do it by giving up only Happ and some decent prospects than it's hard to complain. It is actually a wise move (and an impressive sell job on Amaro's part) to make Happ the centerpiece of the deal, selling high on the young lefty. Happ had a great rookie season, but didn't show much in the playoffs (albeit in relatively few chances) and has missed the majority of this season due to injury. If they can turn one good season into Roy Oswalt, it would be a coup, especially considering that according to every sabermetrician out there, Happ was extremely lucky to perform so well in 2009.

We'll see what the terms of the trade end up being (provided Oswalt signs off on it) but things are certainly looking up for the Phillies right now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Domonic Brown Shines in Debut

We all knew this day would come sooner or later. Domonic Brown has been tearing up the minor leagues while his Major League counterparts have been struggling to score runs. We just didn't think he'd get to play alongside Jayson Werth, who supposedly had one foot out the door as the Phillies shopped the soon-to-be free agent. But with Shane Victorino's injury, Brown gets the call and Werth can rest assured that he's staying put for the rest of the year.

It could be argued that Brown should've been called up sooner. The Phillies offense could've used the help and he's been nothing short of dominant in both AA and AAA. His combined minor league numbers in 93 games this year consist of a .327 BA, .391 OBP, .589 SLG (combining for a .980 OPS), 20 HR, 68 RBI, and 17 SB. In other words, about as complete an offensive performance as you could ask for. But with the Phillies outfield returning three All-Stars, it was a tough sell to get him in the lineup, even with the struggles of Raul Ibanez.

But Victorino's trip to the DL opened up a lineup spot, so here we are. Brown made his debut tonight against Arizona's Edwin Jackson, batting sixth, behind Werth (the man he was supposed to replace). And give Brown this, he knows how to make an entrance. In his first Major League at-bat, he ripped an RBI double off the right field wall, giving the Phillies a 1-0 lead. He'd later hit a single and then a sacrifice fly. His line score was 2-for-3, 2 R, 2 RBI. Not bad at all.

Meanwhile the Phillies are on quite the roll right now, having won a season-high seven in a row. Roy Halladay dominated once more, throwing his eighth complete game of the season as the Phillies cruised to a 7-1 win over the Diamondbacks. In case you're wondering, the last Phillie to throw 8 complete games in a season was (not surprisingly) Curt Schilling in 1999. One more complete game for Halladay and he'll be the first Phillie to throw 9+ complete games since...Schilling in 1998...who threw 15. Okay, so he's not catching Curt in that regard (though it is worth nothing that Schilling's ERA that year was 3.25, while Halladay's is 2.21), but it's still quite an impressive feat.

Tomorrow night the Phillies will look to extend their streak to eight games, as Kyle Kendrick faces off against Arizona's newly acquired Joe Saunders. We'll see how Brown fares against a left-handed pitcher. Whatever happens, the Phillies have to be pleased with what they're seen so far.