Category Archives: Phillies

Ryan Howard, King or Prince of the NL?

 

Ryan Howard was all smiles after winning the 2006 All-Star Home Run Derby. How big is that smile now that the King and Prince have left the building? Photo: blog.momogusknits.com

Ryan Howard is no stranger to criticism. Big numbers and big bucks haven’t necessarily been translating to big breaks for the Big Piece when it comes to Philadelphia.

Playing a loaded first base in the National League doesn’t help the 32-year old Phillie either who will start the 2012 season on the disabled list after suffering a torn Achilles during last years playoffs. From All-Star snubs to MVP short-comings it’s been tough being Ryan Howard of late.

That is until now. With the exit of both “King” Albert Pujols and  Prince Fielder to the American League this offseason, Howard now reigns as the leagues premier first baseman.

Or is he?

It’s no secret that after the 2011 season the first base position has diminished drastically.  Add former San Diego Padre turned Beantown Bomber Adrian Gonzalez to the mix and arguably the three best first baseman in the NL during the 2010 season are all gone.

Perhaps now Howard will finally get his due. But does Howard deserve all the criticism he has generated since his 2006 MVP campaign?

Sure he strikes out way too much but defensively he is quicker than he’s ever been and he’s taken major strides at the bag. Maybe it didn’t take the exit of Pujols and Fielder to realize just how good Howard is.

In order to fully compare the NL Big Three, I’ve taken a sample of each players’ averages in home runs (HR), runs batted in (RBI), on base percentage + slugging percentage (OBS), batting average (BA) and games from the 2006-2011 seasons. The sample size starts at both Howard and Fielder’s first full season in the majors, while the numbers follow Pujols’ 2005 MVP.

In that time period Howard leads in HR, (44 to 41 for Pujols and 38 for Fielder,) and RBI (133, to 118 for and 108 for Fielder) and he’s third in BA at .274, (.325 for Pujols and .282 for Fielder) the three former key triple crown stats to determine a sluggers immortality.

But the game has developed exponentially and baseball has been introduced to the Bill James (watch Moneyball and you’ll understand) of the world that have led use to judge hitters in much more efficient ways. Among those stats Howard ranks third in OBS .929, (1.037 for Pujols and .932 for Prince) and second in games played per season at 153 (160 for Fielder and 152 for Pujols.)

All in all Howard ranks first, first, third, third and second. Pretty competitive with Pujols and Fielder but I’ve determined two additional stats to see just where Howard ranks. Wins above replacement (WAR) or how many wins a specific players accounts for per season compared to the average position player (both defense and offense is calculated) and Most Valuable Player shares or how many times each player placed in the top-10 in MVP voting.

There’s no question Pujols is one of baseball’s all-time greatest hitters and his 7.9 WAR is off the charts but Howard tops Fielder with a 3.4 WAR to 3.2 WAR. MVP shares is where Howard shines. He’s tied with Pujols with 6 MVP top-10 shares while Fielder has garnered 3 over the same time period. Let’s not forget Pujols snagged 2 MVP’s during that run, Howard had one and Fielder never came closer than third in the voting.

While Pujols comes out on top again with 5 All-Star appearances, both Howard and Fielder have three each, although Fielder started at first twice while Howard started once as a designated hitter.

Clearly Pujols was the NL’s best first baseman (he also earned two Gold Gloves for outstanding fielding at first base) but Howard inches out Fielder as the leagues 2nd player in the position.

With Pujols and Prince gone, Howard will now slip into the NL’s top spot.

Then there was Cincinnati Red Joey Votto. The Reds 28-year old first baseman has emerged just as two of the NL’s biggest stars have exited. Votto, who’s first full year began in 2008, has an MVP of his own in 2010 when the league was still stacked, two All-Star appearances and he’s averaging better WAR 4.9, OBS .957 and BA .312, than both Howard and Fielder. With his 2011 Gold Glove he’s also now the best fielding first baseman in the league as well.

Votto may be the future but his 29 HR and 96 RBI are far in comparison to Howard’s monster power numbers. You can argue that each player’s numbers reflect an even advantage as far has the quality hitters in front and behind them.

Breathe easy Howard your officially the poster boy again for the City of Brotherly Love.

That is until the Reds big machine gets going, again.

 

You can follow Matthew Nadu on Twitter @MatthewNadu

Leave a comment

Filed under Philadelphia, Phillies

Patriotic Philly Fans Help a Nation Rest Easy

It was one of those patriotic defining moments that won’t soon be forgotten. The pride, unity and  presence of our forefathers all seemed to align in a starless night Sunday in Philadelphia, of all places.

With the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets tied 1-1, a cool breeze began whispering throughout Citizens Bank Park during the bottom of the 8th inning. Like a high school locker room, rumors and tweets quickly consumed the hora of the game when news of Osama bin Laden’s death began circling throughout the stands in South Philly where only the most vicious acts of fan hood seem to exist.

With fans glued to their cell phones oblivious that the game was creeping closer to extra innings, a low buzz began.

This buzz although low, would grow into something bigger than anyone could imagine.

The scenerio could only truely be captured through the eyes of a big green Dr. Seussian creature and I don’t mean the Phanatic.

“And the Grinch put a hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the snow. It started in low. Then it started to grow… But the sound wasn’t sad! Why, this sound sounded merry! It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY! He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes! Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!”

Shocking indeed.

Much like the Grinch expecting the worst from the Who’s, the nation turned up the volume on their television sets, radios and computers looking on at the ‘barbarians’ of Broad Street.

Expecting the worse.

But there were no batteries, no snowballs or tasers in sight. No vomit or hecklers or boos in the night. What the rest of the nation got from the only gathering of sports  fans left on May 1, 2011 had to be an unexpectedly humbling experience.

Fans of all creeds, religions and team colors began to chant in unison:

“U-S-A!”

“U-S-A!”

For one defining moment in Philadelphia, the apparent Mecca of all that is wrong with the “fan” became a sybol of all that it just in America.

For one moment we all felt that same chill.

A feeling of pride where Phillies and Mets fans alike, became one for the first and perhaps the last time. But for that one night we were all part of something bigger than us, bigger than baseball and even bigger than our country. We were a part of a universal plea for justice.

Fittingly enough the events that unfolded this crisp spring night did so in the midst of America’s greatest pastime.

Baseball, a game that is so much more than just a game. The game that makes grown men to feel like little boys again. It’s a humbling game where men are reduced to tears, where the grips of old age take even our greatest heroes and  the triump of the human spirit endures.

Ironically enough, the real heroes were the ones who weren’t  there. They are the ones who long to be home with their families, friends and at the ballpark.

What will you say 50 years from now when asked where you were the night Osama bin Laden , the face of terrorism was declared dead?

If you were one of the proud ambassadors  left at  the ballpark in Philadelphia Sunday night you’ll never forget.

Leave a comment

Filed under Philadelphia, Phillies

Philly Prophesy Fulfilled

Not everything was prophesied this Easter Sunday.

Certainly if you prophesied the Philadelphia sports straight sweep then no leftovers for you, because you’re liar.

Let’s be honest, with the Phillies looking for their first swept of the San Diego Padres on the road in 32 years and the Flyers and Sixers both in elimination games, no one saw this coming.

But then slowly the pieces started falling into place.

It started with mashed potatoes on the floor as a jubilant celebration dance broke forth at the dinner table once Lou Williams and the Sixers officially cooled off the Miami Heat 86-82 avoiding the series sweep.

Sixers coach Doug Collins said it time and time again he doesn’t believe in moral victories at 60-years of ago but on this holiest of days there’s a feeling of some pretty good morality here.

After chillin’ in the Flyers locker room like it was an after hours bar Friday night, rookie Evan Turner must of soaked up some kind of winning touch, probably from the pile of sweaty socks he was standing on by having his most promising game of his young career dropping 17 points in front of the home crowd.

The Sixers didn’t “shock the world” Marc Zumoff style but they certainly shocked the Delaware Valley and parts of South Florida if they weren’t too busy lubin’ up the coconut oil on South Beach- it’s an Easter tradition.

One game, that’s all we asked for and the Sixers delivered.

Then as we began to comatose from all the turkey and gravy a bit of the spirit began to touch our hearts because we actually considered tolerating that Hip-Hop bunny, for the kids sake, but then Michael Leighton snapped us back into reality. Leighton took to the net for the Flyers as they face their own elimination game down 3-2 to Buffalo in the first round of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

If you haven’t noticed where this article is going, well continue reading you soon will, because like the miracle of Easter the Flyers found themselves mounting a comeback after going down 2-0 in the first period. As is accustomed during Flyers playoff games, Peter Laviolette pulled his goalie yet again inserting Friday’s letdown Brian Boucher back in net after he gave up 3 goals on 11 shots.

Boucher said he wanted revenge and what better day for revenge then Easter? Slowly, as desert came around, the Flyers started looking like a No. 2 seed again tying the game at 3-all heading into their second straight overtime. OT, a no man’s land where they never seem to escape victorously.

Meanwhile clear acrossed the country- do they even celebrate Easter in California- Roy Halladay was making his first start after one of his worst outings of his career against the Brew Crew.

As Doc took the hill and mowed down Padre after Padre, the Philly Trifecta began to take form. Fourteen, a new career high, San Diegans went down in all before Halladay was pulled with two outs in the ninth.

Again one was the magic number.

All it took was one pitch for Antonio Bastardo to record the final out as the Phils swept their first four game road trip against the Padres since the Carter administration, 3-1.

Back in Buffalo as the day came to a close, the weight of this most perfect holiday fell on the shoulders of the Flyers and the stick of savior Ville Leino as he sent a rare rebound shot off Ryan Miller past the blue line and securely in the net for the 5-4 win.

Victory.

One win. One pitch. On OT goal was all it took to make Philadelphia happy.

Was that too much to ask for? Now pass the corn.

Leave a comment

Filed under Eagles, Flyers, Phillies

Will 2011 Be One for the Record Books?

There are certain moments in sports that come up once in a lifetime. Grandfathers reminisce of these moments like old war stories, children witness their first super heroes and Cooperstown locks them away for generations to awe over.

These are the moments where legends are born.

Fortunately we’ll witness one of these moments in our lifetime. In 2011 to be more specific.

We can’t guess the time, place or situation but at some point we’ll witness something magical. The Four Horsemen will deliver in 2011.

The Big Four. The Fantastic Four. Fab Four. R2C2. Four Aces. Four of a Kind. Mt. Fourmore. Roys R Us.

Whatever you want to call the Philadelphia Phillies four starters know this, 2011 will be un-phour-gettable.

With the reacquisition of Cliff Lee in the offseason to joining Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, then throw in  Joe Blanton, the Phils have the potential to round out the greatest starting rotation baseball has ever seen.

At least on paper.

They’ve combined for six 20-win seasons, 13 All-Star game appearances and three Cy Young Awards.

This isn’t a Hall of Fame induction class (at least not yet) but the unbelievable reality for Philadelphia.

Compare them with the greats such as the ’54 Indians, ’71 Orioles and Braves rotations from ’96-’98 .

Unlike the above mentioned teams the Phillies have the chance to be  the first to win a World Series, because they are built for the long haul.

Here’s the cold hard facts.

In 2010 the five combined for a 67-49 record with 1059 innings, a baseball rotation best 3.17 ERA and 24.1 WAR (wins against replacement player.)

Don’t let the record fool you. Oswalt was a mid-season pickup with a 6-12 record with Houston before going 7-1 with Philadelphia, Halladay had just switch leagues and teams while Lee switched leagues and teams, twice.

The 24.1 WAR ranks 6th all-time and that’s in a season where they never had the opportunity to all play with each other. They’re also just the fourth team in history with four starters with a WAR of  at least 4.3.

All four aces all threw over 200 innings in 2010, led by last year’s National League Cy Young Award Winner Halladay’s Major League best 250.2 innings.

Halladay and Lee  led their leagues in complete games and strikeout to ball ratio last season. Throw Oswalt in the mix and the three all rank in the active top 15 in both categories. The trio is also in the top eight of active career winning percentage and the first threesome to post a .620 or better win percentage in 54 years.

But when it comes down to it, winning a World Series is what matters and these five turn it up in the postseason with a combined 22-8 record, 3.30 ERA, seven Fall Classic appearances, two wins and a World Series MVP.

Enjoy the hype in only comes around every few generations.

combined for six 20-win seasons, 13 All-Star game appearances and three Cy Young Awards. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Phillies

Phillies Motivation Could Be Fatal

The Philadelphia Phillies have had a lot of motivation to win over the last three seasons.

2010 isn’t much different.

Tragically Phillies Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts passed away early Thursday morning of natural causes.

Roberts was the cornerstone of the Whiz Kids of the ’50’s winning 20 games six times.

He established himself as the best pitcher in the National League during his era with 234 wins as a Phil, starting five All-Star games and appearing in one World Series, a lost to the New York Yankees in 1950.

Eriely Roberts death continues a deadly tradition for the Phillies.

In 2007 with the passing of former player and coach John Vukovich, the Phillies clinch their first National League East Championship since 1993.

In 2008 Philadelphia had a resurgence in the playoffs knocking off the Dodgers and the Rays to win the organizations first World Series in 28 years after skipper Charlie Manuels mother, June, passed away in early October.

After a Hall-of-Fame broadcasting career and shortly after making his defining call, “The Philadelphia Phillies are the world champions of baseball,” the voice of the Phillies Harry Kalas passed away in the Washington Nationals broadcast booth. Needless to say with his baby blue jacket in the dugout the 2009 Phils repeated as NL Champions.

So who is the team playing for in 2010?

Roberts of course.

But do the Phillies really need death as a motivation?

Isn’t the heartbreak of a city good enough?

Whatever the reason for our own little dynasty, the Phillies have their own motivation to win.

It’s expected.

Not just by the city or Major League Baseball, because the team expects themselves to win.

And they are.

It’s no coincidence that the franchise locked up Ryan Howard with the biggest pay day since Barry Bonds paid of the drug companies.

Howard’s all natural and so is this team and if you want to debate so are the hot dogs at dollar dog night as well.

With the perfect blend of homegrown talent in Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels along with imported All-Stars like Roy Halladay, Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez, the Phillies have assembled a team that can win.

For a long time.

As a matter of fact all their homegrown talent but Ruiz have been All-Stars. It’s only a matter of time before “Chooch” joins them.

The Phillies also developed a rich track recorded of finding the hidden gems that can elevate a team to the next level. Rule 5 Draft signees Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino looked to have no future left in baseball until the Phils gave them a career.

Jamie Moyer, Chan Ho Park, Pedro Martinez and most recently Jose Contreres have all had their careers successfully rejuvenated by the Phillies.

All the while General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has still found time to stack the minor league system as well. Most notably with Dominic Brown, who could very well take over right field if Jayson Werth leaves for free agency.

Perhaps it’s the memory of fallen Phillie heroes, personal conquests, money or a reason to slick back the mane, grow out the beard or not wash the ol’ jock strap, whatever the motivation is to win the Phillies have it.

Philadelphia is in the midst of the greatest era in Phillies history and it doesn’t look like it will die any time soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phillies

Phillies Motivation Could Be Deadly

The Philadelphia Phillies have had a lot of motivation to win over the last three seasons.

2010 isn’t much different.

Tragically Phillies Hall-of-Famer Robin Roberts passed away early Thursday morning of natural causes.

Roberts was the cornerstone of the Whiz Kids of the ’50’s winning 20 games six times.

He established himself as the best pitcher in the National League during his era with 234 wins as a Phil, starting five All-Star games and appearing in one World Series, a lost to the New York Yankees in 1950.

Eriely Roberts death continues a deadly tradition for the Phillies.

In 2007 with the passing of former player and coach John Vukovich, the Phillies clinch their first National League East Championship since 1993.

In 2008 Philadelphia had a resurgence in the playoffs knocking off the Dodgers and the Rays to win the organizations first World Series in 28 years after skipper Charlie Manuels mother, June, passed away in early October.

After a Hall-of-Fame broadcasting career and shortly after making his defining call, “The Philadelphia Phillies are the world champions of baseball,” the voice of the Phillies Harry Kalas passed away in the Washington Nationals broadcast booth. Needless to say with his baby blue jacket in the dugout the 2009 Phils repeated as NL Champions.

So who is the team playing for in 2010?

Roberts of course.

But do the Phillies really need death as a motivation?

Isn’t the heartbreak of a city good enough?

Whatever the reason for our own little dynasty, the Phillies have their own motivation to win.

It’s expected.

Not just by the city or Major League Baseball, because the team expects themselves to win.

And they are.

It’s no coincidence that the franchise locked up Ryan Howard with the biggest pay day since Barry Bonds paid of the drug companies.

Howard’s all natural and so is this team and if you want to debate so are the hot dogs at dollar dog night as well.

With the perfect blend of homegrown talent in Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels along with imported All-Stars like Roy Halladay, Placido Polanco and Raul Ibanez, the Phillies have assembled a team that can win.

For a long time.

As a matter of fact all their homegrown talent but Ruiz have been All-Stars. It’s only a matter of time before “Chooch” joins them.

The Phillies also developed a rich track recorded of finding the hidden gems that can elevate a team to the next level. Rule 5 Draft signees Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino looked to have no future left in baseball until the Phils gave them a career.

Jamie Moyer, Chan Ho Park, Pedro Martinez and most recently Jose Contreres have all had their careers successfully rejuvenated by the Phillies.

All the while General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. has still found time to stack the minor league system as well. Most notably with Dominic Brown, who could very well take over right field if Jayson Werth leaves for free agency.

Perhaps it’s the memory of fallen Phillie heroes, personal conquests, money or a reason to slick back the mane, grow out the beard or not wash the ol’ jock strap, whatever the motivation is to win the Phillies have it.

Philadelphia is in the midst of the greatest era in Phillies history and it doesn’t look like it will die and time soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phillies

Phillies Phocus: Goliathes Howard and Halladay Hit Their Spring Stride

So Temple and Villanova look like the nerds in the corner of the Big Dance and your bracket is probably busted harder than Dwight Gooden snorting and driving, again.

The NFL owners meetings are heating up on the golf course with a much needed new change to the overtime playoff rules (just playoffs?) while Donovan McNabb is looking better in trade talks than he ever did in the playoffs.

Don’t bite on the trade bluff McNabb’s gonna stay like that rash Homer got during spring break ’96.

And finally you can pick your poison as far as recent sports entertainment: “Dancing with the OchoCinco” or “Gilbert Goes to Jail.”

Not exactly Starz on demand.

Not exactly Major League Baseball.

Enough with the shenanigans already! Let’s get the season underway already.

Never has a Phillies season been so anticipated and never has the off-season drug out so much (yes that’s a high and tight one at you Ron Washington.)

The Phillies(10-7-1) in the Grapefruit League have had back-to-back walk off hits in their last two games and are picking up their stride right on time for Opening Day on April 5 in Washington D.C.

Although the Phillies have basically the same team on paper they look nothing like the boys of 2009.

High Hopes is going to focus on two Phils a day, well that’s the intention, barring McNabb doesn’t get traded or Allen Iverson gambles away his kids then we’ll flatten out a bit like a 2009 Cole Hamels fast ball.

Offensively:
Ryan Howard is having one of his best springs ever. The slugger is standing closer to the plate allowing him to drive off speed pitches on the outside of the plate to left and with a rigorous off season workout schedule, which finally included losing weight, he has more guns than Arenas. He is driving the ball to all fields, including a pair of dingers to left and right field Tuesday in the Phillies 4-3 win against The Rays(13-7) who currently sit atop of the league standings. Howard has better plate cover batting .356 with 3 bombs and eight RBI’s in 16 games so far this spring. He also has five walks, perhaps his first ever sign of patience at the plate just in time for free agency.

With all the TMZish rumors of a Howard/Pujols trade it’s obvious that Ry-Ry has taken it personally as he looks to terrorize the National once again as the most prolific power hitter in baseball since 2005.

Pitching:

Obviously were talking Roy “Boy” Halladay. He’s everything the organization dreamed he would be; unhittable.

With Seattle Mariner and former Phila heart throb Cliff Lee out for at least the first week of the regular season with a strained abdominal, the Halladay/Lee trade is looking better than ever.

Halladay is getting his innings and freak on in this spring. His velocity is better than it has ever been and his control is pinpoint. He has so much movement on his pitches that hitters cannot pick them up. Adam Eaton’s level of bad is the exact oppisite Halladay’s level of good and Eaton was bad.

Real bad in fact he was down right god awful.

Halladay is 1-1 in spring training, mind you these are games just to get players back in the groove for the regular season, with a 2.40 ERA. Halladay has had only one rough three-run inning against the Tigers on March 20, but besides that he has proven that he is the best pitcher in the game. As an added bonus, Halladay’s strikeouts are way up, not up like the UConn girls racking up a 90-36 score against Temple in the tourney, but up like two more K’s/ 9 innings.

Perhaps the best thing Halladay brings to Philadelphia besides an Opening Day starter not named Brett Myers, is a willingness to work with Hamels. Great news for the Phils who need a dynamic one-two punch in the rotation if they want to get back to October greatness.

Leave a comment

Filed under Phillies