Archive: April, 2010
Daily News staff
UPDATED: Madson said that he kicked a metal chair in the tunnel after leaving Wednesday's game in San Francisco. He said he is "frustrated" and "embarrassed" to have let the team down.
Madson allowed a run on two hits and a walk in blowing the save in what became a 7-6 Phillies win.
Madson said he was not sure of the timetable for his return, but assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said he expected Madson would be sidelined longer than the 15 days. The Phillies intend to send him on a rehab assignment and they want to make sure he is 100 percent so he does not hurt his arm.
Daily News staff
Reliever Brad Lidge will be activated from the disabled list in time for tomorrow night’s game against the New York Mets, the Phillies announced.
Lidge, 33, was placed on the disabled list on March 26, while recovering from right elbow surgery. He combined to go 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA with four walks and eight strikeouts in eight rehab appearances between Triple A Lehigh Valley, Double A Reading and Single A Clearwater. After allowing five runs over his first two rehab appearances in 1.2 innings, Lidge pitched 7.0 scoreless innings over his final six appearances.
To make room for Lidge on the 25-man roster, lefthanded pitcher Antonio Bastardo was optioned to Lehigh Valley after yesterday’s game.
David Murphy, Daily News Staff Writer
Charlie Manuel first sounded the alarm back in the second week of the season. As his offense mashed its way through its first three series, the Phillies manager continued to field questions about the potency of his offense. Each time, he did his best to inject some reality into the situation. It's early, he'd say. Every now and then, in his more exasperated moments, he would make a sarcastic crack about holding a parade right then and there.
So you couldn't blame Manuel last night when he reminded media members of their questions during those first couple of weeks. After all, the questions were suddenly reversed. This Phillies offense isn't hitting. And while others may have already started designing the 2010 National League Championship rings, Manuel knew all along that the first two weeks of the season can be a mirage, in good times and in bad.
Look ahead at the Phillies schedule and you can see why he was apprehensive.
There is no doubt this offense will score runs. They are too good to keep playing the way they have, averaging three runs per game over their last 10.
But they are also staring down a brutal stretch of the schedule. The Phillies' next 48 games are murderous. On the back end, they have 12 games against American League powerhouses New York, Boston and Minnesota.
But the front end is just as tough.
Here are the pitchers the Phillies will likely face in their next 11 games:
- Tim Lincecum
- Jonathon Niese
- Mike Pelfrey
- Johan Santana
- Adam Wainwright
- Brad Penny
- Kyle Lohse
- Chris Carpenter
- Tim Hudson
- Derek Lowe
- Jair Jurrjens
Lincecum is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA. And he is Lincecum.
Next come the Mets and Cardinals, who rank 2nd and 3rd in the National League in ERA. Then the Braves, who have posted a 3.35 ERA in their last 12 games and would be among the league leaders if not for the 17 runs they allowed against the Padres earlier this month.
Niese is a young lefty the Phillies have never seen before, which has often been a tough combination for them, and he has allowed one earned run in his last two starts.
You have to figure Pelfrey can't keep up his current pace -- 4-0, 0.69 ERA -- but he has faced the Phillies eight times in the last two seasons and has held them under four earned runs in all but two of them. The good news? He is facing Roy Halladay.
The Mets have won five of Santana's eight starts against the Phillies since he joined the team. He'll pitch Sunday against Jamie Moyer.
Next comes the vaunted Cardinals rotation. Wainwright was a Cy Young contender last season. The good news? The Phillies scored seven runs in six innings against him last season.
Penny is off to a sizzling start. Even more bad news? He pitched eight scoreless innings against them last season.
Lohse allowed nine earned runs in 8.1 innings against the Phillies last season. But he is followed by Carpenter, another 2009 Cy Young contender.
Hudson has held the Phillies to five earned runs in 13 innings in his last two starts against them, including two in six innings last week.
And then comes Jurrjens, who held them to four earned runs in 26.2 innings last season.
All that leads up to a three-game series in Colorado, where you can bet Ubaldo Jimenez will make an appearance.
Here are the ERAs of the Phillies next four opponents in their last 12 games:
Mets last 12: 2.31
Cards last 12: 2.56
Braves last 12: 3.35
Rockies last 12: 3.87
Phillies last 12: 4.54
The good news is that Joe Blanton should be back in the rotation next Monday against the Cardinals.
The bad news is that Jimmy Rollins will almost certainly miss the next three series.
And we haven't even mentioned the fact that the Phillies fell out of first place tonight for the first time since last May.
The last time they entered a series against the Mets trailing the Mets in the standings was Sept. 5, 2008.
Back then, they were just beginning a come-from-behind win of the NL East that would lead to their World Series victory.
Now, they are a marked team, as this series against the Giants has indicated. The Phillies are now a measuring stick for everybody else.
The sky is not falling. The Phillies still have the best roster in the National League. This could be a stretch where they establish once and for all their status as the Team to Beat this season. But it could also be a long month-and-a-half.
The key players in the immediate future?
Cole Hamels - If ever there was a time the Phillies need their young lefthander to step up, it is now. He seems to be on the doorstep. His arm strength is so much better now than it was last season. His cutter has the makings of a dangerous weapon. But as he showed against the Diamondbacks last week, he is still searching. He didn't throw his change-up much at all against Arizona. It takes time for a young pitcher like him to learn how to incorporate a new pitch into his repertoire -- not just how to throw it, but when to throw it, how it complements his other pitches. The Phillies would love to see him put it all together starting tomorrow.
Shane Victorino - He has shown in the past that he can get hot in a hurry. Keep in mind that he is still in the beginning of his third season as an everyday player. Like Hamels, now would be a great time to find the groove.
Raul Ibanez - With Rollins in the line-up, the Phillies could afford to have Ibanez play a complementary role. He has struggled to find his stroke, but he is a smart hitter who has drawn a lot of walks and, like tonight, driven in runners in situations. But for the Phillies to thrive with Rollins out, they need somebody to take some heat off of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth. Victorino could be that guy. Ibanez could too. Together, they could eliminate a lot of the trepidation about the next few weeks.
Brad Lidge - All signs are that he will be back with the team once the homestand begins. The old recipe of Blanton allowing three or four runs in six or seven innings before giving the game to Ryan Madson and Lidge could solve a lot of problems. Lidge struck out four in two scoreless innings at Reading tonight. Word is he looks a lot more like the pitcher of '08 than the one of '09. But a strong start will be important for him. And for the Phillies.
This morning will be the first time in 135 games that the Phillies will wake up in second place.
With Hamels on the mound facing Lincecum, and Brad Lidge a few days away from returning, and an off day on Thursday before the start of a long but challenging homestand, it has the chance to be a very interesting day.
David Murphy, Daily News Staff Writer
First, we here at High Cheese would like to apologize for allowing ourselves 24 hours of reflection before going on record with any thoughts about Ryan Howard's new $125 million contract. We realize that we live in a time where relevance has a short shelf life, and where being first and loudest trumps being lucid and thorough. But even Hemingway would have a hard time dissecting this deal in 140 characters.
So, again, we apologize. We hope you were able to find a knee-jerk reaction or two.
(We also apologize for using the royal "We" -- it makes us feel more distant from the self-righteous tone of the first couple grafs).
Like with any of the contracts the Phillies have awarded since I started covering the team, I'm not going to label this one "good" or "bad." When an organization decides to award a contract, they consider so many variables that transcend numbers. Take, for example, the Raul Ibanez deal. There is a good chance the Phillies overpaid for him. But part of the reason they gave him the deal that they did is that they felt they desperately need him for the 2009 season, and there were a couple other teams they thought might out-bid them. They didn't like Milton Bradley or Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu wasn't walking through that door again, and they didn't think they could repeat with someone like Wily Taveras or Cliff Floyd or Geoff Jenkins in their outfield.
The fact that Ibanez carried them for much of the first half of the season and finished with far better numbers than any free agent outfielder aside from Juan Rivera played a big role in them advancing to the World Series. Does that make the deal a "good" one? No. But it is much different than a team like the Royals signing him for three years and $31.5 million.
Which brings us back to Howard, and a contract that history suggests is one of the biggest gambles they have ever taken.
1) The Phillie Philosophy
The fascinating thing about this contract is that it will likely end up serving as a referendum on the organizational philosophy that they have established over the last few years: If you have performed well and represented the Phillies with professionalism on and off the field, they will take care of you.
This philosophy was on display when the Phillies bid adieu to Pat Burrell after 2008, yet handed Jamie Moyer a big two-year contract extension. It was on display this offseason when they bid adieu to Brett Myers, yet gave Joe Blanton a three-year deal. And general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. explicitly stated this philosophy on Monday, when he said several times that he decided to give Howard a monster extension with no obvious concessions on the player's part a year-and-a-half before free agency because "he deserved it."
"When we commit these kind of dollars and these kind of years to a player, it's not just because of what he does on the field as an athlete," Amaro said. "It's also as a person. To me, and to our organization and to our fans, he's not just an special athlete, he's a special person, and that makes a difference."
More than any contract the Phillies have awarded to date, the Howard deal will determine whether this philosophy is refreshing, or quaint. Judging by the positive reaction of the ticket-buying public, the fan base feels it is the former. Judging by the past production of players after the age of 31 and the amount of payroll space involved, it will be an upset if it does not turn out to be the latter.
And, of course, it could turn out to be both.
2) Downside: the decline of power
Howard's extension guarantees him $125 million between ages of 32-36. The Phillies felt this amount was, in their words, "equitable for both sides" because of his unique power production. Over the last couple years, Howard has turned himself into an adequate defensive first baseman. He is a better base runner than people give him credit for. He has worked hard to harden his body. His strikeout rate has declined. But the Phillies decided to sign Howard long-term because of his power. In seven seasons, he has hit 225 home runs. Over the last four years, he has averaged 50 of them per season.
But power is one of the first things to decline in a player.
Most of the game's greatest home run hitters were significantly less productive between the ages of 32-36 than they were between the ages of 27-31.
Between the ages of 26 and 29, Howard hit 198 home runs, second-most in major league history. Only Ken Griffey Jr. hit more (209) between those ages.
Of the 25 players with the most home runs between 26-29 in MLB history, only four maintained a similar level of success between the ages of 30-33. Sammy Sosa hit 48 more home runs. Babe Ruth hit five more. Lou Gehrig hit four more. Manny Ramirez hit 10 fewer.
The rest hit at least 10 percent fewer home runs. Eleven saw at least a 30 percent drop in their home run production. Griffey hit just 83 home runs between the ages of 30-33, a 60 percent decline.
The drop off between the ages of 34-37 was even more precipitous. Of the original 25, all of whom hit at least 153 home runs from 26-29, only six hit at least 100 home runs between 34-36: Babe Ruth (181 between 26-29 to 182 between 34-37), Hank Aaron (163 to 158), Carlos Delgado (162 to 104), Harmon Killebrew (167 to 100) and Ken Griffey Jr. (209 to 112).
(Keep in mind that four of the 25 -- Howard, Pujols, Adam Dunn and Andruw Jones -- are younger than 33).
3) The exceptions
The Phillies would argue that they aren't paying Howard with the expectation that he puts up Ruthian numbers until the age of 37.
They'd probably be happy with the contract if his career ends up mirroring another left-handed slugging first baseman.
Ironically, that first baseman is the man the Phillies traded away to make room for Howard.
Like Howard, Jim Thome began his career later than most of the game's prolific home run hitters. His first season with more than 400 plate appearances didn't come until he was 24 years old.
Between the ages of 30 and 33, Thome averaged 48 home runs and a 1.021 OPS per season. He missed most of his 34-year-old season with an injury, which paved the way for Howard's rise. But at the age of 35, he hit 42 home runs with a 1.014 OPS for the White Sox. At 36, he hit 35 home runs with a .973 OPS.
Are those numbers worth $25 million a year alone? Sheer economics say no. But do those numbers represent an albatross? No, particularly when combined with the marketing ability the team will continue to enjoy with a face-of-the-franchise slugger closing in on 500 home runs.
Thome is one of only nine players in major league history who have recorded at least four seasons with 35 home runs and an .850 OPS after the age of 31.
Barry Bonds did it seven times. Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Rafael Palmeiro did it six times. Mike Schmidt did it five times. Willie Mays, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome did it four times each.
Five more players - Andres Galarraga, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas - did it three times.
4) In conclusion. . .
Looking strictly at past performances, it is fair to say the Phillies have decided to set sail in treacherous waters. But they would argue that the waters are not treacherous, but uncharted. Because Howard is an uncharted player. They would argue that Howard is one of the most unique players in the sport's history. He might be 30 years old, but he has only been playing in the big leagues for five seasons. Whether that matters to the human body remains to be seen. Amaro pointed out yesterday that Howard has been one of the most durable players in the big leagues, and indeed he has. Amaro pointed out yesterday that Howard has dedicated himself to an intense offseason conditioning program, the results of which have been clear to see the last couple seasons.
Howard lives and competes in a time where he has access to nutrition and fitness programs that were unavailable for most of baseball's history. He lives and competes in a time where life expectancy is far greater than it was for much of the sport's history.
Because of the steroid era -- Sosa, Ramirez, Sheffield, McGwire and Palmeiro have all been connected to performance enhancing drugs in some manner -- there are few comparables among modern athletes. Maybe athletes who began their careers in the 21st century will prove to be far more durable than their predecessors, with modern training and nutrition regimens proving to be just as effective at extending careers as illegal supplements may have been to some.
Maybe Howard will continue to be what his production thus far has shown: A Freak.
And even if he does slow down, even if his power does diminish, even if his body starts to show the effects of all the games his durability has allowed him to play, maybe the ancillary benefits of keeping a home-grown superstar in the fold will supplement the difference between the worth of his on-field production and $125 million.
Who knows how many tickets Howard alone might sell during a down year? Who knows how much the Phillies' decision to reward him is worth in the eyes of other players? Who knows how much hidden worth lies in having the three most marketable professional athletes in the city of Philadelaphia (with apologies to Mike Richards, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Kolb)? How much that might mean when the next round of sponsorship deals get signed?
Runs Batted In might be overvalued by members of the general public, but members of the general public are the ones who buy tickets, and merchandise, and billboards, and television contracts, and sponsorships.
UZR and WAR might tell you more about winning ballgames, but they don't sell.
That said, maybe winning ballgames is what ultimately sells. And maybe if the Phillies find themselves with $25 million fewer dollars to spend for two or three seasons, their ability to win ballgames will be drastically affected.
The Cubs still rank sixth in the majors in attendance. But will they still rank sixth in the majors in attendance at the end of Alfonso Soriano's contract? The Mets, who ranked in the Top 3 from 2006-08, currently rank 12th.
The first big difference between the Cubs/Mets and Phillies is that the Phillies chose to bestow a gargantuan contract on a home-grown star who is beloved by the fan base and is a model citizen in the community.
The second difference is that they did not wait for the market to dictate how such a player should be rewarded. Like the contracts given to Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco, and the decision to exercise Rollins' option a year ahead of time, they decided for themselves what the market should be.
"He kind of set the market for himself by his performance," Amaro said.
David Murphy, Daily News Staff Writer
There is plenty of info to come on the five-year, $125 million contract extension Ryan Howard agreed to earlier today. For all the nuts and bolts of the deal, see our previous post. In the meantime, we'll look at some FAQs concerning the deal.
This started as three questions, and will likely grow throughout the day.
1. What does this mean?
It means that the Phillies are planning on building around Howard, Roy Halladay and Chase Utley for the next four seasons. Those three players are the only ones on the roster signed through the 2013 season. Utley's contract expires after 2013. The Phillies have a club option on Halladay for 2014. Howard, obviously, is signed through 2016.
Here is the money the Phillies have allocated through the end of Howard's deal, according to Daily News records:
2012: $82.75 million to Halladay, Howard, Utley, Victorino, Blanton, Polanco, Ruiz (Lidge option; Hamels, Happ, Francisco arb eligible)
2013: $55.0 million to Halladay, Howard, Utley (Polanco, Ruiz club options; Happ, Francisco arb eligible)
2014: $45 million to Howard and Halladay (assuming option vests)
2015: $25 million to Howard
2016: $25 million to Howard
Jimmy Rollins is signed through 2011.
2. How does Howard's contract compare?
The market was set last year by the Yankees when they signed Mark Teixeira to an eight year, $180 million contract that runs from 2009-16. Like Teixeira's, Howard's contract runs through 2016. Like Teixeira, he will be 36 years old in the final guaranteed year of his deal. Howard's contract guarantees him $12.5 million more than Teixeira will earn over the last five years of his deal, from his 32nd birthday through his 36th.
One key difference is that Teixeira has a full no-trade clause. Howard has a limited no-trade clause (at this point, I'm not sure how limited), which for the Phillies could wind up being more valuable than $12.5 million.
On the other hand, Teixeira's deal was signed when he was on the open market. The Phillies weren't negotiating against anybody else with Howard's deal.
2009 (29): $20.0
2010 (30): $20.0
2011 (31): $22.5
2012 (32): $22.5
2013 (33): $22.5
2014 (34): $22.5
2015 (35): $22.5
2016 (36): $22.5
2012 (32): $20.0
2013 (33): $20.0
2014 (34): $25.0
2015 (35): $25.0
2016 (36): $25.0
2017 (37): $10.0 (guaranteed)/$23.0 (if option exercised)
3. How does the contract affect the Phillies ability to re-sign Jayson Werth?
Not as much as you might think. It might affect their willingness to give Werth a long-term deal at his market rate, but Howard's contract does not eliminate the possibility. The extension takes effect in 2012, when the Phillies now have $84.25 million guaranteed to Roy Halladay, Joe Blanton, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz, along with a $1.5 million buyout to Brad Lidge if they don't pick up his $12.5 million option. This number does not include Cole Hamels, who will be eligible for arbitration after making $9.5 million in 2011. Hamels is eligible for free agency after 2012. It also doesn't include salaries for J.A. Happ and Ben Francisco, both of whom will be arbitration eligible.
So the Phillies still have plenty of payroll flexibility in 2012. The Howard deal does not affect their flexibility for next season, when they have $130.85 million guaranteed to 15 players.
The doubt about the Phillies' ability to sign Werth centers around next year, since they have just $9.15 million of available cash before they hit this year's Opening Day roster total of about $140 million, and 10 active roster vacancies to fill.
Daily News staff
First baseman Ryan Howard has signed a five-year contract extension with a sixth-year club option with the Phillies that could take him through the 2017 season, the Phillies announced.
The deal guarantees Howard $125 million over five years and could reach $138 million over six years.
The five-year extension will pay Howard $20 million in each of the 2012 and 2013 seasons and $25 million per year from 2014-16.
David Murphy, Daily News Staff Writer
The organizational machine was in high gear this afternoon. J.A. Happ threw a bullpen session that was monitored by pitching coach Rich Dubee and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan. After Dubee cut the bullpen off, realizing that Happ was not 100 percent, he and Sheridan spoke at length with Happ about his immediate future. Sheridan and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. met with Charlie Manuel in his office as the logistics of the roster moves were hammered out.
Lefty reliever J.C. Romero was activated from the disabled list. Righthander Nelson Figueroa was informed he would start Saturday. There was some thought that Andrew Carpenter would be called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but with Romero ready to return, the Phillies opted to start Figueroa rather than adding somebody else to active roster.
Daily News staff
Lefthander J.A. Happ has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 16, with a left forearm strain, the Phillies announced. Happ had never been on the DL in his career.
Reliever J.C. Romero has been activated from the disabled list.
Happ, 27, is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA (10.1 IP) in two starts so far this season. He went 12-4, 2.93 ERA for the Phillies in 2009.
David Murphy, Daily News Staff Writer
There is no question Charlie Manuel made the right move last night in removing Kyle Kendrick from a 3-0 game for a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth inning. Sure, the Phillies lost 4-3. But you can't blame Manuel.
1) In his first two starts of the season, Kendrick threw 107 pitches total. Last night, he threw 108 pitches through eight innings.
2) Due up in the ninth inning were Martin Prado, Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, who had combined for the only four hits that Kendrick had allowed on the night, including a double by Jones in his previous AB. In their careers of Kendrick, McCann and Jones were a combined 13-for-34 with three home runs, four doubles and six walks off of Kendrick.
3) The most pitches Kendrick had ever thrown in a major league game was 113. That came on June 25, 2008 at Oakland. Kendrick also allowed four hits in eight scoreless innings that day. Manuel also took him out after the eighth inning (in that case, with a 4-0 lead). The Phillies won, though, so you might not remember.
4) Kendrick was due up in the top of the ninth.
On top of all of that, the Phillies entered the season with an opportunity to find out if Ryan Madson could succeed as a regular closer. If Brad Lidge comes back healthy and effective, they might not need that knowledge. But better to get it now and not need it than to be in a position of trial-and-error after the trade deadline.
Manuel made the call. The Phillies lost. But correlation does not equal causation.
In this case, the call was the correct one.