Monday, October 17, 2011

Has LaRussa changed the game again?

Twenty years ago, Tony LaRussa changed the way modern baseball is played, essentially creating the role of the modern one inning closer with his innovation of having Dennis Eckersly start the ninth inning in save situations with a clean slate, usually resulting in a quick 1-2-3 inning...Game Over! Prior to that, closers rarely came in unless the previous pitcher had run into trouble, usually leaving a couple of men on base for the closer to clean up. A far more difficult task with almost no margin for error.   This has lead to the modern era of cheap saves, and a manager's reluctance to use his best reliever, usually the closer, in any key situation that may arise before the ninth.
Now LaRussa is at it again. Using his entire bullpen almost very game in the NLCS vs. Milwaukee, matching up where he feels each has the advantage of opposing hitters. Sure, someone starts the game but there are no traditional starters. no one will see each pitcher a second or third time through the lineup. Good major league hitters usually begin to feast on all but the best pitchers at these times, they figure out what the pitcher is trying to do just as the pitcher is starting to tire, a lethal combination!  By changing pitchers so often, in the new LaRussa method, no pitcher faces a batter twice, all the pitchers are fresh and their stuff is at it's sharpest, pitchers can pitch almost every could revolutionize the game again. Teams with less talented starters (the Phillies will be very late adopters of this change) can use formerly weaker starting pitchers more frequently for shorter periods (think Kyle Kendrick, moderate stuff, but usually effective once or so through the lineup), will suddenly have effective staffs overall.
Batting averages will tumble. The game will change and adapt...for the better or worse? That depends on unforeseen consequences (will pitchers develop as well in the minors if they are never allowed starter innings to work on their craft?), or will they pitcher frequently enough that they end up with approximately the same number of innings, rendering the point moot?  I don't know, but the constant changes, the moves and counter moves (yes, the hitters will adapt) are what make baseball ever fascinating

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An early look at the 2012 Phillies Roster

We looked at the Phillies impending free agents, let’s look at what next year’s team should look like.  The four aces plus the Vanimal return, again providing the Phillies with the best roataion in baseball. Joe Blanton is under contract, and having been injured all year, we might be stuck with him, but if we can trade him, adios.  Kyle Kendrick proved valuable in a swing role, but is replaceable. If we can trade him for a need, do so. The bullpen can be filled from within and will look something like this: Antonio Bastardo (L), Joe Savery (L), , David Herndon, Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge, Michael Schwimer and Mike Stutes (possibly substituting Kendrick for Blanton depending on trade possibilities). There is the 12 man pitching staff.
            In the infield, Polanco, Utley, Rollins (or prospect Freddy Galvis if Rollins signs elsewhere) and Mayberry, at least until Howard returns (usual recovery time from Achilles tendon surgery is 6 to 9 months).  The infield is aging, and none of these players (excepting Mayberry) is likely to play a full season (injuries must be factored in). I’d like to see them sign a more viable offensive infielder, one who would be an almost every day player, starting at very infield position and giving that player a day off. In other words, five players filling four positions, each one getting rest and , if all goes according to plan, staying more productive throughout the season because of this rotation. Texas’ Michael Young would be ideal.  In addition to these five, one more tradition utility player, Wilson Valdez, would make the team. Two catchers, this year’s tandem  Carlos Ruiz and Brian Schneider (excellent defensively, can’t hit a lick) return, at least until prospect Sebastion Valle is ready (expect to see him at Reading this year).
That brings the roster to 20, with the five remaining spots going to outfielders Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, and Domonic Brown.  Bring back Ibanez as left-handed pinch hitter and Ben Francisco as the right-handed pinch hitter and we’re set.  Mayberry can also fill in here as well, and will likely do so when Howard returns. 
            Of course, this looks very much like this year’s roster, and one thing we’ve seen from General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., he’s not afraid to make a bold move, something to shake up a batting lineup that has perhaps gone a little stale.  The winter meetings should be veeeery interesting.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This is how the season ends, not with a bang, but a Rupture…

            Achilles tendon, that is. As in Ryan Howard’s on the last play of the Phillies 2011 season. The play left Howard sprawled in the dirt, facing surgery, as the season came to a close. Are the current Phillies facing similar surgery? With a record payroll, a roster full of aging, but still productive players, what should they do. What should be there game plan?   Impending free agents Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson are in for big paydays, should they be resigned? Rollins almost definitely, unless someone else offers him Jayson Werth crazy money; Madson, it depends. Super-agent Scott Boras represents Madson, meaning his price tag is likely to be astronomical.  Is inexpensive internal solution Antonio Bastardo ready, or his September swoon too scary to entrust the ninth to him?  Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge have expensive club options, should they be picked up? Oswalt probably yes, Lidge almost certainly no. However, he might be willing to resign at a lower rate, especially if Madson leaves. An inexpensive closer combination of Bastardo and Lidge may do just fine.
            Raul Ibanez’ contract is up, and he almost certainly won’t be resigned, unless he’s willing to come back as Ross Gload. Speaking of Gload, who gamely battled through a painful hip injury that severely limited his ability to play in the field…waive bye bye. He did his job, but he’s expendable. 
            So we’ve reviewed impending free agents , who can or should leave, next time we’ll discuss who can and should stay and what the team should look like.