Thursday, February 26, 2009

Four Quesions for the Phillies Pitching Rotation

With the 2009 Grapefruit League officially underway, Philadelphia Phillies fans have a few things to watch for in their rotation. Only Phillies Ace, Cole Hamels, doesn't raise any questions, who after winning the NLCS MVP and World Series MVP, should have his best year yet. But what does the rest of the rotation have to offer?

1. Will Brett Myers finally play consistent ball?

The 2008 season was an interesting ride for Brett Myers. After closing out games for a year, he was thrown back into the rotation after the Phillies acquired Brad Lidge from Houston. As the number one starter on opening day, Phillies fans expected Meyers to make the transition from closer to ace quickly. They couldn’t be more wrong. Myers had a 5.84 ERA before finally being sent down to AAA mid-year to regain his composure.

The AAA time worked wonders for Meyers, who pitched unbelievably once he was brought back up. Meyers had a 2.25 ERA in 2 starts in July and a 1.65 ERA in 6 starts in August, but fell back to the 5.00 range in 5 games in September.

Back to the original question: Will this finally be the year that Meyers pitches consistently? I think it may be. Meyers looked good in the playoffs, and it motivated him to lose 30 pounds in the offseason. In the best shape of his life, and feeling rather confident, expect big things from Meyers this year.

2. When will Jamie Moyer start pitching like he's 46 years old?

Jamie Moyer had more wins than any other Phillies pitcher last year. Take a second if you need to read that again. The 46 year old hurler managed to win more games than young star, Cole Hamels. Moyer's fastball is only in the 70's, but he mixes pitches well and knows how to paint the corners of a strike zone. So when will his age start showing its ugly head?

Moyer never threw a hard ball. He never needed it, so that will probably never be an issue. But towards the end of last season and in the playoffs, you saw the toll that long season had on his body. Moyer had two rough outings in the playoffs before pitching a phenomenal game in the World Series.

Jamie is aging goods, but he should be able to last the two years on his contract. And if he starts to drop off, the Phillies have plenty of young prospects who would gladly welcome the chance to step up.

3. What Will Blanton's numbers be this year?

Joe Blanton was just another hero in the 2008 playoffs for the Philadelphia Phillies. On a team where everyone stepped up to win it all, Joe was no exception. Everyone knows that pitching wins championships, and no one was quite sure whether Blanton would fit into that equation. Although 4-0 as a Phillie, Blanton had his share of rough starts when he first arrived in Philadelphia. As time went on, he gained confidence and took into the playoffs, going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA.

I wouldn't expect Joe to be blow anyone away this year, but he'll get the job done at the bottom of the rotation. He looked more than solid in the playoffs, and should pitch quality ball this year.

4. Who is going to be the No. 5 starter?

The most talked about topic in Philadelphia since the post-championship high finally passed. Pitching Coach Rich Dubee has said that he sees Kendrick taking back the spot that was his in the beginning of the 2008 season before being sent down to AAA. After an exciting rookie season, Kendrick didn't match the numbers he had the year before and was demoted to AAA to work on his stuff.

Another possibility is J.A. Happ, who saw some time late in the 2008 season. Happ mostly played from the bullpen and went 1-0 with a 3.69 ERA. Happ will definitely get looked at as a possible candidate.

The race for the 5th spot got very interesting when the Phillies signed Chan Ho Park. Park, although pitching mostly from the pen in Los Angeles, could also find himself being considered for the spot. Park hasn't started since ’06 when he went 7-7 in Sand Diego with a 4.81 ERA. Park is no doubt capable of pitching at number five.

The most interesting option of all would be 21 year old Carlos Carrasco. Carrasco had excellent numbers in AAA, with a 1.72 ERA in 6 starts, striking out 46 batters. He then carried the success into the Venezuelan winter league where he was 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 11 starts. If Carrasco continues the success through the Grapefruit League, he would be a very interesting pitcher for the fifth spot.

2009 Philadelphia Phillies Odds & Predictions

After winning the NL East for a second straight season and riding the left arm of Cole Hamels to a World Series title, the question we have to ask is if they can do it again. In short, the answer is yes. It’s tough to go back-to-back, as Boston found out last year, but the Phillies appear to have the best team in the NL heading into the season, and they will not easily be taken out. The biggest obstacle standing in their way will be motivation. Jimmy Boyd breaks down the defending World Series champs in this MLB betting preview. The Philadelphia Phillies are listed at +1200 to win the 2009 World Series.

This was the only foreseeable weakness for the Phillies heading into the 2008 and it passed every test with flying colors. Not only did Cole Hamels finally stay healthy, but he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the playoffs and was named MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series. Not bad for a 25 year old. Brett Myers answered any questions about him by putting together a rock solid second half in which he posted a 3.06 ERA after the All-Star break. I’m starting to believe that Jamie Moyer will be pitching until he is 60. It would have been a perfect stage for the 46 year old to leave the game on, but why wouldn’t he come back. He led the Phillies with 16 wins in 2008 and has now posted double digits wins in 12 of the last 13 seasons. The Phillies also landed one of the Oakland’s former aces in Joe Blanton. Few can gobble up innings like this guy. He has pitched at least 194 innings in each of the last four seasons. After starting the season 5-12 at Oakland, he was a perfect 4-0 with the Phillies. Kyle Kendrick will likely be the fifth starter. He is now 21-13 in 50 big league starts.

The pen is in good hands with closer Brad Lidge, who has converted 51 straight save chances, including the postseason, dating back to 2007. The Phillies posted a 3.22 bullpen ERA in 2008, which was the best in the NL. Ryan Madson and Scott Eyre will be big for the pen as well.

The Phillies have one of the best, if not the best, batting orders in all of baseball. It starts with their big three: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. J-Roll and Utley make up the best middle infield in the game. Rollins won the NL MVP award in 2007 and followed that up by hitting .277 with 11 homeruns, 59 RBIs, and 47 stolen bases despite missing time with injuries. Utley is a machine and is destined for a fifth straight 100-RBI season. He hit .292 with 33 homeruns and 104 RBIs despite playing with a hip injury that required offseason surgery. Ryan Howard is probably the closest thing in today’s game resembling Babe Ruth. He overcame a slow start to slug 48 homers and added 146 RBIs. Shane Victorino had a breakout season for the Phillies and was one of the major keys to them bringing home the title. He hit .293 with 14 homeruns, 58 RBIs, and 36 stolen bases. The Phillies lose Pat Burrell after nine seasons, but they replace him with Raul Ibanez, who has recorded three straight 100-RBI seasons. Ibanez hit 23 bombs and drove in 110 for a Seattle team that was pathetic in 2008. With him being protected in a stacked lineup, there’s no telling what he is capable of. Rightfielder Jayson Werth, third baseman Pedro Feliz, and catcher Carlos Ruiz round out the starting lineup.

Prediction: 1st NL East
The Mets are going to give it the old college try once again, but at the end of the day I think the Phillies will be too tough. This team has few, if any, noticeable weaknesses and I have them representing the NL in the World Series. The Philadelphia Phillies are listed at +175 to win the NL East.

Jimmy Boyd’s baseball picks profited dime bettors over $50,000 in 2007 as he recorded a MLB World Handicapping title. Beat the MLB odds with a World Champ this season.

Written by: Jimmy Boyd

Prospect makes splash in exhibition win over Phils

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a second baseman for 2009, but they might not for 2010.

Thus, prospect Shelby Ford realizes he is in his first major-league spring training camp as a non-roster invitee to make an impression for the future.

Ford made the quite the splash Wednesday as his three-run home run sparked a four-run fourth inning that broke a 1-1 tie and powered the Pittsburgh Pirates to an 8-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in an exhibition opener at McKechnie Field.

The Phillies were playing their first game since winning last year’s World Series.

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez could become a free agent after this season if the Pirates do not pick up his contract option for 2010. Ford is the heir apparent, as Baseball America ranks him as the eighth-best prospect in the organization.

“I’m still taking this seriously,” Ford said after admitting his chances of making the opening-day roster are miniscule. “I want to do well. I want people to know that I can help in the future.”

Ford, 24, was limited to 81 games at Class AA Altoona last season because of back and hip injuries, hitting .285 with four home runs, 32 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.

“Shelby has got a lot of tools and the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter at second base is a nice bonus,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “What we want to see from Shelby this spring is for him to find a good routine that can keep him healthy. Injuries are really the only thing holding him back.”

Game details: Sanchez went 2-for-2 with an RBI double before Ford pinch hit for him in the fourth inning and homered off Joe Bisenius. Craig Monroe and Brandon Moss both drew a pair of walks.

The Pirates used nine relief pitchers in order to get their starting pitchers set on a regular schedule. Chris Bootcheck, Matt Capps, Donnie Veal, Ronald Uviedo, Juan Mateo, Craig Hansen and Even Meek each pitched one scoreless inning while Romulo Sanchez and Jesse Chavez both gave up one run in one inning.

Veal got credit for the win. As a Rule 5 Draft pick, he must stay on the major-league roster all season or be offered back to the Chicago Cubs for $25,000.

“I was a little nervous when I first got out there, but I realized I just had a job to do,” Veal said.