The Phillies Golden Age 2004 – 2012.. The Rise & Fall?

by bloggo schloggo aka charles oliver

A look into what we are witnessing as possibly the beginning of the end of what has to be considered historically as the Phillies finest 9 year run in their 130 years as a professional baseball club.

Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Am...

Some may argue that the Phillies run over the course between 1975 and 1983 was an equal if not better 9 year period of prowess.

Of course you may also consider the world possibly ending in December according to the Mayan Calendar followers.

  • Philadelphia Phillies (8868-9890 W-L, 1890 – 2012) – 2 World Championships, 7 Pennants, and 14 Playoff Appearances
  • Philadelphia Quakers (390-424 W-L, 1883 – 1889)
  • Overall (9258-10314 W-L, 1883 – 2012) – 2 World Championships, 7 Pennants, and 14 Playoff Appearances
A comparison of the two 9 year periods –

2004-2012

Rk Year W L WL% Finish Playoffs R RA BatAge PitchAge Top Player Managers
1 2012 21 22 .488 5th of 5 172 169 31.3 30.0 C.Ruiz (2.0) Charlie Manuel (21-22)
2 2011 102 60 .630 1st of 5 Lost LDS (3-2) 713 529 31.4 29.2 C.Lee (8.8) Charlie Manuel (102-60)
3 2010 97 65 .599 1st of 5 Lost NLCS (4-2) 772 640 31.8 31.1 R.Halladay (8.1) Charlie Manuel (97-65)
4 2009 93 69 .574 1st of 5 Lost WS (4-2) 820 709 31.3 31.2 C.Utley (7.9) Charlie Manuel (93-69)
5 2008 92 70 .568 1st of 5 Won WS (4-1) 799 680 30.1 30.6 C.Utley (9.0) Charlie Manuel (92-70)
6 2007 89 73 .549 1st of 5 Lost LDS (3-0) 892 821 28.8 30.6 C.Utley (7.9) Charlie Manuel (89-73)
7 2006 85 77 .525 2nd of 5 865 812 29.3 30.5 C.Utley (6.8) Charlie Manuel (85-77)
8 2005 88 74 .543 2nd of 5 807 726 30.0 29.7 C.Utley (7.2) Charlie Manuel (88-74)
9 2004 86 76 .531 2nd of 5 840 781 29.3 29.8 B.Abreu (6.3) Larry Bowa (85-75)

1975 – 2012

Rk Year W L Ties W-L% Finish Playoffs R RA BatAge PitchAge Top Player Managers
30 1983 90 72 1 .556 1st of 6 Lost WS (4-1) 696 635 31.9 30.3 J.Denny (7.2) Corrales (43-42) & Owens (47-30)
31 1982 89 73 0 .549 2nd of 6 664 654 31.0 31.9 M.Schmidt (7.1) Pat Corrales (89-73)
32 1981 59 48 0 .551 3rd of 6 L LDS (3-2) 491 472 31.3 30.3 M.Schmidt (7.5) Dallas Green (59-48)
33 1980 91 71 0 .562 1st of 6 W WS (4-2) 728 639 30.6 28.6 S.Carlton (9.8) Dallas Green (91-71)
34 1979 84 78 1 .519 4th of 6 683 718 30.7 28.3 M.Schmidt (7.6) Ozark (65-67) & Green (19-11)
35 1978 90 72 0 .556 1st of 6 L NLCS (3-1) 708 586 29.9 30.3 M.Schmidt (6.0) Danny Ozark (90-72)
36 1977 101 61 0 .623 1st of 6 L NLCS (3-1) 847 668 29.4 29.7 M.Schmidt (8.7) Danny Ozark (101-61)
37 1976 101 61 0 .623 1st of 6 L NLCS (3-0) 770 557 28.8 29.8 M.Schmidt (7.9) Danny Ozark (101-61)
38 1975 86 76 0 .531 2nd of 6 735 694 27.7 27.3 M.Schmidt (7.4) Danny Ozark (86-76)
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/22/2012.

Philadelphia skyline.

Question Marks –

What fans have had in the back of their minds as this season continues to unfold are now becoming evermore present in the forefront and increasing in numbers. There is something in the air. It’s tangible and you can smell it. No it’s not the stink of the refineries wafting across the city. It is emanating from “The Bank”, Citizens Bank Park.

I watched Cliff Lee surrender 5 runs the other day and Roy Halladay do the same last night. Overall they weren’t bad efforts. Although not what you would expect from either starter. When you have a lineup that produces 0 – 3 runs most nights it is a problem. A major one at that. Cole Hamels suddenly is the go to guy that is pumping out consistent starts and victories.

Actually the Phils are batting well as a team hits and average wise. How many times have the Phils had two runners in scoring position with 0 to 2 outs and the innings ended with a big fat goose egg?

Batting Chart

It’s all about power. A miserable lack of it. It became glaringly clear toward the end of last season and after the team’s quick exit from the playoffs. It was obvious that this was the main issue that needed to be addressed in the off season. The Phils did take care of it – well sort of. The lack of power from the bench was given a boost with the acquisitons on veterans like Thome, Wiggington, Nix, etc. As far as the everyday lineup goes zilch was done.

If you’ll remember at the latter part of last season with the Phils whimpering to the finish line  (the 1st round of the playoffs defeat to the Cardinals) they did so with Utley and Howard in the lineup. Everyone is sitting on their hands waiting for the second coming believing Utley and Howard will be their saving grace. Will that be the case? One has to wonder with both players numbers waning. The timely hitting morphing into whiffs and groundout double plays. Scoring opportunities fizzling and rallies killed.

Charlie Manuel

Surely with Utley and Howard back in the daily mix the Phillies will be a better team. But how much better? Will it be enough to turn the season around? With the Braves, Nationals, Mets and Marlins all far improved and knocking on the NL East”s Division Champs door will the Phillies win 102 or 82 games?  When Utley returns how long will he remain healthy?   It’s a shame a guy that once looked to be a sure fire future Hall Of Famer has had his career basically turned upside down with injury upon injury.

With the Phillies fortunes currently on the wane the fans are starting to get a bit restless. Especially with poor play on the basepaths and runners left on base. How much longer will the teams 250+ sellout streak continue? Have you noticed a change in the sound of the crowd? The Phils Phaithful are smart and sharp. They know their baseball and how the game is supposed to be played. With the support of the fans attendance the dough has been rolling in to enable big names and big contracts to happen in Philly. What happens when the coffers start to dwindle? If things continue on the current course will the Phillies initiate a fire sale come mid-season and head into a new direction?

As with the game of life all things will be answered it’s all a matter of time and circumstances. With just 1/4 of the season gone anything is possible and anything can happen. Just ask the 2011 World Champion St’ Louis Cardinals.

“I’d love to change the world but I don’t know what to do. So I’ll leave it up to you.”  ~ Ten Years After 1969 

The Future From Within

Top 15 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies

by Marc Hulet

The Philadelphia Phillies might not have a strong farm system, but it certainly is an intriguing one. Considering how much talent the organization had to give up to acquire the likes of Roy HalladayCliff Lee (the first time), Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence, that’s an impressive accomplishment. And its perhaps even more impressive when you figure in the number of high draft picks the club has had to deal away to assemble its impact ensemble. Still, all those trades have definitely hurt this organization’s minor-league depth:

1. Trevor May, RHP
BORN: Sept. 23, 1989
EXPERIENCE: Four seasons
ACQUIRED: 2008 fourth round, Washington HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Fifth

SCOUTING REPORT: May is a big, strong pitcher with a solid repertoire that includes a 90mph to 95 mph fastball. He also has a potentially plus curveball, a changeup and a new-found slider. His delivery gets out of whack at times, which causes his command to suffer. As a player from a cold-weather state, he’s always been a little behind prospects from sunny weather locales, such as California, Arizona and Florida — but he’s definitely playing catch-up now.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Brody Colvin took a step back in 2011, and Jarred Cosartwas traded to Houston, so May’s breakout season was more than welcomed by the organization. The right-hander pitched a career high 144.1 innings and had a 2.69 FIP. He maintained an outstanding strikeout rate (12.10 K/9), but his control remained inconsistent (4.05 BB/9) — and that is the biggest thing preventing him from becoming an elite pitcher.

YEAR AHEAD: May will move up to double-A in 2012 and he isn’t far from contributing to the big-league team. Still, he needs to polish his secondary pitches and improve his control.

CAREER OUTLOOK: May has the potential to develop into a No. 2 starter – especially if he commands his fastball at the major-league level. He has the frame to become an innings-eater.

2. Jesse Biddle, LHP
BORN: Oct. 22, 1991
EXPERIENCE: Two seasons
ACQUIRED: 2010 first round (27th overall), Pennsylvania HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Eighth

SCOUTING REPORT: A Philadelphia native, Biddle changed his commitment to the University of Oregon and signed with his hometown team. So far, it appears that he made a smart decision. The lefty has the potential to develop into a No. 2 starter, especially with his solid two-pitch mix that includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball and potentially plus changeup. He’s also dabbled with both a curveball and a slider.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Biddle has a strong frame and he showed his durability by increasing his innings total from 2010 to 2011. His overall numbers would have looked even better if not for his slow start in April. He allowed 13 earned runs that month (16.1 IP) and, by comparison, just 14 in the season’s second half (66 IP).

YEAR AHEAD: If he has a breakout season, Biddle could challenge May for the organization’s top prospect in 2012. The southpaw should open the year in high-A ball but he could be in double-A by the beginning of July. The big things he needs to work on are his control and the development of a consistent breaking ball.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Biddle is an exciting young player and he’s a few improvements away from being one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. He could end up pitching near the top of the rotation before too long. The opportunity to watch — and potentially learn from — veterans Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee could make a big impact on his career.

3. Sebastian Valle, C
BORN: July 24, 1990
EXPERIENCE: Five seasons
ACQUIRED: 2006 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Sixth

SCOUTING REPORT: If he were a little more patient, Valle would probably be discussed among the Top three-to-five catching prospects in the game. Offensively, he flashes above-average power due to good bat speed, but he doesn’t always make contact with best pitches. Early in his career behind the plate, he struggled throwing out base runners — but he has improved immensely during the past two seasons. He calls a good game and he has strong receiving skills.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Valle had a decent year at high-A in 2011. He produced the second-highest batting average of his career at .284 (.360 BABIP), but his power dropped from .174 ISO in 2010 to .109 last season. His modest patience also took a step back (his walk rate fell from 5.6% to 3.6%). Valle might benefit from returning to high-A ball for the first month or two in 2012.

YEAR AHEAD: Valle didn’t hit well in the Mexican Winter League, so double-A may be a bit of a stiff test for his over-aggressive bat in 2012. Even so, he should reach the majors perhaps as quickly as the second half of 2013.

CAREER OUTLOOK: The Mexico native is definitely the Phillies’ backstop of the future and he should be able to offer at least as much value as current starter Carlos Ruiz. If Valle can’t get his impatient ways under control, though, he’ll likely fail to reach his full potential.

4. Brody Colvin, RHP
BORN: Aug. 14, 1990
EXPERIENCE: Three seasons
ACQUIRED: 2009 seventh round, Louisiana HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Fourth

SCOUTING REPORT: When he’s on, Colvin shows that he has the makings of three average — or better — pitches. His fastball can reach 97 mph, but it often sits in the low-90s. He also features a curveball and a changeup. Colvin doesn’t have the smoothest mechanics and he throws across his body, which increases ball movement but hurts his control and also raises injury concerns.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Colvin battled injuries in 2011 and his numbers suffered. After pitching 138 innings in 2010, he managed just 116 in 2011. His strikeout rate also dropped – from 7.83 to 5.97.

YEAR AHEAD: Colvin could begin 2012 back in high-A ball. He has good stuff but he hasn’t dominated at any level. With improved command of his pitches, he could really break out – especially if he can shake the injury bug.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Colvin has yet to prove his durability, but he has the potential to develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 starter down the road. There has also been talk of trying to develop him into a high-leverage reliever. The likes of Trevor May and Jesse Biddlecould make that move more palatable.

5. Jon Pettibone, RHP
BORN: July 19, 1990
EXPERIENCE: Four seasons
ACQUIRED: 2008 third round, California HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: Pettibone is nowhere near as flashy as some of the other arms on this list, but he has the potential to develop into a No. 3 starter. He throws in the low 90s with his fastball but it can touch 94 mph. He also has a good changeup and a decent slider. His control is above-average for this stage of his development.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Pettibone produced some sparkling numbers at high-A ball in 2011, including a 2.92 FIP and a 1.90 BB/9. His strikeout rate, though, was low for the second consecutive season (6.43 K/9). He handled both right- and left-handed hitters equally well in 2011.

YEAR AHEAD: Pettibone should spend the year in double-A, although his above-average control gives him a chance to eventually reach triple-A in 2012 — and the major leagues some time in 2013. Further development of his secondary pitches will help him compete at the upper levels of the minors.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Although he can get some zip on his heater, Pettibone is more of a pitch-to-contact, control-type hurler. He has a big, strong frame to be an innings-eater and there is definitely room for him to improve as he learns to pitch off his fastball.

6. Maikel Franco, 3B
BORN: Aug. 26, 1992
EXPERIENCE: Two seasons
ACQUIRED: 2010 international free agent
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: The breakout hitting prospect of the year, Franco wasn’t on anyone’s radar entering the 2011 season. He showed a solid eye at the plate and displayed good power potential, although he’s still learning to drive the ball consistently. Franco doesn’t exactly have an athletic body but he plays the position well and has a strong arm.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Franco did not turn 19 until part way through 2011, making his numbers all that more impressive. He hit for average and for gap power in short-season ball, while also showing a solid eye at the plate (10.9 BB%). He didn’t perform well during a late-season promotion to low-A.

YEAR AHEAD: The third baseman will take another shot at low-A in 2012 and he should spend the entire season there working on driving the ball. The organization lacks third base depth so another strong year could increase Franco’s hype.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Franco has the potential to be at least average on both defense and at the plate. He will have to watch his conditioning, though, as he’s already thick through the trunk. He’ll also need to see his power translate from gap to over-the-fence power if he’s going to be an everyday player at the hot corner.

7.Jiwan James, OF
BORN: April 11, 1989
EXPERIENCE: Five seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 22nd round, Florida HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Seventh

SCOUTING REPORT: James has a lot of potential but the organization left him unprotected during this year’s Rule 5 draft and he went unclaimed. The outfielder has been hitting for just two seasons after originally turning pro as a pitcher. Injury woes, though, put an end to his time on the mound. James could develop into a three- or four-tool player with his power being the least developed skill. He has good defensive skills and base-running speed but both areas remain raw.

YEAR IN REVIEW: In just his third year as a hitter, James spent the season in high-A and held his own. The switch-hitter showed that he’s much stronger from the left side of the plate (.721 OPS vs .608 OPS in 2011) and the organization might want to abandon the switch-hitting to help accelerate his learning. As mentioned above, James has good speed but he  got nabbed 16 times in 47 stolen-base attempts.

YEAR AHEAD: Double-A will be a stiff test for James in 2012, as he’ll have to tone down his aggressive ways at the plate. He’ll likely needs a full year of development at double-A before moving up.

CAREER OUTLOOK: I’m more than a little surprised that no one took a chance on James in the Rule 5 draft but there are still a number of questions surrounding his game. If the organization is patient, though, he could develop into a valuable contributor in Philadelphia.

8. Phillippe Aumont, RHP
BORN: Jan. 7, 1989
EXPERIENCE: Four seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 first round (11th overall), Quebec HS (near Seattle)
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: To say Aumont has had an up-and-down career is an understatement. A former Mariners’ first round pick, Aumont was the top prize when Philly traded for Cliff Lee. Originally a starter, Aumont was moved to bullpen permanently. The move allows him to focus on his two plus pitches: a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a curveball. Both his command and control need a fair bit of work.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Combined between two levels, Aumont struck out 78 batters in 53.2 innings — so that gives you a bit of an idea of how good he could be at the major-league level. Perhaps even more impressively, he allowed just two home runs all season and posted an outstanding ground-ball rate in double-A.

YEAR AHEAD: Aumont had solid numbers in both double-A and triple-A, giving him an outside shot of breaking camp with the Phillies in 2012. More likely than not, though, he’ll be given the opportunity to build up his confidence (and sharpen his command/control) with a few more months in the minors.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Aumont clearly has the stuff to close games someday, but it remains to be seen if he has the emotional fortitude to handle the role. At this point, I’m betting against that — but he’s still young and he has time to mature as a pitcher. At worst, he should have a Kyle Farnsworth-type career.

9. Justin De Fratus, RHP
BORN: Oct. 21, 1987
EXPERIENCE: Five seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 11th round, California CC
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: Off

SCOUTING REPORT: Although not as high-profile as Aumont, De Fratus also benefited from a permanent move from the starting rotation to the bullpen. It caused his stuff to jump up a notch and he reached the majors in 2011. His repertoire includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a slider and an occasional changeup.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Like Aumont, De Fratus split his season between double-A and triple-A (while also pitching four innings in the majors). He struck out 99 batters in 75.1 cumulative minor-league innings. He also produced above-average ground-ball rates.

YEAR AHEAD: De Fratus has a very good opportunity to break camp with the Phillies in 2012 but he should be eased into late-game situations and might mostly see action in the sixth and seventh innings.

CAREER OUTLOOK: De Fratus is a big, strong pitcher who has been extremely durable to this point. He could have a lot of value in the Phillies ‘pen next year. He’ll likely top out as a high-leverage, eighth-inning reliever. No matter how you slice it, he was an exciting find while he was pitching for a small community college.

10. Larry Greene, OF
BORN: Feb. 10, 1993
EXPERIENCE: Prep
ACQUIRED: 2011 supplemental 1st round (39th overall), Georgia HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: NA

SCOUTING REPORT: The organization’s first pick in the 2011 draft (39th overall), Greene is a raw but powerful Georgia outfielder. There are some concerns about his bat speed but he hits massive home runs when he makes contact. He’s expected to produce a lot of strikeouts and not hit for much average — but he’s also still very young.

YEAR IN REVIEW: Greene signed too late to play pro ball in 2011.

YEAR AHEAD: The outfielder will likely open 2012 in extended spring training before heading to rookie ball in June. He will be a slow mover who could spend two years in short-season ball before hitting full-season A-ball in 2014.

CAREER OUTLOOK: Greene has the potential to develop into a 30-home run machince if he makes necesary adjustments and gets his bat started a little earlier. He likely won’t provide much defensive vale and he could end up moving to first base if he can’t hack it in left field.

The Next Five
11. Freddy Galvis, SS: I’m not a huge Galvis fan, but he has potential value as a young, switch-hitting infielder with a plus glove. His bat took a big step forward in 2011 and he hit for a more consistent average and showed more gap power.

12. Roman Quinn, SS/OF: The club’s second round pick, Quinn has 80 speed on the base paths. He’s learning to switch hit, which could increase his value as it will help him beat out even more infield hits. His ultimate position will also impact his overall value; he was an amateur shortstop but he’ll likely end up in center field.

13. Lisalberto Bonilla: The right-hander had a nice season and showed good control for his age. His repertoire features a low-90s fastball that can touch 94 mph. His second-best pitch is a changeup, followed by a developing slider. He could develop into a No. 3 or a No. 4 starter.

14. Julio Rodriguez, RHP: On numbers alone, Rodriguez looks like a very impressive prospect. He struck out 168 hitters in 156.2 high-A innings in 2011 but he succeeds on command and mixing his pitches. His fastball works in the upper 80s. Ultimately, he should top out as a back-of-the-rotation starter or as a middle reliever.

15. Aaron Altherr, OF: Altherr is a raw athlete who has an outside shot to develop into a 20-20 hitter. He’s too aggressive at the plate right now and he needs to learn better pitch selection. Defensively, he could become a plus fielder.

SLEEPER ALERTKyrell Hudson, OF: Hudson is another speedy, raw athlete. A former third-round pick in 2009, he has developed slowly. Still, he made significant strides in 2011 when compared to his two previous seasons. With that said, he still has a long way to go; and if he stagnates as a hitter, he has a plus arm that could turn him into a pitcher.

Updated 1-Month MLB Power Rankings: Where Does Your Favorite Team Stand?

Where does your favorite MLB team stand after the season’s first month?

By Joel Reuter (Featured Columnist) on BLEACHER REPORT

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 23:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

1: Texas Rangers (16-6, Previous: 1)

Despite their worst week of the season so far, the Rangers maintain the top spot after taking two of three from the Yankees, then dropping two of three to the Rays.

Josh Hamilton (.395 BA, 9 HR, 25 RBI) continues to be the AL version of Matt Kemp, while the rest of the offense is doing its part as well with five other players tallying double-digit RBI. The Rays proved the Rangers are human, but there is still little question that the Rangers are the best team in baseball right now.

2: Tampa Bay Rays (14-8, Previous: 8)

It was a fantastic week for the Rays as they swept the Angels at home before going to Texas and taking two of three from a Rangers team that was undeniably the best team in baseball going into the week.

While the Rangers still get the nod over the Rays here, there is a lot to like about the Rays. From a deep offense that is light years better than last season to their immensely talented pitching staff, they could certainly challenge the Rangers for the top spot in the near future.

3: St. Louis Cardinals (14-8, Previous: 2)

After dropping two of three to the rival Cubs in Chicago, the Cardinals took two of three from the Brewers at home to maintain a three-game lead in the NL Central.

The starting pitching outside of Adam Wainwright (7.32 ERA) has been phenomenal, and David Freese (.333 BA, 5 HR, 20 RBI) continues to carry an offense that has gotten consistent contribution up and down the lineup.

4: Los Angeles Dodgers (16-6, Previous: 6)

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

The Dodgers dropped two of three to the Braves to open the week, but bounced back to sweep a good Nationals team for a 4-2 week that kept them atop the NL West and gave them the NL’s best record.

The offense has consisted almost exclusively of Matt Kemp (.425 BA, 11 HR, 24 RBI) and Andre Ethier (.277 BA, 5 HR, 24 RBI). While they have been great, the rest of the team needs to start hitting around them. Of note, Ted Lilly is very quietly 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA through three starts.

5: Atlanta Braves (14-8, Previous: 7)

A 4-2 week pulled the Braves even with the Nationals atop the NL East, as they took two of three from a good Dodgers team and finished up a series victory over the Pirates with a win on Sunday.

The team pulled a shocker of sorts when they sent 2011 All-Star Jair Jurrjens (9.37 ERA) down to Triple-A, but the move corresponded with Tim Hudson coming off the disabled list, so the team should be fine in the short term. They are off to a good start, but there is a ton of room for improvement across the board in Atlanta.

6: Washington Nationals (14-8, Previous: 4)

The difference between the No. 3 spot and the No. 7 spot on this list is minimal, but a four-game losing streak left them at 2-4 on the week, and they fall a bit because of it.

That said, I am still very much a believer in the Nationals, as their pitching (2.33 team ERA) is going to keep them in most games. The call-up of Bryce Harper should allow the Nationals to get some much-deserved national attention, and also gives them a boost not many teams can find in their farm system.

7: Baltimore Orioles (14-8, Previous: 16)

After skeptically inching them up the rankings the past few weeks, I will officially admit I am now drinking the Orioles’ Kool-aid, as a 5-1 week that included a sweep of the Blue Jays has put them in first place in the AL East.

With an offense that ranks 10th in runs scored and a pitching staff that ranks seventh in ERA, they are doing everything well right now. Five players have double-digit RBI, and J.J. Hardy (.181 BA) and Nick Markakis (.244 BA) are not among them. Once those two get going, the Orioles could be even better.

8: New York Yankees (12-9, Previous: 5)

The Yankees had a tough week on the schedule as they opened the week dropping two of three to the Rangers before taking two of three from the Tigers for a respectable 3-3 showing.

However, they drop on this list due to the news that Michael Pineda is done for the year with a shoulder injury. With Phil Hughes (7.88 ERA) and Ivan Nova (5.18 ERA) struggling and Freddy Garcia (12.51 ERA) moved to the bullpen in favor of untested David Phelps, the rotation is once again a huge question mark.

9: Detroit Tigers (11-11, Previous: 3)

It was a tough week for the Tigers, as they were swept by the Mariners and then dropped two of three to the Yankees as they nearly doubled their loss total with a 1-5 week.

On top of that, they released long-time Tiger Brandon Inge and lost Delmon Young indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with hate-crime harassment. They will look to get things back on track against the Royals and White Sox this coming week, and they still have to be considered among the AL favorites despite this hiccup.

10: Toronto Blue Jays (12-10, Previous: 9)

The Blue Jays completed a four-game sweep of the Royals on Monday before turning around and being swept themselves by the Orioles. They then took two of three from the Mariners for a 3-4 week.

Edwin Encarnacion (.310 BA, 7 HR, 20 RBI) is 5-for-9 with three home runs and seven RBI in his last three games, and he’s been moved to the cleanup spot in hopes of better protecting Jose Bautista. The real story, though, has been their starting pitching, as four of their five starters have ERAs under 4.00.

11: New York Mets (13-9, Previous: 14)

It was a busy week for the Mets, as they played eight games in seven days and at the end of it all walked away with a 5-3 record, including a sweep of the Marlins mid-week.

They’ll be getting center fielder Andres Torres back from injury on Monday, shifting rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis to left field as the lineup should be improved moving forward. As long as their pitching staff—especially the starters—keeps performing like they have, the Mets are on track to do much better than expected.

12: San Francisco Giants (12-10, Previous: 12)

The Giants dropped two of three to the Reds to open the week, but salvaged things by taking two of three from the lowly Padres for a 3-3 finish.

Buster Posey (.353 BA, 4 HR, 9 RBI) has bounced back great from his injury last season, but the offense is still struggling to score runs. The biggest stat of the week for the Giants, though, was Tim Lincecum’s eight-inning, zero-run outing as he is back on track after a horrible start.

13: Arizona Diamondbacks (11-11, Previous: 10)

After losing two of three to the Phillies to open the week, the Diamondbacks managed to finish 3-3 in taking two of three from the struggling Marlins.

The team finally had enough of Josh Collmenter’s struggles (9.82 ERA), moving him to the bullpen and calling up their No. 8 prospect Patrick Corbin (1.67 ERA, 27 IP at Double-A) to make his big league debut. As long as they can consistently score runs, they should be able to find a rotation that works with perhaps the youngest starting pitching depth in baseball.

14: Boston Red Sox (10-11, Previous: 23)

After plummeting from 12th to 23rd in the rankings last week, the Red Sox seem to have righted the ship as they went 6-1 this week, sweeping the Twins before taking three of four from the White Sox.

Led by David Ortiz (.395 BA, 4 HR, 18 RBI), their offense has been solid despite a slow start from Kevin Youkilis and the absence of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. Their pitching continues to be a question mark, but as long as they continue to post double-digit run totals like they did three times last week they’ll win games.

15: Cincinnati Reds (11-11, Previous: 20)

The Reds moved to second in the NL Central with a 4-2 week, as they captured two of three from both the Giants and Astros.

Jay Bruce (.296 BA, 7 HR, 17 RBI) is on fire right now, as the highly touted offense is finally performing up to expectations. Now if only the notoriously slow-starting Mat Latos (5.97 ERA) can start paying dividends, they’d be in pretty good shape.

16: Philadelphia Phillies (10-12, Previous: 11)

My feeling early on was that the Phillies’ pitching would be enough to outweigh their aging and injury-riddled lineup, but another subpar 3-3 week in which they dropped two of three to the Cubs again showed the holes in their roster.

The unexpected trio of Carlos Ruiz, Juan Pierre and Ty Wigginton are the only everyday players with averages over .253, and Hunter Pence is the only player with double-digit RBI at 11. Kyle Kendrick has struggled filling in for the injured Cliff Lee, and all-in-all things just don’t look great in Philly right now.

17: Cleveland Indians (11-9, Previous: 18)

A rough week from the Tigers and a 3-3 showing by the Indians has put Cleveland in first place in the AL Central, as they dropped two of three to the lowly Royals before salvaging the week in taking two of three from the struggling Angels.

The starting pitching has been hit-or-miss, and the offense has no true standout player at this point, but they continue to win games. In what looks to be a wide-open AL Central, they should be able to stay in contention if nothing else.

18: Milwaukee Brewers (10-12, Previous: 15)

The Brewers stayed in the division last week, taking two of three from the Astros before dropping two of three to the Cardinals in St. Louis.

There is little doubt that the team misses Prince Fielder’s bat, and the struggles of Rickie Weeks (.193 BA) and Aramis Ramirez (.228 BA) have only magnified the loss. Their pitching staff may be a bigger concern, though, as Randy Wolf (7.17 ERA) and Yovani Gallardo (6.08 ERA) have struggled mightily.

19: Chicago White Sox (11-11, Previous: 17)

Last week, I was torn apart in the comments section for only moving the White Sox up one spot after a 4-1 week, my reasoning being I wasn’t sold on them just yet. Now, after a 2-5 week I can’t help saying I told you so.

That said, the White Sox have been better than expected, led by Paul Konerko (.383 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI) and Jake Peavy (3-1, 1.67 ERA), and their solid start could be enough to delay what was expected to be a full-blown rebuilding season.

20: Seattle Mariners (11-12, Previous: 25)

The Mariners swept the Tigers in Detroit to open the week before dropping two of three to the Blue Jays at home, but they have to be happy with a 4-2 week against two of the league’s top teams.

They tallied 30 runs in their four wins and just two in their two losses, and that is how their season will go as they have the pitching to compete but will only be as good as their offense allows them.

21: Los Angeles Angels (7-15, Previous: 13)

After giving them the benefit of the doubt through the first three weeks of the season, a 1-5 week and a the third-worst record in the American League simply can’t be overlooked. The Angels were swept by the Rays and dropped two of three to the Indians, ekeing out a 2-1 win on Saturday.

The call-up of uber-prospect Mike Trout, who was hitting .403 in Triple-A, could be the spark the team needs to get things going. A hot streak by Albert Pujols (.216 BA, 0 HR, 4 RBI) certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

22: Colorado Rockies (10-11, Previous: 19)

A 2-4 week saw the Rockies drop two of three to the Pirates and Mets, although they did explode for 18 runs on Friday in a victory over the Mets.

They acquired a good deal of starting pitching depth in the offseason, and they are already dipping into it as former A’s starter Guillermo Moscoso was called up with Jeremy Guthrie on the disabled list. The rotation has undoubtedly been their weakness to this point, with just one starter (Jamie Moyer, 3.14) with an ERA under 4.00.

23: Oakland Athletics (11-12, Previous: 21)

The A’s took two of three from the White Sox before dropping two of three to the Orioles, as they have struggled to find any consistency so far this season.

Despite having the worst team batting average in all of baseball at .205, the A’s have managed to stay competitive thanks to their pitching staff. Jarrod Parker (6.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 Ks) could make them even better after looking strong in his first start. Now they just need to find someone who can hit the ball.

24: Pittsburgh Pirates (9-12, Previous: 24)

The Pirates took two of three from the Rockies to open the week, then dropped two of three to the Braves in Atlanta as they held on to fourth place in the NL Central.

They continue to score runs at an alarmingly low pace, with just 49 through 21 games, but their pitching has been fantastic—their 2.77 team ERA thanks ranks third in all of baseball.

25: Chicago Cubs (8-14, Previous: 29)

The Cubs are in the midst of their best stretch of the season thus far, as they took two of three from the rival Cardinals to open the week and completed a 4-2 week with a victory over the Phillies on Sunday.

Tony Campana (.435 BA, 6 SB, 6 R) has provided a spark, taking over in center field for the departed Marlon Byrd, and the starting rotation has impressed, with Matt Garza throwing seven innings of one-hit ball to cap the week.

26: Miami Marlins (8-13, Previous: 22)

A sweep at the hands of the Mets opened the Marlins’ week, and they dropped two of three to the Diamondbacks to close things out, as a 1-5 week dropped them to last place in the NL East.

So far, the team has been perhaps the biggest disappointment in all of baseball. It starts with their superstars as Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez are both hitting .205, while Josh Johnson sports a 5.34 ERA.

27: Houston Astros (8-14, Previous: 26)

The Astros managed a 2-4 week on the road, taking one game each from the Reds and Brewers as they dropped to last place in the NL Central.

The offense has been solid, led by Jose Altuve (.373 BA) and J.D. Martinez (19 RBI), but the team desperately needs someone in the rotation to step up alongside Wandy Rodriguez (2-2, 1.72 ERA).

28: San Diego Padres (7-16, Previous: 28)

The Padres had a tough draw this week, facing the Nationals and Giants as they managed to win one game in each series for a 2-4 week.

Their pitching is starting to come around, and their bullpen has been terrific, but that doesn’t mean much when they’re not scoring runs. Chris Denorfia (team-high .282 average) has moved into a starting spot in left field, but it’s going to take a lot more than that for the Padres to turn things around.

29: Kansas City Royals (6-15, Previous: 30)

Two losses to open the week pushed the Royals’ losing streak to 12 games, but they rallied to take the final two games of their series with the Indians before splitting two games with the Twins for a modest 3-3 week.

However, they are still 0-10 at home on the season.

Alex Gordon (.232 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI) has begun to turn things around after moving out of the leadoff spot in the order, and if Eric Hosmer (.188 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI) could follow suit it would go a long way toward helping the Royals at least find some consistency.

30: Minnesota Twins (6-15, Previous: 27)

With a win over the Royals on Sunday, the Twins managed to snap a six-game losing streak, as they were swept by the Red Sox to start the week before dropping one of two to the Royals for a 1-4 week.

Josh Willingham (.353 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI) remains the team’s offensive leader, while Joe Mauer (.325 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI) continues to show he is finally healthy. However, they may have the worst pitching staff in baseball, and that will continue to keep them near the bottom of the rankings.

Lidge Setting Up Shop In DC For The Nats

Nats bring Lidge on board with one-year deal

 By Bill Ladson / MLB.com

WASHINGTON — The Nationals agreed to terms with reliever Brad Lidge on a one-year contract Thursday.

Brad Lidge

Brad Lidge by afagen

Lidge will join a bullpen that includes right-handers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. Besides providing leadership to a bunch of young relievers, Lidge will probably be one of the team’s setup men.

Lidge has spent the past four seasons with the Phillies. Last year, Lidge spent time on the disabled list because of shoulder problems. When he returned to action, Lidge appeared in 25 games and had a 1.40 ERA.

As recently as 2008, Lidge was one of the best closers in baseball, helping the Phillies win their first World Series title since 1980.

Tyler Clippard

Tyler Clippard

 

Lidge started his Major League career with the Astros in 2002. He has saved 223 games with an 3.44 ERA during his career, and his best season was in ’08, when he saved 41 games and had a 1.95 ERA.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Drew Storen

Drew Storen

Playing The Field- Where Will Fielder Land?

Fielder leads list of players in limbo

The Sports Xchange

By now, Prince Fielder surely expected his own celebratory press conference, when he would join the flurry of activity for baseball’s offseason elite players. He would flash a big grin, don a jersey and cap, and prepare for a season as a poster child for his franchise, the way Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Jose Reyes had before him.

But, with just a month to go before spring training, Fielder—despite his .299 average, 38 home runs and 120 RBI last season for the Milwaukee Brewers—remained a man with no cap or jersey to wear and no contract to celebrate Friday.

Instead, Yu Darvish, the Japanese pitching sensation, was expected to be feted by the Texas Rangers—his own lavish deal potentially damaging Fielder’s ability to sign with Texas.

Prince Fielder (left) and Derrek Lee

 

Fielder, who at 27 has 230 career home runs, topped the list of a few high-profile names who remained unsigned at that point, including Roy Oswalt, Edwin
Jackson, Johnny Damon and Cuban power hitter Yoennis Cespedes.

None were as surprising to see still listed as free agents as Fielder, who was the most talented slugger available this side of Pujols. He could become the first player to sign a $100 million or more contract this late in the offseason, according to SI.com.

Or he could continue to be surprised at his lack of activity.

While it made sense to think teams were initially waiting out the fellow first baseman Pujols before committing to Fielder, it’s now been more than a month since he signed with the Angels, leaving Fielder alone atop the free agent class.

But while there are reports of interest from the Rangers (even after the Darvish signing) and Washington Nationals and a few other rumors, Fielder has remained in limbo. Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum has already ruled out Fielder as a possibility because the club recently acquired young, power-hitting first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

The usual big-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are set at first base.

So, Fielder’s choices have been limited.

“I think everybody thought he would have signed by now,” Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “In that regard, I’d have to say it’s a little surprising.”

Despite missing all but one game in the past three seasons, though, there have been reports that Fielder’s 5-foot-11, 275-pound frame have caused some suitors to fret over the prospect of a long-term deal.

Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks at Spring Trai...

With Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, notorious for working out mega-contracts for his biggest clients, the Brewers never made a formal long-term offer to retain the first baseman who had not played for another team, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Instead, the team early in the offseason attempted to get Fielder to sign for one year and the chance to hit the free-agent market again next year, but he didn’t bite, according to the paper.

The Nationals could make a push, according to SI.com, as they have built a star-studded young rotation and would like to supplement it with Fielder’s bat.

The Rangers are not quite out of the running. Multiple reports have indicated Texas could still try to pull off their own version of the 1-2 punch the division rival Angels did in landing Pujols and Wilson, by pairing Fielder with Darvish. Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters signing Fielder was “very unlikely” after the huge financial commitment Texas made in acquiring Darvish from Japan—nearly $120 million in posting fees and a six-year contract.

But reports persisted that Texas, after reaching the World Series, but losing two years in a row, could still land Fielder.

Oswalt, 34, owns a 159-93 career record, but struggled with back pain last season for the Philadelphia Phillies. That has likely scared off teams. Reports indicated there could be some interest by the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox, but that neither team was likely to commit.

Damon has reportedly drawn the interest of his old team, the Yankees, who are looking for a cost-effective DH. With Carlos Pena re-signing with the Tampa Bay Rays, that gives the Yankees one less option, though they were also reportedly talking to another ex-DH, Hideki Matsui.

Jackson, another Boras client, went 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA last year, and reports have indicated his price tag has scared teams off. The Yankees had deemed him too expensive for their budget, and they added two big names to the rotation in Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda.

The Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Florida Marlins have reportedly been interested in Cespedes, with the Cubs reportedly leading the race for the slugging outfielder’s services.

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