500

Ok…so the Phillies have finally reached the .500 mark after some very inconsistent behavior in the first half of the season. First it was Roy Halladay going on the disabled list after some of his worst outings of his career. His ERA when he went on the DL over 8.00. Then it was Chase Utley going down after having an excellent month and a half. Utley looked like he was rejuvenated and was playing his best baseball since 2009.

Their starting Center Fielder, Ben Revere, who they acquired after giving up their best pitching prospect Vance Worley, is hitting under .250 with less than ten stolen bases. This is horrible production from a player who was supposed to bring swagger to the lead off spot. Then there is Michael Young, who the Phillies picked up in the off season to fill their void at third base. Yes…Young is 36 but he was projected to bring a stellar bat to Citizens Bank. Well, after hitting .350 for the first three weeks of the season, his average has now dipped to .257.

And probably the most disappointing aspect of the season so far, Cole Hamels with Nine losses and one win going into today. Also, an over 4.00 ERA. All this without getting more than 2.25 Runs a game on offense during his starts. Actually, that’s the third worst in MLB. Ouch! All of these very disheartening aspects and the Phillies were still one game under .500 going into today’s game against the Marlins. This is truly a testament to how well other aspects are going for the Phillies.

Today, The Phillies won 6-1 after winning 7-4 last night in extra innings on a walk off Grand Slam from John Mayberry. Today they were tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh with Cole Hamels coming out of the game. Then wham…a two run triple for Ryan Howard and Bam…a Two Run Home Run by Dominic Brown.

Brown is finally coming into his own and is the hottest hitter in the Major Leagues right now. He has 10 Home Runs in Fourteen Games and now is second in the league with 18 Home Runs and 46RBI. Brown has been on fire and is finally showing why the Phillies would not trade him for anyone. He was their only “Untouchable Prospect.” Fans were getting weary after two seasons of disappointing call ups for Brown. Now he is their starting Left Fielder and is carrying this team on his BACK.

Ryan Howard has ten Home Runs and 30 RBI, despite seeing his production drop. And Freddy Galvis has been stellar on offense and defense in Chase Utley’s stead. In a cruel twist in events, Cliff Lee, who could not buy a win last year, is 7-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 88 Strikeouts. He is in the Top 10 in every pitching statistical category. If he keeps up this pace, Lee will be a CY Young Candidate.

The Phillies are now .500 and are looking up. They are only 5.5 games back of the Division Lead. If the Phillies can keep playing this way, they should be in great shape. Halladay is on track to come back healthy which would be like getting a star at the trade deadline as long as his shoulder is fully healed. Well, well, well. I would never have predicted this two weeks ago. The Phillies are Hot. And it’s not even the All Star Break Yet. Keep it up Boys.

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SPRING SURPRISE

For the past four seasons…Ruben Amaro has made huge trade deadline deals for top of the line players starting in 2009 with the acquisition of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay in 2010, Roy Oswalt at the deadline in 2010, and Hunter Pence in 2012. There were a few other smaller deals that were made not on the same tier. The common denominator with all of these deals was the Phillies trading away top notch farm raised prospects and homegrown talent in these deals.

In these deals, the Phillies traded away many Top Prospects including Kyle Drabek, Michael Borne, Anthony Gose, Travis D’arnaurd (now a Met), Michael Taylor, JA Happ, Anthony Villar, Jarret Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, and many more. However, in almost all of these trades the potential trade partners inquired or asked for Domenic Brown and the Phillies balked. Brown was highly sought by many potential trade suitors the past few years, but the Phillies made him untouchable.

Domenic Brown has been up with the big league club the past two years and has been a huge disappointment. During all of these trying times…Phillies brass continued to maintain that Brown will be a five tool star someday and that fans should be patient. Patient? Any Philly Fan patient? This sort of thing just doesn’t happen! Anyways, Phillies ownership and scouts continued to say that trading Brown would be a huge mistake that would come back to haunt the Phills for years to come.

Well, well, well…this spring has been a pleasant surprise for both Phillies Brass and fans. Domenic Brown is tearing up the Grapefruit League as he is hitting well over .300, leads the major leagues with 6 Home Runs, Third in RBI with 13 behind Ryan Howard and 1 other player, he’s scored a league leading 21 runs and walked 10x. This is amazing for a player that may be at his last chance after failing miserably the past two years. Brown has been splendid in the field as well and has all but cemented a roster spot this season.

Domenic Brown could be the key piece in a Phillies offense that has been tremendously inconsistent the past few years. He has provided some protection for Ryan Howard, who now has 5 Home Runs and is leading the Majors with 15 RBI. Howard also has cut down on his strikeouts and is hitting near .300. Michael Young, the free agent acquisition to play 3rd Base has also been splendid. He is hitting .295 with 2 Home Runs and 11 RBI. With Brown and Young producing the way they are…it will be less important for Last years minor league player of the year Darin Ruff to make the team right off the bat.

Kyle Kendrick has also been stellar this spring. Today, he went 6 Innings against the powerful New York Yankees lineup and did not give up a run. He also struck out 6. Brown and Howard both homered to power the Phillies offense. If Brown can continue this hot spring, there is no telling how good he could be this season. The sky is the limit. Lets just be happy that the Phillies have been patient with him and that they are giving him every chance to succeed.

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SPRING IN STEP

Spring Training is more than half way over and so far the Phillies Brass as well as its fans have to be happy with what they are seeing on the field. Cole Hamels has 2 Wins, 10 Strikeouts, a league leading .70 WHIP, and 12 innings pitched and a micro .90ERA. Well, that’s really not much of a surprise after Hamels coming off a career year in 2012 and a CY YOUNG shot.

In retrospect, not many people had high expectations for Roy Halladay who is coming off one of his worst pro seasons in which he was ravaged by injury. Well, so far Doc looks in Mid Season Form with a 2-0 Record, 2.16ERA, 8 Strikeouts in 10 Innings, a 1.01 WHIP. Yes, there are still questions about DOC’s velocity but no one can ever question his competitive spirit. If he has lost velocity, he has not let it effect him in the mound.

Cliff Lee has started 3 games and has a 5.13 ERA thus far. This should not really scare anyone as Lee is generally not a good spring training star. I am not worried about Lee and Kendrick who also has struggled. Mike Adams has a 0.00 ERA in 4 appearances out if the BullPen which bodes well for this relief core. He has 3 strikeouts in 3 innings. Adams is the set up man we lost in Ryan Madson. Papplebon has struggled, but not many closers flourish during the Florida Heat.

However, the biggest surprise thus far this spring for the Phillies and maybe the entire league is the way Ryan Howard is swinging the bat. Howard has hit over .300, leads the league with 4 Home Runs and is second with 13 RBI. He also has only struck out 5x. Most people would say wow Five Strikeouts is a lot. Well, not Phillies fans…we know Howard usually gets killed by the K.

All American Prospect Domenic Brown has been tearing it up. He is hitting .432 with 3 HR and 4 RBI. His slugging Percentage is .700. He looks like he is finally getting it. Chase Utley is only hitting .200 but has not missed a game and appears to be healthy for the first time in five years. Michael Young is also tearing it up hitting .391 with 1 HR and 9 RBI. This offense should be potent at the BANK.

Of course, there are always questions but this looks like a Phillies team that is determined to prove all of the National Media wrong…with comments like the Phillies are done, the Phillies are too old, etc. This team looks like it will definitely contend for the Division and if these star players can build on their strong Springs then we are in for an exciting season.

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PHILLIES 2008-PRESENT

It’s hard to believe that Five Years have passed since the Philadelphia Phillies shocked the country and this city and win their second World Series, and their first since 1980. I remember what I was doing the moment that Harry Kallas and Chris Wheeler called that last pitch strikeout by Brad Lidge on Pinch Hitter Chris Hinske and the slow motion charge of Carlos Ruiz and Brad Lidge, Ruiz jumping into the outstretched arms of Lidge, the rest of the team mobbing the mound, Ryan Howard knocking over Chase Utley, Shane Victorino in an all out sprint jumping into the pile of players. These are just a few of the many memories that the 2008 Phillies provided for its fans in an unprecedented World Series Win.

The 2008 version of the Phillies was much different than the 2013 team. The only offensive players that remain are Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz. Cole Hammels is the lone pitcher that remains. Count that…Five Players…I repeat Five Players from that World Series Championship Team. Wow! My have things changed. However, those Five Players that do remain are the Five Core players that this Franchise was built around so in hindsight, they still have the core in tact.

After the Phillies won in 2008, Ruben Amaro made some unbelievable trades and acquisitions which certainly should have brought this team many more championships. That never happened…in 2009 the Phillies made it to the World Series once again, only to lose to the New York Yankees. This was after Amaro traded for former CY Young Winner Cliff Lee down the stretch, and also adding Pedro Martinez before the playoffs. The Starting Rotation of Cole Hammels, Cliff Lee, Martinez and Blanton could not get the job done. Neither could the Phillies offense.

In the offseason, in mid December, Amaro made one of the most controversial yet bold moves by trading Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners, while acquiring maybe the best pitcher in Baseball Roy Halladay. Amaro traded away its best pitching Prospects in Kyle Drabek and some other fine talent. No one seemed to care at this time as the Phillies had their Ace and Hammels and were poised for yet another run to the Big Dance. After struggling down the stretch, Amaro made another huge splash by trading AJ Happ, one of their aspiring starting pitchers to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt. The Phillies looked to again be the favorites only to lose to the eventual World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants.

Well…that offseason an even more dramatic roster move was made. The Phillies signed Cliff Lee to a long term contract, which gave the Phillies “4 Aces” in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hammels, and Roy Oswalt, and a great number 3 starter in Joe Blanton. It’s safe to say that the Phillies were huge favorites to make it back to the World Series and win. There have not been too many pitching staffs in history that could rival these names. However, Although Roy Halladay won another CY Young, Cliff Lee struggled and Roy Oswalt was hurt most of the year, which made him expendable. Once again, the Phillies were stunned by the upstart Saint Louis Cardinals who won the World Series. To add insult to injury, Ryan Howard tore his Achilles’ tendon running to first base in the last play of the game in that NLCS. He would be out part of the 2012 season.

The Phillies failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 2012 since 2007. This team had a tremendous run. They had so much talent, but unfortunately names on paper does not guarantee a World Series. Last Season…Roy Halladay had an injury plagued season while Cole Hammels had his best year as a pro. Although Cliff Lee had a horrible record, he became only the second pitcher to lose more than 10 games and have a sub 3.25 ERA. He also was in the league leaders in Ks, Innings, Complete Games and WHIP. Ok…so much has changed since tbs Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

Lets take a quick look at that roster that won the Trophy. Starting Pitchers were Cole Hammels, Brett Myers, Jaime Moyer, Joe Blanton, and AJ Happ. The Bullpen consisted of Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Scott Eyere, JC Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge. Brad Lidge was a perfect 48 for 48 Saves in the regular season and 5 for 5 in the post season. That feat may never be duplicated. Ok, on Offense the Phillies were stacked with power…lineup was Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell, Pedro Feliz, and Carlos Ruiz.

In that World Series, bench players made huge contribution. Starters made huge plays. Pat Burrel led off Game 5 part 2 with a Double. Eric Bruntlett replaced Burrell, was moved to third on a sacrifice by Shane Victorino and then scored on a single by Pedro Feliz in the top of the ninth. Then, Brad Lidge made the save after allowing two base runners. Game 4 was the blowout where Ryan Howard hit two monster blasts and Joe Blanton even hit a home run. Game 3 was the long rain delay, Eric Bruntlett gets hit by a pitch in the Bottom of the Ninth and scored on a seeing eye single by Ruiz. Game 2 was a loss and Game 1 was a tremendous win for Cole Hammels who went 8 and Chase Utley and Pat Burrell went back to back. That team had heart. That team had energy. Matt Stairs pinch hit home run in the Dodgers Series. Brett Myers 3 for 3 in a game 2 thriller. That was an awesome ride.

Now lets fast forward to 2013. Tube lineup will still have Rollins, Utley, Howard and Ruiz. But that’s it. Only Four. The Starting Pitching if healthy will trump that staff in 2008 on paper. However, will they be able to execute. We will soon find out as pitchers and catchers report this week. The Phillies will have a totally new lineup with Michael Young, Delmon Young, and Ben Revere. And Johnathan Papplebon replaces Brad Lidge as the closer. As mentioned…this team is far removed from the one that won it all. However, this team still has its Top 5 Core in tact. They could surprise everyone this year if healthy. Looking forward to it!

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