BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com blogger
Dare I say I believe in the Philadelphia Phillies?
Philadelphia does too, apparently. Despite the NFL season starting up and many Philly fans shifting their fandom into the usual griping about Andy Reid’s atrocious play calling and Michael Vick, the Phightin Phils are staying relevant.
Expectations in March were nothing short of contending in the East while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley rehabbed their way back into the lineup, and they’d let the pitching staff carry the load. Much to the surprise of everyone, the offense was nothing short of awful for much of the season, Cliff Lee couldn’t buy a win, and Roy Halladay was struggling.
By the All-Star break, this team was dead and buried, they had traded popular Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the pitching staff was up and down, and the investment in Jonathan Papelbon wasn’t quite working out.
With a 3-1 win earlier Wednesday over the Miami Marlins led by embattled ace Lee, the Phillies are a game over .500 at 72-71 and seemingly have new life. Is this surge the result of the players putting their foot down and deciding to play like the team that led baseball with 102 victories, or the convenience of having a healthy Howard, Utley, and Halladay healthy at the time? (more…)
The first half is over. Thankfully. The Phillies have had their worst start since 1997 and nothing this season has really gone to plan. The questions of why have been asked now for 3 months. They’re only intensifying now, after a 9-25 performance in the last 34 games.
Who is to blame? Charlie Manuel? Ruben Amaro? Injuries? The players?
Frankly, I think there’s enough blame to go around. The fact that this team’s talent level is not good enough to win is a function of the person who put the roster together. In this case, it’s Ruben Amaro. By splurging on Jonathan Papelbon, Amaro left himself short of cash for the rest of his bullpen.
Having the best closer in baseball is only effective if you can get the ball into his hands on a regular basis. That hasn’t been the case thus far. Either the Phillies have been behind or too far ahead for Papelbon to see regular work. That has hurt in a couple of instances now, when he was in a save situation but wasn’t sharp. (more…)
In part nine of Couch Side’s series of the best players in the MLB by position, I’ll take a look at the top five right fielders for 2012.
I grew up playing the undesirable position in legion baseball, but I never let position No. 9 ever bother me. It’s one of the most valuable spots on the diamond, which is why managers choose to place their strongest throwing outfielders in the right corner. Despite Ichiro’s raw fielding ability, the Seattle Mariners never really thought bout placing him in center to chase down balls. His cannon was to valuable. It’s a position that may not get a lot of hype, yet we can never question it’s importance.
Here’s five right fielders in Major League Baseball who show us just how vital right field can be to a big-league club.
When will teams start pitching around this guy? It had better be this year or MVP voters may want to give Jo Baut a little more love. Last season, the 31-year-old set a career high in batting average (.301) while smacking 43 home runs and 103 RBI. In 2010, he easily led the league with 54 homers and 124 RBI. To say the least, this guy is now just entering his prime and he’s doing it loudly. Bautista’s power numbers are somewhat unmatched. Not a single player has belted at least 50 home runs during the past two seasons and maybe only a couple have reached the 40-home run plateau last season. I expect nothing but great things in the future from Bautista. And if he ever gets on an actual contender, his numbers should only improve with more protection in the lineup. (more…)
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com contributor
As part of The Couch Side’s MLB positional power rankings, we turn to Centerfield, arguably one of the more important positions in the game.
But first, here is my 10-6 to build anticipation
Now onto the cream of the crop, the five best centerfielders in the game right now.
The Braves leadoff hitter split time between Houston and Atlanta last season, and he still led the NL in stolen bases with 61. He’s a fantasy goldmine, simply put. He has two gold gloves in his short career, and rates favorably with his defense. What is he expected to achieve this year? The projection model ZiPS has him hitting .270 with 97 runs scored, and 56 stolen bases. I’ll take that, you’ll take that, and we’ll all take that.
This was a tricky one; Ellsbury in 2011 had a near MVP season at the dish, only to have his teammates do their best to sabotage those efforts, which they did. Assuming the Red Sox won’t self destruct with a montage of alcoholic behavior, and unhealthy food choices, they’ll be back in the postseason, and so will the 4th best centerfielder in baseball. Jacoby had a herculean spike in power last year. The HR totals from his first four healthy seasons look like this,
That’s pretty remarkable, almost Jose Bautista-like. The question of whether or not he has a season close to that production remains to be seen, but it would be hard to believe that his peripherals would enable him to improve on such a feat.
We are well into the 2012 spring training season and continuing with our theme of previewing each position in the big leagues, Brett Murdock turns his attention to the second basemen. Here is what he has to say about the spot.
The diminutive player out of Arizona State may be small in stature, but is possibly the Red Sox’s most important player. He does a little bit of everything and plays with a fiery passion. Pedroia won the AL MVP in only his second full year in the bigs and is also a 3-time All-Star. Last year, he finished with a .307 average with a career high 21 home runs and a .990 fielding percentage, committing only seven errors in 722 defensive chances. He is probably the most complete second basemen in the game.