Take more pitches! Get better pitchers!

Those seem like obvious fan demands, no? The Phillies have been anything but immune to that sort of requisitioning.

For the past season-plus, the Phillies have been one of the most anxious teams in all of baseball. They eschew the opportunity to see a minimum of three pitches and often hack at the very first one they see. Why?

Case in point: Jimmy Rollins’s at-bat to end the game against the Atlanta Braves today.

Jimmy Rollins is off to a very, very slow start

Jimmy Rollins is off to a very, very slow start

I’m not writing this based on one at-bat, to be sure. This really appears to be a problem. Especially for Rollins who, as a lead-off hitter, should be more focused on trying to get on base then mightily swinging for the fences at the first pitch that looks close.

Why do you think Chase Utley only has 23 RBI to go with his good average and 10 homers? Rollins’s OBP stinks; it’s flat-out putrid.

In 2008, the Phillies had 638 ABs end after the first pitch, plus 21 HBPs and 41 total sacrifices. As a team, they hit .319/.338/.529 when making contact on a first-pitch swing. That’s nearly four ABs a game ending after just one pitch. That’s not as bad as Atlanta, which had over 800 ABs end that way, but then they ended up out of the playoffs for the second straight season in 2008.

The weird thing with Rollins is that, even as a top-of-the-lineup hitter, he just can’t seem to improve his plate discipline. He’s never walked more than 58 times in a season and never had an OBP of .350 or higher. This is the guy you want to get on base so the meat of your order can swing with men on base. He’s not Alfonso Soriano, either. That 30-homer season was a bit of a fluke and won’t happen again, so trying to lead off every game with a homer won’t work.

Another paradoxical thing about Jimmy is that, in 2008, he actually did worse when he saw more pitches.

Really, I’m not sure what to believe. It seems, just on instinct and sightread that Philly hitters swing at way too many first pitches, with Rollins and Pedro Feliz seeming most culpable.

Anyway, on to a more pressing issue: any bullpen pitcher not named Ryan Madson or Clay Condrey.

Remember that post I made a couple months ago about some computer models about what we could expect from Philly players this year and how I decried its bullpen numbers as unlikely?

Well, here we are.

Take a look at the ERAs of Philly bullpen pitchers this year and through the same date in 2008 (disparity in games played acknowledged, entering Sunday).

Pitcher 2008 IP 2008 ERA 2008 K/9 2008 BB/9 2009 IP 2009 ERA 2009 K/9 2009 BB/9
Lidge 17 0.00 9.53 3.38 11.2 8.49 11.57 6.43
Madson 16.2 5.40 5.94 2.70 13.1 2.70 10.80 4.05
Condrey 12.2 6.39 4.26 4.26 17 2.12 6.35 3.18
Durbin 23 1.57 4.70 4.30 16.1 3.86 7.17 5.51
Scott Eyre is a wholesale walk outlet so far in 09

Scott Eyre is a wholesale walk outlet so far in '09

The biggest culprit, from this list in a vacuum, would be walks. Free passes are a killer, especially when this team – as they so often seem to do – gets two outs in an inning only to allow runs to somehow score. Obviously, home runs are omitted from that list.

I don’t think you want to see that list. No, I’m serious. It’s ugly. All right, well…if you’re sure…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Again, this is before Sunday’s game.

IP HR HR/9
Moyer 31 10 2.9
Myers 37 10 2.4
Blanton 34.1 8 2.1
Lidge 11.2 5 3.9
Hamels 23.1 5 1.9
Park 27 5 1.7
Durbin 16.1 3 1.7
Taschner 13.1 2 1.4
Eyre 6.2 2 2.7
Condrey 17 2 1.1
Happ 19 1 0.5
Madson 13.1 0 0

Told you.

What can be done? It’s sort of a small sample, but boy is it going to be tough to get those numbers to normalize.

In any case, there’s a potential ray of sunshine in AA in the form of Antonio Bastardo. Hopefully he’ll perform as well in AAA, too, because we may just need him this year.

P.S. – I’m about ready to keep a book on how long the Phillies can keep trotting Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste out behind the plate every game, leaving Lou Marson to languish in Lehigh (catchy, I know).

I won’t hold my breath.

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Filed under 2008-09 Season

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