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Phillies Weekly Wrap-Up Week Two: Three up, Three Down

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Each week, Philly2Philly’s Matt Babiarz will wrap up the previous seven days of Phillies’ baseball with Three Up, Three Down.  It’s a rundown of 3 positives and 3 negatives from the past week.

THREE UP!

1.  And you were Hoping for Cliff Lee on Thursday Night.

If you like to rip Joe Blanton like it’s your job, you may want to stop reading here, because there is very little not to like about Blanton’s 2012 debut against the Marlins.  And heck, even all of the Blanton haters can convince themselves that his trade value increases whenever he registers a start like the one he had on Thursday night.Joe Blanton photo: Bleacher Report

Blanton was terrific, going seven innings while allowing three hits and one run.   He dominated the Marlins top six hitters, who were a combined 0-for-17 with a walk.  In fact, the only hard hit ball that the Marlins big guns managed was a line drive out off the bat of Giancarlo (ie, Mike) Stanton. Blanton was efficient (57 strikes out of 85 pitches), had nice velocity (low 90’s fastball) and good movement on his cutter and sinker.

Anything close to this type of pitching from the fifth starter will make the Phillies’ rotation the most powerful unit in baseball.

2.  Three Runs or Less Not Always a Recipe for Losing

Just some quick perspective on how much success the Phillies can continue to have with their fantastic pitching.  

Last year, on their way to a franchise-record 102 wins, the Phillies scored three or fewer runs 45 times.  Amazingly, they still managed to win 29 of those games behind a pitching staff whose team ERA was a major league-best 3.02.

Through eight games this season, the Phillies team ERA is 2.54.  

3. Sunday Lineup Surprise

Admit it.  Whenever you tune in to those Sunday afternoon Phils games and see the starting lineup littered with bench players, you almost don’t want to watch.

Well, that pessimism probably took hold of anyone who saw a lineup featuring Pete Orr, Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton  and Juan Pierre. The only thing that would have been worse was if Vance Worley was on the mound, which would have put Brian Schneider behind the plate.

So, it was quite a pleasant surprise when Nix and Orr ripped RBI doubles, Pierre had three hits and Wigginton knocked in four runs. Now, we all have to decide if we are happy about the performance of those second stringers, or even more discouraged by the fact that they were needed to disconnect the offense from life support.

THREE DOWN!

3. Phillies Games: A Great Place for Singles

The Phillies hitting has actually picked up since the season-opening series in Pittsburgh in which they batted under .200.  What hasn’t picked up is the power behind those hits.  

The Phillies are playing the smallest of small-ball, with 63 of their 79 hits being singles.  Their team slugging percentage of .330 is an indication of just how badly the power has gone out of their lineup, and is the biggest reason why they are second-to-last in runs scored among all major league teams.

If this ultra small-ball continues, we may see more of those nights where the Phillies notch 11 hits in the process of scoring one run.

2. So Much for That New Approach to Hitting

Remember when the Phillies’ got eliminated from the playoffs after being smothered by the Cardinals’ pitching staff?  Then, Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel emphasized that they would be teaching the Phillies’ old dogs some new tricks.  There would be more patient at-bats, more deep counts worked, and a more blue collar approach to hitting.

Well, after nine games, there is one statistical area that is in great contrast to what was supposed to be the team’s new offensive style.  That one area is walks achieved by Phillies’ hitters.  Thus far, they have recorded the second fewest walks in the majors (13 walks through 8 games).  Moreover, the first three hitters in the batting order (Victorino, Polanco and Rollins) have a grand total of 6 walks in 102 at-bats.  Rollins worked his first walk in the 7th inning of the season’s ninth game.  

So, when the top of your order owns on-base percentages that are nearly identical to their batting averages, it is a bad sign.

1. Keys to the Game?

I am proud to say that I am not one of those people that looks for reasons to complain about the Phillies’ broadcasters or telecasts.  The fact that Chris Wheeler doesn’t bother me at all should serve as evidence that I don’t get overly wound up over that stuff.

There is one thing, however, that I am starting to find a bit useless during Phillies telecasts.   That one thing is the “Nissan Keys to the Game” that are presented during the first inning of each game.   You would think that a segment called “Keys to the Game” would actually present a couple of the key things that the Phillies need to do in order to win the game.   Unfortunately, the segment mainly exists as a means of attaching the word “Keys” to the corporate sponsor of Nissan (you see, keys are used to start Nissan vehicles).  

In keeping with that theme of uselessness, the other night’s key to the game had nothing to do with the key to winning the game.  Instead, the Key to the Game was “New Look Marlins….Sort of”.  And after stating that key to the game, Chris Wheeler explained that the Marlins have some new players, but are still a young team.   

If there was a key to the game somewhere in that segment, I’m still not sure what it was. But for some reason, I did test drive a 2012 Maxima the next day. 

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net  

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Photos:
Blanton: Bleacher Report
Halladay: AP