Tag Archives: Billy Wagner

Phillies improved but still missing a strong lefty arm in bullpen

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Paredes signed as a free agent and has pitched well this spring

The best Phillies teams of the last half-century, a period of time in which bullpen usage has become more and more critical in Major League Baseball, have featured strong left-handers helping the team get through the late innings and close out tight ball games.

Most famous of all was the late screwballer and Phillies Wall of Famer Tug McGraw. The popular Tugger blew a fastball past Willie Wilson of the Kansas City Royals to close out the 1980 World Series.
That 1980 team also got 40 appearances from Kevin Saucier and dealt for veteran southpaw Sparky Lyle, who was a tremendous help during the push to the NL East crown in September.

Three years later, the ‘Wheeze Kids’ reached the World Series with a trio of lefties in McGraw, Al Holland and May trade acquisition Willie Hernandez.
In 1993, a surprising Phillies club captured another National League pennant with lefty Mitch Williams as their closer. That club also featured left-hander David West coming out of the bullpen to appear in a staff-high 76 games.
The Phillies emerged in the early 21st century from years of losing, beginning a run of more than a decade as a postseason contender. Lefty Rheal Cormier was a key member of the bullpen during the entirety of the first-half of that decade. Veteran Dan Plesac joined him to close out the Veteran’s Stadium years in 2002-03.

Wall of Famer Tug McGraw pitched for the Phillies from 1975-84 and closed out the 1980 World Series.
For the 2004 season and the opening of Citizens Bank Park the Phillies acquired lefty closer Billy Wagner. For the next two seasons, fans became electrified at each 100 mph fastball that blazed from the diminutive fireballer’s left arm.
As the Phillies team of that mid-2000’s era tried to step up from near-miss contender to actual playoff team, a June 2007 trade brought in left-hander J.C. Romero via trade. He would spend much of the next five years helping the Phillies become a champion, earning a pair of wins in the 2008 World Series.
Scott Eyre was acquired in a 2008 August waiver trade and became a key situational left-hander out of Charlie Manuel‘s bullpen for two straight Phillies pennant-winning teams.
When the 2011 Phillies set a franchise record with a 102-win regular season the bullpen contributions of young left-hander Antonio Bastardo were crucial.
During this recently completed off-season the Phillies management and ownership checked off a number of boxes in helping push the club back to contending status. But those checks came mostly in the positional lineup as the team added outfielders Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, shortstop Jean Segura and catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Those were fantastic additions to be sure. But many felt that the team could really use both a veteran starting left-handed pitcher and a strong bullpen left-hander to really fill out a true championship contender.

The proven bullpen lefty was out there in free agency if they wanted him. But on January 11, Zack Britton surprised many by choosing to return to the New York Yankees. He’ll have a chance to win championships with the Bronx Bombers and is being paid $13 million per season. Many felt that he would leave for a chance to close, which he will not get in New York, at least not in the short-term.
Now more than halfway through the 2019 Grapefruit League season the Phillies have a group of southpaws battling for a chance to come out of Gabe Kapler‘s bullpen when the regular season begins.
There are currently five lefty relievers still with the club. Adam Morgan is the lone holdover from last season. Trade acquisitions James Pazos and Jose Alvarez and non-roster invitees Edward Paredes and Jeremy Bleich also remain. Here is a look at a few of their key numbers entering Saint Patrick’s Day:
Morgan and Paredes were clearly the most effective of the group heading into the Sunday game in Clearwater against the Yankees. The 29-year-old Morgan has been with the organization since his selection in the third round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. He remains under club control through arbitration over the next two years.
Paredes signed as a free agent with the Phillies back on January 11. The 32-year-old has pitched in 15 games across the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He pitched in 10 minor league seasons with the Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Cleveland Indians. Paredes has also pitched for 10 years during the off-season in his native Dominican Republic.

Edward Paredes is a 10-year minor league veteran who appeared in 15 games with the Dodgers in 2017-18. (Th3TruthPhotos/WikiCommons)
Paredes has an 11:2 K/BB over 6.1 innings, allowing four hits and no earned runs. Morgan brought an 8:1 K/BB ratio over 5.2 innings during which he allowed just one earned run and four hits into Sunday. That production had to give the club hope.
Unfortunately, Morgan looked bad on Sunday. He surrendered four runs, three of those earned, on three hits and a walk while also committing an error over 1.1 innings. Morgan hurt himself, throwing away a dribbler back to the mound with one out in the top of the 7th inning. Troy Tulowitzki followed with a long two-run homer onto the roof of the Tiki Bar in left at Spectrum Field on a hanging curve ball.
You can pretty much count on the Phillies bullpen having a half-dozen right-handers on Opening Day: Seranthony DominguezDavid RobertsonHector NerisPat NeshekJuan NicasioEdubray Ramos. Depending on whether the club wants to carry a seven or eight-man pen to open the season, that leaves room for one or two more relievers.
Things can certainly change based on injuries and late performances, as Morgan’s implosion today demonstrated perfectly. As things stand right now you have to like the chances of Paredes, a long-shot when camp opened in February, lining up for introductions at Citizens Bank Park on March 28.

11 with connections to the Phillies have a 2019 shot at the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Schilling (R) has already joined Schmidt (L) and Carlton (C) in the Phillies Wall of Fame

Ballots for nominees to the 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame class were received this past week by eligible voters with the Baseball Writers Association of America.

There are 35 players on the ballot this year. That total includes 15 holdovers from last year’s ballot and 20 newcomers. Among those nominees there are nine who played with the Phillies at one time or another.
Three returning Phillies players on the BBWAA ballot this year are Curt SchillingBilly Wagner and Scott Rolen.
Schilling spent most of his Phillies career from 1992-2000 as a starter, including as the ace of the 1993 NL pennant-winning squad. Wagner was a lights-out closer for the Phillies during the 2004-05 campaigns. Rolen was the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year and four-time Gold Glove third baseman during his 1996-2002 Phillies years.
The half-dozen newcomers to the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot for 2019 are pitchers Roy HalladayRoy Oswalt, and Freddy Garcia. Infielders Placido Polanco and Michael Young and outfielder Juan Pierre also spent time with the Phillies and are on the ballot this year as position players.

PHILLIES NEWCOMERS TO THE BALLOT

Garcia (34.4 WAR), Young (21.4) and Pierre (17.1) are very likely to fall off the ballot after this round of voting. Any player who does not receive support from at least 5% of the voters is removed from the ballot, and it is hard to imagine either player reaching that mark. Oswalt and Polanco each have a chance to receive at least enough support to remain on the ballot for a second year.
Oswalt was part of the 2011 ‘Four Aces’ starting pitching rotation that led those Phillies to a franchise-record 102 regular season victories. The righty had come over from Houston at the 2010 non-waiver trade deadline following a strong decade with the Astros during which he was a three-time NL All-Star and finished among the top five in NL Cy Young Award five times.
Over a 13-year career in Major League Baseball with three organizations, Oswalt went 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.211 WHIP. He registered an excellent 3.56 K:BB and accumulated a 50 career WAR mark.
Polanco was obtained in a 2002 trade with the Saint Louis Cardinals for Rolen. He would start at second base for the Phillies from 2002 until being traded to the Detroit Tigers during the 2005 season, making way for Chase Utley to take over the position.
With the Tigers, Polanco became an AL All-Star and won two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2007 ALCS and received AL MVP votes in both 2007 and 2009.
Polanco returned to the Phillies after the 2009 season as a free agent, playing third base from 2010-12. He was a 2011 NL All-Star and captured this third career Gold Glove Award at a second position. Polanco finished with 2,142 hits over 16 big-league seasons with a 41.5 WAR mark.
Halladay has an excellent shot at enshrinement in his first year on the ballot. He accumulated a 64.3 career WAR mark to go along with a 203-105 record, 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 3.58 K:BB and a host of signature accomplishments and awards.
The big right-hander was the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2003 with the Toronto Blue Jays and the NL Cy Young Award winner in 2010 with the Phillies. He finished as runner-up for the award with both teams as well.
Halladay was an eight-time All-Star and three-time 20-game winner (won 19 twice) who led his league in innings pitched four times, shutouts four times, and in complete games on seven occasions.
In that 2010 season with the Phillies, Halladay tossed the 21st Perfect Game in MLB history and one of just two postseason no-hitters.

TODAY’S ERA BALLOT INCLUDES TWO MORE FORMER PHILLIES

In addition, 10 individuals are being considered for enshrinement by the Today’s Era committee. One of those individuals is Charlie Manuel, manager of the Phillies 2008 World Series championship team.
Manuel skippered the club from 2005-13, compiling an overall 780-636 mark. His Phillies teams won five consecutive NL East crowns from 2007-11, and back-to-back National League pennants in 2008-09.
In addition, Manuel managed the Cleveland Indians from 2000-02, compiling a 220-190 record with a 2001 AL Central crown. Prior to that he was the hitting coach in Cleveland during the Tribe’s 1990’s heyday as a consistent title contender.
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Charlie Manuel is among 10 nominees to the Hall of Fame through the Today’s Era committee. (Photo: (Chris O’Meara/AP)
The other with Phillies ties on that Today’s Era ballot is Davey Johnson, who is being considered due to his work as a manager as well. He managed the 1986 New York Mets to a World Series championship, and his teams finished in first place during six of his 17 seasons.
Johnson won 1,372 games while skipper of five clubs, which puts him 31st on the all-time career list for managerial victories. Only three men ahead of him on that list are deceased. Seven are either still active or are alive and still could be hired to add to their totals. Just one of those deceased and ahead of him, Ralph Houk, had a winning career record.
Johnson’s ties to the Phillies came as a player during the 1977 and 1978 seasons. The Phillies won the second and third of three straight NL East crowns in those years.
Johnson was mostly a late career bench player at that point, but he did receive a number of starts at first base in September of 1977, and also started Game 1 of the 1977 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He got a number of starts at third base during August of the 1978 season when future Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt was battling injury.
Johnson had been a three-time American League All-Star and three-time Gold Glover at second base during the early years of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. He slugged 43 home runs during an NL All-Star campaign with the Atlanta Braves in 1973.
Based on his career managerial wins total and his overall career back to his playing days, Johnson certainly has a better chance at enshrinement than Manuel. That despite the latter’s expected far greater popularity in Philadelphia. Still, I don’t see either man making it, at least not this year.

WHICH FORMER PHILLIES MAKE THE HALL OF FAME?

So, who makes it? Which of the 11 individuals with connections to the Philadelphia Phillies franchise is going to gain entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame? My prediction is that three of them will get in – eventually. But I think that each will gain enshrinement at radically different paces.
As I stated earlier, there is a great chance that ‘Doc’ Halladay makes it right away in this, his first year on the ballot. If I were a betting man, I would say that he gets in now. If he doesn’t it will be very close, and he makes it by 2020 at the latest.
Schilling clearly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. His 79.6 career WAR is fourth among all players on the ballot, trailing just Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are being held up for now only because of suspected PED usage.
He also trails Mike Mussina, the former Orioles and Yankees ace who was named on 63.5% of ballots in his fifth year last time around. That was second only to Edgar Martinez, who should reach enshrinement this time out in his own final year on the ballot.
I believe that Mussina inches closer this year, finishing in the upper-60’s, and then gains entry in either 2020 or 2021. Schilling, who received 51.2% of the vote a year ago, will make it as well, but only after Mussina. He could make it in 2021 or 2022, but may ultimately end up like Martinez, held off by the voters until a final push in his last year on the ballot in 2023.

Scott Rolen will eventually be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it may take awhile.
Rolen is a more difficult proposition. He only received support from 10.2% of the voters last year, which was just his second time on the ballot. If he finishes that low again or even, gasp, drops off the ballot entirely it will be an absolute crime.
Rolen is sixth among all players on this ballot in career WAR. His 70.2 mark sandwiches between the Coors Field-spiked numbers of Larry Walker (72.7) and the PED-infused 69.4 mark of Manny Ramirez. He is ahead of Martinez, Halladay, and Mariano Rivera, all of whom are likely to make up the 2019 Hall of Fame class.
Among his 17 seasons in Major League Baseball were four shortened by injury. Three of those came during his prime while with the Saint Louis Cardinals, with whom he was the starting third baseman on their World Series championship squad.
Rolen hit .281 over his career and produced 2,077 hits including 316 home runs. He drove in 1,287 and scored 1,211 runs. His 517 doubles are 52nd among all players in MLB history. Rolen was the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year, a seven-time NL All-Star, and a Silver Slugger Award winner.
In addition to being a consistent middle-of-the order presence in the batting orders of four teams, Rolen was one of the greatest defensive third basemen in baseball history. An eight-time third base Gold Glove Award winner, he trails only Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10) at the hot corner.
Assuming he can stay on the ballot, I see Rolen’s support slowly and steadily rising. He is eligible to remain on the ballot through much of the next decade, until voting for the 2027 class. Hopefully he eventually reaches 75% of the voters. If not, I believe he still makes it one day through the Veteran’s Committee process.
So there you have it. 11 former Phillies being considered this year. Three of them will ultimately be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but only Halladay gets in this year or next. Two more, Schilling and Rolen, will have to wait their turn until sometime in the 2020’s.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as Which nominated Phillies will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?

David Bell, former Phillies third baseman, named as new Cincinnati Reds skipper

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Bell started at third base for the Phillies from 2002 through July 2006

The Cincinnati Reds have announced that former Philadelphia Phillies third baseman David Bell has been named as their new manager. Bell will be introduced to the Cincinnati fans and media at a Monday press conference.

The 46-year-old Bell signed a three-year contract with a club option fourth season in 2022. He and his father, former big-leaguer Buddy Bell, become the fourth father-son combination to manage in Major League Baseball.
Bell was already an eight-year big-leaguer when he signed with the Phillies as a free agent for the 2003 season. He, first baseman Jim Thome, and closer Billy Wagner were brought in specifically to help the Phillies try to contend as they transitioned from Veteran’s Stadium to Citizens Bank Park.
Over parts of four seasons with the Phillies, Bell slashed .258/.331/.385 with 38 home runs, 209 RBI, and 191 runs scored. On June 28, 2004 at Citizens Bank Park, Bell became the 264th player in MLB history and the eighth and most recent player in Phillies history (Chuck Klein did it twice) to hit for ‘The Cycle’ (a single, double, triple, homer in same game.)

Bell was dealt away by the Phillies to the Milwaukee Brewers at the 2006 trade deadline. He would then play the final 53 games of that, his final season, with the Brewers.
Overall, he played in a dozen MLB seasons with a .257/.320/.396 slash line. Bell produced 123 home runs and 589 RBI over 5,380 plate appearances with six organizations. In 2002, Bell received the Willie McCovey Award as the San Francisco Giants most inspirational player for a team that reached the World Series.
A Cincinnati native, Bell helped Moeller High School win the 1989 Ohio state championship. He also managed for four seasons from 2009-11 in the Reds minor league system, compiling a 227-332 record.
Bell became the Chicago Cubs third base coach during the 2013 campaign. He also obtained managerial experience in 2009 in the Arizona Fall League.
In 2014, Bell became the assistant hitting coach with the Saint Louis Cardinals. For the last three years he served as Mike Matheny‘s bench coach with the Cardinals.

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David Bell has been named the new manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He will be introduced at a press conference on Monday at 11:00 a.m.
Bell comes from a baseball family. In addition to his father, his grandfather, Gus Bell, is a Reds Hall of Famer. His brother, Mike Bell, was also a third baseman. He appeared in 19 games with the Reds during the 2000 season.
With his grandfather and father having played Major League Baseball, the Bell’s are one of five families to send three generations to the majors.
One of the others is the family of former Phillies catcher Bob Boone. Boone’s father, Ray Boone, played in MLB, as did sons Brett Boone and Aaron Boone. Both Brett and Aaron had multi-year stints with the Reds.
Bell spent last season with the Giants as their Vice-President of Player Development. That type of role may become a trend in the grooming of managers. Gabe Kapler served as the Los Angeles Dodgers Director of Player Development prior to landing his current job as the Phillies manager.
The Reds finished the 2018 season in fifth (last) place in the National League Central Division with a 67-95 record. It was the team’s fourth straight last place finish. Cincinnati last reached the postseason as an NL Wildcard team in 2013. They last won an NL Central crown in 2012.

The Reds have not been to the World Series since sweeping the Oakland A’s 4-0 in 1990. That was the fifth victory in the Fall Classic in the history of the franchise, which began play in the old American Association as the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1882. They joined the National League as the Reds for the 1890 season.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Former Phillies third baseman David Bell named new Cincinnati Reds manager

Time for Closers to Get Their Hall of Fame Due

For far too long, the Baseball Hall of Fame voters of the BBWAA have not given the position of closer the appropriate respect that it deserves.
There are 312 individuals: players, managers, executives and umpires currently enshrined as baseball’s immortals.
Only five pitchers who were primarily relievers during their careers are currently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Those five are Hoyt WilhelmRollie FingersDennis EckersleyBruce Sutter, and Goose Gossage.
This does not include John Smoltz, who registered 154 Saves and was one of the game’s top closers from 2002-04. Smoltz was a starter for 481 of his 723 career games.
Do the math. That means less than 2% of the enshrined players can be legitimately classified as a closer.
Since the 1970’s the closer position has evolved into one of the most important strategic positions in the game.
It is almost a foregone conclusion that immediately upon his eligibility in two more years, the former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
This year there are three closers on the 2017 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot who are all returnees from a year ago. All three are worthy of enshrinement, among the best pitchers in the history of the game.

HELL’S BELLS

Trevor Hoffman strode out to the mound across parts of 18 big league seasons with the Marlins, Padres, and Brewers. He was a 7x All-Star, 2x Rolaids Relief Man Award winner, and twice led the National League in Saves.
He registered 14 seasons with 30+ Saves, nine of those with 40+ Saves. In both 1998 and 2006, Hoffman was the runner-up in Cy Young Award voting. In addition, Hoffman received the 2004 Hutch Award and the 2006 Lou Gehrig Award.
He currently holds records for NL Career Saves, Consecutive Seasons with 40+ Saves, Seasons with 40+ Saves, Most Relief Pitcher K/9, and Most Career Games Pitched with one team.
Hoffman is second all-time in Saves to only Rivera with 601 over his career. He finished with just 846 hits allowed over 1,089.1 innings with a 1,133/307 K:BB ratio. His career 6.99 H/9 mark is 7th in MLB history. He is 9th all-time in MLB history with 1,035 games pitched.
Introduced early in his career as a power reliever, an injury during the 1994 off-season prompted him to reinvent himself. Hoffman would develop one of the greatest changeups in the history of the game, and pitch with strong results past age 40.
His #51 has been retired by the San Diego Padres, and he has been inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. He currently oversees pitching instruction at all levels of the Padres operations.
A year ago, Hoffman received 67% of the votes in his second year of Hall of Fame eligibility. He is considered one of three extremely strong returnees on this year’s ballot.

LEE ARTHUR

Lee Smith plied his trade across 18 big league seasons with eight different teams, spending 14 years in the NL and seven in the AL. But he is best known as the closer for two NL Central Division arch-rivals, the Chicago Cubs and Saint Louis Cardinals.
Smith was a 7x All-Star, 3x Rolaids Relief Man Award winner, and led his league in Saves four times. He is third behind only Rivera and Hoffman with 478 career Saves.
He was at the vanguard of the era when closers were expected to simply come in and shut the game down with one final dominant inning, and did that as well as any pitcher in history.
Smith finished with a higher career Saves Percentage than Fingers, Gossage, or Sutter. He finished having allowed 1,133 hits over 1,289.1 innings with 1,251 strikeouts.
Smith finished 2nd in the 1991 NL Cy Young voting when he was 8th in the NL MVP vote. He was 4th in 1992 Cy Young voting, and then finished 5th in 1994.
This is Smith’s final year being considered by the BBWAA. A year ago he received 34.1% of the vote, and is a longshot to reach the Hall this year. His best shot will come in future Veteran’s Committee balloting.

BILLY THE KID

Billy Wagner is 6th on the MLB all-time Saves list with 422, and may be the most dominating left-handed closer ever.
Wagner pitched 16 seasons for five teams, and is best known for his first nine years of work with the Houston Astros. He then spent the mid-00’s closing for a pair of NL East rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.
A 7x NL All-Star, Wagner won the 1999 Rolaids Relief Man Award when he also finished 4th in the NL Cy Young vote.
He was also part of a combined no-hitter while with the Astros in the 2003 season. In 2006 with the Mets, Wagner finished in 6th place in the Cy Young voting.
Wagner allowed just 601 hits over 903 innings with an 1,196/300 K:BB ratio.
There is little doubt that, had he wanted, Wagner could have continued as a dominant closer for at least a few more seasons when he retired at age 38 following the 2010 season.
In his final season with the Atlanta Braves, Wagner registered 37 Saves with a 1.43 ERA and 0.865 WHIP. He had a 104/22 K:BB ratio that year, allowing just 38 hits in 69.1 innings.
Wagner was named on just 10.5% of the ballots a year ago in his second year of eligibility. He needs to receive at least 10% this year in order to remain on the ballot, and it may be a narrow result.

ODDS THEY REACH ENSHRINEMENT

These three closers would have to be a part of any all-time bullpen that you would want to put together. They are easily among the top ten in the history of the game, and their numbers and performances compare favorably to the closers already in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Only Hoffman, for whom the official award given to the top National League relief pitcher is now named, has a shot this year. But both Smith and Wagner should be seriously considered in future years by those Veteran’s Committee voters.