Tag Archives: Will Smith

NL East Division position comparison: bullpens

My evaluation of the National League East Division teams has moved on from the position players to a ranking of the pitching staffs of each ball club. I began earlier today with a look at the projected starting rotations. Now, the bullpens will undergo that same evaluation and ranking.

The performance and even the make up of Major League Baseball bullpens are extremely difficult to evaluate at this time of year. Many teams enter spring training with as many as half of their projected relief pitcher spots up for grabs. Injuries will also take their toll on the relievers, both in the spring and then during the season.

As I evaluate each club, I will list the handful of arms that I feel are most likely to be impactful for that team during the season. This will include the projected closer as well as any quality setup and match-up arms.

I will give mention during the team write-up to any pitchers who could begin the season in the bullpen, but who may ultimately end up impacting the rotation as starting pitchers due to injuries. In parentheses after their names you will find a designation for whether they are left- or right-handed.

Combine the starting pitching rankings from earlier today with these bullpen rankings, add them to the examinations of each of the other positions around the diamond which took place over the previous ten days, and you will get a good idea of where each team stands entering spring training.

Early next week, I will take a look at the managers, giving them that same evaluation and ranking treatment. Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Florida on February 11, just 10 days from now, for the opening of Phillies spring training.


  1. Atlanta Braves: Mark Melancon (R), Will Smith (L), Shane Greene (R), Sean Newcomb (L), Darren O’Day (R), Luke Jackson (R), Chris Martin (R), A.J. Minter (L), Touki Toussaint (R), Jacob Webb (R)

The two-time defending NL East Division champion Braves possess an embarrassment of pitching riches. That extends to their bullpen group. Smith is an especially solid addition as a southpaw, signing as  free agent back in November after two strong seasons in San Francisco, including an NL All-Star season a year ago. Right-hander Patrick Weigel could emerge from the minors this season to help out if needed. The Braves also have veteran Felix Hernandez and youngsters Kyle Wright Bryse Wilson competing for the fifth-starter job. Any or all of them could impact the bullpen if not being used in the rotation at the majors or at Triple-A. There is still more pitching depth nearly ready among their top prospect group. Atlanta appears to be well-insulated from any type of pitching injury issues.

2) New York Mets: Edwin Diaz (R), Dellin Betances (R), Seth Lugo (R), Jeurys Familia (R), Justin Wilson (L), Robert Gsellman (R), Paul Sewald (L)

It would be hard for me to believe that young closer Diaz, who turns 26 during spring training, won’t bounce back from a somewhat down season in 2019. Even during a year where his ERA ballooned to 5.59 and his WHIP to 1.379, Diaz had a 15.4 K/9 rate and a 99/22 K/BB ratio across 58 innings. If he cannot beat out Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello for a starting rotation nod, Steven Matz will contribute out of the pen as well. Betances, Lugo, and Familia all have closer stuff. Wilson is leaned on heavily as a southpaw arm. He could get help in that regard from prospect David Peterson during the season. The health of former Yankees stud Betances, who turns 29 during spring training, will go a long way towards the New York pen maintaining this ranking during the season.

3) Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris (R), Seranthony Dominguez (R), Jose Alvarez (L), Francisco Liriano (L), Adam Morgan (L), Bud Norris (R), Victor Arano (R), Ranger Suarez (L), Robert Stock (R)

The Phillies bullpen has the potential to finish anywhere from second to fourth on this list by the end of the 2020 season, which can also be said for the Mets and Nationals relief group. If I had more confidence in Dominguez being and remaining healthy for the full season, I might even have ranked them ahead of New York already. New skipper Joe Girardi has a ton of arms with which to work and to sort out during spring training. Those could ultimately include arms like Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin, and Enyel De Los Santos, all of whom will try to win the fifth starter job at the outset. The Phillies might have  the deepest selection of lefty relievers in the division. If only they had a strong starting southpaw for their rotation. If the team can stay in contention, they just might finally get some value out of David Robertson late in the season. They also bought a lottery ticket in former Nats closer Drew Storen this winter.

4) Washington Nationals: Sean Doolittle (L), Will Harris (R), Daniel Hudson (R), Roenis Elias (L), Wander Suero (R), Tanner Rainey (R), Hunter Strickland (R), Ryne Harper (R), Javy Guerra (R)

The bullpen was a problem, perhaps the only real problem, for Washington during much of the 2019 season. Recognizing that fact and not wishing to go down that road again they inked free agent righty Will Harris. The Nats also re-signed free agent Daniel Hudson, who was outstanding after coming over in an early-August trade from Toronto last year. Hudson is forever etched in Nationals history after recording the final out in their World Series victory. A trio of youngsters vying for the fifth starter job – Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth – could also impact the bullpen. If they use Doolittle as the closer, the rest of the pen lacks an impact southpaw, where Elias is likely to be asked to handle the load, at least initially. Prospect arm Seth Romero could ultimately be the answer in that role.

5) Miami Marlins: Brandon Kintzler (R), Drew Steckenrider (R), Jose Urena (R), Jarlin Garcia (L), Ryne Stanek (R), Tayron Guerrero (R), Yimi Garcia (R), Adam Conley (L), Jose Quijada (L)

The Fish signed the 35-year-old Kintzler last week to serve as the closer, allowing a talented group of young arms more time to develop in the setup and match-up roles earlier in games. This is indeed a talented, albeit largely inexperienced, bullpen crew. When top prospect Sixto Sanchez is ready it will bump someone, likely either Elieser Hernandez or Pablo Lopez, to the pen. If enough of these pitchers take a step forward, the Miami bullpen could quickly become a legitimate strength and begin to shoot up these rankings.



Dodgers walkoff Phillies on Will Smith home run

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Rookie catcher Will Smith beats Phillies with walkoff homer

The Los Angeles Dodgers (40-19) got a walk-off homer from rookie catcher Will Smith on a 3-2 pitch with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning to beat the Philadelphia Phillies (33-25) by a 4-3 score on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.

With the loss, the Phillies lead in the NL East Division standings shrinks to two games over the Atlanta Braves and 4.5 over the New York Mets, each of whom won earlier in the day.
Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler had few good traditional options as his starting pitcher for this one after Zach Eflin came up injured, so he chose to go with “The Opener”, using lefty reliever Jose Alvarez at the start. Alvarez would do the job, holding the Dodgers off the scoreboard over the first two innings.
Alvarez gave way to Juan Nicasio, who retired the lone batter he faced in the bottom of the 3rd inning before giving way himself to lefty Cole Irvin. Kapler hoped to get from between 3-4 innings out of the rookie.
The hosts got on the board first, this time scoring a run off Irvin, whom Kapler had brought in strategically with a couple of big left-handed bats due up. The rookie southpaw allowed a base hit to Max Muncy with one out, then walked Cody Bellinger with two outs to foil that lefty-on-lefty strategery. When Enrique Hernandez grounded a single up the middle, Muncy rolled home with the first run of the game.
The Phillies got back to even in the top of the 4th when Bryce Harper lined a one-out single, moved up to second base on a wild pitch by Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, went to third when Muncy couldn’t handle a slow roller by Rhys Hoskins that went for an error, and then scored on a base hit by J.T. Realmuto.
David Freese led off the bottom of the 5th with a solo home run off Irvin, his 5th of the season, to put the Dodgers back out in front by a 2-1 score. Then in the home 7th, they scored what appeared to be a huge insurance run.
Kapler made a change from Irvin to Vince Velasquez. Irvin had surrendered two runs, but gave the Phillies 3.2 innings and kept them in the game. He struck out five Dodgers batters, including the last four that he faced.
Velasquez started out strong, striking out Smith as the leadoff man in the bottom of the 7th. Matt Beaty, hitting for Kershaw, then reached on a swinging-bunt single and moved to second on a walk to Joc Pederson. Beaty then went to third when Velasquez tried to pick him off and bounced one into the outfield, and then scored on a sac fly by Muncy.
Though the Phillies offense was largely lifeless to that point in the game, they had finally gotten Kershaw out. That would prove a key. With one out, Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch from new hurler Julio Urias.
That brought Bryce Harper to the plate for a lefty-on-lefty matchup. Every Phillies fan knows that Harper hits southpaws well, and he did just that here, drilling an opposite-field home run to tie the game up at 3-3.
The two teams moved into the 9th inning still tied, and Urias set down the Phillies, giving his club a chance to win a game in which he had blown a lead. They would indeed get him off the hook.
In the bottom of that 9th inning, Kapler went to his closer, Hector Neris. The big right-hander got the first batter, Alex Verdugo, to ground out to second. Then up stepped Will Smith, who had struck out swinging in his previous two at-bats in this game.
The count went full, and then Neris came in with an 86 mph splitter. Smith jumped all over the pitch, blasting it out high over the left field wall, the no-doubter walking the game off in favor of the home team.
Smith was quoted by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register after his first big-league home run had proven to be a game-winner: “That was awesome. I mean, that was the first walkoff I’ve ever had, first home run in the big leagues — couldn’t ask for a bigger stage or a bigger moment. I’ll remember that forever.
With this victory the Dodgers clinch a winning series. The Phillies will try to salvage one game here in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon with Nick Pivetta on the mound against veteran lefty Rich Hill for the Dodgers.


  • Jose Alvarez: 2 IP, one hit, no runs, two walks, no strikeouts. 30 pitches, 18 for strikes.
  • Clayton Kershaw: 7 IP, six hits, one earned run, no walks, six strikeouts. 95 pitches, 65 for strikes.


You would have had a hard time convincing me that Smith was going to end up as the Player of the Game on this night. He was intentionally walked in his first plate appearance, and then looked over-matched in striking out swinging over his next two against Irvin and Velasquez. But he put a beautiful swing on the 3-2 offering from Neris to become the walk-off hero.


85 shots and ‘one less nigga with a gun’

A year ago at this time, in July 2007, Steven ‘Butter’ Miller was shot at 85 times by Philadelphia police officers. I have sources that say it was actually 81 times. In any event, about two dozen of those shots found their mark, and Miller was dead.

In it’s July 24th-31st, 2008 issues the extremely liberal ‘City Paper‘ here in Philadelphia, one of those free tabloid style publications distributed throughout the downtown area by placement in stores, business lobbies, and curbside boxes, published a cover story titled ‘85 Shots‘ about the incident.

As could be expected if you understand the source, the City Paper writers, Doron Taussig and Tom Nammako, told the story in a way that was, in both tone and tenor, completely sympathetic to the alleged victim and extremely critical of the Philadelphia police officers involved in the shooting, as well as their hierarchy in its response.

That’s a shame, because the real problem right here in Philadelphia and in many big American cities today is not unwarranted shootings by rogue groups of police officers.

Actually, one of the biggest problems facing American big cities today is men just like Steven Miller.

Fact is that Miller exited his house that night as a stark-raving mad lunatic waving a gun around in the air, alternately pointing it at officers as well as towards neighbors homes as he waved it.

The officers gave him plenty of warnings to drop the weapon, perhaps even more than they actually needed to give. At a certain point, one officer felt that the circumstances had gotten too dangerous and felt that he needed to discharge his weapon in order to save his own life, the life of a fellow officer, or that of a community member.

It was a hot summer night in South Philly, so it was dark, and when this officers’ shots rang out other officers who had also responded did not know from where these shots were coming. They fired at the man who they saw waving around the gun, Miller, just as they were trained, and they took him down.

One of Miller’s best friends, Daniel Williams, was quoted as saying “…they probably look at it like, that’s one less nigga with a gun.”

Your words, Mr. Williams, but the idea behind them is not so far off from the truth.

What this city needs, in fact, is thousands of fewer young men of all races waving around guns. Every one that is stopped from doing so is one less that will harm the rest of us.

The article goes on to actually print the names of seven officers involved that night. It then discusses how the neighbors see these officers now. In the words of one, Tyree Bullock: “Here go this motherf*cker” in reference to the officer who fired first.

How about the motherfuckers living around you every day, Mr. Bullock? The ones doing the shooting, drug-dealing, pimping, impregnating, and then glamorizing it all in their booming and blaring rap music?

The article also goes on to talk about another of the people in Miller’s life, one Anthony Lawrence, who relates that in the past twenty years he has personally seen 34 deaths in his neighborhood, implying those were violent deaths.

I have lived 46 years and was born and raised in South Philly, and I don’t think that I have known more than a couple people, if that many, who have been killed by violence.

Why have you seen so many, Mr. Lawrence? Why so many, City Paper? Rogue cops shoot them all down? Not hardly. The fact of the matter is that most of them were killed by men just like Steven Miller.

Before he met his demise, Miller helped perpetuate even more of the problems in the urban world. He had fathered seven children, none of whom he financially supported, by three different women, none of whom he had ever married.

He had been arrested at least once in his life, for drugs of course, and had also been shot once on a playground basketball court. He had wasted away his twenties in a life of drugs and violence and ‘laying back’.

Oh, and in trying to become a rap star, of course, all the while perpetuating the exact lifestyle of huge numbers of young men in his demographic community across the nation. Irresponsibility, criminality, violence, addiction, all frequently glorified by the rap community.

So-called “gangsta rap” is one of the most heinous examples of all-time of a community announcing and advertising for its own demise. Miller’s rap group was named DLK (Down Low Killaz). Nice. And typical.

The article states that Miller was ‘suited up‘ (carrying a gun) on the day that he died because he ‘had gotten on bad terms with a dangerous young bull‘, meaning that some young thug was looking to gun down Miller for some reason.

The only ‘bull’ that matters in this story is perpetuated by this article, that somehow men like Steven Miller deserve our sympathies.

The folks who really deserve our sympathy are the seven whose lives he created, but who didn’t elicit enough love and respect from him that he would go out and get a real job or two to support.

What makes men like Miller and many others in his violent neighborhood around Tasker & Taney Streets decide to turn to drugs and violence, both in the reality of their lifestyle and the glamorization of that same culture, rather than turning it around, staying in school, taking responsibility, and bettering their community?

What makes one man from South Philly into a Steven Miller and another man from West Philly into a Will Smith?

The answer is actually quite simple: personal choices.

Steven Miller chose illegitimate fatherhood. Steven Miller chose to get involved with drugs and violence. Steven Miller chose to walk out of a house waving a gun at neighbors and police officers.

Steven Miller left those officers with no choice but to fire 85 shots, however many it took, and leave the city with ‘one less nigga with a gun‘, to quote one of his neighbors.

His choice.

It is people like the authors of this City Paper article and the editors who chose to run the story with the slant that they did, who make further choices that divide us and make all of us less safe each and every day in the city of Philadelphia.

Move review: Hancock is a summer dud

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“Hancock” stars Jason Bateman, Charlize Theron, Will Smith


The latest Will Smith vehicle, Sony pictures new release “Hancock”, came out on the 4th of July weekend and is billed as a summer blockbuster.

It even took first place at the box office this past weekend, and the Debber and I helped out the coffers of the film’s producers and stars by attending on Saturday at the AMC Woodhaven theatre. 

I am a huge fan of Will Smith, and perhaps an even bigger fan of his female lead in this film, one Charlize Theron. So I hate to say it, but rather than a blockbuster, Hancock is a summer dud. 

It’s not a good sign when the best part of a film is Theron’s gorgeous face and my popcorn/soda combo. 

Something just seems missing from Smith here. He just doesn’t ever translate the charm, heart, or heroism that he exhibited in ‘Independence Day’, ‘Hitch’, ‘I, Robot’, or the ‘Men in Black’ films that made me such a fan in the first place. 

Smith plays John Hancock (seriously), billed as a hard-living superhero who has fallen out of favor with the public. Perhaps that is because Hancock is a drunken bum who causes more damage than he prevents. 

Jason Bateman does a passable turn as Ray Embrey, a PR-man who’s life is saved by Hancock in one of those ‘more damage than good’ efforts. Embrey takes Hancock’s poor-imaged self under his wing, and tries to clean him up, both literally and figuratively. 

Embrey’s wife Mary is played by the stunning Theron, and she brings more life to her character than Smith to his. The film takes a bit long in developing the Smith-Theron relationship, though they leave no doubt early on that there is one. 

Eddie Marsan plays an unconvincing bad guy, arch-enemy type, a real downer for this classically trained Brit. 

The movie is long on special effects: too many, too fast, too often. They are well done, but usually to the point of distraction (though a whale-tossing scene is well done.) 

Hancock is also a ‘tweener‘, not seeming to be able to decide whether it’s a comedy, a drama, an action-hero flic, what have you. It ends up being a dissatisfying mush of all these types. 

Hancock will be well-publicized and well-attended, at least in it’s early weeks, but word-of-mouth should get out pretty quick that this is not Will Smith at his best. Hancock would be best skipped, and left without a sequel.