Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/17/14

Can the Philadelphia Phillies find a better arm than Brad Lidge? How much reliever does $5M for this season purchase? What is the most critical requirement on Rube Amaro’s desk?

Tal's Handy Caps:



I am doing a weekly Baseball-Fix Monday until the end of March. Also, I’ll publish after every game that is not washed out during the summer. My format will remain the same in 2012 with Nitecap Insight, The Precap (restructured as the Precap Pitch), and The Apocalyptic Horsemen. The opening will feature certain players plus participants who warrant mention, good and bad, for what they have done in the contest or clubhouse. Penthouse Occupancy will cover all remarkable plays along with solid performances during critical moments by the red pinstripes. The best of those will receive The Crystal Champagne Toast. Cholley’s Doghouse is filled every now and then with a slacking effort. The Outhouse is for something that stinks, like a bad ump call. The Glass House is a stone’s throw away for a man who blows his opportunity to nail a juicier role. The Miniature Mansion is for off-field excellence, like a locker-room influence. However, these houses don’t have visitors after every battle: Some do and others don’t. The Kangaroo Court House will be added to the review for 2012. Fun House Of Mirrors will also be a new wrinkle this year. Big House Key will lock some in and reveal The Rising Son on others.

Again, Mr. Anonymous, Thank You.

You might have noticed that I have picked up a critic, who claims I lack originality. He did me a favor because I reviewed the moving parts, discovering my Precap needed improvement. I will be doing the Precap Pitch this season, which is an innovative non-stat-oriented approach.

Brad Lidge Pictured During The 8th Inning Of NLDS Game 3 In St. Louis On October 4








One Open Seat In The ‘Pen:


2012 has arrived with most jobs already filled. John Mayberry Jr. will be the leftfielder and the other 7 regulars are still in place. Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix join 2 returning reservists who have been here for a couple summers. The 5-man rotation is set, while the bullpen will be these 6 of 7: Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Contreras, Dontrelle Willis, Antonio Bastardo, Kyle Kendrick and Michael Stutes. That leaves Scott Podsednik to fill in until Ryan Howard returns 4-6 weeks after the first of the 162 begins. There is 1 slot available in the relief corps.

Scott Linebrink Pictured In St. Louis On September 9

I finally realized that the NL East Champions don’t need a right bat to pinch hit for Ryno or Chase Utley, who are the only everyday left-handed sticks. Plus, a southpaw will not be on the mound for Polly Polanco, Chooch Ruiz and the 9 hole at the bottom of the order. They might have to swing for Thome, Nix or Podsednik, if they are in the lineup, which means they can bring Mayberry and Wigginton off the pine. There are answers-pending hurlers that are counted on. The league will make adjustments to Vance Worley and Joe Blanton has his elbow situation. Worley after his rookie success and Blanton with $8.5M in pay are risks that have to be taken, likeMayberry on daily leftfield patrol.

The ‘pen, on the other hand, is the weakest link, which means this is where Rube is looking. Contreras is coming off an injury-plagued 2011, Willis is a gamble, Bastardo had a confidence loss, and Stutes had a long string of hit-or-miss outings in the second half. $10.15M is available with $5M to cover stretch-run shortcomings, and $5M now for an experienced late-inning denizen. Dom Brown is the main trading chip, if Rube can find a swapping partner with a valuable wing. There are 5 possible free-agent relievers available: Scott Linebrink, 34; Chad Qualls, 33; Clay Hensley, 32; Lidge, 35; and Vicente Padilla, 34. These are the possibilities without having scouting reports and inside information, which are scoured by the front office. 

Due to space limitations:  Top = Good, OK = Fair

HURLER  W-L ERA TOP BAD OK 2011 $ LAST DEAL  Linebrink 4-4 3.64 42 13 7 $5.5M 4 Years Qualls 6-8 3.51 58 16 3 $1.55M 1 Year @ Home 2-3 2.09 33 04 2 —- —- @ Away  4-5 5.05 25 12 1 —- —- Padilla 0-0 4.15 06 03 0 $2M 1 Year Hensley* 4-3 3.51 19 07 1 $1.4M 1 Year Lidge 0-2 1.41 19 03 3 $11.5M 3 Years

* Relief statistics only

Clay Hensley Pictured In New York On September 1

Padilla had been mentioned before the signing of the D-Train, and he may still be in consideration. He had surgery for a neck problem in mid-May and hasn’t pitched since then. Plus, he has had a questionable reputation in the clubhouse. Amaro generally doesn’t bring back players off a checkered-health season. Lidge has had out-of-the-gate difficulty over recent Aprils, but he is a consideration for down-the-stretch situations. That said, the first 6 weeks without Howard could play a part in the decision making. 

Qualls and Linebrink were blasted by the locals. Qualls had a 15.75 ERA for: 4 full, 6 hits, 7 all-earned runs, 4 free passes (1 intentional) and 1 strikeout. Linebrink was tagged for a 6.00 ERA: 6 complete, 7 hits, 4 all-earned runs, 3 walks and 4 K’s. Qualls produced a 1.75 home ERA and a 3.93 away ERA without facing the Phils. His road numbers indicate that he many not be what Rube is searching for. Linebrink had 2 poor showings after retuning from a 14-day DL stint, and he would have had a 3.04 ERA without them. It usually takes 2 appearances after a layoff to knock the rust off. The trouble here for the brain trust is that Linebrink will want a minimum of $5M and $7M guaranteed over 2 years. However, the hometown 9 has many green studs to eat bullpen outs, and Amaro only needs an experienced vet for ‘12.

Grant Balfour Pictured In Oakland On September 12

Hensley’s drawback is that he is arbitration eligible, but if he can be inked without the hearing, he would be an ideal candidate. $2M is the right price tag and he is the youngest of these prospects. Also, he can spot start and work 8th-frame set-up, which he entered ‘11 to do after going 3-4 with a 2.16 ERA. The A’s are cutting current and potential payroll for young talent, which makes Grant Balfour available. He is guaranteed $4M for 2012 with a club option of $4.5M in 2013, but he has only a $.35M buyout. Exchanging Brown would be overpaying for the 34-year old, and Oakland wants youngsters in 2014 at San Jose.

HURLER  W-L ERA TOP BAD OK 2012 $ LAST DEAL  Balfour 5-2 2.47 49 11 2 $4M 2 Years @ Home 3-1 1.80 27 04 2 —- —- @ Away 2-1 3.33 22 07 0 —- —-


Chad Qualls Pictured In Atlanta On August 19 During The 7th Inning

There is another way to go on this: Kendrick in the 6th-7th and the Vanimal as the long man. That means Roy Oswalt at $7M in the 4 hole. Roy, like Lidge, has had recent physical issues, which puts them on the back burner. However, Oswalt could indicate interest in returning, which may get Rube’s attention. He can attach incentives and a vesting option to sweeten things. That would leave $3M for the July deadline, and David Montgomery is willing to exceed the $178M threshold with the right player. Breaking the soft ceiling by $2M would be an empty expenditure of $350K. That said, it would be a 1-summer occurrence that would include the checkbook to be under the $178M in ‘13.

Of the 7 franchises to have interest in the Wizard, the Twins picked up Jason Marquis, the Nats dealt for Gio Gonzalez, and Texas is negotiating with Yu Darvish. The Red Sox paid $3.4M (‘11) and $1.5M (‘10), which means a 40% Luxury Tax for this season. That is why they didn’t bring back Papelbon, and acquire Ryan Madson or Francisco Cordero. They want to get under $178M and Oswalt would not be feasible for that. The Yankees are at a 50% penalty, trying to barter for Jair Jurrjens, and they won’t spend $12M (plus $4M) on Hiroki Kuroda. The added tax makes him too expensive for New York.

Vicente Padilla From 2010 Pictured During The 7th Inning In Los Angeles On August 4

The Jays and the Fish are not strong enough to win it all in ‘12, while the Phils present a better chance during a career-revival year. Both organizations are linked to Prince Fielder and a foreign FA. Miami is pursuing 5-tool CF Yoenis Cespedes, while Toronto is chasing SS Hiroyuki Nakajima. The Marlins also are making a strong push for Matt Garza. Until those play out, Little Roy will be on the market for awhile, and his back is another concern. The price may drop as spring training nears and Amaro will hold out until he can afford the cost. Madson is running out of landing strips, which means he could return for 1 summer at $7M, but it’s just a first choice in a set-up role. This situation may not be resolved until teams pare down to a 25-man roster in early April. That is when a reliever may fill the remaining seat and a bargain may be had.

The Wick, The Stick, The Trick is ( Philadelphia Phillies Storyline: The Oakland Catalysts ) my previous publication. One Open Spot In The ‘Pen is the 4th storyline from 2012 that can be found on the Phillies page ( Phillies | isportsweb ).

The Phillies finished 42 games over .500, which equaled a year of many positives. I have many season-long highlights of puzzle pieces, especially after drubbings and defeats. I alternated the 2011 ERA For The NL East ( Philadelphia Phillies: 2011 ERA For The NL East At Game 162 And Final ) and 2011 ERA For The MLB 5 ( Philadelphia Phillies: Final 2011 ERA For The MLB 5 At Game 162 ) with the last 2 in the links. Thank you, to all who bookmark the Phillies page, because feeds are erratic at times. Many visitors come from these outlets, and it is always obvious when one of those didn’t work. Tal’s Handy Stats is daily coverage.

Note: A site format change slightly altered the original ERA postings, but I’ll adjust my material accordingly for 2012. Two photos were used for game 162 on both, where 1 to 161(1 picture) experienced only minimal distortion, unlike the finals.


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