The Phills kicked off the season in Pittsburgh on April 5
The Phillies finally kicked the season off after what seemed like a never-ending spring training camp in Clearwater. Six games in, they're three up and three down—could be worse, could have won one or two more.
A few games into the season, here's my six pack of observations from the season's opening series.
I empty my notebook and we can discuss some of the keys, trends and whatever else is going on with the Phills.
We'll do this about once a week, one after every few series.
I was at the home opener, plenty early for the start of the ceremonies, and from the moment I entered the park, something just seemed to be wrong from the other home openers I've attended. I get that Utley and Howard were both injured. So what, it's still Opening Day at the park. Yet the crowd was absolutely awful and there was no energy.
The Clydesdales led the parade into the park and the team entered, walking through Ashburn Alley only to be cheered on by maybe 10,000 people, not even one-fourth of the park. This was about 35 minutes before the 1pm scheduled game time, so it's not like they did this five hours before the game and it was unrealistic to expect people there.
Nothing changed except for maybe another 10,000 entering the park for the introduction of the five-time NL East champs. Once the game started, there still wasn't much of anything. A very disappointing effort by the those who (didn't) show up for the big day.
And it's not as if the lack of offense killed the vibe. It wasn't even there before Anibal Sanchez (who is a good pitcher anyway) took the mound against them.
I was at PNC Park for the Pirates' Opening Day, a game in which they scored zero runs, and there was a noticeable vibe of excitement and at least interest there. So offense wasn't the issue.
Is it as much as a non-issue as people seem to make it to be? I think it does lead to something. Each season since 2008, the atmosphere at the park seems to get worse, and it eventually leads to fewer results. More on that come playoff time, but let's at least acknowledge the team.
Come on, it was the home opener.
The group of John Mayberry Jr., Jim Thome, Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton simply needs to produce more. The group has hit one home run in the first six games.
Wigginton has made a few fantastic stretch plays around the base, especially the one to close out the opener, but his footwork has been a train wreck. Quite frankly, he looks like he's playing the position for the first time this season.
Thome has been frozen a few times on knee-buckling pitches and hasn't shown much at the plate, but his defense looked great in his only start.
Mayberry is the most fundamentally sound of the group in the field, and at the plate he's been a factor in two of the six games—not too bad. If anyone is to step up from the group, my guess is it's him, and he has more of an upside as far as play time when Howard returns.
Oh, and there's been some misunderstanding regarding the bunt play when Hamels decided to throw to an empty base. It was not the charging Mayberry's responsibility to make a 360 degree turn and retreat to the base—the second baseman was supposed to rotate.
Some at the game Monday had confused the mistake on Mayberry, but he is the only one of the three (counting Hamels) who was not at fault.
Nix really hasn't shown anything—except for his complete inability to bunt. He's a good candidate to get some at-bats at the position this weekend against the Mets. The Phills do not really mash Dickey, and although Nix has never faced him, starting him on Friday would make some sense to try and get some more pop in the lineup.
I was thrilled when the Phills decided to give their young infielder a chance and start the season in the majors. I had called for his call-up and for him to get a chance the moment the Phills suspiciously gave up Valdez.
Although he has struggled at the plate, and made one poor choice in the field which I alluded to on the previous slide, he's absolutely held his own.
As if his clutch doubles were not enough of an indication, he gets timely hits, both during the spring and now in his limited showcase with the big league club. He does not look lost, which is great to see for a young player.
One other note: I know I ripped Monday's crowd, but credit to the fans for getting behind the 22-year-old the other night with the Freddy chants. Very nice.
Chad Qualls really hurt the team being unavailable on Sunday. Kendrick was used as a set-up man, which he's not, when Qualls should have been used.
Look, Qualls excited a lot of people when he was brought in after the team low-balled Brad Lidge because of his "durability." Well, missing the third game didn't help justify the move, to say the least.
If I'm managing, Papelbon comes in for the five-out save on Sunday, and we almost certainly head home with a series win at PNC Park (how rare!).
Bastardo looks bad, and really, he only has about six good months in his career of about three seasons.
Charlie Manuel should be less hesitant to unleash Papelbon. The guy has proven it over his career and can and will be effective in four-or-more-out saves.
Yes, the Phillies scored seven runs on Josh Johnson, but that is not the true JJ. He clearly is either still injured or simply does not have enough strength to be his regular self after missing most of 2011.
He barely was able to go over 93 MPH on the gun with his fastball, and usually he's able to go above and overpower hitters. When guys like Freddy Galvis were able to square up on him, it's a sign in addition to the low velocity that something is off with him.
He gave up ten hits in his previous start, before allowing 11 to the Phillies. Let's hold off on anointing this a factory line of offense.
Let's see what the Phills do against Lincecum on Monday. We've seen them struggle against Erik Bedard, Jeff Karstens and Anibal Sanchez. Wednesday appears to be the exception, not the potential.
For this upcoming series, do not take the Mets lightly. I see them as a scrappy team that can cause some damage throughout the year. I picked them to finish second in the NL East.
Long term, they won't prevent the Phills from winning the division, but do not be surprised if they are a tough team throughout the process, starting this weekend.
I'm sure you've all heard of the great reviews PNC Park has received. It's a good park, but I don't think it's better than Citizens Bank Park. There is literally no way to walk around the concourse without making contact with another person when the stadium is full (the capacity it should be). The bridge is cool, but that's not a real determinant of the quality of watching a ball game.
CBP has a much, much better atmosphere (even when the fans mail it in), and I just could not definitively conclude that PNC was the best in baseball, as many claim.
As far as the sports complex goes, it's a joke how awful the parking is. There's barely any space and all of the lots could not handle additional parking to the public, and only allowed for "leased parking." Do they expect the same 45,000 or so people to attend all 81 games?
Oh, and they steal elements from the bank anyway. I just so happened to find a stand for Crabfries near left field. And there were about ten people in line. Get with the program, Pittsburgh—they're better than perogies.