SurpriseThe Phils, a team without a top of the rotation-type pitcher, got creamed in the season opener, 13-5, by the Cardinals. Jon Lieber allowed nine hits and eight runs in three and a third innings.
Lieber is a notoriously slow starter. He owns a 4.96 ERA in the first half of the season over the last three years. It usually doesn't until May though (3.03, 4-1 in April 2003-05). So the #1 pitcher is a guy who struggles to keep his job while his team falls behind in the standings in the first half. Then he excels (3.59, 16-8) in the second half.
This is exactly the wrong pitcher for the Phils, a team that perennially falls flat in the first half only to come on strong in the second half to raise expectations for the next season. Throw in the mercurial Brett Myers, the sub-par Corey Lidle, and two first-time major-league starters, and you have a mess. My only hope is that Madson and Floyd can turn into top starters quick.
But you can't lay all the blame on Lieber. He left with one out in the fourth trailing 5-0, a big deficit but not insurmountable. Julio Santana came in and allowed the three runners he inherited plus two others (including a grand slam) to score. This is a guy who had been out of the majors for two years before registering a barely passing 4.50 ERA last year in Detroit, and yet the Phils had to snatch him up on the free agent market. The bullpen might be a big problem in Philly this year.
So why did the Phils trade Robinson Tejeda away for the Rangers former starting left fielder. Yes, on paper it might be a better trade at least in the short term, But with Burrell and Abreu at the corners, what do they need Dellucci for? How much will he contribute in his 200-odd at-bats this year? Wouldn't it be better to hold onto some depth at their most problematic positions?
Dellucci is replacing Jason Michaels as the fourth outfielder. Michaels amassed 289 at-bats in 105 games last year. I would be shocked if Dellucci can scratch out that many ABs pinch-hitting, DH'ing, and spelling Abreu and Burrell, who between them missed a total of 8 games last year. Michaels got most of his ABs in center field, a position Dellucci has not played with any regularity for years.
If Dellucci gets 200 at-bats, which I think is the end without a major injury to a regular, given his homer-per-at-bat ratio from last year, he would amass 13 dingers, slightly more than Michael's collected in 2004 (10) in a similar role. Keep in mind that 2005 was a career year for Dellucci, he played in a hitter's stadium, and he's now 32. You could acquire Ted Williams but what would he accomplish if limited to 100 at-bats, especially given that he has no head?
I was wondering how unique Dellucci's situation was. How often does a player go from 29 taters to the bench? The answer is not too often, three times in baseball history actually. I assumed that Dellucci will play 100 games as a replacement outfielder and will collect no more than 300 at-bats:
If you think 300 at-bats are too low, here are the results for 350: