Being too left-handed finally bringing down Phillies

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It was the obvious issue when GM Ruben Amaro opted for Raul Ibanez over Pat Burrell last winter: the Phillies would have big problems against left-handed pitching with so much of their power coming from the left side.
It turned out to be a non-factor during the regular season. Ibanez, who went into the year with a career OPS of 740 against left-handers, delivered a remarkable .285/.359/.639 line in 144 at-bats versus southpaws. Chase Utley came in at .288/.417/.545. Jayson Werth, the one right-handed hitter in the middle of the order, destroyed lefties to the tune of a 1080 OPS. Only Ryan Howard struggled against them, finishing at .207/.298/.356.
The Phillies also didn’t have any problems with lefties in the first two rounds of the postseason. The Rockies didn’t have any left-handed starters to throw in the NLDS, and the Phillies got to both Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf in the NLCS.
The Yankees, though, set it up so that they’d be able to throw a lefty five times in the seven games of the World Series. The Phillies have held their own against CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, but they’ve lost two of the three games started by the pair so far. Utley, who has taken Sabathia deep twice, is the only left-handed hitter producing right now. He’s slugging .933 in four games.
Howard and Ibanez are a combined 6-for-33 with no homers and an incredible 19/0 K/BB ratio. Switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are both hitting just .200, though they’ve at least managed six walks between them. Besides Utley, Werth and Carlos Ruiz have been the team’s best hitters.
And that’s where manager Charlie Manuel’s lineup has failed. Adjustments could have been made to give the right-handed hitters more chances to produce runs. Manuel used to be willing to put Werth in the second spot in the order. Victorino could also be moved around as well. Manuel, though, has stuck with the exact same lineup, excepting only the DH games, in every postseason contest so far.
Right now, all of the Phillies’ production is coming from the third, fifth and eighth spots in the lineup. Since no one else is getting on base, all seven of their homers through four games have been solo shots. The inability to sustain any sort of rally is the biggest reason the Phillies are about to lose the World Series.
I’ll be hosting a live chat during Game 5 of the World Series tonight. Check back at 8 pm EST.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.

Orioles “searching everywhere” for outfield help

L.J. Hoes
AP Photo

CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Rich Dubroff reports that the Orioles are “searching everywhere” for outfield help. The club recently acquired L.J. Hoes from the Astros in exchange for cash considerations, throwing him into a stable of six outfielders that could potentially crack the Opening Day Roster.

Adam Jones, of course, will open the season in center field. But in the corner outfield and on the bench, Dubroff lists Hoes along with Dariel Alvarez, Junior Lake, David Lough, Nolan Reimold and Henry Urrutia. Both Lough and Reimold are eligible for arbitration — Lough for the first time, and Reimold for his third and final year — so it remains to be seen if the Orioles will retain both of them.

The Orioles could target outfield help in the Rule-5 draft, and they could also target outfielders in free agency. Gerardo Parra, acquired by the O’s in a trade with the Brewers at the trade deadline, remains a possibility but the team is reluctant to offer him more than two years.