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.
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Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.