Phillies give up 13 runs to Royals, but it didn’t have to be this way

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I should start by writing about the intentional walk that went bad in the Royals’ rout of the Phillies on Friday.  With the Phillies up 4-2 and one out in the sixth, manager Charlie Manuel decided he’d rather have lefty Jeremy Horst face Alex Gordon with the bases loaded than Kyle Kendrick or a right-handed reliever face pinch-hitter Billy Butler with runners on second and third.

That, I think, is a defensible decision. Gordon is excellent, but not so much against lefties, while Horst limited lefties to a .170 average last season.

Gordon, of course, made it look bad, delivering a triple that put the Royals on top 5-4. Kansas City just kept piling on from there, finally winning the game 13-4.

But rather than focus on Manuel’s intentional walk, I’d rather point towards Ruben Amaro’s bullpen. Because it should be noted that five of the Royals’ runs today came against a pair of 35-year-old journeymen: Chad Durbin and Raul Valdes.

The Phillies finished last season loaded with talented, but unproven, young relievers: Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, Josh Lindblom, Michael Schwimer. All were rather successful in the minors, some had shown flashes in the majors. All were 24-26 years old.

Right now, just one of those pitchers in on the major league roster: Aumont. He worked one scoreless inning in the Opening Day loss to the Braves and hasn’t been seen since. De Fratus and Diekman are in Triple-A. Lindblom was sent to Texas for Michael Young. Schwimer was given away to the Blue Jays because he threatened a grievance over how the Phillies handled an injury last year.

Instead of those intriguing younger arms, the Phillies are going with Durbin and Valdes. And it’s not because they needed the experience late in games. They’re paying through the nose for Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams to work the last two innings. It’s because Amaro, when it doubt, much prefers his veterans. Time will tell whether it pays off.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.