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An Exclusive Interview with Clearwater’s Jon Pettibone

The Phillies selected Jon Pettibone in the third round of the 2008 Amateur Draft. He attended Esperanza High School in Anaheim, Calif.

The 21-year old, 6’5 right-hander is having the best season of his four-year minor league career.

His father, Jay Pettibone, had a short four-game stint in the bigs for the 1983 Minnesota Twins. Charlie Manuel managed Jay in 1984 for the Orlando Twins, Minnesota’s Double-A affiliate.

Jon Pettibone hopes to play for Manuel a couple years from now for the Phillies.

Follow Jon Pettibone on twitter @Jon_Pettibone

Moving on Up

photo courtesy of philliesnation.com

Jon Pettibone has quietly matriculated his way up the ranks. Not only has he moved up a level each year, he’s improved each season.

“Every year, I’m having a great time and learning a lot.  It’s definitely been a success and fun so far,” Pettibone said.

Season Team Age W L GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA
2008 Phillies (R) 17 0 1 1 1.0 0.00 9.00 0.00 0.00
2009 Phillies (A-) 18 2 4 8 35.1 9.17 4.08 0.00 5.35
2010 Phillies (A) 19 8 6 23 131.1 5.76 2.81 0.69 3.49
2011 Phillies (A+) 20 8 10 23 140.1 6.54 2.05 0.26 3.15

He’s cut down on his walks and home runs, and improved his strikeout rate and ERA from last season.

He isn’t as heralded as the big three arms in the system (Brody Colvin, Trevor May and Jesse Biddle), but his numbers aren’t too far off, if not on par with those three.

Pettibone pitches to contact and lets his defense do the work behind him.

“Right now I’m throwing a four-seam and two-seam fastball, slider and changeup,” Pettibone said. “The biggest key for me is attacking the hitters, getting first-pitch strikes. I mix it up by changing speeds and moving the ball in and out. We have a really solid defense behind me, they help me out a lot.”

He also touched on throwing to the defensively improved catcher Sebastian Valle.

“Valle’s always been offensively strong,” Pettibone said. “Throwing to him all last year and all this year, we kind of know each other in and out. It’s nice having a partner like that.”

The Trading Deadline

courtesy of reclinergm.com

In the last five years, the Phillies have landed behemoths such as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and the recently acquired Hunter Pence via trade. During that time, they’ve also sent away a plethora of prospects.

“I try to stay away from it (trade rumors) as much as I can,” Pettibone said. “It’s kind of hard to, there’s so much talk going on in the clubhouse and stuff. The last few years the Phillies have been consistent and they’ve made one of those big deals the last few years.”

“We knew it was going to happen, we just didn’t know when. Once it was getting closer and closer, everyone was pretty anxious to see what was going to happen.”

He commented on losing teammates Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton.

“Cosart was my roommate,” Pettibone said. “We signed during the same time back in ’08. We were definitely close. We’ve progressed each level, each year together. He was one of my better friends, so it was tough seeing him leave. Especially the morning when he left the room, but I know he’s happy with what happened.”

“I know he’s in a good spot, he’s home. He’s from Houston. Singleton actually went home, too. He’s from California and they (Astros) sent him to Lancaster. So they’re both really excited.”

From a Threshers point of view, they’re in the playoff hunt and losing those two key cogs hurt.

“It’s tough losing them this close to the end of the season,” Pettibone said. “Cosart was one of our big arms and Singleton was our source of power. Overall, I’m happy for them and I think they’ll make the most of their opportunity.”

Clearwater stands at 64-54 on the season, and 25-24 in the second half, 1.5 games back of Dunedin Blue Jays. The second-half division winner will take on the Daytona Cubs, the first-half winner in the postseason.

Pettibone has playoff experience during his stint in Lakewood last season. He tossed six no-hit innings and recorded a career-high nine punchouts in the series-clinching game that sent the Blue Claws to the South Atlantic League Championship Series.

As for Pettibone’s new roommate, it’s the recently promoted David Buchanan.

2011 FSL All-Star Game

courtesy of raysprospects.com

Bright House Field, the home of the Clearwater Threshers, played host to Florida State League’s 50th All-Star Game.

Jon Pettibone got the nod as the starter for the North. He came into the contest fourth in the FSL in ERA (2.47).

“It was pretty neat that they let me start the game at my home field. It was a big honor and it was nice to stay local,” Pettibone said.

He set the South down in order in his only inning of work.

Pettibone, along with teammates Jarred Cosart, Trevor May and Julio Rodriguez, combined to pitch four innings of shutout ball.

The North defeated the South 5-3.

Learning from the Pros

Credit: Mark LoMoglio

Several key Phillies players have played down in Clearwater as part of rehabbing assignments this season.

Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton have all laced up their spikes at Bright House Field.

Pettibone talked about what he learned from the pitchers.

“Madson was down with us a couple of weeks ago, I spoke with him a little bit. Blanton’s been down. I picked their brain and asked as many questions as I can. What they do and how they go about their business,” he said.

The 23-Inning Marathon

courtesy of ftrsports.com

Earlier on in the season, the Phillies participated in the well documented 19-inning thriller against Cincinnati. Well, the Threshers took part on the losing end of a 2-1 23-inning loss against Jupiter.

“It was an experience,” Pettibone said. “I was charting in the stands for our pitchers. I was in the stands for at least five hours. We didn’t even end up winning the game. Hopefully, 23-inning games don’t come around again.”

Each squad used eight pitchers. The game took five hours and 37 minutes to complete.

Philadelphia Phillies: Recapping the New York Mets Series

I’ll just ignore the 11-0 shellacking today.  Halladay pitched extremely well.

I have to show the Mets some love, though. 

They’ve been in the doldrums the past couple of years and, who knows, they may end up being in the doldrums once again when the season concludes.

But, for the first time in a while, the Mets played with passion. 

Let’s look at game two of the series.  In years past, a 7-0 deficit was impossible to overcome; they would’ve waved the white flag.

Although the Phillies won the game 10-7, I came away impressed.

Whether it was the managerial change or cutting Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez, something is fueling the fire.

Making the playoffs is still going to be a tough task, but at least there’s some life being shown.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 05: Starting pitcher Cole Hamels #35 of the Philadelphia Phillies walks from the mound after being pulled from the game by manager Charlie Manuel in the third inning during the game against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park

 

Four Aces Doesn’t Win Every Hand

During yesterday’s edition of Philadelphia’s Daily News Live, there was a poll on Cole Hamels.

On Tuesday night, Hamels struggled and was booed heavily for his efforts.  He went just two and two-thirds innings, allowed six runs on seven hits, and walked two.

He didn’t really get hit hard, but six runs are still six runs.

Back to the poll; there were two choices.  Essentially, choice A was that the fans shouldn’t have booed, and choice B was that he should’ve been booed.

Forty-seven percent of Philadelphians voted for choice B. 

Are you kidding me, Philadelphia? Really?!?!  You can’t expect perfect starts from the four aces every single game. 

Hamels is a pitcher who improves as the season goes along.  I noticed that he didn’t have his 95-96 MPH velocity that he had by the end of last year.  He was in the low-90’s.   

He struggled with his location, but, to conclude, it’s just one start.

Patience, Philly, patience.   

Blanton Hot and Cold

For the first three innings during game two of the series, Blanton looked solid. 

He nipped the corners with his two-seam sinking fastball.  His curveball had solid tilt, and he fooled Mets hitters with his changeup.

Then things started to unravel quickly in the fifth inning. 

With the Phillies up 7-2 entering the frame, Blanton started getting rocked.  A single here, a double there—when the inning concluded, the Mets had tied the score at seven. 

He didn’t locate his fastball, and his velocity dipped from 90 MPH in the first inning to 87 MPH in the fifth.  His curveball started to hang.

It was a bad start, but the Phillies’ offense eventually took the lead back and won the game 10-7.

Like Hamels, Blanton is another pitcher who pitches better as the season progresses.

 

Antonio Bastardo Looks Solid

As the season goes along, I’m curious as to how the Phillies are going to handle Antonio Bastardo out of the pen.

Back to game two.  Blanton left the game in the fifth with one out and the bases loaded.

Bastardo came in and allowed just one run—throwing a scoreless sixth inning as well. 

He located his fastball, and threw his signature slider well.  Bastardo doesn’t exactly have the greatest statistics during his career. 

Walks have been his downfall, but he threw 17 of his 20 pitches for strikes.

J.C. Romero hasn’t exactly been stellar the last couple of years, so if Bastardo can continue to pitch well, it gives the Phillies another lefty option to consider.

 

The Big Bear Continues to Roar

Howard’s been known to be hot for long stretches of time, but it also works the other way around.

The Big Bear has never gotten off to a start like this. 

There have been 294 total cycles in MLB history. 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been 8,830 instances since the expansion era in 1961 in which a batter has fallen a triple shy of the cycle.  This occurs approximately once in every 12 games played. 

Howard fell a triple shy of the cycle twice this week.

Francisco Continues to Rake

Besides Ryan Howard, no one is hitting the ball harder than Ben Francisco.

If it was summertime, Francisco would already have four home runs instead of two.

In game one of the series, Francisco hit two stingers to deep left.  The wind knocked down both balls, and Jerry Hairston Jr. made both plays at the warning track.

Francisco finally got some justice by drilling a no-doubt bomb to left in game two.

All in all, he’s off to a fantastic start.

2011 MLB Preview: Right Fielder Rankings

  1. Ichiro (Sea) 9
  2. Justin Upton (Ari) 8.25
  3. Jayson Werth (Was) 8.25
  4. Jayson Heyward (Atl) 8
  5. Torii Hunter (LAA) 8
  6. Corey Hart (Mil) 8
  7. Shin-Soo Choo (Cle) 8
  8. Jay Bruce (Cin) 8
  9. Andre Ethier (LAD) 8
  10. Hunter Pence (Hou) 7.75
  11. Nelson Cruz (Tex) 7.5
  12. Nick Markakis (Bal) 7.5
  13. Michael Cuddyer (Min) 7.5
  14. Mike Stanton (Fla) 7.25
  15. Carlos Quentin (Chw) 7.25
  16. Ben Zobrist (TB) 7.25
  17. Nick Swisher (NYY) 7.25
  18. Lance Berkman (Stl) 7.25
  19. Ryan Ludwick (SD) 7.25
  20. Travis Snider (Tor) 7
  21. Mark DeRosa (Chc) 7
  22. Garrett Jones (Pit) 7
  23. J.D. Drew (Bos) 7
  24. Magglio Ordonez (Det) 7
  25. David DeJesus (Oak) 7
  26. Kosuke Fukudome (Chc) 7
  27. Jeff Francoeur (KC) 7
  28. Dominic Brown (Phi) 7
  29. Angel Pagan (NYM) 7
  30. Seth Smith (Col) 7

2011 MLB Preview- Shortstop Rankings

  1. Troy Tulowitzki (Col) 9
  2. Hanley Ramirez (Fla) 9
  3. Derek Jeter (NYY) 8
  4. Jimmy Rollins (Phi) 8
  5. Jose Reyes (NYM) 8
  6. Alexei Ramirez (Chw) 7.75
  7. Elvis Andrus (Tex) 7.5
  8. Rafael Furcal (LAD) 7.25
  9. Starlin Castro (Chc) 7.25
  10. Yunel Escobar (Tor) 7.25
  11. Stephen Drew (Ari) 7.25
  12. Asdrubal Cabrera (Cle) 7.25
  13. Marco Scutaro (Bos) 7.25
  14. Alex Gonzalez (Atl) 7.25
  15. Jason Bartlett (SD) 7.25
  16. Erick Aybar (LAA) 7.25
  17. Ian Desmond (Was) 7
  18. Alcides Escobar (KC) 7
  19. Ryan Theriot (Stl) 7
  20. Miguel Tejada (SF) 7
  21. Edgar Renteria (Cin) 7
  22. Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Min) 7
  23. Cliff Pennington (Oak) 7
  24. Johnny Peralta (Det) 7
  25. Yuniesky Betancourt (Mil) 7
  26. Reid Brignac (TB) 7
  27. J.J. Hardy (Bal) 7
  28. Jack Wilson (Sea) 7
  29. Clint Barmes (Hou) 7
  30. Ronny Cedeno (Pit) 7

NFC Divisional Preview- Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears

 

The Seahawks picked up one of the biggest upset wins in playoff history last week against Seattle.  But, they don’t get the benefit of playing at home this week.

Seahawks Rush Offense vs. Bears Rush Defense

Sea— 89.0 (31) vs. Chi— 90.1 (2)

For the first time all season a Seattle Seahawk rusher went over 100 yards.  Marshawn Lynch had 131 yards on 19 carries.

Here’s the thing.

Chicago can tackle. People are categorizing Lynch’s 67-yard touchdown run last week against theSaints as one of the best in NFL history.  New Orleans missed eight-to-nine tackles on the play.

I’ll be shocked if the Seahawks can get a running game going against the Bears.

Seahawks Pass Offense vs. Bears Pass Defense

Sea—208.8 (19) vs. Chi—224.2 (20)

In my preview for last week’s Seahawks/Saints game I stated that Hasselbeck’s playoff experience was the ex-factor.

He’s very smart at the line of scrimmage and gets rid of the ball quickly.

Seattle left tackle Russell Okung must play respectable against Bear defensive end Julius Peppers.

Bears Rush Offense vs. Seahawks Rush Defense

Chi—101.0 (22) vs. Sea—118.9 (21)

Bears running back Matt Forte doesn’t have a great yards per carry average, but his effectiveness as a receiver in Mike Martz’s offense.

The Seahawks have a great trio of linebackers in Aaron Curry, Lofa Tatupu and David Hawthorne.  The key for Seattle will be the play of the defensive tackles on the defensive line.  The defensive tackle tandem of Colin Cole and Brandon MeBane are just average.

Bears Pass Offense vs. Seahawks Pass Defense

Chi—188.4 (28) vs. Sea— 249.6 (21)

Since the week six game, the Bears have tightened their formations, different than the offense that Mike Martz is used to running.

The Bears still run a lot of quick routes, which forces Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to get rid of the ball quickly.

The Bears don’t have many outside threats at the wide receiver position, but the Seahawk cornerbacks aren’t exactly great either.

 

Seahawks Three X-Factors

  1. Matt Hasselbeck
  2. Lofa Tatupu
  3. Chris Clemons

 

Bears Three X-Factors

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. Devin Hester
  3. Jay Cutler

 

PREDICTION: Bears 27 Seahawks 17

Matt Hasselbeck needs to be magical once again if Seattle wants to pull off another miracle.

I just don’t see it.

YOOOAdrian’s NFC Divsional Playoff Preview- Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

Green Bay and Atlanta met at the Georgia Dome in week 12 with the Falcons narrowly prevailing 20-17 on a game-winning 47-yard field goal by Matt Bryant with nine seconds left.

Atlanta has the Georgia Dome factor, they were 7-1 there this year.

The Packers beat the Eagles 21-16 last week in the Wildcard Playoff.

Packers Rush Offense vs. Falcons Rush Defense

GB— 100.4 (24th) vs. Atl— 105.9 (10th)

(Curtis Lofton)

I think the Packers finally found a running back in James Starks.  He carried the ball 23 times for 123 yards.

Mike McCarthy likes to keep a balanced offensive attack 50/50.  With balance in the running game, this allows Rodgers to convert on managable third down situations.

Starks, the rookie from Buffalo, just follows his blocks and runs hard; nothing fancy in Green Bay’s full-house backfield.  John Kuhn is a huge asset because of his blocking, running and pass catching skills.

The Packers always seem to find a back, average, but productive by the end of the season.  Here’s a couple names over the last couple of years; Samkon Gado (06), Ryan Grant (07), and now James Starks.

The Falcons have an underrated rushing defense.

Curtis Lofton is one of the most underrated middle linebackers in football.  He plays with great insticts, and possesses great tackling ability. 

Packers Pass Offense vs. Falcons Pass Defense

GB—257.8 (5) vs. Atl—226.6 (22)

(Aaron Rodgers)

Let’s face it, the Green Bay running backs aren’t pro-bowlers, but with a guy like Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, you’re using the running game to set up those managable third down situations that Rodgers is so good at.  He has a quick release, throws a tight spiral, and is extremely accurate on those hitch routes the Packers like to run.

Atlanta though, is third best in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage.

Atlanta’s depth in the secondary is a problem.  The Packers have four talented receivers in Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. 

Falcons Rush Offense vs. Packers Rush Defense

Atl—118.2 (12) vs. GB—114.9 (18)

(B.J. Raji)

Atlanta uses a lot of 22 personel (two backs, two tight ends) with Michael Turner, one of the most powerful runners in the game.  He has such great leg strength with his mammoth, tree trunk sized thighs.

Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji is huge in this game.  He needs to occupy two to three blockers to free up space for the linebackers to make tackles.

Charles Woodson plays the run well when he lines up as a slot corner.

Falcons Pass Offense vs. Packers Pass Defense

Atl—222.9 (15) vs. GB— 194.2 (21)

(Matt Ryan)

Atlanta though, is third best in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage.

Green Bay and Atlanta both have the same philosophies, run the ball and move the chains with third down conversions.

They both run the ball in different ways, but the game-plan is the same.

Matt Ryan is an Aaron Rodgers clone.  That’s all that needs to be said.

The Green Bay secondary is better than Atlanta’s.  Cornerback Charles Woodson and free safety Nick Collins are in the Pro-Bowl every year.  Tramon Williams is an underrated corner.

The Packers generate tons of pressure led by 3-4 outside linebacker Clay Matthews.  He’s my Defensive Player of the Year.

Packers’ Three X-Factors

  1. Aaron Rodgers   
  2. B.J. Raji 
  3. Clay Matthews

 

Falcons Three X-Factors

  1. Matt Ryan
  2. Curtis Lofton
  3. Michael Turner

 

PREDICTION: Packers 24 Falcons 19

To me it comes down to who converts more third downs.  Atlanta is third in the NFL on third down, while Green Bay is eighth.  Aaron Rodgers vs Matt Ryan, who’s going to make more conversions?

Roddy White vs Greg Jennings; who picks up more third down receptions?

The Falcons must run the ball extremely well, because I like the Packers chances in pass rush situations against Atlanta.

YOOOAdrian’s AFC Divisional Playoff Preview- Baltimore at Pittsburgh

Baltimore looked like the best team out of the Wild-Card Weekend games.  They went to Arrowhead and romped Kansas City 30-7 last week.

These teams played each other in the postseason in the 2008 AFC Championship Game.  Pittsburgh won 23-14.

The Steelers have won five of the last seven meetings.

Ravens Rush Offense vs. Steelers Rush Defense

Bal—114.4 (14th) vs. Pit—62.8 (1)

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21:  Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lines up before the snap during the game against  the Oakland Raiders on November 21, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Troy Polamalu)

If you’re Baltimore, you’re targeting a 3-yard per carry average per carry against the best run defense not only this year, but the past decade. 

Rice is most dangerous in the passing game, with 556 receiving yards.  The Steelers need to eliminate Rice in the passing game.  Rice is very shifty in space.  This is where Troy Polamalu‘s amazing open field attacking ability comes into play.

Ravens Pass Offense vs. Steelers Pass Defense

Bal—208.4 (20) vs. Pit—214.1 (12)

(Joe Flacco)

This is the where the game will be won in my opinion.  Head coach John Harbaugh finally let his third-year quarterback loose.  Joe Flacco threw the ball 35 times, completing 24 for 265 yards and two touchdowns.

The Ravens use an underneath passing with tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley form the best pair of 3-4 outside linebackers.  Left tackle Michael Oher and Right tackle Marshall Yanda need to play well against their pass rush.

Steelers Rush Offense vs. Ravens Rush Defense

Pit—120.2 (11) vs. Bal—93.9 (5)

(Haloti Ngata)

Haloti Ngata, a 3-4 right defensive end, is unblockable in one-on-one matchups.  The Ravens structure fronts in order to let Ngata get on an opposing blocker one-on one. 

Just like I stated about, the Steelers are looking for 3-yards per carry against a tough defensive front. 

Steelers Pass Offense vs. Ravens Pass Defense

Pit—225.1 (14) vs. Bal—224.9 (21)

(Ben Roethlisberger)

The question here is can Pittsburgh get enough protection for Ben Roethlisberger. The Miami (OH) standout does avoid the rush well, but in the two meetings this year, Terrell Suggs and company were constantly in Pittsburgh’s backfield.

Mike Wallace is key in the wide receiver screen game.  He has the ability to take any screen to the house by his ability to make people miss in space.  He’s one of the top five fastest players in the NFL in my opinion. 

Ravens’ Three X-Factors

  1. Joe Flacco   
  2. Anquan Boldin 
  3. Ed Reed

Steeler’s Three X-Factors

  1. Troy Polamalu
  2. Mike Wallace
  3. Ben Roethlisberger

PREDICTION: Ravens 20 Steelers 19

You know it’s going to be close, and it’s almost unfair to make a pick, but I like Baltimore quarterbacks Joe Flacco’s cool demeanor in the clutch, but Roethlisberger isn’t shabby himself. 

Will either Polamalu or Reed make game-changing plays that they’re accustomed to doing?

Just to throw it out there, this will be the game where Joe Flacco becomes a star.  This will be a franchise defining win if the Ravens can pull this one out.