Dobbserman is Over(whelms)ing! A simple way to fix the Phillies (part 1)

Do you hear that? Do you? It’s the sound of life coming from Citizens Bank Park. Finally, only a mere two months into the 2007 season, our mighty baseball team is starting to show some signs of life down there on South Broad Street. The offense is clicking (most of the time,) the rotation is coming together (occasionally,) and the bench is constantly (kind of) providing much needed jolts in late innings. The bullpen though, continues to be a mess, even more with defacto closer Brett Myers being placed on the fifteen day Disabled List. So sure, nothing’s perfect. But something is better than nothing.

A couple weeks ago Erin and Fast Eddie got a dog, a Golden Retriever puppy named Dugan (his namesake being Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own.) Both Erin and Ed are teachers, so I go up during most days and hang out with the little man. His motor skills have come a long way in three weeks and he can almost walk in a straight line, when he actually wants too, which isn’t that often. He’ll sit, but that’s about it so far. He’s also teething, so as a result, he spends most days chewing on anything he can get close to.

The reason for bringing up Dugan (and I’m sure Colin has already been wondering this) is that his development parallels the development of this year’s Phillies. Both Dugan and the Phillies are young (except for Jamie Moyer…he’s maybe a year or two younger than my Gram and Tom Gordon who is not to worried about coming off the Disabled List because he can always fall back on Social Security) and both are constantly learning, and coming into their own. The Phillies (like Dugan) rock at a few things and yes, like Dugan, they suck at a couple things. That’s what you get dealing with puppies…and Phillies.

So the key is patience. It’s hard, but like I told Gram, it’s a part of life. Dugan just started puppy training tonight and I heard through Ma Dukes that the little man made great strides, probably the best puppy in the class. Goldens are notoriously smart dogs (according to my dad and he has never ever been wrong), so he has all the tools to be a smart dog.

Likewise the Phillies have all the tools to be the best puppy in the class. Granted the class is the National League, so it’s not the best crop of dogs. But either way, they do have the tools. The team is finally playing like the team we read about in February, the team that was a cool pick for the NL Wild Card, the team that Jimmy Rollins said was the team to beat in the NL East. And they’ve only gotten stronger with Ryan Howard’s return from the Disabled List. Howard is playing like the 2006 NL MVP now instead of the shadow of that player that he was playing like for the first month of the season. He has three homeruns in the past two games.

Besides Howard, Chase is good old consistent Chase, Shane Victorino is running wild around the base paths, Aaron Rowand has continued his surprising offensive start, and Pat Burrell has regained his power stroke.

But one of the keys to the Phillies’ recent success has been Greg Dobbs. Signed in the off-season, Dobbs has largely been used as a utility infielder until he filled in during Howard’s absence. Since then he has been getting playing time over third baseman Wes Helms, who also was signed during the off-season. Helms, as opposed to Dobbs, was expected to be a big contributor to the offense and hit at least 25-30 homeruns. Yet despite playing in super-friendly-homerun Citizens Bank, Helms has 25-30 homeruns less than that projection. Dobbs, in nearly 50 less at bats, has four homeruns, as well as more R.B.I.’s and a higher on base percentage and batting average.

The argument can be made (and has) that the Dobbserman is only thriving when coming off the bench and it’s a gamble as to whether or not he’d continue to do so playing everyday. But in Howard’s absence, Dobbs proved that he could in fact contribute to the line-up and as a result, provide some much-needed pop at the backend of the batting order. Helms had been a virtual black hole in the lineup and Dobbs easily improves both the team’s chances of winning and the productivity of 6-7-8 hitters. So far this season the most offense Helms has demonstrated was when he ran out onto the field during the Marlins-Phillies scuffle last week like Cam Neely’s trucker character in Dumb and Dumber.

This absence of power at the bottom of the lineup is becoming as much of a burden as the bullpen, a sinking ship taking on water faster than the cruise ship in Speed 2. While I was up in Maine this weekend for Willy Brazil’s wedding, I caught a couple Red Sox games. Now I’m not going to launch into a gushing rant about the juggernaut that is the 2007 Red Sox, but I will say that I noticed something while watching those games. The reason the Red Sox are so impressive offensively is because their lineup is circular, not linear, meaning it has no beginning or end. The Phillies are so so so close to having that same kind of lineup. Now their lineup wouldn’t hold a candle to the power and talent of the Sox lineup, but it would mirror it some respects such as consistency and distribution of talent.
Now think for a moment about this potential lineup:
1. Jro
2. SVIC!
3. RyHo
5. Mr. Miyagi
6. Arow
7. Dobbserman
8. C Rude or Rbar

By moving Dobbs into the order, the power of the middle of the lineup now extends all the way to the 6-7-8 hitters. Any by switching around Utley and Howard, you allow Chase (who hits like Wade Boggs, but with more pop) to protect Howard. This then relieves Burrell of that job and now lets him usher in the second half of the order, something he is better suited to do.

This move also frees up Helms and places in the trade winds with the hopes that he might score some bullpen help. We just have to pray that a club thinks that he could benefit from the change of scenery.

Of course Helms could possibly be untradeable and his salary is so unreasonable that Charlie Manuel is forced to play him. Yet before today, all Dugan could do was sit. Now he can stay and lay down on command and next week they’re going to start working with walking him properly. It would take a similar simple move to help the Phillies and walking properly isn’t even necessary.

But it would help.

1 Comment so far

  1. Sparky (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 11:55 pm

    even after last nights loss, it was a kind of impressive loss. And with the Brewers and the rest of th NL Central tanking, I am beginning to smell wildcard. the bad news is Manuel survives, but playoff baseball in Philly would be worth it

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