Thursday, December 11, 2014

Goodbye, J-Roll

In the time that Derek Jeter was the primary shortstop for the Yankees (1996-2014), most of the 29 other MLB teams struggled to have a consistent shortstop. The Astros were the worst with 11. The Yankees' arch-rival - Red Sox - had seven after Garciaparra, but may be stable again with the emergence of Xander Bogaerts. Cleveland had three in that span. And Philadelphia also had three: Kevin Stocker (1996 & 1997), Desi Relaford (1998-2000) and finally, fifteen (14) seasons of our 2nd round (#46) pick in the 1996 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Jimmy Rollins (2001-2014; a Sept. call-up in 2000).

Rollins' 2001 campaign was awesome: 158 games, 706 plate appearances with a .274 AVG in 656 ABs (180 H), 46 SB (54 tries for 85.2% success) & 14 HRs to help generate 97 total runs scored, 54 RBIs, .275/.323/.419 slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) for a .743 OPS. Awesome numbers that led to 3rd place in ROY voting that year. He's been healthy most of the time: 150+ games in 10 seasons and 135-149 games in 3 seasons. The only major fluke: an injury-riddled 2010 in which he only played 88 games. In his 14 full seasons plus Sept. 2000, he appeared in 2,090 games and is the Phillies All-Time Hits Leader with just over 2,300 hits... 479 doubles, 111 triples, and 216 HRs. He stole 453 bases in 548 attempts (82.7% success rate, 32/year) scored 1,325 times and drove in 887 runners. His Phillies career slash line: .267/.327/.424 for a .751 OPS.

His awards as a Phillie include 2007 MVP & Silver Slugger, 4 Gold Gloves ('07-'09, '12), three All-Star appearances (2001, 2002, & 2005) & a 2009 trip to the World Baseball Classic, five NL East titles (2007-2011), two NL pennants (2008 & 2009), and, of course, the 2008 World Championship.

Off the field, Phillies fans largely loved him, but there would be controversial comments/ issues. This was especially true as he hit lots of lazy pop-ups and barely ran out some. He was a leader with not only his bat & glove, but with his mouth, boldly calling the Phillies the "Team to Beat in the NL East" in 2007.

How do we grade the Oakland native's tenure as a Phillie? Let's give him an A-. He did what he had to do to bounce back after every (rare) down year, led the Phillies in their glory years in more ways than one, stuck with them through the rough times, and said most of the right things. We wish you luck with the Dodgers (except when facing the Phils, of course... hahaha!), and thank you for the memories, J-Roll!



Cuban OF Y. Tomas: The Phillies passed on him, who signed for 4-6 years and $45.7MM-$68.5MM. This was probably a mistake in terms of the Phils' offensive future, but he's not very athletic nor has he been tested against ML-caliber pitching. We shall see how he fairs with the D'Backs.

Winter Meetings News:
  1. Trades: Bastardo traded to the Pirates for a mid-level rotation prospect. Phillies continue to listen to offers for others. Rube wants to trade Howard & Papelbon; desires to upgrade the outfield by shopping Byrd (who will net a similar return to Bastardo), Revere and Brown; and now that Lester signed with the Cubs, Hamels rumors will heat up, particularly to the Dodgers & Red Sox.
  2. Rotation: Cliff Lee is on-schedule with his rehab (left flexor tendon issue) & expects to be ready for Spring Training. Miguel Gonzalez, entering the 2nd year of a 3-YR/ $12MM deal signed in late-Summer 2013, hopes to audition for a back-end starter job. He appeared in the 'pen this year.
  3. Sandberg is "anxious" to see how Rube & the front office execute a rebuild. He also says that he's willing to try many of his players at different positions, something he ruled out a few months ago.
  4. The Meetings conclude today with the Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies expect to used BOTH of their picks in the ML round (an arrangement stemming from the Cubs' 2011 selection not playing much in 2012) and none during the minor league portion: details via The Phillies protected three prospects this year & lost three prospects in the minor league portion. have two open spots on the 40-man

Friday, December 5, 2014

Grading the 2014 Phillies: Stay or Go? Part I: Pitchers

Here it is: the “Stay or Go?” entry. I’m taking a long time with this, so I’ve decided to post it in two parts: Pitchers and then Players. Sorry for the delay & split, but I’m not solely a Phillies enthusiast. In this two-part mini-series, I talk about the entire 2014 Phillies roster and what the front office should do with these players if they want to contend, which may not happen until 2016 or 2017, according to Phillies' interim president Pat Gillick. Today, it’ll be the pitchers and I begin with the rotation:

Despite starting the year on the DL, Cole Hamels made 30 starts & threw 203 innings. His last 23 starts were impressive, all of them quality starts. In that span, he amassed a 1.91 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, but only eight (8) wins in that span. This further proves that it’s the Phillies offense that needs the most work and the win statistic is not cool. While Hamels will certainly garner trade attention this off-season, it is in the Phils’ best interest to wait for the right deal (three of the top five prospects) and not feel the need to have to trade him. His grade: A-.

Well, Cliff Lee was pitching so well in the first trimester outside opening day (2.29 ERA) before being injured, but we know that injuries are part of the game. Yes, he should have made four rehab starts, but there was no way to predict he’d go down again. Because of his injury, I cannot grade him and he is no longer a trade candidate (he’d be a half-season rental in July). He is progressing (will throw in a couple of weeks) and should be healthy and fairly productive in 2015, which (in a rebuilding year) I’ll take.

I liked the signing of A.J. Burnett. I thought he’d net us three wins, but he ultimately did not. After his first ten starts, it looked like he’d produce for us, especially considering he was powering thru a hernia. But he had no control afterward as his 4.59 overall ERA and MLB-leading 96 free passes prove. I give him a “F+/D” for 2014 and am glad he is choosing not to return.

Kyle Kendrick has proven a durable innings-eater but is inconsistent. On average, his 5.1 IP/ start and 3.30 ERA are great for a back-end starter, but there are long stretches in which he has a 4.5-or-higher ERA. And this year, the first inning gave him trouble (near-10.00-ERA). He’s relatively inexpensive (<$10MM AAV), but there are more consistent, potentially cheaper, options on the Free Agent market than K.K. Thank you for your contributions to the five-in-a-row era, K.K., but it’s time for you to go. Grade: F+/D (Tenure: C-/C)

Jerome Williams came to the Phillies off of waivers shortly after sending Hernandez (he got a “C-“ from me) to the Dodgers. He impressed right out of the gate, going undefeated in his first five starts, ended up 4-2 w/ a 2.83 ERA with the Phillies. His 2014 was not bright (the Phils were his 3rd or 4th team of the year) but he found a niche. I can only give him a pass and say that I approve of the 1-YR, $2.5MM deal he signed circa 10/20.

David Buchannan, a Georgia native, impressed the Phillies & fans during his 2014 rookie campaign. Again, lack of run support hurt (six wins), but his line (outside his 6/3 start vs. the Nats) is very impressive: in 19 starts, he amassed a 6-7 record, 111.2 IP, 3.40 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 5.26 K/9, 2.17 K:BB, 0.81 HR/ 9 – again this doesn’t lude 6/3 vs. the Nats. He is a sure-lock to make the 2015 rotation, especially now that Burnett isn’t returning.

Given the rotation is in a bit of flux, 2015 will be the year the Phillies rebuild their rotation, especially with Jon Pettibone, Miguel Gonzalez, Ethan Martin, Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, Sean O’Sullivan, and possibly Adam Morgan expected to see time with the Phils next year. I cannot grade any of them, but they provided us with innings when needed (for those who reached the majors), and some have potential to impress. Furthermore, Nola & Biddle are future aces despite Biddle’s recent struggles. If I had to give a theme for 2014, it was the rebuilding of the bullpen, which is next to be evaluated.

Looking at all the usual stats (appearances, ERA, save percentage), Jon Papelbon certainly did his part to secure wins despite a slower fastball and subsequent decreased K:BB & K/9 rates. He learned to pitch and not to throw, mentoring the young arms along the way. His season, even his tenure, will not be known by his on-field successes, but for his controversial comments, clubhouse trouble, and suspension-inducing crotch grab. After reflection, despite me believing his explanation of an ill-timed adjustment, that was the final straw: I do not want him a Phillie any longer so he can pass Jose Mesa for No. 1 on the Phillies all-time saves list. He won’t be there long (Giles), but I don’t want him there for one second! Pap was well on his way to an A-, but his post-game antics drop him to a “B+” and a “yes please” to a trade, which will be tough but do-able.

I have a lot of respect for Mike Adams after saying he felt bad/ sorry for stealing money for not playing (forgive any misquoting). Yes, you cannot help injuries and a contract is a contract, but for him to say that shows he truly cares and would be willing to forfeit that money in some way. This was one of the few signings within the past several years I liked: shows Amaro knew the ‘pen was a problem. The intent was great, but it didn’t work out, which happens. I cannot grade Adams’ season or tenure, but I will say that he’s not coming back (he’s helping evaluate talent in the Rangers’ system - no offense, Mike. Thanks for trying!

If there’s one word to describe Antonio Bastardo, “enigma” would be that word. Three quarters of the time, he is “Lights Out” on the mound. The other 25% of the time has Phils fans saying, “He’s absolutely horrible… no control, please don’t let him finish the inning.” The good news: he is a good pitcher most of the time and is now a relatively cheap veteran entering his last year of arbitration. I would like to see him packaged in a trade (he and Byrd to the Reds came up in July). As for his grade, “C-” sounds about right, maybe a hair too generous.

We now look at the rookies, beginning with Justin De Fratus. He is certainly is coming along. Except for a terrible April and July, he had a 0.79 ERA. Despite those two months, he had a 2.39 ERA overall in 54 appearances & 52 2/3 innings. He struck out 49 - almost one per inning. I think he may actually be fully developed (three years in the majors now), but the jury (I) still needs to deliberate. I am sure about this: he needs to stay on the Active Roster year-round. Grade: "B+/A-".

Our youngest lefty who only recently discovered his fastball touches 100 mph is next for review. Jake Diekman did very well this year, going 5-5 with a 3.8 ERA & 1.4 WHIP in 71 innings of work. Yes, he was put out there a bit too much. In 73 appearances, he struck out 100 batters - awesome! He has been up-and-down a lot more than De Fratus and the latter had similar struggles last year, so Diekman's still developing. He's coming along nicely, though, so I give him a "B" and a "yes" to staying with the Phillies for the long-run. Ryne, do be careful how much you use him.

And now, our most prized reliever of 2014 made probably the biggest jump to the majors I've seen: from high-A in the span of eight months (Fall/ Winter leagues, camp, AA for a month, and then AAA for a few weeks). Ken Giles found a niche here with his slider - 60% of his Ks were on that pitch. It wasn’t perfect in the minors, but it somehow “just clicked when [he] got up here." The stats are incredible... the Arizona native won the battle between hitter and pitcher almost every time out: 3-1 record in 44 games (46 IP) helped along by a 1.18 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and a staggering 12.75 K/9! Despite being called up late in the season (that was fine) & not put out there fast enough (not cool, Ryne), he was one of four rookies to receive votes for the NL R.O.Y. title - impressive for a non-closer. No doubt he will be our set-up man in 2015 and first-choice as closer when the role opens. Grade: "A".

We end the relief core with the cups of coffee. We begin with C. Jimenez and L. Garcia. Both had success in the minors (Garcia was the Owens award winner) but could not carry it over to the majors… the so-called “Quadruple-A players.” Hector Neris had a nice debut, recording his first career win & strikeout in his first appearance. I hope to see him more often. Finally, Phillipe Aumont is still proving that the Cliff-Lee-to-Seattle trade was terrible whether with or without the benefit of hindsight. The front office continues to gibe him chances to find his niche and he has failed each time, which paved the way for Ken Giles. Ruben, please release Aumont!

I’m hopeful that Jimenez, Garcia, and Neris will find their niche in 2015. I hope that occurs because we need a few more relievers, even if we’re not contenders. It is always possible at least one of our young relievers will be injured and we may see our veterans go in a trade. For the long term, at least, our bullpen is set with the core of Giles, Diekman, & De Fratus. The rotation, as I said earlier, is redeveloping in 2015 and may continue into 2016. The hitters won't be in flux until late next year, which is one of the reasons I agree with Pat Gillick's prediction of 2017 for contending. For further details on that, look for the hitters entry in the coming weeks. First, I have to discuss a few news items that came up in the past two months, especially past few weeks (Tomas, 40-Man, Offseason Plan, etc.).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The High & Low Moments of 2014

We begin our review of the 2014 Phillies with the highest and lowest moments of the season.

We begin on Opening Day, which was mostly a nice affair: Rollins' 14th consecutive O.D. start for the same team tied him with Cal Ripken, Jr. and he celebrated that feat with a 2nd-inning Grand Slam for his 200th career HR. The rest of the game was a slugfest between the Phillies and Rangers. The Phillies won 14-11 with Lee getting the W despite giving up eight (8) runs (a rare feat in MLB). It's long been said that Opening Day symbolizes the season. In the Phils' case, it symbolized what would have happened had the offense been more consistent.

We continue the story with a contributing factor to the 2014 performance: injuries. The Phils started the year without their best bench bat (Darin Ruf), best bench glove (Freddy Galvis), and homegrown ace (Cole Hamels). The injuries to Ruf & Galvis, then hastily activating them, gave Sandberg little confidence in his bench, even for one game per week, so he used the veterans excessively. Except for Byrd & Rollins, they didn't perform consistently enough, resulting in consecutive 73-win seasons.

As for Rollins, he certainly bounced back from a career low offensive season in 2013. Another top moment this year surrounds Rollins: passing Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt for the franchise hits record. It's likely that Rollins will eventually end up in Cooperstown with his credentials: he has a 3rd-place ROY finish, MVP, World Series Ring, 15 (going on 16) years in the majors w/ few down years, four Gold Gloves playing an elite position, lots of speed, and 200 HRs (nearly 50 of which are lead-off homers). A strained hamstring & mediocre team ended his season early, but he certainly had a great year and will be ready for O.D. - April 6th, 2015 vs. the Red Sox.

There was another veteran who looked well on his way to a .295 batting average: Chase Utley. For the first two months, he tore it up, hitting .320/.384/.527 for a .901 OPS with an RBI every other game, four HRs, and on pace for the NL lead in 2B. He earned his first All-Star nod since 2010. In that game, it was vintage Chase: an RBI 2B in his first PA, scored a run, and then was hit by a pitch in his 2nd PA (he averages ~17/year). After that, it was bad news for the star second-baseman: from July 1 on, he hit .243/.323/.350 for a .593 OPS, with an RBI every 2-3 games. Sandberg & his predecessor, Charlie Manuel, both admit wanting to limit Utley to ~130 games but never have. Utley is still productive because he takes pitches: do move him up in the order, Ryne.

We fast forward from the All-Star game to Alumni Weekend to celebrate the legacy of the winningest manager in Franchise History: Charlie Manuel at his Wall of Fame Induction Ceremony. His legacy is awesome, overseeing a storied time for the Phillies: five consecutive NL East Titles, two NL Pennants, a World Championship, a franchise-record 102-win season in 2011, a perfect game, playoff no-hitter, 1000 career wins (780 for the Phillies), and managing the first NL team to win the All-Star game (2010) in 14 years. It doesn't get much better than that, except a second world title. Yes, his tenure ended with mismanagement of veterans, leading to an undeservedly early firing, but his tenure is still awesome! Thank you for the memories, Chuck! You were Philadelphia!

We go from celebration back to disappointment with a game that symbolized everything that went wrong with the Phillies last year: the first Phillies offense in ~40 years to be no-hit. You always have to give the opposing pitcher credit. In this case, it was the Dodgers' Josh Beckett on 5/25. However, it's no secret to anyone that the Phillies' steady decline since 2008 is due to a declining offense. It still takes a lot to no hit any team, even one with mediocre offense. The stage was set for a terrible year, but the Phillies were not down yet.

The stretch of games between June 20th & July 6th put the Phillies out of contention. This 3-win, 16-game stretch dropped them 8.5 games in the standings, a hole too deep to climb out. Not much more went right after the All-Star break for the team. Besides Buchannan emerging as a solid no. 4 (6-7 rec., 3.40 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 5.26 K/9, 2.17 K/BB, 0.81 HR/9 in 19 of his 20 starts), the only Phillies to have success were Hamels, Byrd, Ruiz, and the Phillies bullpen.

There is one game that symbolized almost everything that went right in 2014. It was the last game the Phillies played with a 25-man roster. On Sept. 1st, four Phillies pitchers that had successful 2014 campaigns - Hamels, Diekman, Giles, & Papelbon - combined for a no-hitter. Byrd, brought in to stabilize right field this year, saved an eventual 7-0 victory with a diving catch in right field in the 3rd with two runners on. Ruiz caught the entire game for his third career no-no behind the dish (Varitek caught four in his career). It was an awesome moment in a down year, and the top moment in 2014.

Let's end it on a high note. My next entry will be the "Stay or Go?" game in which I grade individuals on the 2014 season (either A thru F or Pass/Fail). See you then.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Season Over, Preview of Posts

Well, the Phillies lost their final game of the season 2-1 against the slumping Braves, giving the Phillies the same record as last year: 73-89. Here's a brief recap:

Hamels' 30th start of the year was another great outing: 2 ER, 8 IP, & 7 K for another tough-luck loss. If you want proof that the win statistic should no longer be considered for the Cy Young award, listen to this: Since June 1, Cole Hamels has the 2nd best ERA in the majors behind Clayton Kershaw. Hamels' effort gives him ~200 K & ~203 IP for the year, becoming the first Phillies Pitcher since Steve Carlton to throw 200-plus innings in five consecutive seasons, a feat "Lefty" accomplished from '72 to '80.

Hamels' bounce-back (off-season shoulder tendinitis), Cy-Young-esque 2014 is one of many bright spots this year, but in a loosing season, the bad will outweigh the good. I will break down the performances of the 2014 Phillies in a game of "Stay or Go?". Look for that entry, off-season previews, 2014 moments and possibly more entries over the coming days/ weeks. I can tell you this: changes are coming. One has already occurred: the team announced that Marti Wolever (the long-time scout-in-charge of the first-year player draft) will not return in 2015. Good luck, Marti.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pitching Projections for 2015

Well, the Phillies have been loosing again, but still hold a near-.500 record in the 2nd half. All they need is four wins (nine games left) in order to achieve a better record than last year, which is attainable given the past few months of games, especially the contributions by the young players & Sept. call-ups. Now, the Phillies were mathematically eliminated from post-season contention during the Padres series, so let's continue with projecting the needs for 2015; this time, I'll cover pitching. Next entry on 2015, will be a game of "stay or go?"; date TBD.

I mentioned the young players are doing very well and the biggest area besides seeing Ruf & Franco is the bullpen. Papelbon, except for last week, has been lights-out. Look for him to be on the trading block, again, but that may be difficult given the suspension & salary ($13MM plus still-attainable vesting option). Bastardo is lights-out 75% of the time but has been relegated to match-ups as of late. That will affect him in negotiating his final year of arbitration. The primary reason for that has been the emergence of Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, & Justin De Fratus. Combined stats: 11-6 rec., 2.62 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, & a 3.60 K:BB ratio. Simply stellar. Let's say all five secured spots on the Opening Day (4/6 vs. Red Sox) roster.

The long men (Manship, Hollands, Martin, & Gonzalez) have been ok... showing promise despite a 5.07 ERA. The reason: being used less and less as the season wore on despite injuries to the rotation. They have the pitches to succeed, just not the playing time... some in the minors & DL, others because of ineffectiveness & the emergence of Giles, De Fratus, & Diekman. They represent 1/6 of the team's innings pitched by relievers & 5.5% of the team's total innings. It looks like Hollands & Manship (contract status?) will get a look next year along with Neris and perhaps Rosenberg, Martin, & Gonzalez... with the latter two probably getting looks for the rotation. One spot will be open for these guys, maybe two spots. It's my thinking that Gonzalez is a lock due to contract (2 yrs., $8MM remaining) and the final spot goes to a veteran free agent, especially if Pap is traded.

Before I go into the rotation, I do want to say that it's been a shame that Mike Adams (completing his 2-yr. deal) had dealt with all those injuries. I liked the intent of the signing by Rube, but it didn't work out. Great guy... I gained a lot of respect for him when he said that (warning: badly paraphrasing a quote from months ago) he's sorry he ended up not earning the $12MM.

Now for the rotation. A.J. Burnett will retire. Kyle Kendrick will sign elsewhere at 2 yr./ $16MM or 3 yr./ $21MM. Lee (60-Day DL with strained flexor pronator tendon) will come into spring training healthy (last guaranteed year of contract). You can give the 4th spot to Buchannan. And that leaves Cole Hamels, who has been absolutely stellar for the Phillies since June 1. I do not think he'll ultimately be traded, so put him in as the No. 1. So far:
  1. Hamels
  2. Lee
  3. OPEN
  4. Buchannan
  5. OPEN
So, you see two open spots vacated by K.K. & A.J. Burnett. The first probably goes to a free agent or, better yet, Jerome Williams (3-2, 2.84 ERA) if he's re-signed. The final spot will be a competition between a(nother) free agent and Miguel Gonzalez if the Phils audition him for the rotation. You'll see some younger guys here competing: 2014 1st Round Pick Aaron Nola (AA), 2010 1st Round Pick Jesse Biddle (AA or AAA), Ethan Martin (AAA), Sean O'Sullivan (AAA), & Jon Pettibone (AAA); ultimately, they'll be competing for positions on the Phillies' depth chart & start the year in the minors (their likely assignments are in parentheses). Expect one of the free agents to be signed to a two-year deal probably, if the Phillies go that route. The free agent market is very strong, even after the top three of Scherzer, Shields, & Lester are signed.

Looks like the Phillies are going in the right direction pitching-wise with the young 'pen holding leads & fresh faces in the rotation expected over next two years. Keep up the great work guys!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Papelbon Situation

I won't go into the glory details of what happened during the 9th inning Sunday as I'm sure most know, but here's a quick refresher: after blowing a save out of the water, Pap is walking to the dugout when two things happen... fans boo and he grabs his crotch "to adjust himself", according to Pap. He is ejected by Joe West and Pap goes on a bit of a tirade. MLB later suspends Pap 7 games for making the gesture, running at Joe, and publicly displaying his anger. Joe got one game for improperly restraining Pap.

So, why did Pap do that? I do think he was adjusting himself, but that does not excuse his timing. Now, I do think a fine and one- or two-game suspension is necessary as he needs to learn to control himself, especially with the anger & frustration part of the incident. Yes, the gesture can be interpreted as toward the crowd as he did that after the crowd booed him, but Pap needs to be careful with stupidly running in Joe's path back to the IF. For that, a suspension is clearly warranted, usually one game for the first offense.

So, let's say that the first game of the seven Pap can't partake in is for contacting an ump. That means that MLB suspended him 6 games for the gesture, which he says was adjusting himself. Let's put that in perspective:
  • Hitting a batter costs 5 games (a la Hamels vs. Harper)
  • Pineda got 10 for pine tar on neck (he kept his salary).
  • Sosa got 7-8 for the corked bat.
  • Brawls result in suspensions ranging from 1-2 games for coaches/ managers to 7 games for the players whose actions caused the brawl.
So, in MLB's view, this is worse than hitting a guy on purpose/ instigating in a brawl and as bad as cheating. I think MLB has mixed up priorities. Still, it does not excuse Pa's behavior. Pap accepted his suspension, which isn't a bad thing in the long run - shows he accepts the consequences for his behavior.

Now, I have one questoon to ask & I'll also give my opinion on it: Did Pap deserve the boos?

Here's why he did deserve the boos:
  • Blows 4-1 lead in 9th.
  • Says he'll accept/ request trade to contender & questions front office decision-making.
  • Makes other inflammatory comments from time to time.
Here's why he didn't deserve them:
  • 2.48 ERA, 104 saves, and 88% success rate in three seasons with the Phils entering Sunday
  • Came into Sunday's game with near-1.5 ERA for 2014 (ERA inflated by 0.6 runs with BS)
On the field, when the Phillies have a lead entering the 9th inning, I trust the Phillies to hold the lead 90% of the time, and that's because I know Pap has an 88% save pctg. w/ the Phillies. It seems that the fans are not willing to overlook his off-the-field comments, that most seek an opportunity to boo him. I don't think that's fair. He is overpriced & controversial, yes; however, he finishes our games successfully ~90% of the time.

I will gladly approve if the Phils trade him, but I won't ask for him to be traded just to trade a player. It needs to be for the right price: Pap & 50% of salary for A+ prospect is a good deal. More on roster moves in the pitching considerations for 2015 entry coming this month. For now, enjoy the games, what little there is to enjoy about the Phils. Who knows what the last two weeks hold with a full roster. Might see something cool: Franco, Giles, Gonzalez, and perhaps a winning record for September.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How to Handle Howard

Ryan Howard is out of the line-up today: Maikel Franco gets his first career start at 1B, batting 2nd, with Byrd in the clean-up spot and Ruf protecting him in the 5-hole. Right now, in 147 team games, Howard appeared in all but seven (7), and has 21 HRs & 92 RBIs, putting him on-pace for 23 HRs & 101 RBIs. We all know that Howard stinks: He has the most opportunities to drive in runs, but only does so in about 16% of his PAs, one of the lowest rates in the majors. Why? He strikes out in 26.7% of his plate appearances in those situations. It's clear the Phillies need to go in a new direction, but he's owed a minimum of $60MM over the next two-plus years ($25MM per year for 2015 & 2016 plus $10MM buyout for 2017): Very tough to move. So, what can the Phillies do? There are three options: trade him, buy him out, or keep him. The latter looks the most likely with a trade a distant possibility. Let's break each one down:

  1. Trade him: Ok, his contract is immovable, even if he drives in 100 batters or more this year. what does he have going for him: he's healthy for the first time since the end of the 2011 season and he has a .371 BABIP w/ RISP. Against him: high K-rate, low RBI/OPP rate, no speed on bases, and terrible fielding. So, the only option is to send him to the AL so he can DH. The only way this happens is if the Phillies eat at least 50 of the 60 million dollars left on his contract.
  2. Buy Him Out: This will cost the Phillies more than the $60MM he's owed due to luxury tax considerations despite the Phillies' new long-term broadcasting deal. Need I say more? It's not happening. Maybe in 2016 when he's owed $35MM and a LOT more contracts expire, but that doesn't help them this year.
  3. Play him: This is what they'll have to do if Howard's here on 4/6/2015. I don't see a trade and he's not being released, so do play him, but a lot less and at least have him bat 6th or 7th in the order (hitting streak the only exception). We have the players to spell him: Ruf; Utley possibly; and from the 2nd trimester/ half onward, Maikel Franco. Maybe he'll take extra BP and improve. Heck, he's a much better pinch-hitter anyway. One thing's for certain: he's no longer an everyday player, particularly in the games before the All-Star Break.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Phillies Winning since 7/24, 2015 Line-Up Considerations

Overall Record: 65-75 (.464)
O.D. to 7/24: 43-58 (.426)
7/24 to 9/5: 22-17 (.564)

Nice rebound and all those wins are the result of playing fundamental baseball! An 81-81 record won't happen given that the Phils are facing playoff-bound opponents the rest of the year (22 games left). Not sure they can win more than 14 of those, but anything more than 8 wins gives them a better record than last year: glass half-full. As stated in previous entries, the pitching has improved greatly over the course of the year, which I'll talk about in terms of 2015 later. But today, I'll break down the position players in defensive order (2-9). Here is what the front office & Sandberg need to consider next year to have more/ continued (?) success:

  1. Rotation & 'Pen: Expect a pitching entry later this month.
  2. Catchers: Expect Ruiz to be the primary catcher and relieved as normal (day game before/ after night game/ extra innings, etc.). I expect & hope Rupp is our back-up, so look for more caught stealings while all other categories, especially rapport w/ pitching staff, remain sound & steady.
  3. First Base: Expect Howard & Ruf to split time here, then factor in Franco. Howard needs to rest more (3 days off per week) and start hitting 5th or 6th in the order, especially in the first half.
  4. Second Base: Chase, over the past two years, has certainly proven he can remain healthy and be productive, however, Sandberg must rest him more often. A day off per week with Galvis, Hernandez, and even Asche as back-ups will guarantee Chase a .300 avg for the season.
  5. Third Base: Asche is still in development and Franco had a slow start in AAA last year, so giving these players a half-year of 500-PA-pace play will benefit the organization greatly. Franco is the better player overall, but I see .280 AVG with sound 3B defense in Asche in future years. And yes, do put Asche in at 2B & LF in Spring Training b/c Franco will be a Phillie sometime in 2015.
  6. Shortstop: Rollins has certainly bounced back by hitting more line drives vs. pop-ups and can still flash the leather. Rest him once or twice per week, too, so he can be most productive.
  7. Left Field: I think a platoon between Brown & Ruf with cameos by Revere & Asche is the best course here. I think Brown will bounce back: he knows what to do to hit more. With Ruf splitting time at 1B and Brown no longer an everyday option, keeping Grady Sizemore may be a good option, especially for the 1st half of the season.
  8. Center Field: The NL batting title for Revere with screws in his ankle? That's gettin' it done! However, I don't think Revere is an everyday player, especially in CF (bad routes, weakish arm). Moving Byrd here and Revere to a corner spot is probably the best course for the team.
  9. Right Field: Kudos to RAJ for signing Byrd as he certainly stabilized a least one OF position compared to last year, albeit overvalued by 1-3 million bucks. I think the OF is set, but trades may complicate matters. However, all the OFs can play more than one OF position (something to try in S.T.), so there's some flexibility. I'd say keep Sizemore as a means to an end: player development.
So, the theme: Go young, Phillies! Develop the players at a fast rate and get them more playing time in the majors. Yes, you're bound to the aging veterans a bit, but you know who they are as players. You still have more info to gather on the under-30-YO players.

Today: 4 PM game... Phils at Nats on CSN.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sept. 1 Update: Combined No-No, Roster Expansion

Wow! What a game! Not many good things happening in a loosing season, but Phinally, Cole Hamels has his no hitter. It wasn't a pretty outing for him with 108 pitches in 6 innings, one hit batsman and FIVE walks, but he kept the hitters from making hard contact, except for the 3rd inning fly ball snagged by a diving Marlon Byrd. The bullpen - Diekman, Giles, and Papelbon - did its job, striking out five in three consecutive 1-2-3 innings. It was the first combined no-no for the team and the eleventh (11th) combined no-hitter in MLB history (first since the Mariners in 2012). It was the Phillies first no-hitter since Roy Halladay's NLDS no-no vs. the Reds at CBP. The Phillies won the game 7-0 and the team dedicated a game ball to recovering President Dave Montgomery, who's taking a leave of absence.


Another awesome story are the Taney Dragons, who were the third-best team in the LLWS this year. I'd like to congratulate them on their spectacular season and wish them all the best in the future! I'm sure we all hope they stick with baseball, but I certainly will be happy if they're happy with their choices, whether they stay with the sport, go to another sport, or do something on the academic side of things.



The Phillies went with a 25-man roster in that game as the Ironpigs had one more game to play. The Phillies have been preparing for the expansion by trading 1B-OF John Mayberry, Jr. to the Blue Jays (one of his dad's former teams) and transferring Cliff Lee to the 60-Day DL. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer has at least two sources confirming our suspicions that the Mayberry trade was to free up a roster spot for 1B-3B Maikel Franco to be promoted Tuesday. Moving Lee to the 60-Day DL allows the Phillies to promote Tony Gwynn, Jr., who was released then re-signed to a minor league contract shortly after returning from his dad's funeral. May your dad continue to RIP, Tony.

Other call-ups will likely include: Mike Adams (60-Day DL), P Miguel Gonzalez, C Cameron Rupp, and IF Cesar Hernandez. It is possible that than P Etan Martin, P Hector Neris, and OF Aaron Alther will be called up after their cups of coffee earlier this year.

Also, Amaro hinted at a probable start of a long rebuild with clever roster moves like the trades that sent Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers and Mayberry to Toronto in order to free up space for "new blood." Speaking of a rebuild, I would like to revise my estimate from a two-year process to a by-mid-2017, especially considering that J.P. Crawford won't be ready until Sept. 2016.



There have been many mistakes made by Ryne this year, which is normal for a 1st-year manager. I had hoped he'd be able to squeeze every possible win out of this roster, but his decisions have been questioned by almost every player on the roster and also by fans & media. He has been making a lot of bad decisions, very similar to decisions that Manuel made late in his career: playing certain players (mainly the aging veterans) too much over the younger guys, pulling starting pitchers early, keeping them in too long, using the wrong guy out of the bullpen. This is normal, but it's hard to blame Sandberg for the loosing record: I blame Amaro and the stone-age-of-stats front office. So, what went wrong for the Phillies? Let's grade four "groups":

Ruben Amaro, Jr.: F+. Largely a failure, but his signings of Jon Papelbon, Marlon Byrd, & Carlos Ruiz are panning out as expected (hence the plus). I'm glad he finally has come around to the idea of a rebuild, but despite the clever trades mentioned earlier, I (and most fans) don't trust him to rebuild smartly.

Ryne Sandberg: D+/C-. He would still have a loosing record even if he'd made better decisions, but that's no reason to pull the plug on him. It's too early for that, so FIRE RUBEN!!!

Starting Line-Ups: F+/D-. Inconsistency has been the story this year, especially considering the lack of offense. However, the team continues to show flashes of brilliance. While they've limited the no. of errors this season, most games with errors have resulted in losses. New blood and 130 starts for the "everyday" players will greatly benefit the team in 2015.

Pitching: C/C-. The team's 3.92 ERA is 10th-worse in MLB & 3rd-worse in NL, but most of the bad stuff happened in the first quarter. Most of the personnel on 9/2 roster, which had been largely successful during this span, will return next year. I predict continued success for most in 2015.

Enjoy the rest of the season. Future entries: individual grades, roster moves for 2015, top moments, a mid-month update (poss.), big news items, etc.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Prospect News

On Aug. 7th, the Phillies sent Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers for two players (A-level prospect) to be named later in a waiver trade. The Dodgers gave the Phillies a list of players to scout and the Phillies chose their first of two prospects: IF Jesmuel Valenti. He was (at the time of his selection) the Dodgers' 13th-best prospect. He plays primarily 2B but also SS and will report to Clearwater (the Phillies high-A affiliate). Amaro indicated that Valenti will play primarily 2B, but I think he should be made into a utility guy (1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF) given that he may be blocked at 2B by Utley's contract potentially vesting thru 2017.

Amaro also indicated that more waiver deals are possible.

Other prospect news:
  • Biddle returned to AA mound Sat. but exits with strained quad... final line: L, 3.2 IP, 2 R...
  • Phillies release IronPigs P Jo-Jo Reyes (1-3, 10.45 ERA).
  • Dugan & Franco tearing up minors lately, may earn Sept. call-up.
Giants' series results: lost series 2-1.
  1. 5-3 comeback win in 10 innings
  2. Errors, ineffective pitching lead to Giants' come-from-behind, 6-5 victory
  3. Phillies score first, but Buchannan can't hold lead. Score: 5-2 Giants.
Phillies go 1-4 on CA trip; face Mariners at CBP. Pitching Match-ups:
  1. 7 PM 8/18: Elias vs. Williams
  2. 7 PM 8/19: Iwakuma vs. Burnett
  3. 1 PM 8/20: Paxton vs. Hamels

Friday, August 15, 2014

Low Team Slugging Pctg Not Entirely Players' Fault

I've been playing around with the offensive stats from this and years past. I had a thought one day that this year's cool temps were a factor in the team's low slugging percentage and looked back as far as 2008 for context. The Phillies' offense has declined over the years, evidenced by scoring less & less runs and going shallower into the postseason each year since the Championship Parade despite good pitching. However, as a meteorologist, I knew the cool weather is affecting most of the nation, so I looked at team slugging stats. Here are the highest team slugging percentages per season since 2008, ranked from lowest to highest:
  1. 2014 (.441)
  2. 2013 (.446)
  3. 2012 (.453)
  4. 2010 (.454)
  5. 2011 (.461)
  6. 2008 (.462)
  7. 2009 (.478)

2014 is the lowest over the past 7 years. This summer has been cool. I won't get too deep into the meteorological aspects, but take this "stat": Philadelphia has only had about seven days with highs at or above 90°, well below avg. Now, we know that pitching has been stellar over the past years, so you cannot blame just cool weather, but many hitting experts & managers (Charlie Manuel was one) call the summer months "hitting season," which is made true by the fact that air density is inversely proportional to temperature, so as temp. incr., air density decreases and balls fly further as a result. So, with lower temps this summer, the air density hasn't decreased much over the past few months, which is not much help to hitters trying to get those doubles & homers.


As for the Phillies' batting woes, it's hard to blame the weather & good pitching. Given the low slugging pctgs. league-wide, it's not a big problem that the team can't score runs via homers & doubles. The major issue is the lack of hitting w/ runners in scoring position (RISP). Their .243 batting average w/ RISP is 20th in the majors & 9th in the NL. I looked at IBBs, K-rate & BABIP (Batting Avg. on Balls In Play), to gauge whether this is due to lack of skill or bad luck. The team's .285 BABIP w/ RISP is a little low (usually the league avg. each year is .290-.300) but not excessive. The team's 21.6% K-rate  w/ RISP is 3rd-highest in the NL, and that's why this team is not driving in runs. They lack the skill to put balls in play.

Here's something interesting. The team (in RISP situations) is ranked 4th w/ 34 batters walked intentionally, with Chase Utley's (3rd in the batting order) 9 IBB ranked 10th in MLB. Ryan Howard's (batting 4th in the order) 28.8% K-rate w/ RISP is the 8th highest rate in MLB. So, this strategy of walking Utley to face Howard is working well for teams. It didn't pay off for the Astros, but it has worked well before that. It's clear that Howard, unless he's on a tear/ roll, should be placed further down in the lineups from now on.

That's all for now. Tonight, the Phillies take on the Giants at 10:15 PM ET (7:15 PM PT) with Hamels (6-6, 2.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.99 K/9) facing Bumgarner (12-9, 3.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.78 K/9).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Phillies Trade News

The Phillies did nothing in late July despite clearly being sellers & having pretty much every player on the active roster up for grabs. The Phillies had opportunities but lucrative contracts with vesting options & limited no-trade clauses (NTC), five-and-ten-rights, and a high asking price that Amaro (RAJ) would not lower; precluded deals from happening. He blamed other teams but need only look in a mirror to see who to blame.

Why do I say that? Why is he to blame? Well, with rumors this specific, opportunity certainly knocked, but RAJ did not bite:

  • The Reds had interest in both Byrd & Bastardo. The only thing blocking a trade is money-to-include vs. prospects (Byrd owed $11MM not including option and Bastardo was set to make up to $5MM thru 2015 (last year of arbitration)). This package could have net the Phillies two prospects, one of which could’ve been in AA. Amaro didn’t bite, probably because he wouldn’t send over enough cash.
  • Hernandez, Pap, Burnett & Kendrick drew interest but Amaro asked for one major-league-ready prospect. That price was too high for these players: Hernandez & KK are half-year rentals; Pap is overpriced at $13MM/yr; and Burnett is a ? next year with that sliding player option. Even if RAJ agreed to pay the whole contract, he still would only net an A-level prospect for each. At least he redeemed himself with Thursday’s Hernandez-to-Dodgers trade for two low-level prospects.
  • Player performances and injuries played a role in RAJ trying to shop these next guys: Revere, Brown, Lee, & Howard. Revere & Brown are cheap & weren’t as actively shopped as many others but Rube was willing to listen to the initial offer. There was hardly any interest from teams because Brown was struggling offensively & Revere is, at best, a two-tool OF (singles & diving catches). Howard’s $60MM ($25MM in 2015-6 & $10MM buyout for 2017) was unmovable given his post 2009 struggles. And Lee was the Phillies’ best trade chip until the elbow injury (he won’t return this season as of the Aug. 6 update).
  • And finally came Cole Hamels. He drew interest from the Dodgers & Red Sox in July and was claimed by the Cubs this week before being pulled back due to no trade agreement. The asking price was three top prospects. While it is a high price for a $100MM-in-the-2nd-half-of-his-prime ace southpaw, especially mid-season, I do think RAJ was in the right to ask for top prospects… perhaps maybe not a team’s top guys, but maybe the top lefty starting pitching prospect and 2nd-best IF & OF prospects. I personally would like to see the team rebuild around Hamels & Utley (he & Rollins also drew interest but weren’t willing to waive their 10-&-5 rights): The Bridge to the Next Era of Phillies Baseball.

So, Amaro squandered trade opportunities because he was set on getting major-league-ready players for aging veterans & rental players. Sounds like the Phillies need a new GM.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

First Half Grades; Trade Deadline & 2nd Half Outlook

The Phillies are about ten games under .500 and about ten games back of both the division crown & wild card spots. While many of the players want to stay and think they can win at least 44 of the next 67 games in order to reach the postseason... I don't think they can. This team's inconsistent play, especially on offense, is their Achillies heel (sorry for the reference, Howard). I'm finally convinced that the Phillies are not contenders. Thus, it is time to sell off a few pieces at the deadline & spend the next two years rebuilding through trades & player development.

I say two years is a reasonable estimate for the rebuild as we'll have Hamels (prob.), Nola, Biddle, Morgan, Pettibone, Buchannan; Crawford, Hernandez, Ruf, Brown (poss.), Revere (poss.), Rollins (poss.), Utley (prob.), Asche, Franco, Rupp, Joseph, Valle (poss.), Galvis; Bastardo (poss.) Giles, Diekman, Martin, Gonzalez, and De Fratus in the majors or a half-year away from the majors at the two-year mark. Many of the prospects, so far, have either panned out or are in the "so far, so good" category. And many experts seem to agree, putting our farm system in the middle of the pack and improving. There is definitely even more room for improvement, which includes better scouting through incr. use of advanced stats (OBP, WAR, BABIP, SIERRA, (x)FIP, etc.) and getting back into the intl market (think Franco, Chooch, Bastardo, & Gonzalez).

I hope that circumstances allow for a slow & steady rebuild over the next two years... and I think they might. The big contracts dwindle at the same time that players in the minors appear to be ready to replace them: Crawford for Rollins via Galvis & Hernandez; Buchannan for Kendrick. It is my hope that Sandberg's contract is renewed in two years: he will probably have three loosing seasons to start his big league managerial career... but I think that is more on Rube than Ryne. Anyway, enough of this overview... I'm going to grade the team:

  • Offense: F+/D-
    • The offense has been inconsistent throughout the year, although an occasional flash of brilliance. They're hitting .229 w/ RISP (worst since 1972) & have a .300 OBP & .362 SLG.
  • Pitching: B
    • Both the rotation & bullpen have improved between the 1st two quarters. The rotation has a 3.99 ERA - a bit less due to loss of Lee & lack of early-in-game run support (trying to be too perfect). The bullpen has finally come around, evidenced by its 2.74 ERA in the 2nd quarter & 9.27 K/9 ratio overall.
  • Team Grade: D
Projected Final Record: 74-88 (currently on-pace for 71-91 record)

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23rd Update: A Stellar Two Weeks

This team is showing signs of life in a very weak NL East. They went 5-2 on the road trip and have the best record in the NL East dating back two weeks. Yeah, this team is not a contender in any other division, but the difference between first & last in the NL East is 5.0 games entering Monday (the smallest margin of all divisions in MLB). So, there's a chance. Before I talk about the performance of the Phillies, I will start by predicting the NL East race.

The Mets & Marlins have certainly made things interesting, but without their No. 1 starters this year - Matt Harvey & Jose Fernandez, respectively - because of Tommy John Surgery... it's probably impossible for them to sustain their recent success. The Braves got off to a hot start this year but loosing four pitchers to injuries & an offense dominated by high-K players have finally caught up with them. The Nats have a lot of good players but, like the Phillies, haven't put it together yet. The Nats are 17-13 vs. division opponents, but .500 against everyone else. I think that they will get things going soon, but how long until that happens & will Philly or Atlanta catch up to them before hand? We shall see.

Anyway, how good have the Phillies been the past two weeks? Very good but also somewhat lucky defensively. They've been doing better fundamentally (fielding with few errors, hitting better w/ RISP, starting pitchers going deeper into games, an improved bullpen, better baserunning, etc.), but balls in play have been hit at people the last two weeks. The Cardinals' batted balls found more holes this past series, so the bad luck appears to be coming the Phillies' way in that regard. Will that trend continue? Per the Law of Averages, it probably will - for a short period anyway. Let's look at other aspects of the game... offense & pitching.

The bottom half of the order, filled mostly with inexperienced hitters was the biggest problem for the Phillies this year with the bullpen (particularly the rookies & sophomores) a close second. The young guys in the line-up and the bullpen have finally started performing, the former providing protection to the veteran-filled top half of the line-up.

The bullpen appears to have finally come around. Performing well in the middle of the year, when the games matter more, is a lot different than what these guys are used to the last two years: the spoilers' role. The relief core, over the past 14 days, have pitched to a 0.93 ERA (best in MLB in that span), a 3.8% HR/FB rate (4th lowest in MLB), a 10.86 K/9 (best in the NL & 2nd in MLB behind the Red Sox), and an 8.75 K/BB ratio (best in MLB). That's not sustainable over the 88 reg. season games remaining, but certainly a good sign. A lot of the problems stemmed from a high workload, resulting in days in which at least one player (Papelbon, in particular) was unavailable. The rest certainly appears to be helping. Deikman, about three weeks ago, attributed more rest to reaching 100 mph.

If the team can build off of this momentum and take advantage of a weak division while it can, the more likely it is that this team will get more All-Stars and that the front office will keep this team together come late-July. As I said, we won't see this level of success for much longer, but in this division, anything can happen. For now, enjoy the recent success and go Phils!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why Four Phillies Should Play in All Star Game

Before I make the case to send four Phillies to the All-Star Game, I would like to extend my condolences to the Gwynn family on the loss of Tony to salivary gland cancer at the age of 54. Mr. Padre enjoyed a Hall of Fame career with a .338 AVG over 20 seasons, all with the San Diego Padres. He became the head coach at San Diego State University... coaching players like Steven Strasburg & his son, current Phillies reserve OF, Tony Gwynn, Jr. Rest in Peace, Mr. Padre!


As of Monday's update, Chase Utley leads fan balloting at 2B by over 680,000 votes. He's currently in a bit of a funk, but has been one of the most consistent, if not the most consistent, hitter on the team this year. He currently holds a .303 AVG and leads all 2B in many offensive categories. If this stands, Utley would make his sixth career ASG, all starts from 2006-2010. It looks like that will happen.

Unfortunately, the Phillies' current performance is dismal and it looks like that will continue right on through to the All Star Game as every team they face between now and a week before the trade deadline has an above-.500 record (only the Pirates are under but by only one game). However, three other Phillies players are having very good years. They include closer Jonathan Papelbon, outfielder Marlon Byrd, and the newest franchise hits leader, shortstop Jimmy Rollins (congrats, man!).

Papelbon has bounced back nicely from a rough opening series in Arlington, Texas. In 25 games (25.0 IP) since the blown save on April 2nd, he is 2-0, 0.36 ERA, 15/15 in Saves, 0.80 WHIP (doesn't include three hit-batsmen), 21 Ks to 7 BB for 3:1 K/BB & 7.56 K/9.0 ratios. He has recently earned his 300th & 301st career saves and is the 2nd fastest to reach those marks. I hope he gets to celebrate that in Minnesota.

Marlon Byrd was brought in via free agency to stabilize the RF situation and he has done just that. Offensively, he is hitting a slash line of .261/.316/.470 w/ 10 HRs, 38 RBIs, and a 28.8% K/PA rate. He is on-pace for 24 HRs & 92 RBIs. Defensively, he's fielding at a .993 clip and has two OF assists. Offensively, his high K-rate (28.8% season vs. 18.6% career) is a sign that he's been playing too many consecutive games, which Sandberg acknowledged a couple of weeks ago. Still, a great season so far for him.

Jimmy Rollins definitely has been bouncing back from the worst offensive season of his career. Last year, he hit .252/.318/.348 w/ 65 R, 22 SB, 6 HR, and a .667 OPS. This year, he's hitting .249/.343/.400 and on-pace for 80-90 runs scored, 25-30 SB, 20 HRs, and his .743 OPS would equal his 2001 near-ROY campaign. What better way to celebrate taking sole possession of 1st place on the franchise hits list in a bounce-back year than an All-Star nod?

I'd also like to add that Ryan Howard is holding his own. He has a slash line of .231/.302/.401 and is on-pace for 30-31 HR & at least 105 RBIs. He's striking out in 30.9% of his PAs, which is higher than his career K-rate of 28%, but he's in-line for a bounce-back year with those numbers. Yes, we'd love for him to mash 40+ HRs & 150+ RBIs, but this production, combined with Utley & Byrd, is certainly enough from the 3-5 hitters to win games.

With performances like these, why can't the Phillies send more players to the Mid-Summer Classic? Well, the team, overall is not doing well. If I had to choose one of these players to join Utley in the festivities, it'd be Papelbon with his 301 career saves and 100% save-percentage since the Texas series.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Twenty-Game Stretch, 2014 Draft

Well, 20 games in 20 days have told me one thing: non-contenders. The Phillies have a -54 run differential and have fallen to ten games under .500. You can't win more games than you loose with that run differential and that is exactly what's happening. For me, the biggest problem with the team is the inconsistent offense, then the bullpen, which lost Mike Adams (shoulder) the other day. A lot of this falls on the shoulders of Ruben Amaro, Jr. and his poor roster decisions. Now, he was right this past off-season about one thing offensively: if healthy, the veterans will produce... and that is coming to fruition w/ Utley a near-lock to start at 2B in the All-Star Game, Howard on-pace to hit 31 HRs & 115 RBIs, and Rollins near a career high in OBP. The problem is the under-30-yr-old players, especially Dom Brown. They haven't torn the cover off the ball yet. Another problem with the offense is the bench... except for Nieves' ~.260-hitting production & Mayberry's seven pinch hits (three HRs). These guys fail at even getting on-base. Unfortunately, Amaro gave big contracts out, limiting his ability to sign players to even moderate contracts. Another problem... the minor league system. While it has improved slightly over the past few years, it still is filled with mostly busts, forcing the Phillies to select college players with 63% of their picks this year with LSU righty & former 22nd round pick (2011) Aaron Nola taken at #7.

What's next for the Phillies? Time to rebuild. See what your top prospects can do. Unfortunately, some of them are now injured.

And would David Montgomery please fire Ruben Amaro, Jr.

The Phillies will begin (on Tuesday) a stretch of 21 games in 20 days. HELP!!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Series Review: Phillies vs. Reds

Well, why can't the Phillies hit this well in every game? Even scoring 4-5 runs per game than the 10-per-game-average this weekend would be nice! After Kendrick gave up a three-run homer in the 1st inning Friday, he settled down nicely - 6 scoreless innings and a stretch in which he retired 15 straight - but the offense gave him no runs. It was more of the same for the season: 0-8 w/ RISP & 9 LOB. And it looked like a similar story on Saturday: Cole Hamels gave up an RBI Fielder's Choice Groundout in the 1st & the offense threatened in the bottom of the 1st but failed to score the runner from third. But then came the fourth inning: six runs scored on a 2-run 2B by Cody Asche, a 2-run shot by Dom Brown, and RBI singles by Carlos Ruiz & Chase Utley. And the scoring didn't stop there: five runs scored in the 7th inning & then Cesar Hernandez hit his 1st career HR in the 8th. Cole Hamels went six scoreless innings, including an immaculate (3 Ks, 9 pitches) 3rd, after the 23-pitch first to earn his 100th career victory & first since 9/14. Congrats, Cole & Cesar! On Sunday, 1st-inning woes continued for the starters: this time it was Lee allowing the Reds' 5th and 6th 1st inning runs of the series (six runs in three first innings for an 18.00 ERA). However, there was no worrying wait for Lee... Rollins hit his 46th career lead-off HR & Nieves followed with a solo shot in the next AB. Lee went 6 scoreless innings & the offense scored six more runs (four on HRs by Byrd & Asche) to win the game and series. What a weekend!

Ryne Sandberg had a different line-up this weekend. Ben Revere was out with a stomach bug and Rollins hit lead-off for the first time this season. Revere has a .284 OBP vs. Rollins' .369 OBP in the two-hole. Sandberg wouldn't say whether Rollins would bat lead-off if Revere was in but he did say a change was needed. Revere was not only costing the team runs with the bat, but he had some rough games in center. He is doing better & should be ready to play again tomorrow (they have off today & head to Miami tonight). Another change: Asche went from batting 8th to 6th. After hitting .200/.284/.300 in April, he's hitting .333 w/ a .418 OBP, 3 HR & 5 2B in 14 May games. Brown is also producing after being moved down to 7th from batting 6th. And the catchers have moved to the two-hole after batting 7th for most of the year.

Defense had a bump in the road last few weeks, with Revere being the main culprit and Asche's three-error night also a problem. Revere's days off should give him a fresh start. And according to Corey Seidman of & PhilliesNation TV, Asche responded well to a chat with Hall-of-Fame 3B Mike Schmidt.

The bullpen did well, too: 6.1 innings and one run (by Mike Adams on Sunday). I'm hopeful they also turned a corner but Sandberg is over-relying on four of the relievers & had the opportunity (by lots of off-days) to use Roberto Hernandez in there. It's time for Sandberg to make a change there by using Luis Garcia more - perhaps the 6th or 7th inning. I don't think Garcia has appeared in more than two games since his call-up from AAA!

We're 41 games (or 25%) into the season and the "it's-too-early-in-the-season" excuses are done. Let's hope the Phillies can excel in the 2nd quarter of 2014 as the margin of error narrows and the trade deadline nears. Right now, the whole team is off to a great start, but it gets tricky: 55 games in 56 days coming up! I'll have updates periodically.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Phils Slide; Now Four-Under-.500

Injury Updates:
  • IF Freddy Galvis: A few days after being demoted to AAA for lackluster offense, IF Galvis sustained a broken clavicle the other day on a play at the plate. He will require major surgery to repair it and will miss 6-8 weeks at least. Cesar Hernandez had been recalled from AA Reading and has a much-improved defense.
  • 1B-LF Darin Ruf (oblique): He will continue to rehab in AAA now and will be activated when his bat is hot & glove is ok. No need to rush him, especially considering what happened with Galvis.
  • P Ethan Martin (shoulder): He is also rehabbing with AAA and will be in the bullpen this year.
  • P Miguel Gonzalez (shoulder): He is rehabbing in extended spring games and remains on the 60-Day DL.
  1. Braves (22-16)
  2. Nats (20-19) - 2.5 gms back
  3. Marlins (20-20) & Mets (19-19) - 3.0 gms back
  4. PHILLIES (17-21) - 5.0 gms back
Wild Card: PHILLIES are 3.5 gms back of Dodgers w/ 6 teams ahead of them.


The bullpen is killing this team. It looks like the Phillies need another arm there ,especially after three players were unavailable Sunday and Bastardo can't seem to get it done. This is the top area of concern for the team. Defense is starting to suffer again with Revere & Asche as the recent culprits, although the team overall has been doing a lot better than the first 14 games. Fortifying the bench is also necessary, but it'd say the bullpen is the most critical. Offense continues to do well getting on-base but struggles to hit with men on. Many players are now in the midst of slumps, but are doing better than last year. Starting pitching is solid, although the team's overall sub-.500 performance seems to be carrying a bit more weight in the minds of the starting 5. It continues to look like the Phillies are not contenders this year and will have to sell in July.

Next up: A day off tomorrow, then three vs. Reds, then a day off & three @ Miami, and then 11 games at home thru June 2.

Next entry: Looks like I'll do one after the Dodgers series (5/23-5/25).

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Current Standings: Tight NL East Race as Braves Slip

NL East:
  1. Nats (18-14)
  2. Braves (17-14) - 0.5 gm back (lost seven straight)
  3. Marlins (17-15) - 1.0 gm back
  4. Mets (16-15) - 1.5 gms back
  5. PHILLIES (15-15) - 2.0 gms back
NL Wild Card:
  1. Rockies (20-14) - 1.5-gm advantage
  2. Braves (17-14) & Dodgers (18-15)
  3. Marlins (17-15) - 0.5 gm back
  4. Mets (16-15) & Cards (17-16) - 1.0 gm back
  5. PHILLIES (15-15) - 1.5 gms back
  6. Reds (15-16) - 2.0 gms back
  7. Padres (15-18) - 3.0 gms back
  8. Pirates (12-20) & Cubs (11-19) - 5.5 gms back
  9. D'Backs (11-24) - 8.0 gms back
AL Wild Card - a fairly tight race there, too!
  1. Rangers (17-15) - 0.5-gm advantage
  2. O's (15-14), Angels (16-15), & Yankees (16-15)
  3. Twins & Mariners (both sitting at 15-15) - 0.5 gm back
  4. White Sox (16-17) - 1.0 gm back
  5. Red Sox, Rays, & Blue Jays (all are at 15-17) - 1.5 gms back
  6. Royals (14-17) - 2.0 gms back
  7. Indians (13-19) - 3.5 gms back
  8. Astros (10-22) - 6.5 gms back
Expect my bi-weekly evaluation of the Phils on the 12th (off-day for the team).

Sunday, April 27, 2014

4/27 - Good Road Record

Phillies ended their west coast road trip with a 6-4 record (1-2 vs. Rockies; 3-1 vs. Dodgers; and 2-1 vs. D'backs) to bring their overall road record to 9-7. They are now 13-12 this season - 4th in NL East (4.5 games behind Braves) and one game back of the 2nd Wild Card - and fully healthy after activating Hamels on Wed. the 23rd. Things are looking up, but they definitely showed inconsistencies this year in all facets of the game: offense, pitching & defense... although pitching & defense have improved since the 15th. They have a day off tomorrow and then play the Mets in a two-game set at home. A day off precedes three games vs. the Nats and a four-game home-and-home series with the Blue Jays. A sweep of the Mets will be key here as they are 2nd in the NL east & represent the 2nd wild card.

Other notes:
  • The Phillies play 28 games from 5/2 to 6/1; 27 games 6/3 to 6/29; and 13 games from 7/1 to the All-Star Break
  • The All-Star & HR Derby ballots are now available
  • Injury update: Ethan Martin (shoulder) pitched to Darin Ruf (oblique) the other day.
  • Ryan Howard did not hit for the cycle as Joe Torre did not approve the Phillies' request to have the 1B & E9 overturned.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/15/14: Two Weeks In

NL East Standings:
  • Atlanta Braves (9-4)
  • Wash. Nationals (8-5, 1.0 GB)
  • Phila. Phillies & NY Mets (6-7, 3.0 GB)
  • Miami Marlins (5-9, 4.5 GB)
Phillies Injury Updates:
  • P A.J. Burnett (hernia) - will undergo off-season surgery
  • OF Ben Revere (sore ribs) - available to play
  • IF-OF Freddy Galvis (15-Day DL, MRSA) - activated Friday
  • P Mike Adams (15-Day DL, shoulder) - activated Today
  • P Cole Hamels (15-Day DL, shoulder) - set to return c. 4/22 or 4/27
  • OF-1B Darin Ruf (15-Day DL, oblique) - to begin baseball activities this week
  • P Jon Pettibone (shoulder trouble in S.T.) - made spot start on Saturday
  • P Miguel Gonzalez (60-Day DL, shoulder) - rehabbing in minors
  • P Ethan Martin (15-Day DL, shoulder) - no update
Games Recap:

Defense has been horrible this year. They are tied for last in majors in fielding pctg (.972) & errors (14), and have given up 12 unearned runs in 13 games. The team was ok in spring training, so it stands to reason that the law of averages will kick in as the season goes on and as the team gets more chances. Concern: 8/10

The offense has been tremendous in areas in which the team has done poorly in past seasons. They are putting runners on at a tremendous clip yet are struggling (a bit) to score them. Stats:
  • .351 OBP (1st in NL, 2nd in MLB)
  • .273 AVG (3rd in NL, 5th in MLB)
  • .420 SLG (6th in NL, 9th in MLB)
  • .771 OPS (4th in NL, 5th in MLB)
  • 2000 pitches seen (7th-most in majors & 4th-most in NL) 
  • 153.8 pitches per game (140.7 last year)
  • 3.88 pitches per PA (3.79 in 2013)
  • 39.7 plate appearances (PA) per game (37.1 last year)
  • .279 AVG w/ RISP (.252 last year)
  • 4.77 RPG (3.77 in 2013)
Utley and Ruiz are a big part of the team's offensive success and Howard's slow start is probably the biggest contribution to the team's small-yet-noticeable RISP issues, but I'm not concerned about Howard given his history of terrible Aprils, especially after hitting two HRs in the past two games. As for the team... as long as they continue to get chances by putting runners on and taking pitches, they'll score runs. Concern: 4/10

The starting pitching has been troublesome (6 Quality Starts, 4.05 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 7.51 K/9, 3.69 BB/9), but the bullpen has been even worst (5.53 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.91 K/9, 4.28 BB/9, 1.85 K/BB, 3 BS). With bounce-back outings from a few of its guys, Adams activated and Hamels on the way, the Phillies look to improve in this area soon. Until then, it looks like high-scoring games resulting in more losses than wins will be the norm this season. Concern: 7/10

Schedule (April): 3 vs. Braves; West Coast Trip: 3 @ Rockies, 4 @ Dodgers, 3 @ D'Backs; Off on 28th; then, 2 vs. Mets at home.

Proposed April Record: 16-12 or better -AND/ OR- less than 3.0 games back. They split the Braves series (2-2), go 6-4 out west, and sweep the Mets.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Recap: Opening Day

Wow... what a slug-fest for both teams! Opening Day certainly seems to favor the offense against a team's ace, probably because managers put the "everyday line-up" out there to perform. Well, it looks like both offenses were successful, but the Phillies came out on top 14-10. Every Phillie had reached base safely and each was responsible for at least one run (either an RBI or a R scored). Here's the box score:
  • Revere: 3-6, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB, K
  • Rollins: 1-6, GS HR (200th career HR), 4 RBI, R, K
    • 14th consecutive O.D. start at SS for same team (NL record; ties MLB record - Ripken, Jr.)
  • Utley: 3-6, 2B, RBI
  • Howard: 2-5, BB, R, 3 K
  • Byrd: 2-6, HR, RBI, R, K
  • Brown: 1-5, SB, R, K
  • Ruiz: 1-3, 2 BB, 3 R
  • Asche: 3-4, BB, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 4 R
  • Gwynn, Jr.: 0-1, BB, R, K
  • Mayberry, Jr.: 1-2, 2 RBI, 2B
Totals: 17 H, 6 BB, 8 K, 44 AB, 50 PA, 13 RBI, 14 R, 6 XBH (3 2B, 3 HR), 2 SB
Team LOB: 9
Team AVG: .386 (.412 w/ RISP)
Team OBP: .460
Team SLG: .659
Team OPS: 1.119
  • Lee: W, 5 IP, 11 H, 8 R (all earned, ties career high), BB, K, HR
  • Diekman: 1+ IP, H, 2 R (all earned), BB, 2 K
  • Rosenberg: 0.2 IP, 2 H, BB
  • Bastardo: Hold, 1.1 IP, BB
  • Papelbon: 1 IP, K (not a save situation)
Totals: 40 ABA, 44 PAA, 9 IP, 10 R (all earned), 14 H, 4 BB, 4 K, HR

So, what does this mean for the rest of the season? Well, I hate to go on one game, but opening day is said to foreshadow the rest of the season (or something along those lines). So, this means that if these guys are healthy and produce, the Phillies will CERTAINLY contend throughout the year.

Next Up: Today @ 8:05 PM EDT (7:05 PM CDT) - Burnett @ Perez

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ready for 2014? Well, it's almost "do-or-die time"!

The Phillies have finished their work in Florida and are set to take on the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park today (7:05 PM) and tomorrow (1:05 PM). I encourage you to go since there are many promotions/ give-a-ways and you can preview the ballpark’s revamped menu, primarily seen at Harry the K’s. At these games, the Phillies will audition two pitchers for the role of “April’s 5th Starter” (to commence on the 13th) and will be #6 on the depth chart when Hamels returns between April 20 & May 10, probably in April. Before I project the roster, let’s start with the end of Spring Training.

The Phillies did poorly overall in the Spring counting wins & losses, but Spring stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, especially for the veterans. There was improvement at the end of camp – 2-10-2 in 1st 14 games, 7-7-1 in last 15 – but the over-30-YO infielders, key pieces in 2014, showed little signs of improvement. What will be more telling is what happens in the first two weeks, and thanks to injuries, it’d be wise to wait until the end of the month before hitting the panic button. My thinking, however, is that the Phillies are not contenders in 2014 and will need to start unloading contracts in July, but let’s not unload too many players. I don’t want to see the Phillies join the Sixers in mediocrity.

Before I dive into the roster, there is one key component to 2014 that is different than 2013: coaching. We have a new manager in Sandberg who took Charlie Manuel’s guys and won half of their last 40 games played in 2013; now, he’s in control and doing a lot in the clubhouse and on the field (“Fundamentals!”). And he has two coaches new to the Phillies org. (John Mizerock (assist. hitting) & Bob McClure (pitching)). He also has a new tool to keep officiating in check – expanded instant replay. These factors are probably worth 3-6 “wins above replacement” (WAR - a replacement-level team wins 45-50 games) if evaluated like players. And with that said, it is time to preview the 2014 roster & an abbreviated depth chart.

Starting Line-Up (and age) – in fielding order (2-9): C Carlos Ruiz (34), 1B Ryan Howard (33), 2B Chase Utley (34), SS Jimmy Rollins (34), 3B Cody Asche (23), LF Dom Brown (25), CF Ben Revere (25), RF Marlon Byrd (35) - Avg. Age: 30.4

Starting Rotation: LHP Cliff Lee (34), RHP A.J. Burnett (37), LHP Cole Hamels (30) – DL, RHP Kyle Kendrick (28), RHP Roberto Hernandez (32) - Avg. Age: 32.2

Other Starters: Jeff Manship (invitee), Dave Buchannan (invitee), Jon Pettibone (DL), Ethan Martin (Long-Man – on DL), Miguel Gonzalez (60-Day DL), B.J. Rosenberg (Long-Man – on 40-Man), Jesse Biddle (Top Prospect), Adam Morgan (Prospect – Minor League DL)

Bullpen: RHP J. Papelbon (32, CL), LHP Antonio Bastardo (27), RHP Justin De Fratus (25), LHP Jake Deikman (26), RHP Brad Lincoln (28) - Avg. Age: 28.6 (incl. Adams)

Other Bullpen: RHP Mike Adams (34, DL), RHP Ken Giles (100-mph Prospect), RHP Phillipe Aumont, LHP Jeremy Horst, RHP Luis Garcia

Bench: C Wil Nieves (35); IF Cesar Hernandez (23); OF-1B John Mayberry, Jr. (29); OF Tony Gwynn Jr. (30) - Avg. Age: 26.5 (incl. DL & Franco)

Other Bench: IF Freddy Galvis (23, DL), LF-1B Darin Ruf (26, DL), IF Maikel Franco (20, Top Prospect); Catching Depth: Rupp, Joseph, Valle

Disabled List:
  • Cole Hamels (offseason shoulder tendinitis, late April)
  • Jon Pettibone (shoulder, mid-late April)
  • Ethan Martin (shoulder)
  • Miguel Gonzalez (shoulder, 60-Day)
  • Adam Morgan (shoulder surgery, minor league 60-Day DL)
  • Mike Adams (recovery from July shoulder surgery, mid-April)
  • Freddy Galvis (recovery from MRSA, late April)
  • Darin Ruf (oblique, mid-late April)

When Hamels, Adams, Ruf, and Galvis return, the whole team will see a boost. Hamels is our No. 1 starter; Adams was signed to be our RHP set-up man; Ruf provides the power off the bench; and Galvis provides the defense. Furthermore, Ruf can relieve Howard at 1B, and Galvis can relieve Rollins at SS later on in the season… something necessary but a task Manuel was unable/ unwilling to do.

Projected Payroll (season): $189MM – right up against the luxury tax threshold. So, it’s either stand pat (contenders) or sell (non-conteders) at the trade deadline.

My Projected W-L Record: slightly below .500 at ASG; near 81-81 (±7 wins)

Enjoy the season and go Phillies (hopefully)!