Thursday, September 24, 2015

The MacPhail Report: Amaro fired, MacKannin extended, off-season plan

RIP Yoggi Berra.

UPDATE: Phillies leaning toward re-signing OF Jeff Francouer, a move I will approve, if true.

Andy MacPhail, slated to be the Phillies' next president, is now actively making moves. A few weeks ago, he fired long-time GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. (I explored his legacy here) and removed the "interim" tag from MacKanin's job title, extending him through 2016 (includes 2017 club option). Extending Pete is the right move. For the first 2-3 weeks after the All-Star Break, the team had, at one point, the best record in baseball in that span. The move allows the team to focus on the GM search (expected to conclude in one month) & player development.

Speaking of future moves & player development, the latter is the most important mission for the Phillies next year. MacPhail is not planning to make a big splash in Free Agency this year. We already have a future core making progress in the minors, most of those players brought in by Rube. I'd like to congratulate the Reading Fightin' Phils on their ELCS appearance, as well as the Clearwater Threshers & Williamsport Crosscutters on their playoff berths. You have given the Phillies front office and its fans hope. Knock 'em dead throughout our system next year. In fact, some of those players - most notably J.P. Crawford (mid-year) & possibly Biddle and Knapp (in Aug. or Sept.) - will be in the majors next year.

MacPhail has also hinted that Howard will not return this year but will be with the team in Spring Training, unless a trade works out. Personally, I'd release him (as well as Jerome Williams, who has been terrible over the past few weeks). Howard (vs. RHP) & Ruf (vs. LHP) have become a solid platoon at 1B this year, although I've always wanted Ruf to earn the chance to become an everyday player.

I would also like to mention/ predict that next year, especially the first half despite MacKanin as manager, will be pretty ugly as well. Having Maikel Franco & Aaron Nola, getting rid of Aaron Harang & Jerome Williams, and seeing more of our prospects (especially from July onward) will lead to a better record - I'm thinking under 90 losses (not 100). 2017, when the Phillies no longer have any large-AAV, long-term contracts on the books, will probably see about 81 wins (.500 record). This factors in injuries and a 40-50% development success rate. With fewer injuries, less hindrance to prospect development, and a partially-subsequent 70% development rate, I see us in playoff contention in 2017, especially considering a weak NL East Division. The earliest we win a World Series or a Pennant is 2018 (this progression reminds me, a bit, of our rise to World Champs in 2005-2008).

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rebuild, Farewells, & Legacies

Hello, everyone. It has been awhile since I posted, but with rumors and moves seemingly coming every day, it made posting tough. As we know, at the beginning of the last offseason, the Phillies’ front office finally admitted that they needed to rebuild the roster: free agents + 2008 core no longer results in 85+ wins. This announcement, of course, should have happened at the end of 2013, the first of two 73-89 seasons. They announced that they would restock the farm system through drafting players (mostly college students in the first ten rounds) and trading veterans –AND– sign low-price-medium-risk-medium-age-medium-reward free agents (like Francouer, Williams, & Harang) to help ease the transition.

The task was not going to be easy: The Phillies didn’t seem to have lots of leverage and prospects have taken on a new meaning – more valuable now than when the Phillies were getting/ sending away Pence, Lee, Halladay, Oswalt, etc. However, the Phillies got the trades done: Ryan Howard & Carlos Ruiz are the only players left from the 2008 World Championship team. They drafted college players early (Nola), some high school players late, took a chance in the Rule 5 draft on a AA player (Herrera) and went for broke on the international market earlier this year (OF-1B Jhailyn Ortiz). Here are the trades:
1.      LHP Antonio Bastardo to Pirates for LHP Joely Rodriguez
2.      SS Jimmy Rollins to Dodgers for LHP Tom Windle & RHP Zach Eflin (from Padres)
3.      RF Marlon Byrd to Reds for P Ben Lively
4.      RHP CL Jon Papelbon to Nats for RHP Nick Pivetta
5.      LHPs Cole Hamels & Jake Diekman to Rangers for Matt Harrison, C Jorge Alfaro, RHP Jerad Eickhoff, OF Nick Williams, RHP Alec Asher and RHP Jake Thompson
6.      OF Ben Revere to Blue Jays for RHP Jimmy Cordero and RHP Alberto Tirado
7.      2B Chase Utley to Dodgers for IF Sweeney & RHP John Richy

That’s eight (8) players gone and fifteen (15) returned, which provides us with a lot of depth in addition to probably one or two more in a trade for Chooch and the draft:
·         2010 1st Round pick – LHP Jesse Biddle (AAA)
·         2011 2nd Round pick - OF Roman Quinn (AA Reading DL)
·         2013: SS J.P. Crawford (AA) & C Andrew Knapp (our first two selections)
·         2015 1st Round pick  Randolph (2015 1st Rounder)
o   Nola was our 2014 1st-Round pick
·         Former Intl F.A., now 3B Maikel Franco (DL – to return soon)
·         RHP CL Ken Giles and the entire bullpen (most developed by the Phillies org.)
o   LHP Mario Hollands (60-Day DL)
·         LF-3B Cody Asche (2011 4th Round pick) – probably a utility player at this point but still with .280-AVG potential.
·         OF Aaron Altherr (2009 9th round pick)
·         Former Intl FA’s, now Utility IFs Freddy Galvis & Cesar Hernandez
·         Former 2009 pick, now LF-1B Darin Ruf

The future is looking a lot brighter, especially with Reading taking the triple crown of honors: best record, best player & best manager. Congrats!!!

I do want to mention that this is not the way to run a system. They should have stopped trading after acquiring Halladay (him, Lee, & Hamels in the rotation) – no Oswalt. Also, we really didn’t need Pence. Signing Papelbon to $12.5MM AAV over four years was way overpriced, even w/ a 2.5-3-ERA & 90% SV pctg. And in early 2010, instead of signing Howard for three years past arbitration, they could have just let him hit free agency. Most importantly, instead of trading those prospects away, they could have called them up or promoted them, which the Cardinals do with their prospects – works very well for them. And the Phillies seem to haver a habit of hindering prospects’ development.

All of that is in the past. Ruben Amaro, Jr. is probably on his way out. A new manager (well, maybe MacKanin) and president are coming in and the latter may choose to have a G.M. more amenable to advanced stats.

Speaking of Amaro, what is his legacy? Right now I boil it down to three points:
1.      102 wins in 2011 was awesome to see.
2.      Bad Moves
a.       Not noticing steady decline in postseason results was because of declining offense (also blame Charlie Manuel for not seeing this – see #3)
b.      Extending Howard two years before hitting free-agency
c.      Trading players after Halladay cost the Phillies prospects
d.      Free-Agent signings to keep team afloat cost the Phillies draft picks
e.       Bad draft philosophy & hindering prospect development
3.      And finally, the public humiliations of Manuel, Howard, Utley and us fans after 2013.
-   None of his flaws (2a) made a mid-year firing ok.

However, a GM’s legacy is not complete until the prospects he acquires reach the majors, although it may not be enough to combat the above points.. As for Hamels & Utley, their legacy in Philadelphia is as follows:

Thank you, Cole & Chase for your dedication to the Phillies from your drafting to your debuts and to your All-Star appearances and the 2008 Championship. Chase, your baseball brain & hustle was fun to watch, the latter unfortunately resulting in decartilaged knees. Cole, thank you for the work you did/ do through your foundation. Your dedication, guys, is an inspiration to all Phillies fans and even current, former, and future Phillies coaches and players. You have earned the right to being traded to a contender in order to acquire more run support, Cole, and for both of you… wins & at least one more World Series ring. Upon retirement, you have every right to retire as a Phillie – on a one-day contract or as a coach/ instructor and should easily get a plaque on the Toyota Wall of Fame and even perhaps in Cooperstown. One last time, Thank You! Best of Luck in your baseball endeavors!

Monday, July 20, 2015

All-Star Report

It was not a very successful All-Star Festival for the Phillies as Papelbon continued to reiterate his desire to leave ("Trade me or get off the pot") and did not play in the game. After pitching 6 innings over the weekend, Aaron Nola also didn't pitch in the Futures game. He'll make his ML debut tomorrow vs. the Rays. The only All-Star success story for a Phillies organization player is SS J.P. Crawford - drove in a run & continued to flash leather in the Futures Game. However, Philly natives Todd Fraizer (Toms River, NJ) and Mike Trout (Millville, NJ) stole the show by winning the Derby & the All-Star Game MVP respectively.

Commentary & Analysis

Papelbon needs to learn how to say "no comment" on trade rumors.

Nola's debut comes at an interesting time. His last start was a rough outing - L, 7 H, 2 BB, 6 R (2 HR, 5 ER) in 3 innings. In his last three starts combined: 15 IP, 11 R (10 earned for an 6.00 ERA & 3 HRs), 27 base-runners for an 1.80 WHIP and 15 Ks & 4 BB. These starts were on the road, which I pointed out has been an issue for him. And showing resiliency has been Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s No. 1 mentioned prerequisite for a debut. I guess he's making up for (1) holding him back in AA & disparaging fans in the process and (2) trying to increase ticket sales. It is worth noting that about half of the ML debuts of starting pitchers over the past 5-6 years have not gone well (via CSNPhilly,com). Perhaps Nola's reputation as being the most polished in last year's draft and a desire to bounce back will improve our averages slightly, plus he's debuting at home. Best of luck, Aaron.

Crawford, if all goes well, seems likely to make his debut in the middle of 2016. If all goes well for him, if Quinn recovers from injury and debuts in 2017, if Utley & Howard are gone, if Cole Hamels & Jon Papelbon (and possibly others like Revere, Frenchy, Brown, Chooch) are traded for good prospects (hitters), and if most of our top-level starting pitchers make an impact... then I think 2018 and possibly 2017 will be great years for the organization.

Congrats to the All-Stars on your selections & recent successes the past week. Good luck to all!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Rotation in Limbo

Today, I make sense of the whirlwind of roster moves the Phillies made over the last 36 hours. I’ll start with a summary:
  • Sean O'Sullivan (1-6, 6.08 ERA; 0-3, 10.88 ERA in last 8) has been out-righted off 40-Man; he can elect free-agency or report to AAA.
  • Hector Neris has been recalled from AAA, at least until Saturday, when David Buchannan will rejoin the rotation after ineffectiveness & injury.
  • Kevin Correia (0-3, 6.56 ERA; 0 quality starts) has been designated for assignment & Severino Gonzalez has been recalled once again to fill his spot.
  • 2014 1st-Rd pick Aaron Nola (3-0, 2.28 ERA @ AAA) is likely to debut shortly following his appearance at Sunday’s Futures Game.
  • To fill Gonzlaez’s spot in AAA, the Phillies finally promoted 2010 1st-rounder Jesse Biddle after a career 4.18 ERA in parts of 3 years in AA (7-2, 4.34 ERA this season).


Out with the old, in with the new as the aging veterans are sent down/ away and the younger guys move up. The veterans in the rotation, except for Hamels & Harang, have struggled to hold the fort as the younger guys develop. Many were injured, but the ones who largely remained healthy have not gotten past inning 5 most of the time. This put tremendous strain on the bullpen: getting a fresh arm in the is part of the reason for these moves. This rotation shake-up is great for the Phillies’ future – time to start evaluating all these players for 2016 & beyond.

Buchannan is back after a rough first-half of the year. Gonzalez has struggled in limited action in the bigs this year, but being a rookie & constantly shuttled back-and-forth hasn’t helped much. Biddle has had a rollercoaster-style development, but his lack of control (high BB-rate) & mental issues have held him at AA the last few years despite skipping Lakewood. Although, I do think Rube made some bad decisions: not considering lack of run support as a possible reason for his 5-14 record in ’13. He’s still off (good record, highish ERA) but I think he’s had enough tests in AA. Nola is very close. Some minor kinks (shortening his at-bats plus solving his road ERA differential I mentioned two weeks ago) to work out this month, but if he can do well in the Futures game and have most of his July starts w/ 6.1 IP or more, expect him at the majors in late-July/ early Aug.

In other news, congrats go out - once again - to Maikel Franco on his selection as the NL Rookie of the Month for June. Further congrats to Jon Papelbon upon being selected as lone Phillie representative to the All-Star game. The Phillies recently signed Dominican Slugger Jhailyn Ortiz for $4.5MM bonus and traded two A-level pitching prospects to the D'Backs for the No. 1 slot – in order to avoid a stiff penalty. And Chase Utley is on the 15-Day DL w/ ankle issues and not expected to return until late-month. Not too long ago, Amaro said that Chase will be second on the depth chart behind Hernandez upon his return. Another #RuinTomorrowMoment by the Phils’ GM.

Next entry is likely to be the projections on Jesse Biddle, and I may have updated projections on Nola based on his AAA numbers. I may also have an All-Star festivities recap, including Nola’s & Crawford’s Futures game performances.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nola Projections, Outburst of Runs

First, congratulations go out to our first selection in last year's MLB Draft (at No. 7 overall), righty starter Aaron Nola, on his promotion to AAA. As promised, I have his projected stats at the majors adjusted for park factors at home. First, a few stats from the last two Phillies games:
  • Maikel Franco has been on a roll ever since his promotion to the bigs. By taking advantage of playing pretty much everyday, Franco has shown himself to be a true ML player on offense AND defense. His play thus far (and extending into AAA of course), is deserving of an All-Star nod, along with Hamels, and possibly Harang & Pap... despite the team having the worst record in the majors). Yesterday, he went 4-5:
    • He hit 2 homers - first career multi-homer game (coincidentally, Kris Bryant of the Cubs also had his first career multi-homer game).
    • He drove in 5 runs, becoming the first Phillies rookie to drive in 5 in a game since Howard in Aug. 2005. Let's hope Franco's career doesn't resemble Howard's trends.
  • The Phillies scored 20 runs in the last two games, which took them 10.5 games to reach leading up to those wins.
  • The only player w/o a hit yesterday was Utley, who was the DH at Yankee Stadium and went 0-4. Only one strike-out but it's clear that Hernandez deserves more playing time right now at 2B and that Utley needs to retire at the end of the year.

And now, I discuss Aaron Nola. Here are his projections (Excel screen capture):

His Projections: 2.37 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 0.85 HR/9, 7.09 K/9, and 5.78 K:BB and 193 IP over 33 starts. It is clear to me that he was the most polished pitcher in the draft last year, although road woes could be an issue in the majors.


The park factors only applied at home and I used a straight-up ratio. I used raw averages to project his strike-out, base-on-balls, innings pitched, & hit-batters (HBP) numbers as most of that is within Nola's control (i.e. not dependent on defense & park factors). To project over a full season (only needed to do that for HBP & IP), I took his limits last year & the fact he did make one bullpen appearance (23 starts) into consideration. I think he'll be a 200-IP/YR pitcher (like Cole Hamels).

So, congrats to Nola, and to all our young guys at the major- -& minor-league levels... good luck.


One more thing - some commentary on what Pat Gillick said the other day: (1) Rube's & Ryne's jobs are safe for now; (2) there's no word on the Andy MacPhil rumors; (3) the Phillies may take a bit longer to contend (2019).

I think that if someone else comes in as Team Prez (like MacPhil), that's when Rube will be gone. Ryne may follow shortly thereafter but I think he's worth keeping until the Phillies contend (remember that he's been managing a crappy team). As for when contention occurs, I think 2017 & especially 2018 still seems like a good estimate. From what I've seen at the MLB-level & heard coming out of the MiLB-levels, plus the recent draft, the Phillies could contend for the 2nd Wild Card in 2017, perhaps the division in '17 & '18 pending moves by the Nats, Braves, Marlins & Mets.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Another Ruin Tomorrow Moment, Trade Chips

First, I'd like to wish everyone a belated Happy Memorial Day, especially to the men and women in uniform & particularly the fallen. I get to enjoy playing my clarinet & saxophone, weather forecasting, computer & web programming, and sports watching & analysis because of your sacrifice. Thank you!

By now, you have heard what Amaro said yesterday about Philly fans in regards to wanting the organization to be aggressive with its prospects, particularly at AA & especially Nola. Here's the quote:

“They don’t understand the game,” Amaro said. "They don’t understand the process. There’s a process. And then they bitch and complain because we don’t have a plan. There’s a plan in place and we’re sticking with the plan. We can’t do what’s best for the fan. We have to do what’s best for the organization so the fan can reap the benefit of it later on. That’s the truth.”

That first sentence is incredibly insulting to fans. It is bad business to insult the paying customer, as Brian Michael of said earlier today. I also agree with Brian's proposal for Rube to explain what he the organization/ front office plans to do to get us to contention by 2017. Perhaps he wants to see if Nola is resilient at AA (much like he wanted for Giles last year). Perhaps he will wait until a team bites on Cole or promoting Nola and either Efflin or Biddle, although promoting Nola now, with injuries to Buchannan & Billingsley, will more quickly create some starting pitching depth.

We don't know but would very much love for Rube or Gillick or SOMEONE to tell us. If that is not the case, then the front office has absolutely no business insulting us. During today's edition of Philly Sports Talk, Rube acknowledged that he "probably" misspoke, used a poor choice of words in his Monday interview with Jim Salisbury. Rube also acknowledged that they should have begun the transition years ago. Jim Salisbury said that Rube is sincere in his apology, bringing up a quote saying that fan support led them to want to contend over the past few years.

After a long internal debate, I accept Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s apology but I cannot yet forgive him. Most of his tenure has been negative. I don't think he's calling the shots on any of the major moves, which is a good thing, but he needs to go. I think I will be able to forgive him if he either says that he'll leave after a one-year extension... or better yet, resign immediately or at least as soon as game 162 is in the books.

UPDATE - Poll Available here until the trade deadline. I hope for tons of responses.

Rube is reluctant to promote our top prospects. When would you promote one of our top 20 prospects?
After a full-yr in any level
4 months
2-3 months
6-8 weeks
3-5 weeks
  Show results
Votes so far: 0
Days left to vote: 16

Now, in that same interview, Rube talked about how the veterans are doing. So, let's talk numbers:
  • Cole Hamels, in his last seven starts (48.1 IP) is 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.17 K/9, and a K:BB ratio above 3:1, and is 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last 4 games.
  • Aaron Harang is 4-4 overall (10 starts, 65.1 IP) with a 2.87 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.3 K/9, and a near-3:1-K:BB-ratio.
  • Pap, Giles, & Garcia each have an ERA less than 4.0, with Pap & Giles with a 1.5-1.9 ERA. Unfortunately, after the Nats series, De Fratus' ERA jumped to 4.3 from 3.4 - I blame Ryne for poor decisions - and Diekman has an ERA over 7.0. The good news: the bullpen, overall, has been a strength of the team.
  • As I've been posting on Twitter, Howard & Utley have been valuable to the Phillies lately. Howard, since hitting his first homer of the season on 4/21, has a .999 OPS - didn't think that would happen when I predicted a bounce back year for him. Utley, in his last 15 games, has a .904 OPS. Both have full no-trade rights.
  • 3B Maikel Franco has brought his hot bat from AAA to the majors. He is 10-for-43 at the plate w/ a 2B, a 3B, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 3 BB, 5 Ks, and a .724 OPS.
  • SS Freddy Galvis has cooled off as of late, hitting .189 in his last 9 games but is still hitting .314 on the season.
  • C Carlos Ruiz is not perfoming well offensively, costing the Phillies about five runs at the plate, but he still controls the dish defensively and is one of those players who turns on the bat in the second half. Should be a nice addition to a trade.
  • As I mentioned before, most of the minor leaguers are doing well: Asche (LF @ AAA), Brown (RF @ AAA), Efflin & Nola (AA), and Crawford (Clearwater) are among those performing well.
Hope everyone has a great week! Enjoy the games!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Phillies Won Six-Straight... Wait, what?!

That six-game winning streak was AWESOME!!! Man, what a ride! When I said to be optimistic, I never expected the Phillies to put together a winning streak like this. Maybe a few three- and four-game streaks en-route to ~75 wins. Man, what a ride! The Phillies have been stellar. First, I focus on the offense.

The Phillies, in the past 7 days have the best batting avg. in the NL (.300) and this is nothing new... their .264 May AVG is tied for 4th-best in NL in that span. I won't delve into more rankings but they've improved in most of the offensive categories I've discussed in my last entry. I feel bad for Ryne: He said that it'll be tough taking a hot bat out of the line-up and now, almost everyone is hot. Here's what the team has done the past week:

OK, I don't need to feel bad as that is a good problem to have. Plus, the clubhouse is full of good vibe (per as a result. With communication difficulties from last year and Ryne's promise to keep hot-hitters in, it still could create a bit of tension. However, as long as their winning, I don't see tension being a major problem. This won't push them into contention this year, but most of the young guys are hot and the veterans are slowly increasing their trade value. For the front office, it bodes somewhat well for them as the team's future looks bright here & in the minors (AA).

Now, let's talk pitching. The team's 2.47 ERA in past 7 G is the best ERA in the NL in that span... and they have the 11th-lowest May ERA in the majors (tied with the Mariners at 3.78). And here are the individual stats showing stellar performances by everyone the past week, except (unfortunately) for Giles, De Fratus, & Diekman (they've been played a lot though):

So far, everyone has improved. Most of these players aren't usually good in April, as we have come to experience over the past decade (yes, I said decade). So, this wasn't completely unexpected. I will conclude with the following fact: The Phillies won 17 out of the 41 games they played, putting them on-pace for 67 wins. Given what has just transpired and their 9-9 record in May, I think 75-or-more wins is still on the table. Enjoy the games!


Stats courtesy

Friday, May 1, 2015

Breaking Down the Phillies' April Stats

The Phillies were aweful in April... no denying it, but why? What went wrong? Well, I take a look through the stats and see what was good (yes, there was one good aspect), bad, ugly, and improvement-bound.

Pitching/ Fielding

WHIP: 1.49 (T highest)
K/9: 7.29 (18th highest)
ERA: 4.28 (10th highest)
Fldg. Pctg: .978 (5th lowest)
UZR: 1.6 (13th)
Pitching FIP: 4.47 (5th highest)
Pitching HR/9: 0.95 (middle of pack)
Pitching xFIP: 4.53 (5th highest)

We need to improve our pitching and our defense, although more so the former since we've improved greatly in fielding since that home Marlins' series. We have the highest WHIP (Walks & Hits per Inning Pitched) & are getting toward the bottom third in strikeouts per 9 IP and that has led to both high ERA and FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching). Our bad defense is not a function of bad range (measured via the UZR - ultimate zone rating - stat), but making routine plays, which led to a lot of problems, but the pitchers did allow a lot of base-runners. We did ok in terms of limiting the long ball, especially after the first week, so xFIP (FIP plus HR taken into account) remains about the same ranking as FIP. April was ugly for pitching as a whole, but expect continued improvement, especially in FIP. Next, I see who's most to blame for our lack of success: starters (besides Harang) or relievers.

Pitching Splits


WHIP: 1.42 (8th highest)
K/9: 6.78 (18th best/ 12th worst)
HR/9: 1.19 (8th highest)
FIP: 4.71 (5th highest)
xFIP: 4.49 (7th highest)
ERA: 4.97 (7th highest)


WHIP: 1.61 (highest)
K/9: 8.20 (middle)
HR/9: 0.50 (9th lowest)
FIP:  4.03 (13th highest)
xFIP: 4.59 (3rd highest)
ERA: 3.03 (8th lowest)

These splits could change easily every five days, with some changing daily. However, I see that the bullpen still allows a god share of base-runners, but has been better at limiting the damage through better K/9 and lower HR/9. The conclusion: our rotation needs to improve the most. Once again, the bullpen is the strength of this team.


Plate Discipline

P/PA: 3.6 (T lowest but low spread amongst MLB teams)
K-rate: 18.3% (7th best)
BB-rate: 6.7% (7th lowest)
BABIP: .261 (2nd lowest)
wOBA: .270 (last)

There is not a lot of spread in the P/PA data: most teams are seeing about the same # of pitches per pate appearance... between 3.6 & 4.05. The Phillies, though are doing well with limiting strikeouts but they don't walk as much as they should (10% or better is the goal) and they're very unlucky - as Batting Avg. on Balls in Play (BABIP) shows. Given they're still last in weighted on-base avg. (wOBA), to help combat their low, soon-to-improve BABIP, the Phils need to walk more and continue striking out less.


SB: 10 (T-19th)
3B: 7 (T-2nd best)

Their stolen base rank seems more a function of getting on base and low no. of attempts (not shown) than their rate (not shown). Proving my point is the high no. of triples the Phillies have as I am a firm believer that 3Bs are more a function of speed than power compared to 2Bs. Look for them to steal more as their OBP improves, but I've noticed a decline in the Phillies in terms of the stolen base category: I firmly believe that's the result of another Rube blunder - not giving David Lopes the raise he deserved. Can the Phillies start stealing more bases as we get younger in the next few years? Possibly. But for now, look for their stolen base numbers to improve a bit as our OBP improves.

Power & Scoring

HR: 13 (T-2nd lowest)
ISO (isol'd power): .106 (2nd lowest)
wRC+: 68 (100 is avg) = last
Runs: 63 (lowest)

According to Sandberg earlier this spring, "The Phillies are not going to hit a lot of home runs this year." So far, the Phillies are proving that to be true. To compensate, the Phillies rank up there in bunts & bunt attempts (not shown). There's been some growing pains there, but I've seen much better from the team (especially from pitchers) over the past week-plus. Look for the offense, overall, to improve as the bats heat up (Howard, Utley, Ruiz, Asche, Ruf, "Frenchy", etc.), the on-base guys (Herrera, Revere; perhaps Galvis, Utley (again) & Ruiz (again); etc.) continue to get on and steal, and perhaps the team embraces & executes small ball well.

April was a rough month. Typical for a team full of Mr. Not-Aprils (Revere, Ruiz, Howard, Hamels). The Phillies are 8-15, on-pace for 56 wins (110 losses), which some expected. However, given the evidence above - Mr. Not-Aprils, low BABIP, improving Fdg. Pctg., great bullpen, etc.; I think the Phillies can squeeze out another win or two per month, putting a 63-99-or-better record within reach. We shall see what happens. Don't forget, we have a few prospects (Nola, Franco), DL players (Billingsley), and a recently-optioned Domonic Brown coming up within the next 1-2 months; and games are not won or lost on paper. On the flip side, Howard, Ruiz, Pap and Hamels are on the trading block, so expect some more losses if all of them are traded... although that could be offset by more wins in the case of a Howard trade.

Good luck, Phils! Looking forward to watching you guys improve!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Series Preview: Phillies at Cardinals

In a rare post, I'll provide a summary of what to expect as the Phillies travel to St. Louis for a four-game set to kick off a 10-game road trip (Miami follows, then Atlanta). The story lines:
  • Hometown Kid: Ryan Howard is heating up - all 3 2015 HRs occurred in past 5 games w/ only 3 Ks in that span. He's doing a better job working counts. As we may remember, Howard generally does very well in St. Louis, where he grew up, hitting around .350 in his career there. The window to trade Howard is closing (5/9 is when his 10-and-5 rights kick in). However, if he has a 4+-HR road trip (he also kills the Braves at Turner Field), I think Rube has some leverage, especially if he offers to trade Chooch, Cole, or Pap + more cash with Ryan.
  • Continue to work on fundamentals & situational hitting: This may be a tough one as they're on the road (hampers before-game work), but so far the Phillies are doing better with fundamentals - no errors since the 9-1 loss to the Marlins, bunts are down, and they continuously take pitches. Right now, their BABIP w/ RISP sits at .194 (lowest in the majors and thus unsustainable). If they can keep taking pitches and use the "see-ball-hit-ball technique", they'll have a good series.
  • Rotation:
    • Hamels & Buchannan improving: They continue to gradually improve with each start and I expect the same thing in this series: tomorrow & Thursday respectively.
    • Severino Gonzalez' MLB debut: He will get the nod on Tuesday, filling in for O'Sullivan (left knee) and Billingsley (elbow rehab). Currently 1-1 w/ a >3.5 ERA, <1.3 WHIP, >4.5 K/9 in AAA.
    • Continued success from Harang: He gets the nod. Currently 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA!
    • Thursday's opposing starter?: Adam Wainwright has an Achillies injury and is likely out for the year (pending MRI results). Funny timing as they face former Achilles patient Ryan Howard. Anyway, the Cards will need to decide Wed. night.
  • Hot-hitting Galvis: a 3-3 afternoon propels his AVG to .361. Nice! According to Sandberg's presser, Galvis is trying for line drives, so I expect his success to continue.
Anyway, great series win. I'm looking for a 6-4 road trip, which is probably the best-case scenario from this Phillies squad.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A 2-8 mid-April Record, Improvements Expected

Well, that record says it all. The Phillies haven’t done much right this year, an expectation from Day 1. Despite the low expectations, I still get verbal when they lose or make a bad play - after-all this is the big leagues. In the past ten days, errors & bunts have been a problem. What make it worse: they are not putting in as much before-game work as they did in late 2013/ early 2014 (the beginning of the Ryne Sandberg era). It seems like no one is performing well, and the overall stats show that to be a variable (but not 100% true) perception. However, there is good news: the Phillies are also one of the unluckiest teams in baseball, which will ease at some point. First, some not-so-good stats:

The Bad

Phillies fielders have the most errors in baseball with 17 (tied with the Nats). Pitchers have given up the 4th-most HR with 18 (tied with Reds & Os) and have the most walks in the NL with 66 (the Os lead with 67). And the offense has scored the fewest runs in baseball with 41. The Phillies have 39 BB & 121 Ks overall, and their .222 AVG w/ runners on base is the lowest in the NL.

The Good

Here’s the good news. Aaron Harang is 2-1 w/ a 1.96 ERA. The bullpen is living up to the hype, helping keep the team’s ERA at 2.99 thanks to the ‘pen’s 2.91 ERA & 0.51 HR/9 being in the lowest 25% in the majors (75%+ of teams have higher rates). And Cody Asche, Freddy Galvis, & Odubel Herrera - who have the PAs to qualify - are our top offensive performers: each w/ .290+ AVG & .795+ OPS. Furthermore, Asche has the most HRs (2, which tie him with Francoeur & Utley), Galvis has the 2nd-most RBIs (8; Utley has 9), and Herrera & Revere are stealing bases very well so far, although they need to try to steal more per game. Revere also leads the NL in triples.

Herrera (who is contending for RoY right now) and especially Galvis & Asche will be mentors to future Phillies’ Roman Quinn (AA), J.P. Crawford (DL - oblique) & Maikel Franco (AAA) at their respective positions - Quinn & Franco are tearing up the minors. Also, Ruf & Howard seem to be platooning over at 1B, which will help them both but none are performing well (it's April). And No. 3, Cole Hamels is pulling away from his typical slow start – ND vs. Marlins in a 6-1 loss: 6 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 8 Runners, 5 Ks.

So, why optimism?

The Phillies roster is full of players who have shown they cannot get much going in April but improve drastically as the season wears on. So far, the 2015 Phillies are no exception: Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Ben Revere, Carlos Ruiz, and Darin Ruf are the best examples. Offensively, the top ten Phillies in PAs see an average of 3.6 pitches per PA and the team’s .257 BABIP (Batting Avg. on Balls in Play) is 2nd-lowest in the NL & their 21% K-rate is 12th-highest in ML. Therefore, they see a good number of pitches but their incredibly unlucky: many of the opposing pitchers win battles by ultimately striking our guys out or inducing contact where many of the balls are hit at opposing fielders. Expect the Phillies’ BABIP to improve to .270 and, as long as the Phillies see more pitches, their K-rate to lower a bit. Combine that with the bullpen’s continued success and the calendar flipping to May (remember, this team has bad Aprils), expect improvement in the team’s W-L record, although 74, maybe even 65+, wins is still likely out of reach.

Another reason for optimism is that those in AA Reading are performing well and Franco is off to a hot start at AAA. Speaking of the minors, I will be breaking down the rotation’s career stats (Full Season A- or higher), adjusting for park factors (at least for the home starts), which will lead to projections at the ML-level for several players. I will be focusing on: J. Rodriguez (AAA, acq’d from PIT for Bastardo) and the AA rotation: B. Lively (acq’d from CIN for Byrd), T. Windle & Z. Efflin (acq’d from the Padres and Dodgers in the Rollins trade), and first-round picks A. Nola (2014) & J. Biddle (2010). Look for that entry at the All-Star Break, so I can use 2015 stats. I likely will do Nola within a week of his promotion to AAA.

Injury Updates

OF Brown (oblique) is in AAA for rehab, trying to get a hot bat. The team has until Tuesday (20 days) to either activate him or use their last option & extend his time in AAA.

SP Billingsley (elbow) is continuing to make starts in AAA, although an illness interrupted his schedule. He's expected to join in May.

SP O'Sullivan (left knee tendinitis) was placed on the DL 4/22, retroactive to the 18th. No further.

SP Lee (elbow) recently listed his center city condo as he is in his home state of Arkansas continuing his 3rd rehab attempt. No further.

No updates on SP Pettibone (recovery from June 2014 elbow surgery)

P Hollands (elbow) is recovering from Tommy John and is due back in 2016.

Today’s Game

Aaron Harang looks to continue his hot start to 2015 against the Braves, his 2014 teammates. Game is at 7:05 PM. Weather: Partly Cloudy with Diminishing Winds. Winds NW at 10-20 mph (gusts to 30 mph) becoming 5-10 mph. Chilly with temps. in low 50s falling to the mid-to-upper-40s.

Raw stats courtesy, & Minors info courtesy Injury updates courtesy

Monday, April 13, 2015

3-3 Homestand Kicks off the Season

Well, the Phillies were shut out on Opening Day, symbolizing an expected outcome for a good chunk of the Phillies' losses. Cole struggled again, which is normal for him (Tweet), so I'm not concerned. We need him to stay healthy & perform so he can be traded. Although, I've said it before: I'm amenable to building around him.

The next game was a win, thanks to Jeff Francoeur's three-run shot in the 6th, scoring Ruf (6-pitch BB) & Asche (single). Homeruns will be a bit more rare, with the multi-run variety being the most difficult. This team needs to get as many base-runners as possible, which can only happen if they work counts, get base hits, some through bunting (Revere & Herrera best fit that bill), put pressure on the opposing pitcher through getting more runners in scoring position.

The Phillies 6-2 loss to the Red Sox in Game 3 resulted in a home series loss to the team. Both teams scored those runs in their halves of the 3rd inning. The Phillies visit the Red Sox on Sept. 4-6.

The Phillies opened the Nats series with two consecutive wins. The Phils rode a four-run (4-R) 7th, Jerome Williams quality start (lead-off HR followed by 5.2 consecutive scoreless innings), and scoreless outing by the bullpen to win Game 1 of the series. Game 2 was an edge-of-your-seat game: the Phillies had exectuion problems early (bunts failed to advance the runners at 1st & 2nd) but never gave up. They tied the game at 2 in the 8th and won it on Ruiz's base-running and Herrera's first career hit (a double). Side note: After Howard doubled in a run, Hernandez pinch-ran for him and scored the tying run. Utley then played first base for the rest of the game.

The Phillies had the opportunity to sweep the Nats at home but ultimately failed. You could blame Howard: not only did he have a golden sombrero (4 Ks), but all of his Ks were inning-ending w/ runners on.

Starting the year 3-3 is not bad. Like I said a week or so ago, there is cause for hope. If Game 2 of the Nats series is any indication, these guys will not quit. Games are not won or lost on paper. And baseball is a funny sport: long games, long season, plus the "game of inches" factor. Anything can happen.

Today, the Phillies play the Mets in NY at 1:10 PM, the first road game of the season. De Grom (reigning RoY), Harvey (2nd start since 2013 - elbow), & Niese oppose the Phillies' hitters. I only hope that Howard is not in today's line-up. It better be Ruf at 1B. Howard is in the line-up. I'm not too happy with this, but I think DeGrom is a right-hander, and you need to give these veterans ABs. Watch him closely, Ryne.

Hitting Philosophy:

It's hard to say whether or not these guys are taking to the new philosophy. Looks like most are, but execution of bunts was an issue in Game 2 of the Nats series. The overall stats (Thanks, Todd Zolecki) show that sacrifices decrease the odds of scoring. However, that depends on the opposing pitcher & batter's skill (speed, mainly). I'm for it. The Phillies have tried all they could w/o bunting last year and scored only 619 runs (comes to 3.76 RPG w/o the 14-11 O.D. victory). Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, so with that said, let's change it up: bunt more.


I may post weekly summaries of Phillies games. If I do, don't expect as much game-to-game detail as this one had. I'll be looking at the stats behind the results. Enjoy the suspense of a long(er) baseball season!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

How the Phils Avoid 95+ Losses

Yes it is possible this team is not as mediocre as SOME say, but we all agree: the Phillies will not win 80+ games and it will be tough to win more than 70. But there is some hope at the ML-level. Now that the opening day roster is finalized, I will take a look at how the Phils win more than 67 games. First, the story lines: (1) change in hitting philosophy; (2) playing time; and (3) bounce-back seasons. So, without further ado, let us begin. I will go in defensive order.

Hamels, Buchannan, Billingsley, and Nola will be the top four to watch. Right now, the rotation projects as Hamels as the ace (obviously) and then a bunch of 4s & 5s with moderate upside. Hamels will then likely be traded and hopefully Nola continues to impress at AA & AAA in the 1st half to warrant a call-up at the time Cole is traded - a smooth transition there hopefully. Buchannan building off of a solid 2014 and Billingsley dominating the last two trimesters of 2015 will net the Phillies a win or two each.


Most of the late-2014 stats proved that the Phillies bullpen was in the top 3 in both the NL & MLB (the Yankees led the pack there). Papelbon has performed well on the field as a Phillie, which is likely to continue; however, he is also a trade candidate. But at least he can keep an eye on the younger arms - notably Giles, Diekman, and De Fratus - before he goes. Those guys may regress a bit due to (1) the league catching up to them a bit plus (2) more luck benefiting opposing hitters, but if they can adjust to the league (with Pap's help), there shouldn’t be too much of a problem.


My second-to-last concern with the 2015 Phillies is the catching (bullpen success is last). I'm hoping Rupp begins a transition much like Chooch did in 2006. I think Rupp is a solid back-up this year, with upside as a solid primary next year. Offense is not quite there yet and defense/ rapport w/ pitchers could be minor but notice-able issue but all-in-all, Rupp looks ready for 2015.

First Base 

I’ll put Ruf in here and hold off on discussing Franco when I discuss third basemen. First, Howard: I think he will bounce back despite Spring Training stats showing otherwise. I'm not too concerned with S.T. stats because he had a near-career-high OPS in April 2014; avoided the DL last year & still had 95 RBIs & a .285 AVG w/ BIP (a.k.a. BABIP), which are OK in a pitching era; and is normally a Summer hitter. The key will be to improved his plate discipline: i.e. reduce the strikeout rate. This will lead to more BB & balls in play (BIP) overall, and increase the AVG, OBP, RBI total, and OPS. Note: It'll get harder to trade him after May 9th when his 10-&-5 rights take effect. Once he’s gone, Ruf & Franco take over, with Ruf the leading candidate to replace him for now. I hope Ruf is given five starts per week... most of those, initially of course, will be as a left fielder. I think he can hit ML pitching to the tune of 20 HRs & (conservatively) 80 RBIs. Expecting for 120 RBIs and 35 HRs from first basemen this year.

Second Base: Will Ryne rest Utley (beginning around May 1st)? His trimester-to-trimester decline last year proved he needs more rest: 130 starts and 550 PAs max. I think this will happen and lead to a successful 2014 from Chase. Looking for a .275 AVG from Chase this year. Hernandez, Herrera, Galvis and Asche are notable back-ups to Utley.

Third Base

Asche enters the year as the primary Phillies third-baseman for the second consecutive year, which is something he needs to keep in mind as he was a bit lacking in the mental aspects of the game. Now, unless he cuts down his errors & improves some offensively, he’ll continue to be a four-to-five-start-per-week player. Franco is set at 3B defensively but his bat has yet to translate to MLB success, so Asche has time to prove he can play everyday or will he need to move around more (2B/ LF) in future years? We shall see what happens with he & Franco as 2015 progresses. Looking for .270-or-greater AVG & 10-15 errors max. from third basemen this year.


For at least 60% of the Phillies’ ~1400 innings this year, Freddy Galvis will man the SS position. Known for his GLOVE, this should mitigate the loss of Rollins in the defense category. Galvis’ career (ML + MiL) OPS (on-base-plus-slugging), however, is 50-100 points lower than J-Roll’s was, so we’re looking for some offense from Freddy, who will man the 7-hole for most of the year. Playing nearly every day will help. However, it is clear that he is just keeping the field warm for J.P. Crawford, due up mid-late 2016.


Revere & Herrera should be a force at the top of the line-up with their speed, especially now that Revere’s ankle is screw-less. Brown, after he gets back on the field, needs to produce like he did in 2013 (although more spread out over the season instead of w/i a single month). Sizemore, Francoeur and Danks are viable back-ups. All the OFs (including Ruf) have one thing in common: their defense is mediocre at best. Hopefully their bats and then spread-out playing time make up for it.

So, in a nutshell, the Phillies have mostly unknowns but with some potential upside from many players. A losing season is all but certain, but how bad? I'm thinking we avoid 100 losses. That, my readers, is where the optimism lies… at least at the ML-level. There’s also the minor-league level to watch. See my last entry for those details. Enjoy the season, folks. A lot can happen in 162 games.