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.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Updated O.D. Roster & Season Projections


I went with 12 P & 13 H originally. Now, due to the delayed arrival of the 5th starter & injuries, I will go with 11 P & 12 H and then briefly discuss the last two spots.

  • Rotation: Hamels, Lee, Williams, Buchannan w/ Gonzalez, Billingsley, or Harang as a fifth
    • Hamels, as predicted is your O.D. starter. Lee is pretty much done for his career. Buchanan is No. 3 with Williams no. 2 (for this year). Gonzalez hasn't lived up to the hype and went unclaimed. Harang (back) & Billingsley (elbow) are a bit banged up and look to join the rotation late. Slowey got in, but after his release, O'Sullivan gets the nod come 4/12.
    • Now: Hamels, Williams, Buchannan, Harang on Opening Day, with O'Sullivan to come.
  • Bullpen: Papelbon (9th), Giles (8th), Diekman (7th & 8th), De Fratus (6th & 7th), Hollands, Rule-Fiver Oliver (Long-Man); Competition: Aumont, Neris, Garcia, Jimenez
    • Pap, Giles (recent back issue won't land him on D.L.), Diekman, and De Fratus are locked in. Hollands is likely heading to surgery. Oliver is headed on waivers. Luis Garcia & Jeanmar Gomez actually won a spot each. Cesar Jimenez figures to go in. Aumont never made it & is off the 40-Man. Neris is back in the minors.
    • Now: Pap, Giles, Diekman, De Fratus, Garcia, Gomez (long man), and Jimenez
  • O.D. Line-Up (Handedness): CF Revere (L), C Ruiz (R), 2B Utley (L), LF Ruf (R), 1B Howard (L), 3B Asche (L), SS Galvis (S), RF Brown (L), Pitcher spot (Hamels)
    • Revere is now in LF with the Rule-5 pick Odubel Herrera in CF. This puts Ruf on the bench (unfortunately) and Ruiz back in his usual 7th spot. And Brown's Achilles landed him on the 15-Day D.L., putting Sizemore in RF
    • Now: LF Revere (L), CF Herrera (L), 2B Utley (L), 1B Howard (L), 3B Asche (L), C Ruiz (R), RF Sizemore (L), SS Galvis (S), P Hamels (L)
  • Bench (Handedness): C Rupp (R), IF-CF Hernandez (S), OF Sizemore (L), and IF-OF Herrera (L)
    • Rupp earned the back-up catching job and Hernandez is also on the roster. With Sizemore & Herrera in the O.D. line-up, Darin Ruf & Jordan Danks round out the bench.
    • Now: C Rupp (R), IF-CF Hernandez (S), LF-1B Ruf (R), OF Danks (L/S)
  • Last spots: OF Jeff Francouer (R) looks to win a spot and the last spot goes to a reliever or potentially another OF from outside the organization. Sean O'Sullivan, once again, projects as the 5th starter: ETA: 4/12.
  • D.L. (Type): Lee (60), Hollands (likely 60), Billingsley (15), Brown (15)

Future Moves

Later on, the Phillies top prospects 1B-3B Maikel Franco & P Aaron Nola look to be called up in May & July/ August respectively.


The Phillies are expected to win, at most 73-75 games, but more likely 66-70 or lower. The bullpen will still be solid (top 20%-30% in both NL & MLB), but the rotation & defense are iffy, with the offense being sup-par-to-lousy at best. Details:

After Hamels, who may leave via trade, the rotation is full of No. 4 & 5 starters. Howard, while projected to have a bounce-back year, may get traded by early May, opening the door to Franco, who hasn't done much offensively at the major leagues. With the trades of Byrd and Rollins, the offense will take a hit. Much will depend on bounce-back seasons for most of the guys, which - in my humble opinion - will actually occur. Sandberg managing off days for everyone, particularly Utley, will be key as will the new hitting philosophy (off to a sluggish start). All-in-all, the offense will remain fairly stagnant. Defense is also going to take a hit, but not as big as the offense: Franco & Galvis are stellar defenders while Hernandez, Ruf, Asche, Revere, etc. are ok at the positions they expect to man. Overall, the Phillies will sacrifice this year to contend later, late-2016 at the earliest but more likely 2017 or 2018.

As for developing players, The Reading Fightin's (AA-ball) will be the minor league team to watch, especially its rotation. SS J.P. Crawford (top prospect) will be in Clearwater for Extended Spring and then A-ball for rehab (oblique) and then to Reading in late May/ early June.

Promotion potential: Franco (AAA to MLB in ~7 weeks); Nola (AA to AAA in ~2 months, poss. MLB in Aug.); Biddle to AAA around late July with a hurlers from Clearwater promoted to Reading around that time to "fill-in"/ "take their place". Then, it's onto the draft June 8-10.