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

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