- The starting rotation seems to have taken a hit by with the struggling youngsters & injuries (Morton, Nola & Eflin), but stellar seasons by Hellickson, Velasquez and Eickhoff have resulted in significant improvement in the rotation from last year - we jumped above 20 teams in WAR, 13 in IP, and 14 in ERA over the last year. Our investment the last few years (last year in particular) is starting to pay dividends, but more depth at the top is clearly needed. Let's re-sign Hellickson and promote guys who spent '15 & '16 in AA up to AAA, including borderline players. Time to start pushing these guys along. Paul Owens winner Ben Lively (acq'd in Marlon-Byrd-to-Reds trade) will be at the forefront of those promotions, which are finalized during Spring Training.
- The Phillies replaced the back end of the bullpen: spots occupied by Papelbon, De Fratus and power-throwing arms Diekman & Giles are now taken by Gomez, Neris, Hinojosa, and Ramos. They're doing well for us - a combined 3.20 ERA entering the White Sox game on 9/21. Again, more depth is needed but continued improvement of the rotation will also help alleviate the workload of these guys, particularly Hector Neris.
UPDATE - noon Wed. 9/28: The bullpen has been atrocious in Sept. - 60+ ER in nearly 80 IP. The core of Gomez, Hinojosa, Neris & Ramos is probably tired, having taken the workload of the season. Between appearance nos. (roughly) 50 & 70, fatigue is not an excuse but certainly is a factor: you have to execute your pitches - keep your fastball down and your secondary pitch is 8-12 mph less than your fastball. As for the fatigue, the players now have this experience & will learn from it. Hopefully, MacKanin, BP Coach Kranitz & P Coach McClure will adjust how they use the core and that will lead to less fatigue. He may also request a reliever at a meeting with the front office on Fri.
One more thought is that I've always liked Neris since his debut. So far, he's lived up to my hunch. He did his job this year by appearing on over 75 games and doing so well. Pitching beyond that number just can't happen and I blame the coaching staff for putting him out there too much.
- In terms of slugging, it is a better year for everyone around the big leagues and the Phillies are no exception - four players have 20+ HRs. The Phillies' problem is their league-low, sub-.300 on-base percentage. I keep in mind two things: (1) most of the guys who hit 1-3 this year (Galvis, Herrera & Hernandez) are better suited for the bottom half of contending teams' line-ups and (2) we are essentially waiting for Quinn & Crawford.
Aside: Crawford wasn't promoted, which is fine. He needs more time in AAA (rough transition) and is not needed on the 40-man yet. Tons of other names need to be protected from the rule 5. He's still has the same ceiling at the next J-Roll but the time isn't right yet.
Other names on offense crop up in the slugging dept. and we have power down in the pipeline too. We'll get there. However, we have no veterans coming into 2017 and we could use some. Now that Howard's $23MM is out of here, time to spend the money.
UPDATE - noon Wed. 9/28: At Friday's meeting, MacKakin will advocate for the signing of at least one bat.
Notice that I put that progress on the players in the pipeline and continuing to strive for success at the majors. There is one thing these guys need and that is playing time. Hector Neris has 76 appearances and Tyler Goeddel is on the bench. WE NEED A BALANCE. I cannot stand a manager/ head coach that doesn't use his roster effectively. In football, you have 53 players and most of the time I see only about 36 getting to play for more than one series (3-4 downs) per game. In baseball with the 162-game, 183-day schedule... I judge a manager on how many games per week he plays someone.
I like to see - for any one player - a maximum of 65-70 appearances or 30-34 starts (along with a 5-man rotation thru 95% of the off-days) or an average GS-per-week closer to 6 (along with 3 platoons amongst defensive positions 3-8). Manuel kept his guys out there closer to 7 GS/wk and had about one platoon per year. It wore down Utley. And Howard? Rest would benefit him and the team, which it is doing this year. And MacKanin?
Well, let's say he says that the young guys need to get out there but he completely ignores this when it comes to Tyler Goeddel. Unless he strives to get more playing time for everyone, I want him gone when his extension is done... and I share Phillies Nation's concerns.
Enjoy the rest of the season. Maybe we'll see some better baseball the last 10 days of the 2016 season. My next entry will be Ryan Howard's legacy. Until then, have a great rest of the week.