Friday, August 26, 2016

Choooooch!


via GIPHY

Carlos Ruiz was us. Despite having the toughest job on the field, he seemed the most like one of us. He was our avatar on one of the most dominant teams in Philadelphia Phillies.

Look at the rest of the main cast of characters.
For five years, Ryan Howard was a beast who could hit balls farther, with more regularity, than any player in team history. And he always seemed to be on fire when it mattered most.
Chase Utley was basically a god. He was the player we wished we were and that our sons would become. He was almost perfect.
Jimmy Rollins had a brash Philadelphia swagger, but he brought so much more to the table. It's hard to imagine yourself as the leadoff-hitting shortstop who wins MVPs.
Pat Burrell was the hyped draft-pick who made good, but not great.
Cole Hamels. He was Hollywood.
Roy Halladay was the right hand of God.
Cliff Lee was God's left hand.
Jason Werth was a freak who looked like that stoner in your Sunday softball league. Except he was an MLB All-Star. He was a huge man, who could run like the wind.
Shane Victorino had the energy and enthusiasm of a young fan, but again, he could do things none of us could really imagine doing.
Then there was Chooch.
Carlos Ruiz wasn't a big guy. He wasn't a fast guy. He seemed like everyone's little brother, but he somehow had everyone's respect. He was the guy Roy Halladay admired. He had a rifle for an arm and tackled the toughest job on the field with aplomb for much of his tenure in Philadelphia.
But still, he didn't seem as godlike or distant as his teammates.
His biggest hit was a 15 foot roller out in front of home plate, that's the hit we could get if we had 100 at-bats. But his won a World Series game. His best season came after the team fell into decline.
I thought it was perfect that he was one of the last two players from the glory years to survive.
He deserved that. We deserved that.

via GIPHY

Friday, August 19, 2016

Series preview: Cardinals at Phillies

So it sounds like J.P. Crawford might not get called up in September.
I have no problem with that.
It's a numbers game. The Phillies have several prospects who need to end up on the 40-man roster so they are protected when the Rule 5 draft comes around. Crawford hasn't been around as long and doesn't need protection. I'm sure the franchise isn't considering holding off starting his arbitration clock until May, right?

This year is about finding what you have and this team is finding out it has some interesting offensive pieces. Not bringing up Crawford might mean finding out more about some other guys.

Here's what we know about guys already in the big leagues.

A. Maikel Franco is developing into a legitimate power threat. The 23-year-old has 22 homers this year. It's not hard to imagine him ending up with 25 homers and 25 doubles on the season.
I'm not sure you can rely on a guy with a sub-7 walk rate to be a 3 or 4 hitter, especially if he's got a sub .300 batting average on balls in play, but Franco could be a fantastic 5-hole hitter in the coming years.
B. Odubel Herrera has shown us two different players. In the first half he was a patient hitter who got all-star-level results. In the second half, he's been overly aggressive and seen his production plummet. He's also not a fantastic center fielder, but he's got speed to burn. He's also got more home run pop than the Phillies seemed to expect. In a lot of ways, he's a poor man's Jimmy Rollins. If he can stay focused for an entire season, he will be an MVP candidate.
C. Cameron Rupp is a solid backstop with a lot of pop. No one should be uncomfortable with him holding down the position for another year or more as the younger catchers make their way onto the roster.
D.  Tommy Joseph is a professional hitter who belongs in the Major Leagues. Maybe he's not the long-term answer at first base, but he's not bad to have around. He's got the power to hit 20-25 homers in a 500 at-bat season.
E. Cesar Hernandez has a lot of flaws, but he provides some value.
F. Aaron Altherr has  some Jayson Werth potential. If he can stay healthy, he can be an impact bat. I'm not sold that's what he'll be, but he should be good.

This isn't a bad foundation to build on offensively. I'm not saying all of these guys are starters on a contending team, but I think they can be pieces on one, or be traded to get you pieces.

The Phillies have two outfielders they're likely to call up soon in Nick Williams and Roman Quinn.
Williams is in a bit of a slump and is hitting .268/.335/.478 in Triple-A. Quinn is hitting .271/.362/.402 with 27 stolen bases for Reading. But he's missed a ton of time again. He's never played in 90 games in a minor league season, so the Phillies don't really know what to expect. Both of these guys will likely need some September at-bats in a very crowded outfield.
The Phillies will also, according to most reports, call up Jorge Alfaro.  He's a catcher who will get some games in and give Rupp and Carlos Ruiz a rest.

If the Phillies can end September by solidifying their opinions on the guys listed above and getting a solid look at the young kids, that's a good cap to the season.

Sure, we all want to see Crawford, but he doesn't need to be called up and take space on the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft this winter.

Before all that unfolds, the Phillies have to face the Cardinals this weekend. Let's take a look at what to expect.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Series Preview - Chase Utley at Phillies

Let's keep this simple.
All you need to know about this series is two things.
1. The Phillies are playing very well of late. Winners of four straight, they've also gone 26-20 since June 23. Thanks to this recent run and their hot start to the season, the Phillies have a legitimate shot at .500 - they're 7 games off that pace - and a not so legitimate shot at finishing with a Wild Card berth, currently 6.5 back.*
2. Chase Utley is coming home. Let's get something out of the way. If anyone boos Utley tonight - the likely culprit will be one of those guys who chants E-A-G-L-E-S at a Phillies, Flyers or Sixers playoff games and also probably buys shirts two sizes too small - they shouldn't be assaulted. They should be shunned. For at least six years. I felt the same way about all the members of the 2008 team, from Burrell to Werth.

I would love to see three things happen tonight:
    A. The Phillies fans give Utley a standing ovation as Kashmir plays while Chase walks to the batters' box for each of his at-bats.
    B. Chase Utley hit a late triple to tie the game.   
    C. Phillies end the evening with their winning streak in tact.

*If you can't tell the difference between going 25-18 the rest of the way to finish 81-81 and making up the ground needed to earn a Wild Card berth, that's on you.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Oh Hinojosa, Where Art Thou?

As the Phillies bullpen continues to struggle, one has to wonder...What the hell happened to Dalier Hinojosa? You know, the Cuban that came over from the BoSox last season via waiver claim that was lights out. The same guy that did alright to begin the season, but then landed on the DL. Since he hit the DL back in late April, he's been stuck in minor league purgatory even after fully recovering. Instead of continually having to suffer through Andrew Bailey (thank goodness that's over) or Luis Garcia or Elvis Araujo, why not give someone who's had nothing but success at the MLB level another chance?!
Dalier Hinojosa - 28 G, 34 IP, 29 K, 1.59 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and a 1.1 WAR since joining the Phillies in 2015.

It's a head scratcher.

Quick Hits:
Ryan Howard is hitting .386 with five home runs and 13 RBI since the All-Star break. I've done my fair share of Howard bashing over the season, perhaps even too much, but I still love watching him get ahold of a baseball and driving it deep into the night. It would be awesome if he continues this second half bounce back performance to end his Phillies career on a good note.

Jake Thompson not only picked up his 1st MLB victory last night, he also became on the 2nd pitcher in Phillies' franchise history to record 4 strikeouts in 1 inning.

I've heard the idea of moving Aaron Altherr to center field and Odubel Herrera to right field. I like it, Altherr is like a gazelle gliding over the grasslands of the outfield and Herrera's defense will likely improve with the shift as well.

Sixto Sanchez, an 18 year old pitcher for the Gulf Coast Phillies rookie ball team, is having himself one helluva season. 9 games started, 43 IP, 33 K, 0.42 ERA, and a 0.81 WHIP. He hasn't allowed an earned run over this last 6 appearances, spanning 30 innings.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Off Day Ramblings

The Phillies have the day off, so I thought I'd offer some ramblings that have been on my mind...
*Dan Otero - 42 G, 47 IP, 40 K, 1.53 ERA, 1.00 WHIP with Indians. He was Phillies property this offseason. Shouldn't have let him go! He'd really help sure up their craptastic bullpen.

*Who would you rather have:
Player A - 26 years old, .238/.276/.356/.632 batter over 435 games and 5 seasons with 55 DBL, 14 TRPL, 31 HR, 148 R, 150 RBI, 24 SB, and a 0.5 WAR.
Player B - 26 years old, .275/.336/.347/.683 batter over 338 games and 4 seasons with 38 DBL, 12 TRPL, 4 HR, 129 R, 76 RBI, 31 SB, and a 1.1 WAR.
Both are middle infielders. Player A is Freddy Galvis and Player B is Cesar Hernandez. Neither is a superstar, but Cesar's game seems to be continuing to progress while Freddy's has seemed to stall. I prefer Cesar, but unfortunately it doesn't appear Pete Mackanin does.

*A pair of sluggers playing for the Reading Fightins have me excited. Rhys Hoskins/1B and Dylan Cozens/RF are having themselves a helluva season. Hoskins is 23 years old and is following up his productive 2015 season with an even bigger year - 110 G, .282/.959, 80 R, 24 DBL, 35 HR, 104 RBI, 4 SB. Cozens is 22 years old and built like a linebacker, but he's only had marginal success prior to his breakout performance this year - 109 G, .290/.983, 92 R, 33 DBL, 32 HR, 104 RBI, 19 SB.

*I really looking forward to watching the young Phillies starting pitchers progress this season. It really hasn't gone that way though. Eickhoff looks to be solid and has been pretty consistent for most of the season. Velasquez definitely has the potential and filthy pitches to succeed, but he is going to implode every now and again, and doesn't work deep in the game. Nola took a big step backward and is health is a bit of a concern. Eflin showed he can dominate, but also showed he can get torched. He doesn't miss enough bats, which worries me, and his knee issues are worrisome too. Thompson only just made his debut, so I'll wait a bit longer to judge him.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Series Preview: Phillies at Dodgers

Who is Cesar Hernandez? Kid has been around for four years. People have dug in. A lot of the online community loathes the fact he gets regular at-bats. But some fans still like him. I'll admit I'm somewhere in between.
Hernandez looked like he'd had a career year last season when he put up a .272/.339/.348 with 19 stolen bases and 25 extra-base hits.
But, after struggling in May, he has rebounded and is sporting a .290/.349/.374 mark this year. Despite his abundance of speed, he's just 11 for 19 in stolen base attempts. He's got a 1.1 WAR so far.
Because of his flaws - a lack of home run power and a slightly above average glove for a primary position - it's hard to imagine Hernandez as being one of the building blocks for the franchise.
If his base-running were better and he could get his on-base percentage up a tick, that might change.
Say he sported a .290/.360/.375 mark next year. That's not anything to sneeze at if he added in 25 stolen bases and 25 extra-base hits.
But here's the thing, which player would you rather have around next year to play second base: Hernandez or Freddy Galvis?
Those are the likely options next year, if the team doesn't go outside the organization. Galvis has more home run power and his a superior defender, but I'm not sold he helps the lineup in 2017. His low on-base percentage is brutal. His on-base percentage is lower than Hernandez' career batting average.
So who is Cesar Hernandez? Is he the 2017 Phillies' second baseman? Is he the backup infielder? Is he a future Atlantic Leaguer?

The games
Monday, Aug. 8: 10:10 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 9: 10:10 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 10: 3:10 p.m.

The matchups
Zach Eflin (3-4, 4.77) vs Julio Urias (1-2, 4.98)
Vincent Velasquez (8-3, 3.33) vs Kente Maeda (10-7, 3.22)
Jeremy Hellickson (9-7, 3.72) vs Scott Kazmir (11-5, 4.51)

What we know about the Dodgers
Los Angeles has the highest payroll in baseball. The money isn't being spent badly, on whole; but it could be better. They sit in a Wild Card position and are sniffing the Giants' tails in the West. They have the fourth best pitching staff, ERA wise.The offense is a bit scattershot. It's in the bottom half of the league as far as runs and on-base percentage go.
Their big problem: Clayton Kershaw sits on the DL.

Best matchup
Velasquez versus Maeda should be a good game. They both can dominate a lineup. The Dodgers are a playoff team and their likely No. 1 postseason starter is Maeda.

What we can't wait to see
Julio Urias has been one of the most talked about prospects in baseball for more than a year now. Kid is just 19. He'll likely be around for awhile, so enjoy your first look at him.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Series Preview: Giants at Phillies

So Matt Klentak didn't trade Jeremy Hellickson.
I don't think this was the screw up everyone else thinks it was, but I wish we knew what offers were made.
While everyone is pointing to the chances that the Phillies could get a draft pick if the right-hander turns down a qualifying offer this offseason as the main factor in the Phillies' decisions, I think another factor hasn't been talked about.
Innings.
Just look at the previous highs in a season for the Phillies young hurlers compared to this year.

Aaron Nola: 187/111
Jerad Eickhoff: 184/132
Vincent Velasquez 124*/102.2
Zach Eflin 131/123.2
Jake Thompson 132/129
Ben Lively 143/74.1
* 2013

So, aside from Nola and Eickhoff, you're about to blow past the supposed innings limits on Eflin, Velasquez and Thompson.
I think there's a solid chance we see Ben Lively eat some innings in September. Maybe even Adam Morgan or Brett Oberholzer.
But having Hellickson around definitely eases any concerns. It's a lot easier on the young guys if he, Nola and Eickhoff shoulder the bulk of the upcoming innings.

That being said, with all the rumors that swirled around, it was a bit of a disappointment to not see something done.

As a professional journalist, the trade deadline bothers me. I see a lot of bad journalism out there. At one point, I saw two respected national journalists tweeting out conflicting reports on Hellickson. One said he was staying, the other said he was out the door.

Now I know a journalist is only as accurate as his or her sources. These two beat writers are being fed information and they parroted it out. I'm just not sure why. I don't get the point of the reporting. It doesn't make them more accurate. No one outside the industry gives a jolly damn about who got it first. Anyway, that's another discussion for another day.

Let's look at the Phillies first series in the dog days of August.