Monday, May 23, 2016

Series Preview: Phillies at Tigers

Well, that was a terrible series against baseball's worst team.
What do we look at going forward?

Maikel Franco is still just 23. He hasn't played 162 games in the big leagues. Still, I can't help myself from wanting to see more production out of him. I know the team is putting too much onto his shoulders, asking him to hit in the third hole with no protection in front of or behind him. But I look at that .247/.290/.426 line and think, "Move him from that spot and let him stay within himself." If you listen to the radio broadcasts, you regularly hear Larry Anderson bemoan Franco's all-or-nothing swing. He's right. It's also gotta be hard to be the 3-hole hitter on a team with one successful offensive player. It might be interesting to toss Franco in the 2-hole for a week just to give him some at-bats with no out and a runner on.

But let's look at his numbers. We'll start off with the power numbers. For a guy with his power, you expect to see more home runs. They'll come. I have no doubt about that. Kid's got pop. The question is consistency with extra bases and why he isn't getting it. Franco has 15 extra-base hits in 162 at-bats. That's an 8.5 extra-base hit percentage. To put that in perspective, Tony Gwynn was a Hall-of-Fame gap bitter who put up a 7.5 percentage for his career and Chase Utley was the Phillies last long-term 3-hole guy who carries a 9.4 percentage into today's game for his career.

So Franco isn't doing too badly there, strictly speaking. But in context, there's a problem. Which brings us to getting on base. He can improve that in two different areas: either getting more hits or getting more walks.

Let's keep the Gwynn comparison going. Yes, I know they're different offensive players, but not as much as you would think, especially considering neither was a walk machine out of the 3-hole.
The problem is that Gwynn (7.7 percent) walked more than Franco (6.5). I'm not sure we're going to see much improvement in this area. It's rare that a guy pulls an Odubel Herrera and turns into walk machine.

The other area is getting hits. Gwynn regularly hit for batting average that was almost 100 points higher than Franco's current rate. Seriously. Gwynn had seven season with a batting average 100 or more points higher than Franco's .247.

Franco's strikout rate isn't obscene. He's at 18.2 percent. So he's putting balls in play. That leaves him with a very low .262 BAPIP. League average is usually above .300. So Franco needs to get some hits to fall in. Of course, that will bring up his on-base percentage. This is the area that's probably most important to Franco. If he improves this part of his game, the homers will come. The walks will come, too.

The last part is runs batted in. Franco is on pace for 92 runs batted in, which is higher than I expected when you consider the paltry offense around him. Franco will probably be a 100-120 RBI guy when he has capable hitters surrounding him. He needs guys to get on-base. The Phils have been trotting out Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis at the top of the order. Galvis has a .269 on-base percentage. Hernandez is at .310. Neither of those numbers should be at the top of your order.

The games
Monday May 23: 7:10
Tuesday May 24: 7:10
Wednesday May 25: 1:10

The matchups
Vincent Velazquez (5-1, 2.42)  vs Mike Pelfrey (0-4, 5.49)
Jeremy Hellickson (4-2, 3.99) vs Justin Verlander (3-4, 4.58)
Aaron Nola (3-3, 2.85) vs Anibal Sanchez (3-5, 6.23)

What we know about the Tigers
The Tigers pitching staff has to be drooling over the chance to pitch against the low octane Phillies. With four starters who have ERAs north of 4.50 (three of whom have ERAs north of 5), they must be pining for the chance to face the Phillies in spacious Comerica Park. But this staff is 13th in the AL in strikeouts and 12th in homers, so the Phillies have to be itching to face these guys as well.
Detroit's pitching has been the only reason the Tigers aren't much higher in the standings.

The offense is robust. Fourth in the league in runs scored, second in batting, third in slugging and fifth in on-base percentage and home runs, it can hurt you in several spots.

Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is hitting .315/.377/.537 with nine home runs. Youngster Nick Castellanos is hitting .344/.366/.582 and probably on his way to an All-Star selection. J.D. Martinez continues to slug, posting an 818 OPS. Then there's Victor Martinez pumping out a .329/.384/.523 mark. Do people realize he is a .302/.368/.468 career hitter with four 100 RBI seasons on his resume?

Lastly, there's Ian Kinsler. A co-worker once mockingly referred to him as future "Hall of Famer Ian Kinsler" after Kinsler had a big day against his favorite team. I pointed out at that time that Kinsler was a two-time All Star. My co-worker, who was a big fan, was shocked. Kinsler just flies under the radar. The now four-time All Star second baseman has a career .277/.344/.450 line and is closing in on 200 homers after just notching his 200th stolen base. He might make his fifth all-star team this year.

Key matchup
In his last three starts, Hellickson is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. With a DH, he might make it past the sixth inning for the third time this year if he can survive Detroit's lineup. If he keeps up his recent success, the Phillies will really benefit. Having done it against a good lineup again (two of his previous three starts have come against the National League's highest scoring team), he'll start to garner a lot of trade interest. I'm not sure the Phils are going to sell him, just because the rotation needs an elder statesman. But if he keeps this off, someone might knock Matt Klentak's socks off.

What we can't wait to see
Vincent Velazquez is just electric. This Tigers lineup is fantastic, but heavily right-handed. This should be a ton of fun.


GM-Carson said...

It's time to release Howard. He's terrible, and that is not hyperbole. Joesph can handle 1st the majority of the time, Blanco can fill in, and call-up Cam Perkins to be 1B/OF.

Bob D said...

Franco probably does need some better hitters around him. I would even do I lineup of:
Or drop Hernandez off the top. Blanco can play at least semi-regular at SS/2B.
Also Goeddel could fit in the 2nd hole if he keeps up his current hitting. Goeddel has been swinging well lately not the weak contact we saw early in season.

GM-Carson said...

Freakin Miguel Cabrera. He's so good. Jealous he isn't our first baseman. Nope, we have that pile of 2 week old poop...aka Howard.

GM-Carson said...

Velasquez definitely was overmatched by Tigers lineup. I miss having a good offense.

ripjgarcia said...

Please cut Ryan Howard yesterday..

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