Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 Player Review: Patrick Schuster

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Alec Ascher was the last player profiled. 
Patrick Schuster has a great first name, a commendable beard and a solid minor league reputation.
Dude has ripped off a 3.24 ERA and 1.290 WHIP in 296 minor league games.
The 25-year-old made it to the big leagues this year and got rocked in five appearances in Oakland. A 10.80 ERA and a 2.250 WHIP.
The Phils claimed him off waivers. He pitched ahandful of games in Lehigh Valley, compiling a 1.50 ERA. But his work in Philly was brutal.
Schuster gave up a 45.00 ERA and a 5.000 WHIP in 2 innings over six games.
He walked 18 batters per nine innings.
That said, he's left-handed so it was no doubt he'd find  a job in 2017.
He signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Season Grade: F
Will we see him back in 2017: He's already signed with the Dodgers. No doubt, he'll pitch successfully against the Phillies at some point. That's OK, we wish him and his beard some luck.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 Player Review: Alec Asher

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Charlie Morton was the last player profiled. 

I've never known what to think of Alec Ascher.
When he came over in the Cole Hamels deal, I assumed he was organizational depth the Phillies were willing to take a flyer on. While he doesn't walk many batters and has decent strikeout numbers, he gave up his fair share of homers in the low minors. 
Then he showed up at Lehigh Valley and pitched to a 2.08 ERA in four starts and the Phillies promoted him.
And he got rocked. 
In his first four Big League starts, he got kncocked around to the tune of a 9.78 ERA, allowing six home runs and 30 hits in 19.3 frames.
That's some rough stuff. 
Then he took the hill against the Marlins on Sept. 24 and threw seven innings of three-hit ball.
He finished the season getting rocked again and walking away with a 9.31 ERA.
It seemed safe to assume we would rather have David Buchanan eat some innings than Alec Asher.
Then, at the middle of the year, he got hit with an 80 game suspension for baseball's drug policy while pitching in the minors.
For all intents and purposes, I was done with him.
But the 25 year old did pitch this year, so let's look at what he did.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 Player Review: Charlie Morton

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Phil Klein was the last player profiled.

Charlie Morton arrived in Philadelphia to help eat innings for a young rotation. To get the then 33-year-old from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Phillies had to give up David Whitehead, a 34th-round pick out of Elon University.

It's probably a good thing the Phillies didn't give up much more.

Morton, who had never pitched more than 171.2 innings, had only topped 150 twice, and has had a string of injuries, started out looking pretty serviceable. After getting smoked by the Cincinnati Reds in his first start, the right-hander logged six or more frames in his next two starts, giving up just 1 run. 

But he didn't make it out of the first inning on April 23 and never pitched again.

Before the season started, a good friend and I disagreed over who would be the better pitcher, Morton, Aaron Nola or Jeremy Hellickson. I didn't expect Morton to be as good as the latter two, but I expected him to be around for awhile. 

Morton's injury, and other factors, allowed us to get an 11-game look at Zach Eflin, who impressed until his own injury sidelined him.

Morton ended up being a safe bet that failed for GM Matt Klentak. Those happen. 

Considering David Whitehead put up an 8.41 ERA in the minors last season, with 7.5 walks per nine innings, it was a failed move that didn't cost the Phillies anything.  

Season Grade: F
Will we see him back in 2017: No. He signed with the Astros 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sure, the draft pick would have been nice, but having Hellickson around isn't too bad

Did Matt Klentak overplay his hand with Jeremy Hellickson?

At first glance, I think so.

Sure, the Phillies could have gotten a midlevel prospect or two at the trade deadline, but they were willing to ask for a higher price with Hellickson hitting an open market that didn't have much, pitching-wise.

But the Phillies will likely benefit from having Hellickson on the roster going into 2017.

Hellickson has been healthy for all but 1 season of his career. He's had three years in his six full seasons in which he was at worst a No. 3 starter. From 2011-12, he went 23-21 with a 3.02 ERA, 1.202 WHIP, 7.6 hits per nine and 3.2 BB per nine over 60 starts. Last year, he went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA, 8.2 hits per nine and 2.1 hits per nine.

But take a closer look at what he's done since July of 2014. It's a 42 game run that includes 251.1 innings pitched.

That's not a small sample size.

Since then, he's walked 63 batters and struck out 205 while allowing 33 home runs and 230 hits. That's 2.25 walks per nine, which is .75 walks fewer than his career up to that point. That's 7.3 K's per nine, a significant increase over his previous mark of 6.5. His 8.2 hits per nine are a slight decrease over what he previously allowed (8.4) He still gives up 1.1 homers per nine, which isn't spectacular, but not worrisome when you look at his other numbers.

In all, it seems Hellickson has turned a corner in his career.

If he keeps those numbers up in April, May and June of 2017, the Phillies could get a nice return on their investment of Sam McWilliams. The 20-year-old who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks had an interesting season in A-ball? He pitched to a 3.98 ERA in 15 starts and walked just 18 in 74 innings, but allowed 10.4 hits and struck out just 5.2 batters.

No doubt the Phillies would have liked getting the supplemental pick that would have come their way had Hellickson signed elsewhere. But keeping things in perspective, they've so far gotten a starting pitcher who performed above expectations in 2016 and could be a valuable member of the team in 2017.

2016 Player Review: Phil Klein

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of looks at the men who suited up for the 2016 Philadelphia Phillies. Cedric Hunter was the first player profiled.

Phil Klein has the look of a Big League pitcher. The 6-7, 27-year-old right-hander has a low 90s fastball. He was plucked off waivers from the Texas Rangers in June and pitched in four games after being brought up to the Major Leagues. He tossed 10.2 innings, getting touched for 15 hits, seven walks and an 8.44 ERA. He owns a career 5.50 ERA, 5.02 FIP and 1.545 WHIP.

But Klein might not be a guy the Phillies give up on. He's got a career 2.10 ERA and 1.136 WHIP in 161 minor league games. His peripherals are really impressive. He's allowed just 15 homers in 343 minor league innings while accumulating 400 whiffs. The problem is he allows a ton of walks, including 4.0 per 9 innings.

His first foray into The Show was also quite effective, tossing 19 frames in 17 games, allowing a 2.84 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP.  He did give up three home runs in that stretch.

It's hard to imagine the Phillies keeping Klein on the 40-man roster because of the glut of prospects that must be protected. However, if the Phils can find a way to keep him around, those previous numbers mean he could provide valuable bullpen innings down the road.

He's one of those guys. Someone you could easily see going to another organization and putting up impressive numbers. Remember when Ryan Vogelsong was let go? Dan Otero? There's a risk in letting him go or not protecting him.

Season grade: D.
Will we see him back in 2017? Possibly


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Welcome Aboard Neshek and Kendrick

Phillies GM, Matt Klentak, has been a busy boy in the early going of the offseason. He's already landed a reliable veteran relief pitcher and now a sturdy veteran bat that can play left field or second base. Well done, as they are two moves I thought made sense before they were even announced.

First up, the bullpen help - Pat Neshek. He comes from way of the Houston Astros, who the Phillies gave up very little to obtain. He's a 36 year old right-handed, side-arming gunslinger. Over 10 MLB seasons he's posted a 2.93 ERA and 1.05 WHIP...damn good! He's set to make $6.5M next year, an option the Phils picked up when they traded for him. He's appeared in 60+ games in each of the last 3 seasons and is hell on right-handed batters. Hopefully Mackanin is smart enough to use him sparingly against lefties.

Next up, the bat - Howie Kendrick. He comes from the Dodgers. Ha, imagine that? The Phillies seem to make a trade with the Dodgers every other month. Anyway, he's a 33 year old right-handed batter that is capable of playing left field and second base. He's long been a 2-sacker, but recently took a move to the outfield with aplomb. He suffered through his worst offensive campaign last year, but a return to his high batting average and middling OPS days are quite possible. For his career, Howie is a .289/.749 hitter over 1344 games in 11 seasons. He'll hit doubles, pop the occasional homerun, and surprise you with a stolen base every now and again. He'll make $10M in the final year of his contract. Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney were sent in the return package.
Since Klentak has been seemingly reading my mind, I'll just throw out a few more players that might be worth looking into as well...Free Agents to sign to short-term contracts: Colby Lewis for rotation, Mike Dunn as lefty in the bullpen, Clayton Richards as swingman (reliever/starter), Andres Blanco or Daniel Descalso for utility infielder, and Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo or Joaquin Benoit as veteran right-handed reliever. Guys in final year of arbitration or contract: Ryan Flaherty as a utility infielder, and Miguel Gonzalez or Anibal Sanchez for rotation. And of course, I always recommend signing as many guys to minor league deals in hopes that they might bounce back.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Ryan Howard Era is Officially Over in Philly

Guest Post By: Will Kay

It was no surprise to Philadelphia fans and sportswriters who cover major league baseball that the Phillies officially ended their 15-year relationship with slugger Ryan Howard by declining his $23 million option for next year. Instead, the Phillies will pay Howard $10 million sum to buy out the 2017 option and release him to seek employment elsewhere as a free agent. Howard, who will soon be 37, says he intends to play for another club in 2017. "I know there's more in the tank,'' he said recently.

Even with his sterling record with the Phillies, Howard might find it difficult to sign a guaranteed contract because of his age. His only option would then be to win a job in spring training or retirement.

Although he tied for the Phillies team lead in in 2016 with 25 home runs, his batting average declined to a career-low of only .196. This was a far cry from the young Ryan Howard who was named the National League MVP in 2006 when he hit 58 home runs, had 149 RBIs and posted a .313 batting average.

The slugger helped the Phillies win the World Series over the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 when he hit three home runs and had six RBIs in Philadelphia's five-game victory. In 2009, Howard was named the National League Championship Series MVP in a five-game victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He batted .333 against the Dodgers with two home runs and eight RBIs.

Howard ranks second only behind Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt in homeruns for the Phillies with 382, and his total of 1,294 RBIs ranks him third in the club’s history. Based on his early success, the three-time All-Star signed a five-year, $125MM extension with the Phillies in April of 2010. Unfortunately, the deal was disastrous for the team. From the point forward, Howard batted a meek .240 in 3,386 plate appearances. He did add another 160 more homers, but his declining offense, inability to run bases and lack of defense eventually caught up with his career. To the Phillies credit, they respected Howard enough not to trade him at any point for young talent.

One thing is certain about Ryan Howard: he leaves behind a lot of loyal fans who were sorry to see him leave. During a drawn-out “farewell tour” at the end of the 2016 season, Howard did his best to hold back his feelings. But he finally gave in to his emotions during a tribute to him before his final game with the Phillies. His voice cracked and the tears welled up as he spoke to the crowd of 36,935 fans at Citizens Bank Park. When Howard said that he was just a laid-back cat from St. Louis out here trying to play ball, the crowd roared their approval. They continued even louder win Howard added, “It's been fun, man, these last 12 years. You guys all made it possible.”

A bronze plaque was then unveiled by Howard’s son, Darian. It recognizes Howard’s club record 58 homers in 2006 and will be placed in the spot where the 58th home run ball landed in the left field seats. Mike Schmidt was also on hand to make the presentation to Howard.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Phillies Roundup

*Matt Stairs has been named the Phillies newest hitting coach. He has a tall task ahead of him, as the Phils were the shittiest offense in the Majors last season. They've got nowhere to go but up. I like the hire, as Stairs was always referred to as a "professional hitter", which means he knew what he was doing. Now it's time he teach others what to blast moonshots deep into the night.
*John Kruk recently ended his tenure with ESPN, but it looks like their loss might become our gain. Rumor has it he is in discussions with Comcast Sports Network to join the Phillies broadcast booth, which will be the best thing since Harry Kalas rocked the mic.

*Not everything was horrible for the Phillies in 2016, Odubel Herrera and Freddy Galvis played some sparkling defense and have been nominated at CF and SS respectively. What what it's worth, I would liked to see Cesar Hernandez added to the second base group too.

*Aaron Nola is healing and should be ready to go for Spring Training. He is a BIG part of the Phillies future, so that's great news.

*Aaron Brown/OF, Mitch Walding/3B, Scott Kingery/2B, Jeff Singer/RP, Victor Arano/RP, and Miguel Nunez/RP are representing the Phillies in the Arizona Fall League. Kingery has been named to the All-Star squad, but Singer, Nunez, and Walding have been the ones shining. Singer - 0.00 ERA and 0.72 WHIP in 9.2 IP with 8 K. Nunez - 1.13 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 8 IP. Walding - .325/.924 in 13 G.