Monday, February 29, 2016

Clearwater: Day 2 - A win, a few autographs and a good pizza joint

By now, you know the Phillies beat the Tampa University Spartans. You probably read that Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro had solid days at the plate and that Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola tossed strong innings.
But here are some things you might not know.
Early in the day, Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, J.P. Crawford and Brock Stassi took batting practice as a group and put on quite a show.
Quinn hit a few more pop-ups than you'd like from a big time prospect in batting practice. But he sprayed the ball all over the field.
Stassi put on a tremendous power display. We're not just talking about flyballs that carried, we're talking about balls that soared fast and far.
Crawford really does look legit.
Williams also showed how strong he was.
Again, it was batting practice and you can't tell much, but it was nice to be excited about four guys in the system.
Are they going to turn into Bobby Abreu, Brett Butler, Derek Jeter and Jim Thome? Probably not. But  I think the future looks brighter than it did before I watched that display.
I didn't get to see as much of the game as I'd have liked. I missed most of Nola's frame and all the runs Tampa scored.
In the game, I liked seeing the Phillies be aggressive on the basepaths.
But they didn't take advantage of the college kids.
At one point, the Phillies would have been safe had they taken extra bases on back-to-back hits because Tampa's throws to third and home were way off line.
But minor leaguers and Major Leaguers probably make those plays.
That point aside, Herrera got a great jump for a stolen base. Williams and Ruf (!) also were active on the base paths.
I was pleasantly surprised at how Alfaro moves. Maybe he really could be turned into an outfielder.
Greg Burke was impressive, too. It would be a nice story to see him get onto the roster.
Outside the ballpark - We stayed at the hotel after the game, enjoying the heated pool, doing a bit of reading and eating dinner in the room. We all got a little hungry later and ordered out from Jet's Pizza.
I highly recommend it.
Oh, and the kids got two more balls during practice. Michael also got J.P. Crawford's autograph. I got my Spring Training hat signed by Nola. That's going on my shelf.
I'm going to have to get a shelf for each of the kid's rooms.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Clearwater: Day 1 - the long, strange trip

We rolled into Clearwater at 4 a.m. Friday. Or was it Saturday? Hmmm. What day is it today? Saturday. Yeah. Damn, I'm tired, not to mention scarred by a terrifying experience with a cockroach. But I don't think I'd trade this day for many others.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

2016 Preview: Darnell Sweeney

As we move toward the 2016 season, let us take a look at each player on the roster and what a reasonably successful season would look like. We started with Aaron Nola. Our most recent entry was Peter Bourjos.

Name: Darnell Sweeney
Position: Infielder/Outfielder
Age: 25 in February
Bat/Throw: Both/Right
Experience: 37 games

Ryan Howard is a Liar

Ryan Howard is a liar. There, I said it. No taking it back now, it's out on the Internet for the entire world to see (or our few hundred readers). Howard is kinda pissy about the possible platoon situation he's facing in 2016. He feels his "track record" should plant him firmly into the starting role at 1st base regardless of the pitcher's handedness. *The title of this post is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.  He's not a liar, he's just in denial. In fact, I did a post with the same title back in 2013's Spring Training about the exact same subject.
"The track record speaks for itself. It doesn't matter righty or lefty, I know I can get the job done. I know all the talk over the past few years, this and that, I'm not going to focus on that. For me, it's taking advantage of the opportunities when I get to go out there and play. Do I think it's fair? Me, personally, probably not. But it is what it is. The situation is the situation. You just go out there and play." ~Ryan Howard

Howard vs. Lefties:
2004 - .111/.222
2005 - .148/.421
2006 - .279/.923
2007 - .225/.826
2008 - .224/.746
2009 - .207/.653
2010 - .264/.826
2011 - .224/.634
2012 - .173/.604
2013 - .173/.539
2014 - .230/.770
2015 - .130/.418
Career - .219/.715

If you eliminate 2014's, seemingly fluke OPS, he's been absolutely dreadful since 2011 against lefties. Baseball is about winning, and those numbers are NOT conducive to that. On the other hand, Howard still smacks right-handed pitching around, and Darin Ruf slaughters lefties.  Therefore, a platoon is exactly the answer to this situation.  Let's take the last 3 seasons versus opposite-handed pitchers for each batter and prove this with logic...

Howard - .251/.758 (.187/.615 vs LHP)
Ruf - .295/.919 (.208/.652 vs RHP)

There should be no discussion about "if Howard proves he can handle lefties", because he already has proven he cannot. There's no teaching this 36 year old dog new tricks. Pete Mackanin should employ a straight platoon and reap the benefits.  Hell, it might skew their stats enough that the Phillies might be able to unload one or both of them at the trade deadline. Forget Howard's hurt feelings. Make the correct baseball decision.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2016 Preview: Peter Bourjos

As we move toward the 2016 season, let us take a look at each player on the roster and what a reasonably successful season would look like. We started with Aaron Nola. Our most recent entry was Jerad Eickhoff.

Name: Peter Bourjos
Position: SP
Age: 29 in March
Bat/Throw: Right/Right
Number: (unknown; 8 in St. Louis)
Experience: 590 games

Monday, February 22, 2016

An early debate on the Opening Day starter

We all have those friends we love to debate. My friend John has surpassed all of my other buddies in this category. Though we both love the game and are both Phillies fans, we have very different takes on the sport and our team. He's great fun to argue with and recently challenged me to a public duel over one issue. I wasn't sure I'd pick up the gauntlet, but his hot take was so absurd it needed a public flogging.
John wants Charlie Morton to be the Opening Day starter.
Are you still with us? Do you need a drink, dear reader? I know I did after hearing this.
Charlie Morton. The guy with a 4.54 career ERA. Well, I read John's post (Do if you dare) and he brings up some really good points. Wait. No he doesn't.
We'll go at this in Aaron Nola fashion. Three quick strikes to put him away.
Of course, we need to leave aside the points that it's still very, very early in spring training and we should let the guys figure this out on the mounds in Florida. However, we're going to point out why not only should Aaron Nola be the favorite to be the Opening Day starter, but that Morton probably isn't even in the top three on the list.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Preview: Jerad Eickhoff

As we move toward the 2016 season, let us take a look at each player on the roster and what a reasonably successful season would look like. We started with Aaron Nola. Our most recent entry was Cesar Hernandez.
Name: Jerad Eickhoff
Position: SP
Age: 26 in July
Bat/Throw:  Right/Right
Number: 8
Experience: 8 starts

What we saw in 2015

Jerad Eickhoff started the 2015 season as a mid-level prospect in the Texas Rangers' system, was dealt to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade and bolted through Triple-A and into the Major Leagues. And what a revelation he was in 2015! In eight starts, Eickhoff had two ten-strikeout games, twirled 51 innings and compiled a 2.65 ERA and 3.25 FIP. In the minors - and during his brief cameo in the big leagues - he has proven to be able to limit his walks and limit his hits allowed. His 7.4 whiffs per nine innings is solid, if not spectacular.

Important Goals for 2016

Innings, innings innings: Jerad Eickhoff needs to toss at least 155 innings next year. Anything above that is probably a bonus, but also proof that the Hamels deal will work in the Phillies favor. Eickhoff pitched at least six innings in seven of his eight starts. In five of those starts, he reached the seventh inning. If he can toss seven or more innings in 10 starts next year, that will be very good for the Phillies and their 'pen.
Strikeouts: I'm just going to toss my bias out there, I don't think strikouts are as important as a lot of analysts, but that's another story for another day. That said, if Eickhoff is putting guys away, we're going to know he's pitching well. No one should hope Eickhoff will end up with nine or 10 whiffs a game, but he should be able to miss enough bats to get out of some jams.
Secondary pitches: Eickhoff's offspeed deliveries will fuel his success. His curveball can be investigating and his slider is effective. If he can't replicate what he did in 2015, hes' going to be in trouble.
Get lefties out: Left-handed hitters popped Eickhoff to a better than .800 OPS. He's got to get that below at least .780. How he attempts to do that will be interesting. His change-up isn't good enough to get the job done. Yet. Maybe that changes. Maybe tossing his slider inside so that it falls off the plate and toward the batters' ankles.


There is no player who is more important for the 2016 Phillies and the future of the franchise than Jerad Eickhoff.
That sounds crazy. But we're pretty sure we know what the team is getting with Aaron Nola and JP Crawford, not to mention Odubel Herrera and a few others. Eickhoff is the wildcard. If he pitches anywhere near what he did in 2015, the Phillies and their rebuilding process will take a huge step forward. It would basically mean the door to contending for a postseason spot would likely be there in 2017, if not 2018.
A two-armed tandem of Nola and Eickhoff would be the beginning of a very bright young rotation.
But here's what's interesting: Even if Eickhoff takes a small step back - say he pitches 140 innings because he misses a few starts, pitches to a 3.50 ERA and a 4.00 FIP - this team is still probably better than expected.
The fear for the Phillies is that Eickhoff is the next Mike Mimbs or Mike Grace. If you're too young to remember either of them, they had bright beginnings in red pinstripes then fell apart.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

2016 Preview: Cesar Hernandez

As we move toward the 2016 season, let us take a look at each player on the roster and what a reasonably successful season would look like. We started with Aaron Nola. Our most recent entry was Ryan Howard.

Name: Cesar Hernandez
Position: 2B
Age: 26 in May
Bat/Throw:  Both/Right
Number: 16
Experience: 227 games

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Free Agent Squad 2016

With roughly 2 weeks remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, there remains some unsigned talent on the free agent market. Because I enjoy playing armchair GM, I decided to construct a 25-man roster from the players still searching for their next meal ticket.  Enjoy...
Taylor Teagarden - .202/.637 career in 180 games, 0.4 WAR
Bryan Anderson - .221/.556 career in 40 games, -0.5 WAR

First Base:
Justin Morneau - .310/.821, 49 G, 0.4 WAR

Second Base:
Juan Uribe - .253/.737, 40 R, 17 DBL, 14 HR, 43 RBI, 1.7 WAR

Ian Desmond - .233/.674, 69 R, 27 DBL, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 13 SB, 2.0 WAR

Third Base:
David Freese - .257/.743, 53 R, 27 DBL, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 2.3 WAR

Pedro Alvarez - .243/.787, 60 R, 18 DBL, 27 HR, 77 RBI, 0.1 WAR

Clint Barmes - .232/.633, 98 G, 0.2 WAR
Jimmy Rollins - .224/.643, 71 R, 24 DBL, 13 HR, 41 RBI, 12 SB, -0.1 WAR

Marlon Byrd - .247/.743, 58 R, 25 DBL, 23 HR, 73 RBI, 1.5 WAR
Dexter Fowler - .250/.757, 102 R, 29 DBL, 8 TRPL, 17 HR, 46 RBI, 20 SB, 2.2 WAR
David Murphy - .283/.739, 38 R, 18 DBL, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 0.0 WAR
Austin Jackson - .267/.696, 56 R, 25 DBL, 9 HR, 48 RBI, 17 SB, 1.6 WAR

1. Dexter Fowler/RF
2. Austin Jackson/CF
3. Justin Morneau/1B
4. Marlon Byrd/LF
5. Pedro Alvarez/DH
6. David Freese/3B
7. Juan Uribe/2B
8. Ian Desmond/SS
9. Taylor Teagarden/C

Yovani Gallardo - 33 GS, 184.1 IP, 13-11, 3.42/1.42, 121 K, 4.1 WAR
Mat Latos - 24 G, 21 GS, 116.1 IP, 4-10, 4.95/1.31, 100 K, -1.5 WAR
Alfredo Simon - 31 G, 187 IP, 13-12, 5.05/1.44, 117 K, -0.7 WAR
Aaron Harang - 29 GS, 172.1 IP, 6-15, 4.86/1.39, 108 K, 0.7 WAR
Kyle Lohse - 37 G, 22 GS, 152.1 IP, 5-13, 5.85/1.46, 108 K -1.3 WAR
*It is believed that Mark Buehrle is retiring, therefore not in this rotation

Tyler Clippard - 69 G, 71 IP, 64 K, 19 SV, 8 HLD, 2.92/1.13, 1.2 WAR
Blaine Boyer - 68 G, 65 IP, 33 K, 19 HLD, 2.49/1.25, 1.3 WAR
Matt Belisle - 34 G, 33.2 IP, 25 K, 8 HLD, 2.67/1.46, 0.8 WAR
Neal Cotts - 68 G, 63.1 IP, 58 G, 5 HLD, 3.41/1.26, 0.5 WAR
Franklin Morales - 67 G, 62.1 IP, 41 K, 8 HLD, 3.18/1.16, 0.7 WAR
Ryan Webb - 40 G, 50.2 IP, 31 K, 3.20/1.15, 0.6 WAR
Matt Thornton - 60 G, 41.1 IP, 23 K, 18 HLD, 2.18/1.07, 1.2 WAR

Monday, February 01, 2016

Phillies 2016 Bullpen Competition

Last week the Phillies plucked yet another pitcher off the waiver wire. This time it was lefty Bobby LaFramboise. He took the 40-man roster spot of injured former 1st round pick Jesse Biddle. With the addition of LaFramboise the bullpen competition has become even stiffer (that's what she said).  There are currently already 7 worthy candidates to take the 7 spots. Then there's a group of veterans on minor league contracts that have been effective in the past. And there's the group of minor league depth guys that are on the 40-man roster.  It's going to be interesting to see who opens the season in the bullpen.

Inside Track:
Blue = 2015, Red = Career
Luis Garcia/R - 3.51/1.64, 3.94/1.66
Jeanmar Gomez/R - 3.01/1.33, 4.16/1.41
David Hernandez/R - 4.28/1.31, 4.15/1.32
Dalier Hinojosa/R - 0.73/1.05, Debuted in 2015
Hector Neris/R - 3.79/1.19, 3.70/1.16
Elvis Araujo/L - 3.38/1.39, Debuted in 2015
Brett Oberholtzer/L - 4.46/1.59, 3.94/1.33

Minor League Contract Veterans:
Andrew Bailey/R - 5.19/1.62, 2.74/1.08
Ernesto Frieri/R - 4.63/1.33, 3.55/1.23
Edward Mujica/R - 4.75/1.25, 3.85/1.17
James Russell/L - 5.29/1.50, 3.90/1.29

On 40 Man Roster:
Bobby LaFromboise/L - 1.13/0.75, 3.63/1.12
Mario Hollands/L - Injured last year, 4.40/1.40
Daniel Stumpf/L - Rule 5 pick, 3.21/1.18 in minors
Colton Murray/R - 5.87/1.70, 3.30/1.24 in minors
Michael Mariot/R - 6.11/1.68 in 19 MLB appearances 2014-2015
Jimmy Cordero/R - 3.58/1.42 in minors
Edubray Ramos/R - 3.12/1.15 in minors