Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day. America is a great country and WSBGMs would like to thank all that helped make and keep it that way. Go Phillies!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Series Preview: Phillies at Cubs

  I've debated this in my mind all week, but I've come to the conclusion that Ryan Howard should not be released. That doesn't mean I want him to start. I'd rather see The Big Piece on the bench, but I still want him on the roster. It's not for sentimental reasons, either.

I've got three reasons.
1. He's not the least valuable player on the roster. That's Emannuel Burris. Howard's potential for a long-ball is more valuable than Burris ability to play five positions poorly and hit .200.
2. There's no other back-up for Joseph. Look. If you're going to release him, you're eating the contract anyway. So keep him on the bench, where he probably provides more value than Darin Ruf does at this point. Let's not forget Ruf had worse numbers than Howard. Who else are you going to bring up? Brock Stassi? Kid was impressive in spring training, but he's hitting .218/.344/.327 at Lehigh Valley. You need a back-up first baseman. Keep Howard in that role so you have more freedom with Andres Blanco.
3. Did you notice Howard pulling Herrera aside the other day? That's no small thing. He's the elder statesman on this team. He's the only guy with an NLCS MVP on his mantel, let alone a regular season MVP. Of the core players on the roster Ruiz was undoubtedly a leader on the pitching staff and Rollins was the public persona of the team. Chase Utley was a dynamic player who showed a ton of fire. Everyone says that he is the guy you want your kid to live up to and they're right about that. But, for whatever reason, Howard was never treated by the fans and the media like he was a leader of this team. But you'd hear comments from teammates and Charlie Manuel. And you'd notice little things, if you played close enough attention. You'd see him chatting with younger players. I think he's got some value on a young team being the guy who talks to the media and who can help Pete Mackanin as a voice in the clubhouse. Who else can take that role? Peter Bourjos. Freddy Galvis. Maybe Chooch, but he and Rupp spend most of their time on the bench chatting with the coaches or the pitchers, not policing everyone else.

I have no delusions that Howard will have any trade value. You're not going to get a prospect for him. Not a Nick Pivetta level prospect. Not a Kyle Martin level prospect. But you don't even have that level of prospect ready to take over for him as a back up. I was a big Darin Ruf fan, but he's barely cutting it at Triple-A.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ryan Howard is the Worst

Enough is enough. The Ryan Howard Golden Era has long past and now the Phillies are stuck with a slug that can't slug anymore. A $25M slug (not to mention a $10M buyout of his 2017 option). Yuck. I wasn't for releasing him before the season began, because I held out hope that he could still handle right-handed pitching. Boy, have I been wrong (.159/.614 in 107 at bats). Now is the time, the time to release Ryan Howard.  Even ESPN.com thinks it's time.
 
Not only can Ryan Howard no longer hit (.156/.595), he also can't play defense or run the bases. He's the epitome of terrible. Mackanin's erroneous decision to continue to bat him cleanup is inexcusable. Klentak's decision to continue giving him a home on the roster has become insufferable.

It's time to give Tommy Joseph the full-time first base job and sit him against tough right-handed pitchers by giving Andres Blanco some reps over there. It's hard to imagine them performing worse than Howard. Joseph has already proven he can play better defense and at only 24 years old, still has room for growth in all facets of his game.

*Side note - I appreciate everything Ryan Howard has meant to the Philadelphia Phillies organization. It's a shame Amaro ever signed him to that unwarranted and premature extension. Had Howard been let go to free agency following 2011, we'd have a far better memory of him.

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.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Series Preview: Braves at Phillies

My daughter loves the Minions.
Like the 2016 Phillies, they are surprisingly adorable and enjoyble.
So lets have some fun with our Friday series preview. Your 2016 Phillies as Minions gifs.

Aaron Altherr

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Peter Bourjos

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Jerad Eickhoff

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Maikel Franco

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Tyler Goeddel


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Freddy Galvis


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Jeanmar Gomez


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Cesar Hernandez

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Odubel Herrera

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Ryan Howard

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Cedric Hunter

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Tommy Joseph

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Pete Mackanin

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Adam Morgan

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Hector Neris

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Aaron Nola

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Darin Ruf

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Carlos Ruiz

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Cameron Rupp

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Vincent Velazquez

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Now for the series preview:

Crawford to AAA



Phils have promoted Crawford to AAA Lehigh Valley.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

A discussion we didn't expect to have

"If we make any additions, that will help," Pete Mackanin, May 18, 2016.


This wasn't supposed to happen. Everyone knew the Phillies would be terrible. They'd get beaten back like Picket at Gettysburg. Vegas had them winning eight games. All year. OK, it wasn't that bad. Fivethirtyeight.com had them with 68 wins. No one thought this team would play anywhere near .500.

And here we are, 41 games into the season, and the Phillies are 24-17. Seven games above .500. Guaranteed a winning record after 48 games. This team didn't win 24 games until June 21.

After the Summer of Trump and the Winter of Sanders, it's the Spring of Phillies. Why not, right?

Oh, sure, some of the predictions were right. Ryan Howard has continued to regress. The outfield is dreadful. There are reasons for hope. Tyler Goeddel is looking like another Rule 5 find, hitting .363 in his last nine games.

But it's been consistently woeful, having scored four or fewer runs in 20 of the Phils last 22 straight games.

So Mackanin's comment during today's postgame press conference really stood out to me.

Has Mack reached the point where he fully believes this team can keep up its winning ways? If so, what help is he pining for? From the minors. From outside the organization.

While the rotation, defense and bullpen have been brilliant, you have to wonder what this team would look like with just one more consistent bat.
Just one.

If you trotted out the best possible lineup, it would look something like this:

CF Odubel Herrera, L, .333/.443/.458, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 6 SB, 3 CS
2B Cesar Hernandez, S, .263/.318/.321, 4/2/0, 2/5
3B Maikel Franco, R, .243/.285/.428, 7/0/7, 0/0
1B Tommy Joseph, R, .400/.455/.700, 0/0/1, 0/0
SS Freddy Galvis, S, .238/.265/.374, 6/1/4, 2/1
C Cameron Rupp, R, .241/.267/.268, 8/0/1, 1/0
LF Tyler Goeddel, R, .262/.284/.369, 2/1/1, 1/0
RF Peter Bourjos, R, .204/.239/.296, 8/1/0, 2/2

That is five regulars with on-base percentages below .286 when Ryan Howard isn't starting. When he does, it's a .286 mark added to the lineup. That's five regulars with slugging marks below .375.

A decent middle infielder or a solid corner outfield bat would make this team a lot better, obviously. But it would have a ripple effect. Freddy Galvis shouldn't be your fifth best bat. Plus you would make the bench better.

Sure, the Phillies have two highly regarded prospects at those positions. I'm not sure Mackanin is asking for their promotions. But it sounds like he wants some help.

Maybe there's a bat out there to be had.

Either way, the fact that we're even talking about this on May 19 means this season is a lot more fun than anyone expected.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Series Preview: Marlins at Phillies

David Hernandez really hasn't been that bad. He's allowed 13 hits in 17 1/3 innings. He's walked six batters and he's allowed two home runs.
Sure, he hasn't been as nice in he ninth as Jeanmar Gomez. That's why Gomez has locked down the closer's role.
But someone is going to have to step up when it comes time to give Gomez and Hector Neris a night off. 
He's the best candidate to do it.
It would also be nice for the dynamic duo to have a night or two off because the Phillies take a big lead into the later innings.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Series Reds at Phillies

Cinderella teams always have an early season game or two that shows true signs they might be for real.

The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies are probably the City of Brotherly Love's most famous Cinderella team. Expected to finish the season in last place, Jim Fregosi's boys got off to a torrid start, going 8-1. They were 15 and 5 on April 29.
The Phillies entered the eighth inning of that game with a 5-1 lead. But with Tony Gwynn, Gary Sheffiled and Fred McGriff (My god, that lineup) on base, a Guillermo Velasquez single off Larry Anderson pulled the Padres within two. An out and a walk later, Bob Garen lifted a flyball to deep left field. Milt Thompson raced back. jumped and caught the ball just as it was going over the wall.
The Phillies had escaped the jam. They'd win the game and finish the month 17-5.
Almost two weeks later, Mariano Duncan slammed the Phillies to victory with a bases loaded jack off Lee Smith.
Last night felt like one of those games. The Phillies young ace Vincent Velazquez dominated the braves through six innings. The Phils had a 4-0 lead. Then the wheels came off. Atlanta chased Velazquez quickly and the game was tied. The Phils seemed lifeless until Odubel Herrera boomed a triple to lead off the inning. With two on and no out, the Phillies had a chance. Then the scuffling Maikel Franco struck out. Darin "Short Time" Ruf followed with another punch out. As an aside, I like Ruf a lot. It boggled my mind they didn't play him more two years ago. But he's looked terrible so far. It looked like the Phillies were going to go down meekly to the worst team in baseball.
Then Freddy Galvis walked and Cameron Rupp came through with a bases double.

I keep telling myself this is a 72-74-win team that - maybe - has played its way to 78 wins.
And we should be happy with that. But I find myself playing with the numbers. A negative 27 run differential can't lead to a winning record, can it? They can't keep playing so well (4-0) in extra innings, can they? There's no way they can keep up their 12-3 record in 1-run games, right? They can't win more than 75 games if they keep scoring an average of 3.28 runs a game.
But there's also the other side of the coin.
They've played the fewest home games in baseball. They have several young kids on the farm who could come in In their next 55 games, they play 33 contests against teams below .500. Since being swept to start the season, they've won seven of 10 series. Now they can avenge that opening series sweep.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Series Preview: Phillies at Braves



After the Phillies got off to a quick start this year, a lot has been made about the Phillies having a negative run differential and their record in 1-run games.
Yes, having a negative run differential is a good indicator that you're going to lose more games than you win. But let's look at that negative run differential. The Phils have scored 104 runs in 32 games. That's 3.25 per game, which is pretty paltry. They have given up 131 runs per game. That's 4.09. We'll take that over the course of a season, right?
Take away the Phillies first four games - when they went 0-4 - and they have given up 3.75 runs per game (105 runs in 28 games).
After giving up more than five runs in three of their first four games, the Phillies have given up more than five runs in a quarter of their games.
So a closer look tells us that over 17 percent of the total season, the Phillies' pitchers have been much better than anticipated. Meanwhile the offense struggled as much, scoring 3.28 runs per game, over the same span.
It's not hard to imagine the offense actually getting better in the coming months. The only position player who has been doing better than expected is Odubel Herrera. 
Left Field has given the Phillies a .446 OPS, right field has given them a .492 OPS. First base has given them a .627 OPS.
Those are brutal numbers.
With guys like Tommy Joseph (.386/.409/687), Cam Perkins (.310/.333/451) and Nick Williams (.271./.291/.396 after starting the season poorly) hitting well at Triple-A, it's hard not to imagine some offensive help around the All-Star break.
Which means the Phillies probably just have to tread water until then if they are to finish the season anywhere close to .500.
It should help that the Phils are scheduled to play a lot of games against sub-.500 teams before the break. Before the Midsummer Classic, Pete Mackanin's boys will face off against the Braves (nine games), Diamondbacks (7) Rockies (4), Brewers (4), Twins (3), Tigers (3), Royals (3), Reds (3).  That's 33 of 58 games against teams currently below .500.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Phillies in the Hunt for Playoffs

Okay, deep breath. Now, get your undergarments out of a wad and appreciate the title is merely in jest...sort of. If the season were to end today, the Phillies would have a Wild Card spot reserved for them. Sitting on a record of 18-14, they currently have the 4th best winning percentage in the National League. 32 games is only 20% of the season, so I'm going to pump the breaks on the enthusiasm for now. However, if we get to 21% of the season completed and the Phillies are still in the hunt for October, then it's game on!
Serioulsy though, we know the law of averages are going to catch up with the Phils at some point. I literally just posted about that on Saturday. Enjoy the winning while it lasts...possibly the whole way to the playoffs (wink, wink).

Quickies:
*I absolutely love Andres "Whitey" Blanco. He is baseball, true team player, high energy, fun to watch. Utility All-Star! Since joining the Phillies he's hit .293/.861 in 154 games while manning 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and SS.

*Tommy Joseph keeps bettering his numbers, practically begging for a call-up. He's now upped his AVG/OPS to .392/1.126 in Lehigh Valley.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Law of Averages are a Bitch

The law of averages are starting to catch up with the Phillies. All the offense's holes are fully exposed, the bullpen is leaky, and the young rotation is promising yet inconsistent. With a record of 16-14 the Phils have outperformed expectations and what their stats actually say (Pythagorean W/L predictor has them at 11-19). So, basically they've been lucky and the luck has seemed to run out. Shit has been running down hill ever since that Adam Wainwright homerun off of Hellickson that still hasn't landed.

They currently employ only one regular in the lineup with an on base percentage above .300, and that's Odubel Herrera (.453 OBP). Only two regulars have an OPS above .700 (Franco and Herrera). Naturally with woeful stats like that they're near the bottom in AVG, R, and OPS.  Hell, they've been caught stealing (12 CS) more times than they've been successful (11 SB). Things need to change. But what and who? The corner outfield is dreadful, first base is pitiful, and Cesar Hernandez is floundering at 2nd.

Minor League Hope?
Tommy Joseph/1B - 21 G, .375/1.067, 7 DBL, 5 HR, 15 RBI. Lead International League in OPS, which leads us into wanting him promoted.

Brock Stassi, also a first baseman, isn't lighting the world on fire with his bat (.250/.745), but has made 2 scoreless relief appearances this season for the Iron Pigs. In fact, he's made 7 such appearances over his minor league career with astonishing results - 7 G, 8.1 IP, 8 K, 0.00 ERA, and 0.72 WHIP. Let him replace Burriss/Oberholtzer for the price of one. I kid...well, not really.

If Adam Morgan doesn't soon impress with the Phillies, I'd expect Alec Asher to be next in line for every 5th day in Philly. He was terrible in his call-up last season (9.31 ERA in 7 starts), but pitched decent in Spring Training and has been doing well so far in AA/AAA this year (6 GS, 1.98 ERA, 0.85 WHIP).

Edubray Ramos may soon find himself in the Phillies bullpen. He had an outside shot of breaking camp with the team in Spring Training and has continued to progress in AA/AAA so far this year (12 G, 17 IP, 2.12 ERA, 0.65 WHIP).

Friday, May 06, 2016

Series Preview: Phillies at Marlins

So that St. Louis series was terrible. Ryan Howard hit two home runs. Aaron Nola had a heck of a start. But everything that we worry about with this team happened.
The bullpen had back-to-back bad games. The offense scored eight runs in four games. Baserunners attempted to steal one base - and got caught. The Phillies hit a combined nine extra-base hits.
Still, they are 16-13 on the season.
Still, they have lost just three series since being swept by Cincinnati to open the season.
Look, no series in May makes or breaks a season.
But a bounce back series in Miami - on the road, against a good team - puts the Phillies back in a good place.
The Phils have their three best starters going in this series.

The Games
Friday, May 6: 7:10
Saturday, May 7: 7:10
Sunday, May 8: 1:10

The matchups
Vincent Velazquez (4-1, 1.44) vs Wei-Yin Chen (2-1, 4.26)
Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 4.88) vs Tom Koehler (2-3, 7.25)
Aaron Nola (2-2, 2.93) vs Justin Nicolino (2-0, 2.70)

What to know about the Marlins
The Marlins are an interesting team. They're not a bad team at all, but no one expects them to win. Think 2003 Phillies. They do have superslugger Giancarlo Stanton, who has already knocked nine home runs. They also have strong offense coming from Christian Yelich (.330/.443/.511) and a resurgent Martin Prado. But they're going to miss Dee Gordon. Miami's pitchers have a 4.15 team ERA and a 3.82 FIP. That's not bad at all.

Key matchups
If the Phillies are going to bounce back from losing 3-of-4 to the Cardinals, they'll need another strong performance from Vincent Velazquez. Kid has definitely got some game and he matches up well against a right-handed-heavy lineup. Will the Marlins toss Iricho in the starting lineup against him to balance the lineup?

What we can't wait to see
I really want to see Aaron Nola square off against Giancarlo Stanton. This is going to be a battle that will play out over the next five years in the NL East and it will be interesting to see how they match-up.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Series Preview: Phillies at Cardinals


Saturday night, I was listening to the Los Angeles Dodgers game on the radio and Charlie Steiner brought up the Phillies. He talked about how Pete Mackanin had all these young kids playing well.
The Phillies have definitely exceeded expectations to start the season. That's nice and all, but it's only because this is still the start of the season.
No one talks about the 2016 Phillies if they've gone 15-10 from May 20 to June 18.
That said, when does this become a real thing? Something more than just a nice start to the season for a bad team.
Let's be honest. The starting rotation is carrying a ton of the lead. Meanwhile four of the current starters - Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan - came into the season with 42+ combined starts in their career.
It's hard to imagine them keeping this up.
It's also hard to imagine Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, David Hernandez, Andrew Bailey, Dalier Hinojosa and Elvis Araujo pitching this effectively for an extended period of time.
Then there is the woeful offense. It's 11th in homers and 10th in stolen bases. Those are the better numbers. It's 14th in batting average, 15th in on-base percentage and 12th in slugging percentage.
It really is unbelievable this team has gotten to 15 wins.
That said, the offense is where we could see some improvement.
Aside from Odubel Herrera, none of the regulars are having anything close to a career year.
Maybe Cameron Rupp. But his OBP is 25 points below last year's.
Cesar Hernandez is hitting just below where you'd expect him to be: .266/.326/.329. Those are all slight drops from last year's .372/.339/.348.
Maikel Franco has been productive, certainly, but he's hitting .258/.310/.452. We probably all expected a bit more than this.
Howard has 5 homers, which puts him on pace for around 30. That would be nice, but he continues to not be able to get on base.
Freddy Galvis had a good series against the Indians, but he's  hitting .236/.266/.416.
The corner outfield, aside from David Lough, has been a black hole.
And the bench still includes Emmanuel Burriss.
I don't think it's hard to imagine some of these guys putting up better numbers - even if it's just slightly - in May and beyond.
Then there's the real chance the team brings up someone like Nick Williams later this season. He's been on quite a tear in AAA. While I hope he gets more seasoning, the current outfield's production means we'll start hearing more and more calls to promote him.
So when you take all of this into consideration, when do we start thinking this year's Phillies might be a much better team than expected?
They're through 15 percent of the season. They'll be at .500 at least through 18.5 percent of the season.
Do you change your expectations at any point before Memorial Day, May 30?
Do you have to wait until the All Star break, July 11?
Will you be skeptical until the trade deadline?
We've seen Phillies teams play above their head that late into the season before collapsing. Just think of the 1999 squad.
Yeah, this is a nice stretch of baseball for a very flawed team. And I'm going to enjoy it while I can.
My prediction is that this team will remain above .500 until Memorial Day, when they'll really start to capture some attention.
But I just don't see it lasting much longer unless this offense improves.
That said, if they're going to make it to Memorial Day, they'll have to continue their good run through St. Louis.