Friday, July 29, 2016

August and September should tell us a lot more about 2017

Sorry I've been missing for two series. This week was our 10th anniversary and we spent Friday in Philly, it's where we honeymooned, so we return every year. And I forgot the Atlanta series started yesterday.

The Phillies have struggled a bit recently, but I feel the need to point this out. If you take June away from the season, the Phillies are 38-38.

Think about that for a minute.

Now, you can't discount all of June. The 2016 Phillies are a below-.500  team, that's for sure. But I think they're a bit better than their  47-57 mark.

Aaron Altherr's return is a nice thing.

I think the next two months are really about seeing what the team has for 2017.

These roster spots should be locked down:
Zach Eflin, Jerad Eickhoff, Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Tyler Goeddel, Odubel Herrera, Hector Neris, Aaron Nola, Edubray Ramos, Cameron Rupp, and Vincent Velasquez.

Each has had his ups and downs this season, but each one has proven they belong on a roster. Maybe Tyler Goeddel is the fourth or fifth outfielder, but the 23-year-old jumped two levels and showed a ton of promise. Maybe he doesn't start the season with the team, but he should spend some time on it.

I'd tentatively put Aaron Altherr on that list, too. If we can see 25-30 starts the rest of the way, we'll know a bit more about him and we can be a bit more confident in what he can bring to the table.

A few other characters have struggled, but proven they could be on the roster, but in different roles in 2017. Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis might be a back-up infielder. I lean toward Hernandez just because he gets on-base at a clip above .300. Severino Gonzalez is also intriguing.

Now, however, it's time to see some new faces, even if it's for a small sample size.

The Phillies could promote Jake Thompson any day now. It will be nice to see what he can do over 5-7 starts at the big league level. JP Crawford has turned it around in Triple-A. Seeing him play 25 games at short the rest of the way would be worthwhile. I'm not sold Nick Williams has to be called up. The 18-90 walk to strikeout ratio bothers me.

The Phils have progressed. A year ago, they had the worst record in baseball and we knew very little about the players who would be around in three years. Now we see some spots in the order being sewn up. Herrera can be an All-Star. Franco can be a middle of the order bat. Nola, Eickhoff and Velasquez can be trusted with about 600 innings at the big league level.

The Phillies are not one of the worst teams in baseball anymore. Right now, nine teams have worse records. The Phillies could catch a couple of teams, but that might not be in their best interests. If they stay within the 10 worst records in baseball, they can sign a free agent without losing a draft pick.

By the end of the season, the Phillies will know how good they can be in 2017. My guess is above .500, but not quite a Wild Card game participant. They'll have to play their cards right, but they're certainly on their way.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Welcome Back Aaron Altherr

The Phillies' lineup needs a healthy dose of a healthy Aaron Altherr. Upon his return from a bum wrist, he went 3-4 with 2 runs, 2 RBI, and a homerun. Word.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Phillies @ Pirates

Hey, it's the Phillies vs. the Buccos...Phuccos!
Enjoy your weekend.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Marlins at Phillies II

It's all about the young right-hander from Baton Rouge.
We've gone over how Aaron Nola got rocked in his recent outings. Tonight we'll see if two weeks of rest help.
He should have three goals for tonight.
1- Get past the fifth frame. He did it on July 2 and it was the first time since June 5 that he'd made it into the fourth. Actually, Nola didn't give up any runs in his last three innings of work.
2 - Get more strikes. He's always a strike-thrower. Even during his struggles, he tossed 63 percent of his pitches for strikes. But there is a fine line between solid work and getting your ears blown off. Nola should hope to get 66 percent or higher of his pitches for strikes.
3 - Get out of a jam. Nola has looked goood from the wind-up. He's gotta prove to himself that he can get out of trouble from the stretch position.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Series preview: Mets at Phillies II

The Phillies went into the break on a fun, dynamic stretch, winning 12 of 17 games. That stretch included three games against the San Francisco Giants and three games against the Kansas City Royals. So they didn't just beat a bunch of pushovers.
They will have a tough time duplicating that success in their first 13 games after the break. They will face the Mets for three games at home, then host the Marlins for four games, after that it's three games in Pittsburgh, before four more games in Miami. All of those teams are currently playoff contenders. But fans don't have to be hopeless heading into those series. The Phillies are 4-2 against the Marlins so far and 3-3 against the Mets. They have yet to face the Pirates.
The second half could be a bumpy ride because several of the young pitchers could blow past their previous highs in innings pitched. They also face a lot of good teams. Of the remaining 72 games, 56 are against teams with winning records. That's 78 percent of the games coming against teams with winning records.

San Francisco Giants (57-33): 3 games
St. Louis Cardinals (51-40): 3 games
Chicago White Sox (45-43): 4 games
Los Angeles Dodgers (46-52): 6 games
Washington Nationals (54-36): 7 games
New York Mets (47-41): 13 games
Miami Marlins (47-41): 13 games
Pittsburgh Pirates (46-43): 7 games

When you face that gauntlet the rest of the way, you have to start out strongly.

The Games
Friday, July 15: 7:05 p.m.
Saturday, July 16: 7:05 p.m.
Sunday, July 17: 1:35

The Matchups
Bartolo Colon (7-4, 3.28) vs Jeremy Hellickson (6-6, 3.92)
Logan Verret (3-6, 4.34) vs Jerad Eickhoff (6-10, 3.80)
Justin deGrom (5-4, 2.61) vs Zach Eflin (2-2, 4.08)

What we know about the Mets
The defending National League Champions are bumped and bruised. Matt Harvey is on the disabled list. So is David Wright. As is Lucas Duda. Michael Conforto got sent down to the minor leagues. But they are still a dangerous team. Though they are in second place in the National League, they have the fifth best record in the league and the tenth best in baseball. They're a World Series contender and shouldn't be taken lightly. They've got a lot of pop, but are toward the bottom of the league in on-base percentage and last in stolen bases. One good thing for the Phillies. They don't have to face Noah Syndegaard or Steven Matz.

Best matchup
Getting a win in the first game after the All Star break would be a nice lift for the Phillies. Pulling it off against the ageless Bartolo Colon isn't going to be easy. The former Cy Young winner might make people smile with his goofy at-bats and pudgy appearance, but the guy can pitch. His career really is remarkable. In 19 years, he's pitched for eight teams, been in an All Star game during three different presidencies and done well for himself in the post season.
But Jeremy Hellickson has been fun to watch, too. He's been a lot better than most people expected heading into the season.

What we can't wait to see
Cesar Hernandez ended the first half on a nice little streak. He's definitely had a different approach of late and the results are startling. He's hit .462/.472/.519 over the past 12 games.  No way he keeps anything close to that pace. But it will be interesting to see if he can start the second half strongly. If he hits well, it could be a good omen for the offense.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Position & Team Ranks

The 1st half of the 2016 MLB season is in the books and now the All-Star break is upon us. Let's take a moment to reflect on how the 42-48 Philadelphia Phillies have done so far...
Position Ranks:
Catcher - .266/.775, 36 R, 20 DBL, 12 HR, 37 RBI (7th)
1st Base - .210/.688, 36 R, 15 DBL, 20 HR, 43 RBI (27th)
2nd Base - .277/.684, 36 R, 9 DBL, 6 TRPL, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 7 SB (24th)
3rd Base - .272/.813, 40 R, 18 DBL, 18 HR, 56 RBI (11th)
Shortstop - .244/.672, 40 R, 17 DBL, 3 TRPL, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 7 SB (23rd)
Left Field - .218/.645, 31 R, 19 DBL, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 5 SB (27th)
Center Field - .292/.801, 50 R, 10 DBL, 3 TRPL, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 12 SB (9th)
Right Field - .264/.702, 33 R, 19 DBL, 4 TRPL, 5 HR, 26 RBI (28th)
Pitcher - .128/.335, 10 R, 5 DBL, 6 RBI (14th)
Pinch Hitter  - .153/.459, 4 R, 6 XBH, 8 RBI (27th)
Designated Hitter - .171/.514, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI (27th)

R - 328 (9th)
AVG - .244 (24th)
OBP - .296 (30th)
SLG - .394 (27th)
OPS - .690 (29th)
DBL - 135 (27th tied)
TRPL - 23 (4th tied)
HR - 89 (22nd tied)
SB - 39 (17th)
BB - 209 (29th)
K - 704 (17th tied)

W - 42 (20th)
ERA - 4.35 (15th)
WHIP - 1.32 (12th)
K - 759 (5th)
BB - 242 (5th tied)
K/BB - 3.14 (5th)

Offense is up across baseball. Look at our right fielders for example, they've posted a .700+ OPS, yet rank next to last. The Phillies need to improve offensively if they're truly to be competitive. There is definitely some hope on the horizon waiting in the minor leagues, but that's far from guaranteed production. Too many at bats were wasted on Ryan Howard, Cedric Hunter, David Lough, and Emmanuel Burriss. While Darin Ruf, Tyler Goeddel, and Freddy Galvis under-performed expectations.

Pitching has been decent. If When Nola bounces back, the Phils have a pretty good rotation. The bullpen has been mediocre, but that was to be expected. Neris and Jeanmar have been great though.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

1 Game Left...

1 game left in the 1st half of the 2016 MLB season. 1 more game until the All-Star break. 1 more game until the Phillies can get the hell outta Colorado's thin air. 1 more game to hopefully see...

Zach Eflin follow up his complete game win earlier this week with another gem.

Tommy Joseph continue to hit his way back into making people believe in him.

Cesar Hernandez to get a couple base knocks and finish the 1st half with a .300+ batting average.

The Phillies even up the series with the Rockies and end the 1st half on a high note with a 42-48 record.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Phillies at Rockies

The Phillies are skipping Aaron Nola's start today. It makes sense. He's been roughed up lately. Let's see if we can find out why.

As of June 5, he'd made 12 starts, tossed 78 innings. He compiled a 2.65 ERA. His per nine rates were 7.15 hits, whiffed 9.8, walked 1.73 and gave up .8 homers.

Since then, he's made five starts, tossed 18 innings and compiled a 13.50 ERA. His per nine rates were 19 hits, whiffed 10.8, four walks and 1.5 homers.

So he's still striking out batters at a good rate, but he's giving up hits and an uncharacteristic amount of walks. Nola's young, but he's got a track record of throwing strikes. Beyond the numbers from earlier this year, he gave up just 2.2 walks per nine as a rookie and 1.5 in the minor leagues. The walks don't bother me because it's really rare that pitchers with strong command lose it like this. It's so rare, you remember the names of players who suffer from it: Steve Blass and Rick Ankiel.

Let's delve a bit deeper. When he was pitching well, he threw 68 percent of his pitches for strikes, 25 percent of those pitches were called strike and 11 percent were swinging strikes. Twenty-five percent of his at-bats ended in line drives; four percent in pop-ups.

Since then, he's thrown 63 percent of his pitches for strikes, 22 percent were looking and seven percent were swinging strikes. Thirty percent of his at-bats ended in line drives and three percent ended in pop ups.

One thing that shows you is how close a pitcher can be from being dominant to being dominated. But there were signs of improvement in his last start. He made it out of the fourth inning for the first time in four starts. He also retired the last nine straight batters he faced. Nola might have turned a corner, but giving him some extra time off over the All-Star break is still probably a good idea. It's worth noting he's already tossed 96 innings this year. He tossed 187 innings last year. Missing a start here is probably not a bad thing.

Before we move onto the preview of this week, I think we should disspell one train of thought: that Nola should be sent down because he's struggling.

Plenty of good young Phillies pitchers had struggles in their first few seasons.

Randy Wolf started off his Major League career with a 3.33 ERA through mid-July. Afterward he pitched to a 6.90 ERA before moving onto a successful Big League career.

 Brett Myers looked like a future ace in 2003, but he had a 6-start stretch that included a 6.90 ERA.

In 2006, Cole Hamels had a 6-start run with a 7.13 ERA.

Nola should be allowed to work through this, within reason.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Problem with Daniel Stumpf

That drug abusing, Rule 5 pick, left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf is set to be activated on Sunday from his 80 game PED suspension. A corresponding roster move must be made. But who should be demoted? Severino Gonzalez is the likely candidate, but is it the right move?
Stumpf is 25 years old and only appeared in 3 games before being dealt his consequence. In those 3 games he sucked - 40.50 ERA and 4.50 WHIP. Small sample size for sure, but I like being judgmental. In 5 "rehab" appearances with Single & Double-A, he put up a 3.86 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, but that's against much easier competition. Basically, I don't feel the Phillies should waste a roster spot on him for the entire season just because he's a Rule 5 pick and a lefty.

Gonzalez isn't amazing or anything, but I think he has a brighter future than Stumpf and is currently more valuable to the Phillies roster. He's 23 years old and can pitch multiple innings in relief, spot start if need be, and has almost identical minor league numbers to Stumpf. (Stumpf in 5 minor league seasons - 3.22/1.18, Gonzalez in 6 minor league seasons - 3.33/1.11, but has pitched in AAA, which Stumpf hasn't).

The even bigger issue isn't who Stumpf replaces on the active 25-man roster, it's who's place does he take on the 40-man roster. The answer could still be Gonzalez or a host of other guys toiling in the minors - Luis Garcia, Mike Mariot, Colton Murray, David Buchanan, or Elvis Araujo. My pick is Buchanan, who has taken a nosedive since pitching adequately in his rookies season of 2014. He was terrible with a 6.99 ERA in 15 starts last year with the Phils and has a 4.77 ERA currently with IronPigs.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Series Preview: Braves at Phillies II

It's the Fourth of July in Philly. You win today. It's in the Declaration of Independence and Constitutionally obligated. Or Zombie Richard Henry Lee will hunt you down and roast you with marshmallows.

The games
Monday July 4: 4:05
Tuesday July 5: 7:05
Wednesday July 6: 1:05

The matchup
Joel de La Cruz (0-1, 4.50) vs Jerad Eickhoff (5-9, 3.38)
Mike Foltynewicz (2-2, 3.72) vs Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.75)
Julio Tehrehan (2-7, 2.72) vs Jeremy Hellickson (6-6, 4.06)

What we know about the Braves
Atlanta is a bad team. They have the second worst record in baseball. Yet the Phillies are 3-3 against them. They have to expect to win two or three of these games.

Key matchup
The Phillies are 7-3 in their last 10 games. This is the last home series before the All Star break and the Phillies need to end the first half in a strong maner. Starting this series off on the right foot is very important. They'll need a strong performance from Jerad Eickhoff to do so.

What we can't wait to see
Maikel Franco is heating up. Nay, he's aflame. I'm almost afraid that any teammate who touches him would end up on the disabled list for a burned hand. In his last 10 games, the third baseman is hitting .394/.489/.684 with two home runs, three doubles, a triple and eight runs batted in. 

Saturday, July 02, 2016

81 games in, what do we know?

This season is all about progress.
Last year, the Phillies finished the season with 99 losses. You wanted to see the rebuild move forward. Let's take stock of where we are.

Preview: Royals at Phillies

Sorry for being a day late.
This is a big series for the Phillies. They're playing a very good team, the reigning World Champions, who are five games above .500. But it's a flawed team that has a .366 record on the road. This is a chance to really right the ship after finally stopping their June swoon.
Taking two games in this series - or even pulling off a sweep - really opens up a chance for the Phillies to end the first half on a positive note.