Preview: We Should Be GM's
We Should Be GMs
16 games in, what have we learned?
width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GnOm1YbXmh8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>One tenth of the season is in the books. So what have we learned about the 2017 Phillies?They sit at 7-9, in fourth place in the National League East. The offense is sixth, sixth, fourth and seventh in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. The pitching staff is 15th in ERA, 14th in home runs, 13th in strikeouts and 5th in walks.So the Phillies are a mediocre team that will win 70-75 games, right.Well, maybe not.Let's take a look. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9hiX4s-XdOg" width="560">Are the Phillies better than their record?The Phillies are plus-3 in run differential. Now, you could argue that is thanks to a 17-3 whooping of the Washington Nationals. But don't forget the Phillies got thumped by the Mets 14-4 in a different game. Take away those games and the Phillies are at 0 in the plus-minus, which would theoretically put them at 8-8.Two other things impact the Phillies record. First, they've played two of the expected best teams in the league in all but three of their games so far. They've gone 5-7 in those games. The Phillies' early season schedule has them playing a ton of games against the Nationals (12), Mets (6), Cubs (4), Dodgers (3) and Rangers (3) in their first 42 games. That's 28 games against expected World Series contenders. They also play 3 games each against the Mariners and Pirates during that stretch. I said at the beginning of the year that the Phillies could start the season 16-26 and still end up being a good team. Opening the stretch with a 7-9 mark is a good beginning.Second, the Phillies biggest weakness so far is the bullpen; it won't end up a weakness. Adam Morgan and Jeanmar Gomez have double-digit ERAs while Joely Rodriguez has an ERA above 6. Morgan has already been sent down. Sure, Gomez might not end up in the closer's role again, but he had a 3.59 ERA, 3.84 FIP and 1.324 WHIP from 2013-2016. That's too long a record of success for him to not rebound. The bullpen should also get some help as the starters start pitching deeper into games. In the squad's first 16 games, starters have pitched seven or more innings three times and pitched five or fewer innings seven times. That has to change. If the starters aren't more reliable going deeper into games, then they will be replaced by guys who can.How have injuries affected the team?Injuries affect every team. The Phillies have had two main injuries so far this season. First, Clay Buchholtz was likely lost to the season. Second, Howie Kendrick, who started the season on fire, injured his core. He should recover. The Phillies also saw one of their pitching prospects, Zach Eflin, start the season recovering from an injury. He's already joined the big league club and contributing.What's to like?How about the Cesar Hernandez? He's picking up right where he left off last year. He's hitting .324 with a .358 OBP. Amazingly, he's got three home runs and three stolen bases in four attempts. But he's also struck out 21 times. Jeremy Hellickson looks really good, too. He's got an ERA below 2. He's barely walking anyone and he's really keeping batters off balance.Hector Neris has been filthy.Aaron Nola is healthy and has 15 strikeouts against six walks in 16 innings.Jerad Eickhoff continues to be reliable.Aaron Altherr is tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .360/.407/.600.What's not to like?The Bullpen has been mostly atrocious. We already talked about that.Maikel Franco is hitting home runs. He's got 3, which puts him on pace for 30. He's 13 runs batted in, which puts him on pace for 130. But he's hitting .164/.246/.344/.591. Interestingly, he's only got 10 strikeouts. So it's just the batting average on balls in play that are killing him. He's on pace for fewer strikeouts and more walks than last season.Cameron Rupp and Tommy Joseph have provided negligible offense, combining for 2 home runs, 16 extra-base hits and nine walks.Vincent Velasquez has been[...]
Hellickson Good, 9th Inning Woes, Unheralded Prospects, Improved Offense, The Howard & Run Support
*Jeremy Hellickson has the best WHIP (0.71) in the NL, albeit through merely 4 starts. However, this is on the heels of a strong 2016 campaign, so he's lining himself up as a sought after trade chip. Of course, he could potentially stay with the Phillies, as a mid-season extension could be a viable option.
*The 9th inning onward has been a disaster for the Phillies so far, no matter who is handed the ball. In 13.2 innings they've allowed 5 homeruns to go along with a ghastly 7.24 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, an .892 OPS against.
*Andrew Pullin is a bit of a forgotten man in terms of outfield prospects, but since being promoted to Double-A Reading last season he's laid waste to poor defenseless pitchers. In 59 games, he's hit .344/.967, with 38 R, 16 DBL, 13 HR, and 39 RBI. Double-A is where Dylan Cozens put his name on the map, so perhaps the same will ring true for Pullin.
*Cole Irvin was the Phils 5th round draft pick last year and he's making good on their trust. Through his first 13 G, 10 of them starts, he has a 7-2 record over 65.2 innings with a 1.64 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 54 strikeouts. Currently in Clearwater, he has the potential to move through the system quickly. A mid-season promotion to Reading is likely in my opinion.
*The Phillies offense has been improved overall since last season, especially considering many players still haven't found their stride (Franco, Galvis, Rupp, Joseph, Saunders). They lead MLB in pitches seen per plate appearances and are middle of the pack in runs, batting average, and OPS. Once the pitching sorts itself out, this team should be able to contend on the daily basis.(image)
*Once again, WSBGMs is tracking The Howard (homerun, strikeout, and error by the same player in one ball game). Tampa Bay Rays' third baseman, Evan Longoria, has moved atop the leader board after committing his 2nd Howard of the seasons yesterday. Congrats! For reference, The Howard is on the right sidebar of the blog.
*Now, time to give Jerad Eickhoff some freakin' run support!
Aaron Nola Watch: Episode 2
Aaron Nola's second start built off of his first. He pitched just five innings, but he looked very strong. The right-hander scattered six hits and no walks against six strikeouts. He's building up a strong base for the season.Let's break down his last start and his season so far.Goal No. 1: HealthNola left his second start without an injury scare. So we're starting off nicely there. While he did only pitch five innings, he tossed 90 pitches. His arm is getting stretched out. Grade: ACommandIn his first start, Nola threw first pitch strikes on 13 of 24 batters he faced. He did slightly better this week, getting first pitch strikes on 12 of 21 batters. Overall, he threw strikes on 61 of his 90 pitches. That's pretty nice. He didn't walk anyone. So his control was close to pristine.Grade: A-ResultsNola didn't get a quality start because he didn't make it through the sixth, but he pitched strongly against a good lineup. You can't take this start for granted. Nola has to have some confidence as he goes into tonight's start against the New York Mets.[...]
As I type this, Tommy Joseph pops up to the 3rd baseman. He's been woeful so far this season. Small sample size, but whatever, I wanna see some good results.
Before that crap at-bat by Joseph, Odubel went deep for his first HR of the season. Woo hoo!
Alright, onto business.
*Howie Kendrick, one of the guys actually contributing at the plate, has hit the DL. In his place the Phils have called up Mark Leiter Jr., who is not an outfielder, nor even a position player. He's a relief pitcher that'll hopefully show his mettle and remain in the bullpen. He's capable of going multiple innings, as he's started 69 of his 95 minor league appearances. Minor league numbers - 445.1 IP, 417 K, 3.38 ERA, and a 1.22 WHIP. WSBGMs wishes good luck to the 26 year old right-hander.
*Remember Alec Asher? Klentak traded him to the O's at the end of Spring Training and the player to be named later remains nameless. Asher sucked, like really bad, like extremely bad, in his MLB debut season of 2015. However, he bounced back in 5 starts last year and turned in a nifty 2.28 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. Hey, guess what, he made his debut with Baltimore over the weekend and went 6.1 innings, allowing only 1 run and 4 base runners. That would look good in the Phillies rotation, wouldn't it?!
*Speaking of the Phillies rotation, Clay Buchholz underwent surgery today by the famed Dr. Andrews and is out for the next 4-6 months. As you know, or should if you read regularly, I didn't see a purpose in trading for Buchholz. He was kinda terrible last year with the BoSox and cost them a fringe prospect and $13.5M in contract obligations. Now he's likely out for the year. If Klentak truly wanted another veteran in the rotation to absorb innings and be a potential trade chip come July, he could have went another route - see contracts signed by Bartolo Colon, RA Dickey, Scott Feldman, Derek Holland, Jered Weaver, Clayton Richard, or Brett Anderson. Just sayin'. Or he could have let one of the bountiful prospects toe the rubber every 5th day. Just sayin'.
*Zach Eflin's 2017 Phillies debut is not going well. Jitters? Hopefully...
Monday Morning Musings
Phillies relief pitchers have surrendered 13 homeruns. That's 3 more than the next closest team (Nationals).
Phillies bullpen ERA is 5.62, which ranks 24th in MLB. That is not improved from 2016. Trust the process though, right?
Phillies starting pitchers have a 4.50 ERA, which ranks 25 in MLB. What's that company line again? Oh yeah, "trust the process". Ahem, bullshit. Sorry, had something in my throat.
I'm tired on Maikel Franco's pull happy, swinging from the heels approach at the plate. It's as if I'm watching the right-handed version of Ryan Howard.
Cesar Hernandez, Howie Kendrick, Odubel Herrera, and Daniel Nava are the only Phillies doing anything worth a damn at the plate. Corner infielders need to get straightened out and start contributing.
I don't hate that Joaquin Benoit was moved into the closer's role following Jeanmar Gomez's debacle, but how long is Mackanin going to try avoiding the unavoidable and finally give his blessing to Hector Neris?
Zach Eflin gets first dibs as Buchholz spot in the rotation. Godspeed.
Aaron Nola Watch, Episode 1
Aaron Nola's first start was fairly impressive.
Though he seemed to have trouble locating his curveball in the game, the right-hander held a very good lineup to limited damage.
We'll recap all of his starts this season.
Considering how important his health and success is to the Phillies' season and future, we'll look at specific goals
Goal No. 1: Health
If Nola leaves his start without grabbing his arm, we're in good shape. Nola walked off the mound a bit battered at the end of his start. But he was healthy. Grade:
Nola's bread and butter is his command. With his movement, having good command means he can dominate a lineup.
Nola threw first pitch strikes on 13 of 24 batters he faces. That's a notch below his normal numbers. The more he's ahead, the better off he is. He also threw just under league average for strike percentage, coming in at 64 percent. However, 24 percent of his strikes wereGrade:
Nola gave the team a quality start. Considering his biggest trouble came in the first inning and his last inning, it wasn't a bad outing at all. He struck out 7 against two walks and seven hits. He ended up allowing 3 earned runs.
Nola ended up throwing 89 pitches in six frames.
His next start is tonight against the Washington Nationals. It's a lineup that now has seen him already. So if he pitches well again, that's a good portend for the season.
Series Preview: Phillies look to keep up strong work against the Nationals in DC
The Phillies won five games against the Nationals last year. If they sweep the Nationals this week, they'll have that many wins against the Nats in April alone.
OK, no one expects a sweep in Washington, but let's be honest. We'd love two victories in this series.
Luckily, the Phillies have what are probably their three best pitchers going in the series.
So let's break it down.
On personnel notes, Adam Morgan is gone and we're waiting for a second opinion on Clay Buchholtz' forearm injury.
Friday April 14, 4:05 p.m.: Aaron Nola (1-0, 4.50) vs. Stephen Strasberg (1-1, 3.21)
Saturday, April 15, 1:05 p.m.: Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 0.90) vs. Tanner Roark (2-0, 4.09)
Sunday, April 16, 1:35 p.m.: Jered Eickhoff (0-1, 1.95) vs. Gio Gonzalez (1-0, 0.69)
What to know about the Nats
The Phils laid a beatdown on Washington last Saturday. They got a nice victory on Sunday two. But Washington is a great ballclub. It's got hitting to spare and brilliant pitching. Thankfully, the Phillies avoid ace Max Scherzer this series.
What to look for
The Phillies offense looks a lot better so far this year. Sure, it's skewed a bit by the outburst against the Nationals on Saturday, but the team has 34 walks in nine games. That's almost 4 walks a game, a big improvement over last season. The Phils are seventh in runs scored, fourth in OPS, fifth in batting average, third in stolen bases and 11th in home runs.
The Phillies scored more than three runs twice in their first 15 games last season. They've done it in seven of nine games this year.
It would be nice to see Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp break out this series. Heck, just putting up slightly better numbers would help.
The Phils will face two tough righties. So Michael Saunders will probably be an important cog in the lineup this weekend.
Simple Truths (No Alternative Facts)
Wanna read something terrifying? Of course you do, that's why all baker's dozen of you that the follow this blog come here semi-regularly. Anywho...
The Phillies pitching staff is the worst in Major League Baseball. I know, that can't be! We're supposed to have a new and improved bullpen with a rotation to be reckoned with. Well, not so much. Luckily the 2017 season is still in its infancy. Unfortunately, it's been a disaster.
5.35 ERA - worst in MLB
.876 OPS allowed - worst in MLB
18 HR allowed - worst in MLB
1.47 WHIP - 26th in MLB
Possible good news - Buchholz could be sidelined for a long time, meaning Eflin likely gets the call-up to fill his void (something he could have done from the beginning because Phils never needed Buchholz to begin with!). Also, batting practice pitcher Adam Morgan has been demoted and Luis Garcia has been promoted. Garcia is an enigma. He has lights out stuff, but that has not be the case in terms of performance. Maybe it'll be different this time around. And maybe if I flap my arms really fast I'll fly. Just sayin'...
Jake Thompson's AAA ERA is 28.93 in 2 starts. Only Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder is outpacing him.
Lefty for the Sake of Lefty...Dumb
The Situation - tie game (2-2) in the top of the 8th inning with 2 outs, a runner on first base, Edubray Ramos on the mound, and Jay Bruce at the plate.
Gotta bring in the lefty, right?
Not when the lefty is Joely Rodriguez and his lifetime line against same-handed batters is .417/1.101 in 29 plate appearances and only 2 K.
Stay with the power armed righty with a chip on his shoulder (Ramos). Using a lefty for the sake of using a lefty is being too cute with your pitching staff. It might make Tony LaRussa proud, but the outcome was predictably disastrous (2-run homerun, Mets went onto win the game 4-3).
Ramos career against LHB - .244/.774, which isn't ideal, but is a helluva lot better than Rodriguez's.
Joaquin Benoit career against LHB - .215/664, would have been the best choice for a 4-out save, but I'd have just rolled the dice with Ramos.
Mackanin and Co. need to learn how to manage a pitching staff. This has been my major complain against him since he took over as manager. Well, that and his unwarranted loyalty to players despite better choices (Howard, Jeanmar, Chooch).
Series Preview: Phillies host expected contenders, the New York Mets.
There has been a lot to like so far in the Phillies young season.
The first time through the rotation, Aaron Nola, Jeremy Hellickson and Jerad Eickhoff looked very good. The team continues to show patience. After walking 12 times in the first series, the Phils added 14 walks against the Nationals. The offense looks a bit improved over last season, which was to be expected.
The next three games against the New York Mets will test that early season trend.
Monday April 10, 7:05 p.m.: Jacob deGrom (0-0, 0) vs. Jerad Eichoff (0-1, 2.60)
Tuesday, April 11, 7:05 p.m.: Matt Harvey (1-0, 2.70) vs. Clay Buchholz (0-0, 7.20)
Wednesday, April 12, 1:35 p.m.: Zach Wheeler (0-1, 11.25) vs. Vince Velasquez (0-1, 9.00)
2016 and 2017 series
The Phillies and Mets will play two series in the next two weeks. The Phillies open the season with a tough run of series against World Series contenders. Pulling off a few wins against the Mets could go a long way in the development of this team.
What to know about the Mets
The New York Mets have a legitimate shot at the 2017 World Series. Terry Collins' squad has a dynamic rotation of aces. The offense, though old, can pop a ton of home runs. However, the offense has struggled out of the gate and the team is bunched together with the Marlins, Nationals and Phillies for first place with 96 percent of the season to go.
What to look for
We wanted to see the Phillies do some damage with the sticks against the Nationals. Michael Saunders, Tommy Joseph and Maikel Franco had some big hits against Washington.
The Phillies will need to see more improvement in that area if they're going to be successful.
One game that should be fun to watch is Zach Wheeler vs. Vince Velasquez. Both pitchers have elite stuff and are coming off bad outings. At least one of them will bounce back this week.
Jeanmar No More!
Pete Mackanin, omnipotent manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, announced prior to the 2017 MLB season that Jeanmar Gomez would be the club's closer because he earned/deserved it. Well, he couldn't be anymore wrong. I've been pitching a fit with my pitchfork over Mackanin's decision and I'm about to recruit an angry mob to overthrow him if he doesn't change his mind soon.
Jeanmar Gomez since All-Star break 2016:
34 G, 30 IP, 9.00 ERA, and a 2.00 WHIP
If those numbers have earned him the closer's role, then dig Tim Worrell's ass outta retirement and let him have a go at it too.
More puzzling Mackanin moves...
The rotation's #1 starter is Jeremy Hellickson and he's pitched accordingly, having allowed only 1 run in 2 starts. However, Mackanin has yanked him after 5 innings in both of his starts, with only 67 and 70 pitches thrown respectively. WTF?!
If I'm To Keep Going...
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
The year - 2006. The place - We Should Be GMs blog. The mission - writing non-sugarcoated shit about the Phillies. Aka - keepin' it real.
Fast forward to present day...
Here I am, GM-Carson, in my 12th season of blogging Phillies baseball. I was there for the rise to prominence, whence the Phils reigned supreme o'er the NL East for 5 straight seasons. I was there for the collapse, circa 2012. I am here for the rebuild. I am here.
IF I am to keep blogging, I've gotta be me, and me is not always liked. I'm harsh, dramatic, and bi-polar. But dammit, I'm fun and funny (at least according to my Mom).
So without further ado...
*Vinnie Velasquez striking out 10 in 4 innings = awesome. Being chased from the game due to high pitch count and ineffectiveness after 4 innings = poop.
*I'm predicting Tommy Joseph starts the year 0-27. I've not seen a string of at bats so hapless since Kevin Millwood "attempted" to hit.
*Eff Jayson Werth. Skeezy looking MF'er.
*I'm starting to think Maikel Franco is overrated/over-hyped. He's got the talent, but what goes on between his ears is puzzling.
*It's time to cut bait on Adam Morgan. Terrible last season and looks to be playing the part again.
*Jerad Eickhoff is getting the Cole Hamels treatment, in that the offense never produces for him and therefore his win-loss record is unimpressive despite good ERA/WHIP. If I were Eickhoff, I'd stand on the table of the post-game spread and piss all over it, because that's what the offense does to his chances of picking up the W every time he starts.
*I've been beating the "Mackanin sucks at managing" drum for awhile now, but to no avail. He yanked Hellickson after 67 pitches/5 innings/1 run. He yanked Eickhoff after 80 pitches/6.2 innings/2 run. Take the kiddie gloves off and let the big boys play for shit's sake!
*I originally prognosticated 79-81 wins for the Phillies this season. I renege. I now foresee 23 wins, 26 max. They're shitty.
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Series Preview: Phillies start first homestand with Washington Nationals
Two things looked good in the first series of the season. The Phillies showed more patience than they have in recent years. The team earned 12 walks over three games. That's four walks a game. I know, small sample size. But the Phillies walked just 2.6 times per game last season. Secondly, the pitching staff held the Reds two five runs over the first two games.
The bad thing is that the Phillies lost two games with the offense struggling. Pete's boys scored just eight runs in three games.
The offense needs to get going. GamesFriday April 7, 3:05 p.m.: Max Scherzer (0-0, 0) vs. Vincent Velasquez (0-0, 0.00)
Saturday, April 8, 7:05 p.m.: TBD (0-0, 0) vs. Aaron Nola (0-0, 0.00)
Thursday, April 6, 1:35 p.m.: Stephen Strasburg (1-0, 2.57) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 1.80)
2016 and 2017 seriesThe Nats, unsurprisingly hammered the Phillies last year, winning all but 5 games against them. The Phillies play Washington a lot in the first half this season. They visit Washington next week for a three game set then play six more times in May.
What to know about the NationalsWashington is a serious World Series contender. With a dominant rotation and balanced lineup, the Nationals should breeze past 90 wins and into the postseason. The Phillies will face off against two of the league's best pitchers, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
What to look forThe Phillies got some runners on base. But they didn't come close to bringing them in. Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera have a combined on-base percentage above .500. But Maikel Franco, Michael Saunders and Tommy Joseph have three total hits.
That's not going to win you any games.
Breaking out against Strasburg and Scherzer isn't going to be easy. If Michael Saunders can get going, that could make it easier on the Phillies.
Our take: What the GMs think the season will bring
GMs Carson and Pat fired off some emails, regarding their expectations for the season. Here are their thoughts.I guess we'll start with our predictions. How many wins do you expect from the 2017 Phillies? Carson: I look across the entire team and see players that can make incremental steps forward in performance, but not many players I expect to regress (aside from maybe Hellickson). I think the rotation, bullpen, and offense will all be better, so I'm going with 79-81 wins.Pat: It depends on so much. I really think the season hinges on Aaron Nola's performance. If he pitches a lot and pitches somewhat well, I see them winning 77-79 wins. If he returns to his early season 2016 form, I could see the Phillies sneaking up on every one and getting to 82 wins. What are the storylines you're most interested in? Carson: What happens to the veterans blocking up-and-coming minor leaguers. What if Cozens, Crawford, Quinn, Williams, Hoskins, Eflin, Thompson, Alfaro, and/or Lively are killing it for Lehigh Valley? Do you wait until the end of July to trade a Hellickson, Buchholz, Kendrick, or Saunders? What about young controllable guys like Rupp, Joseph, and Galvis? Do you trade them while value is high and hand the job to a rookie? This is a HUGE transition year for the Phillies and it's going to be interesting to see how the organization handles it. Pat: Aaron Nola's arm is No. 1. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop there. No. 2 is Tommy Joseph and Aaron Altherr. Neither of them are uber prospects like J.P. Crawford and such, but they have some intriguing potential. No. 3 is how the minor leaguers do. Will we see J.P. Crawford, Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Roman Quinn or Nick Williams.How long will Jeanmar Gomez remain the closer?Carson: I'm hoping he never loses it, because that means, theoretically, he pitched well all season and deserved to remain the closer. However, I don't think that will be the case and I'm thinking early May...Cinco de Mayo.Pat: I think he could end up in that spot all year. He was solid last season, until September. Financially, it might help the Phillies to have Neris not close much this year. That said, if Gomez is going to lose the spot, it will happen early. So by April 25. Who gets traded first?Carson: Honestly, if Hellickson is pitching as well as he did last season, I could see him being an early-to-mid July trade, and not waiting until the end of the month. My second choice is Cameron Rupp and for a decent prospect.Pat: I think Saunders is the most likely trade prospect just because Roman Quinn is probably the most likely candidate to push for playing time early in the season. My second choice is Pat Neshak.What could surprise fans in 2017?Carson: Biggest surprise...hmm...Cesar Hernandez bats .315/.780, 100+ R, 35+ SB, and makes the All-Star team.Pat: Aside from a breakout season from the entire club - which I don't think is very likely - I think the Phillies might trade for a decent player and not just offload veterans. There's a chance the Phillies are close to competing in 2018. They have a lot of nice assets in the minor leagues. They could make a move now that won't cost them as much as it would this winter. [...]
Series Preview: Phillies Open the Season in Cincinnait
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It's finally here. The 2017 starts with the Phillies in Cincinnati, the birthplace of professional baseball.
For the second time, Jeremy Hellickson
gets the nod as Opening Day starter. The Phillies enter the season with a ton of question marks and some interesting plotlines.
The first quarter of this year's schedule is going to be brutal. This is one chance to start out on the right foot.
Monday, April 3, 4:05 p.m.: Jeremy Hellickson (0-0, 0) vs.Scott Feldman (0-0, 0.00)
Wednesday, April 5, 7:10 p.m.: Jerad Eickhoff (0-0, 0) vs. Brandon Finnegan (0-0, 0.00)
Thursday, April 6, 12:35 p.m.: Clay Buchholz (0-0, 0.00) vs. Rookie Davis (0-0, 0.00)
2016 and 2017 series
The Phillies went 2-4 against the Reds in 2016, which is somewhat surprising when you consider the Reds finished with three fewer wins than the Phillies last year. FiveThirtyEight
has the Reds and Phillies expected to win 71 and 70 games this year. The Phillies and Reds will meet again on May 26-28 in Philly.
What to know about the Reds
Cincinnati doesn't have a lot to be excited about. Joey Votto is still amazing. Billy Hamilton is fun to watch. Brandon Finnegan has great stuff. After that, it's basically Scott Feldman, Zach Cosart and Drew Storen.
What to look for
You always want to win on Opening Day. Other than that, it would be nice to see the Phillies jump out of the gate fairly strongly because it's going to be a brutal month.
The next 12 straight games are against the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.
In fact, of the Phillies first 42 games, they play legitimate World Series contenders a vast majority of the time.
The Phillies play the reigning champ Chicago Cubs four times. They play the Nationals 12 times. They play the Los Angeles Dodgers three times. Oh, and they play the New York Mets six times. As if it wasn't brutal enough, this part of the schedule also includes three games against the Texas Rangers.
That's 27 of 42 games coming against the big boys. One of their easier matchups is two home games against the Seattle Mariners and three games against the Pirates, who are also considered favorites to reach the playoffs.
Thank God for the Cincinnati series and three games each against the Marlins and Braves.
That first stretch could be brutal for the team's outlook. It's not hard imagining them coming out of those 42 games with a 10-32 mark. Considering 25 of those 42 games are on the road, it wouldn't be a disaster to start the season 16-26, even though that would look like a disaster in the standings. However, if the Phillies start out somewhat hot, winning say 19 of those 43 games, the rest of the season starts to look more interesting.
Lights out stuff: The 2017 Player Preview for Hector Neris
Hector Neris has a chance to be really, really good. We're talking Andrew Miller valuable.
After a one game cup of coffee wit the Phils in 2014, Neris pitched 32 and 79 games in the next two seasons. He took a big step forward last year.
In those 79 games, Neris whiffed 11.4 batters per nine innings. That's impressive. He had a 2.58 ERA, a 3.30 FIP and a 1.108 WHIP. That's really impressive. Could he be even better in 2017?This is the seventeenth in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. Our previous post looked at bounceback candidate Jeanmar Gomez. This post looks at Hector Neris' chance to establish himself as a lights out reliever.
The Phillies haven't tabbed Neris as their closer - Gomez will start the season in that role - but he's going to pitch some key innings for the Phillies.
Opposing players have just a .289 career on-base percentage against Neris. They slug just .380.
With his brutal stuff, the only thing standing in his way is getting ahead of batters. Neris got first pitch strikes on just 52 percent of batters the past two years. The MLB average is around 60 percent.
If Neris could get his first pitch strikes up above 55 percent, batters would be in trouble.
It seems so obvious, but pitching ahead really is a key to success. It gives you more options down the road in the at-bat. It also forces batters to consider swinging earlier in the count. Then a pitcher can use some of his off-speed stuff to get them out early on.
Neris is a workhorse. Only two National League pitchers took the mound more times than he did last year.
With his durability and stuff, he could be one of the ten best relievers in the league. The Phillies hope he takes that step this year.
Bouncing back: The 2017 Player Preview for Jeanmar Gomez
Man that September was brutal for Jeanmar Gomez. The Phillies reliever lost his spot as the closer, tossing out a 19.18 ERA after giving up 21 hits and five walks in eight innings. That's three base runners an inning.
The righthander, meanwhile, has been so solid since the start of the 2013 season. During that span, he's appeared in 213 games, compiling a 3.59 ERA, a 3.83 FIP and a 1.346 WHIP.This is the 16th in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. We most recently looked at Aaron Altherr. This post looks at closer Jeanmar Gomez, who has been a consistent reliever for much of the past four years. Then the final month of the season changed all that.
Gomez doesn't strike anyone out. That much is clear. He's averaged fewer than 6 strikeouts per nine innings over the past four years, and he didn't even reach that level prior to 2013. But he's also stingy with free passes, giving up fewer than 3 per nine innings. He also doesn't give up home runs, allowing just 50 in 492 innings.
Manager Pete Mackanin made it clear early on that Gomez would be the closer to start the season.
Many Phillies fans were outraged, seemingly forgetting that there was talk early in 2016 that Gomez could end up on an All Star squad.
No doubt, Mack will have a short leash on Gomez. However, the outrage is almost absurd, considering its often coming from people who profess that teams should use their best relievers in the most important situations and those situations aren't always the final three outs of the game.
I'm in the camp that says the guy who escapes a seventh inning jam did a more important job than the guy who walks onto the mound to get three straight outs with a 2- or 3-run lead.
If you ask me who the Phillies' three best relievers are, I'd argue for Pat Neshak, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris. I want them shutting down offenses in the seventh and eighth innings. If Gomez bounces back to being a passable closer, the Phillies could have a very good bullpen.
The Wild Card: 2017 Player Preview for Aaron Altherr
allowfullscreen="" class="giphy-embed" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//giphy.com/embed/kA0yCzcXokhMs" width="480">via GIPHYTommy Joseph snuck up on everyone in 2016. A castoff heading into last year, he made himself a focal point of this season's offense. The Phillies have a guy on the roster who could shock people this year.With the hype around Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens and Roman Quinn alongside the acquisitions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders, everyone has forgotten about Aaron Altherr.This is the 15th in a series of previews for the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. We recently looked at starting pitcher Clay Buchholz. This post looks at how Altherr is a complete Wild Card for the Phillies.Altherr burst onto the scene with a monster cameo in 2015, blasting five home runs, four triples and 11 doubles. In 39 games. So, over a whole season, that graded out to 20 homers, 16 triples and 44 doubles. Then he got injured during Spring Training to start the 2016 season and seemed to have a limp swing when he returned to the lineup, hitting .197/.300/.288 in 57 games.Well, he seemed to bounce back in Spring Training, slashing .303/.391/.591 with four home runs, five doubles and a triple in 26 games. It's hard to figure out what will happen with Altherr this year.Playing timeJust how much will Altherr play?He's probably going to be the back-up center fielder for Odubel Herrera. The trouble for Altherr there is that Herrera has missed a grand total of 18 games the past two seasons. It's hard to imagine, barring an injury, Altherr getting more than 5-8 starts in center field this year.Considering Saunders is a left-handed batter, it's not hard to imagine Altherr playing against some tough left-handed pitchers. That might be another 8-12 starts. Because Saunders has never played more than 140 games in a season, we can probably expect Altherr to play another 10 games in the outfield while Saunders deals with injuries. Since both Altherr and Kendrick are right-handed, it's hard to imagine Altherr getting many starts in left. Those will probably go to Daniel Nava.So that's 23-30 starts. He'll probably pinch hit a bit, too. If Altherr proves he can hit and forces a trade, there's a chance he could end up with 40-50 starts on the year. If Altherr plays well enough, he'll allow for some extra seasoning for Quinn, Cozens and Williams.Then again, the other factor for Alther is what happens with the minor leaguers. Nick Williams was one of the younger guys in the International League last year. If he puts up an impressive slash line, the Phillies could call him up. Or if Roman Quinn is dynamic and healthy, he could take at-bats away from Altherr.Forcing Pete's handThe Phillies struggled getting on base last year. Well, they've been struggling in that area for quite awhile.Altherr has a .311 on-base percentage during his short career. Only two Phillies starters - Herrera and Cesar Hernandez - had better marks last year. So if Altherr gets on-base at his 2015 clip (.339), he's going to find himself in the lineup more.Altherr's pop, which can be prodigious, could also force manager Pete Mackanin's hand. If Altherr is driving balls into the gap and over the fence, he's going to end up in the lineup. The Phillies have 10 games in American League Ballparks this year. Altherr could play well enough that Mackanin would toss Kendrick into the DH spot and Altherr would end up in left for those games.One thing that's exciting about the Phillies right now is that there's a solid chance the 2018 Phillies could have a dynamic outfield with Herrera anchoring the outfield and Williams, A[...]
The Former Ace: The 2017 Player Preview for Clay Buchholz
I've been perplexed by the acquisition of Clay Buchholz since the move was announced.
At first, I didn't understand why the team would acquire someone coming off of such a bad season while the team had so many young arms that seem to be ready for the big leagues. Then, I could see how it might be valuable to have him eat some innings when you have Aaron Nola coming back from injuries and Vincent Velasquez not having pitched a full big league season yet.
Then Buchholz got hit hard throughout Spring Training. What should we expect from the talented right-hander?
This is the 14th in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Phillies. We previously looked at outfielder Michael Saunders. This post looks at how unpredictable Clay Buchholz is.
Let's remember two things with Buchholz. First, he pitches very well in odd numbered years. Second, he's pitched very badly over the past three years, despite a good 2015.
Odd Man Out
Let's look at Buchholz ERAs in odd numbered years.
- 2009 - 4.21
- 2011 - 3.48
- 2013 - 1.74
- 2015 - 3.26
How many times has he had an ERA below 4.56 during an even numbered season since 2008? Once. In 2010, he was an All-Star with a 17-7 record and 2.33 ERA. Will he yo-yo back into another good season? Maybe.
One thing is clear. When Buchholz is good, he's very good. As you saw above, fella dominated in 2010. In 2013, he had a 12-1 mark, limiting his hits allowed to 6.2 per nine innings. But he only threw 108 innings that year.
The problem, though, is that he's been trending in the wrong direction.
Bad Couple of Years
Since 2014, Buchholz has been atrocious. His traditional numbers: 23-28 with a 4.60 ERA - show a bad fourth or fifth starter. He also averaged just 22 starts a season.
His FIP, thanks to 2.8 walks, .9 home runs allowed and 7.1 strikeouts per 9 innings, was just 4.00. But he allowed 9.1 hits per nine.
He has just a 1.3 WAR during that stretch, compared to a 12.7 WAR the previous four seasons.
I doubt Buchholz will pitch the entire season in Philly. If he pitches well, he's probably going to get traded for a prospect. If he pitches poorly, they'll probably toss him overboard so they can bring up Jake Thompson or whomever.
Unfullfilled Promise: The 2017 Player Preview for Michael Saunders
It looked like the Seattle Mariners might have had something when Michael Saunders arrived on the scene in 2009.
The 22-year-old could pick it in the outfield, ran pretty well, had some pop and could take a walk.
Saunders scuffled a bit, then seemed to put it together in 2012, knocking 19 homers, swiping 21 bases, slapping 31 doubles and producing 57 runs batted in and 71 runs in just 139 games.
The next year, his power dropped but he increased his on-base percentage to a career-high .323.
If he could put it all together...
This is the 13th in a series previewing the 2017 Phillies. The most recent post looked at reliever Joaquin Benoit. This post looks at Michael Saunders' unfulfilled promise.
Saunders seemed to put it together in the first half of 2014 before injuries saddled another season. He went into the break hitting .276/.327/.434.
It fell apart with him just playing 20 games through the next season.
Saunders broke out in the first half of 2016, earning his first trip to the All-Star game. He fell off a cliff afterward, but still finished with 24 homers, 32 doubles and an .815 OPS.
He'll be 30 this season.
I'm not saying Saunders will be an MVP candidate - I imagine him playing fewer than 150 games in his Phillies career - but he could be a player like Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez or Jose Bautista who finally puts it together later in their career.
Bautista didn't make his first All-Star game until he was 29. Werth was 30. Ibanez was 34. Ibanez and Bautista didn't put up their first OPS+ above 100 until they after they were 28.
It's not unheard of for a player to have better numbers from 29-33 than 23-28. But it's rare.
The Phillies would be lucky to get a .270/.325/.435 campaign from Saunders with 20 home runs and 5-8 stolen bases.
Then people can stop pondering what might have been with Saunders.
The Bullpen Staple: 2017 Player Preview for Joaquin Benoit
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You know who has had a really good Major League career? Joaquin Benoit.
Oh sure, no one is confusing him with a Hall of Famer. He's not Mariano Rivera. He's not even Tug McGraw. But he's had some very strong seasons.
This is the 12th in a series previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. Most recently, we looked at Pat Neshak. This post looks at how the Phillies' under the radar move to pick up a solid bullpen piece.
Benoit has pitched in the big leagues through three presidencies. At times, he's put up All-Star worthy numbers. The Phillies picked him up for $7.5 mill. He could end up being very valuable.
Benoit arrived on scene in 2001, getting rocked in his only Big League game.
He returned the following year and spent four seasons swinging between the Texas Rangers' rotation and bullpen, not pitching particularly effectively. He was a poor man's Kyle Kendrick.
After fully converting to a reliever in 2006, the right-hander has put up some impressive numbers. In more than 600 games, pitching 633 innings, he's compiled a 2.95 ERA, 142 ERA+, 3.39 FIP and 1.095 WHIP. He's struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings, allowed a total of 62 home runs and given up just 6.5 hits per nine. His walks allowed - 3.3 per nine - aren't bad, either.
Tell me you wouldn't take ten years of that from Hector Neris.
The thing with Benoit is he rarely had a full-time closer job. He's saved a grand total of 51 games, which is about 200 fewer than I expected.
But that's OK, because 7th inning and eighth inning outs can be as important as the final out.
And that's why he's going to be valuable to the Phillies.
Combine him with Neshak, Neris and Jeanmar Gomez and you could have a very good bullpen.
As with Neshak and Professional Hitter Howie Kendrick
, Benoit could nab the Phillies a prospect in July or August.
The Veteran Arm: 2017 Player Preview for Pat Neshak
One of the Phillies' biggest problems last season was an inconsistent bullpen. They took a huge step in addressing that need on Nov. 4 when they acquired right-hander Pat Neshak for cash considerations or a player to be named later.
The former All-Star was coming off of a season that saw him pitch 47 innings over 60 games. The Astros offered him up in a salary dump despite him giving up a 3.06 ERA, 3.68 FIP, .936 WHIP and 8.2 whiffs against 2.1 walks per nine innings. As we continue our series previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies, we take our first look at the bullpen. Our last installment in the series looked at Professional Hitter Howie Kendrick. This post will look at how Neshak will solidify the Phillies bullpen.
How bad was it?
The Phillies had nine pitchers who appeared in 25 or more games last season. They were Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, David Hernandez, Edubray Ramos, Andrew Bailey, Elvis Araujo, Severino Gonzalez, Brett Oberholtzer and Michael Mariot.
The pitchers who had an ERA below 3.00: Neris.
The pitchers who had an ERA below 4.00: Neris, Ramos, Hernandez
The pitchers who had an ERA below 4.50: Neris, Ramos, Hernandez
The pitchers who had an ERA below 5.00: Neris Ramos, Hernandez, Gomez, Oberholtzer.
The pitchers who had WHIPs below 1.200: Neris, Ramos
The pitchers who had WHIPs below 1.400: Neris, Ramos, Gonzalez
The pitchers who walked fewer than 3 batters per nine innings pitched: Gomez, Ramos, Gonzalez.
The pitchers who walked more than 4 batters per nine innings pitched: Bailey, Araujo, Mariot.
This was bad.
Aside from Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos, the bullpen put up some awful numbers. Now, Gomez' numbers are severly skewed by a terrible final 6 weeks of the season. Prior to that he was slightly below All-Star in output.
What has changed?
Hernandez, Gonzalez, Oberholtzer and Bailey are no longer with us. Godspeed, boys. We'll raise a glass to freedom.
Mariot is likely going to be in the minor leagues.
Gomez and Neris should be valuable parts of the bullpen. Ramos and Araujo have some promise.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have added two stable arms to the pen: Joaquin Benoit and Neshak.
In the past five years, Neshak has put up a 2.75 ERA, 3.68 FIP and 1.000 WHIP. That's a nice mix to add to the bullpen.
His numbers from last year would have put him second among bullpen regulars in ERA, fourth in FIP and first in WHIP.
Think about what that would have meant to the team last year. Of course, we can't expect a 36-year-old to put up the same numbers. Say he drops 15 percent. Hits a 3.51 ERA, 4.10 FIP and a 1.100 WHIP, he'd probably be one of the three best pitchers in the bullpen.
That means he, Gomez, Neris and Benoit can eat up a ton of the team's stressful innings and let Ramos and Araujo continue to develop.
The Professional Hitter: 2017 Player Preview for Howie Kendrick
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Leftfield was an abyss for the Phillies in 2016. The cast of miscreants who played the position provided Philadelphia with a putrid .212/.284/.332 batting line. That's just brutal.
As the season neared its merciful end, manager Pete Mackanin basically begged for professional hitters. General Manager Matt Klentak obliged. He brought in Howie Kendrick, a 33-year-old former All-Star who rolls out of bed and plays above average ball.You can expect Kendrick to put up solid numbers for the Phillies this year and really stabilize a lineup that needs it. This is the tenth in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Phillies. This post looks at how Professional Hitter Howie Kendrick will affect Pete Mackanin's lineup.
Look, no one expects Kendrick to be an All-Star again. But he is a dramatic improvement for the Phillies over the slop they served up to opponents every day in 2016.
In the past five seasons, Kendrick has put up WARS of 2.9, 3.4, 5.3, 1.1 and .5. Putting up a .5 WAR. Even if he puts up a .5 WAR, that's an improvement.
But he put up a .5 WAR while hitting .255/.326/.356. A deeper dive into Kendrick's 2016 season might show that he could likely do a bit better than that.
Kendrick's 2016 strikeout rate (17.7 percent) was a slight increase over his career number (17.2). His 9.2 walk rate was significantly higher than his career mark of 5.3. But that might have come from where he batted in Los Angeles' batting order. Interestingly, Kendrick's babip was a career low .301. He's normally in the high .330s. Meanwhile, his line drive, infield fly ball and home run/flyball rates were pretty close to his career norms. One has to wonder if he just ran into a bit of bad luck last year.
Let's say he ages, but returns a bit to normal with his bapip and walk rate. It's not hard to envision him hitting .273/.330/.400.
Adding those numbers to such an epically bad offense would have an interesting impact. Those batting average and on-base percentages would have been third on the team last year.
While others think the Phillies could trade Kendrick for prospects at the deadline, I'm not sure that's his destiny. Unless he hits well and the team is a trainwreck, I imagine him finishing out the season.
R.I.P. Dallas Green
The man at the helm of the Philadelphia Phillies first World Series Championship in 1980 has passed away. Rest In Peace Dallas Green.
The Focal Point: The 2017 Player Preview of Cesar Hernandez
Cesar Hernandez can impress and confound you in a manner of minutes.The 28-year-old can put a brutal 0-2 pitch in play, race up the first base line and earn an infield hit. Then, on the first pitch to the next batter, he'll get picked off first base. Heading into his age 27 season, with nearly 400 games under his belt, one would think Hernandez would have a better grasp of the game. But the kid who led the league in triples last year, got nabbed on the basepaths 13 times against 17 stolen bases.This is the ninth in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. The previous post looked at Tommy Joseph. This one looks at Cesar Hernadez and wonders how good he could be if he could maintain his focus.Focus is the issue, right? It can't be anything else, can it? Hernandez has a ton of ability. He's got speed for the basepaths and the field. He's got gap power. He's got soft hands.But he makes mistakes that leave you shaking your head almost every game. Sometimes he tries to take an ill-advised extra base. Sometimes he doesn't seem to be in the right position. Either way, he doesn't get the most out of his capabilities.Let's dream about what would happen if he did.Getting on-baseHernandez clearly has skills in this area. He led the team in on-base percentage last year. He gets on base via walks (66 in 2016) and hits (a .285 batting average the past two seasons.) From June 23 2016 on, he seemed to really put it together. In 87 games, he walked 51 times and hit .327/.421/.433 mark.It was during that stretch that the Phillies really stressed him putting the ball on the ground more. It's unreasonable to expect him to put up those numbers over an entire season. Those are Hall of Fame numbers. But, if he focused on putting the ball in play and using his tools better, it's not hard to imagine him ending 2017 with a .300/.385/.415. Scoring runsIt's kind of astounding that Cesar Hernandez only scored 67 runs last year. Dude reached base 229 times. Yes, he was on a bad offense, but consider this: Ender Enciarte played for the second worst offense in baseball. His on-base percentage was 20 points lower than Hernandez' was. He reached base more than 20 fewer times. And he scored 20 more runs.Let's be honest. If Hernandez gets on base at a similar or better clip, the batters behind him will hit likely hit better than they did in 2016. And that should drive up his runs a bit.But Hernandez can't make outs on the basepaths.Stealing basesWith Hernandez' exciting speed, he should be compiling much better stolen base numbers. Even if he is getting caught at a bad rate, he should still be stealing 25 or more bases. If he can improve his focus, however, it's not hard to imagine him putting up more interesting numbers. Say 33 stolen bases against 12-15 caught stealing. DefenseHernandez glove doesn't grade out terribly according to the metrics. But it could be a lot better. The coaching staff and he can clearly work on improving his positioning. With that and added focus, things could improve.The possible final resultLook, I'm not saying Hernandez could be an MVP. But if he were to improve his focus and continue a slight development in his other statistics, he could end 2017 with a .300/.385/.415 line with 28/12 stolen base numbers and 10 triples, combined with a 1 or better dWAR. Tell me you wouldn't take that.The real resultThis was a fun exercise in The Possible. But Hernandez has pr[...]