Crash Bag Vol. 38: Adam Morgan, Leadoff Hitters, and Sports Movies

This week of Phillies baseball has been awesome. Winning consecutive games started by Clayton Kershaw (on the Altherr grand slam), Yu Darvish (on the Hoskins three-run double), and Alex Wood (on the Altherr two-run single) has been awesome. It looks like the Phils are going to avoid 100 losses, which I’ll call a moral victory. It’s also something I outlined as a sign of a successful second half after the All Star Break. Phillies baseball is fun again!

On to the questions:

@riceid: Could Adam Morgan be a Ryan Madson type who continues to pick up velo and becomes a bullpen stud, or is he just a fun bright spot?

For those of you who may not remember, in 2006, Ryan Madson started for about a third of his appearances with a FIP just south of 5. The next year, he came back as a low-leverage multi-inning reliever and produced well with the customary bullpen bump moving his fastball average to 91.4. His 3ish ERA appeared to be a fluke, though, as his 4.20 FIP would indicate.

The following year, he (and his improved 93 mph fastball) struck out nearly 20% of hitters (hey, that was kind of a lot then) and established himself as the Bridge to Lidge en route to the Phillies’ second straight playoff appearance. Then, in the playoffs, all hell broke lose. Madson all of a sudden was throwing 95 and bumping it up to 97 at times. He was dominant, striking out 12 batters to just 1 walk and allowing three runs in 12.2 innings, as the Phillies won the World Series. The following season, Madson averaged 95 on his fastball and struck out nearly 25% of hitters. The season after that, Madson struck out almost 30% of hitters.

Adam Morgan, in 2016, was a terrible starter with a FIP of about 5, fastball velocity sitting at about 91, and a below-average strikeout rate. This year, he’s bumped up his fastball velocity to 94.4 mph en route to striking out 27% of hitters. His FIP is still over 4, because he allowed 5,345 home runs (check my math on that) in the first couple months of the season, but in the second half, his FIP has been just 2.70. He looks like a really good pitcher all of a sudden. You can see the similarities. Continue reading…

What Do the Phillies Have in Aaron Altherr?

Last night, Aaron Altherr finally got going after his trip to the disabled list. Altherr smashed an upper-deck go-ahead grand slam off Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball. As it stands now, Altherr has been worth 1.3 fWAR in about a half a season of plate appearances, bashing 17 home runs and producing a 125 wRC+. It’s been a good bounce-back season for the Phillies’ outfielder, but he again missed time with injury. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 37: Catchers, Otani, and 2018

@Anton_Smolka: Do you think Alfaro will ever become a decent defensive catcher and fix his issues at the plate (approach, swing, etc.)

I don’t fancy myself a scout, so I can’t really add anything about Alfaro’s defense that I haven’t heard from somebody else. I’ve seen scouts put him somewhere between slightly below-average and slightly above-average in the field, with potential improvements down the line. His arm is a literal cannon, but he’s a big dude, and crouching for three hours every day with consistent form and fundamentals is hard when you’re a big dude. I don’t think anyone will confuse him for a Molina brother back there, but early returns in the big leagues say that he’s adequate back there now with room to grow, as catcher defense tends to mature more slowly than other positions. Calling a game is an entirely different skill that I’m even less well-suited to answer, so I won’t even try. Continue reading…

Hoskins, BABIP, and Sustainability

The topic of Rhys Hoksins and sustainability is a big one, because no one believes he will hit 80 home runs a year, but they do want to know how real he is. Today The Athletic Philly wrote about Hoskins and sustainability and this set of paragraphs caught me.

The rest of Hoskins’ success at the plate is no fluke.

The average major league player has a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of around .300. Through his first 143 plate appearances, Hoskins’ BABIP is .257, suggesting he’s actually getting somewhat unlucky on the balls he doesn’t smash over the fence.The Athletic

BABIP might be one of the most misunderstood stats in baseball. One of the reasons for this is that it was at the center of a large pitching theory (DIPs). DIPs is the basis of FIP and it essentially says that a pitcher has no control over batted balls off of them. The major league average on balls in play is .300 and the assumption was that pitching BABIP trended towards .300 for pitchers over a large enough sample size. This also lead to a belief that batter BABIP actually trended to .300 over time as well. The reason for the trending on pitchers was that the large sample size of batters would average out. It turns out that pitchers have an influence on the type of contact off of them, and that different types of contact are hits at different rates. Continue reading…

The Phillies Youth Movement is In Full Swing

2

That is the number of players 30 years old or older on the Phillies’ active roster after Daniel Nava was moved to the 60 day DL. Those players are RHP Luis Garcia and IF Andres Blanco. Last night the oldest player to take the field for the Phillies was 28 year old Cameron Rupp. The Phillies had two 22 year olds on the field in J.P. Crawford and Victor Arano. Their superstar right now is 24 year old Rhys Hoskins. This hasn’t been just a youth movement based on September callups, it has been a slow build all season with a final culmination as the Phillies head towards the end of the year.

Last night wasn’t the youngest the Phillies lineup could be, here is how they stack up right now by position.

Lineup: Jorge Alfaro (24), Cameron Rupp (28), J.P. Crawford (22), Maikel Franco (25), Freddy Galvis (27), Cesar Hernandez (27), Aaron Altherr (26), Odubel Herrera (25), Rhys Hoskins (24), Nick Williams (24)
Average Age: 25 Continue reading…

Phillies Claim Another Marginal LH Reliever

Even with the IronPigs ending their season yesterday, it appeared the Phillies were out of new additions to the 40 man roster this season. So when Jesen Therrien went down with a season ending arm injury it opened up a roster spot they likely weren’t planning on having.

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Crashbag Vol. 36: The Future Infield

Last night the minor league regular season ended, the IronPigs are still in playoffs and sending a AA rotation to the mound. Oh and the major league club has Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, and Jorge Alfaro up with Odubel Herrera back from injury.

@totommit: Kingery’s K% has risen to 20.3% and BB% has dropped to 4.5% at AAA. Is this just a blip, or does he have plate discipline problems?

In 2016:

Clearwater: 7.9% BB% 12.9% K%
Reading: 3.0% BB% 21.7% K%

In 2017:

Reading: 8.8% BB% 16.1% K%
Lehigh Valley: 4.5% BB% 20.3% K%

Kingery does have some approach issues. He is an aggressive hitter at heart, and at each new level pitchers have been able to make him expand the strikezone. That said I am not really worried about him. He is never going to walk like Hoskins, Crawford, or Cesar Hernandez, but he also isn’t Nick Williams or Jorge Alfaro. He has always made the adjustment at each level, it just has taken him some time. This is part of why there haven’t been any rumblings about promoting Kingery to the majors, he hasn’t made the AAA adjustment yet. He will also only be 23 on opening day next year and should be on pace to compete for a major league spot should the Phillies trade Hernandez this offseason or ready as soon as the Phillies can move Hernandez during the season. So not a blip, as much as it is part of a pattern of struggle and adjustment. Continue reading…

Scott Kingery and Tom Eshelman Win Paul Owens Award

The Phillies announced that a pair of IronPigs had won the Paul Owens Award for the best minor league pitcher and hitter in the system this season. The award is supposed to combine some level of performance and prospect pedigree. On the hitting side recent winners include Darin Ruf, Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford, Andrew Knapp, Dylan Cozens, and Rhys Hoskins. On the pitching side over that time period the names are much less illustrious with Tyler Cloyd, Severino Gonzalez, Luis Garcia, Ricardo Pinto, and Ben Lively all taking home the award. Enough of about past winners and more about the current winners.

It is hard to argue that Scott Kingery had a better hitting year than Rhys Hoskins, but Hoskins won the award last year and his resume in the majors kind of makes things unfair. What you can argue is that Scott Kingery had the best all around season of any Phillies prospect. He hit .304/.359/.530 between AA and AAA. He has 26 home runs and 29 stolen bases. He played high level defense at an up the middle position. His walk and strikeout rates in AAA leave a little bit to be desired, but don’t detract much from his overall success. Kingery could step into the lineup on opening day if the Phillies trade Cesar Hernandez this offseason, and with Crawford’s promotion he is the best position prospect the Phillies still have in the minors. Continue reading…

Phillies Trade Juan Nicasio for Real Person

When the Phillies acquired Juan Nicasio on waivers on August 31 it looked like a pure salary dump for the Pirates and opportunistic way of shoring up a struggling bullpen for the Phillies. I personally scoffed at the idea that the Phillies would flip Nicasio for anything in trade…

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Phillies To Call Up J.P. Crawford: Looking Forward

This piece is a companion to my J.P. Crawford retrospective on Phillies Minor Thoughts.

The most anticipated transaction in the Phillies system for the best 3+ years was the promotion of J.P. Crawford to the majors. It was a move that was meant represent the start of the new age of Philadelphia baseball. Crawford has slipped a bit from this path, but he is still the Phillies top prospect and his promotion is still probably the biggest event of the Phillies 2017 season. Instead of being the start of the new age of Philadelphia baseball, Crawford will be asked to augment what already looks like a bright future highlighted by Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr. There has been much written about Crawford over the years and what he might mean to the Phillies, but here on the eve of his callup we get a chance to step back and look at his full minor league resume and see what he might be for the Phillies.

It is hard to translate any sort of statistical defensive numbers from the minors to the majors. What we do know from scouting is that Crawford has great instincts at shortstop and a strong and accurate arm. For the most part he is not a flashy player because his body control makes his motions appear smooth, but he is capable of the making the play deep in the hole at short or making a play on pure athleticism.

Continue reading…