Five Things We Learned About the Phillies This Season

The Phillies are in Miami to face the Marlins in their final road series of the season. Then, they’ll head back to Philadelphia to wrap up the schedule at home against the Atlanta Braves. Most likely, they’ll finish in last place in the NL East with around 75 wins, another unremarkable season and the third consecutive season in which they’ve failed to reach the playoffs.

The front office will watch the playoffs from home before putting pen to paper to begin restructuring the team for a better outlook in 2015 and beyond. They can’t do that without first looking back and taking stock of everything they learned throughout the 2014 season. Here are five things we learned about the Phillies this season.

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David Buchanan Could be the Next Kyle Kendrick

Kyle Kendrick will likely make his final start as a Phillie on Wednesday when the team will be in Miami to take on the Marlins. Kendrick is eligible for free agency after the season after earning $7.675 million in 2014 in which he was arbitration-eligible for the final time. Considering Kendrick’s poor performance over the course of the season and the money he’d be requesting, it’s hard to imagine the Phillies would pay millions of dollars to keep him around.

In eight years with the Phillies, Kendrick as compiled a 4.44 ERA (91 ERA+) over 1,131 2/3 innings. While he has by no means been a key contributor, he has provided value at the back end of the starting rotation — and, at several points in 2011-12, out of the bullpen — by being healthy and consistently being able to soak up six innings on average every time he took the mound.

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It’s Time To Rethink Amaro Administration Stereotypes

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Phillies are a joke of a franchise. Their organizational philosophy is akin to wandering through the forest in the middle of a cloudy, starless, moonless night. A look at the farm system reveals nothing but an empty cupboard stripped bare to fuel playoff runs from 2007-2011. And then there’s that roster with date of births bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Starting Nine for your neighborhood retirement community.

It’s this type of mundane, trite and, yes, dated analysis that may continue on until this team finds itself in contention, whenever that might be. The latest example of this Phillies (read: Amaro) bashing genre was found in Jay Jaffe’s obituary for the 2014 Phillies. Throughout the piece, Jaffe provides a relatively thorough and reasonable summary of the good, the bad, and the ugly for the Phillies this season although there is one glaring omission in that he lambastes the farm system without so much as a mention of J.P. Crawford‘s breakout season. To end the piece, however, Jaffe effortlessly falls into the trap of offering the same weak analysis we’ve heard ad nauseam:

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Guest Post: The Phillies Outfield Sideshow

By Dan Keely

Before we get started, I should mention that this is more an exploratory piece than an exposition. If you’re looking for a cause and solution, stop here. Likewise, if you want hope for the future I am not offering that here. With that said, let’s delve into the depressing state of the Phillies outfield in recent years.

Since 2010, the Phillies have had 27 different players patrol one of the outfield spots during a game. Some have been significant contributors, but most have been spot/emergency starters or fliers taken by the front office in the hopes of finding a diamond among the garbage. Notably, though, only eight of these players have accrued more than 500 PA in that time span, attesting to the spinning door that has been the Phillies attempt to field a starting outfield.

Perhaps the most indicting fact about this front office’s ability to identify quality outfield talent though is that of the top four, two have produced a negative aggregate WAR and another one is John Mayberry, Jr. That means that of the top four players in PA for Phillies outfielders since 2010, only Shane Victorino has been a useful starter. Those two players who accrued a negative WAR were Raul Ibanez and Domonic Brown, by the way. And of the two, Brown was more of a detriment to the Phillies with Brown having a -1.3 mark while Raul sported a -0.5, according to Fangraphs. Are you sad yet? Well don’t start crying yet, because you won’t want to run out of tears; this gets worse.

Going by both wRC+ and wOBA, of Phillies outfielders with at least 100 PA (mostly to exclude the illustrious Jason Pridie’s small sample stats) only three of the top ten offensive players are currently on the team; and two of those three aren’t among the starters. Darin Ruf is at number four, Grady Sizemore at number six, and Marlon Byrd at number seven. Brown, by the way, slides in at number 12 for both and Ben Revere at number 15 for wOBA and 14 for wRC+.

Hold on, though, we still have defense to provide us some value. And provide they did! With eleven whole players contributing a positive UZR/150, there is some hope… unless you care about the stats being accurate. Because of those eleven, only Victorino provided a large enough sample to draw any conclusions from, and only he, Byrd, and Laynce Nix have provided positive defense in more than 300 defensive innings. If you look at DRS, however, the outcome becomes… bleaker. Juan Pierre joins the other three as the only ones with a positive impact with 300 or more innings, but the number of total positive impact players drops to nine.

Speaking of nine, that is Byrd’s DRS and it represents the only number above two of the entire group; Pierre, Nix, and Freddy Galvis (79.2 innings) saved two runs, while Victorino, Ross Gload (65 innings), Brandon Moss (4 innings), Casper Wells (52.1 Innings), and Aaron Altherr (9 innings) saved one. Brown and Revere? They sit comfortably on -33 and -20 DRS, respectively, with the defensive wizard Ibanez (-34) representing the only player below them. And just for fun, that means that Roy Oswalt represents a defensive upgrade over our aggregate starting outfield in both DRS (0 versus -44) and UZR/150 (-1.2 versus -15). It also means Delmon Young (-10) is an upgrade over two thirds of our starting outfield in terms of DRS.

And just to rub salt in the wounds I have inflicted upon the Phillies fandom as a whole, here is one more stat: since 2013 (the first full year without any of them on the Phillies roster), Moss, Pence, Werth, and Victorino have combined for 29.2 fWAR, whereas the Phillies OF in the same time frame have contributed 0.4 fWAR.

Now all this being said, it’s difficult to determine what exactly the front office should have done differently. Of those four big contributors, Pence is the one that really hurts losing in the grand scheme of the team but we’ll get to that in a second. While Werth is an excellent player, that contract is not something that we should yearn for. Victorino meanwhile had his monster year in right field, which would have helped if it were for us, but if he were around it’s hard to justify trading for Revere which means Shane stays put in CF. Which is not to say he is not an upgrade over Revere in center, but it’s more of a difference of 1 WAR rather than 3 or 4. In addition, while Revere has his warts, he is young and under team control still which has to count for something, and trading Victorino may have netted us some additional value if Ethan Martin can ever truly harness his electric arsenal. Moss, on the other hand, is an interesting case. But it’s a bit disingenuous to refer to him as an outfielder. He’s more first baseman than left fielder, and there’s no way the front office was bumping Ryan Howard for him.

Now as for Pence, he is a great player. But his success in San Francisco is a bit unexpected. Not completely, of course, but it’s not something that anyone should have bet any real money on happening. Between his debut (2007) and 2012, Pence averaged just under a 118 wRC+, .3535 wOBA, and a little shy of 3.2 WAR per season. His peripherals while with the Giants have all remained very similar to his career, and yet he’s seen some of his best years in his career while out west. The one glaring difference? Base running. Turned from someone who hovered right around 1 BsR between 2007 and 2012 into a player posting 6.1 and 6.5 BsR the past two years. In addition, he showed improvement across the board defensively in San Francisco over what he had done in Philadelphia. But even without those improvements, a 3 WAR player in his prime is a nice piece to have. Especially on a team as apparently inept at finding outfielders as the Phillies.

But here’s the thing; trading for Hunter Pence in the first place was almost universally lamented. It’s easy to say, with hindsight, that we should have kept him. But you can’t make that argument if you were against ever acquiring him to begin with. Most people, including myself, agree that we surrendered far too much talent to get Pence. Plus at the time we were clamoring for Brown to take over (remember those days?) In addition, people bash the return Ruben got when flipping him to the Giants, except the package we got is right around what we should have expected. Hindsight is again at play because Tommy Joseph, the centerpiece of the trade, has been plagued by injury since we acquired him. The problem with that is you can’t really anticipate concussions. Especially since he had been perfectly healthy while with the Giants. And when he’s on the field he has shown the offensive tools to be a solid catcher with improving defense. In addition Seth Rosin briefly cracked the majors this year (with the Rangers before being returned to us) and showed that, absent some bad luck, he could be capable of pitching in the majors. Nate Schierholtz, too, has proven capable of producing value when used correctly; even if that value was produced for another team. The point is, we received a solid return for Hunter Pence, but people were hung up on the fact that Amaro way over-paid Houston to get him in the first place. But you can’t say that was too much for Pence and then turn around and expect to get that much in return. When you make a mistake like that the only thing you can do is mitigate the damage, and that is what Ruben was realistically doing. Go figure Pence would turn into a 5.5 WAR player.

So without the benefit of hindsight, what most people wanted to happen was this: never acquire Pence, let Werth walk because of the insane contract, and trade Victorino because we were rebuilding and there’s no point having him on the roster for that. That probably means we still trade for Revere and possibly still sign Byrd. That means we end up exactly where we’re at right now in terms of outfield strength and depth, except we have Domingo Santana in AAA. That would be nice, but his cup of coffee pretty clearly demonstrated he’s not ready yet. In that case, the only place we could have realistically expected any better outfielders is through the draft, right? But that is something to save for another time.

What all this boils down to is this; the Phillies have been comically bad when it comes to decision making regarding their outfielders. It’s hard to judge whether that has more to do with bad luck than skill because some of the bad moves are what most would agree with (plan around Dom Brown rather than Hunter Pence), while some of the good moves seem like a stroke of luck (Ibanez’s first season, Byrd, Sizemore). But regardless of the cause, something needs to change if this team ever hopes to turn their fortunes around.

It’s Minor League Recap Season!!!

On Tuesday, Jeff Moore from Baseball Prospectus and MLB Prospect Watch posted, to the latter site, his Organizational Recap of the Phillies 2014 Minor League Season. He highlighted J.P. Crawford, Jesse Biddle, Maikel Franco, Willians Astudillo and Aaron Nola for various positive, and in Biddle’s case, negative reasons. With that in mind, I’d like to take some time to talk about a bunch of deeper Phillies high and low lights that someone from a national publication might not find interesting enough to mention, but that you ought to know about or I wanted to mention in order to make a joke.

Best Surprise/Still Most Confusing:

Brian PointerI talked about Pointer extensively earlier in the year on this site, when he was white hot. He cooled a bit but finished strong, capping off a monster of a second half with a really solid .866 OPS in August, to finish with a wRC+ of 117 at age 22 in a league with plenty of 22-year-olds. His K Rate is a big issue in his game, as is whether the bat profiles in a corner OF spot. My big issue remains that I have seen no scouting on him all year and he’s not slated to play in the Arizona Fall League or even the Florida Instructional League (FIL). So for now, I will pretend like I’ve seen a whole mess of scouting on him and it’s all good. Sometimes fooling myself is just easier than trying to put logic to my gut feelings. I am not ashamed.

Best Comeback:

Roman Quinn – This is a tough category, as two well known guys made strides after significant injuries. Willians “ISOed Less Than Erick Aybar” Astudillo came back from knee surgery to have a fine year at the plate, and caught a fair number of games, (which is huge for his value), but really, Quinn has to be the pick here. Continue reading…

Submit A Fan Scouting Report for the Phillies

Submit A Fan Scouting Report for the Phillies

Every year, Tom Tango enlists fans to submit their own defensive evaluations of the players they watch the most. It’s that time of year again, and he could use some more Phillies-related evaluations. Here’s what Tango is looking for:

I want you to tell me what your eyes see. I want you to tell me how good or bad a fielder is. Go down, and start selecting the team(s) that you watch all the time. For any player that you’ve seen play in at least 10 games in 2014, I want you to judge his performance in 7 specific fielding categories.

If you don’t have an opinion on a particular characteristic of that player, then go on to the next characteristic for that player. This applies especially for you TV watchers, and you can’t tell how well Peter Bourjos can read the ball off the bat.

And, most importantly, do not, absolutely do not, look at any numbers. Don’t look at his fielding percentage, range factor, zone rating, UZR, or anything else that someone else is telling you. I just want you to rely on your eyes. You are the scout. I need you to rely completely on your own observations.

If you have the time, go here and submit some evaluations.

Jerome Williams Proving to be A Good Find for the Phillies

Starter Jerome Williams dominated the San Diego Padres last night, holding them to just one unearned run over 7 2/3 innings en route to a 1-0 loss. The right-hander surrendered just three hits and walked two while striking out six. Now with seven starts as a Phillie under his belt, Williams sports a 2.84 ERA over 44 1/3 innings.

It’s a surprising performance for Williams over the past month and a half, as he owns a career 4.43 ERA and posted a combined 6.71 ERA in 26 relief appearances with the Texas Rangers and two starts with the Houston Astros. How legitimate is his success and is he worth keeping around in 2015?

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Come Back, Hunter Pence

In case you’ve wondered why posting has slowed to a crawl here lately, it’s because I’ve been battling the flu over the last few days. Not out of the woods yet. Enjoy some filler content in the meantime. This is a cheesy rap video involving former Phillie Hunter Pence and the #HunterPenceSigns hashtag that popped up on social media recently.

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Cole Hamels Continues Dominating

Cole Hamels was on point once again, limiting the Miami Marlins (though Giancarlo Stanton-less) to one run over seven innings last night. He allowed nine hits and walked one while striking out six. As usual, though, the Phillies gave him little run support and didn’t get the win until Cody Asche broke a 1-1 tie with a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Hamels has now gone at least five innings and allowed three or fewer runs in 20 consecutive starts, setting a modern Phillies record as Paul Boye pointed out on Twitter. The streak dates back to June 1. Hamels also now has the third-best ERA in the National League. If Hamels hadn’t missed four April starts — and if Clayton Kershaw didn’t exist — he would be a legitimate contender for the National League Cy Young award.

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Domonic Brown’s Improved Second Half

There is no doubt that the 2014 season is one Domonic Brown will want to forget. That said, much of his statistical struggles can be traced to a truly horrific May at the plate. His 40 OPS+ that month indicates that his offensive production was 60% worse than that of an average MLB player.

Split PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS sOPS+
April/March 105 8 24 3 0 1 10 9 18 .253 .314 .316 .630 80
May 95 7 13 3 1 3 17 6 18 .146 .200 .303 .503 40
June 106 11 25 5 0 1 11 7 19 .260 .302 .344 .646 86
July 75 8 19 4 0 2 12 4 15 .268 .307 .408 .715 103
August 61 4 15 6 0 1 8 4 12 .263 .311 .421 .733 110
Sept/Oct 22 5 3 0 0 1 1 2 1 .158 .273 .316 .589 67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/10/2014.

After his disastrous May, Brown’s numbers have been on an upward trajectory. (*Warning: Arbitrary Endpoints Ahead*) His slash line since July 1st: .252/.304/.401. While a .705 OPS doesn’t represent a player tearing it up, it’s been good for a .313 wOBA and 98 wRC+, indicating that Brown has been producing runs at roughly a league average pace over the past couple months. Is league average production from Dom the answer for the Phillies going forward? Of course not, but it is a sign that he may still be a player with real value.

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