Some Thoughts During Wednesday’s Loss

The Phillies lost 6-1 to the Miami Marlins on Wednesday night, dropping to 5-10 on the season. Cole Hamels pitched reasonably well, scattering five hits and three walks and striking out five en route to allowing just an unearned run in a no-decision. The unearned run, however, was Hamels’ fault as he didn’t catch an easy toss from Chase Utley while covering first base on a ground ball that would have ended the inning.

It was 1-1 when Hamels departed, but the Marlins took the lead in the seventh inning when Luis Garcia balked in a run. The game turned into a laugher in the eighth as Utley and Odubel Herrera both made embarrassing errors, contributing to four more unearned runs. Only the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers have allowed more unearned runs (15, both) than the Phillies (11) this season.

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Ruben Amaro, Jr. Put His Foot in His Mouth Again

Over the weekend at HardballTalk, I wrote about this ridiculous quote from GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. pertaining to Andy Oliver‘s decision to elect free agency rather than report to Triple-A Lehigh Valley:

“We offered him a pretty good deal to come back,” Amaro said. “He just decided to go somewhere else. I think it was a very foolish move on his part, but that’s OK. He had a choice. He had that right.”via Todd Zolecki, MLB.com

Oliver was impressive at times during spring training, finishing with 22 strikeouts in 12 2/3 Grapefruit League innings. He was not so impressive at other times, having also racked up 11 walks. He was competing for a spot at the back of the Phillies’ bullpen and ultimately lost out to Jeanmar Gomez and Luis Garcia.

As Oliver was the Phillies’ Rule 5 pick from the Pirates back in December, if the Phillies wanted to keep him, they would have had to find a spot on the 25-man roster for him throughout the season, otherwise they would have to offer him back to the Pirates. Amaro tried to find another way to keep him around, putting him on waivers. If he cleared waivers, the Phillies could have worked out a trade with the Pirates to fully obtain Oliver’s rights. They then outrighted Oliver to Triple-A, but he instead elected free agency. Oliver signed a minor league deal with the Rays last week and reported to Triple-A Durham. So far, he’s thrown 1 1/3 scoreless innings on a hit and a walk with no strikeouts.

The Phillies’ handling of Oliver is curious to say the least. Considering the team is going nowhere in a rebuilding effort and the back of the bullpen was fluid, it wasn’t difficult to find a spot to stash him throughout the season. Furthermore, following the elbow injury to Mario Hollands, the Phillies needed a second lefty in the bullpen behind Jake Diekman. Elvis Araujo started the season in Double-A and the Phillies recently designated Cesar Jimenez for assignment, so they’re currently operating with no other lefties at the moment.

Why try to be cute with Oliver when there was no need to do so? The Phillies not only foolishly lost a potentially useful bullpen arm who can miss bats with regularity, Amaro stuffed his foot in his mouth yet again trying to explain away the decision. Oliver may have A) not wanted to play for one of baseball’s worst teams that somehow couldn’t find room for him in the bullpen, and B) wanted to go to a team with similar bullpen volatility (meaning he would have an easy path back to the majors). Calling that “foolish” is both arrogant, coming from a front office elite, and patently incorrect.

Amaro’s comment could work to the organization’s detriment in the future, as players may be less willing to take career opportunities with the Phillies after seeing how they handled Oliver. Disputes with players should be handled tactfully both privately and publicly, but especially publicly. But in a sport in which extremely wealthy owners aggressively work to pay minor leaguers less than minimum wage and get upset over $200,000 losses in arbitration hearings, I guess it’s not very surprising that Amaro would be upset he got spurned by a journeyman.

Crash Bag, Vol. 3 & 4: Double or Nothin’

It’s been a long, long way down for Phillies fans. Though the annual declines in performance have let us down slowly, gently into the abyss of terrible baseball, it’s still been difficult to watch the team over the last few years. Maybe your turning point was Cole’s subpar performance in the 2009 World Series, or Howard’s strikeout parade against the Giants in 2010, or Howard’s achilles injury in 2011 … or paying Howard and not Jayson Werth … or trading for Hunter Pence … or trading Pence. You get the idea. There have been plenty of times when the bottom fell out of what we thought was the bottom. So it’s only natural, and completely understandable, that the minor leaguers get more attention these days, especially when the big club runs out a lineup with Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis batting 2nd. I feel your pain.

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Sending Ender Inciarte Back to Arizona Was No Mistake

In this era of terrible Phillies baseball, it’s easy to look back at some of the players that got away and wonder what might have been. We’ve seen this recently with reliever Jason Grilli and first baseman-slash-outfielder Brandon Moss. We’re now seeing it with Diamondbacks center fielder Ender Inciarte, most prominently in CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury’s latest column.

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Don’t Fret About Phillies’ RISP Woes

Even after the division rival Atlanta Braves traded away Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis, the Phillies were still projected to be the worst offensive team not just in the National League, but in baseball. Combined with the shoddy starting pitching after Cole Hamels, the Phillies were projected to put up a terrible run differential. They were -68 last season, finishing 16 games below .500, exactly in line with their expected record based on run differential.

The Phillies fell to 3-7 with Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the Nationals in the series opener in Washington, extending their losing streak to five games. They now sport a -18 run differential, which is also in line with their current record. No one is surprised. The Phillies are listed at the bottom of current MLB futures to win the NL Pennant, and almost all of the blame lies at the feet of the Phillies’ offense.

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Avoiding the Asche Hype

A rebuilding Phillies team desperate for young talent to shine has a 24-year-old third baseman batting .500/.571/.667 through his first 28 plate appearances of the year. The broadcast team has been heaping effusive praise on Cody Asche. Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt practically drooled while discussing Asche’s play last weekend. For over a year now articles have been written declaring that Asche is Chase Utley’s heir apparent as the future leader of the Phillies. It’s over-the-top hype and for the past week I’ve been standing out in the cold peering through a window at this Asche breakout party I just can’t bring myself to join now matter how much I’d love to buy in.

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Ryan Howard Wore the Golden Sombrero on Sunday

First baseman Ryan Howard went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Sunday’s 10-inning 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. He was replaced at first base by Darin Ruf after his fourth strikeout of the game, against lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno, in the seventh inning.

Howard now has only three hits (all doubles) in 20 plate appearances this season. To his credit, he had only struck out three times entering the game.

Howard had seven swinging strikes in his four at-bats: two in the first inning, one in the third, three in the fifth, and one in the seventh. Here are five of those seven:

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Some Thoughts on Saturday’s Win

I had the good fortune of attending Saturday night’s extra-inning win against the Washington Nationals. After eating a couple of sandwiches, I was treated to a pitcher’s duel between Cole Hamels and Doug Fister. Hamels, somehow, was able to last seven innings on 104 pitches despite throwing 27 pitches in the first inning and 20 in the third. It was a nice bounce-back effort after his mediocre Opening Day start against the Boston Red Sox in which he served up four home runs.

I had a few observations during the game which I wasn’t able to tweet but I’d still like to discuss here.

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