The Phillies entered the 2015 season with a dearth of starting rotation depth and thus no reason not to gamble on a starting pitcher or two. And so that’s what they did in signing Aaron Harang and Chad Billingsley in January. The hope was that Billingsley would be able to recover from last year’s flexor tendon surgery and turn in a healthy and productive season on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, which would allow the Phillies to trade him to a contending team at the July 31 trade deadline.
The MLB playoffs will kick off on Tuesday with the Yankees hosting the Astros in the American League Wild Card game. On Wednesday, the Pirates host the Cubs to determine who makes it into the Division Series.
Here are the predictions from the Crashburn staff. Feel free to list your own predictions in the comments and let us know where we went wrong.
The Phillies avoided ignominy in Sunday’s season finale, beating the Miami Marlins 7-2 to finish with only 99 losses. It’s their worst record since the 1972 Phillies went 59-97. They would have been the first Phillies team to lose 100 games in a season since the 1961 squad, which finished 47-107. The Phillies’ .389 winning percentage is 25th worst in team history, which dates back to 1883.
After the Phillies dropped Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Miami Marlins, they needed the Cincinnati Reds to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates or a loss to the Marlins on Saturday or Sunday. Either result would clinch the worst record in baseball, which means they would pick first in the 2016 draft and secure themselves around $3.5 million more in slot money.
As fate would have it, the Reds won and the Phillies lost game two on Saturday night. The Reds’ game finalized first and the victory ended their 13-game losing streak, officially clinching #1 overall for the Phillies.
Maikel Franco made his first start since August 11, when he was hit on the wrist and suffered a non-displaced fracture. He hit a solo home run in the fourth inning and drove in a run with a single in the sixth inning.
San Francisco Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt announced on SI.com that he is retiring at the conclusion of the 2015 season. The 36-year-old is a veteran of 14 seasons, the last seven of which have come with the Giants, so he’s earned three World Series rings in the process.
Affeldt wrote about the five things he won’t miss about baseball, and the first item on his list, counting backwards to one, was “the city of ‘Brotherly Love'”.
The Phillies ended months of conjecture at the end of July by sending ace Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers in a trade that also involved reliever Jake Diekman and brought six players back to Philadelphia. One of them, Matt Harrison, offset some of Hamels’ salary and three were highly-touted prospects — pitcher Jake Thompson, outfielder Nick Williams, and catcher Jorge Alfaro. They currently rank as the Phillies #2, 3, and 4 prospects, according to MLB.com.
Appreciated but mostly overlooked in the deal was pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, a 25-year-old who posted a 4.25 ERA in 101 2/3 innings with Triple-A Round Rock this season. His numbers throughout his minor league career are mostly unimpressive, but the Phillies — in need of rotation help at the time — called him up in August to make his major league debut. Eickhoff’s success through his first eight starts is something even the Phillies likely never saw coming.
In Miami last week, Andy MacPhail dropped hints as to how the MacPhail Era of Phillies baseball will begin. First with the announcement of his decision to retain manager Pete Mackanin and then with public comments on the team’s offseason plans which Jake Kaplan of The Inquirer laid out earlier this week. Here’s an excerpt of the key MacPhail quote on signing free agents:
In the 5th inning of last night’s Phillies game, a chain of events set the stage for an event not seen in Major League Baseball since The Sopranos was appointment Sunday night viewing. A lineout sandwiched between two singles followed by an impressive strikeout of Yoenis Cespedes on three pitches brought the left-handed batter Lucas Duda to the plate with men on 1st and 2nd and two out to face the righty David Buchanan. With the Phillies clinging to a 3-1 lead, Pete Mackanin faced a decision and, in a case of either overmanaging or shrewd usage of overflowing September bullpens depending on your perspective, he opted to signal to the bullpen for a lefty. Enter Adam Loewen.
Prior to last night, Loewen had thrown 17 innings for the Phillies this season with terrible results save for a good K-rate: 20 H, 15 ER, 23.8 K%, 17.9 BB%, 2.06 WHIP, 7.94 ERA. This extreme proclivity for allowing baserunners made Mackanin’s decision a move that would be immediately second guessed if it didn’t work out, but as fate would have it Loewen struck out Duda to end the inning (video clip). He then remained in the game to bat for himself in the bottom of the 5th in what was likely a nice gesture to the pitcher turned position player turned pitcher. Sometimes nice gestures pay off and Loewen rewarded the Phillies with his first major league hit since 9/26/2011. But that would be neither the only nor the most notable “first major league X since XX/XX/XXXX” of Loewen’s evening.
During last night’s series opener against the New York Mets, a brief debate emerged on Twitter about the ethics of tanking. It’s no secret that the Phillies had no designs of being a winning team in 2015, and though no one involved with the team will openly admit it, every loss has been good for the Phillies as it has nudged them closer and closer to the first overall pick in the 2016 draft.
Someone tweeted a complaint at Kevin Cooney, the Phillies’ beat writer for the Bucks County Courier Times, because the Phillies appeared to be playing with an intent to win Tuesday’s game. Kevin responded:
At FOX Sports, former major leaguer C.J. Nitkowski wrote a most mind-numbing defense of Jonathan Papelbon for his attempt to choke teammate Bryce Harper on Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park. Fisking has been out of style for a while now, but that’s how I’m going to respond to Nitkowski’s points here. His quotes in bold, my comments follow in regular typeface.