A brief aside before I get to the new feature: Yesterday’s events in Boston were obviously horrid, and those in the area could use your help. If you can spare it, you can donate monetarily to the victims through the Red Cross here. Now, back to baseball.
Bill’s begun to introduce you to a neat, concise weekly round-up of the most important plays of the past week with his Week In Review series. As something of a supplement, here’s something a touch more long-form about the week that was around the Phillies and the league at-large, with 10 points that caught our attention.
10. SD/LA Brawl, or “The Ruckus at the Ravine”
No one is calling it that. Why aren’t they calling it that? (UPDATE: This is why.)
The brawl that wrecked Zack Greinke‘s collarbone presents a scary scenario for every team. Granted, mound-charging isn’t really common, and there aren’t many people who decide to try and lower the boom against a stampeding man who outweighs them by a solid 30-plus, but what if that were Cole Hamels leading with his right shoulder against a rampaging Lucas Duda? Obviously, no athlete wants to look like they’re showing the smallest chip in their machismo armor, but protecting your health and career would (hopefully) override the need to stand your ground against an obviously insane Carlos Quentin.
That really just seems like one of those things you can’t truly prepare for, and can only see what actions you’d taken when finally presented with the choices. Shame it had to end like it did.
9. Mike Adams Family Values
Some have made the argument that Mike Adams was a superfluous signing this winter, that the money placed in his pockets was better allocated toward an outfield upgrade. And I can understand that, especially given the off-and-on start of Brown’s career and the unimpressive paper associated with the hydra of other outfielders currently on the roster.
But, to start, they’re doing alright. Brown has been, well, off-and-on, but still shows promise. Mayberry and Nix are both slugging over .540. Ezequiel Carrera has a -57 OPS+ but hey who’s counting?
But even if they weren’t performing that well to start the year and making that roster hole seem bigger, Adams was a fine signing. He was probably only available at his current rate (two years, $12 million) because of the thoracic outlet syndrome surgery he underwent this offseason. There was risk involved. Heck, just look at Chris Carpenter. But Adams has looked positively stellar in his first handful of outings: 5.1 IP, 9 K, 3 H and 1 R allowed prior to Monday’s unlucky appearance. His first four showings weren’t exactly the most pressure-packed – trailing by 5, trailing by two and twice ahead by five – but in the last two, he’s delivered what he’s being for, allowing no runs in tie games.
Sure, the Phillies had (and still have) some reliever depth and close-to-the-Majors guys, but the only reliever currently in the organization better than Adams is Jonathan Papelbon, and even then it’s actually pretty close. Adams is an excellent reliever, whose addition will hardly be wasteful spending (Monday’s less than stellar outing included).
8. Ryan Howard, Once and Future Dinger
Two weeks in and I still don’t know what to make of Howard. His line stands at .255/.291/.392 entering Tuesday, with 14 strikeouts in 55 plate appearances and a 1-for-15 start against lefties (including eight of those 14 Ks). At times, he’s looked utterly lost. At others, he’s squared the ball up and either hit it out or made a long out. He’s still not moving well, but he still seems much better than he did when he came back in 2012.
Personally, I’ve found rooting for Howard has come full circle. When he came up and dominated through 2006-07, he was a blast to watch at the plate. Then the shift happened and his flaws became more pronounced, and he became irritating. His contract extension didn’t help things, either. Now, as we watch a Howard clone weathered by injury and late-inning lefty after late-inning lefty, it’s hard not to root for him to get back to hitting 40 dingers and driving in Chase Utley. Will it happen with the same frequency as the heyday? Probably not. But where I once felt only frustration over that, I now find that cynicism overtaken by genuine hope for a return to homer-swatting glory.
7. What IS Domonic Brown Doing For Us?
Dom Brown likes inside pitches. But there seems to be a thin line somewhere in his definition of “inside” that separates a crushed ball from a jam shot.
And so appears said line. Brown stands a fair distance from the plate, but must still try to get extension when pulling balls that far in and is instead producing weaker contact. We know he can show some big power when he squares the ball up, but swinging at these pitches most likely isn’t going to let him show that off.
6. More Like Chad “Stalls”
I’m going to continue to make bad title puns and there is probably very little you can do about it.
Qualls entered Sunday’s appearance against the Phillies with a 10.35 ERA; it fell by more than four runs by the time he left. He threw 28 pitches to get seven outs, including just nine to get the first five. His WPA for the outing was .142, a number higher than all but one of his outings as a member of the Phillies.
He stayed away, away, away from everyone, and no one could generate enough power to do anything with the elevated pitches on the outer half. Positively frustrating to be unable to touch a guy who was utter crap for your own team a season ago. Utter crap. Such a fun phrase. Except here because it’s Chad Qualls.
5. Who Framed Roy Halladay?
According to TruMedia, which has produced the heat maps you see above, Roy Halladay has thrown nine pitches all season that were, graphically, in the strike zone but called balls. Five of those came Sunday, with Humberto Quintero catching him. Quintero has caught Halladay’s last two starts, following the bizarre 3.1 IP, 9 K debut caught by Erik Kratz. In total, Quintero has seven of those nine “bad frames,” or so we’ll call them. You could also call it on the particular umpire, so there’s too much noise to draw definitively from the data we’ve got so far. Heck, even Chooch had a few games catching Doc in 2012 where he had multiple nibble-y pitches get called balls. Sometimes, it just happens.
Now, this is loose, as there’s some margin for error with the graphics, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, as my eye test alarm went off just watching the last outing.
4. Brown and Howard’s Dinger Dojo
3. Missin’ You, Chooch
Harkening back to the point about pitch framing, watching Kratz and Quintero really makes you miss having Carlos Ruiz behind the plate. We’re only 13 games into the season – and so only just past the halfway mark of Ruiz’s 25-game ban – but his absence is already being felt. After Monday’s 0-for-3, Kratz is hitting .171/.167/.293, while Quintero sits at .222/.222/.333 in limited action. In fact, the Phillies remain the only team not to have a catcher draw at least one walk yet this season.
2. Healthy Utley Is Best Utley
Monday’s game-tying, pinch-hit homer elevated Utley’s line to .292/.340/.602, giving Utley three homers on the season in 53 PA. In 2012, Utley hit his third dinger in his 64th PA, and in ’11 on his 83rd. Not that that’s necessarily indicative of anything (we’re talking about, really, a three-game and seven-game difference, respectively), I just wanted to point it out.
Really, though, we can all see that Utley’s better to start this season than at almost any point in recent or fairly distant memory. He looks great in the field, too. He keeps looking like this, and he may just get a new contract after all.
1. The Ben Revere Catch
Look at this catch. Look at this beautiful freaking catch. That’s some Jim Edmonds ish, right there.
The word on Revere has been that’s a plus defender, and even when he doesn’t make the best initial read (he froze for a moment after the ball was hit) he has the speed to make up for it. Sound familiar? Don’t let that make you think Revere’s just another Victorino-type in center field, though; on the whole, Revere’s CF play has been above his predecessor’s, and should hopefully continue to be.