Crash Bag, Vol. 92: Past Tense Utley

Let’s kick the tires and light the fires.

@bxe1234: “Which would you most like to try: luge/skeleton/bobsled? Also, if you could two-man luge with a Phil, who would it be?”

I’m terrified of speed. I’ve never gone skiing and probably will never go skiing for this reason. So I’ll take bobsled, because that’s the one where I can push like a lunatic and sit in the back with my head down until the whole thing’s over. And as far as two-man luge is concerned, I want to be on the bottom so I can’t see where I’m going and have an excuse to just shut my eyes and scream. Ben Revere is very light so he wouldn’t crush me in the high-gee turns, and he seems like a patient man who wouldn’t stab me to death after I’d been screaming in his ear for a 75-second trip down the chute.

@fazzyh: “Which Phillie do you think is the best cuddler? No prizes for making this based on a pure size-related metric.”

Yeah, but size does matter. If you’re going to be enveloped in a loving embrace, you might as well actually get enveloped in a loving embrace. The ideal cuddler is big and strong and not a fidgeter, which–I know I always say Ryan Howard for questions like this, but it’s got to be Ryan Howard. If that doesn’t make this answer worthy of your prize, tough. Go ask someone else.

@TheMuzz34: “am I allowed to enjoy a mediocre Phillies team or do I have to hate everything the entire year”

Take it from someone who’s been listening to “Timber” by Pitbull and Kesha on repeat for the past week without a trace of irony–you can enjoy whatever you want, regardless of whether it’s actually any good. I’ve come to really appreciate Pitbull, because while there’s nothing particularly inventive about his music or compelling about his voice, and his lyrics are in the Nate Ruess/Kimberly Perry/John Lennon seventh layer of Hell of nonsensical, infantile and facile crap, ain’t nobody havin’ more fun than Pitbull himself. And if you think he’s terrible, I don’t get the sense that that bothers him too much, because he’s rich as hell and goes to five parties a week that are more fun than the best party you’ve ever been to. I mean, look at this crazy bastard:


The Phillies are going to suck if you light bonfires and conduct ritual animal sacrifice and cry out against false prophets like some shitbrained fundamentalist–A POX ON YOU, DAVE SCHOENFIELD OF ESPN, FOR PLACING THE PHILLIES 29TH IN YOUR PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS–as if the people who think the Phillies can’t be redeemed in 2014 are somehow responsible for the fact that they can’t be redeemed in 2014. Go back to the Wicker Man, you weirdos.

The Phillies are also going to suck if you rend your garments and wear sack cloth and sit in front of the TV for all 162 games like a masochist. So the way I see it, it’s not your job to watch the Phillies–it’s not even my job to watch the Phillies–so why do something on purpose that makes you feel bad? Take enjoyment where you can–if you enjoy watching them even when they’re bad, go for it. But if you’re like me and seeing John Mayberry more than once a game sends you into a cardiac episode…maybe switch over to another game if the Phillies are down five runs in the fourth inning. Or if it’s Fausto Carmona’s turn (I’ve decided I’m not calling him Roberto Hernandez unless he tells me to specifically) in the rotation…maybe make that the night you’re going to catch up on your Breaking Bad binge-watch or round up the neighborhood kids to play pickup basketball or something. Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re supposed to enjoy. People who can’t let you enjoy what you enjoy in private are nosy douchebags.

@GlennQSpoonerSt: “With so many teams smartly employing the shift and LOOGY RPs why do the Phils still put such a premium on slow lefty power bats?”

The Phillies aren’t putting a premium on slow lefty power bats–they’ve got one, and they got him and signed him to an extension before the shift really became what it is today. And LOOGYs and the shift are the price of doing business for a lefty power hitter, even a good one like, say, Chris Davis. Honestly, I’m interested to see how the use of low-arm-slot lefty relievers and the shift affects the next generation of left-handed power hitters. Because it’s probably too late to teach Ryan Howard to hit around the shift, but will Kyle Schwarber or Dominic Smith continue to just try to hit over or through the shift, or will future hitters of their type cope in a different way?

@hdrubin: “What sitcom (any era) best represents the 2014 Phillies?”

I’m not really going to answer this question, and instead go on my Hogan’s Heroes rant, which a quick perusal of Google tells me I haven’t done here.

I used to watch Hogan’s Heroes reruns with my dad when I was very little, but all I remember is the theme song, which is spectacular, in the top one percent of all TV theme songs before or since. It occurred to me some years later that this is a sitcom set in a Nazi POW camp. I mean, it’s not like that’s a setting that carries overwhelming negative emotional baggage for hundreds of millions of people. On one hand, you can hand-wave away any appeal to common decency by saying it was 1965, but on the other hand…there were actors on the show who lost relatives during the war, and one spent time in a concentration camp himself. I just can’t believe that at no time during the production of the snow did someone stand up and say “You know, maybe it’s not such a great idea to make light of Nazi POW camps. Maybe we should choose a different setting.” Can you imagine how quickly a show like that would get laughed out of a network producer’s office nowadays?

@Living4Laughs: “how do I deal with people that use championships to evaluate an individual player? Help.”

A question occurred to me earlier this week during that Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, which I didn’t watch, because I’d sooner actually go to Hell than watch two people debate religion. I think Hell is actually being forced to sit in a room while a fundamentalist Christian and a fundamentalist atheist yell at each other over your head. What occurred to me is that it’s easy to argue in good faith, or even have an exchange of ideas, when both sides are interested in learning. But there are people who are interested in keeping the sports debate grounded in the reductive and the ineffable, because that’s all they’re either willing or able to understand. Someone who says, for instance, and because I assume this is about Peyton Manning, because it’s always about Peyton Manning, that he’s not the best football player ever because he only won one Super Bowl is either unwilling or unable to comprehend how little impact one athlete has over the outcome of a game, particularly in NFL football, where 90 different players dress for each contest and coaches have an outsized impact compared to, say, baseball. And that even assumes that players are the sole determining factors in a game when sports are largely determined by chance.

I was going to outline a sample argument, but it’s not worth the time. You’re debating sports with someone who falls into one of three categories: 1) Too stupid to realize how little impact any player has on any game, let alone any season 2) Too obstinate to seek out a more nuanced point of view given that realization or 3) Able to do those things, but more interested in making you angry than in having a debate. I know I went on a whole rant about fighting bad arguments a while back, but I don’t know how to convince people like that, because men like that–and it’s always men. I’ve never ever met a female sports fan like that–aren’t interested in learning.

@Marc_Normandin: “How do you think Jackie Bradley Jr. is going to do in his rookie season?”

The book on Bradley has been thus, pretty much forever: elite center field defense, elite plate discipline, some, but not much power and some, but not much speed. Here’s what four projection systems say about him:

  • ZiPS: .245/.322/.375, 498 PA, 9 HR, 13 SB, 1.5 WAR
  • Steamer: .256/.332/.402, 398 PA, 8 HR, 10 SB, 1.5 WAR
  • Oliver: .254/.329/.419, 600 PA, 14 HR, 10 SB, 2.8 WAR
  • PECOTA: .251/.339/.399, 374 PA, 8 HR, 6 SB, 1.7 WARP

I’m a little more optimistic than the computers, if only because it’s Jackie Bradley we’re talking about–what am I going to do, not be optimistic? And I think Bradley having cratered last year, when outfield injuries and an incredible spring training forced the Red Sox to call him up maybe a little before he was ready, tempers expectations a little, which is a good thing.

I have a better picture in my head of what JBJ is going to look like when he’s fully formed than I do of what he’s going to do in his first full season. In a year or two, I think he’s going to be a .270/.350/.420 type hitter with an overall profile that resembles–if you’ll forgive a cross-position and cross-racial comparison–a very very poor man’s Chase Utley. I certainly don’t think Bradley’s going to be a perennial all-star or a borderline Hall of Famer, but the things he does well are the same things Utley does well: plate discipline, defense, baserunning, and he does the other things well enough that his game really won’t have a weakness. What made Bradley such an obvious pick when he was coming out of the draft is that the defense has been there since he was a sophomore in college, and plus defense at shortstop, catcher or center field makes you a passable regular even if you can’t hit all that well–see Ben Revere and Peter Bourjos. I think that with proper coaching, he’ll develop the kind of preternatural baserunning instincts we saw out of Scott Rolen, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth, and like Utley, he might only steal 10-15 bases a year, but once he gets his eye in and learns to read major league pitchers, he might only get caught once or twice. Now, Utley at his peak was a 7-8 win player. Bradley’s ceiling is probably 3-5 wins, because he’s nowhere near the hitter or the athlete Utley is (or was). But he’ll get there the way Utley did.

In case anyone’s wondering in the future, this is the moment where I realized we were dealing with Past Tense Utley.

@LonettoMB: “Tony Wroten: legit Sixer going forward?”

I think so. Spike Eskin and Mike Levin addressed this very subject on the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast yesterday and I largely agree with what they said–Wroten probably isn’t a future star, or even a starter, but he’s fast as hell, big enough to defend both guard spots and even though he’s as bad a shooter as you’d ever want to see, he’s very efficient in his shot selection–all layups and threes–and he attacks the rim the way my cat attacks my chicken sandwich while I’m eating lunch. Sam Hinkie took over the Sixers the way Jeff Luhnow took over the Astros–the major league team had been completely mismanaged and was devoid not only of big league contributors, but of prospects and tradeable assets. You trade all the players you won’t be able to use when the team gets good again, then find as many castoffs and buy-low guys as you can and blood them. Cross-sport metaphors often don’t work, but this one is almost too perfect. Thad Young is Jose Altuve, Nerlens Noel is Carlos Correa, Michael Carter-Williams is Mark Appel and Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker is Carlos Rodon.

Anyway, if you get ten of these guys and one or two turns into a useful role player, you win. Tony Wroten is…Matt Dominguez, maybe? Dominguez is a pretty terrible hitter, but one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, which makes him an okay regular. It’s way more likely the third baseman on the Astros team that wins the AL West in 2016 is Correa or Rio Ruiz, but Dominguez might still be around, and he’s a useful role player or trade chip. I’m thrilled the Sixers got that much out of Wroten, and remember–he’s only 20 years old–a year and a half younger even than MCW. He’s probably not done improving. I like him bunches.

If you made it this far, I like you bunches too. Thank you for patronizing the Crash Bag, and Go USA.

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