Josh Beckett’s No-Hitter Doesn’t Change Anything

As if the 2014 season couldn’t feel any worse, Los Angeles Dodgers starter Josh Beckett no-hit the Phillies on Sunday afternoon. Even aside from the no-hitter, it was a frustrating game to watch, as Ben Revere went 0-for-4, Ryan Howard made a fielding error, Domonic Brown made a mental error, and A.J. Burnett was giving up a ton of hits. Dee Gordon stole two more bases, giving him five for the series, and making Phillies catchers 10-for-47 throwing out base-stealers (21.3%).

Following Sunday’s denouement, many will focus on the Phillies’ offense, which has now been shut out four times in ten games dating back to May 14. There will be calls for changes, like getting Revere out of the lineup, benching Brown, or calling up prospect Maikel Franco from Triple-A to replace the injured Cody Asche. It would all be for naught, the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The Phillies’ offense isn’t bad. Spotty at times? Sure, but so are most offenses. The Oakland Athletics, owners of the American League’s best offense, were just held to five runs over all three games of a series sweep by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Phillies entered Sunday’s game averaging 3.98 runs per game, tied with the New York Mets, and just a shade over the 3.97 league average. Only four teams — the Rockies, Marlins, Dodgers, and Giants — averaged more runs per game than the Phillies. Even with the black holes that have been Revere and Brown, the Phillies have still been getting on base at a .316 clip and have a collective .382 slugging percentage, both close to the league averages of .312 and .390, respectively.

The Phillies as a team, however, are bad. Their -36 run differential is second-worst in the league and third-worst in baseball thanks in large part to a shoddy bullpen and their aggregate 4.55 ERA, which is the fourth-worst among all 30 bullpens. The starting rotation, now without Cliff Lee, is perilously close to crossing the 4.00 ERA threshold at 3.98. They play terrible defense — UZR ranks them sixth-worst thus far — and don’t run the bases at all, Revere aside.

Beckett’s no-hitter doesn’t provide us with any new information nor does it provide a reason to make big changes. It was a statistical aberration that happened to occur against the Phillies. The Detroit Tigers, who had the American League’s second-best offense last season including two-time MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, were no-hit by Miami Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez last season. It happens.

The Phillies’ window for making big changes sailed a long time ago, when GM Ruben Amaro decided to attempt to contend with the team rather than go into a total rebuild. They’re married to the decision now, and veering from it now would only be harmful over the long term. Benching Brown or Revere, or calling up Franco might net you an extra win over the rest of the season, but it doesn’t make the Phillies any more of a realistic contender and detracts from future goals.

It’s easy to be upset at the Phillies impotence on Sunday afternoon against the Dodgers, but overreacting to it is just about the worst thing the team could do right now. Tip your cap to Beckett for pitching a great game, and go right back after it against the Colorado Rockies tomorrow.

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10 comments

  1. Tony

    May 25, 2014 05:26 PM

    I’m with you for the most part, but I don’t see how bringing up Franco detracts from future goals. The main goal for this season should be to give guys who are on the cusp of being ready a chance to prove it, and with Asche on the DL, why not see what the top prospect can do against major-league pitching playing in his natural position? If he’s terrible, we send him back down when Asche returns, and his cup of coffee with the big club gives him a tangible thing to work toward. I really don’t see the down side.

    • Fatalotti

      May 25, 2014 05:35 PM

      Because Franco has all of 480 PA above A+ ball. There is no reason to start his clock early and deprive him of the ability for more seasoning down in AAA.

      • Tony

        May 25, 2014 06:02 PM

        I dunno, I think they should be liberal with his first option year during a time when the big club’s results don’t matter. If he shows he belongs on the 40-man, he’ll get a chance to get plenty of “seasoning” with the big club. If not, you can always be more selective about when you burn the rest of his options.

        The worst outcome is a Dom Brown type situation where we don’t get him up when there’s room, and then suddenly the team’s not willing to let him get a real taste of the majors.

    • MattWinks

      May 25, 2014 06:44 PM

      The problem is you bring Franco up for two weeks, of which he spends most of his time trying to get his feet under him. If he does well, you then have him and Asche with one roster spot. The odds are that hot streak isn’t going to continue and you are going to jerk him around as the league adjusts to him. If he struggles you start to undo the adjustments he is making in AAA and you send him down to restart the adjustments there while hurting his confidence.

      If Asche was down for a month and you could guarantee Franco would play every day for a month, then yes it makes more sense, but right now it is marginal upside with large potential downside.

  2. Iatrogenes

    May 25, 2014 06:17 PM

    Here’s why I think it’s worthwhile to bring up Franco now while Asche is out: He will learn a ton from the veteran players. The coaching and instruction in the majors is light years better than in the minors. Franco will have access to the best electronic technology instantly available to MLB players for self-improvement. The playing fields are better, the travel is better …everything is better than the minors, and he will have an opportunity to show what he can do. If he fails at this level, he goes back down when Asche is ready and he will be better for the experience. But what if he succeeds, which is still a possibility? If so, we will still see him playing third base a decade from now. Where’s the downside?

    • futties

      May 26, 2014 01:21 AM

      ‘he will learn a ton from the veteran players.’ yep: how to stroll to first on grounders and hit popups in clutch situations, how to look chagrinned when you strike out (again, again) on a ball a foot off the plate, how to play the game wholly devoid of zest and spark, how to not give a shit when you’re making millions…

    • hk

      May 26, 2014 07:50 AM

      “everything is better than the minors”

      …including the pitching. Franco has a .677 OPS in his first taste of AAA baseball. For comparison purposes, Reid Brignac has an OPS nearly 200 points higher so far this year. Franco needs to have some sustained success at the AAA level before they even consider promoting him.

      I get that the sh**show that’s going on here is hard to watch. Imagine how much harder it would be to watch if they rushed one of their top prospects and he hit .180 / .220 / .300 in his first two weeks in the big leagues.

  3. tom b

    May 25, 2014 06:30 PM

    not sure how you can talk of black holes without mentioning howard. also kinda strange to pick out reveres’ 0 for 4, the day after he had 4 hits. anyone calling for franco to be called up should check his stats from winter ball and AAA. He hasn’t hit since last season. i wonder if he needs a break. he has played a lot of ball with little time off. agree with amaro remarks,but to say phils offense isn’t bad because they are close to average isn’t saying much.

  4. George Callanan

    May 26, 2014 07:33 AM

    Five shut outs in the last ten home games. Six shut outs in the last eighteen games. Who do you blame Howard, D. Brown or Rhino for constantly changing the line up. Not to mention the middle relief woes. This combination of problems are the reason the Phillies stink. 9-14 at home which is the second worst home record in baseball. What a mess!

  5. Bob

    May 27, 2014 03:12 PM

    Just looking at wOBA by position, the areas where the Phils need offensive improvement are obvious.

    Ruiz has fifth best wOBA for catchers in NL w/ qualified number of PA.
    Utley is first.
    Rollins is second.
    Byrd is fifth.
    Asche does not have enough PA, but he’d be fifth if you expand the field to 100 pa.

    Now, the trouble areas:
    Howard is 10.
    Revere is 12.
    Brown is 12.

    Howard and Brown both play offense-first positions, so their numbers are particularly egregious. Revere and Howard both hit in the top half or prime spots in the order. They need to bury these three at the bottom of the order. I don’t even think it matters with them that they’re all LH because they’re struggling so much as it is that opposing teams might not burn a LOOGY on these three weak hitters.

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