What to Watch for in the Final Two Months

The Phillies are enjoying a much-needed day off today, after having been dominated by Nationals pitching over the weekend. They were shut out in each of their last two games and haven’t scored since the sixth inning of Friday’s 2-1 win. They’re 49-63, tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the third-worst record in the National League.

You’re not alone, and certainly not to be blamed if you’ve already found better things to do with your weekend evenings than watch a bad team play bad baseball. But for those of you who, like me, will watch no matter what, there are still a few points of intrigue with two months of regular season remaining.

Will Domonic Brown continue his turn-around?

On June 13, I polled Crashburn Alley readers to get a gauge of their optimism or pessimism for Brown going forward. Two-thirds of the 306 people who responded felt that Brown’s slide would continue, pegging him at a sub-.300 weighted on-base average. The projections were much more optimistic, suggesting he would post a .325-.330 wOBA the rest of the way.

Since June 13, Brown has a .307 wOBA. July has easily been his best month, as his .715 OPS eclipses April’s .630, May’s .503, and June’s .646. He hasn’t played since July 31 due to a bout with strep throat, so we’ll have to see if that interrupted any momentum he might have had working in his favor.

Ken Giles‘ filth

Giles had his first real bout with adversity yesterday against the Nationals, surrendering three runs (two earned) on two hits and two walks. It marked the first time he had allowed multiple runs in the big leagues.

Giles showed control issues in the minor leagues, walking 11.4 percent of batters faced this season between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. But he has been relatively stingy with walks, issuing free passes to only 7.6 percent of batters faced. Meanwhile, he’s shown a legitimate ability to miss bats, recording 31 strikeouts in 21 innings.

As Corinne Landrey wisely noted last month, patience is still required with the 23-year-old right-hander. He’ll have a few more outings like Sunday’s, but he’ll be a hell of a lot of fun to watch regardless.

Ben Revere‘s average… and his slugging percentage

Not to slag on the guy, but Ben Revere does very few things exceptionally well on the baseball field. He does, however, make frequent contact — his 91.9 percent rate of contact is second-best among qualified hitters, trailing only Denard Span at 92.5 percent. When Revere’s batting average rests in the .260-.280 area, as it was throughout most of the season, he is barely more than a replacement-level player. Revere had a great July and brought his batting average up to .306. Nationals pitching helped reduce that by a few points over the weekend, so he’s currently at .302. Add in his 30 stolen bases in 34 attempts, and that’s an average — and, dare I say it, valuable — player. No, he’s no Shane Victorino circa 2011, but he’s certainly not the offensive black hole he’s been made out to be.

Despite the one home run he hit earlier this season — the first of his career — power is not exactly the center fielder’s forte. Sadly, though, he is close to passing teammate Ryan Howard in slugging percentage. Revere owns a .359 SLG while Howard can be found at .366. A good night for Revere and a bad night for Howard could put Revere in the lead.

Of course, as many have pointed out when I’ve joked about it before, this is why one wants to use isolated power rather than slugging percentage. Revere has a meager .057 ISO while Howard is at .151. Still, it would have been considered easy money at any point before the season to bet on Howard having a higher SLG than Revere.

Cole Hamels‘ continued dominance

Even if you only have the time or interest to watch one game every five days, make it a Cole Hamels start. The lefty has been among the game’s most dominant starters since coming off of the disabled list in late April. He has a 2.42 ERA, a 3.16 xFIP, and he’s averaging nearly 3.5 strikeouts for every one walk.

Clayton Kershaw, obviously, has been significantly better. If we lived in a world where Kershaw didn’t exist, or was simply in the American League, Hamels would have a legitimate case for the NL Cy Young award.

Hamels has been particularly effective lately. Over his last four starts, he has a 0.60 ERA with a 33/2 K/BB ratio in 30 innings. Who knows how long he’ll keep it up, but there’s no doubt he is still one of the best starting pitchers in baseball.

The protected 2015 first round pick

If the Phillies finish with a bottom-ten record, as they did last season, then their first round draft pick in 2015 will be protected. After finishing 73-89 last season, the seventh-worst record in baseball, the Phillies used their seventh-overall pick to select Aaron Nola from Louisiana State University. There’s some talk that he could make his major league debut in 2015.

The Phillies currently have the fifth-worst record in baseball and are on pace to finish 71-91, two games worse than in 2013. They’re in a pretty good position to add some more top-tier talent. They just have to keep on losing!

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15 comments

  1. Scott B

    August 04, 2014 05:21 PM

    Bill what do think the Phillies have to do to get back to a level of respectability/contention?

    • amarosucks

      August 04, 2014 05:26 PM

      1 – Fire Amaro
      2 – Remove Montgomery from any decision making involvement
      3 – Cut Howard

      That’s a start. Going to be a long time before this franchise is relevant again.

    • Bill Baer

      August 04, 2014 05:47 PM

      Well, the biggest obstacle between them and being competitive again is time. There’s absolutely nothing they can do between now and 2016 to be a legitimate contender. Maybe they get lucky and every roll of the dice comes out favorably — Nola becomes a legit contributor, J.P. Crawford continues to make strides, Domonic Brown turns himself around, etc. — but it’s a long shot.

      They just have to bide their time and wait for the talent at the lower levels of the system to shine through. As Jim Salisbury notes here, they signed some foreign talent recently, so maybe some of that pans out.

      I disagree with amarosucks. I don’t think any of his three points will have anything to do with the Phillies returning to form. And, though I haven’t liked his trade deadline inactivity in either of the last two years, Amaro has otherwise done a decent job of not exacerbating currently-existing problems (which he, of course, is responsible for creating).

      • tom b

        August 04, 2014 06:20 PM

        i agree that any of amarosucks points won’t have any bearing on phillies improving. cutting howard with nothing to replace him with won’t help. but there is a difference between won’t have any bearing and should have any bearing. those things aren’t going to happen but doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. not sure how you can give credit for not making your ruinous decisions worse. back handed compliment i guess

      • Adam G

        August 04, 2014 10:08 PM

        It is possible to make good decisions after making tragically bad decisions, but way more likely, considering Amaro’s hatred of sabermetrics and analytics, is they were lucky decisions.

      • Scott B

        August 04, 2014 10:50 PM

        What would you think of them possibly adding the likes of Yosmani Tomas or Rusney Castillo?

      • Bill Baer

        August 04, 2014 11:25 PM

        @Scott

        I don’t know anything about them, so I can’t say. Generally speaking, I like their newfound aggression in pursuing foreign talent. It’s a low-risk gamble that has the potential to pay off huge dividends.

      • amarosucks

        August 05, 2014 12:40 PM

        they are doomed until they change the way they operate. Montgomery and Amaro have shown zero semblance of proving they are aware or understanding of the times. Getting rid of them and replacing them with someone who understands simple sabermetric and financial concepts is the correct strategy.

        At this point there is zero point to having howard on this team. Cut him and let Ruf play first until Franco is ready.

        I know none of the above is realistic because it’s the phillies we are talking about. The bottom line is that they are a putrid organization. It’s frustrating to watch as a fan.

  2. TomG

    August 04, 2014 06:14 PM

    Tragically, I’m with you, Bill. I’ll be watching no matter what.

    Other reasons to watch: Maybe Utley will learn how to hit again? And: Sometimes you get an unexpected gift out of nowhere, like Hernandez pitching 8-innings and giving up no earned runs or the bullpen taking over a game in the third inning against a good team and NOT blowing it. Both of those are worth watching for because … who saw them coming?

    Whereas a dominant Hamels performance is as close to certain as anything, these days. As is the Phils’ offense and defense blowing it for him.

  3. chad

    August 04, 2014 11:44 PM

    Some other stuff to watch. Will Franco or miguel gonzalez get called up? Will anyone be traded post waivers (Byrd, paps)? How will ruf do? Will sizemore continue his good play?

  4. crow

    August 05, 2014 09:20 AM

    Little appreciated facts about Ben Revere:

    BA in high leverage situations – .395
    BA with men on base – .351

    A guy who doesn’t walk or get extra base hits but who has contact skills is useful if used correctly. I choked on my cornflakes some games back (I forget the exact situation) when there was a man on 2nd late in a close game that Revere didn’t start and Sandberg pinch hit Cesar Hernandez instead. All the Phillies needed was a single. Revere is exactly the guy I want at the plate in a situation like that.

  5. Francisco (FC)

    August 05, 2014 11:37 AM

    What to Watch for in the Final Two Months

    That TV series Perception is pretty entertaining. At least that’s my recommendation.

  6. GB

    August 06, 2014 01:07 PM

    I love the site and your writing, Bill, but I’ve been disagreeing with you more than usual lately…

    Sitting around until 2016 I think simply continues the disaster and lets this management/GM team off the hook.

    They should all be replaced asap (I know that will not happen) since they have completely wasted this team and approgated their responsibilities with the results highlighting that these past 3 seasons. I disagree giving them more time/opportunities to suddenly become smart & innovative is the right path; in fact it sounds insane to me. We need a whole new approach to talent evaluation, acquisition and development in combination with better understanding/management of payroll/resource allocation.

    Moving Howard is a must to free up the payroll, but also the roster and batting order spot. Until Howard leaves, he will consistently be played at 1B, bat in the middle of the lineup and continue to drag this team down. We have Ruf and Franco either ready or close to ready to play at 1B and need to turn the page.

    We also need to move all the other vets who will not be good enough or around for our next competitive run: Byrd, Bastardo, Hernandez, Burnett, Papelbon and Ruiz. Again, the focus is on freeing up payroll, but also roster spots and thus playing time. These trades need to focus on prospect return to improve our farm talent/depth and give us more lottery tickets that may pan out.

    Lee we cannot move until he proves he is fully healthy, but as one who called for him to be traded at last year’s deadline it is frustrating to see them waste that asset. Kendrick should be moved too, but could be kept to plug a hole for one more year.

    We are stuck with Rollins and Utley due to their 10-5 and contract clauses, but I would spell them a lot more with Galvis/Hernandez since we need to see what these guys can do with regular opportunities. I’d continue to talk with Rollins & Utley and hopefully get them to agree to move on next year so the team can move on and they can take another run at a ring.

    Brown, Revere and Asche need to play every single day (Sizemore is not the answer) for the rest of this season in hopes they can continue to develop.

    Phils also need to be very aggressive in foreign talent and the freed-up payroll/roster spots can allow for targeted FA on short term deals to help us bridge the gaps. We are not going after the elite guys (since there are few elite guys anyway), but good value targets on 1-2 yr deals.

  7. Bob

    August 06, 2014 07:34 PM

    I think putting Franco at 1B will severely decrease his value. A power bat at 3rd base is extremely valuable, and the managers of AAA said he is the best defensive 3rd baseman and with the strongest arm.

    My ideal scenario is too trade Utley for some young prospects. Move Asche to 2nd and keep Franco at 3rd. Let Howard play his contract out, cause cutting him makes no sense, and no one wants him anyways.

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