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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