2015 Phillies Report Card: Dalier Hinojosa
There’s a line I’ve always loved in The Blind Side by Michael Lewis: Before NFL GMs realized the importance of offensive line play, a lineman was an “interchangeable homunculus.” The interchangeable homunculi of baseball are right-handed middle relievers–if you’re good enough to pitch in the big leauges, but not good enough to start or close, you get tossed into a bucket and bounce around from team to team, anonymously pitching the sixth and seventh innings until your body or the season expires, whichever comes first.
The Phillies in 2015–and for at least a year in either direction–played baseball not out of an expectation of winning a championship, but because being a major league franchise obliges them to do so no matter what. The best thing developmentally for the Phillies would likely have been to only play defense when Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, or Jerad Eickhoff had a turn on the mound, and to end the game whenever the starting pitcher got tired.
But because this option wasn’t available to the Phillies, it became necessary every so often to toss a virgin into the volcano to appease the God of Somebody’s Gotta Pitch These Innings, which brings us to the point in early September, when I turned on a Phillies game, saw a somewhat zaftig righthander wearing No. 94 on his back, and said to nobody in particular, “Who the fuck is this guy?”
I keep fairly abreast of the Phillies’ minor league system, following various national prospect writers, as well as Matt Winkelman, and our own Brad Engler. So when I started seeing the name “Hinojosa” cross my Twitter timeline in July, I assumed that the Phillies had drafted former University of Texas shortstop C.J. Hinojosa, but this was not the case.
Dalier Hinojosa came over from Cuba, then played a season and change in the upper levels of Boston’s system, reaching the majors briefly before the Phillies claimed him off waivers. Put another way, he wasn’t good enough to stick with a team whose best starting pitcher is Rick Porcello. He’s like computer-generated roster filler from a computer game, useful only because Justin de Fratus could not pitch literally every low-leverage relief inning the Phillies had to offer.
But I’ll tell you what–as interchangeable homunculi go, Hinojosa was pretty good. He could get up to the mid-90s with his fastball and toss a nice, tight upper-80s slider, which led to his allowing only two earned runs in 24 2/3 innings. In five of his 18 appearances for the Phillies, he lasted more than an inning, which is more good news for a team that needed someone who could do that, and will continue to need him in 2016.
Of course, being 29 years old and right-handed and throwing in the mid-90s en route to an 8.2 K/9 ratio doesn’t make you special anymore–it’s part of this dystopian strikeout-dominated world we live in now that Hinojosa, for all he’s accomplished in his brief major league career, is still part of a fungible class of ballplayer. It’s a zero-sum game, after all.
Anyway, considering how well he pitched and considering that the Phillies got him for nothing, it’s hard not to appreciate Hinojosa’s contributions and pencil him in on next year’s roster.