Crash Bag, Vol. 9: Before and After

So…bad habits are bad, and are hard to break. One of mine is procrastination, as you’ll see by the dates of the questions submitted for this Crashbag. For months I just sat on this article — which I began writing in February — because I was embarrassed by the amount of time that had passed, and because I felt badly for the wonderful people who provided the great questions. Since I really like the people who asked these questions (or at least their online personae) and also enjoy writing the Crashbag, I thought it would be interesting to frame my responses in a before and after framework. I’ll answer each question in the “before” sense — that is, the way I answered (or in some cases, would have answered) in February — and then in the “after” sense, reflecting my current viewpoints.

Before: I suppose it’s theoretically possible, in the same way that it’s theoretically possible I win the lottery (if I played). However, I expect the Phillies to be right around 70 wins this year before making a big leap in 2017 into playoff contention. Right now there are too many holes, too many young players, and too many question marks.

After: Obviously the team has outperformed expectations, as we discussed many times in the first half. Considering the dreadful stretch of baseball the Phillies played before the recent improvement, I still do not expect this team to reach 81 wins this season. Even if J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams get called up and start off with a bang, I think 81 wins is beyond a stretch. They’d have to go 22-13 the rest of the way, which includes two series in Citi Field and one at home against the Mets, one in Washington and one at home against the Nationals, one in Miami and one at home against the Phish, and a four-game set against the Pirates at home. Even if they sweep all six remaining games against Atlanta (they won’t) they’d still have to win 16 games against four teams pushing for playoff positioning. I’d love to see it happen but I’m not holding my breath.

Before: Those guys are all generational talents. If the Phillies had one of those players, age wouldn’t restrict the player’s acceleration to the major leagues. If you’re referring to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard from the previous decade, yes, those guys were in their mid-20s before they hit the bigs. In Utley’s case, he was a college player so his age in his debut season reflects the time he spent at UCLA. Howard was blocked by Thome, I’ll give you that, but Thome was such a critical piece in the organization’s transition that it’s hard to second-guess that decision. I think it’s important to separate the player management of the Giles/Amaro regime from the MacPhail/Klentak regime. Clearly, J.P. Crawford has the opportunity to be a fantastic player. But if he isn’t ready — that is, if the team that drafted him and has developed him, watching him every single day and observing every play, doesn’t feel he’s ready — then he won’t be forced into the harsh spotlight of an MLB season in which the Phillies have no chance of going anywhere but fourth place.

After: I feel the same way now as I did then. The Phillies have proven this year that they are ready to promote and give playing time to players who have proven they’re ready, regardless of age. Vince Velasquez earned a spot in the starting rotation out of Spring Training with a great performance, despite many people believing he might benefit from some additional seasoning in Lehigh Valley. J.P. Crawford hit his way into AAA with a great start to the year, and once he settles in at that level and shows he’s hitting consistently, I expect he’ll be taking a short drive from Allentown to Philadelphia. As for Nick Williams, shrug emoji.

Before: Shortstop. He’s a shortstop who can hit 40 homers with a .400 OBP, steal 30 bases, win a gold glove, bake your mother a birthday cake and send her flowers just because he wants to, and win the MVP unanimously.

After: In the context of his injuries and playoff performance, Steph might have to settle for the Andres Blanco superutility role.

Before: Cedric Hunter.

After: Let that sink in as a reminder that I know absolutely nothing.

Before: If he makes the big league rotation, Velasquez won’t pitch a full season’s worth of starts. He’s going to be closer to 100 innings than 200 this season. He pitched 124.2 innings in 2013, 77.2 in 2014, and 88.2 in 2015. Although his downside is an elite reliever, the Phillies are going to see what he can do in the rotation first.

After: Velasquez, with his next start, will exceed the innings total for any year of his professional career (he’s at 124 right now, including one rehab start in AA this season). Considering his light workload in previous years and how much he’s obviously tiring down the stretch, he may not have more than one or two starts left.

Before: I picked them to win it all, but I don’t know if it’s a Yankees-level “failure” of a season if the Cubs don’t win the championship. One of the aspects of the Cubs’ currently-assembled talent that’s most fascinating is how young the position players are and how they’re (mostly) blossoming all at the same time. If they don’t win the World Series, yes, it’ll be a disappointment for a long-starved fanbase. But other than that, so what? All of their core players are in their early or mid-20s. They’re going to be the class of the league for several years.

After: The Cubs are an unstoppable machine. They’re head and shoulders above any team in the National League, and probably all of baseball. They’ve won 81 of 126 games and their +217 run differential is 56% higher than that of the Nationals, who may be the only team with a reasonable chance of possibly beating them in a playoff series.

Thanks for indulging me. As always, I’ll try to do better next time. Until then, send me your questions on twitter and use the #crashbag tag. Enjoy the A.J. Ellis era!

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  1. Major Malfunction

    August 26, 2016 04:28 PM

    Cedric Hunter!?!?! Hah!

  2. Nathan Fisher

    August 26, 2016 06:04 PM

    Adam, good read! The Phillies HAVE been playing .500 ball for almost two months. What does this mean for next year…who knows; at least they’re on a path of good management and ownership.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      August 26, 2016 07:09 PM

      Good question…maybe submit it on twitter for the next ‘bag!

      • JC

        August 27, 2016 10:01 AM

        So we should expect to see that sometime in 2018? I kid I kid 😉

  3. boomerbubba

    August 26, 2016 11:25 PM

    More proof that Phillies’ management are geniuses:

    (L, 1-8) 5.0 8 6 6 2 8 3 91-60 6.50

  4. kimsarah

    August 28, 2016 02:00 AM

    New feature: STIFFS OF THE DAY:
    Aug. 27
    Howard 1B 3 0 0 0 0 3 13 .194 .249 .432

    Mariot 0.2 4 6 6 3 1 1 39-18 9.00

  5. Tommydigital

    August 28, 2016 02:22 PM

    Please put vv as a closer or trade him…he ain’t a starter

    • Steve

      August 29, 2016 12:57 PM

      What? He looked great as a sp for 3 months. Not too bad.last start either. Hes tired. Hes never thrown this many innings. Maybe 2 or 3 more 5 inning starts and shut him down.

      • Tommydigital

        August 29, 2016 07:52 PM

        That’s the point…he will not be pitching past the 5th throwing 20 pitches an inning…that’s not tired

      • Tommydigital

        August 29, 2016 08:07 PM

        Think he’s pitched into the 7th twice this year. Love his stuff but I don’t see that being feasible or a product of being tired

      • Chris S

        August 30, 2016 09:10 AM

        He has electric stuff and if he can find more control has a chance to be an elite starter at the MLB level. I want to see if he can do it, but you have to give the young kid a few years to see if he figures it out.

      • Steve

        August 30, 2016 03:03 PM

        Hes a young pitcher with little mlb experience who can strike batters out. The profile often leads to a high number of strikeouts, higher pitch counts and lower inning totals. Kershaw did the same thing his first 2 seasons. Schrezer struggled with this in Ari. Plenty of other examples. PUntil he gets the experience and confidence to go after hitters and pitch to contact, he will have high pitch counts. He may never learn this, and he may wind up a RP, but its way to early to give up on him as a SP.

  6. boomerbubba

    August 29, 2016 11:51 PM

    “Stiff of the day:”
    Aug. 29


    Paredes LF 3 0 0 0 0 1 9 .227 .252 .387

  7. boomerbubba

    August 31, 2016 01:55 AM

    Stiffs of the Day:
    Aug. 30

    Altherr RF 3 0 0 0 0 2 14 .235 .302 .374
    Paredes LF 3 0 0 0 0 2 11 .221 .246 .377

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