If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It Till It Is

Spring Training is upon us, as signaled by the onslaught of upbeat stories about how the players spent their winter hibernation. Maikel Franco has slimmed down. Finally, a stolen base threat! Cesar Hernandez packed on fifteen pounds of muscle. He won’t have to run the bases if he’s hitting the ball over the fence! Mark Appel is finally getting full extension in his delivery. I had no idea full extension was still in play for Appel. This is a game changer!

Most of these anecdotes are forgotten by the time real baseball gets underway. A few, however, will remain relevant. One story with that potential: Hector Neris decided he needs a third pitch.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 8: The Hairy Walk of Time

Baseball is back! The college baseball season started last week and, just yesterday, players wearing Phillies uniforms played a baseball game in Clearwater, Florida. Those players mostly weren’t guys we’ll see much of in 2017, but they were Phillies. Today, marks the beginning of Grapefruit League play, so we’ll see even more Phillies.

Baseball is back!

@Phrozen_: is the IBB change a) the absolute worst idea ever or b) only the second worst idea ever after the DH?

Not to be pedantic, but we’ve had a lot worse ideas than the IBB change in the history of human civilization. Slavery, genocide, non-24-hour diners to name a few. The IBB change is small bones on a wider scale.

More to the point, I was sort of with you when this rule change was floated out as a possibility last week. I immediately thought of instances where runners advance on an IBB wild pitch or a pitcher gives up a hit when the intentional ball drifts back over the plate or a runner on third steals home on an overly nonchalant lob. Those instances will be sorely missed, to be sure. But they are so rare that we get, what, one of these events every three to five years?

Continue reading…

Who Are You Series Wrap-Up

For the past five weeks, we’ve been looking in depth at new members of the Phillies roster. In case you missed any of the profiles, here are links to all five of them:

OF – Howie Kendrick (link)

RP – Pat Neshek (link)

RP – Joaquin Benoit (link)

OF – Michael Saunders (link)

SP – Clay Buchholz (link)

Before putting a close on this series, I wanted to get some thoughts on some notable non-roster invites who didn’t merit due to questionable odds of making the team. Some were explored in some depth in our other preview series that attempted to predict the Opening Day roster well before it was prudent to do so.

Continue reading…

MLB Pipeline Releases Phillies Top 30 Prospects

On Tuesday, MLB released their top 30 prospects for every National League East team on MLBpipeline.com. While for many this was a chance to see what the league’s prospect gurus had to say about the Braves farm system, which is one of the best, we here at Crashburn were interested in getting our first look at their take on a Phils farm system that has seen some mixed reviews throughout the offseason.

While the general consensus is that the organization is above average, opinions have varied. Keith Law ranked the Phillies as the 14th best system, down from sixth heading into 2016, while Baseball Prospectus tabbed only three teams as having more Top 101 prospects than the Phillies.

A few factors combined to lower the esteem held toward what many in Philly think is a bright prospect-studded future. First, the organization graduated a handful of upper-level prospects last season. The last MLB Pipeline ranking in 2015 had Jake Thompson ranked third, Zach Eflin as a top-10 prospect and Alec Asher also listed at 25. All three played with the big club in 2016.

In addition, a few of the best prospects in the system didn’t take expected steps forward. Nick Williams tried to swing his way to Philadelphia with no such luck, J.P. Crawford, who many also assumed would debut with the Phillies late last season, didn’t make the adjustment to triple-A as swimmingly as hoped for a top-5 prospect in all of baseball, and Mark Appel struggled before having season-ending elbow surgery.

You lose some players to the majors, a few top guys don’t make statements that incite the greatest level of confidence, and your stock realistically will drop. So it went.

So how do they rank the current prospects? Continue reading…

Predicting the Phillies Starting Rotation Order

The 2017 Phillies feel unique among rebuilding teams in that their starting pitching rotation is likely to be 80 percent the same as it was the previous season. Potential building blocks like Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez are all back. For better or worse, Jeremy Hellickson is back as well after accepting the Phillies’ qualifying offer instead of testing the free agency waters. The only difference in the rotation is not the arrival of a top prospect or big free agent intended to vault the team closer to contention. It’s just Clay Buchholz replacing Charlie Morton. At risk of oversimplification, Buchholz and Morton are, in the grand scheme, more or less the same: veteran pitchers with histories of injuries and inconsistency acquired on the cheap.

With that level of similarity between the 2016 and 2017 pitching rotations, it shouldn’t be surprising that manager Pete Mackanin has suggested another similarity between 2016 and 2017: Jeremy Hellickson is the likely opening day starter. This builds on what is a growing trend of boring announcements coming from the Phillies, beginning with the revelation that Jeanmar Gomez would likely be the team’s closer once again. The selection is not without merit. After all, one could reasonably argue that Hellickson was the team’s best starter in 2016, though Jerad Eickhoff has a similarly compelling case and Aaron Nola’s peak performance was undoubtedly better than both. Even if Hellickson is truly the best pitcher on the team–and it’s very possible he is–having him as the team’s nominal number one starter feels somehow disappointing. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 7: Prospects, Frenchy, and Legacy

With pitchers and catcher having reported earlier this week, the Crash Bag mailbox saw a marked uptick in questions directly related to baseball and a downtick in ephemera. This, in my opinion, is neither a moral good or a moral bad. A good question is a good question, regardless of its subject. The Crash Bag, like baseball as a whole, works best, I believe, when it contains a mix of actual baseball and profound nonsense. The six editions prior to this have been heavy on the nonsense, so consider this a bit of a balancing of the scales.

@scottbails13: Which of the Phillies’ prospects has the best chance to play significant time for the big club this season?

The easy answer here is Andrew Knapp. He’s one of two prospect eligible players likely to break Spring Training with the major league team (Joely Rodriguez is the other). He’ll be the backup catcher, and Joely will be a LOOGY sort of dude out of the bullpen, so they’re not the flashiest of answers, but backup catcher, in particular, is a pretty significant role that guarantees something like 200 plate appearances over a full season.  Continue reading…

Who Are You: Clay Buchholz

This post is the last of a weekly series which has run each Thursday. Over the offseason, we took a deep dive look at new members of the Phillies roster. Now that we’re just weeks away from settling down with these guys every day, the hope is that this series has provided a requisite introduction in preparation for the coming season.

Previous Installments:

Howie Kendrick

Pat Neshek

Joaquin Benoit

Michael Saunders Continue reading…

Tyler Goeddel Decommissioned

Tyler Goeddel’s 2016 starting gig in left field lasted just 23 games. The reasoning behind his short stint was cloudy at best, especially given his above-average (and near team-best) production over that time.

Pre-Goeddel Era

Let’s take this from Opening Day. For the first month of the season, manager Pete Mackanin deployed a combination of Cedric Hunter, Darin Ruf, Emmanuel Burriss, David Lough and Goeddel in left. All but Burriss made at least six starts.

None hit over .240. None got on base more than one-third of the time. None slugged over .320.

From batting average to slugging percentage, on-base percentage to wRC+, the left field position was head and shoulders below that of every other MLB team. They lacked power in a big way, with a slugging percentage a point below their already low .212 OBP.

Phillies (Rank) .144 (30th) .212 (30th) .211 (30th) .423 (30th) .189 (30th) 11
-10.5 (30th)
.191 (29th) .243 (29th) .245 (29th) .572 (29th) .254 (29th) .53 (29th) -6
Difference .047 .031 .034 .149 .065 42 4.5

So Mackanin turned to the Phillies first overall draft pick from 2015. No, not that draft. The Rule 5 Draft, where teams get to select non-40-man roster players buried on other team’s minor league depth charts. Continue reading…

Upping the Down(trodden): Stairs’ Case

Along with their quiet fury of moves this offseason, the Phillies made a lone coaching change, coaxing 2008 NLCS folk hero Matt Stairs down a few flights of, ahem, stairs, out of the broadcast booth and back into those familiar snug red pinstripes.

The goal? Improvement.

It’s no secret the Phillies lacked offensive firepower last season. Last in runs scored and OPS in the majors, they posted a .301 on-base percentage, their worst in four and a half decades. Among 2016 MLB teams, they finished five points off the lowest batting average, two points better than the worst OBP and one point above the worst slugging percentage.

So how will Stairs improve the bats? He spoke with CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury during the Phils beat writer’s Countdown to Clearwater series and outlined his plan.

He focused on a handful of points, almost echoing the sentiments of a buzzed-on-Jim-Beam Crash Davis who, in Bull Durham, spoke of how one dying quail, one ground ball with eyes per week is the difference between a .250 and a .300 hitter. Stairs said: “If every player gave away five at-bats per week that’s 120 at-bats per season. Now, think about it if you can cut that number in half.” Continue reading…

Crashburn Roundtable: Grading the Phillies Offseason

With pitchers and catchers having reported this morning to the Phillies Spring Training Facility in Clearwater, Florida, there seems no better time to place some closure on the most recent offseason. We’ve already seen a number of attempts to grade MLB teams’ offseason pop up over the past couple days and the coming week should see many more such posts. In what follows, we, the writers at Crashburn Alley, enter our contributions to the Phillies offseason grade book.

What grade would you assign the Phillies offseason? Continue reading…