Monday Morning Roundtable: Fact or Fluke

Each Monday morning I ask the writers a series of questions about current topics facing the Phillies and baseball. This week, the Phillies record is still bad, but they are playing much better. Which of these trends are real, and which ones are setting us up for disappointment?

Luis Garcia has not given up a run since June 13 and since then has gone 17.1 IP with 7 hits, 5 walks, 17 strikeouts, and a ground ball rate over 60%. Is Luis Garcia good?

Michael: Fact. Garcia’s strikeout rate is down, but his walk rate is way down to just 8.1%. If you take out the one game where he allowed 5 ER in 0.2 innings, his ERA would be just 1.14.

Adam: Fact. Because just like in the NBA, everyone makes a run. Relievers are notoriously volatile and if Garcia is getting whiffs, he’s good (for this team).

Tim: Fact – Luis Garcia always had excellent stuff. Control has been his issue. But this year he’s hitting the zone more than he ever has before. As long as he keeps throwing strikes, he is a good pitcher.

Matt: Fact-ish. Is Luis Garcia good right now? Yes. Will Luis Garcia continue to be good? Who knows, he has never shown this kind of control over any stretch of time before, if he can continue to throw strikes I don’t see why he can’t continue to be solid.

After a hot July, Odubel Herrera is hitting .271/.313/.436 on the year. Can we say Odubel Herrera is actually back?

Michael: Fact. Odubel spent much of the first half mired in a terrible slump. But that’s all it was: a slump.

Adam: Fact, but I never thought he was the sub-300 OBP guy he showed for large parts of this season. He isn’t the league-leading walker from April 2016 either.

Tim: Fluke – But only in the sense that Odubel was never really gone. He had an awful three week stretch in May where he put up a -29 wRC+. Negative twenty nine. That’s a really, really bad slump. But he was okay before that slump and has been blistering hot since. Odubel is a wild card. But in the long run he always gets the results.

Matt: Fact (though he may have never left). I think most encouraging that he is walking at a 8.7% clip in July and has 6 walks in 9 games after the All-Star break. His season line is going to be dragged down by his May, but he is really good.

The Phillies say a swing change has helped get Maikel Franco back on track. He is walking more than he is striking out in July and putting up very Maikel Franco numbers, is he actually fixed?

Michael: Fluke. Call me when his wRC+ is better than his slick fielding teammate who plays next to him.

Adam: Fact. He was hitting the ball hard before but not having much luck on balls in play. Other times he was guessing or swinging at terrible pitches and making weak contact. He’s so good and so strong that he can muscle balls out with mostly upper body strength. Those homers were masking a terrible plate approach and inconsistent mechanics. It’s great to see him putting it together.

Tim: TBD – I have this idea that Matt Stairs is slowly molding Franco into the offensive beast he should be. It’s a slow process and some good things have come of it, like the improved plate discipline. And the recent results are promising. But I really need to see consistent hard contact for more than a week or two before I call this a success.

Matt: Fluke. Franco is hitting  .268/.329/.507 in July thanks to a BABIP that is still insanely low. In July his line drive rate is up to 21.5% and since the All-Star break he has a 33.3% LD% that is driving a .333/.405/.528 batting line. However, this Maikel Franco and I need to see at least a month of this before calling him fixed.

Phillies pitching had the 6th best ERA in baseball in July at 3.64 entering Sunday. The non Joaquin Benoit parts of the bullpen have been solid, and Aaron Nola is looking like an ace. Is this the team we thought they had entering the year?

Michael: Fact. So far the second half looks a lot like what I called a successful second half. Now everyone, stay healthy!

Adam: Fluke – These pitchers are still pretty nondescript. Nola is an “ace” because the Phillies don’t have anyone better, but I can’t picture him as a top-15 or top-20 starter. He’s very, very good. I just think he’s better suited as the second-best starting pitcher on a contending team.

Tim: Fluke – The results are in line, but not in the manner we expected. Sure, we all knew Aaron Nola would be pitching like an ace by this point. But raise your hand if you had Luis Garcia, Mark Leiter, and Ben Lively making positive contributions this year.

Matt: Fluke. The bullpen is being held together by Luis Garcia and Ricardo Pinto (Pat Neshek actually has a 3.12 ERA in July, thought a 1.53 FIP), which is great and all, but neither was expected to be a part of this bullpen. Aaron Nola is not 1.61 ERA good, but Aaron Nola might be whatever that category below ace is. It is nice to see Jared Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez show some life again.

Nick Williams is hitting .309/.347/.603, is he really the Phillies best hitter now?

Michael: Fact, as long as Aaron Altherr is hurt. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Adam: Fluke – Nick Williams. He’s good. He’s young. He’s excessively handsome. But he’s played 19 games and the league hasn’t had a chance to get a book on him yet. He’s not at Aaron Altherr’s level and since the team’s best hitter is the Rhineland Rocket, I’m saying fluke.

Tim: Fact – He swings and misses on a lot of fastballs. And eventually pitchers are going to start exploiting those holes in his swing. But there is so much natural talent in that bat. If Nick Williams ever figures out the plate discipline thing, he’s going to be an offensive monster.

Matt: Fluke. Well fluke that he is the best. Since Nick came up, Odubel Herrera is actually out hitting him and then there is still Aaron Altherr to contend with when he is back healthy. Until Nick learns to walk more he is probably behind the other two outfielders, and that is really exciting for the Phillies building something.

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  1. Chris S

    July 24, 2017 11:30 AM

    One thing I have noticed with Nick Williams is that his first couple games he would get behind in the count and then swing and miss at high fastballs outside the zone. In the last few games I have seen he is no longer chasing nearly as many fastballs up when behind in the count. Hopefully he can keep making adjustments, but I have really liked what I have seen out of Williams so far.

    • Mike Fassano

      July 24, 2017 12:48 PM

      Stairs made changes to the approach of Altherr and Williams in the Spring and it really looks as if it paid off.

      • Chris S

        July 24, 2017 01:46 PM

        My only problem calling Altherr our best hitter is his BABIP. It currently sits a bit high at .360. He could probably carry something like a .320 reliably with his speed, but .360 means he is probably getting a bit lucky at the moment. Maybe I’m not looking deep enough into the numbers, but it makes me think he is more of a .250-.260 hitter with decent pop and decent walk rates while playing good defense in the outfield. That’s a good player for sure, but not better than Herrera.

  2. Mike Fassano

    July 24, 2017 12:00 PM

    Is Luis Garcia good? Fact. Right now he is good. Can he continue to be good? For this season, Probably, but beyond that, not unless that splitter becomes his out pitch.
    Is Herrera back? He was never gone. Despite his antics and occasional brain farts, he has the best hand-eye coordination on the team. He’s a .300 Plus hitter.
    Is Franco fixed? Fluke. He wasn’t broken. I read an article about a month ago that said that Franco was the unluckiest hitter in baseball. I believe it. I’ve seen Franco hit a ton of balls to the right side this year, and that tells me that he’s trusting his power.
    The starting Pitchers have all missed time due to injury. Not knowing if this is what they are makes me want to reserve judgment until the season’s over. The Bullpen has been a hot mess, and I expected it to be a strength. Some of the blame has to go to Pete for mishandling them.
    Is Williams the best hitter now? Fluke. Herrera is the best hitter on the team, and could end up being a top hitter in the league. Altherr and Williams are probably .280 hitters with 85 RBI’s. That’s pretty high praise coming from me.

    • Romus

      July 24, 2017 04:43 PM

      MF…would you trade Herrera for Christian Yelich straight up?

      • rlh1004

        July 25, 2017 09:50 AM

        That’s a pretty good question. They are very similar, but I would say no. They profile nearly the same offensively, Yelich does have better on-base numbers, but otherwise very similar. However, baseball reference likes Herrera’s defense much more than Yelich’s. Yelich shows a career -0.1 dWAR over 5 seasons while Herrera shows 3.3 dWAR over 3 seasons.

      • denzen

        July 25, 2017 11:21 AM

        That is interesting, at first I think, in a heartbeat, but then when you look into it they are very similar. Same age. Maybe slight/slight edge Yelich on offense. Herrera edge on defense. Yelich has had back issues. Yelich is more polished, but Herrera is just more fun to watch. nah.

      • Mike Fassano

        July 25, 2017 12:37 PM

        No, but I might trade him for a top of the rotation pitcher..

      • Romus

        July 25, 2017 02:45 PM

        I see on other sites how many posters want to trade Herrera as soon as possible.
        Perhaps because of his comically sad flamboyancy after he leaves the batters box, or some want to trade him at his peak value since guys like Altherr, Quinn, Haseley or Moniak are quality replacements.
        If the Phillies are offered a top young pitching talent….a Rodon of the CWS or maybe even a top prospect for him …I would be tempted.
        Or even players like Cardinal’s Reyes, Rays’ Snell or Honeywell, or CWS Kopech.
        I look at Eaton’s return fromthe Nats was, and Herrera should comman at least that much or a little more.

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