The Aaron Harang vs. Yoenis Cespedes Battle

As strange as it sounds, since they won by six runs, the Phillies held on to beat the New York Mets in Tuesday night’s game at Citi Field. The Mets scored four runs against Aaron Harang in the fifth inning to chase him from the game, and then once in each of the final four innings. They simply ran out of time, and the Phillies won 14-8. It’s the first time the Phillies defeated the Mets since May 8, ending a 10-game losing streak against them. Darin Ruf had a career game, homering and knocking in six runs.

The most interesting part of the game, to me, was the battle between Harang and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Phillies — some combination of pitching coach Bob McClure, catcher Carlos Ruiz, and Harang — clearly had a game plan against the slugger and executed it well… until the end. Cespedes hit a two-run homer in the fifth to make it a 6-4 game, and chase Harang out of the contest.

I captured each pitch to illustrate how the Phillies chose to approach Cespedes during the game:

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September Call-Up Preview

Tomorrow is the first day of the utter madness that is September baseball. For better or worse, in-game strategy is thrown on its head for the final month of the regular season due to active rosters expanding from 25 roster spots to 40. For a rebuilding team like the Phillies, this can be an exciting time as it often means prospects will be called up for their first taste of the major leagues. This year, however, due to trades and starting rotation woes, most of the Phillies’ would-be September call-ups — Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Darnell Sweeney, Aaron Altherr — are already wearing red pinstripes.

As a result, Phillies beats writers indicated that the September call-up list tomorrow will be relatively small.
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The Tediously Boring Closer

Occasionally on baseball blogs with an analytical slant, it’s necessary to dive into the mundane and boring and, as luck would have it, the Phillies employ one of the most boring players in the sport. I’ll try to make this as quick and painless as possible, but it’s time to acknowledge the tediously dull performance of the Phillies freshly anointed closer, Ken Giles.

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The Phillies Struck Gold with Rule 5 Pick Odubel Herrera

The Phillies made a couple of unheralded Rule 5 picks during the off-season, selecting pitcher Andy Oliver from the Pittsburgh Pirates and outfielder Odubel Herrera from the Rangers. Oliver showed some good swing-and-miss stuff, but faltered with his control and the Phillies wanted to send him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley rather than keep him on the major league roster. As was his right, Oliver elected to attempt to find work elsewhere, a decision that drew the ire of GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. and made headlines. Herrera was mostly forgotten about.

In early March, not knowing too much about the guy, I suggested Herrera could be “dynamic” for the Phillies. It didn’t appear that would be the case, as Herrera ended May with a .249 average and a .635 OPS while looking uncomfortable in center field.

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Phillies to Lead the Charge on Expanding Protective Netting

There have been a handful of incidents this season in which fans have been hurt by foul balls and broken bat shards, leading some — including Detroit Tigers players Anthony Gose, Justin Verlander, Nick Castellanos, and Alex Avila — to stump in favor of expanding protective netting at the ballpark. Major League Baseball has been dragging its feet on the issue and doesn’t expect to have a league-wide mandate before the end of the season.

The Phillies are going out on their own, and will wait for MLB to catch up.

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Jeff Francoeur Enjoying A Good Season Despite Negative WAR

Recently, a little debate stirred on the ol’ Internets when ESPN’s Keith Law cited Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur‘s negative WAR in response to a piece of trivia which painted the veteran in a positive light. Law isn’t wrong about Frenchy’s poor on-field value: Baseball Reference lists him with -0.3 WAR while FanGraphs has him at -0.2. That’s in line with his production over the previous two seasons, albeit in smaller sample sizes.

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Enter DraftKings $300,000 Fantasy Baseball Contest Tonight

DraftKings is offering Crashburn Alley readers access to a free fantasy baseball contest with $300,000 in prizes!

All you have to do is pick the 10 MLB players you think will score the most fantasy points during the MLB games on Monday, August 24th.

Draft 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF and 2 Pitchers while staying under the provided $50,000 Salary Cap.

Entry is free with your first deposit or only $3. The total prize pool is $300,000 and first place wins $100,000. Over 25,000 scorers win money guaranteed!

Daily fantasy baseball is the easiest way to add excitement to the MLB season. Picking a lineup is simple. Here is a sample lineup:

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Here is How to Enter:

  1. Draft Your 10 Man MLB Roster Here
  2. Pay your $3 entry fee or get a free entry with your first deposit
  3. Follow your players as your team moves up the leaderboard live!

Utley Retrospective – The Minors and Rookie Campaign(s)

I’m going to take a close look at Chase Utley‘s minor league career and rookie season(s), much like I did with Jimmy Rollins when he was traded to The Dodgers. When I wrote about the franchise-best shortstop last winter, I called James Calvin Rollins “the rarest of the rare”. Damned if we didn’t have two gems surrounding the Keystone Sack in the Keystone State for more than a decade. This is how we got from the draft to a big-league superstar named Chase Cameron Utley. Continue reading…

Utley Retrospective: The Return

In a lot of ways, the 2012 season was the beginning of the end for the Phillies’ short-lived “dynasty.” In the aftermath of a 102-win season, the Phillies limped into 2012 – so to speak – without Ryan Howard, Roy Oswalt, Raul Ibanez or Ryan Madson, and the downturns of players like Roy Halladay were only a breath away. What’s more, they were christening the start of another season without Chase Utley, whose knees were once more betraying him.

The start was an inauspicious as could be predicted: the Phils found themselves at 36-40 and in fourth in the NL East, dangling over the precipice of last place by a thread just half-a-game thick. It wasn’t pretty, and the outlook wasn’t exactly gleaming. And yet, on June 27, Utley made his return, and it felt like the hope of contention was nearly back within the Phils’ grasp. How could it not? Utley, who had battled patellar tendonitis and Chondromalacia patella at least as far back as 2010, stood to deliver more than the ragtag quadruped of Freddy Galvis, Michael Martinez, Pete Orr and Mike Fontenot had provided to that point.

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Utley Retrospective: The Deke

In Chase Utley’s major league career, he has recorded an assist by throwing the ball to first base 3,474 times. Add in his minor league career, amateur career, and thirty years of practice sessions and he has made that throw to first base thousands upon thousands of times. Chase Utley fields a ball and throws it to first base as naturally as he breathes. It’s what he’s been training to do for nearly his entire life. And yet, the greatest play of Chase Utley’s career was the time he fielded the ball and never completed the throw to first.

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