Howie Kendrick to Begin Rehab Assignment

The Phillies have been really bad. This has moved most discussions about the team to focus on how to fix the Phillies. In the wake of Daniel Nava’s injury and Michael Saudners’ poor start the focus has shifted to calling up Roman Quinn. It does appear the Phillies have some outfield help on the way, just not in the form of the 24 year old speedster. Instead this happened today.

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Aaron Nola’s Return Upgrades the Phillies Rotation

The Philadelphia Phillies have had terrible pitching this year. I have already addressed how there isn’t any immediate help on the way for the bullpen (though with speculation that Ricardo Pinto is moving to the bullpen that could change). Where there is immediate help for the Phillies is in the starting rotation. The Phillies did not win Aaron Nola’s first start back from injury, but he did show that the Phillies may have made a significant rotation upgrade.

There are a lot of unknowns around Aaron Nola’s future. The most significant is his health. So far this year, we have had no reason to doubt that Nola’s arm is fully healthy, but it is reasonable to be unsure whether he will hold up over a full season. Then there is his back injury which held him out for a month (with two rehab starts). Once again Nola looks healthy, but with some setbacks along the way, it is hard to feel completely comfortable. For someone now in his 3rd MLB season, Aaron Nola has thrown very few innings, both due to injury and a quick path through the minors to majors. This gives us very little baseline of performance. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 20: Where Have All the Relievers Gone?

I wish I had good news about the Phillies to kick off the Crash Bag with this week, but the team is bad. Well other than Aaron Altherr and Tommy Joseph who are #3 and #1 respectively in wRC+ for the month of May.

For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.

@JPallo26: What are your go-to statistic/analytic/breakdown sites and what do each do particularly well in transferring good info?

This is a great question because it really made me think about what sites I use and why I use it.

  • Baseball Reference – This is still the gold standard, especially after their re-skin. The Play Index continues to be the most powerful research and search tool. I love that on both the minor and major league level that you can highlight a set of games in the game log and get the stats over that time. Their splits pages are also much more robust than anything offered by another site.
  • Fangraphs – This is my quick and easy stats site. They have BB%, K%, and batted ball data in a place that is very easy to grab. The percentage stats are just a lot more informative and intuitive to me than the per 9 stats that Baseball Reference uses. The new Splits Tool is very good, and I have not had as much time to really play with it as much as I would like to. They also just added minor league batted ball data.
  • BrooksBaseball – I trust their velocity and zone measurements more than anyone on the internet. If I’m writing something major league pitching related, there is a high chance I opened up Brooksbaseball at some point (this includes hitters vs pitchers).
  • Baseball Prospectus – I like their prospect stuff, but on the statistical side they are doing the most cutting edge research. DRA is the best ERA estimator we have, and it really allows you to think about all of the factors that go into a pitcher’s success. I am still trying to wrap my head around all of the value and long term implications of their framing and pitch tunneling data, but it is research no one else is doing.
  • MLBFarm – This is Daren Willman’s essentially defunct minor league site, but it gives you minor league spray charts that you can customize over date ranges.
  • MILB Stat Pages – They aren’t fancy, but they update faster than any other site and have basic splits. The MILB pages alse have the most accurate transaction logs.
  • Baseball Savant – There is a lot of statcast data here that I don’t really trust and I don’t think is delivered in a way that makes it easy to do your own analysis on. However, their searches are good if you want to really dive into pitch location and usage.
  • Baseball America – Not really statistical, but if you have a subscription there is a ton of archival information on players. Also it normally has the demographic information that you won’t always find everywhere else.

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Adjustment Required

It is mostly a fact that all baseball articles concerning Odubel Herrera note the accomplishment of something remarkable. In 2015, it was a league leading BABIP driving a successful Rule 5 season. In 2016, he spent the month of April collecting all his walks for the year. In 2017, the story has been his range in the outfield. In between these accounts, there’s probably one or two about a lack of hustle or a bat flip that killed a passing bird. Still remarkable, if not entirely relevant to his baseball talent.

In that sense, the current post is a departure, as it regards Odubel’s very unremarkable offense this year. His current 82 wRC+ is a healthy clip below the league average. And beyond the face value of the results – a .255/.314/.390 batting line – there are underlying problems driving the dip in performance. To that point, here are two numbers deviating in the wrong direction.

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The Kids Won’t Help the Phillies’ Weaknesses

On Monday, I tweeted that the Phillies minor league system had the best winning percentage in baseball. Predictably, there were responses for the Phillies to give the kids a chance. This combined with nearly every beat writer having a mailbag yesterday where they were asked about calling up prospect relievers, had me wanting to look at where the team actually needs help and if there is any help that could come. Why not break this team down by units (lineup, bench, rotation, and bullpen) and see where they are right now?

Lineup:

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Altherr’s Hot Start Hides Underlying Weaknesses (and Improvements)

It is not a controversial statement to say that Aaron Altherr is headed for some regression. His BABIP (.392), HR/FB rate (35.6%),and ISO (.381) are way outside of expected norms. The good news is that he is batting .333/.434/.714, so any regression would take him from an MVP pace to just a really good baseball player. When a player goes on a hot streak, it has a tendency to cover up underlying numbers.

For Altherr, his big underlying discrepancy is his left/right split. Here are his triple slash lines vs righties and lefties:

Vs RHPs: .333/.433/.684

Vs LHPs: .333/.438/.778

It isn’t surprising that he is hitting for more power vs lefties. But, this only tells a surface story, so let’s unpack this a bit more with some different stats.

Vs RHPs: 67 PA 11.9% BB% 31.3% K% .452 BABIP

Vs LHPs: 32 PA 15.6% BB% 12.5% K% .300 BABIP Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 19: Rapid Fire Answers

This week no one gave me a deep question to get lost in for half a day. Instead, this week you all delivered a bunch of quick, but good questions that inspired a lot of varied discussions. So I tried to answer as many questions as I could. Enjoy.

@John__Wetzel: If all players in the Phillies org reached their ceiling, what would be the starting lineup/rotation?

Lineup

2B Scott Kingery

SS J.P. Crawford

RF Aaron Altherr

CF Odubel Herrera

1B Rhys Hoskins

3B Maikel Franco

LF Nick Williams

C Jorge Alfaro

Rotation

SP Sixto Sanchez

SP Vince Velasquez

SP Aaron Nola

SP Franklyn Kilome

SP Seranthony Dominguez

The tough call was the outfield. This may seem like an overreaction to Altherr’s season so far, but he is uber athletic and now that he is showing more power, his ceiling his really high. I went with Nick Williams as the more the dynamic outfielder than Dylan Cozens. This scenario gives you 3 20-20 outfielders with plus gloves. It might seem strange to see Nola in the rotation, but if he locate everything and always command his curveball and changeup, he could be dominant. Continue reading…

Phillies’ Patience Allows for Joseph Turnaround

Rhys Hoskins is hitting .327/.407/.617 in AAA. He is putting up one of the best hitting seasons in the minor leagues. On May 1, the Phillies biggest weaknesses were probably catcher and first base. This led to calls for Hoskins (and Jorge Alfaro) to be promoted to the major leagues. Since the beginning of May, Cameron Rupp has been hitting .364/.462/.636, but more importantly, Tommy Joseph is hitting .393/.500/.857. Even with this surge, Joseph has been a below average hitter on the year, but it begins to reopen the debate on who is the first baseman of the future and how should that battle play out.

Last year, Joseph was almost assuredly the biggest surprise for the Phillies. He was on the edge of being released from the organization, and he hadn’t received an invite to major league camp. Despite all of that, he ended up hitting .257/.308/.505 for the Phillies, and was even better from July 1 until the end of the season, when he hit .281/.355/.546 with a 9.0% walk rate and a 19.0% strikeout rate. For that 3 month stretch, he was a Top 15 first baseman in baseball. We also can’t go into why Joseph has been good of late without addressing how bad he was to start the year. Continue reading…

The Bullpen Is All Right

Coming into the 2017 season, the Phillies bullpen was supposed to be much improved. It was going to be hard for the team to not improve naturally on a group that had finished the year 28th in the majors with a 5.05 ERA. In addition to cutting some poor performers, the Phillies added veterans in Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit to shore up the group. Of course the Phillies bullpen has been seen as the weakest part of the team, thanks to a rough stretch where they went 2-8 vs some of the best teams in the National League and managed to blow a lead in almost every game.

So I made a quick poll on Twitter to see where many of you thought the Phillies bullpen was right now.

33% of you were correct. As of this morning, the Phillies have a team reliever ERA of 4.07, which is 14th in the majors and 8th in the National League. No one thought the Phillies’ bullpen was going to be amazing, but kind of average is right about what was expected this year. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 18: Trading Cesar

Thank you to Brad for doing this last week, and for being much funnier in the process than I am. It has been a really bad week of results for the major league club, so why not talk about trading their best player so far, and answer some other questions along the way as well.

For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.

@mweintr: Should Cesar Hernandez be traded now, when his value is highest?

It has become trendy to to want teams to keep trading and churning players, always looking for value. This is not the worst strategy when you know you are going to be a non-contender for the remainder of a player’s contract. However, Cesar will turn 27 just over 2 weeks from now and still has 3 more years of control through arbitration. He is currently batting a BABIP influenced .336/.379/.517 with a career high strikeout rate and career low walk rate. History says his power should trend down, and his walk and strikeout rates should trend positively towards his career averages. He is on pace for a 6+ WAR season, which is probably unsustainable, but he should be able to repeat his 4 win season from a year ago, barring an unexpected collapse. That is a really good baseball player, and if you are going to trade someone of his caliber, with his level of remaining control, you are going to want a haul back. Continue reading…