2017 Phillies Report Card: Aaron Nola

Aaron Nola‘s arm injury in 2016 might have been the low point of the Phillies’ rebuild. Nola was supposed to be the sure thing in the rebuild, a command oriented middle of the rotation arm advanced beyond his years. After an offseason of worry, things did not get off to a good start. A back injury and poor performance had Nola sitting at 6 games started, 32 innings, and a 5.06 ERA by the end of May.

The rest of the season was dominant.

In the next 4 months, Nola would not miss a start. He pitched 136 innings, had a 3.18 ERA, and struck out 155, while walking only 38. He topped it all of with 43 strike outs in 30.1 innings in September. Not only did he put up great numbers in 2017, Nola showed that he was not only healthy, he was better. His fastball (both 4 and 2 seam) averaged over a mile per hour higher than it had in 2016. He found feel for his changeup more, throwing it much harder than he had in the past and nearly twice as often. The consequence was a higher whiff rate on the pitch. As his changeup improved, so did his curveball. Early in the season he was unable to miss bats with it, but by the end of the season it was an elite weapon again. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: J.P. Crawford

J.P. Crawford played some baseball in the majors last year. There’s not a lot of #analysis to do with 87 plate appearances, but the real story is that Crawford finally made it to Philadelphia and showed he could handle himself at the highest level. In that limited playing time last September, Crawford displayed the three core aspects of his game that carried him from Lakewood High through the Phillies’ minor league system: an ability to get on base, control of the strike zone, and excellent defense. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Freddy Galvis

I haven’t been particularly kind to Freddy Galvis in the past on this site, but I think I’m still going to miss him a little bit in 2018. El Falcon’s 2017 season turned out to be his last one in red pinstripes, as he’s now a San Diego Father. Freed from the burden of having to evaluate Galvis in the context of J.P. Crawford, I want to take a fresh look at Freddy and see if time, distance, and a twinge of nostalgia can change my mind.

In 2017, at age 27 Freddy Galvis probably had his most complete season as a major leaguer. He set single-season career bests in games played (162), plate appearances (663), hits (155), doubles (29), triples (6), runs (71), walk rate (6.8%), OBP (.309), wOBA (.298), and wRC+ (80). From that standpoint alone I give him full marks, and considering the value of reliability (he played literally every day) and nearly top tier fielding at shortstop, Galvis probably earned something like a C grade. On the other hand, topping out at a .309 OBP is Exhibit A for my general lack of interest in Galvis. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Hector Neris

In a 2016 bullpen marred by some blindingly bad performances, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez helped the Phillies the Phillies have a great win percentage in 1 run games. Gomez fell apart down the stretch, leaving Neris as the only reliable bullpen arm in the Phillies opening day bullpen.

In 2017, Pete Mackanin made Jeanmar Gomez his closer with Neris instaled in the 8th inning. When Gomez inevitably blew up, Pete turned to Joaquin Benoit, who also blew up. Neris was then installed in the closer role on April 20 and he responded with a clean 1-2-3 inning. He then proceed to give up a run in 4 of his next 5 appearances, capped by 3 home run and 4 runs to the Dodgers on the road on April 29. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Bullpen Breakouts

I realize it has now been over a month since the last post here and posts were not frequent before that. I am still trying to figure out how to get everything done. With my prospect list finished I am going to doing a mad rush to finish out the report cards here before we launch into yet another baseball season. Thank you for bearing with us.

Early in the 2017 season the Phillies bullpen was much maligned. Pat Neshek was good, Neris was shaky, and Joaquin Benoit and Jeanmar Gomez were blowing games. By midseason, the Phillies had traded Neshek and Benoit, and released Gomez. And yet, in the second half the Phillies posted the 10th best bullpen ERA in baseball. This was while Jesen Therrien and Ricardo Pinto pitched nearly 40 innings of 9 ERA baseball. So how do you turn around a bullpen midseason without acquiring any players?

Player A:

  • April – July: 28 IP 6.43 ERA 12 BB 30 K
  • August – September: 26.2 IP 1.69 ERA 6 BB 33 K

Player B: 

  • April – June: 31 IP 5.52 ERA 22 BB 38K
  • August – September: 26.2 IP 2.70 ERA 6 BB 37 K

Player C:

  • April – May: 15.2 IP 2.30 ERA 4 BB 7 K
  • June – July: 55.2 IP 2.75 ERA 22 BB 53 K

Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: César Hernández

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I’ve had an up and down opinion of César Hernández since his debut – originally I thought he was on his way to being the kind of player he finally became, but in between I was…kind of mean to him on this here website.

I thought for most of 2016 that César Hernández was a fake. A fraud. A phony, playing the role of a big league second baseman, and at some point, his mound-dwelling counterparts would expose him like so many skinny middling one-half-of-the-middle-of-the infielders are exposed much earlier on in their pro careers. But in 2017 César Hernández proved he wasn’t an imposter, but rather a capable hitter with good enough skills elsewhere to make him an easy first-division second baseman. This all was allowed to unfold as it did, in part because of a little used roster tool – THE FOURTH OPTION *50s B-Horror-Movie sound effect*.

Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Cameron Rupp

I don’t know whether it feels like Cameron Rupp has been around forever or just a little bit of time. the 2017 season marked, Rupp’s 5th in the majors, but he only played a combined 22 games in his first two seasons. What it does mean is that the 29 year old will enter the offseason arbitration eligible for the first time in his career. Rupp has been somewhere between the Phillies starting catcher and leader of a tandem for the past 3 seasons. Over that time he has hit .236/.301/.417 in just over 1000 plate appearances. He has shown good power, and this year nearly doubled his 2016 walk rate. Yet, we enter the offseason with Rupp on the outside look in at two younger catchers taking his job. Why?

We can start with the offense. In 2015 and 2016, Cameron Rupp was a 3 true outcomes catcher with large platoon splits. Things went even more extreme during the 2017 season. Rupp’s walk rate did nearly double from 5.7% to 10.3%, but his strikeout rate also skyrocketed. Among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances, his strikeout rate of 34.4% was 8th highest in the majors. Against right handed pitchers, he struck out at a staggering 36.9% of the time. As for his platoon split, after years of wrecking LHPs (.915 OPS and .993 OPS), he was merely ok against them this season with a .839 OPS. Rupp has never hit righties well, and in addition to the walk strikeout rate, he only hit .195 off of them this season. Put it all together and Rupp’s 88 OPS+ was a big step back from his 2016 season. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Ty Kelly

Ty Kelly was not the most heralded addition to the 2017 roster. In fact, we didn’t really trade for him; it was more that we bought him from Toronto for cash. I don’t know how much “cash considerations” generally is, but I think it’s an insignificant sum.

And Kelly is a relatively insignificant player in the landscape of the MLB. He entered the season a borderline Major Leaguer and played all of one plate appearance with the Mets. He was then designated for assignment and claimed by the Blue Jays where he accrued exactly zero plate appearances. Four days later he was on the Phillies, replacing the injured Aaron Nola.

So after spending eight years in the minors and a cup of coffee with the Mets last year, he was playing for the third team of the season on April 22. He had that quality, a certain Chris Coste ness you might say, that made him, along with Brock Stassi, easy to root for. Unfortunately, like Stassi, Kelly looked the part of a career minor leaguer. He posted a 53 wRC+ in 103 PAs and negative-0.2 fWAR. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Vince Velasquez

When the Phillies traded Ken Giles to Houston in exchange for Vince Velasquez and other pieces, they were supposed to be acquiring a long term rotation piece. Within the first month of his 2016 season, it looked like they had actually acquired an ace. The rest of Velasquez’s year did not go to script, and he entered 2017 looking to make improvements on the mound and more importantly staying healthy on it.

During the 2017 season, Velasquez only started 15 games and pitched 72 innings. He first missed time with a right flexor muscle strain, and then with a vascular injury in his right middle finger. Neither injury necessarily has a long term impact on Velasquez’s ability to pitch in 2018, and while the injuries have been concerning, they aren’t career ending. In 2017, only 75 pitchers pitched 150 innings. While, it would be nice if Velasquez could be a 200 inning pitcher, if he can pitch 140-150 innings a year, he has value as a starter. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Mark Leiter Jr

Mark Leiter Jr. is the type of guy every team needs, but no one really ever wants to have to use. He’s a replacement level player occupying the long man/spot starter role who was thrust into 90 innings this year.

Relative to expectations (of which there were none), Leiter did his job. Thanks to a basically league average strikeout rate (21.3%) and a slightly above average walk rate (7.9%), he wasn’t below replacement level, despite allowing 21% of his fly balls to go over the fence. Maybe there’s a little bit of bad luck involved there, as HR/FB% is one of the noisiest stats and the league average is just 13.7%. Among pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched, Leiter had the worst HR/FB% outside of Yankee Stadium (Michael Pineda) and Coors Field (Tyler Chatwood). Continue reading…