2017 Phillies Report Card: Rhys Hoskins Crashbag

I met the man at a pretty good tapas joint in Barcelona on the eve of the Catalan Secession Referendum. He was having a Sangria, of course, and talking up the Ibérico he’d earlier sampled at the all-too-brightly-lit spot around the corner. I wondered if he really knew what he was talking about, or if he was just halfway drunk already, because that place, I’d been told just the day before, always, *always* passes off their lower-end Jamóns to tourists.

Rhys Hoskins stood out like a sore thumb, what with his imposing physicality, and the fact that he clearly learned the broken Spanish he was mustering from spending last winter as a line cook at Distrito. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 29: Looking to the Future, Because the Present Sucks

First of all, thanks everyone for helping us keep the lights on here. Writing for Crashburn Alley has been amazing, and thanks to you wonderful readers, I get to keep doing it. It really warms the cockles of my cold sabermetric heart to see such a robust and immediate response to our pleas.  You guys and gals are awesome.

Most of the questions this week focused on the Phillies future. 2019 records and 2020 starters; trades and prospects. The present is bleak, but there’s nowhere to go but up.

@TylerSmithEtown: What will the Phillies win differential be from the 2017 season to the 2019 season?

This is really two separate questions with a simple math step at the end. I’ll start with the 2017 team. Continue reading…

What Does a Successful Second Half Look Like?

To say this season has not gone according to plan would be a huge understatement. We all remember the now-infamous prediction by Pete Mackanin that the Phillies could be a .500 team this year. Well through just over 50% of the season, they’ve got a .333 winning percentage. In order to finish the season at .500, the Phillies would have to win 52 of their final 75 games, and, well, that’s just not going to happen.

Some would say this was a lost season. The team obviously hasn’t won a lot, but more alarmingly, several presumed key pieces to the next Phillies playoff team have taken significant steps backward. Odubel Herrera has a 76 wRC+. Cesar Hernandez has been hurt. Tommy Joseph has been replacement level. Maikel Franco has been well below replacement level. Jerad Eickhoff has taken a step back. Vince Velasquez has been hurt. Hector Neris has taken a step back. The revolving door at the back of the rotation has been more like a Tilt-A-Whirl. But you knew all of that already.

I’m here to tell you that the storm clouds can pass. There are a few things that need to happen to salvage this so-far lost season and keep the rebuild going in an upward trajectory.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 26: Bobbles, Bullpens, and Long Lost Friends

This is my first Crash Bag, and what an honor it is! On to our ambivalent adoring readers’ questions:

@mjspv: Only 3 bobblehead giveaways on the schedule: Phanatic (bobblebody), Rose, and Schmidt. Who will be the next bobble-worthy player? #crashbag

At first, I thought this might be a difficult question to answer. But when I looked at the 2016 promotional calendar, I saw that there was a Maikel Franco bobblehead given away in June last season (although it looked nothing like Maik). Franco played bobble-worthily at the end of 2015, but right now he’s not even worth a fake Phanatic bobblebody they’re giving away this year, let alone a real one.

*I should note that in my cubicle I have a real actual Phillie Phanatic bobblehead that I purchased in a store like a true blue-blooded American capitalist.

In 2016, they also gave away a Star Wars themed Phanatic bobblehead, a “Phanatic Variant Bobblehead”, and most confoundingly of all, a bobblehead of the Phanatic’s mom knitting. Now I’m all for Phillie Phanatic bobble heads – nobody loves the Phanatic more than me – but three bobbles in one year is far too many. Let’s limit this to one every two years, Phillies.

In 2015, they gave away a weird retro bobblehead, and a Larry Bowa bobblehead. In 2014, we got bobbles of Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and Ryan Howard, which seems entirely reasonable. It seems like the Phillies go with stars, old fan favorites, or variants on the Phanatic. So, while Maikel Franco has clearly already gotten a bobble, I’d argue that the bobble was not earned, and he is not a Bobble-WorthyTM player.

So who is the next Bobble-WorthyTM Phillie? I’ll make up the arbitrary criteria that you have to be an above-average player for several years in a row. If Odubel Herrera can turn his season around and put up another 4 WAR campaign, I think he deserves a bobble next season.  Entering the season, Herrera was 67% bobble worthy. If we generously say that he has a 1-in-4 chance of going on a tear and pulling out a 4 win season, that makes him (67% + 1/4*33% = ) 75% Bobble-WorthyTM.

If Herrera can’t pull it out, we may be waiting a while. Here is a list of current Phillies, arranged by Bobble-WorthinessTM:

Odubel Herrera – 75% Bobble-WorthyTM

Jerad Eickhoff – 50% Bobble-WorthyTM – The Phillies most consistent pitcher over the past three years. Not All-Star caliber but he’s still the bobbliest we’ve got.

Aaron Nola – 38% Bobble-WorthyTM – Not currently very Bobble-WorthyTM, but if he stays healthy for a full season, he could put up the kind of Cy Young-caliber numbers that make a player immediately Bobble-WorthyTM.

Cesar Hernandez – 33% Bobble-WorthyTM – He’s had one 4 win season. Stack on a couple more, and you’ll be bobblin’ till the cows come home.

Freddy Galvis – 20% Bobble-WorthyTM – His talent is below replacement bobble, but he is the longest tenured Phillie, and that’s got to be worth something.

Everyone else on the Phillies is Bobble-UnworthyTM.

Now that I’ve spent a totally reasonable amount of time answering this important question, let’s move on. Continue reading…

On the Pathetic Phillies

I was cruising FanGraphs this week, desperately looking for something interesting to write about. You see, the Phillies, as you may have noticed, are soul-crushingly bad this season. There are only so many times you can look for silver linings or potential improvements before it becomes an exercise in futility. Therefore, I’ve decided to lean in to the madness. The Phillies leaders in fWAR this season are Jerad Eickhoff, Pat Neshak, and Odubel Herrera, all at 1.2 fWAR. They’re all on pace to be above-average players this year, if you set the “average” bar at 2 fWAR.

But let me tell you something about them you may not have realized: Eickhoff’s ERA is almost 5.00. Neshak is a reliever. Herrera is running a wRC+ of just 78. When your best starter has an ERA 14% worse than league average, your best hitter can’t hit, that leaves a reliever to be the best player on your team, which is… not ideal. And that’s how you wind up with the worst team in baseball. Continue reading…

Is César Hernández For Real?

Heading into the 2017 season, we here at Crashburn Alley strive to update you on a specific storyline regarding many of the returning staples from last season’s roster. Today is second baseman César Hernández.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, César Hernández surprisingly managed to lead the Phillies in fWAR last year with 4.4. This was also third best among second basemen in the National League. At the beginning of last season, if you had given me 5 guesses on who would lead the Phillies in WAR, I don’t think Hernández would have made the cut, but here we are.

His path to very-good-playerdom followed the Luis Castillo precedent of good defense, high average, lots of walks, little power, and decent baserunning, but how much of that is sustainable for the 26-year-old’s upcoming seasons? Let’s pick this apart piece by piece. Continue reading…

Gertrude and Anatoli

December 21, 2315
Somewhere Near the ruins of Cherry Hill, Federated Union of North America

Dearest Gertrude,

I write to you knowing that in all probability, you will never lay eyes on this letter. The ion storms coursing overhead leave streaks of lighting as piercing blue as your eyes and as breathtakingly beautiful as your face, and they too imprison me in a state I may never escape. Long have I regretted the actions I took that allowed The Event to separate us, and my guilt is only assuaged by the fact that I was able to love you, and you me, for what time we had together.

I write to you because I learned something today that shows, in clear terms, how nothing changes in this world. Carlos Tocci is the Phillies’ eighth-best prospect. Civilizations have risen and fallen, the Moon  revolves around the Earth and the hoverships glide lazily from here to there, and Carlos Tocci is still 19 years old and slugging .280 in the low minors.

Continue reading…

2014 Phillies Report Card: Sean O’Sullivan

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about fate. How much of what we achieve is predetermined, and how much is the result of our own agency and conscious choices? I’d long rejected the idea of hard determinism as a philosophy, but recent events in my own life have made me reconsider. I wrote a book this spring, and as of about a week ago, it’s out for delivery (SHAMELESS PLUG: BUY IT HERE), and it’s not because of some sheer force of willpower. It’s because I was born with a talent to supportive parents who lived in a town with good public schools, then in middle school I met a kid who, 10 years later, would introduce me to an internet community surrounding the Phillies at just the right time, and an editor at the publication I’d always wanted to work for was a huge Philly sports fan who read this blog and hired me, which put me in a position where a publisher would notice me.

I worked my ass off to achieve even a modest degree of success as a writer, and I don’t think that work accounts for more than 5 percent of the end product. Hard work counts for nothing without the underlying conditions that come with it.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 112: Evaluating Ben Revere

Sorry for the service interruption–last week I was driving through Pennsyltucky en route to seeing the beloved Taney Dragons get their heads bashed in by a bunch of enormous blond kids from Nevada. Here’s what I wrote about the spectacle, in case you’re interested in reading. If not, you can just head down to the question part.

@tssmythe: “Revere is young & cheap, has skills (avg, speed) and flaws (OBP, SLG, Def). Is he a good fit as CF on rebuilding team?”

Long have I been fascinated by Ben Revere. He’s not exactly a unique player–once we get past the pre-K “everyone is a snowflake” nonsense, there’s probably not such a thing as a baseball player who is beyond comparison. But Revere is fairly special in terms of how he plays the game, and for that reason I’ve always found him interesting, and for that reason, conventional stats aren’t particularly good at painting the whole picture. (Note: I wrote this before Tuesday night’s games, so these numbers might have changed slightly between then and now.)

For instance, the way you framed the question is instructive: Revere has a high batting average and speed, but has a low OBP and SLG and is a bad defender. That’s not actually true, or at least isn’t the best way of stating it. Revere is hitting .311/.330/.364, against a National League average of .249/.312/.384. So OBP is actually an asset, and SLG isn’t actually that much of a drag–20 points isn’t trivial, but neither is it too low for him to hold down a major league job. If we’re using SLG alone as a measure of power, how come we still consider Ryan Howard to be a power hitter with a .379 SLG, while Revere’s .364 SLG represents a lack of power so severe it renders him unplayable? The same is true with OBP–Revere’s actually got an above-average OBP. What people mean by that is that he’s not walking. Personally, in this run environment and with this roster, I’m cool starting a really fast guy with a .330 OBP in the leadoff spot–he’s getting on base, and for all practical purposes, it doesn’t matter how he does it.

What Revere represents (and this is why I find him so interesting) is the limit of batting average as an evaluative tool. SLG and OBP are far better descriptors of a player’s offensive value than batting average, but the primary determinant of both stats is batting average. That’s why the triple slash line is so great as a shorthand–whether those numbers are high or low tells you how good the player’s been, and the difference between those three numbers actually gives you a good feel for what kind of hitter he is without using any math more advanced than division of three-digit numbers.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 111: Lists and Counterfactuals

Oh, God, I’ve done 111 of these. What have I done with my life?

@benafflaco: “Robin Williams was the first celebrity’s death that actually caused me sadness. I haven’t experienced this with an athlete. My question is, who of current or recent Phillies, is going to cause all teh tears, when he croaks, for our generation?”

I think we’ve experienced that with Harry Kalas. One of the first open-a-vein big feelings sports columns I ever wrote was a column for my college newspaper mourning Harry Kalas. That really was like a death in the family, probably because if you were born in the Delaware Valley between 1975 and 2000, odds are Harry Kalas is your father anyway. But that whole Kalas/Ashburn/Musser crew was like the surrogate uncle to a generation of Phillies fans, and while there have been beloved Phillies players in recent years, it’s tough to imagine any of them meriting that kind of reaction. I mean, Harry was the voice of the Phillies for multiple generations and was beloved almost universally in a way that’s hard for any player to match. There is nothing anyone can say that will convince me that the Tom McCarthy hate is rooted in a frustration that he’s not Harry Kalas. You could’ve brought Red Barber over and Phillies fans would’ve hated him. Continue reading…