Crash Bag, Vol. 12: Gym Teachers and BlueClaws

This is my first attempt at a Crash Bag and I am already off to a great start with posting it a day later than intended. In the past I have done mailbags more focused on answering lots of questions and talking about many topics about the current team and minor league system. That is not the Crash Bag, the Crash Bag is something different, it is more tangential, it is more fun, and that is what I plan on having here. It may take some time for me to grow into my own voice, but that is really all part of the fun of it.

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.

@nurseintime: Which minor league team will be the best to watch after the draft?

Lakewood and it isn’t really close. The BlueClaws are going to be absolutely loaded with high upside talent. They aren’t going to roll through their league Lehigh Valley might, but that will be because they are going to be so young. Right now my best guess is that the starters are. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 11: WBC, HOF, and Mascot Fights

This week, we come to you in the middle of March Madness to deliver you the Crash Bag. In this week’s edition, we actually talk mostly about baseball with discussions about actual players and their performance. That’s how you know baseball season is nearly upon us. In the spirit of the first question here, I have to put in a plug for the World Baseball Classic. If you’re not watching yet, fix that post haste. While Spring Training baseball brings its own simple joys, the WBC is real, competitive baseball. I’ll admit that I never watched it until this year, but, now that I have, I’m absolutely hooked. If you like the World Cup, the Olympics, or any other sort of international athletic competition, the World Baseball Classic is for you. This has been a public service announcement.

@Matt_Winkelman: MLB says they are replacing the WBC with a US only tournament between states, what state wins?

The primary contenders aren’t surprising: Texas, Florida, and California. For the purposes of a tournament, I’ll throw in a 4th team as a dark horse: North Carolina. Let’s look at their lineups, top-3 starting pitchers, and top bullpen arms:

Position California Florida Texas North Carolina
Catcher Travis d’Arnaud Mike Zunino Cameron Rupp Minor Leaguer
1B Freddie Freeman Anthony Rizzo Brandon Belt Ryan Zimmerman
2B D.J. LaMahieu Daniel Murphy Anthony Rendon Brandon Phillips
3B Nolan Arenado Josh Donaldson Matt Carpenter Kyle Seager
SS Troy Tulowitzki Manny Machado Trevor Story Corey Seager
OF Christian Yelich Trea Turner Charlie Blackmon Wil Myers
OF Giancarlo Stanton Ian Desmond Randall Grichuk Cameron Maybin
OF Adam Jones Keon Broxton Hunter Pence Dustin Ackley
SP Kyle Hendricks Chris Sale Clayton Kershaw Madison Bumgarner
SP Stephen Strasburg Zack Greinke Noah Syndergaard Chris Archer
SP Gerrit Cole Jacob deGrom Scott Kazmir Alex Wood
RP Jake McGee Cody Allen Tyler Thornburg Carter Capps
RP Addison Reed Wade Davis Brandon Finnegan Seth Maness
RP Zach Britton Sam Dyson A.J. Ramos Bobby Parnell

For North Carolina to win, they would rely heavily on Madison Bumgarner post-season magic and the performances of the Seager brothers. They don’t have the depth, though, to reliably be able to overcome any poor performances from their stars.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 10: A Foray into Guesses at Probability

Can you feel it? Real baseball is not only growing closer, as is typical of this time of year, but it is actually already upon us. The World Baseball Classic is on out televisions, though, so far, only at weird times for our East Coast sensibilities. I have to admit to being a skeptic about the WBC entering this year’s tournament. I had never watched it before, and with the relative dearth of major league players competing, I wasn’t optimistic about the quality of play. I was wrong. It’s great. There are rally plantains, a Mensch on the Bench, and generally, people having obvious fun playing baseball at a high level. You should tune in.

That said, there are no WBC questions in what follows, but there are questions about Phillies and major league baseball more generally.

@PompeyMalus: What have you seen in Franco so far? Signs of improved approach or no?

Spring Training is a difficult time to gauge any changes in a player’s approach at the plate. While it’s tempting to make a big deal about him seeing fewer than two pitches per plate appearance this spring, the fact is that just about every player is seeing minimal pitches. If you take a look at the Phillies Spring Training stats, it turns out that Franco’s two pitches per plate appearance is actually right in line with everyone else, if not sort of high for the team.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 9: Milestones, Brock, and Baseball

When the Crash Bag came to these pages last week, we were merely excited about the return of baseball to our televisions that very afternoon. This week, we have seen that base balling firsthand. On account of that, perhaps, the Crash Bag was full with questions about baseball. Weird, I know. But it’s the truth.

@PompeyMalus: Should I be excited about Brock Stassi?

Excited isn’t exactly the word I would use for it, but whatever floats your boat. At the end of the day, all we’re talking about is Stassi potentially breaking camp as the 25th man on a 25 man roster. That’s exciting enough. If he continues to hit like he has for another week or so, we’ll be in the midst of a full-fledged roster battle.

Maybe there’s still something to be excited about long-term with Stassi, but I guess I don’t really see it. He’s entering his age 27 season and has been generally old for his level–especially as a prospect–throughout his entire professional career. Unlike another recent old-for-his-level star Darin Ruf, Stassi’s level of success throughout the minors would be best described as merely above-average. Ruf, if you’ll recall, essentially hit like Mike Trout (by wRC+) before making his major league debut.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 8: The Hairy Walk of Time

Baseball is back! The college baseball season started last week and, just yesterday, players wearing Phillies uniforms played a baseball game in Clearwater, Florida. Those players mostly weren’t guys we’ll see much of in 2017, but they were Phillies. Today, marks the beginning of Grapefruit League play, so we’ll see even more Phillies.

Baseball is back!

@Phrozen_: is the IBB change a) the absolute worst idea ever or b) only the second worst idea ever after the DH?

Not to be pedantic, but we’ve had a lot worse ideas than the IBB change in the history of human civilization. Slavery, genocide, non-24-hour diners to name a few. The IBB change is small bones on a wider scale.

More to the point, I was sort of with you when this rule change was floated out as a possibility last week. I immediately thought of instances where runners advance on an IBB wild pitch or a pitcher gives up a hit when the intentional ball drifts back over the plate or a runner on third steals home on an overly nonchalant lob. Those instances will be sorely missed, to be sure. But they are so rare that we get, what, one of these events every three to five years?

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 7: Prospects, Frenchy, and Legacy

With pitchers and catcher having reported earlier this week, the Crash Bag mailbox saw a marked uptick in questions directly related to baseball and a downtick in ephemera. This, in my opinion, is neither a moral good or a moral bad. A good question is a good question, regardless of its subject. The Crash Bag, like baseball as a whole, works best, I believe, when it contains a mix of actual baseball and profound nonsense. The six editions prior to this have been heavy on the nonsense, so consider this a bit of a balancing of the scales.

@scottbails13: Which of the Phillies’ prospects has the best chance to play significant time for the big club this season?

The easy answer here is Andrew Knapp. He’s one of two prospect eligible players likely to break Spring Training with the major league team (Joely Rodriguez is the other). He’ll be the backup catcher, and Joely will be a LOOGY sort of dude out of the bullpen, so they’re not the flashiest of answers, but backup catcher, in particular, is a pretty significant role that guarantees something like 200 plate appearances over a full season.  Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 6: Prospects, Underrated Right Fielders, and Hibachi

This time next week, the Crash Bag may have the pleasure of featuring an actual baseball question. Pitchers and catchers report report to camp Monday and position players on Thursday. Who will show up late, i.e., precisely on time? Will that be a BIG DEAL? Those are questions that may be answered in the past and present tense next week. For this week, however, we must continue to entertain ourselves with pure nonsense.

@scottdkessler: Who on the Phillies could eat the most sushi in one sitting, and would they puke like I did tonight?

As best I can reckon, no one currently on the Phillies 40-man roster has played in Japan, which eliminates me taking an easy way out of this question.

This question is similar to the Wing Bowl question I answered last week where I declared Cameron Rupp the winner after Tommy Joseph had to find a CVS to buy some Tums. However, I project a closer battle between Joseph and Rupp in the sushi eat off because indigestion would be less of a factor with sushi, provided Joseph lays off the wasabi. If we’re eating with a fork or fingers, this is the battle. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 5: Wing Bowl, Ice Cream, and Conception

Congratulations, everyone! We’ve nearly made it through the 2016-17 offseason. This marks the first Crash Bag of February and, therefore, the first Crash Bag of my doing in a month where baseball players will do baseball things wearing their teams’ uniforms. The darkness is almost lifted on the offseason, but we have some dark questions to bring us back down to earth, starting with a biggie.

@Chet_Youbetcha: Which current player would win wing bowl? Who would be the most fun to attend with? Any wing bowl mail bag discussion would be neat.

I had the misfortune of attending Wing Bowl a couple years ago, I believe it was 2014. At the time, I worked with Skin and Bones, a local fixture on the Wing Bowl scene. A couple of us took off work that day and went to see him eat wings. I knew, generally, what Wing Bowl was, and was ready to feel out of place and be constantly appalled by my fellow attendees. But, that abstract distaste was nothing compared the the actual disgust I felt during the two or three hours I was in the Wells Fargo Center. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 4: Hatred, Presidents, and Survivorship

As we all sit around–eyes wide and mouths hanging open with drool making its way on to our nice shirts–watching the current state of discourse in this country what with their alternative facts, obsession with crowd size–which definitely is a metaphor for the same thing hand size was in the primaries–and multi-billion dollar walls, we need a break with talk of things that don’t remotely matter. In that spirit, I bring you the Crash Bag, where the facts are already alternative. Period.

@Matt_Winkelman: Who is your least favorite current Phillie?

In years past, this would be such an easy question to answer that it wouldn’t earn a place in the Crash Bag. Ah, who am I kidding; of course it would appear in the Bag! For the record, for the past three years or so, any answer besides Cody Asche, Jonathan Papelbon (when around), or Darin Ruf would be totally unacceptable. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 3: Gazing into the Abyss

The Phillies did some things since our last installment of the Crash Bag–sign Michael Saunders, DFA Severino Gonzalez, say Aaron Nola is healthy–but, if the questions submitted for present consideration carry a larger message it is that no one give a hoot about any of that. What follows is complete frivolity. Yes, even more so than usual.

In that spirit:

@KeithWinder: Who wins in a staring contest: Papelbon or Giles?

I like this question because both players, as “proven closers” have a reputation for being intense, focused dudes. However, the way they arrive at that reputation couldn’t be more different. Papelbon is intense in the way the ‘roided up football star with the high school locker next to yours is. Every time you are near him, you feel as if you are in extreme danger. Giles’ is more of a quiet focus than violent intensity. The bottom line is that both as professional athletes–already a mark of competitiveness in itself–have reputations of being competitive and focused even within that elite pool of competitive humans. Both would certainly not lose this contest easily. As Nietzsche put it in anticipation of this question, “when you stare for a long time into an abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Continue reading…