Monday Morning Roundtable: Sometimes It is the Little Things

Each Monday morning the Crashburn Alley writers weigh in on various questions about the state of the Phillies.

The Phillies are starting a 10 game road trip (and by the time this is published will have already played 3), what is one thing you want to see out of this team over that stretch?

Michael: It’s hard to put so much stock in any ten-game stretch in this long lost season, so wins are not especially important to me in the grand scheme of things. What I’d like to see is improved play from individual players. I’d like to see Maikel Franco string together a few barrels; starters continuing to hit six innings in their starts; Odubel Herrera taking a few walks. Individually it might not mean much, but if a bunch of players can make incremental improvements, the wins will come.

Brad: I’d like to see less than three walk-offs on a ten game roadie. I know, maybe that’s not realistic. How about less than five?

Honestly, a handful of saves for the pen would be nice. Whether you value the stat, (I do not), there’s no harm in adding some confidence into a reliever’s psyche, and it also means winning a game that could be easily lost by virtue of all the bad things this team is so prone to do. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 25: New Levels of Futility

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been more Crash Bags in 2017 than Phillies’ wins.

On to the questions.

@viscof1: What kind of market/return is out there for Howie Kendrick? I know it won’t be a lot but he looks good at the play on the bases.

Kendrick is hitting .440 on balls in play. That BABIP fuel will run out. What’s left is an average bat that can run the bases well and play a few positions on the field. That is what teams are buying in Kendrick. He is the best hitter on the Phillies but a solid utility player to the rest of baseball. Enjoy the perspective.

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Is Odubel Herrera Back?

Odubel Herrera ended the month of May sporting a 51 wRC+ and just 0.3 WAR. After two seasons in which the Rule 5 pick was arguably the Phillies’ best player, Herrera received a five year extension that established him as the first building block of the rebuild to be signed long term. He was one of several Phillies, including Jerad Eickhoff, Maikel Franco, and Tommy Joseph, who have experienced significant drop-offs in production the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Monstars roamed the earth.

Since the calendar turned to June, coinciding with a several-game sabbatical imposed by Pete Mackanin, Herrera has done nothing but tear the cover off the ball. In five games, Herrera has hit .550/.571/1.300 including 2 home runs and 9 doubles. He also recorded his first walk in nearly a month. The outburst has raised Herrera’s wRC+ 31 points to a somewhat respectable 82. He’s accumulated 0.9 WAR in that time, and now rates middle-of-the-pack among centerfielders in terms of value. Continue reading…

Headline Writers Rejoice: Fien to the Majors

Last night it came out that the Phillies would be dealing with their bullpen debacle with designating Joely Rodriguez for assignment. Today they announced that they have brought up RHP Casey Fien to take Joely’s spot in the bullpen. The Phillies bullpen is populated with bad pitchers and while you can debate whether Joely Rodriguez is the worst of them, he is certainly part of the problem. This left the Phillies with Adam Morgan as the only left handed pitcher on the roster. Instead of calling up a left like Hoby Milner (who did pitch 2.1 innings last night) or a psuedo lefty like Pat Venditte, the Phillies went with Fien who they purchased from Seattle in early May. Continue reading…

Jared Eickhoff’s Off Speed Struggles

It is hard to pinpoint positives in this year’s Phillies season. The hitters haven’t hit, the bullpen spent about a month blowing every game that was remotely close, and a young starting rotation has seen every member take a step back. Arguably the best pitcher of that group is Jerad Eickhoff, but through 2 months he has yet to really look like himself. Continue reading…

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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What To Do About the Outfield

The Phillies have a good problem on the horizon. Howie Kendrick was bashing baseballs before succumbing to an oblique injury. Kendrick is eligible to come off the DL today, but indications are he’ll be out about another week or two. He was signed to start in the outfield, and he’s making $10 million this year whether he starts or not. Aaron Altherr, since Kendrick’s injury, has been unleashing the full force of his 6’-5” frame on the National League. If he qualified, he’d rank third among NL outfielders in wRC+ at 170. He’s picked up exactly where he left off after the 2015 season (let’s just pretend like last year never happened).

If you’ve been reading this site, you’ll notice that we love Altherr, and for good reason. Besides his hitting, he’s perhaps the best defensive outfielder the Phillies have, and at 26 years old he’s significantly younger than the Phillies other corner outfielders (Kendrick, 33, Daniel Nava, 34, and Michael Saunders, 30). If given the chance to grow, he could be a valuable contributor to the next great Phillies team. So the answer seems obvious; put Kendrick in the other outfield slot, where Saunders is producing just a 76 wRC+. However, it’s not that simple. Continue reading…

The Wrong Solution To The Wrong Problem

The Phillies are intent on getting Vince Velasquez deeper into his starts. Poor pitch economy is the oft-cited culprit of his short outings and also the focus of most offhand solutions. Here is the theory: by throwing fewer pitches to each batter, he will ultimately see more batters over the course of a game, and lengthier starts will follow. A well-conceived plan.

On a per batter basis, Velasquez does throw more pitches than the average starting pitcher. This is also true of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Noah Syndergaard, and other pitchers ideal for Velasquez to emulate. Where the economical pitcher is averaging 3.7 pitches per batter, these pitching giants are throwing closer to 4.0. The reason: a big swing-and-miss fastball. Because these fastballs miss bats at a high rate, fewer balls are put into play. Deeper counts naturally follow.

Improving pitch economy, then, would require Velasquez to make his fastball more hittable. Or select a less effective pitch to throw. Either way, the idea is the same: cede contact and let the hitter get himself out. Hitters, it should be noted, have no such intention.

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Crashbag Vol. 17 – Do Not Seek The Treasure

Hey, it’s my first Crashbag. Hope it gives you a chuckle, or failing that, that at least you think I’m an idiot afterwards.

Mark Appel was a #1 overall pick and now someone has asked a question about whether he’ll have as good a career as a guy who posted one and one fifth career WAR (I averaged BRef and Fangraphs…for…science). That this is even a realistic question is just a brutal assessment of Appel. Harsh. Poor guy.

I liked Condrey in ’08 – he was reliable-ish, and threw a pretty good ground ball rate over 69 innings, (interesting), while lacking an out pitch that could have helped him out of some jams. Though even one more out would have ruined that “interesting” season, so… Continue reading…

Jerad Eickhoff Update: Going One-for-Two

In my season preview for Jerad Eickhoff, I suggested that there were two things us amateur baseball analysts should watch for from him this season. From that piece:

So, for Eickhoff, there are two things I’ll be watching for this season, especially early. One, will he start using his changeup more (and consequently, will it continue to get rocked)? He’s already shown the ability to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher, but with an improved changeup, he could take a serious step forward.

The other thing I’d like to see Eickhoff do is throw his curveball more often. He threw it 24% of the time last year, with a contact rate of just 62%, allowing a .462 OPS. That is fantastic, and so he should feature his curveball more prominently in his repertoire.

At the end of the piece, I promised to keep you updated as the season progressed, and at the risk of ruining the suspense, that is exactly what I’m doing for my dear readers. Let’s start with a graph from Brooks Baseball: Continue reading…