The End of Things

With any luck, you weren’t paying attention.

Mid-Thursday afternoon, following the Phillies’ 2-1, sweep-avoiding victory over the Giants on the back – and left arm – of Cole Hamels, the Ryan Howard era came to an end. A few years down the road, the line of demarcation for the end of the era of reverence for one of the most prolific sluggers of his time will likely point to the end of Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, but in the wake of that loss, there was still hope. There was hope that, with time and treatment, Howard would rebound to usefulness and manage a passable latter-stage career.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 109: The Utley/Halladay Buddy Film

@Dweebowitz: “How *do* they get out of the mess their stripped farm system and grotesquely overpaid geriatric lineup have become?”

I can’t emphasize this enough: there is no easy fix. There is no quick fix. There is no way the Phillies can overhaul the roster and contend next year, and barring some unforeseen run of luck, probably not the year after that.

The answer is time. You can’t build a contender overnight anymore by buying established players, and the Phillies’ greatest resource, money, makes buying established players the course the Phillies are most able to take. But that’s not how things work anymore. Look at any team that’s currently in good playoff position–either they’ve developed their own talent, or used homegrown talent to acquire established talent, or they’ve been particularly good at picking up pieces off the scrap heap, like the A’s.

The good news is that the Phillies aren’t trying to buy their way back into the playoff race anymore. Signings like Byrd and A.J. Burnett might look like that, but they’re not. They’re damage control. Meanwhile, the farm system isn’t stripped anymore–two years ago, the Phillies were sneaking one guy into the back end of top 100 prospect lists, but after two pretty good drafts, they’ve got three no-doubt top 100 prospects in J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco, and several other interesting prospects besides, and whereas two years ago, all the talent in the Phillies’ system was buried in low-A and rookie ball, those kids–Crawford and Franco among them–are slowly climbing the minor league rungs. Of course, the Phillies haven’t had much success converting minor league talent into major league production in the past five years or so, but that’s a different problem. Continue reading…

Roy Halladay Expresses His Feelings for Chase Utley on Twitter

Roy Halladay joined Twitter a few months ago and has quickly become a must-follow. Not only because it gives us access to a former Phillie, but because he’s often unintentionally hilarious and takes the time to interact with his haters. On Tuesday afternoon, while people were clamoring over the Chase Headley trade, Halladay decided to get a bit personal and express some feelings for Chase Utley.

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Cole Hamels Is on His Way to Phillies Immortality

Cole Hamels has been bandied about in trade rumors, despite having signed a six-year, $144 million contract extension with the Phillies nearly two years ago to this date. The Phillies’ future is looking bleak, and their other trade chips aren’t expected to bring in a franchise-altering haul. Hamels, on the other hand, could bring that kind of a return to help set the team up for a return to prominence several years from now.

Hamels limited the Braves to one run over seven innings on Saturday night, continuing what has been a great season for the 30-year-old lefty. Since the start of June, Hamels has posted a 1.81 ERA with a 71/23 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 innings across 10 starts. On the season overall, he’s sitting on a 2.83 ERA, which is only slightly below his FIP and XFIP, showing that his results are more or less lining up with his performance. While the shoulder tendinitis that caused him to miss the first few weeks of the season, as well as his slow start, caused some worry, Hamels has shown he is still the same dominant pitcher he has been since the start of the 2010 season. It’s easy to see why he would draw significant trade interest.

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Swing Appetizer: Cord Sandberg

Hey everybody. Obviously with me in Arizona I can’t see your guys and therefore can’t give you longform reports or updates on the guys in the Philadelphia system.  But the magic of the internet gives me access to video and the little Buncha Crunch sized scouting goodness it provides. Do you guys like Buncha Crunch? Me too. Stick some in the next batch of brownies you make or straight up mix it with your popcorn when you next go to the movies. We need Dark Chocolate Buncha Crunch. Anyway, no amount of video provides you with enough information to write full scouting reports, but it gives me the opportunity to do little pieces like this that zoom in on a few dots of the Georges Seurat painting that is scouting.

So what we have here is video are some short snippets of batting practice in Williamsport that was shot by Mitch Rupert who covers the Crosscutters for the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. Go find and follow Mitch on Twitter, he’s posting more and more pop times and run times every day. Let’s talk about each of these swings and what clues they give us regarding our overall assessment of the player while keeping in mind that these are just BP swings, and in-game swings are always a better source of information than these things are. Again, this is but a miniscule part of the scouting process. Here is the video. I’ll spread these out, doing an individual player in each post. We start with Cord Sandberg, whose session lasts from the 7 second mark in the video until about the 50 second mark. Refer back to the video and my text constantly as you read, this piece should be consume slowly and indulgently if you’re going to extract any real value from it. Continue reading…

Fait Accompli

The fatalists among us figured this was the way it was always going to end. The Phillies’ signing of Jonathan Papelbon in the waning months of 2011 – and, as I’ll never forget to remind everyone, a single week before a rule change would have kept the club from forfeiting their draft pick to do so – was going to end in one of two ways: the club would either win a World Series with Pap on the roster, or he’d become dead weight.

Actual, on-field performance barely matters here. That Papelbon is pitching well only means that he appears palatable to other teams, worth the cost of a marginal prospect or two and a heavily discounted assumption of contract. The Phillies did not claim their second World Series title since the turn of the milennium, and so this is where we stand.

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Chase Utley’s All-Star Performance A Rare Feat by A Phillie

Chase Utley doubled in the National League’s first run of the game in the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field on Tuesday night. Utley ripped a Jon Lester fastball that bounced high off of the fence in right-center — a home run in many other ballparks — to score Aramis Ramirez, cutting the American League’s lead to 3-1.

It was a nice sight to see, a Phillies player doing well in the All-Star Game. A Phillies hitter hadn’t reached base with a hit in the All-Star Game since Shane Victorino in 2009. Between 2009-13, Phillies All-Star hitters were a combined 1-for-12. But Utley’s feat was even rarer than that:

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Crash Bag, Vol. 108: Cape Cod League

@Ut26: “What current Phillie would make the best road trip partner?”

It depends on what you want out of a road trip partner. Really, it depends on what you want out of a road trip. Because if this is your cross-country vacation, you want something different than if you’re just getting from point A to point B. If I’m just in a two-man Cannonball Run, all I want is someone who likes driving more than I do. I hate driving. Ideally, I’d like to control the radio at least up to a point and be left alone to sleep when I’m not driving, but those are negotiable. KTLSW, for instance, is content to carry more than half of the driving load when we go on road trips, which means I can live with her controlling the radio and her refusal to allow me to play Springsteen under any circumstances. Marriage is about compromises.

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Looking Ahead to Domonic Brown’s Second Half

Back on June 13, I put up a quick poll to get a feel for what fans expected of Domonic Brown in terms of weighted on-base average (wOBA) going forward. I had a bit of an ulterior motive because I expected that the responses would skew negative (though less negative than that of the general Phillies fan population).

After closing the poll results, here’s how they look (out of 306 responses):

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