Bad Luck Continues, Aaron Altherr Out For Longer

I feel like I keep repeating this, but the 2017 Phillies are a bad baseball team, but they also are a really unlucky one. Before the weekend, they were poised to have Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, and Cesar Hernandez healthy, and have Howie Kendrick out on a rehab assignment. Then Aaron Altherr hurt his hamstring, and today Matt Gelb rained on the parade some more by reporting that the injury was more serious than initially diagnosed and that Altherr would be out for 3-4 weeks. The injury robs the Phillies of one of their best bats and ruins the Williams-Herrera-Altherr outfield that gave fans a reason to watch every night. With the Phillies now down another bat, it was natural to turn to farm to look for another prospect to come join the Phillies. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 28: The Mighty Contract Of Giancarlo Stanton

The Phillies have not lost a baseball game in almost a week. It’s a good time to be a fan.

@MisterZoomer: I still have faith in Franco being at least league average at 3B. Am I delusional? At what point do I accept this is what he is?

Let’s walk backwards in the Maikel Franco timeline.

The 2017 disaster is about the ground ball. Franco has a .132 average on ground balls this year, and he hits too many for a player of his skill set. No slow-footed hitter is going to excel by killing worms. But there is a large dose of bad luck in this number. The league as a whole has a .249 average (.256 for right-handed batters) on ground balls spanning the last three years. And here are the career marks of some other locomotively-challenged hitters from the right side.

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. 27: Equal Opportunity Uselessness

Let’s peer into the depths of a bleak future.

@Wzeiders: After the trade deadline, what does a failure for the Phillies look like?

Pat Neshek is still their best reliever come August.

But this is a failure on par with not claiming the free ticket you won on a lottery scratch-off. The real failure is not that you missed out on another one in a million chance to win big. It’s that you weren’t paying attention to the ticket expiration date. Or that you thought framing the winning ticket and hanging it next to the motivational cat poster in your room would be good for morale.

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…

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.

Continue reading…

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…