2017 Phillies Report Card: Vince Velasquez

When the Phillies traded Ken Giles to Houston in exchange for Vince Velasquez and other pieces, they were supposed to be acquiring a long term rotation piece. Within the first month of his 2016 season, it looked like they had actually acquired an ace. The rest of Velasquez’s year did not go to script, and he entered 2017 looking to make improvements on the mound and more importantly staying healthy on it.

During the 2017 season, Velasquez only started 15 games and pitched 72 innings. He first missed time with a right flexor muscle strain, and then with a vascular injury in his right middle finger. Neither injury necessarily has a long term impact on Velasquez’s ability to pitch in 2018, and while the injuries have been concerning, they aren’t career ending. In 2017, only 75 pitchers pitched 150 innings. While, it would be nice if Velasquez could be a 200 inning pitcher, if he can pitch 140-150 innings a year, he has value as a starter. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Mark Leiter Jr

Mark Leiter Jr. is the type of guy every team needs, but no one really ever wants to have to use. He’s a replacement level player occupying the long man/spot starter role who was thrust into 90 innings this year.

Relative to expectations (of which there were none), Leiter did his job. Thanks to a basically league average strikeout rate (21.3%) and a slightly above average walk rate (7.9%), he wasn’t below replacement level, despite allowing 21% of his fly balls to go over the fence. Maybe there’s a little bit of bad luck involved there, as HR/FB% is one of the noisiest stats and the league average is just 13.7%. Among pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched, Leiter had the worst HR/FB% outside of Yankee Stadium (Michael Pineda) and Coors Field (Tyler Chatwood). Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Nick Pivetta

“Neva” (NEE-vuh) is not a name you hear a lot. Or ever. But she was the nurse in charge of our birthing class in the summer of 2015. It was a glorious time to be a prospect-head and a Phillies fan, because as the trade deadline approached, the club was sooooooooooooo bad, putting them in line for a very high draft pick in 2016, and leaving them poised to trade away a bunch of talent, from all-around funster Ben Revere and ace Cole Hamels, to (god willing) the club’s jerk of a closer.

And so on July 28, when Neva called for a potty break, I was quickly on my phone in the hall of Holy Cross Hospital’s administrative wing, checking the Ol’ Twitter for Phils’ news. I wandered towards the chapel and before my eyes came a vision. A vision of Jonathan Papelbon being an A-hole for some other team – my adopted hometown team, The Washington Nationals! The return was a tall Canadian minor league starter with a reliever’s profile. Thankfully, it wasn’t Phillippe Aumont again.

Continue reading…

The Cesar Hernandez Trade Problem

The Phillies have a log jam in the middle infield. They have J.P. Crawford at shortstop, Scott Kingery and Cesar Hernandez at second, and Freddy Galvis still hanging around. In reality the real log jam is just at second base. Cesar Hernandez has turned himself into a really good baseball player, and Scott Kingery has turned himself into a very good prospect. We have evidence that Cesar Hernandez cannot play third base. We don’t have a lot of sample size of Scott Kingery at third, but his arm might be his weakest defensive tool. Even if Kingery or Hernandez could play third it would waste their biggest asset, their glove at second base. The long term solution is then to trade one of them, and of the two, it makes more sense to trade Hernandez because Kingery fits into the Phillies’ timeline better.

Before talking about what the Phillies would want in a trade, let’s eliminate the teams that don’t need Hernandez. I have carved out two groups here, teams with an established veteran on par with Hernandez, and teams with a young or new to MLB second baseman that they want to build around. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Odubel Herrera

The overall numbers for Odubel Herrera this season are not particularly inspiring.

A 100 wRC+, while impressive for a Gold Glove-caliber fielder, represent a step back from where Herrera was in his first two seasons. Over nearly 1200 PAs between 2015 and 2016, Herrera, fueled by a 110 wRC+, produced 7.7 WAR. That placed him in a virtual tie with Dexter Fowler for tops among National League centerfielders.

I should note that Herrera’s season-long wOBA hasn’t varied much for a player viewed to be inconsistent. The past three seasons, his marks have been .333, .338, and .329. Considering the relatively small dip in wOBA and the notable dip in wRC+, that should demonstrate the extent to which the league is tilting towards offense in the post-Juiced Ball era. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Jeremy Hellickson

In an ideal world for the Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson would have been on another team going into the 2017 season. However, the righty did not find the market he was looking for this offseason going off a solid 2016 campaign, and so returned to the Phillies on the qualifying offer tender of $17.2 million. For the Phillies, if Hellickson repeated his 2016 he would be worth the price, but if not, the young team still needed innings.

Innings is what they got from Jeremy Hellickson. 112.1 of them before they shipped him off to Baltimore at the deadline.

Things were off from the start for Hellickson. He had a 1.80 ERA through 5 April games, but he had also only managed to strike out 11 in 30 innings. Jeremy Hellickson has never been a strikeout pitcher, but coming into 2017 he had average 6.8 strikeouts per 9 for his career, including 4 straight years over 7.

The good news is that after April, Hellickson struck out more batters, the bad news is everything else. From May to July, Hellickson had a 5.79 ERA, he gave up 20 home runs in 15 games, and allowed a .909 OPS to opposing batters.

So what went wrong? Continue reading…

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…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Michael Saunders

Before going into the 2016 offseason Pete Mackanin asked for the Phillies’ front office to get him a few bats to help out the young Phillies pitching staff. The two big spots of need were the two corner outfield positions. In 2016 Phillies right fielders hit .231/.291/.350 (70wRC+) and their left fielders hit .207/.278/.316 (59 wRC+). Early in the offseason the Phillies traded some spare parts for Howie Kendrick and declared him their opening day left fielder. With Yoenis Cespedes, Dexter Fowler, Ian Desmond, Josh Reddick, and Jose Bautista coming with large salary numbers attached, the Phillies decided to step into the second tier and sign Toronto outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders has been a bit of a decisive player in his career. His talent always was larger than his output, and when combined with a habit of never being healthy, it left him as a bit of an enigma. In 2016, Saunders had been an All-star based on a first half where he hit .298/.372/.551, but a second half swoon (.178/.282/.357) had dragged his value down. Even with the swoon, Saunders had posted a 117 wRC+ with the Blue Jays over 140 games, which looked to be a massive upgrade for the Phillies. Even if Saunders didn’t quite reach the heights of his 2016 season, from the 2012 to 2016 Saunders had played in 482 games and put up a 110 wRC+. The Phillies also didn’t spend big on Saunders, giving a him a 1 year contract worth $8M with a $10.5M club option with a $1M buyout. This put the Phillies total commitments at $9M for what seemed like a massive offensive upgrade in right field. Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Andrew Knapp

2017 was the season of the rookie for the Phillies. The late season headlines were dominated by top prospects like Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, and Nick Williams, but the first prospect up was forced into major league action by roster need. It is well documented that the Phillies had a roster crunch that forced them to have more prospects than could be sent to the minors. Enter Andrew Knapp, backup catcher.

Knapp was the Phillies’ 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft. He struggled at times, but burst on to the scene with a breakout second half in Reading during the 2015 season. A down year in AAA in 2016, caused him to lose some shine, but Knapp was widely expected to be a major leaguer. It just happened sooner than expected.

With the Phillies in need of prospects to open the year on the major league roster, Knapp started as the backup to Cameron Rupp. By the middle of the season, Knapp had become the primary catcher in the time share. However, a hand injury caused Knapp to miss a month and a half, and he received only limited playing time when he returned.

It is not a stretch to say that rookies are not the baseball player they will become, but Knapp seemed to take every part of this to the extreme: Continue reading…