Saying Goodbye to an Incredible Streak

2,832 days. That’s how long it had been since Chase Utley’s last walk-off home run before last night. But more than that, it had been 2,492 days since his last walk-off hit of any kind.

If you follow me on twitter, you know this streak has captured my attention for quite awhile, mainly because it was remarkably improbable. Reid Brignac has played 24 games for the Phillies and already has two walk-off hits. John Mayberry Jr. has played 490 games for the Phillies and provided five walk-offs. In 2009, backup catcher Paul Hoover played just nine games for the Phillies, but even he found time for a walk-off of his own.

Last night was Utley’s 850th game since his last walk-off hit.

The streak had to end eventually, so I did my best to “jinx” it by tweeting Fun Facts about the streak whenever Utley had an opportunity for a walk-off. Here are a few of my favorites: Continue reading…

Jake Diekman Should Not Be the “Eighth-Inning Guy”

Reliever Jake Diekman ran into a bit of trouble in the eighth inning of last night’s eventual 14-inning victory over the Miami Marlins. The lefty started the inning and Marlins manager Mike Redmond opted to have the right-handed Reed Johnson pinch-hit for reliever Bryan Morris. Johnson would eventually fly out to right field.

The Marlins’ lineup was entirely stacked with right-handed hitters one through eight, including the switch-hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting seventh. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg opted to let Diekman stay in the game to face Jake Marisnick. With the bases empty and one out, it’s not a big deal and Diekman is good enough that you trust him to retire the odd right-handed hitter every now and then. Marisnick bunted to third base and Cody Asche threw him out for the second out of the inning.

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Cole Hamels Is Living Up To His Contract

Next month will mark two years since the Phillies signed Cole Hamels to an extension worth $144 million over six years with an option for a seventh year. At the time the deal was signed, it was the second largest contract ever given to a pitcher, behind only the 7-yr/$161M contract CC Sabathia signed with the Yankees in December 2008. Since the Hamels signing though, five other pitchers have gone on to sign larger deals: Clayton Kershaw (7/$215M), Justin Verlander (7/$180M), Felix Hernandez (7/$175M), Zack Greinke (6/$147M), and Masahiro Tanaka (7/$155M). It goes without saying that with this contract came enormous expectations for Hamels’ performance – anything less than inclusion among the best pitchers in the league would be a disappointment.
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Domonic Brown Has Not Had A Good Time in Left Field

Left fielder Domonic Brown made another blunder in Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins. With two outs and runners on first and second, Marcell Ozuna hit a line drive to Brown in left. Brown misjudged the ball and it sailed over his head, allowing one run to score. Another two would score immediately after, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled to center.

It’s Brown’s third misplay in a week and a half:

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Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

After winning back a ton of good will from fans with a five-game winning streak to begin a seven-game road trip, the Phillies dropped the final two games in St. Louis against the Cardinals, then came back to begin an eight-game homestand and were promptly shut out by the Miami Marlins for the tenth time this season. Only the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres have been shut out more times this season (11). The Phillies scattered six hits (five singles) and two walks as they dropped to seven games below .500 and six games out of first place in the NL East.

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Report: With Deadline on Horizon, Phillies Aggressive on Scouting Front

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Phillies have been among the “most aggressive” in scouting other teams’ minor league systems as well as their parent teams. He adds that Cole Hamels is available. His full Phillies-centric blurb in the column:

While they’ve had a recent upswing, the Phillies pretty much know they have to regroup with younger players. Closer Jonathan Papelbon could draw interest, but likely only if the Phillies are willing to kick in some salary. Cliff Lee is hurt, but Hamels will draw interest. Everyone loves Chase Utley, but he has 10/5 rights, and shortstop Jimmy Rollins may be more willing to waive his no-trade clause. Outfielders Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, and John Mayberry appear to be available.Nick Cafardo, Boston Globe

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Phillies Win Fourth in a Row, Adding Intrigue to NL East Race

Behind seven and two-thirds strong innings from David Buchanan in Thursday night’s series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Phillies won their fourth consecutive game, gaining ground on the first-place Washington Nationals in a packed NL East. Ryan Howard homered and drove in three runs and Jonathan Papelbon nailed down his 17th save with a perfect ninth inning.

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Phillies Bullpen Much Improved Lately

On Monday against the Atlanta Braves, Jonathan Papelbon blew his second save and reliever Justin De Fratus was inches away from allowing the game-winning run in the tenth inning. It’s a story we’ve seen countless times throughout the 2014 season, but it did not repeat itself — JDF was able to get an infield pop-up and a strikeout to wriggle out of the damage. The Phillies would go on to score five in the 13th inning and win by a 6-1 margin.

In that 13-inning affair, five Phillies relievers combined for six scoreless innings. It continued a trend of excellent Phillies relief pitching, at least since the month of June began. Entering Wednesday afternoon’s series finale at Turner Field, the bullpen had combined for a 2.79 ERA in 42 innings this month, the eighth-best mark among all 30 bullpens. It’s a sea change from the first two months. While there is a ton of variance in 10- and 20-inning samples for relievers, no one could argue that they were pitching anything but terribly as a unit.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 105: Do You Need to Know What a Plate Appearance is to be a Good GM?

@MattyMatty2000: “Completely serious: can you still be an effective GM if you don’t know the difference between a plate appearance and an at-bat?”

Yeah, so apparently this is a thing Ruben Amaro has trouble with. It’s possible he misspoke, or that he’s just messing with us, but it’s troubling. I’ve written my treatise on what makes a good GM, and it’s not strictly statistical literacy. A GM is a professional administrator, an executive, and he’s not doing the player evaluation on his own, and even if he was, the Phillies have better ways to evaluate hitters than batting average.

HOWEVER. Continue reading…