Watch Jeremy Hellickson Strike Out Joey Votto Three Times

By all accounts, Jeremy Hellickson had a great day this past Monday. Not only did he make his first ever Opening Day start, he pitched six innings without allowing an earned run in only 79 pitches. He walked no batters, struck out six, and only allowed three hits.

The most exciting development of the afternoon came during the three swinging strikeouts Hellickson earned against Joey Votto. Regardless of the Reds’ struggles this season, Votto remains one of the most patient and accomplished hitters in the majors, and to strike him out even once is an accomplishment.

What was the root cause of Hellickson’s success on Opening Day? There were a couple noticeable features of his outing. Brooks Baseball recorded no four-seam fastballs on the day; he relied exclusively on sinkers and used secondaries more frequently than during his time with the Diamondbacks.

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The Good and The Bad of Maikel Franco

In a very real sense, the final score is the least important part of Phillies games this season. This team is going to lose a lot of games, it is designed to lose a lot of games. Success for the 2016 Phillies season cannot be measured by the win/loss columns. Truly meaningful success can only be measured in the development of players who will be here beyond this season.

Yesterday’s eighth inning bullpen meltdown of David Hernandez, James Russell and Hector Neris was utterly irrelevant beyond the half hour of awfulness endured while watching it. Given the nature of the Phillies bullpen and the likelihood that there will be many more games like yesterday’s, I heartily recommend adopting a closer’s greatest asset: a short memory. Trying to forget implosions as soon as they’re done is probably for the best.

It is with this in mind, that my biggest takeaway from Opening Day had nothing to do with the bullpen or even Jeremy Hellickson (who was remarkably impressive but is not long for Philadelphia). What stuck with me after the game were two Maikel Franco at bats.

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Opening Day Notes, Facts, and Trivia

It’s here. At 4:10 this afternoon, the Phillies and Reds will face-off at Great American Ballpark and the offseason will officially be over. It’s fitting in a way that these two teams will begin their season against each other. Last night, the two reigning pennant winners, the Mets and the Royals, opened the season against each other, so why not have the two reigning worst teams in the league kick things off as well?

Last year, the 63-99 Phillies narrowly beat out the 64-98 Reds for the right to call themselves the worst in the league and pick first in the 2016 amateur draft. This year, both teams figure to duke it out for bottom of the league once again. There is going to be a lot of bad baseball played this summer in Phillies and Reds uniforms, don’t miss your chance at the first glimpse of it all this afternoon.

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Crash Landing: Cedric Hunter and Perseverance

Five years ago this Saturday an 18-year-old Bryce Harper played the third regular season game of his minor league career, 19-year-old Mike Trout played his third ever game in Double-A, and 23-year-old Cedric Hunter made the last major league appearance of his career… until today. After a five year hiatus almost to the day, Cedric Hunter is about to return to the major leagues and I can’t stop thinking about it.

At the start of the 2011 season, Hunter appeared in six games for the Padres and made five plate appearances. Given that he was just 23 and had been a decently regarded prospect — the type that shows up on organizational Top 10s, but not necessarily global Top 100s — he had to think his major league career was just beginning, but in the five years since he’s made 2,075 plate appearances at the Double- and Triple-A level without another taste of the majors.

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Crashburn Alley’s 2016 Predictions

Opening Day is here which can only mean one thing… it’s time for us here at Crashburn Alley to make a bunch of predictions about the 2016 season that are absolutely, definitely, 100% guaranteed to be either right or wrong. In the comments section, be sure to share your predictions and let us know where we went right and where we went terribly wrong.

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An Educated Guess at the Phillies Roster

UPDATE: The Phillies have officially announced their 25-man roster and the roster below is correct. The three necessary 40-man moves to open spots for Emmanuel Burriss, Cedric Hunter, and James Russell were sending Matt Harrison, Aaron Altherr, and Mario Hollands to the 60-day disabled list.

On Twitter today, Jim Peyton of Phuture Phillies posted an updated Phillies minor league roster. This is not official and could certainly change at some point this weekend, but the players not included on the minor league roster do comprise a clear 25-man roster for the Phillies. Call this an educated guess at the Opening Day roster:

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Bold Prediction: Tyler Goeddel Will Compete For NL Rookie Of The Year

Corey Seager, Steven Matz, Julio Urias, Trea Turner, Tyler Goeddel. That’s how I see the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year race. There are some studs in this rookie class, but Goeddel is a multi-tooled offensive player, and is not likely to be a defensive liability. If he gets hot, he could put up counting stats that make some of the voters for the writers’ annual Post-Season-Make-Your-Own-News (POSMYON) Awards take notice. Yes, the Posmyons. The statues are lovely. It’s a likeness of William Randolph Hearst orchestrating a war. Ok…maybe that’s a bad comp.

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Bold Prediction: The Bullpen Will Be Slightly Better Than Terrible

We all got to pick our own topics for this week’s Bold Predictions series, which means I volunteered to do this. As soon as I did, I said to myself, I immediately regret this decision.

It’s not exactly easy to prove that our bullpen won’t stink. It’s kind of been our calling card in recent years.

Not only that, but for a team in the process of building a lineup and molding a rotation, the bullpen is not generally the first priority. A lot of the guys who will populate the cage beneath Ashburn Alley are there by default. Just ask aspiring starter Brett Oberholtzer.

But I made the commitment, and it wouldn’t be a bold prediction if it was obvious, or even likely for that matter.
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Bold Prediction: Maikel Franco Will Receive MVP Votes

This week, the Crashburn staff will be posting our bold predictions for the 2016 Phillies season.

I’m a person who is loathe to put my name next to baseball predictions of any sort – variation and randomness hold too much sway to be able to say much with confidence. Making a prediction that qualifies as “bold”, or, unlikely enough to be surprising? Even worse. However, I’ve attempted to find a sensational-sounding prediction that isn’t as unlikely as it initially appears (AKA, having my cake and eating it too).

The prediction? Phillies’ third baseman Maikel Franco will receive MVP votes in 2016. While predicting MVP votes for a player who has never received serious consideration for the award sounds like a bold move, there are a couple factors in Franco’s favor.

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Bold Prediction: The Phillies Won’t Finish Last in the NL East

Back in the old days when I lived in New Jersey, I read The Philadelphia Inquirer every day like a very good boy. One of my favorite routines was reading the weekly Eagles game preview, in which the paper summarized the two teams and — with little football helmets — indicated which team had a better quarterback, better wideouts, better coaching, and so on. This came to mind in thinking about my bold, daring prediction that the Phillies are going to be bad, but not quite as bad as the formerly mighty Atlanta Braves.

The Conventional Wisdom says the Phillies will be the worst team in baseball (again) this year, but I don’t see it that way. The Reds, Brewers, and Braves also look like pretty terrible teams, and any one of them could finish last. In its 2016 MLB preview, ESPN has ranked the Phillies dead last and projected the team to finish with a 68-94 record. The Braves are projected to finish *just* ahead of the Phillies with a not very nice record of 69-93. So, from that standpoint, making a case for the Braves to be worse than the Phillies is seemingly a pointless exercise in nitpicking over, inarguably, some very exhausting and minuscule differences.

*checks byline*

Yes, that’s exactly the kind of analysis that guy enjoys. Let’s break it down, without little football helmets, using projected rosters for both teams as of March 29. Continue reading…