Last September, the Phillies removed the word “interim” from manager Pete Mackanin‘s job title and gave him a one-year contract with a club option for 2017. The move was moderately surprising at the time if only because it was announced before the team had concluded its search for a general manager. Matt Klentak was awarded the GM role a few weeks later and if there were any lingering doubts as to whether he was on board with a manager whose tenure predated his arrival in Philadelphia, they were put to rest today with the announcement that Mackanin’s contract has been upgraded.
So as was the case in 2015, I am terribly late in writing up my rankings again. Last year I decided to compare my list with a sample of those from around the industry, as compiled by Matt Winkelman (@Matt_Winkelman), owner/operator of the terrific site PhilliesMinorThoughts.com. Once again this year, Matt pulled all of the results from around the web and made them available with averages and such. If there was an award for making my life easier, I would nominate Matt. Or the Boon Suds Bottle Washer. Either way.
Last year, my biggest variances from average were Andrew Knapp (I was 10 over the average) and Aaron Altherr (+9), so probably you should assume everything I say here is correct, (as always). Nevermind I had Ricardo Pinto way low (-8). NEVER YOU MIND. Continue reading…
According to virtually every publicly available projection model, Aaron Nola is projected to be the best starting pitcher in the Phillies rotation. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system projects Nola to have the lowest WHIP (1.21) and lowest ERA (4.04) as well as the highest WARP (1.4). It should be noted that if the WARP figure looks a bit low, it’s because they only project Nola to throw 138 innings and the only conceivable way Nola’s season ends with just 138 innings pitched is if he suffers an injury. FanGraphs’ depth charts also projects Nola to have the highest WAR (2.4) on the staff and lowest BB/9 (2.1) in addition to a K/9 (7.7) and ERA (4.01) which is second only to Vince Velasquez (10.3 K/9, 3.70 ERA). A player catapulting himself to the top of a rotation depth chart (even a rotation depth chart of questionable quality like the Phillies’) after just half a season at the major league level should be garnering tons of attention in Spring Training and, yet, Nola seems almost to be an afterthought at this point.
I have a totally new, just-thought-of-it, breaking ground phrase for you: you can never have too much pitching. I hope your head didn’t explode and you’re now able to begin showering me with accolades because, hoo boy, if that isn’t the truism you never knew you’ve been needing.
This phrase is relevant to the Phillies right now because they are atypically overflowing with worthy starting pitchers. Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, and Charlie Morton have had their rotation spots locked up since camp began. After battling a thumb fracture and a foot blister, Jerad Eickhoff made his Grapefruit League debut yesterday and put to doubt any doubts about whether he’d be healthy enough open the season in the rotation with a dazzling performance with a gorgeous curveball that was a true difference maker for him last September. This leaves one final rotation spot and multiple worthy candidates.
I’d like to come clean about something: I’m one of those people who still watches Grey’s Anatomy. Ten years ago, I was watching the Super Bowl in a friend’s dorm room and a relatively new show called Grey’s Anatomy had the post-Super Bowl time slot. My friend was a fan of the show, so we all stuck around to watch the episode and I was instantly hooked. For the rest of college, we’d get together once a week to watch the show (back in the good ol’ days of appointment television). It wasn’t the greatest show of all-time, but it was an entertaining way to spend an hour each week. The show has had good seasons, bad seasons, and horrendous seasons, but I’ve stuck with it for one primary reason: I’ve grown to care about the characters and I want to see how their stories end.
This crippling sense of loyalty which makes me such a stubbornly devoted television fan is also what’s allowed me to stick it out with the Phillies through the good and the bad. I’m invested in the storylines and the characters, even when the losses are piling up.
For what it’s worth, which may not be a whole lot, the Phillies are having a damn good spring.
After topping the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday afternoon by a score of 5-2, the Phillies secured an 11-4-2 record. Their winning percentage of .733 is good for third place in the Grapefruit League as of this moment.
Naturally, that rank means about as much as the Jumbo Screen bobblehead races at Citizen’s Bank Park. The correlation between a team’s performance in March and its output in April is tenuous at best.
But the current level of play is not entirely without merit. Whatever time of year it is, these guys are mashing the ball right now.
According to Jayson Stark, the Phillies are exploring options to bolster their outfield depth. While this is hardly a surprise considering the team was counting on a full season from Aaron Altherr only to see him sidelined by a wrist injury for four-to-six months. Do they truly need to make a move though? If so, should they be looking for a bench outfielder or someone who can play everyday?
To answer those questions, let’s first look at what the Phillies currently have.
For four seasons after Jayson Werth departed Philadelphia via free agency, the Phillies had a depth crisis at the center field position. Their top four backups by playing time were John Mayberry Jr, Michael Martinez, Tony Gwynn Jr, and Cesar Hernandez. Of those four, Gwynn was a true center fielder, but the others represented varying degrees of defensive disasters at the position. This frustrating trend mercifully came to an end in 2015 when through either astonishing luck or masterful scouting (or, more likely, a beautiful marriage of both) the Phillies transformed a second baseman from Double-A named Odubel Herrera into a legitimate major league center fielder while the team’s former primary center fielder, Ben Revere, moved to left field as insurance. In 2016, the defensive situation has only improved with the addition of elite defensive center fielder Peter Bourjos to the roster. The Phillies are now in the enviable position of deciding which of two qualified candidates will be their primary center fielder: Odubel Herrera or Peter Bourjos?
Twenty years ago this June, the first chapter of the most recent glory era of Phillies baseball began when the Phillies drafted a diminutive high school shortstop named Jimmy Rollins. Over the following six years, the Phillies continued to find extraordinary success in the draft and brought in players who would eventually form a World Championship core including Pat Burrell (’98), Ryan Madson (’98), Brett Myers (’99), Chase Utley (’00), Ryan Howard (’01), and Cole Hamels (’02). There was, however, a draft between the Rollins draft and the Burrell/Madson draft and, although that 1997 Phillies draft would become most (in)famous for the failure of first round pick J.D. Drew to sign with the team, it was hardly a cubic zirconia dud amidst a string of diamonds thanks to their second rounder, a left-handed pitcher out of Pepperdine University named Randy Wolf.