So, Jerad Eickhoff Had Himself A Game

The Cubs are 40-17 with a +142 run differential so massive that the Cubs are actually underperforming their Pythagorean record — by four games! Their 44-13 Pythag record indicates they’re scoring and preventing runs at a rate in line with a 125-win full season pace. Or, more simply, the Cubs are a really stinkin’ good baseball team right now. And, yet, check out Jerad Eickhoff‘s line against those dastardly Cubs last night:

7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8K

Yeah, that’ll do. In the previous four games the Phillies played against the Cubs, their starters (Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, and Morgan twice) combined to give up 33 (!) hits and 20 earned runs over the span of just 20.2 innings. The Cubs were absolutely destroying Phillies pitching and then Jerad Eickhoff took the mound last night.

Continue reading…

Odubel Herrera Is Out Of The Lineup Tonight And That’s A Good Thing

I feel like every time I write something about the Phillies it starts with “hoo boy, that Phillies offense sure is bad, isn’t it?” I apologize for the repitition. I know you know the Phillies can’t hit. I know you know that if it weren’t for the Braves everyone would be talking about how historically bad this Phillies offense is. You don’t need me to repeat myself, but unfortunately, the analysis which follows requires this statement of fact to provide the necessary context and so…

The Phillies offense is bad.

With that out of the way, a bad offense can put a disproportionate amount of pressure on any good offensive players in the lineup. In the case of the 2016 Phillies, the only *good* offensive players are Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco. Sure, there are varying degrees of hope and optimism for Tyler Goeddel, Tommy Joseph, and perhaps even Cameron Rupp, but functionally, the offense rests on the shoulders of Herrera and Franco at the moment. With Franco struggling so far this season, this leaves Herrera as The Guy.

Herrera has done everything necessary to earn that reputation as the linchpin to the Phillies offense. He’s thrived in his new role as a leadoff hitter, leading the team in virtually every significant non-power driven statistical category from batting average to wRC+ to stolen bases to walk-rate. With that in mind, when the Phillies release a lineup like tonight’s lineup against the Cubs, it’s devastating due to the lack of The Guy at the top:

Continue reading…

Let’s Talk About Maikel Franco

Maikel Franco is not off to the start Phillies fans hoped to see. He’s posted a 91 wRC+ and his 0.2 fWAR ranks 25th of 26 qualified major league third basemen. Last night, he hit his ninth home run of the year and over his past ten games he’s batting .306/.350/.500; so, maybe a corner has been turned. But whether brighter days are on the horizon or not, it’s worth taking the time to look at what’s gone wrong.

I’ve stopped and started writing an analysis on Franco’s struggles multiple times over the past month, and the reason why I haven’t completed one until now isn’t good. It’s been hard to find an interesting or compelling angle on this analysis because what Franco has been doing is in line with his known profile. To be clear, there have been changes and areas where we can expect to see Franco improve going forward, and we’ll get to those; but, overall, what’s happened in 2016 so far aligns well with what we know to be true about him. Maikel Franco has been Maikel Franco this year and, given the results, that’s a scary thing.

If you were to boil down Franco’s offensive profile to one sentence, it might look something like this: Franco is an aggressive hitter with power and strong bat-to-ball skills. Now check out Brooks Baseball’s automatically generated profile of Franco at the plate in 2016:

Continue reading…

Rising from the Ashes: Asche Activated; Lough DFA’d

The changes keep on coming. Yesterday, the Phillies swapped Emmanuel Burriss for Jimmy Paredes and today the Phillies have made another change to their outfield composition. Today, the Phillies have finally activated Cody Asche who had been recovering from an oblique injury since the start of spring training.

For a fleeting moment in 2015, Asche looked like an important piece for the future of the Phillies. Nine games into the season he was slashing a tremendous .500/.571/.667 and it looked as though Maikel Franco was going to have his work cut out for him in trying to dethrone Asche at third base. But Asche’s star faded quickly as his BABIP normalized and people remembered that he was a miserable defender at third base.

Continue reading…

The Spin On Bailey’s Fastball

Andrew Bailey‘s four seam fastball is a remarkable pitch. At 2693 RPM, it leads all major league fastballs in spin rate. To quote directly from the Statcast glossary on the benefits of increased spin on a pitch:

“As more data have become available, most experts have agreed that fastballs and breaking balls are tougher to hit when they possess higher Spin Rates. In fact, some data suggest that Spin Rate correlates more closely than Velocity to swinging-strike percentage.”

The results that Bailey has received from his fastball attest to this statement. While major league pitchers average around a 7% swinging strike rate on the four seam fastball, Bailey has gotten whiffs at a 15.7% clip this year.  And when batters have put the pitch in play, the resultant exit velocity is on par with that against Clayton Kershaw‘s fastball.

Continue reading…

Phillies Acquire Jimmy Paredes

UPDATE 3:27 PM ET: As expected, the Phillies have officially added Paredes to the 25-man roster and designated Emmanuel Burriss for assignment.

It’s not much, but it’s something. After reportedly placing a waiver claim on Jimmy Paredes when the Orioles designated him for assignment, and then losing said claim to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Phillies had a second crack at acquiring their guy. The Blue Jays DFA’d Paredes on Monday and today the Phillies announced they have successfully acquired him this time.

Continue reading…

Against Starting Rotation, Opponents’ Plate Discipline Vanishes

Past the 50 game-mark, it’s time to—ever so slowly—place the small sample size disclaimers in the rearview mirror and appreciate the corps of young arms that has single-handedly made this Phillies team not only watchable, but an above .500 ball club for the vast majority of the season despite a wholly depressing offensive effort.

The rotation, averaging just over 25-and-a-half years old on the second-youngest team in the bigs (averaging 27.4 years old), ranks seventh in the league in WAR (5.6) even after coming back to down to earth a bit in the last handful of weeks. With surprising depth, it is believed the starters have sped up the rebuild by as much as a full year. But, while the jury is still out on the exact timetable, it’s important to note just how this rotation is succeeding without much major league experience—besides elder statesman Jeremy Hellickson, six years removed from winning the American League Rookie of the Year—or overpowering arms. Continue reading…

Ryan Howard Has Come Full Circle

I remember when Ryan Howard first made his mark on the Phillies. I was thirteen years old, and he was called up to replace an injured Jim Thome. I love Jim Thome; he’s my favorite player of all time. So when Howard hit 22 home runs in about half a season, and I read reports that Howard was ready to replace Thome permanently, I was not happy. Then he won Rookie of the Year. That offseason, Thome was traded to the White Sox for noted face-smasher Aaron Rowand and a couple prospects, including Gio Gonzalez.

This was before I paid attention to the minor leagues and before I knew anything about advanced stats. All I knew was that I loved Jim Thome, and Ryan Howard forced him off the team. I was furious.

Then Ryan Howard came out in 2006, hit 58 home runs, and won the MVP. All with that charismatic smile and swagger. Being a fickle young fan, my opinion immediately changed. I still loved Jim Thome, but there was room in my heart for Ryan Howard too. And there was plenty of room for his trademark booming opposite field home runs. Continue reading…

Crash Landing: Reality and Beating Projections

Programming Note: Later this week I will be joining the writing staff at FanGraphs. You’ll be able to read my work over there three times a week and if that isn’t enough of a draw, old friend Eric Longenhagen recently became their new lead prospect analyst so you’ll be able to read his work as well. This is not a goodbye post, though. I’m still going to be a regular Crashburn contributor but starting next week the Crash Landing column will run on Thursdays instead of Mondays due to my new schedule.

It was supposed to happen like this. The 2016 Phillies entered the season with the worst projections in baseball and the 2016 Cubs with the best. If you looked at Major League Baseball’s master schedule in April, you would find no more apparent mismatch than the Phillies-Cubs showdown this past weekend. When the teams meet again next week, the Phillies will have home field advantage at least. This series at Wrigley Field, though? This was the Cubs’ series to dominate.

Continue reading…

Mark Appel Is Probably Totally Fine, But…

It’s been reported this morning that Mark Appel, former first overall pick of Houston and a key component of the Ken Giles trade late last year, is headed to the 7-Day DL at Lehigh Valley, with what’s being called a “Right Shoulder Strain”. Larry Shenk (@ShenkLarry) of was first to report the news, as far as I can tell. Appel had been ranked on several industry Top 100 lists this offseason, and was in the Phils’ Top 10 across the board after he arrived.

Continue reading…