We’re officially one week out from the non-waiver trade deadline. All deals must be completed by 4pm EDT next Monday, August 1st. (They pushed the deadline back one day from the typical July 31st because the 31st is a Sunday.) I must admit, I’m finding the pace leading up to this deadline to be much more relaxing and enjoyable than the hectic, unsettled pace of the past few Julys in Philadelphia. The high profile pieces are all gone and all that’s left are a few middling trade candidates, none of whom will make or break the Phillies future. Let’s check in on where thing stand on the rumor mill.
Last week I provided a reasonably in depth analysis of the start of Zach Eflin‘s major league career. There’s the good — dude throws strikes — and the bad — dude never misses bats — but mostly there’s the unknown — dude’s just 22 and still learning. Overall, the analysis essentially called for tempering enthusiasm about Eflin, which felt a bit silly in retrospect when in his very next start, he went out and did this:
In keeping a good Pirates team scoreless through nine innings, Eflin became the first Phillies rookie to toss a shutout since J.A. Happ threw two shutouts in 2009. At 22 years, 107 days old, he also became the youngest Phillies pitcher to throw a shutout since Kevin Gross (22 years, 83 days) on August 30, 1983.
Not only did he throw a shutout, he continued with his strike-throwing ways and didn’t walk a single batter. His final line on the evening: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HBP.
Any concerns I outlined prior to the shutout remain. During the game, opponents connected on 83% of swings against Eflin, which is a contact-rate that is still significantly higher than ideal. However, there’s no reason to rehash that analysis. The sole purpose of this piece is to celebrate the shutout with a few fun facts and lists.
UPDATE (Monday, 2:30 EDT): As expected, the Phillies have opted to recall Taylor Featherston. The 40-man roster remains at 39.
#Phillies have placed Andres Blanco on the 15-day DL with a fractured left index finger and recalled Taylor Featherston from Lehigh Valley.
— Phillies (@Phillies) July 25, 2016
In today’s edition of Baseball Is Bad…
Andres Blanco has a fractured left index finger. Sounds like he'll be headed to the DL.
— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) July 24, 2016
Andres Blanco has been an unexpected revelation as a utility infielder for the Phillies over the past two seasons. Since the start of the 2015 season, he is batting .282/.344/.472 through 427 plate appearances and has played all four positions on the infield dirt. But one of the most crucial roles the 32-year-old Venezuelan has played is as a mentor for the young Latin American players on the team — especially infielders Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez, and Freddy Galvis. As a dual threat in leadership and on-field performance, he’s been everything the Phillies could want from a utility infielder and more.
It’s too early to speculate how long the injury will keep him sidelined, but it’s not too soon to speculate as to who will fill his spot on the roster in the meantime. Given that they’ll likely need to add someone capable of playing shortstop, the two most obvious candidates are: top prospect J.P. Crawford and Taylor Featherston.
After five mostly forgettable innings, the Phillies have designated LHP Daniel Stumpf for assignment. In a corresponding move, Severino Gonzalez has been recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. As you may remember, the Phillies acquired Stumpf as a Rule 5 selection from the Royals this offseason. After pitching less than one inning over three appearances in April, Stumpf was suspended 80 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Following his suspension, Stumpf pitched four times in the past week, failing to strike out a batter in three of the four appearances. For the season, he pitched 5 innings, faced 25 batters, and allowed 2 walks, 9 hits, and 6 earned runs, while recording only 2 strikeouts. Last night’s game, which I had the misfortune to witness first hand, was the last straw, as Stumpf allowed five hits and three runs in two innings of work, though he was able to register his first two career strikeouts.
Because he was a Rule 5 pick, the Royals will have the option to reacquire Stumpf at the low, low price of $25,000. The Phillies could also negotiate a trade to permanently acquire his rights, although I’d guess the odds of that are pretty slim. The Phillies now have just one lefty in the bullpen, and if the Phillies’ brass thought Stumpf could be something, they likely would have let him play out the season. However, this may have been a move to allow the rehabbing Aaron Altherr a spot on the 40-man roster.
For every Odubel Herrera, there are several Stumpfs. Such is the nature of the Rule 5 draft.
I have this habit of defaulting to extreme pessimism for injured players. It’s a deep-seated tendency due both to the innate pessimism derived from my upbringing in the world of Philadelphia sports as well as a learned habit from the recent pain of watching catastrophic injuries dramatically derail the careers of guys like Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and, to a perhaps lesser extent, Chase Utley. With each of those injuries, there were initial hopes and recovery timelines to cling to but, in the end, the injuries deprived us from the enjoyment of watching greatness. It’s for this reason, that I’ve spent a lot of this season overlooking Aaron Altherr and I (extremely cautiously) think it’s time for me to stop.
Prior to the start of the season, the outfield was one of the more intriguing storylines for the Phillies. Altherr and Odubel Herrera were to get everyday roles while Peter Bourjos, Cody Asche, and Tyler Goeddel covered the final spot until such a time that Nick Williams could be called up. It was exciting! Altherr and Herrera both showed a great deal of promise in their rookie seasons, but there were also many questions remaining about their games and this was the year to get answers to those questions. While the great plan has certainly worked out for All-Star Odubel Herrera, it didn’t even get off the ground for Altherr.
In the first week of spring training, he made a dive that looked completely harmless. It was a fantastic diving effort that came up just short and Altherr didn’t even flinch at the moment the injury occurred. Continue reading…
The biggest story of the start to the Phillies 2016 season was the emergence of their talented young rotation. Although Jerad Eickhoff has has his moments of greatness, the two biggest stars were Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola. Velasquez grabbed headlines across baseball with his 16-strikeout performance against the Padres in his second start of the season. Nola soared towards the top of league leaderboards in the first two months of the season. But then, almost simultaneously, everything began to crumble for the duo. Over the past 48 hours, however, they have both put together stellar starts that have caused Phillies fans to hope that maybe their struggles are behind them. Is the optimism provided by their post-All-Star-Break debuts justified?
This morning, the Phillies’ official twitter account somewhat bizarrely sent out the briefest of introductions to xFIP.
What’s that? You’ve never heard of xFIP? It’s pretty simple, actually. pic.twitter.com/ADzjVvkHLW
— Phillies (@Phillies) July 19, 2016
Considering the organization’s, shall we say, hesitance to embrace sabermetric analysis in the pre-Klentak era, this little pebble thrown into the gaping chasm of the interwebs — even if done so with tongue planted firmly in cheek — came as a bit of a surprise. So, instead of mocking the team for doing what people have been criticizing it for not doing…
Phillies account finally starts explaining stats that everyone wanted respect for and now its getting mocked for doing so.. sigh…
— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard) July 19, 2016
and at the risk of explaining something already known to an audience that actively seeks out this site for its sabermetric bent, indulge me in a (very) broad overview of xFIP.
As the All-Star festivities have quieted and teams officially turn their full attention toward the proverbial second half of the season, I went back through the 2016 Phillies’ season from April to the All-Star break to put together a first half infographic for those visually inclined, like myself.
The season, in my eyes, could be split into four distinct parts: an “Oh no not this again” 0-4 start fueled by a disastrous bullpen, a five-week run as the most surprising team in baseball highlighted by an .875 winning percentage in 16 one-run games, the subsequent regression to the mean, and the current stretch of surprisingly potent hitting. Enjoy.
All suggestions, comments and concerns are welcome.
I have a trivia question for you — name all of the Phillies All-Star Game representatives who were born in the ‘80s. Take your time. I’ll even give you a hint, they’re all included on this list of All-Star representatives since 2007:
|Phillies All-Stars Since 2007|
|2016||Odubel Herrera (OF)|
|2015||Jonathan Papelbon (P)|
|2014||Chase Utley (2B)|
|2013||Domonic Brown (OF), Cliff Lee (P)|
|2012||Cole Hamels (P), Jonathan Papelbon (P), Carlos Ruiz (C)|
|2011||Roy Halladay (P); Cole Hamels (P); Cliff Lee (P); Placido Polanco (3B); Shane Victorino (OF)|
|2010||Roy Halladay (P); Ryan Howard (DH); Chase Utley (2B)|
|2009||Ryan Howard (1B); Raul Ibanez (OF); Chase Utley (2B); Shane Victorino (OF); Jayson Werth (OF)|
|2008||Brad Lidge (P); Chase Utley (2B)|
|2007||Cole Hamels (P); Aaron Rowand (OF); Chase Utley (2B)|
It’s been an up and down beginning to Zach Eflin‘s major league career — or, more precisely, a down and up beginning. His major league debut went about as poorly as a debut can go. He struck out the first batter (yay!), but from there it unraveled in almost historic proportions. His line that day: 2.2 IP, 9 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 3 HR. It amounted to a game score of 5 which is the lowest game score in a debut since someone named Arnie Munoz posted a -7 game score for the White Sox in his 2004 debut. Here’s a list of the most recent pitchers to post a game score that low in their debut:
That’s, uh, not a terribly encouraging group of names for Eflin to join. Munoz never started another major league game while Stephens and Busby combined for 21 more starts in their careers. And, yet, Eflin has followed up this thoroughly inauspicious start with a remarkably promising run of five successful starts.