Phillies officially reinstate Hamels to roster. Team announces BJ Rosenberg sent to Triple A.
— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) April 23, 2014
On April 5, about a week into the 2014 season, I noted that pitchers were continuing a trend started last season by throwing Domonic Brown pitches mostly low and outside. Over a handful of at-bats to that point, Brown hadn’t done much about it.
More than two weeks later, nothing has changed. Pitchers are still peppering the outside corner and Brown has been pulling a lot of weak ground balls, making him one of the Phillies’ least reliable offensive contributors thus far.
Here are a bunch of heat maps illustrating the issue:
Entering Sunday’s game against the Colorado Rockies, the Phillies were on an historically-rare offensive drought as it pertains to extra-base hits. The Phillies as a team hadn’t had an extra-base hit since Domonic Brown hit a go-ahead three-run home run off of Braves reliever Luis Avilan last Monday. The four-game absence of an extra-base hit was the longest since the Marlins went as long without one in 1993, and the longest for the Phillies since 1968. All four such streaks in club history:
Over at The Good Phight, John Stolnis wrote an interesting article about Ryan Howard‘s early success against left-handed pitchers, specifically in the walks department. Howard’s struggles against southpaws are well-documented, particularly here, so it’s been a welcome sight to see him laying off the low-and-away slop over the first 15 games of the season. Stolnis recaps Howard’s pinch-hit appearance against Braves starter Alex Wood, a lefty, in which the first baseman worked the count and eventually drew a walk, setting up Ben Revere‘s go-ahead RBI single to drive in Domonic Brown from second base.
It’s true: in the small sample of 62 plate appearances Howard is walking at a markedly higher rate (16%) than he had been dating back to 2008, including between seven and nine percent over the last two seasons. His 2014 walk rate is nearly as high against lefties (15%) as against right-handers (17%). The obvious question must be asked: is it sustainable?
Papelbon was asked by the media about his velocity, which was measured in the low-to-mid 90′s during his save Thursday, after having registered in the high-80′s during spring training. While he hasn’t gotten back up to 95 MPH like he used to throw, seeing him consistently around 93 MPH has been a welcome sight.
Here’s what Papelbon had to say, via CSN Philly:
What if Jonathan Papelbon has a good season?
I’ll wait for you to stop laughing.
C’mon, it’s not that funny.
During the third game of the season, Papelbon had a disastrous outing after entering the game in the 9th inning with a 4-2 lead. He retired only one of the seven batters he faced, gave up four hits and two walks including a bases loaded walk-off walk to Shin-Soo Choo. It was ugly and it seemed to confirm the doomsday narrative surrounding Papelbon at this point is career: his velocity has declined and without it he can’t succeed.
But then a funny thing happened, Papelbon dominated relief appearance after relief appearance. Look at Papelbon’s line this season, excluding the Texas disaster:
Cliff Lee was at times awe-inspiring and at other times frustrating in his start against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night. But by the end of the night, he had struck out 13 and walked one en route to a complete game effort in which he took the tough-luck 1-0 loss. Opposing starter Julio Teheran was a bit more effective, scattering three singles over nine innings, as the 23-year-old earned his first career shutout.
It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen Lee take home the tough-luck loss — it brought back memories of the time when Lee shut out the San Francisco Giants over 10 innings but got the no-decision when Matt Cain blanked the Phillies over nine, and then Antonio Bastardo gave up a walk-off RBI single.
In fact, it was the fifth time in his career that Lee pitched a complete game and still got the loss. It was the second time he had done so while allowing one run, matched in his last start against the Braves on September 27, 2013 (coincidentally, he also struck out 13). There’s plenty more trivia:
Among the many criticisms about the Phillies that have been tossed out there since the start of the season, the most recent has been that the starting rotation hasn’t been going deep enough into games, forcing manager Ryne Sandberg to rely on his bullpen more heavily and more frequently than he would like. Sandberg himself said as much in Bob Brookover’s column posted this morning: