Surprising Offensive Breakouts in June

Quick, name the Phillies top four performers in the month of June by wRC+. Exclude Edubray Ramos‘ one walk in one plate appearances and you’ll come up with a list of four that might not be terribly shocking if you watched the Phillies all month, but would shock the heck out of you if you were shown the list on May 31st. The fabulous four are as follows:

Phillies Top Offensive Performers – June 2016
Player PA wRC+
Peter Bourjos 67 190
Cameron Rupp 75 148
Cody Asche 90 115
Cesar Hernandez 85 104

There is one other Phillie who recorded a wRC+ above league average (100) during the month of June: Maikel Franco, 101 wRC+. It’s great to see him doing better at the plate, but a league average bat hardly classifies as a surprising breakout for him. Offensive expectations for Franco are high. Offensive expectations for Bourjos, Rupp, Asche, and Hernandez, on the other hand? Let’s just say they’re less high. So what’s going on? Small sample flukes? Legitimate breakouts? The creation of viable trade chips? The development of players who will contribute to the next winning Phillies teams?

Let’s break it down one at a time.

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MLB Issues Ridiculous Defense Of Anti-Player Legislation

*Cracks Knuckles*

Thursday, in response to the anti-player Save America’s Pastime Act proposed by some jerk in Congress and denounced by it’s no-longer-as-jerky co-sponsor a day after she was bombarded with negative reactions, MLB released a totally bogus statement siding with the legislation, that makes them sound like a bunch of freaking idiots. In my humble opinion. I’ll just walk us through the text, point by point, and tell you why they’re either wrong or dumb, or maybe just making things up. Continue reading…

Prospect Matt Imhof Announces He Lost An Eye In A Training Accident

I’ll make this quick, because really, who cares what a dude like me has to say about something so serious. Phillies LHP prospect and current Clearwater Thresher (A+) Matt Imhof announced on Instagram that he lost his right eye in a training accident, after surgery was unable to save it.

As many of you know on Friday June 25th I had an accident. A large price of metal hit me in the head/eye resulting in a fractured nose, 2 fractured orbital bones, and most significantly, the loss of vision in my right eye. I was immediately taken to the ER and then transferred to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the #1 eye hospital in the world. That night, the doctors informed me that the damage to my eye was extreme and essentially that my eye had been crushed like a grape. The doctors told me they were going to do everything possible to reconstruct it but in all likelihood I would never regain sight in my right eye. The first surgery was somewhat a success but overall nothing had changed, so after discussions with my family and my doctors, it was decided that the best chance I had to live a normal life was to have my right eye removed and have a prosthetic one put in. This decision was not an easy one to make but to me it seemed like the right one so on Tuesday afternoon I went forward with the surgery. I'm currently still in Miami recovering from surgery but I'm doing well. This has been the hardest week of my life but I've had amazing support from my family and friends to help me get through it. For those who have been wishing me well, your support has not gone unnoticed and I appreciate everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers. I had the best doctors in the world doing their best work on me and for that I am grateful as well. Although this injury has been tough it could have been much worse…I'm lucky to still have vision in my left eye…I'm lucky that i didn't have brain damage…and I'm lucky to be surrounded my the most loving and understanding people in the world. I just wanted to write this message to let everyone know that even though I suffered some bad luck, I'm not dead. I'm gonna be alright, I'm gonna persevere, and I'm gonna succeed. It takes more than this to bring me down. Again thanks to everyone for the support .

A photo posted by Matt Imhof (@matt_imhof48) on

Imhof was the Phils’ second round pick in 2014 out of Cal Poly. He had shoulder issues last year but was healthy this year. Word originally came from Baseball Betsy’s blog that this was a band stretching exercise and the hardware came loose from wherever it was anchored. Imhof’s Instagram describes the rest fairly well, I’d say. Best wishes from all Phillies fans go out to this young man right now, and from me, a hope that he can maintain the centered outlook he seems to have in his message to his friends, family and fans.

Crash Landing: Brundage’s Irresponsible Mishandling of Nick Williams

A year ago, I was a vocal critic of Ryne Sandberg. It wasn’t a role I relished or enjoyed, but it’s one that I couldn’t escape. At the time, the reports from beat writers and the quotes from players painted a picture of clubhouse disarray which was directly attributable to Sandberg’s managerial style and impacted team performance. I typically avoid clubhouse storylines because they are frequently little more than gossipy whispers or fluff, but in this case, there was a clubhouse situation which had a direct impact on the product on the field. I took notice, I formed opinions, and I expressed them. Well, it’s time to step outside my comfort zone and do the same thing once again, only this time it’s about a clubhouse about sixty miles north of Citizens Bank Park.

My philosophy on baseball managers is that their primary job is to put their players in a position to succeed. This covers tasks from managing pitcher workloads to properly deploying platoons to the most basic of tasks: teaching and guiding players. For young players in general and minor leaguers in particular, the type of success they should be set up for by their coaches is long-term success. There may be a 30-year-old journeyman AAAA player who is more likely to succeed in a game against a particularly challenging opponent, but developing players need the opportunity to face those challenges head on to prepare for the possibility of a major league future. Preparing for success in the majors is the goal and it’s the goal at which Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage has failed 22-year-old outfield prospect Nick Williams in recent weeks.

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Mark Appel’s Season Is Over

Pitching: It’s not good for you.

With young pitching being such an integral part of the Phillies current rebuild, it was all but inevitable that the injury bug would be a factor this season. The human arm is not built to endure the stress of pitching and, as a result, pitching injuries are ubiquitous in baseball.

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Asche Found His Bat

Back in 2013, Cody Asche made his major league debut for the Phillies following a quick rise through their minor league system. While he wasn’t topping any prospect lists, Asche looked to have a capable bat, and he represented a much needed injection of youth in an otherwise aging roster. But the capable bat didn’t fully translate to the major league level, and Asche spent the next few years posting consistently sub-par offensive numbers while working his way down the defensive spectrum. So coming into the 2016 season, it’s fair to say that most fans had given up on Asche as any part of the team’s future.

But following an oblique strain that kept him sidelined through the end of May, Asche has spent the better part of the last month looking like the hitter the Phillies thought they were getting back in 2013. Through 80 plate appearances this year, Asche has a wOBA of .343, a number that places him 14% better than the league average. And while this wouldn’t be the first time Asche has hit this well over the course of a month, it is the first time his success at the plate is supported by any underlying changes.

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Is 2016 Offense Worst in Phillies History?

In a season once illuminated by a delightful yet fleeting month-and-a-half of overachievement, the Phillies uninspiring offensive attack has once again grabbed the headlines as they enter the meat of their summer schedule. Manager and resident mad scientist Pete Mackanin has done everything in his power to concoct a productive lineup, testing 68 different batting orders through the first 77 games. Who can blame him?

The team’s recent streak of hot hitting hasn’t significantly boosted the their overall numbers, or even put more tallies in the win column for that matter. Led by none other than offensive tour de force Peter Bourjos, the Phils have nearly doubled their run production in their last six games, posting six runs per contest, but have generated just a 2-4 record to show for it. In their first 71 games on the year, they scored all of 3.11 runs per game. While this offensive hot hand is surely just a blip on the radar, a faint mirage in the early summer heat, it got me thinking: just how bad is this offense really?

Well, buckle up.

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First Impressions of Edubray Ramos

This weekend, right-handed reliever Edubray Ramos became the most recent in the seemingly never-ending parade of prospects to make their Phillies debuts. Given that he’s “just” a relief pitcher, he wasn’t nearly as highly regarded a prospect as recent call-up Zach Eflin or the Iron Pig teammates he leaves behind like Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford, and Jake Thompson. He is, however, a legitimate prospect. Last year was just his first season in full-season ball and the Phillies saw enough to protect him from the Rule 5 draft by adding him to the 40-man roster this past winter. That’s one hell of an indication as to how much the organization believed this 23-year-old has a future as a major league pitcher. Given that he’s arrived in Philadelphia this quickly, it would appear the organization was right.

Ramos made his major league debut during a third of an inning of work in Friday night’s game and pitched his first full inning in Saturday’s game. He’s recorded just four outs in the major leagues and, in doing so, he’s used just 12 pitches. That’s all we have to go on — twelve pitches. I mean, sure, there are minor league numbers and scouting reports to take into consideration. Heck, I even saw him in pitch in person at a Double-A game last season. (His control was horrific that night and I came away wondering what the hype was all about — it’s important to note I am not a scout.) So we have information about him, but now we actually get to watch him live in high-definition and start to get to know what Edubray Ramos: Major League Pitcher actually looks like.

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What’s Wrong With Aaron Nola?

The 2016 Phillies were supposed to be a terrible team and lately they’ve been living up (or down) to that expectation. What was not expected, however, was the complete deterioration of Aaron Nola‘s early season success. Entering play on June 11th, Nola had a 2.65 ERA, but now, three starts later, that ERA has risen all the way to 4.11.

2016 Aaron Nola
GS IP H ER R BB K ERA OPS
Through 6/10 12 78 62 29 23 15 85 2.65 .580
Since 6/10 3 9.2 22 20 17 7 10 15.83 1.191

He’s gone from one of the best pitchers in the league to a guy who is allowing the opposition to hit like peak Barry Bonds. That’s… well, it’s not good. But is it worth worrying about? Is it just three starts or is it a sign that something is wrong with the 23-year-old pitcher who looked, just weeks ago, like he could be a top of the rotation pitcher for the Phillies for the foreseeable future?

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Crash Landing: The Familiarity of Losing Baseball

I don’t mean to brag, but I’m really good at watching bad baseball. Outside of Royals, Pirates, and maybe Padres fans, it’s hard to find baseball lovers my age who have watched more bad baseball in their lives than people like me who are afflicted with the disease of reflexive Phillies watching. I’ve watched the *insert your favorite mediocre 90s Phillie here* Phillies. And I’ve watched the *insert your favorite mediocre current Phillie here* Phillies. I’ve seen some garbage baseball, is what I’m saying.

I don’t mean this as a complaint. Not at all. The Phillies run of success from 2007 to 2011 made for an absolutely incredible baseball viewing experience which was more than worth all the down years. In my experience, watching bad baseball has deepened my appreciation and awareness of those glorious fleeting moments when good baseball actually cycles around. Plus, any baseball is better than no baseball.

But here’s the thing: I’ve recently found myself perversely comforted by the familiarity of the Phillies recent awful performance. The Phillies playing winning baseball is still foreign and unnerving. But losing? I get that. I know how to watch it. I’m good at this. Defensive miscues, failures to hit in clutch situations, pitching staffs getting lit up by the opposition… it’s like a home-cooked meal for me. Sure, it’s a blue box mac-and-cheese kind of home-cooked meal, but it’s comforting and familiar, no matter how poorly it resembles the ideal version of the food/sport it represents.

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