Garcia Up, Morgan Down, Buchholz Hurt, Now What?

It only took the Phillies 3 days to wipe away all of the positive feelings from a 17-3 drubbing of the Nationals. Michael already wrote about what happened to Clay Buchholz so it is not worth dwelling too much on his future until we know his MRI results (which came out while writing this). However, his ineffectiveness and injury put the Phillies in the position of running out their three worst relievers in a desperate attempt to keep the damage limited to one night. For his part in putting gasoline on the fire, Adam Morgan earned a trip to AAA sparking the first set of Phillies transactions since the end of Spring Training.

The immediate response by the Phillies was to bring back up Spring Training bullpen competition runner up, Luis Garcia. Because of a rain-out to open the year and pretty decent starting pitching, Garcia only appeared in one game for the IronPigs. On April 9 he came into the 7th inning of a 7 inning double header, and walked 1, while striking two out in a scoreless inning. This means he should be rested for immediate use in case Vince Velasquez goes 4 innings again. Garcia is obviously not a bullpen savior, he will slot in as just an arm, even though his raw stuff might hint that he could be something more. Continue reading…

Oh No! Clay Buchholz is Hurt

Last Friday before I attended Opening Day, I was reviewing Clay Buchholz’s start from the day before. He’d gone 5 innings, striking out 3 and walking 2 while allowing 8 hits and 4 runs. Obviously that’s not a great start. But the thing that really jumped out to me was his severely diminished velocity. His average fastball velocity was 90.2 mph, well below the 92.1 he averaged in 2015 and 2016. I wanted to write something about it, but hey, he was in and out of the bullpen last year, and last year his velocity was similarly low in his first start of the season. I figured I’d give him another start to see where his velocity was following that.

So imagine my delight when Buchholz came out hitting 91 with his first fastball of the night. Of course he walked the first hitter… then allowed a double…. then allowed a home run… then allowed several more runs… then got hurt.

Continue reading…

Gomez’s Struggles Hide Bullpen Rebuild Success

Two years in a row the Phillies have started the year in Cincinnati, and two years in a row they have left with bullpen questions. In 2016, the team shifted from David Hernandez to Dalier Hinojosa to Jeanmar Gomez as closer by April 9. This year, the Phillies are considering moving Jeanmar Gomez out of the closer’s role, but the similarities end there between the two teams. The difference is that the 2016 Phillies were throwing a bunch of things at the wall and hoping for something to work out, and the 2017 Phillies will be moving one of their shutdown setup men to work the final inning of the game.

This offseason, Matt Klentak made it a goal to upgrade the Phillies bullpen. The Phillies projected to return Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, and Joely Rodriguez from a bullpen that was one of the worst in baseball last year, leaving three open spots. To accomplish that goal, he acquired Pat Neshek for nothing and gave Joaquin Benoit a 1 year contract. The results have been immediate. So far this season, Benoit and Neshek have combined with Neris and Ramos to give the Phillies a great group of middle relief. So far the quartet has pitched 12.2 innings, allowed 0 runs, 8 hits, 4 walks, and struck out 14. Meanwhile Rodriguez, Adam Morgan, and Gomez have given up 11 runs in 7.2 innings. Continue reading…

Crashburn Alley’s 2017 Predictions

The baseball season kicked off yesterday, but with the Phillies season getting underway today, it is time for predictions. The staff here (and formerly here) put together our best guess for what will happen during the 2017 season. Given that we all guess different things, I can assume we have already gotten everything right and everything wrong already.

In the comments section, be sure to share your predictions and let us know where we went right and where we went terribly wrong.

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Cameron Rupp: A Large Man of Extremes

Heading into the 2017 season, we here at Crashburn Alley strive to update you on a specific storyline regarding many of the returning staples from last season’s roster. Today is catcher Cameron Rupp.

The Phillies have never been long without a franchise catcher. At least not for the last 30 years of their history. Carlos Ruiz has been in various stages of decline over the past few years and as the 2016 season opened he had already ceded his starting job. That starting job had been given to Cameron Rupp. Rupp was never highly regarded as a prospect despite the pedigree of being a 3rd round pick. But nonetheless, he finds himself the Phillies starting catcher with the chance to continue the unbroken line of franchise catchers.

Cameron Rupp has become somewhat of a Statcast darling due to his high exit velocity. By their leaderboards his 92.2 mph average exit velocity ranked 29th out 246 qualified batters (min 200 PA). It showed in his power numbers too. Last year, Rupp had 43 of his 98 hits go for extra bases including 16 home runs, which was 10th among MLB catchers (his Isolated Power was 7th). The problem has been Rupp’s ability to make contact more than his ability to hit the ball hard when he did make contact. In 2016 his strikeout rate was 22nd highest among all major league batters with at least 400 plate appearances. This was an increase from his 2015 rate, but not out of line with his previous rates. The reason for the high rate is Rupp’s swing where he “bars his arm” or extends it fully before his swing comes forward, this extension prevents him from adjusting to pitches mid swing. When combined with how hard Rupp swings, he can be left exposed to offspeed pitches. Continue reading…

The State of the Bullpen

The Phillies bullpen looks a lot different than it did entering last season. It’s clear that the front office made improving the bullpen in the short term a major priority for the offseason, as it made a series of deals for relievers without many years of control. Let’s run down the Phillies news look ‘pen, with the assumption that they’ll carry seven relievers.

The Sure Things

Jeanmar Gomez – The Phillies closer from last season proved that his tightrope walk from April to August was a mirage with an absolutely dreadful September. In the end, his paltry 15.8% K% has been overshadowed by the 37 saves which showed to some that he’s “got what it takes to man the 9th inning effectively.” According to Pete Mackanin, Gomez will enter the season as the Phillies closer, but if there was a pool on when he’d be replaced, my money would be before the end of May. Continue reading…

Aaron Nola: Worlds of Potential

Heading into the 2017 season, we here at Crashburn Alley strive to update you on a specific storyline regarding many of the returning staples from last season’s roster. Today is starting pitcher Aaron Nola.

A lot of what I said in my season preview for Jerad Eickhoff could be repeated for Aaron Nola. He’s got the stellar curveball, so-so fastball, and not good changeup. Nola both strikes out and walks slightly more hitters, which gives both players near identical career K/BB rates just below 4.00. However, Nola has allowed more home runs per fly ball, and he just came off a season with a near-5 ERA.

Based on that paragraph alone, you might conclude that Eickhoff is the better pitcher right now, and you might be right, but that misses three important pieces of information about Nola that set him apart from his rotation-mate:

  • Due to his sinking fastball, Nola had a 55% ground ball rate (GB%) in 2016, compared to Eickhoff’s 41%. The league average is about 45%.
  • Nola had a strand rate (LOB%) of just 60% last year, while Eickhoff’s 76% was just above the league average of 73%.
  • Nola has dealt with injuries that may have affected his effectiveness.

Continue reading…

Odubel Herrera: The First Piece of the Future

I am honored to be taking over for Eric here at Crashburn, this site has always been a place I looked up to. I am excited to work alongside the talented writers here and to keep the tradition of high quality analysis going into another Phillies season.

2017 will mark the Phillies’ first season without members of their 2008 core. The Phillies are not without veterans, and they are not without players who have been with the team for a number of seasons. What they lacked was any tangible direction for the future. This offseason the Phillies made their first long term commitment to their new core, signing Odubel Herrera to a long term contract. Continue reading…