Phillies Coming Out of the Break on All Cylinders

Cole Hamels‘ no-hitter Saturday against the Chicago Cubs sent the Phillies’ record to 7-1 since the All-Star break, the best record in baseball — tied with the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants — in that span of time. Their one loss was the 1-0 game against the Tampa Bay Rays in which Aaron Nola made his major league debut. At 36-63, the Phillies’ lead for the worst record in baseball has shrunk to 5.5 games over the Miami Marlins and seven games over the Colorado Rockies.

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The Inevitable Cesar Hernandez Slump Has Begun

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s comments with which he pronounced Cesar Hernandez the heir to the throne of Chase Utley, sidelined with an ankle injury, at second base. Along with the plain old disrespect to Utley it showed, Amaro’s confidence in Hernandez relied a great deal on a three-week-long hot streak that was never going to last.

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Lame Duck GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., Salting the Earth

If one takes a job as the general manager of a baseball team and performs poorly, he likely will be able to find work again. A good GM could have poor results during a tenure for any number of reasons, so no one is going to immediately close the door on someone with job experience. Furthermore, a GM could learn from his past mistakes and become better at his job moving forward. Or he can work in another capacity, either with the same team or elsewhere. It’s hard to screw yourself out of future employment.

But, by golly, is Ruben Amaro, Jr. doing it. His tenure as GM of the Phillies has been wracked by bad trades and poor contracts, leading to the absolute cratering of a team that reached back-to-back World Series as recently as 2009. That, as much as we might hate to admit it, is defensible. The biggest mistakes Amaro has made at the helm of the Phillies have been with his mouth.

Let’s recap:

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Cesar Hernandez Is on Fire, But It Won’t Last

Cesar Hernandez extended his hitting streak to 10 games and stole two more bases in a 3-for-4 performance on Sunday, helping the Phillies end a six-game losing skid in a 4-0, 10-inning victory against the Atlanta Braves. He also made a stellar defensive play in the bottom of the 10th in support of Jonathan Papelbon. Hernandez is hitting .299/.385/.385 with 11 stolen bases in 202 plate appearances on the year, doing an admirable job filling in for the injured Chase Utley at second base.

Hernandez has quickly become a fan favorite as he’s one of a select few hitters in the lineup that has actually done anything productive at the plate over the course of the season. Among Phillies with at least 150 plate appearances, only Maikel Franco has posted a better weighted on-base average than Hernandez’s .345. Hernandez has a 34-point lead over Ben Revere in third place. He has also emerged as a speed threat with Revere, as the duo are the only Phillies with double-digits in stolen bases.

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Maikel Franco Will Have to Wait for An All-Star Nomination

Maikel Franco earned a promotion to the major leagues in mid-May and hasn’t looked back, ranking among the league’s best-hitting third baseman while playing adequate defense. He went on a particularly torrid streak to begin the month of June, hitting consecutively in 11 games while smacking four home runs. Later in the month, he knocked in five runs in back-to-back games at Yankee Stadium while homering three times.

There has been some thought that Franco might be the Phillies’ representative at the 2015 All-Star Game, hosted at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Starter Cole Hamels has had another great year, but he hasn’t been among the 10 best starters in the National League. As a result, it would be justifiable to omit him from the All-Star roster. Closer Jonathan Papelbon has had a career year, sitting on a 1.71 ERA, but the floundering Phillies have only given him 14 save situations. As good as Papelbon has been, there are closers who have been just as good as him or better while racking up more saves. One could also justify leaving Papelbon off of the All-Star roster.

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Aaron Harang Is Regressing, But His Trade Value Isn’t

Well, yeah. That tends to happen when one ends May with a 2.02 ERA but holds a 4.18 career ERA. Through his first 11 starts, Harang had a 53/15 K/BB ratio, which is nice, but didn’t begin to explain his level of success. He allowed four home runs over 71 1/3 innings and benefited from a .255 BABIP.

June was another animal entirely. He allowed no fewer than four runs and went no deeper than six innings in any start, compiling a 7.28 ERA with a 19/11 K/BB ratio along with seven home runs and a .293 BABIP. He added to the disaster in allowing eight runs on 14 hits (including one home run) in five innings to the Brewers last night.

Update (1:50 PM EST): The Phillies announced that they’ve placed Harang on the 15-day disabled list with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Chad Billingsley has been activated and will take his place in the rotation.

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Ben Revere Quietly on His Way to a Career Year

Pretend you didn’t read the title. Who, among hitters to have come to the plate at least 170 times entering Sunday’s action, leads the Phillies in weighted on-base average? Who is the only Phillie to reach double-digits in stolen bases (and is doing so with an 82 percent success rate)? Who leads Phillies position players in Wins Above Replacement, according to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs? Who is tied for the major league lead in triples with six?

All right, cheaters, you win. It’s Ben Revere.

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Maikel Franco’s White Hot Philadelphian Summer

Phillies third base prospect Maikel Franco has always had qualifiers attached to any praise he had garnered over the past few years. Yeah, he can hit homers, but he has trouble with off-speed stuff. He has a strong arm at third base, but he doesn’t have the instincts of a great defensive third baseman. Not that those qualifiers didn’t have good reason behind their application, but it tamed an optimism for Franco that could have otherwise floated into the clouds and beyond.

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