Aaron Harang Pitching Much Better Than Expected

Making his 10th start of the season on Sunday afternoon against the Washington Nationals, Aaron Harang again delivered a quality start, holding the opposition to two runs in six innings of work in a losing effort. In nine of his starts this season, the right-hander has yielded three runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings. He owns a superb 1.93 ERA over 65 1/3 innings this season.

Needless to say, Harang has pitched better than anyone — including the Phillies — could have hoped when he signed a one-year, $5 million deal on January 5. The factors leading to his success are rather obvious to pinpoint: he has walked fewer than six percent of batters, allowed only two home runs on 85 fly balls, and has limited opponents to a .258 batting average on balls in play.

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Ben Revere’s Newfound Pop

Last night was a banner night for Ben Revere at the dish. In his first four hit game of the season, he hit three doubles making it the first time in his career that he recorded three extra base hits in a game. The offensive outburst raised Revere’s season slash line to .264/.304/.368, an impressive feat considering he slashed .135/.179/.135 through the first ten games of the season. Without question, the most intriguing feature of Revere’s current hot streak has been his power surge.

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The Phillies’ Bullpen, Despite A 2.81 ERA, Hasn’t Been Good

The Phillies lost 9-0 to the Atlanta Braves last night and none of the blame could be placed on the bullpen. Braves starter Shelby Miller quieted the offense, throwing a three-hit shutout on 99 pitches. Chad Billingsley gave up six runs over five innings in his first major league start since April 2013. Dustin McGowan started the seventh inning, but could only record one out as he walked four batters and allowed a hit en route to serving up three runs. Justin De Fratus came in and got the final five outs with no issue.

Walks have been an issue for McGowan as he now has 16 of them in 14 innings. The problem isn’t just isolated to McGowan, however.

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What’s Wrong with Cole Hamels?

Probably nothing. You can close the article now feeling rather confident that Cole Hamels will turn it around sooner rather than later. One need only remember that Hamels carried a 4.30 ERA through his first six starts last season, but finished at 2.46. Six starts is about one-sixth of a season, leaving plenty of time for improvement.

That said, there are a few noteworthy differences that are worth examining. Let’s compare his first six starts last year and this year:

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Chase Utley and His Tragically Low BABIP

If you’ve seen the acronym BABIP used this season, there’s a high chance it was in a conversation about second baseman Chase Utley. The six-time All-Star is batting .108 with an .087 batting average on balls in play, which is easily the worst mark in baseball. I’m sad to report that, in many instances, optimists showed an incorrect understanding of how BABIP works for hitters. These optimists claim that Utley’s BABIP, over the course of the season, will regress towards the league average .294 — a .087 BABIP is unsustainable.

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Looking Beyond A 0.00 ERA

Of the 64 relief pitchers who have thrown 7+ innings in the National League this season, only five still possess a perfect 0.00 ERA — Brad Ziegler, Pedro Strop, Adam Ottavino, Aroldis Chapman and the Phillies supposed Closer of the Future, Kenny Giles. This is good, right? The season is nearly a month old and an exciting young Phillies reliever has yet to yield an earned run! So why do I find myself holding my breath every time he takes the mound? It turns out there’s more to the story of the fireballing righty’s season than his ERA.

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Don’t Fret About Phillies’ RISP Woes

Even after the division rival Atlanta Braves traded away Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and Evan Gattis, the Phillies were still projected to be the worst offensive team not just in the National League, but in baseball. Combined with the shoddy starting pitching after Cole Hamels, the Phillies were projected to put up a terrible run differential. They were -68 last season, finishing 16 games below .500, exactly in line with their expected record based on run differential.

The Phillies fell to 3-7 with Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the Nationals in the series opener in Washington, extending their losing streak to five games. They now sport a -18 run differential, which is also in line with their current record. No one is surprised. The Phillies are listed at the bottom of current MLB futures to win the NL Pennant, and almost all of the blame lies at the feet of the Phillies’ offense.

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David Buchanan is Putting Together an Impressive Spring

The Phillies starting rotation situation is a spicy hot flaming pile of pain and torture which, no matter how hard you try, cannot be extinguished by your tears. There’s a beautiful alternate dimension in which pitchers don’t break and the Phillies enter the season with a rotation of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang and the victor of a Clearwater competition for the fifth spot. In this barbaric world, however, Lee is out indefinitely, Billingsley will miss at least the first few weeks of the season as he continues to recover from his elbow surgeries, and Harang has missed time this spring due to back soreness. What was once a battle for the fifth rotation spot has evolved into a desperate allocation of rotation slots to any and all available pitchers in camp. As a result, David Buchanan suddenly finds himself thrust into the role of “rotation lock,” and, fortunately for the Phillies, he’s looked entirely deserving of his new role thus far.

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