2015 Phillies Report Card: Darin Ruf

Darin Ruf is one of the more polarizing players the Philadelphia Phillies have had in the Citizens Bank Park era. To some, he’s an underutilized power bat with untapped potential, while to others he’s (at best) a replacement player who gets a lot of hype because he’s Not Ryan Howard. In the past, I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m in the latter camp in the Ruf debate. I want to be wrong about him, and I’m happy to change my opinion if there’s a good reason to do so. Continue reading…

2015 Phillies Report Card: Jerome Williams

Sixteen years ago, in October 1999, the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets in the NLCS in six games. The Braves unleashed an unbelievable pitching staff that included Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Kevin Millwood. Oh, and Terry Mulholland! The Braves were then summarily dismissed by the New York Yankees in four games, and haven’t been back to the World Series since. That was the second consecutive World Series sweep for New York, and the second of two titles the Yankees won against Atlanta in the 1990s.

KEN SAKAMOTO / STAR-BULLETIN

Ken Sakamoto / Star-Bulletin

A few months prior, in June 1999, Jerome Williams was drafted 39th overall by the San Francisco Giants, 27 picks after the Philadelphia Phillies chose Brett Myers. Williams was chosen with a supplemental pick the Giants received as compensation for the departure of free agent Jose Mesa, who would go on to pitch for the Phillies in 2001. During Spring Training in March 2001, about two years after he was drafted, Jerome Williams lost his mom Deborah to breast cancer. That’s why Jerome wears a pink glove in games, pitching with his Mother’s memory in his heart and his hand.

October is national breast cancer awareness month. We all know someone affected. You don’t have to be a major league pitcher to do something to help the fight against breast cancer. Jerome Williams is awesome for helping to raise awareness of breast cancer, and he’s battled hard to stay in the majors for 10 seasons, and he’s probably a really good guy. It hurts me that the following evaluation of his season is not favorable.
Continue reading…

2015 Phillies Report Card: Odubel Herrera

Last December, the Phillies selected Odubel Herrera in the Rule 5 draft, using the eighth pick on the second baseman from the Texas Rangers organization. Although Rule 5 draftees rarely turn out to be as successful as Shane Victorino or even Ender Inciarte, and although the Rangers had a deep farm system, it was a bit surprising when the Rangers did not protect Herrera. As a member of the Rangers’ organization, Herrera played mostly second base and finished the 2014 season in AA. Between A+ Myrtle Beach and AA Frisco, in 2014 Herrera hit .315/.383/.388. He led the Texas League in batting average and was named that league’s best defensive second baseman, according to a Baseball America survey. Continue reading…

2015 Phillies Report Card: Sean O’Sullivan

Well, here we are. Here is, specifically, the place where the Phillies slowly, surreptitiously decline year after year, then become the laughingstock of the baseball world, then finish in dead last. It’s the bottom of the barrel and it’s a dark place, and it’s Sean O’Sullivan‘s place, and no, you can’t come in because you laughed (a lot) at that .gif of Sean getting hit in the throat. There are plenty of players who represent this particular version of terrible Phillies baseball — players who fairly or unfairly embody the ineptness of the team, including Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf, and Cody Asche — but none of them fit the description quite as well as Sean O’Sullivan. It’s not his fault and he’s probably a nice guy, but here we are.

Sean O’Sullivan started 13 games for the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies. In those 71 innings, he registered a 6.08 ERA and a 1.606 WHIP. In his final three starts, culminating in a July 6 loss in Dodger Stadium, he gave up six runs in each game. He gave up 16 home runs and only had 35 strikeouts. He was Bad. Even for the Phillies.  Continue reading…

2015 Phillies Report Card: Jake Diekman

When I evaluated Jake Diekman‘s season last year, I gave him an A- on the strength of unmistakable strikeout prowess. In 2014, Diekman struck out 100 batters in 71 innings, and finished the season seventh in the majors in strikeouts among qualified relief pitchers. He made a lot of appearances, ninth in the National League in that category. Manager Ryne Sandberg showed no mercy on the lefty, and also exposed Diekman by having him face too many righties. Though his strikeout numbers were elite, he had a 1.42 WHIP and a 104 ERA-, both of which were bad enough to place Diekman in the bottom quartile of relievers. In my 2014 report card, I argued that if Sandberg protected Diekman a little bit more in 2015 and didn’t have him face so many righties, it would help Diekman take the next step.  Continue reading…

2015 Phillies Report Card: Darnell Sweeney

The 2015 Phillies are history. In a franchise with no shortage of truly awful teams, this season’s group will someday fade into its place within a beautiful tapestry of failure. The 2007-2011 years were but a dream. Yes, there’s 1980 and 1993 and many other adored teams, but the Phillies as a franchise are the worst overall in the history of baseball. The image of losing on the back of the cave wall may as well be this video.

Of course, there’s plenty to like about the 2015 version of Phillies baseball, particularly the emergence of Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, and Jerad Eickhoff. Somewhere, between high hopes for the future and a dull, dismal reminder of the pain of being a Phillies fan, is Darnell Sweeney.

Continue reading…

Jerad Eickhoff: Hidden Gem of the Cole Hamels Trade

The Phillies ended months of conjecture at the end of July by sending ace Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers in a trade that also involved reliever Jake Diekman and brought six players back to Philadelphia. One of them, Matt Harrison, offset some of Hamels’ salary and three were highly-touted prospects — pitcher Jake Thompson, outfielder Nick Williams, and catcher Jorge Alfaro. They currently rank as the Phillies #2, 3, and 4 prospects, according to MLB.com.

Appreciated but mostly overlooked in the deal was pitcher Jerad Eickhoff, a 25-year-old who posted a 4.25 ERA in 101 2/3 innings with Triple-A Round Rock this season. His numbers throughout his minor league career are mostly unimpressive, but the Phillies — in need of rotation help at the time — called him up in August to make his major league debut. Eickhoff’s success through his first eight starts is something even the Phillies likely never saw coming.

Continue reading…

The Phillies Should Explore Trading Cody Asche

Third baseman Cody Asche hit a pair of solo home runs in Tuesday night’s 6-2 win against the Miami Marlins. It’s the first multi-homer game of his three-year career. Surprisingly, it was also his first multi-hit game since August 14.

Asche currently holds a subpar .303 weighted on-base average. The National League average for third basemen is .323 and the average for left fielders is .320. He would rank ahead of only Pablo Sandoval (.288) among qualified third basemen and ahead of only Michael Taylor (.280) and Ichiro Suzuki (.259) among left fielders with 400-plus plate appearances.

Continue reading…

Pete Mackanin Won’t Use Ken Giles in a Tie Game on the Road

The Phillies, coincidentally, lost every game of their three-game weekend set in Atlanta against the Braves by a 2-1 score. The getaway game on Sunday included a late comeback to tie the game at 1-1, but it ultimately ended with the Braves walking off in the bottom of the ninth inning against Luis Garcia. Closer Ken Giles sat in the bullpen, unused in a week. In fact, Giles has been used only four times this month.

Manager Pete Mackanin explained his reasoning, and he cited the typical managerial logic. Via Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News:

Continue reading…

Together, Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf Make a Decent First Baseman

Ryan Howard‘s struggles against left-handed pitching, his 2014 season notwithstanding, are well known. The New York Yankees took advantage of this during the 2009 World Series, having lefty reliever Damaso Marte face Howard four times in four games and getting the out all four times in two fly balls and two strikeouts. It then became the law of the land for opposing managers to bring in their lefty specialist to neutralize Howard.

Injuries, age, and defensive shifting sapped Howard of his potentially productive 30’s, but so did the evolving bullpen zeitgeist. Howard wasn’t the only one affected; sluggers like Adam Dunn, David Ortiz, and Adrian Gonzalez got the same treatment.

Continue reading…