Tommy Joseph: Swing At The Strikes

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 first baseman Tommy Joseph.

For the ardent reader of the Crashburn Roundtable, my enthusiasm for Tommy Joseph should come as no surprise. For those who chose baseball dormancy as Citizens Bank Park was preparing to close its doors, a quick review of said enthusiasm.

Continue reading…

Maikel Franco: Can He Just Chill Up There?

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 third baseman Maikel Franco.

Maikel Franco certainly makes himself look silly sometimes at the plate. As it became clear that his 2016 sophomore campaign was going to be a year-long source of frustration, spilled drinks, and, in it’s more unfortunate moments, broken screens of various sorts, the sight of Franco’s helmet flying off while reaching for a pitch low and away felt more rule than exception.

Because of Franco’s above-average ability to make contact on pitches out of the zone, his regression in plate discipline and strike-zone discernment don’t necessarily manifest themselves in more strikeouts or fewer walks. Of course, it did to some extent: Franco struck out in 16.8 percent of 2016 plate appearances versus 15.5 percent in 2015 and walked only 6.3 percent of the time versus 7.8 in 2015. Those are steps backwards, to be sure, but hardly alarming ones on their own.

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Vince Velasquez: Trouble with the Curve

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 Vince Velasquez:

It’s no secret that Vince Velasquez, despite his electric fastball, struggled to pitch deep into games because of a lack of effective secondary pitches. He often looked like he was just trying to strike batters out, while forgoing other pitch-to-contact methods that can minimize pitch counts while still recording outs, albeit those not as flashy as 95-mph fastballs blown by helpless hitters.

By his own account, he’s is focusing on gaining trust in his curveball during spring training, a pitch he threw 13.6 percent of the time last season.

He had this to say of his struggles with the pitch: “If you have no conviction in it, no trust in it, why even throw it?” Continue reading…

If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It Till It Is

Spring Training is upon us, as signaled by the onslaught of upbeat stories about how the players spent their winter hibernation. Maikel Franco has slimmed down. Finally, a stolen base threat! Cesar Hernandez packed on fifteen pounds of muscle. He won’t have to run the bases if he’s hitting the ball over the fence! Mark Appel is finally getting full extension in his delivery. I had no idea full extension was still in play for Appel. This is a game changer!

Most of these anecdotes are forgotten by the time real baseball gets underway. A few, however, will remain relevant. One story with that potential: Hector Neris decided he needs a third pitch.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 7: Prospects, Frenchy, and Legacy

With pitchers and catcher having reported earlier this week, the Crash Bag mailbox saw a marked uptick in questions directly related to baseball and a downtick in ephemera. This, in my opinion, is neither a moral good or a moral bad. A good question is a good question, regardless of its subject. The Crash Bag, like baseball as a whole, works best, I believe, when it contains a mix of actual baseball and profound nonsense. The six editions prior to this have been heavy on the nonsense, so consider this a bit of a balancing of the scales.

@scottbails13: Which of the Phillies’ prospects has the best chance to play significant time for the big club this season?

The easy answer here is Andrew Knapp. He’s one of two prospect eligible players likely to break Spring Training with the major league team (Joely Rodriguez is the other). He’ll be the backup catcher, and Joely will be a LOOGY sort of dude out of the bullpen, so they’re not the flashiest of answers, but backup catcher, in particular, is a pretty significant role that guarantees something like 200 plate appearances over a full season.  Continue reading…

Who Are You: Clay Buchholz

This post is the last of a weekly series which has run each Thursday. Over the offseason, we took a deep dive look at new members of the Phillies roster. Now that we’re just weeks away from settling down with these guys every day, the hope is that this series has provided a requisite introduction in preparation for the coming season.

Previous Installments:

Howie Kendrick

Pat Neshek

Joaquin Benoit

Michael Saunders Continue reading…

Tyler Goeddel Decommissioned

Tyler Goeddel’s 2016 starting gig in left field lasted just 23 games. The reasoning behind his short stint was cloudy at best, especially given his above-average (and near team-best) production over that time.

Pre-Goeddel Era

Let’s take this from Opening Day. For the first month of the season, manager Pete Mackanin deployed a combination of Cedric Hunter, Darin Ruf, Emmanuel Burriss, David Lough and Goeddel in left. All but Burriss made at least six starts.

None hit over .240. None got on base more than one-third of the time. None slugged over .320.

From batting average to slugging percentage, on-base percentage to wRC+, the left field position was head and shoulders below that of every other MLB team. They lacked power in a big way, with a slugging percentage a point below their already low .212 OBP.

Phillies (Rank) .144 (30th) .212 (30th) .211 (30th) .423 (30th) .189 (30th) 11
-10.5 (30th)
.191 (29th) .243 (29th) .245 (29th) .572 (29th) .254 (29th) .53 (29th) -6
Difference .047 .031 .034 .149 .065 42 4.5

So Mackanin turned to the Phillies first overall draft pick from 2015. No, not that draft. The Rule 5 Draft, where teams get to select non-40-man roster players buried on other team’s minor league depth charts. Continue reading…

Upping the Down(trodden): Stairs’ Case

Along with their quiet fury of moves this offseason, the Phillies made a lone coaching change, coaxing 2008 NLCS folk hero Matt Stairs down a few flights of, ahem, stairs, out of the broadcast booth and back into those familiar snug red pinstripes.

The goal? Improvement.

It’s no secret the Phillies lacked offensive firepower last season. Last in runs scored and OPS in the majors, they posted a .301 on-base percentage, their worst in four and a half decades. Among 2016 MLB teams, they finished five points off the lowest batting average, two points better than the worst OBP and one point above the worst slugging percentage.

So how will Stairs improve the bats? He spoke with CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury during the Phils beat writer’s Countdown to Clearwater series and outlined his plan.

He focused on a handful of points, almost echoing the sentiments of a buzzed-on-Jim-Beam Crash Davis who, in Bull Durham, spoke of how one dying quail, one ground ball with eyes per week is the difference between a .250 and a .300 hitter. Stairs said: “If every player gave away five at-bats per week that’s 120 at-bats per season. Now, think about it if you can cut that number in half.” Continue reading…

Crashburn Roundtable: Grading the Phillies Offseason

With pitchers and catchers having reported this morning to the Phillies Spring Training Facility in Clearwater, Florida, there seems no better time to place some closure on the most recent offseason. We’ve already seen a number of attempts to grade MLB teams’ offseason pop up over the past couple days and the coming week should see many more such posts. In what follows, we, the writers at Crashburn Alley, enter our contributions to the Phillies offseason grade book.

What grade would you assign the Phillies offseason? Continue reading…

Who Are You: Michael Saunders

This post is part of a weekly series which will run each Thursday. Over the next several weeks, I’ll take a deep dive look at new members of the Phillies roster. We’re just a couple months away from settling down to watch these guys day-in and day-out for half a year, so let’s try to find out who they are and what to expect from them in 2017.

Previous Installments:

Howie Kendrick

Pat Neshek

Joaquin Benoit Continue reading…