Hellickson’s Extreme Times Through The Order Penalty

Jeremy Hellickson wasn’t particularly sharp during his outing against the Cardinals on Tuesday, but he very nearly made it twice through the order without yielding a run. In the fourth inning, however, he faced his 18th batter of the night and opposing pitcher Adam Wainwright stepped to the plate only to did this:

Hellickson managed to retire the Cardinals in order the following inning, but in the sixth it all fell apart in an instant. Three pitches into the inning and he’d allowed back-to-back homers to Matt Adams and Aledmys Diaz. For reasons passing understanding, no reliever was warming up so Hellickson was forced to face two more batters before being lifted from the game.

Struggles going deep into a game are nothing new for Jeremy Hellickson. Since 2014, Hellickson has allowed a .978 OPS the third time through the order despite allowing a .782 OPS overall. Of the 138 pitchers to throw 200+ innings over that time stretch only Jake Peavy had a wider OPS differential (.978 OPS third time through, .751 overall).

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A Bucket of Cold Water

Happy Monday! The Phillies are 15-10, remarkably, and the team’s .600 winning percentage is fifth-best in the National League. The Phils have won six games in a row and nine of the last ten. They just swept the Nationals and the Indians, beating Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar along the way. Ryan Howard hit an extra innings walk-off homer against Cody Allen, one of the game’s best closers. The pitching staff has exceeded all expectations, and even the bullpen has come around. The catching duo has put up strong numbers at the plate. Most importantly, the team is having FUN and is a pleasure to watch.

Naturally, I’m here to destroy all hope and optimism you may have for the remaining five months of the season. With one month in the books, here’s how the Phillies’ hitters are performing and their corresponding rank among all 30 MLB teams.
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Nola’s Curveball Was An Absolute Monster Yesterday

Yesterday marked the third time in Jonathan Papelbon‘s last 11 outings that his performance has resulted in the Phillies taking an ultimately insurmountable lead in dramatic fashion. It’s glorious and, as Papelbon’s former teammate freely admitted, it’s not only the fans who think so:

That the result of the game was a sweep of the division rival Nationals and an improvement to two games above .500 for the first time since 2012 is remarkably fun, but I’m not sure it holds a candle to the excitement generated by what Aaron Nola did yesterday.

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Cesar Hernandez Is Still Cesar Hernandez

Last year Cesar Hernandez had a breakout campaign of sorts. With Chase Utley injured and then traded, Hernandez received extended major league playing time for the first time in his career. Out of minor league options, it was a sink or swim opportunity for Hernandez who faced a certain DFA if he couldn’t cut it as a starter. Fortunately for him, he passed the test well enough posting a 91 wRC+, stealing 19 bags, and exhibiting passable defense which resulted in him continuing on as the Phillies starting second baseman for another year.

The season, however, has gotten off to an incredibly rocky start for Hernandez. He’s made multiple blatant blunders on the basepaths and at the start of play on Sunday, he was hitting .246/.295/.316 with a painfully low 62 wRC+. But lest anyone start freaking out about his early struggles, Hernandez proceeded to go 5-for-8 with a double over the next two games and raise his season stat line to a markedly more palatable .292/.333/.369 and 87 wRC+. You know we’re still in the heart of small sample size season when a player raises his wRC+ 25 points with two games and just one extra base hit.

Nothing about what Hernandez has done this season indicates that he suddenly became a worse player from last year to this year, but the problem with Hernandez has always been this: nothing indicates improvement either. Let’s quickly run down Cesar Hernandez’s profile:
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A Phillies Pitcher Is Throwing The Least Hittable Pitch In The Majors

As today’s reminder that small sample size statistics and factoids should be served with a grain of salt the size of a boulder, I offer this: What do major league pitchers and the Atlanta Braves have in common? Both groups of players have hit three home runs this season. Don’t get me wrong, the Braves employ a lineup that makes the 2016 Phillies look like a semi-competent offensive force, but over the course of a full season it’s safe to say even they will be able to outslug pitchers.

With that caveat in mind, I’d like to present one of my current favorite leaderboards:

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Checking Up On Jerad Eickhoff’s Changeup

Yesterday Spencer Bingol provided a great break down of Jerad Eickhoff‘s current repertoire and the ways in which it’s helped Eickhoff exceed expectations to date. If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend reading that piece because it provides the foundation for the analysis to follow.

The most defining characteristic of Eickhoff’s early career is his extraordinarily effective curveball. As Bingol illustrates, he also unleashes a slider which induces whiffs at a high rate which may not be entirely sustainable and a relatively non-descript fastball. But his fourth pitch, the changeup, is by far the weakest and, consequently, least used pitch in his arsenal.

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Positive signs from expectation-exceeding Jerad Eickhoff

Scouting baseball players has traditionally relied on the 20-80 scouting scale. It’s a system for grading both individual skills (called “tools”), and total value of the player. It mirrors the 68-95-99.7 Rule in statistics, referencing the percentage of values contained within one, two, and three standard deviations of the mean of a normal distribution. A “50” grade player represents a Major League average talent, a “60” grade player represents a well above-average talent (a likely All-Star), and a “40” grade player represents a talent equally far in the opposite direction (a bench player, sixth starter, etc.).

As the name implies, the scale extends in both directions to evaluations of “20” (organizational filler) and “80” (a superstar). This system doesn’t imply that there are an equal number of 20-grade and 80-grade talents in the world – obviously, the former outnumbers the latter – however, it attempts to describe the distribution of talent in the Major leagues, and organizational filler very rarely receives a roster spot.

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Guest Post: Aaron Nola Proving He Knows How To Pitch

This guest post was written by Ben Harris. Follow him on Twitter: @Ben27Harris

With 2016 came the Phillies first full campaign boasting their hopeful future trio of young rotation arms. Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez had just 28 combined starts during their rookie years in 2015. But, to open this season, the trio of right-handers – whose average age rests just above 23 and a half – have dissected opponents in unique ways, providing Phillies’ faithful with bright rays of hope.

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Odubel Herrera’s Refined Plate Discipline

Believe it or not, the Phillies outfield has not been the worst offensive outfield in the majors so far this season. While their cumulative slashline of .162/.255/.279 is truly abysmal, Twins outfielders have managed to produce an even worse .171/.252/.236 line. The one person keeping the Phillies out of last place in this category has been center fielder Odubel Herrera.

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The Young Pitching Trio By The Numbers

The first week of the Phillies season couldn’t have gone much better. To accept this fact, you must buy in on the philosophy we’re working under this season which is that two things don’t matter for the 2016 Phillies: 1) the team’s win-loss record and 2) the performance of roster placeholders. Yes, it’s possible that players under contract for just 2016 like Jeremy Hellickson or David Hernandez may build up a modicum of trade value, but the likely return on any of this team’s free-agents-to-be is small enough as to be hardly worth mentioning. All that truly matters is the continued development and performance of the Phillies next wave of talent.

From this mindset, the only disappointment thus far is Odubel Herrera who racked up just four hits through the first week of the season. Of course yesterday he went 1-for-3 with a homer and a walk and with a few more games like that he’ll be right back on track.

The big positives have been exceedingly encouraging. There’s Maikel Franco who is hitting .333/.429/.556 through 21 plate appearance and looks to be picking up right where he left off when a hit by pitch essentially ended his 2015 season and then there’s the extraordinarily promising young trio of starting pitchers. Through one turn in the rotation, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez have combined for this stellar pitching line:

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