Early in the season, I wrote several blog posts discussing Jonathan Papelbon‘s waning velocity and tumbling strikeout rate, but all the right-hander has done over the first half of the season is pitch lights out. Despite missing out on a nomination to the National League All-Star team, Papelbon has been among the game’s best closers. Following last night’s save, a 1-2-3 inning against the Milwaukee Brewers, Papelbon is now 21-for-23 in save opportunities with a 1.27 ERA.
Billy Hamilton. Jose Reyes. Alcides Escobar. Dee Gordon. Erick Aybar. These are a few of the names that have slugging percentages similar to or better than first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard hasn’t homered since June 19, two weeks ago.
At .401, Howard is one more poor game away from watching his slugging percentage dip below .400. Excluding the early April small sample, Howard’s season low for slugging percentage occurred on May 25, when it fell to .397. If the season were to end today, his slugging percentage would easily qualify as the worst of his career.
On Monday against the Atlanta Braves, Jonathan Papelbon blew his second save and reliever Justin De Fratus was inches away from allowing the game-winning run in the tenth inning. It’s a story we’ve seen countless times throughout the 2014 season, but it did not repeat itself — JDF was able to get an infield pop-up and a strikeout to wriggle out of the damage. The Phillies would go on to score five in the 13th inning and win by a 6-1 margin.
In that 13-inning affair, five Phillies relievers combined for six scoreless innings. It continued a trend of excellent Phillies relief pitching, at least since the month of June began. Entering Wednesday afternoon’s series finale at Turner Field, the bullpen had combined for a 2.79 ERA in 42 innings this month, the eighth-best mark among all 30 bullpens. It’s a sea change from the first two months. While there is a ton of variance in 10- and 20-inning samples for relievers, no one could argue that they were pitching anything but terribly as a unit.
John Mayberry, Jr. went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a three-run home run in Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the San Diego Padres. All in all, a pretty good day for him in what has been quite a productive season. Mayberry’s performance at the plate, particularly the home run which came in the seventh inning and bolstered the Phillies’ lead to 7-2, erased two base running blunders in which he was thrown out at home plate.
Domonic Brown currently has a .252 weighted on-base average, which now ranks as the third-worst among 167 qualified hitters in baseball. Jedd Gyorko is way down at .215, Brad Miller can be found at .248, and Zack Cozart has eked ahead of Brown at .253. The MLB average for non-pitchers is .318, and the MLB avaerage for left fielders is .319. For those not familiar with wOBA, check out this FanGraphs glossary article.
As for stats most people may be more familiar with: Brown’s .213 batting average is the 13th-worst, his .263 on-base percentage is seventh-worst, and his .312 slugging percentage is in a virtual tie with three other players for sixth-worst.
I’m curious to see the breakdown of fans’ expectations for Brown going forward. Cast your vote below.
Over at The Good Phight, David S. Cohen wrote about something Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. said while he was in the Phillies’ broadcast booth in yesterday’s series finale against the San Diego Padres. Speaking about Jimmy Rollins encroaching on Mike Schmidt‘s franchise hits record — Rollins is one hit away from tying him at 2,234 — Amaro expressed amazement that the two had such similar batting averages even though Schmidt had taken just under 900 more plate appearances over his career. As Cohen correctly notes, the difference is walks.
Outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. got the start at first base in place of Ryan Howard against San Diego Padres lefty Eric Stults in Thursday afternoon’s series finale. Mayberry, as he has done so often throughout his career, punished the southpaw along with his lefty mates in the bullpen. JMJ finished the day with a pair of doubles off of Stults and a three-run home run against reliever Alex Torres — all three hits coming off of lefties as the Phillies completed a series sweep in what has been their first winning streak since May 17-20.
Domonic Brown‘s offensive futility continued last night as the outfielder went 0-for-3 with a walk against the San Diego Padres. His slash line fell to .211/.263/.312 and his weighted on-base average declined to .252. It’s the fourth-worst mark among all qualified hitters, ahead of only Jedd Gyorko (.215), Brad Miller (.242), and Zack Cozart (.251). The MLB average is .313.
Cole Hamels has been the definition of a workhorse throughout his Phillies career. He’s tossed 200-plus innings in five out of his last six seasons, and that sixth was 183 1/3 innings in 2007. In 2008, Hamels logged 227 1/3 innings along with an additional 35 in the playoffs. If there’s one player to whom the term “overworked” wouldn’t apply, it would be Hamels.
During the off-season, the Phillies made a low-risk signing of Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, to a one-year $4.5 million deal. The right-hander was coming off of an awful 2013 with the Tampa Bay Rays in which he finished with a 4.89 ERA in 151 innings. Even in his seven seasons with the Cleveland Indians between 2006-13 were mostly unproductive, as he finished with an aggregate 4.64 ERA. The signing was not outright unpopular, but it certainly didn’t move the needle any to get fans excited about the season and it appeared that the Phillies could have made comparatively lateral moves for less money.