2014 Phillies Report Card: Luis Garcia

There are 25 Luis Garcias on Wikipedia. I’m surprised there aren’t more. I wouldn’t mind talking about this one, who won the Champions League with Liverpool, a little more than the Phillies’ Luis Garcia, their minor-league pitcher of the year.

It’s not even remotely Garcia’s fault, but it’s impossible to discuss  him now without that context. You can talk about the small sample of Garcia’s major league career, how stupid good he was as Lehigh Valley’s closer last year, how plus-plus Longenhagen says his fastball is, and the extenuating circumstances surrounding the Phillies’ other top pitchers: Aaron Nola only turned pro in midseason, while Ken Giles got called up to the majors. Yoel Mecias was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and neither he nor Nefi Ogando pitched even close to as well as Garcia, despite facing lower-minors competition. Adam Morgan and Ethan Martin both hurt their shoulders, and Morgan’s re-learning how to throw hard, while Martin’s re-learning how to throw strikes. And I know I’ve said this before, but in case you were still unsure of how black the cloud surrounding the Phillies is right now, Jesse Biddle essentially lost a season to a chain of events that starting with him being hit on the head with a hailstone.

I’m so entirely aware of this–and you should be, too–and Garcia didn’t do anything except pitch very well in AAA in order to deserve this. And yet I can’t get over the fact that the Phillies’ reigning minor league pitcher of the year is a former barber who’s older than I am, who’s got a ceiling as a middle reliever even in a best-case scenario, and who’s walked more major league hitters than he’s struck out.

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2014 Phillies Report Card: Cole Hamels

From way out west there was this fella I wanna tell ya about. Goes by the name of Cole Hamels. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Hamels, he called himself “Hollywood”, (does anyone still call him that?). Now, “Hollywood” – there’s a name no man would self-apply where I come from, (no politician here in DC ever wants to be labeled as “Hollywood”). But then there was a lot about Hollywood that didn’t make a whole lot of sense, (his baffling change-up, for the most part). And a lot about where he played, likewise, (their reluctance to come into the modern age of player analytics, among many, many, many other things). But then again, maybe that’s why I found the place so darned frustratin’. 

See, they call Philadelphia the “City Of Brotherly Love”; but I didn’t find it to be that, exactly, (what with all the fans booin’ and battery chuckin’ and security guards tasin’ folks and closers crotch grabbin’). Continue reading…

2014 Phillies Report Card: Ken Giles

Ken Giles pitched the first 45.2 innings of his Major League career in 2014, which is about 60% of a full season for a reliever. We can’t really draw any meaningful conclusions from a sample size that small. Sure, we could run through all the awesome highlights from Giles’ statistics in those 45.2 innings – for example, the fact that of 171 relievers who pitched 40 innings or more, Giles was seventh in K% at 38.6%, behind Aroldis Chapman (a ridiculous 52.5%), Andrew Miller and Brad Boxberger (42.6% and 42.1%, both also completely ridiculous), Dellin Betances and Wade Davis (39.6% and 39.1%) and Craig Kimbrel (38.9%). Or we could talk about his K-BB% of 31.9%, which was sixth behind Chapman, Miller, Sean Dollittle, Boxberger, and Betances (and better than Davis, Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland, Koji Uehara, Kimbrel, and David Robertson). Since this report card is supposed to be an evaluation of the player’s performance this season, that kind of analysis is warranted. OK, fine.

ERA FIP xFIP SIERA K% BB% K-BB% WHIP
Giles 1.18 1.34 2.03 1.51 38.6% 6.6% 31.9% 0.79
Rank (of 171 RP with 40+ IP) 3rd 3rd 7th 5th 7th 49th 6th 5th

Any way we slice it, Giles had a fantastic season in 2014. He struck out everybody, didn’t walk nearly as many batters as he did in the minors, and the ERA retrodictors indicate his performance is backed up by his skills. I don’t want to go any further with the numbers now, and if you want more, Bill already did some good statistical analysis in this August 20 article. I want to step away from the nerdtastic data analysis we usually do, just for a moment, to take a longer-angle view of Giles and how he symbolizes the next era of Phillies baseball.

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Game 060 - RDG vs HBG-2655 Nola

Aaron and Jesse (Wait, Aaron Paul = Jesse Pinkman…Whoa)

What a night to be alive and a fan of Phillies Minor League baseball. Aaron Nola made his AA debut in Reading in front of a huge contingent of media and a couple members of the Phils’ front office. And Jesse Biddle made his return to starting at Single-A Clearwater after about six weeks on the inactive list and throwing only a couple innings in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

Nola was, by all accounts, quite good, if not dominant.  For a guy who was still playing college ball two months ago, and despite it being predicted by professional evaluators the sport over, his rise to Reading and successful night there is pretty remarkable. Nola’s career path seems to be lining up similarly to the Cards’ Michael Wacha, with some work the summer of his draft, and an eye towards a mid-season call up from AAA the following year. If that’s how it turns out, he won’t be on many prospect lists for very long, but to be sure, he’ll be on all of them this winter. I would guess he’s in the 30-50 range most everywhere, but a very strong showing in his AA stint could puff that up some.

I’ve followed Phillies prospects closely for going on six years now, and there’s never been an Aaron Nola in my world. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 109: The Utley/Halladay Buddy Film

@Dweebowitz: “How *do* they get out of the mess their stripped farm system and grotesquely overpaid geriatric lineup have become?”

I can’t emphasize this enough: there is no easy fix. There is no quick fix. There is no way the Phillies can overhaul the roster and contend next year, and barring some unforeseen run of luck, probably not the year after that.

The answer is time. You can’t build a contender overnight anymore by buying established players, and the Phillies’ greatest resource, money, makes buying established players the course the Phillies are most able to take. But that’s not how things work anymore. Look at any team that’s currently in good playoff position–either they’ve developed their own talent, or used homegrown talent to acquire established talent, or they’ve been particularly good at picking up pieces off the scrap heap, like the A’s.

The good news is that the Phillies aren’t trying to buy their way back into the playoff race anymore. Signings like Byrd and A.J. Burnett might look like that, but they’re not. They’re damage control. Meanwhile, the farm system isn’t stripped anymore–two years ago, the Phillies were sneaking one guy into the back end of top 100 prospect lists, but after two pretty good drafts, they’ve got three no-doubt top 100 prospects in J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco, and several other interesting prospects besides, and whereas two years ago, all the talent in the Phillies’ system was buried in low-A and rookie ball, those kids–Crawford and Franco among them–are slowly climbing the minor league rungs. Of course, the Phillies haven’t had much success converting minor league talent into major league production in the past five years or so, but that’s a different problem. Continue reading…

Roy Halladay Expresses His Feelings for Chase Utley on Twitter

Roy Halladay joined Twitter a few months ago and has quickly become a must-follow. Not only because it gives us access to a former Phillie, but because he’s often unintentionally hilarious and takes the time to interact with his haters. On Tuesday afternoon, while people were clamoring over the Chase Headley trade, Halladay decided to get a bit personal and express some feelings for Chase Utley.

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Jimmy Rollins Officially Joins the Phillies Elite

From Ed Abbaticchio to Jon Zuber, Baseball-Reference.com lists 1,804 players as having stepped to the plate for the Phillies since their inception in 1883 and Jimmy Rollins has officially outhit every single one of them. He has surpassed every mythical name from Phillies past and every childhood hero for those of us (un?)fortunate enough to be raised Phillies fans. From Delahanty to Ashburn to Schmidt, Rollins now stands alone.

Rollins had barely touched first base to secure his new title before he was asked about whether he would accept a trade. The Phillies drank champagne while people passionately ticked off the reasons why Rollins shouldn’t be elected to Cooperstown. And I would be shocked if as Chase Utley toasted his teammate of 11 years, there wasn’t someone somewhere still talking about how Jimmy is lazy and/or selfish.

I know that it’s likely Jimmy’s days in Philadelphia are numbered. I know that his Hall of Fame credentials are borderline at best. And I also know that no matter what happens there will be fans that actively reject and/or dismiss his greatness in the same way Abreu’s critics and Howard’s critics and, yes, even Utley’s critics live on. I also don’t care.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 104: Draft Review, Hot Dogs, Book Writing

Let’s get down to it.

@gberry523: “how surprised were you by the Phillies drafting only one high schooler in their first 10 (and barely any later)?”

I wasn’t that surprised that they went college-heavy early, but they wound up picking college players with 27 of their first 28 picks, which is kind of nuts. I don’t think anyone expected that, but I think that factoid is also a little deceptive.

After some consideration, I liked the Phillies’ draft in general: For all the time I spent griping about their plans to pick Aaron Nola, I can live with him at No. 7, and if nothing else, I don’t think they’ve ever picked a player I liked this much in college. I think I was mostly pissed that there were five guys I was sold on as potential superstars, and with the Phillies picking seventh and with the Cubs unlikely to pick one of those five (Rodon, Aiken, Kolek, Gordon and Jackson), it looked like the Phillies would miss out on those guys by one pick, which is exactly what happened. Once I got over that, and once I came to terms with the fact that they weren’t going to pick Jeff Hoffman or Max Pentecost–who, secret agent name aside, I like a lot–I learned to stop worrying and love Aaron Nola and so on.  Continue reading…

Listen My Children: Ben Revere’s Mighty Swing

Listen my children

Do you remember what it was like to go to a baseball game as a child? The overwhelmingly green grass; the intoxicating aroma of hot dogs and cotton candy; the complete and utter joy of an afternoon at the ballpark. A child doesn’t know or care about the contract status of the men playing a child’s game on the diamond below. A child doesn’t know or care about the aging curve or player projections. No, for a child, the game is simple. Cheer when good things happen for the home team, pout when bad things happen, and cry when terrible things happen (yes, Joe Carter, I’m talking about you). The only game that matters for a child is the current one, the only pitcher that matters is the one standing on the mound and the only batter that matters is the guy digging into the batter’s box.

And you shall hear

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Crash Bag, Vol. 101: Phillies Draft Scenarios

Let’s start with the Question of the Week, which I’d like to rename, because Drew Magary uses that name in his Funbag column on Deadspin, so if you have a better idea, I’m all ears. This email has been edited somewhat for brevity, though Peter said a lot of really nice shit about me, for which I thank him. If you want any question answered at length, send it to crashbaumann (at) gmail (dot) com, or on Twitter to @MJ_Baumann.

Peter, via Email: “Let’s say it’s a perfect world – ie, Selig has finally allowed draft picks to be traded, Monty has named you the GM of the Phillies. How would you play this draft for the Phillies? Would you Hinkie it and trade the 7 and maybe JPC or Tocci or JBJ (er, LGJr, well, Cozens?) for a lower first round pick this year as well as a first or second rounder next year for asset stockpiling purposes, or would you try to use those chips to move up to get Rodon/Aiken, et al?

Additionally, what’s your best and worst case scenario for the draft this year? I suppose that could be too oblique of a question to ask, in that the worst case scenario would be something like “Phillies draft Touki, and his arm explodes after 3 pitches in Lakewood”, but I’m curious about your hope for how the front office approaches both the first rounder and the rest of the draft.”

I was actually going to write a post about this last week, when Keith Law’s first mock draft came out, but Peter’s question was interesting enough that I decided to hold off. I’m going to answer it backwards, with the real-world draft scenarios first.

So here’s the thing. Law has the Phillies drafting LSU righthander Aaron Nola with the No. 7 pick. I adore Aaron Nola. I’ve had Twitter conversations with Chris Branch, the Phillies beat writer for the News Journal and an LSU grad himself, that consist only of the word “Nola” over and over. He’s a stupendous college pitcher and the kind of high-floor, relatively low-ceiling major college draft prospect I once clamored for the Phillies to draft–including a certain Jackie Bradley Jr., once upon a time. Nola is as close as there is to a sure thing to make the transition to mid-rotation big league starter. And I view taking him at No. 7 as the worst-case scenario, or close to it.

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