A Miracle Season For Chooch, Why Not?

If you’ve been reading my work at Crashburn for a while, then you may know one unavoidable truth about me: I’m extraordinarily sentimental. Millenials receive plenty of criticism for being overly nostalgic and maybe another time I’ll discuss my theories about why that is, but for now let’s just say I fully admit that I can be a bit of a sap. I don’t know if that’s a contradiction given that I’m a writer on a site which seeks to find objective truths, but it’s very much a part of who I am and how I engage with the sport of baseball.

I intended to write today with my objective lens fully in place and really dig into what’s happening with the Phillies right now. There are many factors to their success which are simply unsustainable and we’ve tried hard to keep that in mind with our commentary on this site this season. But then, Jim Salisbury wrote a piece and my penchant for sentimentality won out. There are more than 120 games left in the season and we’ll have plenty of time to analyze what’s going right and what could go horribly wrong, but today I want to live in the moment and talk about Carlos Ruiz.

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There’s Nothing Wrong With Jerad Eickhoff

This headline could make me look foolish depending on the outcome of tonight’s game, but despite his relative struggles (4.43 ERA this year vs. 2.65 ERA in 2015), there’s nothing to indicate that Jerad Eickhoff has been a worse pitcher this season than last.

First things first, let’s take a look at Eickhoff’s underlying stats this year versus last.

Capture

As you can see, his HR/FB% and BABIP have both increased since last year, while his rate of runners left on base plummeted almost 15 percentage points. However, his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA have hardly changed, despite the roughly 2 run difference in ERA.

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Things Fall Apart: Cliff Lee’s Greatest Game

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment you knew something very, very good was about to go very, very bad. Logically there’s a moment when the trajectory of a failed relationship switches from falling in love to falling apart; when a television show transitions from genius to clichéd slop; when a borderline dynastic baseball team becomes a crumbling roster of aging heroes. There are many moments which can be identified in retrospect as watershed moments for the most recent Phillies collapse — naming Ruben Amaro the GM, the Ryan Howard extension, the Hunter Pence acquisition, Howard’s ankle explosion, the Jonathan Papelbon signing — and each of them triggered key components of both the inevitability and the rapidity of the collapse. But when did we, the fans, know the collapse had arrived? I’ll posit it was the day Cliff Lee turned in the finest outing of his Phillies career.

Yesterday Ken Rosenthal broke the news broke that Cliff Lee is not expected to play this season which will effectively end Lee’s career. The news is hardly a shock given that Lee hasn’t pitched in the majors since July 31st, 2014, but it does serve as the latest in a seemingly never-ending stream of moments which demand reflecting on the Phillies’ most recent glory years.

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A Changing of the Guard

To avoid burying the lede: I will no longer be running or contributing to Crashburn Alley for the foreseeable future. And Crashburn Alley is not going away.

NBC was brave enough to take a chance on me several years ago, allowing me to cover baseball at HardballTalk with a handful of terrific baseball writers and tremendous people. Now, I will be writing there on a full-time basis, five days a week. Part of this agreement requires my full attention at NBC Sports, so I can no longer write here.

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Utley Retrospective – The Minors and Rookie Campaign(s)

I’m going to take a close look at Chase Utley‘s minor league career and rookie season(s), much like I did with Jimmy Rollins when he was traded to The Dodgers. When I wrote about the franchise-best shortstop last winter, I called James Calvin Rollins “the rarest of the rare”. Damned if we didn’t have two gems surrounding the Keystone Sack in the Keystone State for more than a decade. This is how we got from the draft to a big-league superstar named Chase Cameron Utley. Continue reading…

Ruben Amaro: Fans Don’t Understand the Game

If there’s one thing GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has not been in his tenure with the Phillies, it’s a good communicator. It didn’t take long after taking over for Pat Gillick that he was branded with the nickname “Smuggy” for the condescending way he would deal with reporters while hunching into his phone.

Amaro’s gone public with not understanding the value of walks, he verbally devalued his own asset in Ryan Howard, and he called former Phillie Andy Oliver‘s decision to look elsewhere for work “foolish”. His latest comment will also likely draw some heat, though this time he may have a legitimate point.

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Gertrude and Anatoli

December 21, 2315
Somewhere Near the ruins of Cherry Hill, Federated Union of North America

Dearest Gertrude,

I write to you knowing that in all probability, you will never lay eyes on this letter. The ion storms coursing overhead leave streaks of lighting as piercing blue as your eyes and as breathtakingly beautiful as your face, and they too imprison me in a state I may never escape. Long have I regretted the actions I took that allowed The Event to separate us, and my guilt is only assuaged by the fact that I was able to love you, and you me, for what time we had together.

I write to you because I learned something today that shows, in clear terms, how nothing changes in this world. Carlos Tocci is the Phillies’ eighth-best prospect. Civilizations have risen and fallen, the Moon  revolves around the Earth and the hoverships glide lazily from here to there, and Carlos Tocci is still 19 years old and slugging .280 in the low minors.

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Why the Phillies Can’t Trade Cole Hamels Rashly, Before I Kill Someone

This isn’t a great time to be a Phillies fan–the team has been bad for a couple years now, and will probably be bad for at least one more, and while there are a few exciting young players on the horizon, odds are the next good Phillies team will not resemble this one very closely.

And quite frankly, this blows, because nothing interesting is happening. No big signings, no anticipation for breakout seasons from prospects, no sizing up competitors’ moves, because the Phillies are probably going to finish last in the division in 2015. So we’re waiting on trades–Marlon Byrd, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, maybe even Jimmy Rollins. But the big one is Cole Hamels. Where might he go, and when, and what might he bring back in return when he does?

I get the anticipation, because any headlining prospect in a Cole Hamels trade would be a building block for a good Phillies team, and Hamels is the only trade chip the Phillies have that could really bring back a needle-moving return. We want to see action.

But all the news coming out of the national media is that potential trade partners–particularly the Dodgers–aren’t interested in paying Ruben Amaro‘s asking price. And Amaro’s asking price is high–outrageously or preposterously so, or so it is said.

Good. That’s exactly what Amaro should be doing, and that’s exactly what I’d do in his place, and because the kvetching about how the world is ending because the Phillies haven’t traded Hamels for Mookie Betts by Thanksgiving is driving me into a homicidal rage, I thought it’d be helpful if I explained why this is so.

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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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