You Can’t Make a Unicorn by Putting a Horn on a Horse’s Head

Yesterday Phillies president Andy MacPhail sat down and answered questions about the Phillies rebuild and the direction the team would take going into the offseason. When asked about where they would go with pitching, MacPhail responded with this.

“We get inundated with stories across the game about everybody is looking for starting pitching. Just get two quality starters and we’ll be all set. Well, you might as well look for a unicorn at the same time. It’s tough.”

“You don’t want to be paying for past performance,”…”That’s often what you’re confronted with – someone who has probably logged over 600 innings in the last three years and been a great pitcher and now we’re on the wrong side of 30 and here we go.”Philly.com

Today Bob Brookover wrote a piece with this title “Phillies’ Andy MacPhail must not fear unicorns or long-term pitching contracts” where he argued the Phillies should not be afraid to spend money on pitching. While I don’t disagree that MacPhail might be a big gun shy on the Phillies signing a long term pitching contract, I don’t get the argument that it is a move the Phillies should make right now. In his piece, Brookover argues that the Phillies should follow the example of the Yankees (CC Sabathia), Diamondbacks (Zack Greinke), and Nationals (Max Scherzer) and give a giant contract to an ace level pitcher. Here are those pitchers plus a few more that meet that level of mega contract that Brookover is indicating, more specifically here is the combined line of their 3 seasons prior to being a free agent. Continue reading…

Phillies To Call Up J.P. Crawford: Looking Forward

This piece is a companion to my J.P. Crawford retrospective on Phillies Minor Thoughts.

The most anticipated transaction in the Phillies system for the best 3+ years was the promotion of J.P. Crawford to the majors. It was a move that was meant represent the start of the new age of Philadelphia baseball. Crawford has slipped a bit from this path, but he is still the Phillies top prospect and his promotion is still probably the biggest event of the Phillies 2017 season. Instead of being the start of the new age of Philadelphia baseball, Crawford will be asked to augment what already looks like a bright future highlighted by Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr. There has been much written about Crawford over the years and what he might mean to the Phillies, but here on the eve of his callup we get a chance to step back and look at his full minor league resume and see what he might be for the Phillies.

It is hard to translate any sort of statistical defensive numbers from the minors to the majors. What we do know from scouting is that Crawford has great instincts at shortstop and a strong and accurate arm. For the most part he is not a flashy player because his body control makes his motions appear smooth, but he is capable of the making the play deep in the hole at short or making a play on pure athleticism.

Continue reading…

Encouraging Signs From the Phillies

As the 2017 season winds down, the Phillies still find themselves with the worst record in baseball, on pace for over 100 losses for the first time since 1961. However, the rookies are positively contributing, and the bullpen has righted the ship somewhat, and the team has posted a .465 winning percentage in the second half. I’m not sure how much I believe in season-to-season momentum, but at any rate, this has been an encouraging effort for the young Phillies. I’d like to run down a few important developments on the Phillies’ long march back to respectability. Continue reading…

Dutch

Eleven days ago, the Philadelphia Phillies family lost #10. Not only was Darren Daulton the heart and soul of the unforgettable 1993 World Series run, he was probably the best catcher in Phillies franchise history. To commemorate and honor Dutch, I collaborated with fellow Crashburn old-timer Dave Tomar.

Your general impressions of Darren Daulton?

Dave: My impression of Darren Daulton is a function of my experience as a lifelong Phillies fan. I was born in early 1980, so I was a drooling blob when the team won its first World Series. I was there, so it’s etched somewhere in my psyche, but I don’t remember it. What I remember most from my childhood is futility, the season-in/season-out assurance that the Phillies would be mere background noise every summer, and forgotten by autumn.

So what did that mean if you were a diehard fan, if you loved the team but never dared let yourself dream of success? You had to find the personalities and love them, root for them, share their pain at another season ended in vain.

Nobody during that era of futility was more worthy of our love or adulation than Daulton. He came up in 1983 and inherited team leadership when Mike Schmidt retired in 1989. It would take a few summers (and honestly, a bunch of steroids) for Daulton to reach his full potential. He banged out his first All Star season in 1992, a year in which the Phillies lost 92 games and finished 26 out of first. If 162 games is a brutal test of endurance for a player on a losing team, you couldn’t tell by watching Daulton. He led like a superstar on a team of middling to mediocre talent. And he did it through nine knee surgeries. Nine knee surgeries.

If I have only one takeaway from this fact, it’s that Daulton was a straight-up badass. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 29: Looking to the Future, Because the Present Sucks

First of all, thanks everyone for helping us keep the lights on here. Writing for Crashburn Alley has been amazing, and thanks to you wonderful readers, I get to keep doing it. It really warms the cockles of my cold sabermetric heart to see such a robust and immediate response to our pleas.  You guys and gals are awesome.

Most of the questions this week focused on the Phillies future. 2019 records and 2020 starters; trades and prospects. The present is bleak, but there’s nowhere to go but up.

@TylerSmithEtown: What will the Phillies win differential be from the 2017 season to the 2019 season?

This is really two separate questions with a simple math step at the end. I’ll start with the 2017 team. Continue reading…

Crashburn Alley Needs Your Help (and you all helped more than I could have imagined)

UPDATE (7/17): We have reached our goal!

As some pointed out, this original post did not have a goal and frankly we could have done better in making this a more transparent process. The money needed to keep this site hosted an running for the next year was $479.88. In under two days you all have donated $761.22. I am incredibly blown away by your generosity and the support we received. I want to thank all of you so much.

You can continue to donate to the upkeep of the site, for now all overages are going towards next year and making sure we can keep this place going for many years to come.

-Matt

Continue reading…

What Does a Successful Second Half Look Like?

To say this season has not gone according to plan would be a huge understatement. We all remember the now-infamous prediction by Pete Mackanin that the Phillies could be a .500 team this year. Well through just over 50% of the season, they’ve got a .333 winning percentage. In order to finish the season at .500, the Phillies would have to win 52 of their final 75 games, and, well, that’s just not going to happen.

Some would say this was a lost season. The team obviously hasn’t won a lot, but more alarmingly, several presumed key pieces to the next Phillies playoff team have taken significant steps backward. Odubel Herrera has a 76 wRC+. Cesar Hernandez has been hurt. Tommy Joseph has been replacement level. Maikel Franco has been well below replacement level. Jerad Eickhoff has taken a step back. Vince Velasquez has been hurt. Hector Neris has taken a step back. The revolving door at the back of the rotation has been more like a Tilt-A-Whirl. But you knew all of that already.

I’m here to tell you that the storm clouds can pass. There are a few things that need to happen to salvage this so-far lost season and keep the rebuild going in an upward trajectory.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 26: Bobbles, Bullpens, and Long Lost Friends

This is my first Crash Bag, and what an honor it is! On to our ambivalent adoring readers’ questions:

@mjspv: Only 3 bobblehead giveaways on the schedule: Phanatic (bobblebody), Rose, and Schmidt. Who will be the next bobble-worthy player? #crashbag

At first, I thought this might be a difficult question to answer. But when I looked at the 2016 promotional calendar, I saw that there was a Maikel Franco bobblehead given away in June last season (although it looked nothing like Maik). Franco played bobble-worthily at the end of 2015, but right now he’s not even worth a fake Phanatic bobblebody they’re giving away this year, let alone a real one.

*I should note that in my cubicle I have a real actual Phillie Phanatic bobblehead that I purchased in a store like a true blue-blooded American capitalist.

In 2016, they also gave away a Star Wars themed Phanatic bobblehead, a “Phanatic Variant Bobblehead”, and most confoundingly of all, a bobblehead of the Phanatic’s mom knitting. Now I’m all for Phillie Phanatic bobble heads – nobody loves the Phanatic more than me – but three bobbles in one year is far too many. Let’s limit this to one every two years, Phillies.

In 2015, they gave away a weird retro bobblehead, and a Larry Bowa bobblehead. In 2014, we got bobbles of Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and Ryan Howard, which seems entirely reasonable. It seems like the Phillies go with stars, old fan favorites, or variants on the Phanatic. So, while Maikel Franco has clearly already gotten a bobble, I’d argue that the bobble was not earned, and he is not a Bobble-WorthyTM player.

So who is the next Bobble-WorthyTM Phillie? I’ll make up the arbitrary criteria that you have to be an above-average player for several years in a row. If Odubel Herrera can turn his season around and put up another 4 WAR campaign, I think he deserves a bobble next season.  Entering the season, Herrera was 67% bobble worthy. If we generously say that he has a 1-in-4 chance of going on a tear and pulling out a 4 win season, that makes him (67% + 1/4*33% = ) 75% Bobble-WorthyTM.

If Herrera can’t pull it out, we may be waiting a while. Here is a list of current Phillies, arranged by Bobble-WorthinessTM:

Odubel Herrera – 75% Bobble-WorthyTM

Jerad Eickhoff – 50% Bobble-WorthyTM – The Phillies most consistent pitcher over the past three years. Not All-Star caliber but he’s still the bobbliest we’ve got.

Aaron Nola – 38% Bobble-WorthyTM – Not currently very Bobble-WorthyTM, but if he stays healthy for a full season, he could put up the kind of Cy Young-caliber numbers that make a player immediately Bobble-WorthyTM.

Cesar Hernandez – 33% Bobble-WorthyTM – He’s had one 4 win season. Stack on a couple more, and you’ll be bobblin’ till the cows come home.

Freddy Galvis – 20% Bobble-WorthyTM – His talent is below replacement bobble, but he is the longest tenured Phillie, and that’s got to be worth something.

Everyone else on the Phillies is Bobble-UnworthyTM.

Now that I’ve spent a totally reasonable amount of time answering this important question, let’s move on. Continue reading…

On the Pathetic Phillies

I was cruising FanGraphs this week, desperately looking for something interesting to write about. You see, the Phillies, as you may have noticed, are soul-crushingly bad this season. There are only so many times you can look for silver linings or potential improvements before it becomes an exercise in futility. Therefore, I’ve decided to lean in to the madness. The Phillies leaders in fWAR this season are Jerad Eickhoff, Pat Neshak, and Odubel Herrera, all at 1.2 fWAR. They’re all on pace to be above-average players this year, if you set the “average” bar at 2 fWAR.

But let me tell you something about them you may not have realized: Eickhoff’s ERA is almost 5.00. Neshak is a reliever. Herrera is running a wRC+ of just 78. When your best starter has an ERA 14% worse than league average, your best hitter can’t hit, that leaves a reliever to be the best player on your team, which is… not ideal. And that’s how you wind up with the worst team in baseball. Continue reading…

Is Odubel Herrera Back?

Odubel Herrera ended the month of May sporting a 51 wRC+ and just 0.3 WAR. After two seasons in which the Rule 5 pick was arguably the Phillies’ best player, Herrera received a five year extension that established him as the first building block of the rebuild to be signed long term. He was one of several Phillies, including Jerad Eickhoff, Maikel Franco, and Tommy Joseph, who have experienced significant drop-offs in production the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Monstars roamed the earth.

Since the calendar turned to June, coinciding with a several-game sabbatical imposed by Pete Mackanin, Herrera has done nothing but tear the cover off the ball. In five games, Herrera has hit .550/.571/1.300 including 2 home runs and 9 doubles. He also recorded his first walk in nearly a month. The outburst has raised Herrera’s wRC+ 31 points to a somewhat respectable 82. He’s accumulated 0.9 WAR in that time, and now rates middle-of-the-pack among centerfielders in terms of value. Continue reading…