In a startlingly inconsequential move, the Phillies have traded RHP Severino Gonzalez to the Marlins for cash or a Player to be Named Later. A move seemed imminent as Gonzalez was designated for assignment following the last week’s signing of Michael Saunders. The former Phillies top ten prospect has sputtered in his two years in the Majors, posting an ERA just below 7 in 66 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen.
When I really started getting interested in sabermetrics several years ago, there were a few places that, as someone invested in the Phillies, really stoked my passion for baseball and the analysis of the game. One of the most prominent was Crashburn Alley, a site that has always mixed analytics, scouting, and fundamentally great writing about the team in a way that made writing about baseball seem really appealing.
That is why I was so excited to be given the opportunity to manage the site when Corinne Landrey approached me about the position. Not only have I (hopefully) been able to continue the work done by previous writers like Bill Baer, Michael Baumann, Eric Longenhagen, Ryan Sommers, Paul Boye, and Corinne, but I’ve gotten to do work with all of the great writers currently on staff, establishing themselves on the site.
However, I am excited to say that I’ve been hired by the Boston Red Sox, and I’ll begin there come January. That does mean that this will be my last post on the site.
Happily, Crashburn Alley will continue and be in good hands with the new editor-in-chief, Eric Chesterton. I’m sure you are all familiar with him as a long time statistically-inclined writer at the The Good Phight and FanRag Sports, where he is known for his Phillies coverage. I’m excited to see where he leads the site, and I know he will do great work here.
I want to thank the staff – Ben Harris, Michael Schickling, Tim Guenther, Dave Tomar, Brad Engler, and Adam Dembowitz – for their many contributions during my admittedly brief time with the site. Bill Baer also deserves a lot of thanks for creating and maintaining such a great place to write.
And finally, thank you to everyone who reads and comments on the site. The readership has always been one of the greatest strengths of Crashburn Alley, and I hope that continues well into the future.
Aaron Altherr was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in August 2015 to replace Maikel Franco, who had his wrist broken by a Jeremy Hellickson fastball a week prior. This was not his MLB debut, as he’d taken 6 trips to the plate in 2014, but for all intents and purposes, this was the first glimpse of Altherr Phillies fans got. And he did not disappoint.
Despite a 25.5% K-rate, Altherr powered himself to a 125 wRC+ over 161 plate appearances on the strength of a .248 ISO. That, along with above-average outfield defense and baserunning, earned him 1.8 WAR, or about what you could expect an average major leaguer to produce in a full season. Altherr did that in a quarter of a season. He also did this.
These report card grades we’ve been giving out are not meted on an absolute scale. If that were the case, the best players would get A’s and a player like Peter Bourjos, who just hit 21% worse than league average as a right fielder, would earn a failing grade. But like all baseball evaluation, these grades are given on a relative scale, based on expectation.
If you’ve followed Peter Bourjos for much of his career, you essentially knew what was coming. Last offseason Bloglordess Corinne Landrey wrote a post about the Phillies outfield options for the upcoming season. In this post, she talked about Jason Heyward, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, and even trading for Marcell Ozuna. However, shortly after the post went live, the Phillies claimed Bourjos from the Cardinals and Corinne added an update blurb about him. This is what it said:
UPDATE: The Phillies announced that they’ve claimed outfield defensive guru, Peter Bourjos, on waivers about two hours after I posted this. Bourjos is entering his final year of arbitration and adds very little on offense.
Bourjos was one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball for the first several years of his career. He’s always been very fast with great range but limited arm strength. That’s not to say he’s Juan Pierre out there, but perhaps he would have been better off spending time in left field than right. According to both DRS (+1) and UZR (+1.1), he was a slightly above average right fielder, but for a guy with a reputation as a “defensive guru,” that’s faint praise.
As for the bat, well, let’s just say Corinne was spot on with her analysis there. Outside of a June in which he posted a 190 wRC+ in 23 games, he was absolutely dreadful at the plate in 2016. Bourjos stepped to the plate 383 times and posted a .291 wOBA with an on-base percentage below .300 on the season. Bourjos is a good baserunner, but with so few chances to showcase it, his prowess on the basepaths was wasted. He had just 6 stolen bases against 4 times getting caught.
Bourjos wasn’t always a black hole at the plate. Through the first three years of his career Bourjos posted a 97 OPS+ and 7.1 fWAR over almost two full seasons of playing time. Since, his OPS+ has dropped to 83 over 414 games, and he’s posted just 2.5 fWAR. This year? He posted an 82 OPS+, right in line with his previous three seasons.
The most succinct way I can sum up Bourjos’ year is as follows. He was a bad hitter after a career of bad hitting. His fielding went downhill as he approaches his 30th birthday. He continued to be a below-average player after being a below-average player for several years now. If you had realistic expectations for Bourjos entering the year, as Corinne did, I don’t think you can really fail Boujos despite his bad year. He gave us exactly what was advertised.
Everyone who watches baseball has a player type they like the best. Some people like sluggers, some like line drive hitters. Some like their players “flashy,” while others like them “gritty.” I’m not sure why everyone else likes the player type they like, but I know why I like the player type I like. I wasn’t very good at baseball at a young age. I routinely didn’t get chosen for the travel team, and I think I drew a lot of walks, just because I knew nothing good could come of my swing. Eventually I wound up giving up actually playing the sport for basketball and football.
There was one thing I was pretty good at in my Little League days though: defense. I was pretty fast and could track a ball well in the outfield. My throws usually made it somewhere near the appropriate base (which was pretty good when you consider the age group). I always wanted to pitch and play second base, but my coaches never let me. I used to think it was because they would miss me in centerfield, but it’s probably actually because I wasn’t any good.
In 2016, perhaps no one in the Phils minor league system bolstered their claim to national rankings as much as Jorge Alfaro. Crawford, Williams, Thompson and Kilome, among others, all had at least some struggles, or at best maintained the outlook national evaluators will put on their game. Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins certainly put people on notice at AA, as did some low level arms, particularly Adonis Medina. Alfaro, on the other hand, grew into his already-high ceiling, with reportedly improved defense and steady offense. His minor league season on the whole, and the reports about his progress lead me to believe he is closer to becoming a star than any Phillie under 25 not named J.P. Crawford. Continue reading…
I rolled over Sunday morning to the gut-wrenching news. Like many, I’m sure, I thought it had to be a mistake. Jose Fernandez could not be dead. The news landed a swift body blow, lodging an ache deep in the recesses of my stomach. I flipped open my computer. Fernandez gazed back at me, his Baseball Reference page open and a Twitter search of his name sat on my screen from the previous night. From beneath his dark Marlins cap, a sly smile gazed back at me.
On the nightstand next to where my computer had been, one word stared back at me. Before falling asleep, I left a note on my nightstand. “FANTASY BEFORE 1:00,” a reminder to set my lineup for Sunday’s slate of games, the conclusion to 24 weeks of an unhealthy devotion to a Yahoo! Sports-facilitated quasi-reality.
FANTASY. This was anything but.
Last thing before I fell asleep late Saturday night, I learned that Marlins starter Adam Conley would bump Jose Fernandez from his turn in the rotation Sunday, the final day of my fantasy baseball championship. Jose Fernandez was my ace in the hole. I was deeply frustrated that Fernandez couldn’t help me beat my lifelong best friend in a fantasy championship (the pinnacle of bragging rights).
Baseball is an endlessly quantified game. Such a heavy focus on numbers distills the game and highlights statistics, drawing our attention to something we can see without actually seeing: an on-base percentage, a swinging strike rate, a run differential. You don’t need to see every at bat to appreciate a high batting average.
We knew it was coming. We’ve expected for at least a year that Ryan Howard would be the last man standing and now the time has arrived to say goodbye. There are less than twenty games remaining for the Phillies this year which means there are less than twenty games remaining in Howard’s Phillies career. It’s been a tortuously long and painful farewell as Howard’s performance on the field never rebounded from the Achilles’ injury he suffered in the final seconds of the 2011 NLDS. But instead of dwelling on the bad, we’re finally at a point where we can look at Ryan Howard and focus on the joy he brought to the city of Philadelphia.
It’s not easy to isolate a single favorite memory of Howard’s Phillies career. For me, my absolutely favorite thing about watching him play was more of a feeling than a single moment. For half a decade, every time Howard stepped to the plate you felt as though greatness was possible. When Howard took a swing and connected with a baseball, he hit the ball harder and further more consistently than anyone I’d ever watched in a Phillies uniform. He was among the most feared hitters in baseball and for good reason. He’s always been a one-dimensional player, but during the glory years that one-dimension was more than enough. He was a power threat that made it impossible to ever give up on a Phillies game. Howard could — and did — deliver heroic game-tying or go-ahead home runs at any time. He made the game fun, he made the Phillies fun, and he made the impossible possible.
Ryan Howard has hit 378 home runs for the Phillies — 386 including the postseason — which means great moments are easy to come by in reflecting on his career and the Phillies audiovisual team will never struggle to find enough material to build highlight reels for the copious tributes to Howard and the 2008 Phillies that surely await us in the coming years. I have found, however, that there is one moment that stands out for me as most representative of the greatness Ryan Howard was capable of creating.
Hanging on the wall above my dresser, next to the decorative Phillies lamp, looking over the replica 2008 World Series trophy, is a framed commemoration of the great 2008 World Champions of Baseball. The multi-panel frame shows a box of infield dirt, which a hologram sticker assures me is from the actual playing surface. There’s also a picture of Cole Hamels finishing a pitch, under which is a shot of Shane Victorino leaping onto the victory dogpile. Undoubtedly, at the bottom of that pile is Carlos Ruiz.
Today, nearly eight years later and after eleven seasons in red pinstripes, Carlos Ruiz has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Continue reading…
I’m in the business of words, but sometimes words simply aren’t necessary, so I’ll keep this short. When Chase Utley was traded a year ago, we ran a series paying tribute to our fondest memories of his Phillies career. You can find that series here — Utley Retrospective — if you want to read about Harry Kalas giving him his legendary nickname or one of the greatest plays in World Series history or moments when he lived up to hype in the most remarkable of ways.
As you know, last night was his return to Citizens Bank Park and I find myself speechless. There’s genuinely nothing left to be said about his Phillies legacy. He was a legend before last night’s game and he would’ve remained a legend this morning whether he went 0-for-4 or 5-for-5. Of course in retrospect, it feels entirely natural that he came in, put on a show, and became one of the few (if not the only) to receive three standing ovations and two curtain calls in a visiting stadium. But I’ve already written enough words. It was a moment beyond sense and coherent thought. It was a moment for feeling. So here’s the video for you to enjoy and feel whatever feelings you like, whenever you like: