Utley and Rebuilding

There’s a new ideal of what “rebuilding” looks like in sports in large part due to franchises like the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia 76ers. Some have embraced the Astros and Sixers’ “tanking” and scorched earth approach as the best way to rebuild a franchise from the bottom up. Others, like Deadspin, have responded with vitriolic mockery. Whether it’s good or bad, the concept that rebuilding means securing top draft picks with losing records, rostering youth and only youth, and selling off all pieces with negligible future value is pervasive in sports fandom. It’s also dead wrong.

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It’s Time to Cut Aaron Harang Loose

The Phillies made a pair of starting pitching signings in January, hoping to buy low and sell higher the way they did with Roberto Hernandez in 2014. Aaron Harang was coming off of a solid season with the Braves, but at 36-going-on-37, he only cost the Phillies $5 million on a one-year deal. Chad Billingsley was on his way back from right elbow surgery, so he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract which included performance incentives.

Unfortunately, neither deal panned out. Billingsley has been unable to stay healthy, making only seven starts with a 5.84 ERA. He’s currently on the disabled list with more elbow problems and it’s likely he’ll miss the rest of the season. Harang missed some time with plantar fasciitis and has otherwise been ineffective, carrying a 4.79 ERA following Sunday’s loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.

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Another Phillies Reliever Showing Symptoms Of Fatigue

Given the 2015 Phillies starting pitching woes, it’s somewhat surprising that the Phillies do not lead the majors in reliever innings pitched. That honor goes to the Arizona Diamondbacks (385.2 IP) with the Colorado Rockies right on their heels (384.2 IP). The Phillies (381 IP) are in position for the bronze. Considering that four of the Phillies current relievers (Ken Giles, Luis Garcia, Justin De Fratus, and Jeanmar Gomez) have been on the active roster since Opening Day and a fifth (Elvis Araujo) joined the roster less than a month into the season, the workload of these arms is a growing concern.

As Bill Baer recently noted, Justin De Fratus currently leads the majors in pitches thrown by a reliever this season. Unsurprisingly, De Fratus is not the only familiar name near the top of that leaderboard.
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Who To Dream On — Hernandez Or Herrera?

The Phillies have the best record in Major League Baseball during the second half partly because their offense is scoring runs at a prolific rate (5.24 R/G, T-1st in NL, T-3rd in MLB), partly because their pitching is preventing runs (3.31 ERA, 2nd in NL, 4th in MLB), and partly because baseball is weirder than a cat on catnip. Two of the heroes of the Phillies recent stretch of success are young hitters getting it done with impressive speed and contact abilities – Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez. Although these two players have produced similar value this season and are only a year and a half apart in age, there is significantly more room for optimism for one of these players over the other.

Here are their 2015 season stats through Sunday’s game:

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The Pete Mackanin-Led Phillies Are Surging

The Phillies completed a series sweep in San Diego against the Padres on Sunday afternoon, running their second-half record to 16-5, the best in baseball in that span of time. They’ve lost their stranglehold on the worst record in baseball, falling a game ahead of the division rival Miami Marlins. They’re only 2.5 games up on the Milwaukee Brewers and 3.5 up on the Colorado Rockies. It seemed like a lock even one month ago that the Phillies would pick first in the 2016 draft, but now, they’d have to fall pretty hard the rest of the way to secure that. And given the way the Phillies have been playing, it might not be in the cards.

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Phillies Should Audition, but Not Trade, Chase Utley in August

Chase Utley is coming back soon. Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reported yesterday that the second baseman is headed back to Philadelphia to consult with the team and could potentially be activated on Friday. If not then, sometime very soon. Utley has been out since June 23 with a right ankle injury. He hit the disabled list with a nightmarish .532 OPS.

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The Trade the Phillies Had to Make / Goodbye, Colbert / Hello, 2017

Cole Hamels is a Texas Ranger.

This is OK. At least, it needs to be, because it’s reality.

Cole Hamels is probably the best homegrown pitcher in Phillies history. He’s irreplaceable in our hearts, and in franchise lore. Poor Aaron Nola! He’s going to be a really, really good pitcher for the Phillies for years, but if he becomes even two-thirds of what Cole Hamels was for the team, all Phillies fans will be beyond lucky.

But Cole Hamels is a Texas Ranger now (say that one more time without cringing), and we need to move on. The Trade, as we will likely come to know this event, is the final page in this glorious chapter of Phillies history. Cole gave us hope, and a 2008 World Series championship, and more than enough hot dog gun/mustache/fashion show photos to keep us in Hamels memes for the next few years.

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