Jonathan Papelbon Becomes Phillies’ All-Time Saves Leader

The save stat is completely and utterly meaningless and its implementation has been a blight upon baseball, but it was still cool to see Jonathan Papelbon earn his 113th save as a member of the Phillies on Wednesday to wrap up a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It ended in memorable fashion as well, with Jeff Francoeur catching a foul ball near the stands in right field, then firing a perfect strike to catcher Carlos Ruiz for a 9-2 assist.

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And So It Begins: Asche To AAA, Franco On The Horizon

In a move that’s simultaneously surprising and overdue, the Phillies optioned Cody Asche to Lehigh Valley after last night’s game where, according to the Phillies twitter account, “he will transition to left field.” In April, Asche won the starting third base job out of spring training for the second straight year, but despite being given every opportunity to prove himself at the position, he never demonstrated defensive abilities meriting an everyday role. Due to his defensive deficiencies and the looming presence of Maikel Franco in the upper minors, getting Asche playing time in the outfield has seemed inevitable for over a year now.

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Aaron Harang Drawing Some Trade Interest

Despite all the trade buzz around Cole Hamels, Aaron Harang has shockingly been the Phillies’ most reliable starting pitcher thus far in the 2015 season. The 37-year-old right-hander has a 2.38 ERA and a 31/9 K/BB ratio in 45 1/3 innings. He has gone at least six innings in all seven starts and has allowed three runs or fewer in six of them.

The Phillies signed Harang to a one-year, $5 million deal in January 2015, a deal which I did not like at the time. As it has turned out, Harang is drawing some trade interest, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

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The 2015 Phillies, Collectively, Are 2014 Allen Craig

Allen Craig has been in the news recently as the outfielder was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket by the Boston Red Sox. The club ran out of patience with the 30-year-old as he had posted a paltry .430 OPS in 59 plate appearances, continuing his dreadful performance after coming over along with Joe Kelly in last year’s John Lackey trade with the St. Louis Cardinals at the deadline. In 107 PA with the Red Sox last season, Craig had a .425 OPS.

The Phillies lost 7-4 to the New York Mets yesterday, dropping their record to a league-worst 11-21 (tied with the Milwaukee Brewers) and their run differential to -60. It’s the worst run differential in baseball by far. The Colorado Rockies are in second place at -47 and the Brewers rank third at -46.

I was looking up the Phillies’ team offensive stats and found this depressing comparison:

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[video src="http://mediadownloads.mlb.com/mlbam/2015/05/10/mlbtv_nynphi_109526983_1200K.mp4" /]

Chad Billingsley Hit A Home Run

Starter Chad Billingsley gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning with a solo home run to left field off of Mets starter Bartolo Colon. It’s his third career home run and his first since June 5, 2011. He’s the fourth Phillie to homer during the regular season dating back to 2008, joining Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and… Chan Ho Park. You can, of course, add Joe Blanton when he homered in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series.

Given Billingsley’s homer and the fact that the DH debate is back in full force, now is a good time to link to Michael Baumann’s terrific piece on the DH.

Mike Schmidt’s Casual Sexism

Phillies reliever Luis Garcia got into a pickle in the top of the eighth inning. He loaded the bases on a walk to Kevin Plawecki, a Dilson Herrera single to center field, and another walk to Ruben Tejada. Garcia was having trouble throwing strikes as usual, but his poor control may have also had something to do with slipping while delivering a pitch during the Plawecki at-bat. Garcia managed to get out of the inning when pinch-hitter Johnny Monell tapped a grounder back to Garcia, who threw to catcher Carlos Ruiz for one out. Ruiz then fired the ball to first base to complete the 1-2-3 double play and end the inning.

Upon return from a commerical break, the broadcast highlighted Garcia’s play to end the inning. Matt Stairs noted that Garcia’s throw home wasn’t great, which made the play closer than it should have been. Schmidt was going to say something but Stairs had to finish the segment first. Once that was done, Tom McCarthy prompted Schmidt to talk, which was a bad idea. Here’s what Schmidt said:

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Ben Revere’s Newfound Pop

Last night was a banner night for Ben Revere at the dish. In his first four hit game of the season, he hit three doubles making it the first time in his career that he recorded three extra base hits in a game. The offensive outburst raised Revere’s season slash line to .264/.304/.368, an impressive feat considering he slashed .135/.179/.135 through the first ten games of the season. Without question, the most intriguing feature of Revere’s current hot streak has been his power surge.

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The Phillies’ Bullpen, Despite A 2.81 ERA, Hasn’t Been Good

The Phillies lost 9-0 to the Atlanta Braves last night and none of the blame could be placed on the bullpen. Braves starter Shelby Miller quieted the offense, throwing a three-hit shutout on 99 pitches. Chad Billingsley gave up six runs over five innings in his first major league start since April 2013. Dustin McGowan started the seventh inning, but could only record one out as he walked four batters and allowed a hit en route to serving up three runs. Justin De Fratus came in and got the final five outs with no issue.

Walks have been an issue for McGowan as he now has 16 of them in 14 innings. The problem isn’t just isolated to McGowan, however.

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What’s Wrong with Cole Hamels?

Probably nothing. You can close the article now feeling rather confident that Cole Hamels will turn it around sooner rather than later. One need only remember that Hamels carried a 4.30 ERA through his first six starts last season, but finished at 2.46. Six starts is about one-sixth of a season, leaving plenty of time for improvement.

That said, there are a few noteworthy differences that are worth examining. Let’s compare his first six starts last year and this year:

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Chase Utley and His Tragically Low BABIP

If you’ve seen the acronym BABIP used this season, there’s a high chance it was in a conversation about second baseman Chase Utley. The six-time All-Star is batting .108 with an .087 batting average on balls in play, which is easily the worst mark in baseball. I’m sad to report that, in many instances, optimists showed an incorrect understanding of how BABIP works for hitters. These optimists claim that Utley’s BABIP, over the course of the season, will regress towards the league average .294 — a .087 BABIP is unsustainable.

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