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…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Jerad Eickhoff

Since his strong rookie season, Jerad Eickhoff’s stats are basically all trending down. His share of “automatic outs”, or strikeouts plus infield fly balls, has gone from 36.6% in 2015 to 33.3% in 2016 to 28.1% in 2017. It shouldn’t surprise you to know that his BABIP has increased every year as well. His walk rate is up, his swinging strike rate is down. There’s no other way to slice it; he just didn’t look good this season.  Continue reading…

2017 Phillies Report Card: Joaquin Benoit

The 2016 Phillies had the 3rd worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 5.05. The Phillies entered the offseason looking to provide some stability to the late innings and signed Joaquin Benoit to go along with earlier acquisition Pat Neshek.

Whereas Neshek was coming off a subpar year, Benoit had just gotten off a great end of the year with the Blue Jays (23.2 IP 0.38 ERA) after coming over in a trade from Seattle. More than just trying to build on a hot end of year, Benoit truly represented some stability for the Phillies. From 2010 to 2016, Benoit pitched in 439 games (427.0 IP) with a 2.40 ERA and a 3.23 FIP. Despite some time as a closer with Detroit and San Diego, Benoit had developed a reputation as a solid 8th inning reliever. Thanks to an ill advised decision to have Jeanmar Gomez open as the closer, Benoit opened as a 6th/7th inning arm for the Phillies.

After Gomez lost the closer’s job, Benoit was promoted past Hector Neris into the closer’s role. After a successful save on April 15, Benoit allowed Bryce Harper to murder a baseball:
Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 38: Pete Mackanin is No Longer the Manager

The Phillies fired Pete Mackanin today. It is a move that isn’t really surprising given that the team has fully transitioned from a rebuild into a straight build now. The Phillies have their offensive core in the majors now, they needs some pitchers and have the means to do so. It is an exciting time to be a fan, and the first question today jumps right into all of this.

@theotherguysmom: If the Phillies move on from Pete and the Mets letting Collins go, which team would be considered a more attractive landing destination?

I think it is easily the Phillies. I think the Mets have the better situation to contend in the 2018 season. If they get Cespedes and Syndergaard back fully healthy and pair that with deGrom and whatever they get from Matt Harvey, they have a solid core. That said, that organization is an absolute train wreck, whether it is meddling owners who are also cheap, or the fact that all of their pitchers just combust. It is a toxic situation, and one where instant success will be the expectation, because right now the Mets have no more farm system.

On the other hand the Phillies are young and imprintable. There is some personality to this current group, and any sort of style would err on the side of young and energetic, but it would be the new manager’s team. You also know that a deep farm system and deep pockets mean that there will be reinforcements. If the Phillies fire Pete, it likely means there will be expectations on growth and performance, but there is a developing core here that could allow for that to happen. Continue reading…

Hoby Milner and the Worst 20 Game Scoreless Streak Of the Past Decade

Hoby Milner is a great story for the Phillies. He was a 7th round pick in the 2012 draft and washed out as a starter. In 2016 they lowered his arm slot and he took off as a reliever. Despite their need for left handed relievers, the Phillies left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and the Indians selected him. He was back in the Phillies organization by the end of Spring Training. He eventually made his major league debut on June 24. Since then, Milner has a 2.20 ERA over 35 appearances. With all of the talk of the Phillies’ improved bullpen around arms like Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, and even Victor Arano, it seems like Milner should be a part of the discussion, especially since from July 29 until September 20, Milner allowed 0 runs in 21 appearances out of the Phillies’s bullpen.

There is only one giant problem.

2.20 ERA

4.66 FIP

6.50 DRA

Continue reading…

Edubray Ramos is Becoming the RH Adam Morgan

I wrote a bit ago about what has become of Adam Morgan in the Phillies bullpen. The summary to all of it was that Morgan was throwing his fastball harder, he was throwing his fastball less, and he was dominating same side platoon splits. The newest pitcher to follow most of that model is Edubray Ramos. Ramos came up to the Phillies last year and flashed some potential with a mid-90s fastball and a good looking breaking ball. Ramos was a lock to make the Phillies this spring and looked to be in the high leverage mix with Benoit, Neshek, and Neris. From April 3 until June 25, Ramos pitched 31 innings with a 5.52 ERA and 22 walks to 38 strikeouts, including 9 runs in his last 5 games where he recorded a total of 4 outs.

The Phillies demoted Ramos to AAA Lehigh Valley. Around an injury, he pitched 11.2 innings with a 1.54 ERA and 4 walks to 10 strikeouts. Ramos came back up to the majors at the beginning of August, and since then:

23.2 IP – 3.04 ERA – 6 BB – 34 K Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 38: Adam Morgan, Leadoff Hitters, and Sports Movies

This week of Phillies baseball has been awesome. Winning consecutive games started by Clayton Kershaw (on the Altherr grand slam), Yu Darvish (on the Hoskins three-run double), and Alex Wood (on the Altherr two-run single) has been awesome. It looks like the Phils are going to avoid 100 losses, which I’ll call a moral victory. It’s also something I outlined as a sign of a successful second half after the All Star Break. Phillies baseball is fun again!

On to the questions:

@riceid: Could Adam Morgan be a Ryan Madson type who continues to pick up velo and becomes a bullpen stud, or is he just a fun bright spot?

For those of you who may not remember, in 2006, Ryan Madson started for about a third of his appearances with a FIP just south of 5. The next year, he came back as a low-leverage multi-inning reliever and produced well with the customary bullpen bump moving his fastball average to 91.4. His 3ish ERA appeared to be a fluke, though, as his 4.20 FIP would indicate.

The following year, he (and his improved 93 mph fastball) struck out nearly 20% of hitters (hey, that was kind of a lot then) and established himself as the Bridge to Lidge en route to the Phillies’ second straight playoff appearance. Then, in the playoffs, all hell broke lose. Madson all of a sudden was throwing 95 and bumping it up to 97 at times. He was dominant, striking out 12 batters to just 1 walk and allowing three runs in 12.2 innings, as the Phillies won the World Series. The following season, Madson averaged 95 on his fastball and struck out nearly 25% of hitters. The season after that, Madson struck out almost 30% of hitters.

Adam Morgan, in 2016, was a terrible starter with a FIP of about 5, fastball velocity sitting at about 91, and a below-average strikeout rate. This year, he’s bumped up his fastball velocity to 94.4 mph en route to striking out 27% of hitters. His FIP is still over 4, because he allowed 5,345 home runs (check my math on that) in the first couple months of the season, but in the second half, his FIP has been just 2.70. He looks like a really good pitcher all of a sudden. You can see the similarities. Continue reading…

What Do the Phillies Have in Aaron Altherr?

Last night, Aaron Altherr finally got going after his trip to the disabled list. Altherr smashed an upper-deck go-ahead grand slam off Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball. As it stands now, Altherr has been worth 1.3 fWAR in about a half a season of plate appearances, bashing 17 home runs and producing a 125 wRC+. It’s been a good bounce-back season for the Phillies’ outfielder, but he again missed time with injury. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 37: Catchers, Otani, and 2018

@Anton_Smolka: Do you think Alfaro will ever become a decent defensive catcher and fix his issues at the plate (approach, swing, etc.)

I don’t fancy myself a scout, so I can’t really add anything about Alfaro’s defense that I haven’t heard from somebody else. I’ve seen scouts put him somewhere between slightly below-average and slightly above-average in the field, with potential improvements down the line. His arm is a literal cannon, but he’s a big dude, and crouching for three hours every day with consistent form and fundamentals is hard when you’re a big dude. I don’t think anyone will confuse him for a Molina brother back there, but early returns in the big leagues say that he’s adequate back there now with room to grow, as catcher defense tends to mature more slowly than other positions. Calling a game is an entirely different skill that I’m even less well-suited to answer, so I won’t even try. Continue reading…

Hoskins, BABIP, and Sustainability

The topic of Rhys Hoksins and sustainability is a big one, because no one believes he will hit 80 home runs a year, but they do want to know how real he is. Today The Athletic Philly wrote about Hoskins and sustainability and this set of paragraphs caught me.

The rest of Hoskins’ success at the plate is no fluke.

The average major league player has a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of around .300. Through his first 143 plate appearances, Hoskins’ BABIP is .257, suggesting he’s actually getting somewhat unlucky on the balls he doesn’t smash over the fence.The Athletic

BABIP might be one of the most misunderstood stats in baseball. One of the reasons for this is that it was at the center of a large pitching theory (DIPs). DIPs is the basis of FIP and it essentially says that a pitcher has no control over batted balls off of them. The major league average on balls in play is .300 and the assumption was that pitching BABIP trended towards .300 for pitchers over a large enough sample size. This also lead to a belief that batter BABIP actually trended to .300 over time as well. The reason for the trending on pitchers was that the large sample size of batters would average out. It turns out that pitchers have an influence on the type of contact off of them, and that different types of contact are hits at different rates. Continue reading…