Checking Up On Jerad Eickhoff’s Changeup

Yesterday Spencer Bingol provided a great break down of Jerad Eickhoff‘s current repertoire and the ways in which it’s helped Eickhoff exceed expectations to date. If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend reading that piece because it provides the foundation for the analysis to follow.

The most defining characteristic of Eickhoff’s early career is his extraordinarily effective curveball. As Bingol illustrates, he also unleashes a slider which induces whiffs at a high rate which may not be entirely sustainable and a relatively non-descript fastball. But his fourth pitch, the changeup, is by far the weakest and, consequently, least used pitch in his arsenal.

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Positive signs from expectation-exceeding Jerad Eickhoff

Scouting baseball players has traditionally relied on the 20-80 scouting scale. It’s a system for grading both individual skills (called “tools”), and total value of the player. It mirrors the 68-95-99.7 Rule in statistics, referencing the percentage of values contained within one, two, and three standard deviations of the mean of a normal distribution. A “50” grade player represents a Major League average talent, a “60” grade player represents a well above-average talent (a likely All-Star), and a “40” grade player represents a talent equally far in the opposite direction (a bench player, sixth starter, etc.).

As the name implies, the scale extends in both directions to evaluations of “20” (organizational filler) and “80” (a superstar). This system doesn’t imply that there are an equal number of 20-grade and 80-grade talents in the world – obviously, the former outnumbers the latter – however, it attempts to describe the distribution of talent in the Major leagues, and organizational filler very rarely receives a roster spot.

Enter Jerad Eickhoff. Continue reading…

Guest Post: Aaron Nola Proving He Knows How To Pitch

This guest post was written by Ben Harris. Follow him on Twitter: @Ben27Harris

With 2016 came the Phillies first full campaign boasting their hopeful future trio of young rotation arms. Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez had just 28 combined starts during their rookie years in 2015. But, to open this season, the trio of right-handers – whose average age rests just above 23 and a half – have dissected opponents in unique ways, providing Phillies’ faithful with bright rays of hope.

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Odubel Herrera’s Refined Plate Discipline

Believe it or not, the Phillies outfield has not been the worst offensive outfield in the majors so far this season. While their cumulative slashline of .162/.255/.279 is truly abysmal, Twins outfielders have managed to produce an even worse .171/.252/.236 line. The one person keeping the Phillies out of last place in this category has been center fielder Odubel Herrera.

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Crash Landing: Joy Is Good

Through the first two weeks of the season, many words on this website have been dedicated to what’s important about the 2016 Phillies season and, just as critically, what’s not important. Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera? Important. The roster placeholders in the outfield? Not. The trio of young starters? Important. The bullpen? Not. The development of minor league prospects? Important. The 2016 Phillies win-loss record? Absolutely not.

I’ve urged you to forget losses and to shrug off the underperformance of players whose stays in Philadelphia are temporary. From a strictly rational and analytical perspective, I’m convinced that this is not just the right approach but also the only satisfying approach to following the 2016 Phillies season. This team is not designed to win right now, but if you look in the right spots, there are really exciting things happening and with Franco/Herrera/Nola/Eickhoff/Velasquez, many of those exciting things are unfolding at the major league level. It only makes sense to focus on what the team is building toward instead of bemoaning what this team is not currently equipped to do.

But when I started this weekly column, I told you that the title of the column is more than an obnoxious pun, it’s also a reminder to myself to keep my analysis grounded in reality. Although in a very real sense yesterday’s win over the Washington Nationals didn’t truly matter — after all the heroes of the game were Peter Bourjos, Andres Blanco, and Freddy Galvis, all of whom are functionally “roster placeholders” — I would be an absolute fool to tell you that the biggest takeaway from the game should’ve been the performance of Franco and/or Herrera. The greatest lesson from yesterday is what any Phillies fan from age 3 to 103 watching would’ve been able to tell you at the end of the game: baseball is great.

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Mackanin Shakes Up the Lineup in Inexcusable Ways

Darin Ruf spent all of spring training working at first base and preparing to be in a strict first base platoon with his left-handed counterpart, Ryan Howard. Through four seasons and 671 innings spent in a major league outfield, the Phillies had seen enough to know that the Darin Ruf outfield experiment was a failure. His range is abysmal and, although his arm is surprisingly strong, it’s also woefully inaccurate. There’s no getting around the fact that he is a massive liability in the field.

Ruf also sports an overwhelmingly large career platoon split — 156 wRC+ vs. LHP, 80 wRC+ vs. RHP. Given Howard’s struggles against left-handed pitching, this has made the platoon match ideal. Ruf should not start against righties and Howard should not start against lefties. Splitting first base duties is common sense and, just as importantly, it keeps Ruf’s glove out of the outfield.

The Phillies did a commendable job sticking to this plan even when outfielders Aaron Altherr and Cody Asche went down with injuries in spring training. Unfortunately, that admirable dedication to a logical, if unappealing, plan went out the window today with a brash and downright panicky starting lineup —

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Vince Velasquez Pitched An Absolute Gem

Where do you even start? Is it with the fact that the complete game shutout Vince Velasquez twirled today was the first shutout by a Phillies starter since Cole Hamels’ no-hitter last July and just the second since Cliff Lee threw a shutout on 5/22/13? Or do you instead go with the fact that Velasquez’s 16 strikeouts marked just the sixth 16 strikeout game in franchise history? Load up Baseball-Reference tomorrow morning and there will be one more game added to this illustrious list:
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Stumpf PED Suspension Shakes Up Phillies Roster

Prior to the Vince Veleasquez eviscerating the Padres lineup today, the Phillies announced that their Rule 5 reliever Daniel Stumpf tested positive for an anabolic steroid called dehydrochlormethyltestosterone and will serve an 80-game suspension.

Matt Gelb did an excellent job laying out the specifics of what this means in regards to Stumpf’s Rule 5 status. The key takeaways:

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