Crash Landing: Lessons From Peter Bourjos

Baseball fans of all different sensibilities are guilty of one near universally mistake: forgetting just how much talent the worst player on a major league roster possesses. Perhaps there are enlightened fans who are able to avoid this trap, but I know I’m as guilty of it as the next person. I’ve made more jokes at Michael Martinez‘s expense than I care to count. “Replacement level” is somehow a pejorative description of a ballplayer which is also synonymous with “one of the greatest players to ever pick up a glove.” To achieve a coveted 25-man roster spot means being among the 750 greatest (active) players in the game. That’s some percentage of the baseball playing population with a zero before a decimal point and a crap ton of zeros after it. Bad major leaguers are still the elite of the elite!

In Philadelphia we’ve watched a lot of bad major leaguers in recent years — really bad major leaguers — and it can be maddening to watch. But I wonder, at times, if it clouds judgement. Philadelphia sports fans have a predisposition for pessimism. (Maybe that’s an all-sports-fan thing, I don’t know, but I do know for sure that it’s true here.) When pessimism combines with poor performance, it becomes easy to latch on to the bad to an extreme degree. We saw it happen with Ben Revere being written off as worthless every time he slumped despite evidence to the contrary. When a player struggles, it’s easy to write them off as a really bad major leaguer. Sometimes it’s valid. Sometimes it’s Michael Martinez. But sometimes it’s Ben Revere. And sometimes it’s Peter Bourjos.

Continue reading…

Phillies Trade Deadline Preview

We’re less than a month away from the August 1st trade deadline — July 31st falls on a Sunday this year, so the league pushed the deadline back one day — and things are bizarrely quiet for the Phillies. Since trading Bobby Abreu in July 2006, the Phillies have been central figures in high profile deals and rumors seemingly every single year. This year, however, the team is not looking to “buy” and all of their key chips to “sell” have already said their farewells to Philadelphia.

The chances of the Phillies being involved in any sort of blockbuster deal this month are infinitesimally small, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be active. Teams ought to always be open to any available avenue to improve and that means the Phillies will need to investigate whether there are opportunities to bring in talent to bolster the team’s rebuild.

Let’s take stock of what changes this month may bring about for the Phillies.

The Obvious Trade Candidates: Jeremy Hellickson, Peter Bourjos, Jeanmar Gomez

Continue reading…

The Curious Case of Cameron Rupp’s Exit Velocity

At the risk of sounding like an outdated Charmin Ultra commercial, sometimes in baseball, less is more.

Take Cameron Rupp. Through 118 plate appearances in the first two months of the season, no one in Major League Baseball with at least 20 balls in play recorded a higher average exit velocity (95.7 mph).

Exit velocity is not an established science that, upon its unveiling by Statcast, magically provided the key to understanding hitting. However, several correlations have been drawn to offensive production. Like any new metric, it has shortcomings and limits to its application. In the 2015 season, when segmenting exit velocities into 5 mph ranges (90-94, 95-99, etc.), batting averages rose with each incremental rise in exit velocity. Increased batted ball speeds also correlate to increase slugging percentage. Continue reading…

Surprising Offensive Breakouts in June

Quick, name the Phillies top four performers in the month of June by wRC+. Exclude Edubray Ramos‘ one walk in one plate appearances and you’ll come up with a list of four that might not be terribly shocking if you watched the Phillies all month, but would shock the heck out of you if you were shown the list on May 31st. The fabulous four are as follows:

Phillies Top Offensive Performers – June 2016
Player PA wRC+
Peter Bourjos 67 190
Cameron Rupp 75 148
Cody Asche 90 115
Cesar Hernandez 85 104

There is one other Phillie who recorded a wRC+ above league average (100) during the month of June: Maikel Franco, 101 wRC+. It’s great to see him doing better at the plate, but a league average bat hardly classifies as a surprising breakout for him. Offensive expectations for Franco are high. Offensive expectations for Bourjos, Rupp, Asche, and Hernandez, on the other hand? Let’s just say they’re less high. So what’s going on? Small sample flukes? Legitimate breakouts? The creation of viable trade chips? The development of players who will contribute to the next winning Phillies teams?

Let’s break it down one at a time.

Continue reading…

MLB Issues Ridiculous Defense Of Anti-Player Legislation

*Cracks Knuckles*

Thursday, in response to the anti-player Save America’s Pastime Act proposed by some jerk in Congress and denounced by it’s no-longer-as-jerky co-sponsor a day after she was bombarded with negative reactions, MLB released a totally bogus statement siding with the legislation, that makes them sound like a bunch of freaking idiots. In my humble opinion. I’ll just walk us through the text, point by point, and tell you why they’re either wrong or dumb, or maybe just making things up. Continue reading…

Prospect Matt Imhof Announces He Lost An Eye In A Training Accident

I’ll make this quick, because really, who cares what a dude like me has to say about something so serious. Phillies LHP prospect and current Clearwater Thresher (A+) Matt Imhof announced on Instagram that he lost his right eye in a training accident, after surgery was unable to save it.

As many of you know on Friday June 25th I had an accident. A large price of metal hit me in the head/eye resulting in a fractured nose, 2 fractured orbital bones, and most significantly, the loss of vision in my right eye. I was immediately taken to the ER and then transferred to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, the #1 eye hospital in the world. That night, the doctors informed me that the damage to my eye was extreme and essentially that my eye had been crushed like a grape. The doctors told me they were going to do everything possible to reconstruct it but in all likelihood I would never regain sight in my right eye. The first surgery was somewhat a success but overall nothing had changed, so after discussions with my family and my doctors, it was decided that the best chance I had to live a normal life was to have my right eye removed and have a prosthetic one put in. This decision was not an easy one to make but to me it seemed like the right one so on Tuesday afternoon I went forward with the surgery. I'm currently still in Miami recovering from surgery but I'm doing well. This has been the hardest week of my life but I've had amazing support from my family and friends to help me get through it. For those who have been wishing me well, your support has not gone unnoticed and I appreciate everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers. I had the best doctors in the world doing their best work on me and for that I am grateful as well. Although this injury has been tough it could have been much worse…I'm lucky to still have vision in my left eye…I'm lucky that i didn't have brain damage…and I'm lucky to be surrounded my the most loving and understanding people in the world. I just wanted to write this message to let everyone know that even though I suffered some bad luck, I'm not dead. I'm gonna be alright, I'm gonna persevere, and I'm gonna succeed. It takes more than this to bring me down. Again thanks to everyone for the support .

A photo posted by Matt Imhof (@matt_imhof48) on

Imhof was the Phils’ second round pick in 2014 out of Cal Poly. He had shoulder issues last year but was healthy this year. Word originally came from Baseball Betsy’s blog that this was a band stretching exercise and the hardware came loose from wherever it was anchored. Imhof’s Instagram describes the rest fairly well, I’d say. Best wishes from all Phillies fans go out to this young man right now, and from me, a hope that he can maintain the centered outlook he seems to have in his message to his friends, family and fans.

Crash Landing: Brundage’s Irresponsible Mishandling of Nick Williams

A year ago, I was a vocal critic of Ryne Sandberg. It wasn’t a role I relished or enjoyed, but it’s one that I couldn’t escape. At the time, the reports from beat writers and the quotes from players painted a picture of clubhouse disarray which was directly attributable to Sandberg’s managerial style and impacted team performance. I typically avoid clubhouse storylines because they are frequently little more than gossipy whispers or fluff, but in this case, there was a clubhouse situation which had a direct impact on the product on the field. I took notice, I formed opinions, and I expressed them. Well, it’s time to step outside my comfort zone and do the same thing once again, only this time it’s about a clubhouse about sixty miles north of Citizens Bank Park.

My philosophy on baseball managers is that their primary job is to put their players in a position to succeed. This covers tasks from managing pitcher workloads to properly deploying platoons to the most basic of tasks: teaching and guiding players. For young players in general and minor leaguers in particular, the type of success they should be set up for by their coaches is long-term success. There may be a 30-year-old journeyman AAAA player who is more likely to succeed in a game against a particularly challenging opponent, but developing players need the opportunity to face those challenges head on to prepare for the possibility of a major league future. Preparing for success in the majors is the goal and it’s the goal at which Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage has failed 22-year-old outfield prospect Nick Williams in recent weeks.

Continue reading…

Mark Appel’s Season Is Over

Pitching: It’s not good for you.

With young pitching being such an integral part of the Phillies current rebuild, it was all but inevitable that the injury bug would be a factor this season. The human arm is not built to endure the stress of pitching and, as a result, pitching injuries are ubiquitous in baseball.

Continue reading…

Asche Found His Bat

Back in 2013, Cody Asche made his major league debut for the Phillies following a quick rise through their minor league system. While he wasn’t topping any prospect lists, Asche looked to have a capable bat, and he represented a much needed injection of youth in an otherwise aging roster. But the capable bat didn’t fully translate to the major league level, and Asche spent the next few years posting consistently sub-par offensive numbers while working his way down the defensive spectrum. So coming into the 2016 season, it’s fair to say that most fans had given up on Asche as any part of the team’s future.

But following an oblique strain that kept him sidelined through the end of May, Asche has spent the better part of the last month looking like the hitter the Phillies thought they were getting back in 2013. Through 80 plate appearances this year, Asche has a wOBA of .343, a number that places him 14% better than the league average. And while this wouldn’t be the first time Asche has hit this well over the course of a month, it is the first time his success at the plate is supported by any underlying changes.

Continue reading…

Is 2016 Offense Worst in Phillies History?

In a season once illuminated by a delightful yet fleeting month-and-a-half of overachievement, the Phillies uninspiring offensive attack has once again grabbed the headlines as they enter the meat of their summer schedule. Manager and resident mad scientist Pete Mackanin has done everything in his power to concoct a productive lineup, testing 68 different batting orders through the first 77 games. Who can blame him?

The team’s recent streak of hot hitting hasn’t significantly boosted the their overall numbers, or even put more tallies in the win column for that matter. Led by none other than offensive tour de force Peter Bourjos, the Phils have nearly doubled their run production in their last six games, posting six runs per contest, but have generated just a 2-4 record to show for it. In their first 71 games on the year, they scored all of 3.11 runs per game. While this offensive hot hand is surely just a blip on the radar, a faint mirage in the early summer heat, it got me thinking: just how bad is this offense really?

Well, buckle up.

Continue reading…