What Does a Successful Second Half Look Like?

To say this season has not gone according to plan would be a huge understatement. We all remember the now-infamous prediction by Pete Mackanin that the Phillies could be a .500 team this year. Well through just over 50% of the season, they’ve got a .333 winning percentage. In order to finish the season at .500, the Phillies would have to win 52 of their final 75 games, and, well, that’s just not going to happen.

Some would say this was a lost season. The team obviously hasn’t won a lot, but more alarmingly, several presumed key pieces to the next Phillies playoff team have taken significant steps backward. Odubel Herrera has a 76 wRC+. Cesar Hernandez has been hurt. Tommy Joseph has been replacement level. Maikel Franco has been well below replacement level. Jerad Eickhoff has taken a step back. Vince Velasquez has been hurt. Hector Neris has taken a step back. The revolving door at the back of the rotation has been more like a Tilt-A-Whirl. But you knew all of that already.

I’m here to tell you that the storm clouds can pass. There are a few things that need to happen to salvage this so-far lost season and keep the rebuild going in an upward trajectory.

Continue reading…

Monday Morning Roundtable: Midseason Awards

The first (or really the pre-All Star break) half of the season is in the books and the Phillies are bad. This week I asked the writers to give away some positive awards, because we all really don’t want to dwell on Michael Saunders’ Phillies tenure.

First Half MVP:

Adam: My MVP is Aaron Altherr. I’m sure I’m not the only one on board that rocket, and for good reason. We have ample evidence now that this is the player Altherr truly is, and not the withered husk still recovering from injury in 2016. In 2015 and 2017, Altherr has posted very fine wRC+ of 125 and 124.  Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 27: Equal Opportunity Uselessness

Let’s peer into the depths of a bleak future.

@Wzeiders: After the trade deadline, what does a failure for the Phillies look like?

Pat Neshek is still their best reliever come August.

But this is a failure on par with not claiming the free ticket you won on a lottery scratch-off. The real failure is not that you missed out on another one in a million chance to win big. It’s that you weren’t paying attention to the ticket expiration date. Or that you thought framing the winning ticket and hanging it next to the motivational cat poster in your room would be good for morale.

Continue reading…

Alberto Tirado the Latest Bullpen Conversion for the Phillies

The Phillies entered the year with a thin bullpen. A 40 man roster stocked with prospects, and in particular starting pitching prospects had left the organization with only 8 relievers on the 40 man roster. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that at some point the Phillies were going to need to move some starters to the bullpen to make the math work long term. Before the 2017 season, the Phillies had been hesitant to move starters to the bullpen with only marginal pitchers or those that had failed in the rotation like Adam Morgan, Mark Leiter Jr., Joely Rodriguez, Tom Windle, and Hoby Milner making the change (Leiter has since transitioned back to the rotation due to the Phillies’ pitching injuries). This year the Phillies have started to move some of their more highly thought of pitching prospects into the bullpen.

The big new addition to the bullpen is RHP Alberto Tirado. The Phillies acquired Tirado at the 2015 trade deadline in the deal that sent Ben Revere to Toronto. Tirado had long had an electric arm and Toronto had already moved him to the bullpen for their Hi-A team. The Phillies kept him in that role, but he walked 18 in 16 games for them. Last year he ended up back in the bullpen to start the year, but after a stint in Extended Spring Training, he emerged as a starting pitcher with Lakewood. In the rotation he started 11 games with a 2.19 ERA over 53.1 IP, with 25 walks to 83 strikeouts. This earned him a spot on the Phillies 40 man roster this off season and a spot in Clearwater’s opening day rotation. Continue reading…

Phillies Calling Up Nick Williams

In addition to just being bad, the Phillies have been unlucky this year. Due to uncertainty over the CBA, they protected 11 players from the Rule 5 draft. This move severely depleted the Phillies fungible call up depth, as well as giving them almost no flexibility in making call ups over the course of the season. Injuries to Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz, and Cesar Hernandez along with ineffective performances from Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez, Joely Rodrguez, and Edubray Ramos have already stretched the roster to it’s breaking limits. When you add in injuries to Zach Eflin and Jesmuel Valentin, and a PED suspension for Elniery Garcia the Phillies are out of warm bodies to throw in front of promoting prospects. So when the Phillies were forced to send Hwie Kendrick to the DL for the second time, they had no choice but finally turn to one of their big time prospects and call up outfielder Nick Williams.

Williams isn’t just a random call up. After 9 months and 203 games in AAA, Williams has shown that he deserves to be in the major leagues. His season stat line of .280/.328/.511 hides a poor walk rate and an astronomical strikeout rate, hallmarks of all of his bad traits. However, Williams is finishing up a June with a much improved walk rate and a continuation of the power he showed in a hot homer stretch in May. Overall this month, Williams is hitting .282/.351/.524 with 6 walks in his last 6 games. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 26: Bobbles, Bullpens, and Long Lost Friends

This is my first Crash Bag, and what an honor it is! On to our ambivalent adoring readers’ questions:

@mjspv: Only 3 bobblehead giveaways on the schedule: Phanatic (bobblebody), Rose, and Schmidt. Who will be the next bobble-worthy player? #crashbag

At first, I thought this might be a difficult question to answer. But when I looked at the 2016 promotional calendar, I saw that there was a Maikel Franco bobblehead given away in June last season (although it looked nothing like Maik). Franco played bobble-worthily at the end of 2015, but right now he’s not even worth a fake Phanatic bobblebody they’re giving away this year, let alone a real one.

*I should note that in my cubicle I have a real actual Phillie Phanatic bobblehead that I purchased in a store like a true blue-blooded American capitalist.

In 2016, they also gave away a Star Wars themed Phanatic bobblehead, a “Phanatic Variant Bobblehead”, and most confoundingly of all, a bobblehead of the Phanatic’s mom knitting. Now I’m all for Phillie Phanatic bobble heads – nobody loves the Phanatic more than me – but three bobbles in one year is far too many. Let’s limit this to one every two years, Phillies.

In 2015, they gave away a weird retro bobblehead, and a Larry Bowa bobblehead. In 2014, we got bobbles of Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, and Ryan Howard, which seems entirely reasonable. It seems like the Phillies go with stars, old fan favorites, or variants on the Phanatic. So, while Maikel Franco has clearly already gotten a bobble, I’d argue that the bobble was not earned, and he is not a Bobble-WorthyTM player.

So who is the next Bobble-WorthyTM Phillie? I’ll make up the arbitrary criteria that you have to be an above-average player for several years in a row. If Odubel Herrera can turn his season around and put up another 4 WAR campaign, I think he deserves a bobble next season.  Entering the season, Herrera was 67% bobble worthy. If we generously say that he has a 1-in-4 chance of going on a tear and pulling out a 4 win season, that makes him (67% + 1/4*33% = ) 75% Bobble-WorthyTM.

If Herrera can’t pull it out, we may be waiting a while. Here is a list of current Phillies, arranged by Bobble-WorthinessTM:

Odubel Herrera – 75% Bobble-WorthyTM

Jerad Eickhoff – 50% Bobble-WorthyTM – The Phillies most consistent pitcher over the past three years. Not All-Star caliber but he’s still the bobbliest we’ve got.

Aaron Nola – 38% Bobble-WorthyTM – Not currently very Bobble-WorthyTM, but if he stays healthy for a full season, he could put up the kind of Cy Young-caliber numbers that make a player immediately Bobble-WorthyTM.

Cesar Hernandez – 33% Bobble-WorthyTM – He’s had one 4 win season. Stack on a couple more, and you’ll be bobblin’ till the cows come home.

Freddy Galvis – 20% Bobble-WorthyTM – His talent is below replacement bobble, but he is the longest tenured Phillie, and that’s got to be worth something.

Everyone else on the Phillies is Bobble-UnworthyTM.

Now that I’ve spent a totally reasonable amount of time answering this important question, let’s move on. Continue reading…

On the Pathetic Phillies

I was cruising FanGraphs this week, desperately looking for something interesting to write about. You see, the Phillies, as you may have noticed, are soul-crushingly bad this season. There are only so many times you can look for silver linings or potential improvements before it becomes an exercise in futility. Therefore, I’ve decided to lean in to the madness. The Phillies leaders in fWAR this season are Jerad Eickhoff, Pat Neshak, and Odubel Herrera, all at 1.2 fWAR. They’re all on pace to be above-average players this year, if you set the “average” bar at 2 fWAR.

But let me tell you something about them you may not have realized: Eickhoff’s ERA is almost 5.00. Neshak is a reliever. Herrera is running a wRC+ of just 78. When your best starter has an ERA 14% worse than league average, your best hitter can’t hit, that leaves a reliever to be the best player on your team, which is… not ideal. And that’s how you wind up with the worst team in baseball. Continue reading…

Monday Morning Roundtable: Sometimes It is the Little Things

Each Monday morning the Crashburn Alley writers weigh in on various questions about the state of the Phillies.

The Phillies are starting a 10 game road trip (and by the time this is published will have already played 3), what is one thing you want to see out of this team over that stretch?

Michael: It’s hard to put so much stock in any ten-game stretch in this long lost season, so wins are not especially important to me in the grand scheme of things. What I’d like to see is improved play from individual players. I’d like to see Maikel Franco string together a few barrels; starters continuing to hit six innings in their starts; Odubel Herrera taking a few walks. Individually it might not mean much, but if a bunch of players can make incremental improvements, the wins will come.

Brad: I’d like to see less than three walk-offs on a ten game roadie. I know, maybe that’s not realistic. How about less than five?

Honestly, a handful of saves for the pen would be nice. Whether you value the stat, (I do not), there’s no harm in adding some confidence into a reliever’s psyche, and it also means winning a game that could be easily lost by virtue of all the bad things this team is so prone to do. Continue reading…

Crash Bag Vol. 25: New Levels of Futility

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been more Crash Bags in 2017 than Phillies’ wins.

On to the questions.

@viscof1: What kind of market/return is out there for Howie Kendrick? I know it won’t be a lot but he looks good at the play on the bases.

Kendrick is hitting .440 on balls in play. That BABIP fuel will run out. What’s left is an average bat that can run the bases well and play a few positions on the field. That is what teams are buying in Kendrick. He is the best hitter on the Phillies but a solid utility player to the rest of baseball. Enjoy the perspective.

Continue reading…

Location Matters For Nick Pivetta

The strength of the Phillies’ system was supposed to be young pitching. Through the first few years of the rebuild, the Phillies have had mixed results with their young starters. Injuries this year have forced the Phillies to reach down to their minor leagues for starters earlier this season. After struggling through his first 6 starts, one of those young players is suddenly looking dominant.

This is Nick Pivetta’s second call-up of the year. In his first stint, he pitched in 4 games going 19.1 innings with a 5.12 ERA and 9 walks to 21 strikeouts. Pivetta’s starts were marked with poor command and inefficiency. It was much different than his time in the minors where he walked 2 to 37 strikeouts in 32 innings. Pivetta then pitched in two games after being recalled on June 5, and he was worse than his first time around pitching 10 innings with a 6.30 ERA, 7 walks, and 6 strikeouts.

Things have turned around dramatically for Pivetta, and against the Red Sox and Cardinals he has pitched 13 innings with 3 runs (2.08 ERA), 3 walks, and 19 strikeouts. Continue reading…