Vince Velasquez and Secondaries

Vince Velasquez‘s 2016 season is officially in the books and it’s hard to find much to complain about. Despite a brief trip to the disabled list in June and an early September shutdown, he set a career high innings total at 136 and crossed the 100 innings mark for the first time since 2013. He struck out 27.6% of batters faced which ranks 9th in the majors among pitchers with 130+ innings and demonstrated an ability to maintain elite fastball velocity deep into outings. Although his run prevention leaves room for improvement (4.12 ERA), the overall performance was solid and more than a little encouraging for the 24-year-old in his first full season as a major league starter.

However, that’s not to say Velasquez is a finished product. His biggest weakness is the cause of his high rate of pitches per plate appearances — his 4.01 P/PA ranks 21st of 126 qualified pitchers — which, by extension, limited him to less than seven innings in 21 of his 24 starts this season. That weakness? You can either call it fastball over-reliance or ineffective secondaries depending on how you want to slant it.

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Crash Landing: The Enigma of Freddy Galvis

Favorite baseball players don’t come along very often, for me at least. A true favorite player is an emotional commitment and it takes time for that level of personal investment to build up. I can list dozens of players I love to watch play. I may even refer to some of them as favorites off-hand from time to time, but true genuine favorites in the literal sense of the word? For me only two players have achieved that status: Scott Rolen and Chase Utley. I don’t know when my next favorite will come along, but I know no one is particularly close right now. Instead, what I have right now are short-lived obsessions when one player is on an exciting tear. At various times this year, I’ve favored Odubel Herrera or Aaron Nola or Vince Velasquez or Maikel Franco. But at this specific moment in time, my “favorite” is a player I endearingly refer to as “The Enigma”, shortstop Freddy Galvis.

Here’s the most important starting point with Freddy Galvis: he has the worst on-base percentage in the majors among qualified hitters and the player with the second most, Alexei Ramirez, was released by his team earlier this week. Not only that, his .269 OBP isn’t far off from his career mark of .278. So it’s bad, but it’s also unsurprisingly bad. No one expects Galvis to be an offensive force because we’ve been watching him in the majors since 2012 and he’s consistently been ineffective at the plate. There’s absolutely nothing enigmatic about that.

But then there’s this ridiculous stretch he currently finds himself on. Entering play last night, he was sporting a .278/.333/.577 slashline in 105 plate appearances since (arbitrary end point alert) August 6th. A .577 slugging percentage! The power surge was thanks to seven home runs in the span of the month. Last year, Galvis set his career high for home runs in a single season with seven. This year he matched that in a stretch of 105 plate appearances!

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Crash Landing: Keeping An Eye On Ryan Howard and the Big Picture

I remember at some point last winter I declared that I was done writing about Ryan Howard only to go on to write about him often this season. This won’t even be my last post about him this year as I’m certain to want to use the occasion of his final game in red pinstripes as an opportunity to look back on a legendary career. Today, though, I want to talk about his most recent… controversy? Can you even call it that? How about this… his most recent news-making quote.

Yesterday, manager Pete Mackanin had this to say about first base playing time for the rest of the season as quoted by Bob Ford of The Inquirer:

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September Call-Up Preview

Baseball has this absurd annual tradition of expanding rosters each September. It’s ludicrous that the final pushes for playoff positions occur with baseball being played under an entirely different set of rules than those used for the first five months of the season, but that’s baseball for you. It’s a quirky sport ruled by tradition and one of those traditions is that teams are allowed to put enough players on the active roster to field four teams and still have four players left over. No team uses all 15 extra roster slots in September, but all teams will use some of those slots. So who will get the call for the Phillies?

The bulk of the new additions to the Phillies roster will be pitchers. Starting pitchers Vince Velasquez and Jake Thompson are likely to be shut down within the next week or so which means the rotation will need reinforcements. Plus, loading up the bullpen with extra is a time-honored September addition. So let’s start there with a look at what pitchers we can expect to see this month:

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Crash Bag, Vol. 9: Before and After

So…bad habits are bad, and are hard to break. One of mine is procrastination, as you’ll see by the dates of the questions submitted for this Crashbag. For months I just sat on this article — which I began writing in February — because I was embarrassed by the amount of time that had passed, and because I felt badly for the wonderful people who provided the great questions. Since I really like the people who asked these questions (or at least their online personae) and also enjoy writing the Crashbag, I thought it would be interesting to frame my responses in a before and after framework. I’ll answer each question in the “before” sense — that is, the way I answered (or in some cases, would have answered) in February — and then in the “after” sense, reflecting my current viewpoints.

Before: I suppose it’s theoretically possible, in the same way that it’s theoretically possible I win the lottery (if I played). However, I expect the Phillies to be right around 70 wins this year before making a big leap in 2017 into playoff contention. Right now there are too many holes, too many young players, and too many question marks.

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Goodbye, Chooch.

Hanging on the wall above my dresser, next to the decorative Phillies lamp, looking over the replica 2008 World Series trophy, is a framed commemoration of the great 2008 World Champions of Baseball. The multi-panel frame shows a box of infield dirt, which a hologram sticker assures me is from the actual playing surface. There’s also a picture of Cole Hamels finishing a pitch, under which is a shot of Shane Victorino leaping onto the victory dogpile. Undoubtedly, at the bottom of that pile is Carlos Ruiz.

Today, nearly eight years later and after eleven seasons in red pinstripes, Carlos Ruiz has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Continue reading…

Crash Landing: Bidding Farewell to Chooch?

The waiver trade deadline is less than a week away and the Phillies have still declined to make a single in-season trade this year. It’s been leaked that both Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz have cleared waivers, however, which is a reminder that this inactivity could change at any moment. It’s not a surprise either player cleared waivers as Howard is still owed ~$15M on his contract while Ruiz has ~$2M remaining and, although that’s not a prohibitive amount, it’s still a large investment for one to two months of a backup catcher. Now that they’ve cleared waivers, though, it’s possible to work out a trade, particularly if the Phillies are willing to provide a bit of salary relief.

I’m sticking with my unwavering predictions that Ryan Howard isn’t going anywhere. He’s been on an offensive tear lately and, while that’s great to see, he remains a one-dimensional player with extraordinarily limited value. None of the contending American League teams have a clear need for him and I just don’t see Howard ending his season anywhere but Philadelphia. Chooch, on the other hand, is rumored to have generated a bit of interest. Could we currently be in the final hours of his Phillies tenure?

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The Best Pitch In Baseball

In only his second start as a major leaguer, Jake Thompson took the mound against the Colorado Rockies and, despite the mathematical issues that make such an accomplishment improbable, proceeded to record four strikeouts in a single inning, becoming the first Phillies pitcher to do so since 1902. To execute such a feat, Thompson took advantage of an archaic and confusing baseball rule that, for the benefit of the reader, may be loosely translated as follows:

If, with two strikes in the count, a batter proceeds to swing at a pitch so far removed from the strike zone that it is not only unhittable, but uncatchable by the very player whose designation is to catch the baseball, then the batter may commence as if he, by virtue of his own skill, put the ball in the actual field of play.

The seemingly inane rule allowed us to witness a pitching event that occurs more infrequently than the much celebrated no-hitter. But more relevant to the author’s intentions, it has given us a pretense upon which to discuss the pitch not only directly responsible for the rule’s enforcement, but also largely instrumental in the consequent four strikeouts. That is, Jake Thompson’s slider.

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Should The Phillies Try To Acquire Yasiel Puig?

Next week, Tim Tebow will hold a workout for major league teams and the Phillies are among the more than twenty teams expected to send scouts. Tebow just turned 29 and hasn’t played competitive baseball since he was in high school. The chances that he’s able to ever reach the major leagues are infinitesimally small and, yet, major league teams will watch him play because he was a well-regarded amateur player a decade ago and possesses enough athleticism to have won a Heisman Trophy and play in the NFL. Baseball teams will explore any avenue to bring talent into their system, no matter how absurd it may be. Which is why we need to talk about Yasiel Puig.

Puig will turn 26 years old in December and already has two all-star caliber seasons to his name, but he has struggled with injuries and under-performance during the last two seasons. More alarmingly, he’s been at the center of a great deal of clubhouse criticism which culminated in the Dodgers sending him to Triple-A last month with no apparent plans to reactivate him before the end of the season. We’re currently in the period of waiver wire trades which means that many, if not most, major league players will be placed on trade waivers and Puig is expected to be among them. If claimed, the Dodgers could either work out a trade with the claiming team or send him and his remaining 2-year/$17.4M contract outright to the claiming team. If he goes unclaimed, the Dodgers are free to trade him to any team.

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