The Return of Zach Eflin

Clay Buchholz is officially out for the season. Even if Buchholz had stayed healthy, it was likely that the Phillies were going to have a major pitcher injury at some point. The good news is the Phillies are strong in major league ready starting pitching. This time, the Phillies are not dipping down into the prospects, instead going with 23 year old, not quite a rookie, Zach Eflin.

This is the second year in which Eflin was called up after the Phillies experienced a starting pitcher injury. His first trip to the majors was not good, and he posted a 5.54 ERA over 63.1 innings. Now that number is a bit deceptive, because you break his season up into 3 distinct time periods.

First MLB Start: 2.2 IP – 27.00 ERA – 9 H – 3 BB – 2 K – 3 HR

Seven Solid Starts: 47.2 IP – 2.08 ERA – 36 H – 5 BB – 24 K – 3 HR

Three Injured Starts: 13.0 IP – 13.85 ERA – 22 H – 9 BB – 5 K – 6 HR Continue reading…

Trying to Understand Cesar Hernandez

This weekend Cesar Hernandez hit two home runs. Two is such a small number in the context of baseball, and most small events like this could be explained as small sample size noise. However, these home runs brought Hernandez to 3 in 12 games. This is Hernandez’s 5th major league season, and in the previous 4 he hit 8 home runs total. The spike is noticeable in the ongoing confusion that is Cesar Hernandez.

The introduction of StatCast has brought a larger voice to the concept that hitting the ball in the air is better than hitting the ball on the ground. This is not a new idea to anyone who has studied basic mechanics and specifically ballistics. The 2016 data bears this out too.

Batted Ball Type AVG ISO
Ground Ball .239 .019
Fly Ball .241 .474
Line Drive .689 .210

So how does this tie back to Cesar Hernandez? Here is Hernandez’s batted ball data in his time in the majors: Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 15 – Is Ben Davis a Hot Dog?

Everyone have a great weekend, as the weather heats up and the Phillies play the Nationals and Mets every season until the end of time.

For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.

@KeithWinder: If each CSN Phillies broadcaster was a backyard bbq food item, what would they be?

I may have a low opinion of the Phillies booth, which is one of the worst in the league. Last year they were watchable about 50% of the time (when Matt Stairs was on), and it has only gone downhill from there. Continue reading…

The Phillies Have A New Third Baseman

Among the many storylines of 2016, Maikel Franco‘s regression was perhaps the most discouraging. Franco spent the season mixing flashes of formidable hitting talent with an infuriating lack of approach at the plate. He did not swing at every pitch that came his way, but enough to render most of his natural talent moot. It seemed his potential would ever remain unrealized. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Phillies decided to move on from Franco, replacing him this year with a new budding young star at third base.

Continue reading…

Where Have Jeremy Hellickson’s Strikeouts Gone?

Jeremy Hellickson entered the 2017 season as the Phillies’ de facto ace. After last season, in which he posted the highest K-BB% and fWAR numbers of his career, expectations were high for the 28-year-old. Through two starts, the results are better than the Phillies could have hoped for. He’s tossed 10 innings and allowed only one run for a 0.90 ERA, and those two starts account for two of the Phillies three wins thus far. He hasn’t allowed a home run yet, and his walk rate is the lowest of his career. Opponents are hitting just .124 against him.

All of that sounds great, but it’s tainted by a disturbing lack of strikeouts. Hellickson has punched out just 3 hitters so far, out of the 39 hitters he’s faced, “good” for a 7.7 K%. That’s currently the lowest in the league among the 102 qualified pitchers. I have no idea what the cutoff for a qualified pitcher is nine games into the season, but among all those pitchers, Hellickson is striking out the fewest hitters.

So what is wrong with Hellickson? I guess you could say nothing because he’s still getting results. But from a sustainability side of things, it looks like something’s gotta give, maybe as soon as his his start tomorrow. Hitters have whiffed at just 5.8% of the pitches against Hellickson, compared with 10.8% last year.  That’s fourth worst among qualified pitchers, just ahead of Bartolo Colon (6.30 ERA). Continue reading…

Howie Kendrick Looks Like a Leader

When the Phillies traded for Howie Kendrick in the offseason, the idea was to bring in a steady veteran with the leadership qualifications to help guide a roster of young works-in-progress. So far, so good.

The Phillies have tons of money to spend, but this winter, they opted instead to infuse the clubhouse with some much-needed (and reasonably affordable) experience. At 33 years of age, Kendrick has plenty of that, along with a consistent bat and an absurd degree of fielding versatility. At present, Yahoo! Fantasy lists him as eligible to play 1B, 2B, 3B and LF. And quite frankly, if the Clay Buchholz injury is at all serious, I’d also be willing to throw him out on the mound and see what he can do every fifth day.
Continue reading…

Garcia Up, Morgan Down, Buchholz Hurt, Now What?

It only took the Phillies 3 days to wipe away all of the positive feelings from a 17-3 drubbing of the Nationals. Michael already wrote about what happened to Clay Buchholz so it is not worth dwelling too much on his future until we know his MRI results (which came out while writing this). However, his ineffectiveness and injury put the Phillies in the position of running out their three worst relievers in a desperate attempt to keep the damage limited to one night. For his part in putting gasoline on the fire, Adam Morgan earned a trip to AAA sparking the first set of Phillies transactions since the end of Spring Training.

The immediate response by the Phillies was to bring back up Spring Training bullpen competition runner up, Luis Garcia. Because of a rain-out to open the year and pretty decent starting pitching, Garcia only appeared in one game for the IronPigs. On April 9 he came into the 7th inning of a 7 inning double header, and walked 1, while striking two out in a scoreless inning. This means he should be rested for immediate use in case Vince Velasquez goes 4 innings again. Garcia is obviously not a bullpen savior, he will slot in as just an arm, even though his raw stuff might hint that he could be something more. Continue reading…

Oh No! Clay Buchholz is Hurt

Last Friday before I attended Opening Day, I was reviewing Clay Buchholz’s start from the day before. He’d gone 5 innings, striking out 3 and walking 2 while allowing 8 hits and 4 runs. Obviously that’s not a great start. But the thing that really jumped out to me was his severely diminished velocity. His average fastball velocity was 90.2 mph, well below the 92.1 he averaged in 2015 and 2016. I wanted to write something about it, but hey, he was in and out of the bullpen last year, and last year his velocity was similarly low in his first start of the season. I figured I’d give him another start to see where his velocity was following that.

So imagine my delight when Buchholz came out hitting 91 with his first fastball of the night. Of course he walked the first hitter… then allowed a double…. then allowed a home run… then allowed several more runs… then got hurt.

Continue reading…

Gomez’s Struggles Hide Bullpen Rebuild Success

Two years in a row the Phillies have started the year in Cincinnati, and two years in a row they have left with bullpen questions. In 2016, the team shifted from David Hernandez to Dalier Hinojosa to Jeanmar Gomez as closer by April 9. This year, the Phillies are considering moving Jeanmar Gomez out of the closer’s role, but the similarities end there between the two teams. The difference is that the 2016 Phillies were throwing a bunch of things at the wall and hoping for something to work out, and the 2017 Phillies will be moving one of their shutdown setup men to work the final inning of the game.

This offseason, Matt Klentak made it a goal to upgrade the Phillies bullpen. The Phillies projected to return Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, and Joely Rodriguez from a bullpen that was one of the worst in baseball last year, leaving three open spots. To accomplish that goal, he acquired Pat Neshek for nothing and gave Joaquin Benoit a 1 year contract. The results have been immediate. So far this season, Benoit and Neshek have combined with Neris and Ramos to give the Phillies a great group of middle relief. So far the quartet has pitched 12.2 innings, allowed 0 runs, 8 hits, 4 walks, and struck out 14. Meanwhile Rodriguez, Adam Morgan, and Gomez have given up 11 runs in 7.2 innings. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 14: Can the IronPigs Beat the Phillies?

The major league season is underway and the Phillies don’t look great once again (it has also only been 4 games, so let’s not panic). But it is never too early to ask questions about who is part of the future or where the Phanatic should play defensively.

Before getting into the questions, if you are feeling depressed, just follow this link and feel better.

For now the best place to ask questions is on Twitter, either @ me (@Matt_Winkelman or @CrashburnAlley). But you can also reply in the comments here and I will will have some sort of better way for future mailbags.

@RubyTheTreat: If you were to invest in a Phils shirsey today, what would your top 5 choices be? Continue reading…