Predicting the Phillies Starting Rotation Order

The 2017 Phillies feel unique among rebuilding teams in that their starting pitching rotation is likely to be 80 percent the same as it was the previous season. Potential building blocks like Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez are all back. For better or worse, Jeremy Hellickson is back as well after accepting the Phillies’ qualifying offer instead of testing the free agency waters. The only difference in the rotation is not the arrival of a top prospect or big free agent intended to vault the team closer to contention. It’s just Clay Buchholz replacing Charlie Morton. At risk of oversimplification, Buchholz and Morton are, in the grand scheme, more or less the same: veteran pitchers with histories of injuries and inconsistency acquired on the cheap.

With that level of similarity between the 2016 and 2017 pitching rotations, it shouldn’t be surprising that manager Pete Mackanin has suggested another similarity between 2016 and 2017: Jeremy Hellickson is the likely opening day starter. This builds on what is a growing trend of boring announcements coming from the Phillies, beginning with the revelation that Jeanmar Gomez would likely be the team’s closer once again. The selection is not without merit. After all, one could reasonably argue that Hellickson was the team’s best starter in 2016, though Jerad Eickhoff has a similarly compelling case and Aaron Nola’s peak performance was undoubtedly better than both. Even if Hellickson is truly the best pitcher on the team–and it’s very possible he is–having him as the team’s nominal number one starter feels somehow disappointing. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 7: Prospects, Frenchy, and Legacy

With pitchers and catcher having reported earlier this week, the Crash Bag mailbox saw a marked uptick in questions directly related to baseball and a downtick in ephemera. This, in my opinion, is neither a moral good or a moral bad. A good question is a good question, regardless of its subject. The Crash Bag, like baseball as a whole, works best, I believe, when it contains a mix of actual baseball and profound nonsense. The six editions prior to this have been heavy on the nonsense, so consider this a bit of a balancing of the scales.

@scottbails13: Which of the Phillies’ prospects has the best chance to play significant time for the big club this season?

The easy answer here is Andrew Knapp. He’s one of two prospect eligible players likely to break Spring Training with the major league team (Joely Rodriguez is the other). He’ll be the backup catcher, and Joely will be a LOOGY sort of dude out of the bullpen, so they’re not the flashiest of answers, but backup catcher, in particular, is a pretty significant role that guarantees something like 200 plate appearances over a full season.  Continue reading…

Who Are You: Clay Buchholz

This post is the last of a weekly series which has run each Thursday. Over the offseason, we took a deep dive look at new members of the Phillies roster. Now that we’re just weeks away from settling down with these guys every day, the hope is that this series has provided a requisite introduction in preparation for the coming season.

Previous Installments:

Howie Kendrick

Pat Neshek

Joaquin Benoit

Michael Saunders Continue reading…

Tyler Goeddel Decommissioned

Tyler Goeddel’s 2016 starting gig in left field lasted just 23 games. The reasoning behind his short stint was cloudy at best, especially given his above-average (and near team-best) production over that time.

Pre-Goeddel Era

Let’s take this from Opening Day. For the first month of the season, manager Pete Mackanin deployed a combination of Cedric Hunter, Darin Ruf, Emmanuel Burriss, David Lough and Goeddel in left. All but Burriss made at least six starts.

None hit over .240. None got on base more than one-third of the time. None slugged over .320.

From batting average to slugging percentage, on-base percentage to wRC+, the left field position was head and shoulders below that of every other MLB team. They lacked power in a big way, with a slugging percentage a point below their already low .212 OBP.

AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+ wRAA
Phillies (Rank) .144 (30th) .212 (30th) .211 (30th) .423 (30th) .189 (30th) 11
(30th)
-10.5 (30th)
Next-worst
(Rank)
.191 (29th) .243 (29th) .245 (29th) .572 (29th) .254 (29th) .53 (29th) -6
(29th)
Difference .047 .031 .034 .149 .065 42 4.5

So Mackanin turned to the Phillies first overall draft pick from 2015. No, not that draft. The Rule 5 Draft, where teams get to select non-40-man roster players buried on other team’s minor league depth charts. Continue reading…

Upping the Down(trodden): Stairs’ Case

Along with their quiet fury of moves this offseason, the Phillies made a lone coaching change, coaxing 2008 NLCS folk hero Matt Stairs down a few flights of, ahem, stairs, out of the broadcast booth and back into those familiar snug red pinstripes.

The goal? Improvement.

It’s no secret the Phillies lacked offensive firepower last season. Last in runs scored and OPS in the majors, they posted a .301 on-base percentage, their worst in four and a half decades. Among 2016 MLB teams, they finished five points off the lowest batting average, two points better than the worst OBP and one point above the worst slugging percentage.

So how will Stairs improve the bats? He spoke with CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury during the Phils beat writer’s Countdown to Clearwater series and outlined his plan.

He focused on a handful of points, almost echoing the sentiments of a buzzed-on-Jim-Beam Crash Davis who, in Bull Durham, spoke of how one dying quail, one ground ball with eyes per week is the difference between a .250 and a .300 hitter. Stairs said: “If every player gave away five at-bats per week that’s 120 at-bats per season. Now, think about it if you can cut that number in half.” Continue reading…

Crashburn Roundtable: Grading the Phillies Offseason

With pitchers and catchers having reported this morning to the Phillies Spring Training Facility in Clearwater, Florida, there seems no better time to place some closure on the most recent offseason. We’ve already seen a number of attempts to grade MLB teams’ offseason pop up over the past couple days and the coming week should see many more such posts. In what follows, we, the writers at Crashburn Alley, enter our contributions to the Phillies offseason grade book.

What grade would you assign the Phillies offseason? Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 6: Prospects, Underrated Right Fielders, and Hibachi

This time next week, the Crash Bag may have the pleasure of featuring an actual baseball question. Pitchers and catchers report report to camp Monday and position players on Thursday. Who will show up late, i.e., precisely on time? Will that be a BIG DEAL? Those are questions that may be answered in the past and present tense next week. For this week, however, we must continue to entertain ourselves with pure nonsense.

@scottdkessler: Who on the Phillies could eat the most sushi in one sitting, and would they puke like I did tonight?

As best I can reckon, no one currently on the Phillies 40-man roster has played in Japan, which eliminates me taking an easy way out of this question.

This question is similar to the Wing Bowl question I answered last week where I declared Cameron Rupp the winner after Tommy Joseph had to find a CVS to buy some Tums. However, I project a closer battle between Joseph and Rupp in the sushi eat off because indigestion would be less of a factor with sushi, provided Joseph lays off the wasabi. If we’re eating with a fork or fingers, this is the battle. Continue reading…

Who Are You: Michael Saunders

This post is part of a weekly series which will run each Thursday. Over the next several weeks, I’ll take a deep dive look at new members of the Phillies roster. We’re just a couple months away from settling down to watch these guys day-in and day-out for half a year, so let’s try to find out who they are and what to expect from them in 2017.

Previous Installments:

Howie Kendrick

Pat Neshek

Joaquin Benoit Continue reading…

A Too Early Look at the 25-Man Roster: The Last Man In

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Clearwater on February 13th–one short week from now–it is certainly early to look forward to which 25 players will emerge from Spring Training as members of the Phillies Opening Day roster. Two weeks ago, we looked at the locks to break camp with the Major League club. Last week, we began looking at the actual roster battles that could emerge over the next two months. We’ll conclude that series today with the battle for the 25th and final spot on the Opening Day roster.

Previous installments:

Pitching (Locks)

Infield (Locks)

Outfield (Locks)

Backup Catcher

Lefty Reliever

Fifth Outfielder

Seventh Reliever

Continue reading…

A Too Early Look at the 25-Man Roster: Seventh Reliever

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Clearwater on February 13th–one short week from now–it is certainly early to look forward to which 25 players will emerge from Spring Training as members of the Phillies Opening Day roster. Two weeks ago, we looked at the locks to break camp with the Major League club. Last week, we began looking at the actual roster battles that could emerge over the next two months. We’ll conclude that series this week.

Previous installments:

Pitching (Locks)

Infield (Locks)

Outfield (Locks)

Backup Catcher

Lefty Reliever

Fifth Outfielder Continue reading…