Phillies First-Half Report Card

With the conclusion of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies reached the halfway point of the season. They stood 36-45, good for last place in the NL East and on pace for 90 losses. If they continue on their current path, 2014 will be their first 90-loss season since 2000, when they went 65-97.

Obviously, things haven’t been going so well in Philadelphia this season, as expected. But it hasn’t been the older crowd that has left the Phillies lagging behind the competition; it’s been the young guys. Let’s hand out some first-half grades and see where the problems lie.

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Saying Goodbye to an Incredible Streak

2,832 days. That’s how long it had been since Chase Utley’s last walk-off home run before last night. But more than that, it had been 2,492 days since his last walk-off hit of any kind.

If you follow me on twitter, you know this streak has captured my attention for quite awhile, mainly because it was remarkably improbable. Reid Brignac has played 24 games for the Phillies and already has two walk-off hits. John Mayberry Jr. has played 490 games for the Phillies and provided five walk-offs. In 2009, backup catcher Paul Hoover played just nine games for the Phillies, but even he found time for a walk-off of his own.

Last night was Utley’s 850th game since his last walk-off hit.

The streak had to end eventually, so I did my best to “jinx” it by tweeting Fun Facts about the streak whenever Utley had an opportunity for a walk-off. Here are a few of my favorites: Continue reading…

Jake Diekman Should Not Be the “Eighth-Inning Guy”

Reliever Jake Diekman ran into a bit of trouble in the eighth inning of last night’s eventual 14-inning victory over the Miami Marlins. The lefty started the inning and Marlins manager Mike Redmond opted to have the right-handed Reed Johnson pinch-hit for reliever Bryan Morris. Johnson would eventually fly out to right field.

The Marlins’ lineup was entirely stacked with right-handed hitters one through eight, including the switch-hitting Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting seventh. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg opted to let Diekman stay in the game to face Jake Marisnick. With the bases empty and one out, it’s not a big deal and Diekman is good enough that you trust him to retire the odd right-handed hitter every now and then. Marisnick bunted to third base and Cody Asche threw him out for the second out of the inning.

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Cord Sandberg: Shiny New Thing/Fast Car/Lion/Rose

Sometimes, when you’re looking at a shiny new thing, the “thing” blinds you for a little bit. Because of the shininess.

- Soon-To-Be-Popular Modern Saying

Cord Sandberg is like a 2013 Roadster. He’s maybe lost some of that “new car smell” from a summer spinning his tires around the Gulf Coast of Florida, but his engine still alternately purrs like a kitten and roars like a lion. He’s currently sitting on an every-game-of-the-young-season hitting streak of 12 games, which has gotten some around the internets all abuzz with J.P.-Crawfordian good-time super-happy feelings. And while Sandberg and Crawford came out of the same draft class, and had far different levels of success in 2013, both have put together hot streaks in 2014 that make you look up and wonder if the kitten is actually a lion cub growing up before our very eyes, and lying in wait to ambush and eat his opponent…which I’ll readily admit, would get either of them suspended for nine FIFA matches or released by the Dodgers. Resist the urge, Boys. Continue reading…

Cole Hamels Is Living Up To His Contract

Next month will mark two years since the Phillies signed Cole Hamels to an extension worth $144 million over six years with an option for a seventh year. At the time the deal was signed, it was the second largest contract ever given to a pitcher, behind only the 7-yr/$161M contract CC Sabathia signed with the Yankees in December 2008. Since the Hamels signing though, five other pitchers have gone on to sign larger deals: Clayton Kershaw (7/$215M), Justin Verlander (7/$180M), Felix Hernandez (7/$175M), Zack Greinke (6/$147M), and Masahiro Tanaka (7/$155M). It goes without saying that with this contract came enormous expectations for Hamels’ performance – anything less than inclusion among the best pitchers in the league would be a disappointment.
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Domonic Brown Has Not Had A Good Time in Left Field

Left fielder Domonic Brown made another blunder in Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins. With two outs and runners on first and second, Marcell Ozuna hit a line drive to Brown in left. Brown misjudged the ball and it sailed over his head, allowing one run to score. Another two would score immediately after, when Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled to center.

It’s Brown’s third misplay in a week and a half:

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The Future is Unwritten: Carlos Tocci

In the modern era of baseball fandom, three years feels like an eternity. That’s how long we’ve been watching, scrutinizing and trying to shove food down the throat of Carlos Tocci, the now 18 year old Venezuelan center fielder who’s spending 2014 repeating Low-A Lakewood. Over that time, Tocci hasn’t produced statistics that have people clamoring for his promotion the same way JP Crawford has. As a result the once prominent buzz that surrounded Tocci’s advanced-for-his-age skillset has mostly evaporated. He is no longer the flavor of the month, no longer the shiny new toy and so 21st century prospect fans and their embarrassingly short attention spans are now aloof. It’s a mistake. Regardless of whether or not Tocci pans out he’s a must-follow just for the developmental intrigue involved. Continue reading…

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

After winning back a ton of good will from fans with a five-game winning streak to begin a seven-game road trip, the Phillies dropped the final two games in St. Louis against the Cardinals, then came back to begin an eight-game homestand and were promptly shut out by the Miami Marlins for the tenth time this season. Only the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego Padres have been shut out more times this season (11). The Phillies scattered six hits (five singles) and two walks as they dropped to seven games below .500 and six games out of first place in the NL East.

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