Maikel Franco Has Been Timely with His Hits

Maikel Franco has only logged 21 games thus far this season, but he’s made the most of it even with an ugly 2-for-27 stretch in the final week of May. He homered in three of four games to open the month of June, contributing to two comeback wins against the Cincinnati Reds. Those two contributions, plus one earlier in the year in Colorado against the Rockies, have him taking up three of the top-six spots for the biggest contributions in terms of Win Percent Added (WPA).

WPA, simply put, tells you how much a player contributed to his team’s odds of winning. It can be used for a singular play or for contributions across an entire game or any select period of time. The aforementioned list references total game contributions:

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The Phillies, Somehow, Have Been Fun to Watch

When one enters a baseball season with a #2-5 rotation that includes Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Sean O’Sullivan, and — eventually — Chad Billingsley, one can expect a lot of poor ballgames. Add in that the outfield included veteran retreads in Jeff Francoeur and Grady Sizemore, and… woof. It was going to be a rough (pun not intended) season to watch.

But that hasn’t been the case this year. The Phillies, after dropping Friday night’s game to the San Francisco Giants 5-4, have won or lost by one run in 17 of 56 games (30 percent). They rallied late to win against the Cincinnati Reds on June 2 and 3, including erasing a four-run deficit against flamethrowing left-hander Aroldis Chapman.

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The Absurdity of Pitchers Hitting (Bring It On, Haters)

I have been mulling over my stance on the Designated Hitter for a while, and hashing it out on Twitter with other diehard types leads to some good discussion. I always stall on one thing that’s too long to describe in 140 characters: Pitchers hitting is completely absurd in comparison to other sports. It’s its success in spite of that absurdity that I think draws so many people to keeping the DH out of the National League. But the charming 13 out of 100 successes NL pitchers enjoy in order to maintain an OBP of .133 thus far in 2015 is not enough for me. American League DHs average a .332 OBP. That’s significantly better (I did the math in my head) and more fun to watch than mostly hoping for a stroke of luck. Continue reading…

The New Freddy Galvis

Just nineteen days ago, Freddy Galvis was hitting .355/.414/.413 leading some to speculate that he’d be the Phillies representative at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati next month. Since that high point, the bottom has fallen out. He’s batting .125/.155/.143 in his last 13 games while striking out in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances and drawing just two walks. While it may have been predictable that a player who entered the season with a career .621 OPS was unlikely to maintain an .800+ OPS, the rapidity of the regression has been painful to watch. Was the New Freddy Galvis of the first six weeks of the 2015 season a complete mirage? Is the Old Freddy Galvis back? What can we expect going forward?

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Curb Your Enthusiasm on Chase Utley

Over at The Good Phight, John Stolnis looked at second baseman Chase Utley‘s recent surge, which was propelled his batting average over the Mendoza line, something that was merely an acid-induced hallucination when he was hitting .099 as recently as May 8. As High Heat Stats noted on Twitter, Utley is hitting .342/.415/.493 over his last 22 games. Pretty good.

Stolnis digs a bit deeper into the numbers, finding that Utley has been swinging and missing less and making better contact with baseballs. Certainly, these are things that have positively contributed to Utley’s success. However, I respectfully disagree with Stolnis saying that Utley “is back” (ostensibly to his old self) with a three-week hot streak.

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Declining Pitching Market Is Benefiting the Phillies

Leading into the season, the pros and cons of the Phillies holding onto Cole Hamels were hotly debated. On the one hand, he was (and still is) the only player who can bring the Phillies the type of return to send the rebuilding mode into overdrive. On the other hand, holding onto Hamels and letting him pitch for four months as opposed to dealing him anytime between November and mid-February reduces the risk that Hamels suffers an injury, cutting his trade value to nil temporarily and minimizing it significantly over the long-term.

GM Ruben Amaro‘s reported demands for Hamels were scoffed at, becoming a punchline among fans and pundits alike. Outfielder Mookie Betts or catcher Blake Swihart were must-haves in any suggested deal, but the Boston Red Sox put both on their list of untouchable prospects. They added outfielder Manuel Margot and, recently, pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. Which is funny because the 22-28 Red Sox boast the American League’s worst starting rotation ERA at 5.05. And that’s only the start of how any leverage they imagined having has vanished.

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A Predictably Embarrassing Display Of Umpiring

All it took was one glance at the umpire assignments for Friday night’s game between the Phillies and the Rockies to know there was a very real possibility the men in blue would manufacture controversy at some point this weekend. For inexplicable reasons, the powers that be opted to put two of Major League Baseball’s most notorious umpires, Angel Hernandez and Scott Barry, on the same umpiring crew. The crew, known officially as Crew C, is in Philadelphia this weekend and last night Hernandez was behind the plate while Barry breathed the same air as his one time nemesis, Ryan Howard, at first base. The stage was set for fireworks and the ultimately inevitable show arrived in the 8th inning.

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Promotion Time

The start of June has typically signaled the start of promotion season in Minor League baseball. Two months at a level is a pretty good benchmark for many guys – everyday players are generally approaching 200 PAs, starting pitchers have 8-10 starts under their belts, and relievers are often 25+ innings into their campaigns. And mid-month is the draft, the end of Extended Spring Training, the start of short season/rookie leagues, and the mid-point of the five month full-season leagues. So lots of opportunity for movement.

In many cases, what it amounts to is an organizational question, not necessarily a prospect question. Some of the guys mentioned below are not really “prospects” in the sense that you look at them to have an impact on the big club in the future. But don’t discount them all; the players who surprise from the rank and file, the non-prospects, are often the same guys having big seasons like those organizational guys I mention below.

Lehigh Valley (AAA) – Aside from thinking it’s a waste to have Dom Brown spending time at AAA when we need to see if he can do anything at MLB, I don’t see much going on at AAA that would warrant a promotion. Continue reading…

Ruben Amaro: Fans Don’t Understand the Game

If there’s one thing GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has not been in his tenure with the Phillies, it’s a good communicator. It didn’t take long after taking over for Pat Gillick that he was branded with the nickname “Smuggy” for the condescending way he would deal with reporters while hunching into his phone.

Amaro’s gone public with not understanding the value of walks, he verbally devalued his own asset in Ryan Howard, and he called former Phillie Andy Oliver‘s decision to look elsewhere for work “foolish”. His latest comment will also likely draw some heat, though this time he may have a legitimate point.

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What Is Domonic Brown Still Doing in Triple-A?

Outfielder Domonic Brown was supposed to be the Phillies’ starting right fielder, replacing Marlon Byrd who had been traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the off-season. Brown, however, suffered from Achilles tendinitis in mid-March and it forced him to start the regular season on the disabled list. When he was finally ready to come off of the disabled list, the Phillies curiously optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

To Brown’s credit, he took the decision in stride, saying that he could use the time spent facing minor league pitching to rediscover his timing at the plate, as Greg Joyce of Lehigh Valley Live reported. And for a while, it looked like he actually had found his timing. In a recent six-game hitting streak between May 15-20, Brown had three multi-hit games. But he went hitless in his next four games and is currently batting .243/.296/.293 in 152 plate appearances at Lehigh Valley. He hasn’t homered and only six of his 34 hits have gone for extra bases.

So why should he be in the major leagues?

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