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2014 Player Reviews: Roberto Hernandez

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Fri, October 10, 2014 02:30 PM Comments: 3

Photo: AP

There are moments in life where you don’t forget where you were when you heard breaking news. Last year, I went down to the Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL, a half business, half vacation trip with my wife. We visited my brother and his wife, hung out at the meetings for a bit, did some reporting, and went to the Magic Kingdom.

I remember very vividly receiving a text from a friend that had grown tired of the Phillies. Before I could read the first, another three texts arrived from this same friend.

“OMG”

“I can’t believe the Phillies signed him!”

“You’re down there, what are  you hearing?!”

“Why did the Phillies sign Roberto Hernandez?!”

Momentarily forgetting that the former Fausto Carmona was now Roberto Hernandez, I, too, had wondered why the Phillies had signed a retired reliever. My friend, a bit more savvy than I during my funnel cake-fueled day of Disney World ecstasy, reminded me that this was not the former reliever but indeed the former Carmona.

From the beginning, this deal looked rough. Or expensive. Or rough and expensive. One year, $4.5 million for a 33 year old that had faked his own identity? Aside from any moral concerns, Hernandez had a composite 13-31 record with a 5.19 ERA in his last three Major League seasons. Of all the veterans to take a chance on, why would the Phillies take a chance on Hernandez?

Hernandez, though, was reliable for a team that saw it’s initial starting five man rotation decimated out of the gate. Starting 20 games, and appearing in three games as a reliever, Hernandez averaged just under six innings per start with an overall ERA of 3.87. Hernandez, however, was not very effective, often laboring through starts, including 12 starts over 100 pitches, getting through the seventh inning or longer just twice out of those games.

Hernandez would be traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in what looks to be an exceptional deal for the Phillies on paper. The Phillies received 19-year old starting RHP Victor Arano and 20-year old infielder Jesmuel Valentin in what has the potential to be their best trade in quite some time. The move was a curious one for the Dodgers; Hernandez would end up 35th out of 43 qualified pitchers in the NL in ERA but the league’s absolute worst in FIP, xFIP, and SIERRA with the third-worst BB/9 IP and the sixth-worst K/9 IP in the NL. There wasn’t much that went right for Hernandez in 2014 but credit goes to Ruben Amaro and company for finding a way to turn the remainder of Hernandez’s one-year deal into something positive for the future.

Grade: D- Sure, on the surface, Hernandez’s 3.87 ERA and 6-8 record look an awful lot like David Buchanan‘s 3.75 ERA and 6-8 record. But, the devil is in the details. Hernandez was, by every other measure, among the NL’s worst pitchers in 2014 and was the NL’s worst pitcher by SIERRA, FIP, and xFIP. Hernandez was not able to strike folks out and was heavily prone to issuing free passes, contributing to the worst K/BB ratio in the NL. And to be quite frank, Hernandez’s games were agonizing to sit through, watching pitch after pitch miss out of the zone, seeing what felt like every hitter get into a full count.

In slight defense of Hernandez, his biggest rough patch came with the Dodgers, where he posted a 4.74 ERA and struggled even more than he did as a Phillie. This grade should be an F but Hernandez showed just enough to catch the eye of the pitching-desperate Dodgers which landed the Phils two nice pieces and we have to give him credit (?) for the fact that his worst numbers that deflated his FIP, xFIP, and SIERRA came with the Dodgers.

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Re-Sign or Release: Jerome Williams

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Fri, October 10, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 22

Photo: Philly.com

The Phillies currently have 12 players on their 40-man roster “in flux”. There are four outright free agents, six arbitration eligible players, and a pair of players with options. We will review each of the 12 players starting today, reviewing the case to either re-sign the player, the case to release the player, and the final verdict of what the Phillies should do for the 2015 season.

Jerome Williams was plucked off the waiver wire by the Phillies on August 10. The Phillies were Williams third team in 2014, seventh overall, and not much was expected from the now 32-year old journeyman righty. Williams had been released by the rebuilding Astros after going 1-4 with a 6.04 ERA in 26 appearances and was the victim of some pretty horrible luck for the last-place Rangers, posting a 9.90 ERA but a much smaller 2.83 FIP. After joining the thin Phillies rotation, Williams posted a 2.83 ERA with a 4-2 mark in nine starts with a tiny 1.134 WHIP.

Was it a fluke or did Williams suddenly find some mysterious talent that was hidden away?

The Case For

Well, the case for re-signing Williams has a number of layers. First, consider the depth of the Phillies rotation. Cole Hamels and David Buchanan are the only presumed healthy, signed rotation pieces headed into 2015 with Cliff Lee and Jonathan Pettibone question marks and A.J. Burnett thinking about retiring.

Second, Williams definitely earned another look with his play, at least viewing his standard stats. His 2.83 ERA with the Phillies was a career low as was his 1.134 WHIP and Williams averaged over six innings per start.

The Case Against

A look at Williams peripherals paints an odd picture. Williams’ Sierra and xFIP were the second lowest of his career but he has decreased the amount of ground balls he is getting and hitters have increased the amount of line drives they are hitting off of him. Both have been steady trends and, with some really bad luck, like he had as a Ranger (.462 BABIP), things could get real ugly real fast. With a Phillies defense that was in the bottom half in Major League baseball in 2014, and is a year older in 2015, this probably isn’t the type of trend you would put money on.

Jerome  Williams GB v. LD

 

Additionally, Williams will command something north of the $2.1 million he made last season in his third year of arbitration. Williams’ career averages suggest he would win 10 or 11 games and post something near a 4.40 ERA, which this year was comparable to Justin Verlander and C.J. Wilson but is more likely to be somewhere between Eric Stults and Jeremy Guthrie.

The Verdict

With the price tag, likely at least $4 million for one season, and the his peripherals headed in the wrong direction, Williams is an easy release for me. If Williams can be had for under $3 million, he would certainly be a solid, cheap rotation piece but I believe his numbers have earned him something higher than that for possibly more than one year and that’s not a contract I would offer if I were the Phillies.

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2014 Player Reviews: David Buchanan

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, October 09, 2014 03:30 PM Comments: 4

Photo: Philly.com

Each day, we will be providing a review, or reviews, of each of the 2014 Phillies. We will begin with the starting rotation, head to the starting line-up, move through to the bullpen, and then the bench.

The 2014 Phillies used 26 pitchers, one shy of 2013′s total. Some were players who won their spots in Spring Training like Mario Hollands while others were veteran stopgaps like Shawn Camp and Jeff Manship. Other names like Hector Neris, were total surprises. David Buchanan was somewhere in between Hollands and Neris in terms of expectations.

It was never a forgone conclusion that Buchanan, 25, would make the Phillies out of Spring Training, or make the team at all, but a strong Spring raised expectations for the Fayetteville, GA native. Buchanan would reach the Majors on May 24 after Cliff Lee was sent to the disabled list, joining rotation mate Jonathan Pettibone.

Buchanan earned his promotion by posting a 3.95 ERA with a 6-2 record at Triple-A Lehigh Valley with a 1.544 WHIP. Buchanan’s numbers would actually improve after his promotion, finishing with a 6-8 record with a 3.75 ERA and 1.292 WHIP in 117.2 IP. Buchanan tied Roberto Hernandez for the fourth-most starts among 2014 Phillies while finishing tied for second among NL rookies in innings pitched and third in starts.

Buchanan was a semi-reliable innings eater for the Phils, going six innings or more in 13 of 20 starts while ranking 12th out of 39 NL rookie pitchers in BB/9 IP but ranked just 32nd out of 39 qualified NL rookie pitchers in K/9 IP. For those that keep an eye on advanced stats, Buchanan accumulated 0.6 fWAR which ranked fourth among Phillies’ starters, ahead of Kyle Kendrick. Buchanan lacked a signature game in his rookie campaign, going seven innings just once while never striking out more than six.

Grade: C  Buchanan’s 90 MPH fastball was a home run waiting to happen (10.5% HR/FB ratio) while his cutter and change-up played well at the Major League level. Buchanan’s 2014 felt like a typical Kendrick season which should make Kendrick expendable as a free agent. Buchanan was perfectly average in 2014 which, sadly, is more than can be said about a majority of the players on the roster.

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PN Interview: Carlos Ruiz

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Wed, October 08, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 3

Last weekend, Phillies Nation was granted VIP Access to Sports Vault’s All Access program at the Philadelphia Sports Card Show and Convention. There, we were able to speak to a number of the guests which included many Phillies, past and present. For the next week, please check out our exclusive interviews and give our friends at Sports Vault a click for the best sports memorabilia and upcoming autograph signings!

Note: This interview with Ruiz was conducted under the context of it being used for the final product of our upcoming Phillies Nation 100 project. To read Ruiz’s PN Top 100 entry, please click here.

Ian Riccaboni, PN: What was your favorite moment as a Phillie?

Carlos Ruiz: The final out of the World Series. Definitely when we won the World Series. It was one of those things you’ll never forget, it was real special.

IR, PN: What was it like to have a game-winning hit in the World Series?

CR: Oh, it was huge, you know. I knew I had to put the ball in play and I was lucky that I hit the ball. I did not hit the ball real hard *laughs* but it was a big moment in my career.

IR, PN: What has it been being in an organization with players like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels? Guys like yourself who play at a very high talent level?

CR: You know, when you come in from nowhere and you are working real hard, there’s a chance you can end up in a place like this and play with superstars. It’s great to be able to go to the ballpark every day and spend time with them and try to learn everything you can from them. I have a lot of good memories from when we have all of those guys on the field.

IR, PN: If you had to pick, who was your favorite pitcher to catch?

CR: Oh, you know, every guy and every guy is special. Me and Roy (Halladay) had something special and so do me and Cole (Hamels), (and Brad) Lidge. There has been a lot of good pitching and it makes it really difficult to pick!

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PN Interview: Darren Daulton

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, October 06, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 8

Last weekend, Phillies Nation was granted VIP Access to Sports Vault’s All Access program at the Philadelphia Sports Card Show and Convention. There, we were able to speak to a number of the guests which included many Phillies, past and present. For the next week, please check out our exclusive interviews and give our friends at Sports Vault a click for the best sports memorabilia and upcoming autograph signings!

Note: This interview with Daulton was conducted under the context of it being used for the final product of our upcoming Phillies Nation 100 project. To read Daulton’s PN Top 100 entry, please click here.

Ian Riccaboni, PN: We’ll start with a tough one – what was your favorite moment as a Phillie?

Darren Daulton: The ’93 season.

IR, PN: Any particular game or moment that sticks out?

DD: Not really! It was, well, that year we had such a good team that it was every day there was something you could see. Whether it was Dude, who was the greatest lead-off hitter ever, in the game, swear to God, during ’93 or (Terry) Mulholland or any of the teammates I had, it was definitely ’93.

IR, PN: You were the only player who bridged the ’83 team to the ’93 team. What was it like playing with (Mike) Schmidt, (Pete) Rose…

DD: Tony Perez! Joe Morgan! Garry Maddox! Lefty! It was my first year and it was a learning session. It’s kind of where I broke in. These guys used to do stuff to me… *laughs* if it’s going in a book, I don’t want them to read about it! *laughs* But that team was a lot of fun.

IR, PN: What was it like being an All-Star for the Phillies in an era of transition from non-contender to contender?

DD: If you make an All-Star team, ya know, that means you’re an All-Star, one of the best players at your position. It was just fun!

IR, PN: Last question: favorite battery mate?

DD: There’s one of them right there! (points to Terry Mulholland). Terry Mulholland. Ya know, Schilling was very good at that time and he was still a younger player. But you know, from a catcher’s standpoint, it was easy to catch those two guys.

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Report: Middleton Owns 48%, Montgomery to Return?

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Fri, October 03, 2014 01:41 PM Comments: 35

Ownership partner John S. Middleton.

Ownership partner John S. Middleton.

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer published an article today that refutes some of what was reported yesterday but not all of it. According to Gelb, yesterday’s report was accurate in reporting that John Middleton has increased his share of ownership of the Phillies to 48% in recent months. And Gelb can also confirm that Middleton has become noticeably more visible, calling him an “influential and active voice among the ownership group.”

What Gelb cannot fully substantiate, however, is the claim from the previous report that President Dave Montgomery’s bout with jaw cancer was a convenient time for the team to move in a different direction.

Or can he? Conspiracy theorists, get your tinfoil hats locked on.

Gelb tosses in this line in his piece:

Another source said that Middleton, 59, recently addressed some team officials with the message that Montgomery’s situation would not be evaluated until at least January. The Phillies could then seek a permanent replacement; Dave Buck, a senior vice president for marketing and advertising sales, is viewed as a top internal candidate.

Until Montgomery’s health improves, or a decision is made on his future, Pat Gillick has, in Gelb’s words, “unilateral control of the franchise.” The Phillies released a statement today, expecting Montgomery to make a full recovery and return back to his post, adding “Over the life of the Phillies partnership no one entity or family has owned a majority of the partnership and we do not foresee this changing in the future,” in an attempt to quell the rumors surrounding the team.

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Report: Montgomery Pushed Out, Big Moves Coming?

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, October 02, 2014 07:40 PM Comments: 38

Ownership partner John S. Middleton.

Ownership partner John S. Middleton.

According to a report, Phillies President and CEO David Montgomery was pushed out of his role as team president in August and did not relinquish temporary control of the team as originally reported. According to reporter Howard Eskin, Montgomery was allegedly with the team every day during his recovery.

In a related story, limited partner John S. Middleton has reportedly been purchasing more and more shares of the team and has now amassed 48% ownership of the team. According to the report cited above, a limited partner cannot own a majority share of the team without unanimous consent of the other owners. The report speculates that with the passing of a handful of ownership partners, the voting math now becomes easier for Middleton to become a majority owner.

The report suggests that Montgomery has had the final say on all personnel decisions, including the decision to retain the club’s aging stars. The report suggests that Middleton may clean house upon assuming majority ownership, with a source close to the reporter indicating that it is almost a certainty that Ryan Howard will not be back next season, with the Phils eating the remainder of his contract, Chase Utley moving to first, and Cody Asche to left field. Finally, the reporter indicates that Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro will listen to possible deals on Cole Hamels.

Analysis: Wow. Based on this report, the onus of the Phillies lack of success rests squarely on the shoulders of David Montgomery and perhaps a bit of slack should be given to Amaro, as it is implied that Amaro’s hands were tied for a lot of these decisions. While news items from this reporter should be taken with a grain of salt, this reporter has been right on bigger bombshells. He’s also missed on slam dunks. This should be an interesting offseason to say the least.

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PN Interview: Terry Mulholland

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Thu, October 02, 2014 04:17 PM Comments: 3

This weekend, Phillies Nation was granted VIP Access to Sports Vault’s All Access program at the Philadelphia Sports Card Show and Convention. There, we were able to speak to a number of the guests which included many Phillies, past and present. For the next week, please check out our exclusive interviews and give our friends at Sports Vault a click for the best sports memorabilia and upcoming autograph signings!

Note: This interview with Mulholland was conducted under the context of it being used for the final product of our upcoming Phillies Nation 100 project. To read Mulholland’s PN Top 100 entry, please click here.

Ian Riccaboni, PN: When you were traded to the Phillies, they weren’t quite a contender yet. What were the expectations of the team at that point?

Terry Mulholland: Well, that was in July of ’89 and it was Charlie Hayes, Dennis Cook, and myself in exchange for Steve Bedrosian and I believe Rick Parker, who later on, I believe was a player to be named later. Obviously, at that time, the Phillies were struggling a little bit. Ya know, Bedrosian was one of the finest relievers in the game and the Giants were in the pennant race that year so a deal was made. Young guys from the Giants came over to the Phillies and I think it turned out really well for all three of us involved in the trade because we were given the opportunity to take the ball and run on a regular basis for the next few years. Charlie got to play third base, Dennis went on to have a very nice career; I had the opportunity to make my contributions to the Phillies organization for a few years, too.

IR, PN: Was there a year where you sensed things were changing or turning around for the Phillies? (The Phillies) acquired you, John Kruk from the Padres, Lenny Dykstra from the Mets…

TM: Yeah, Lee Thomas did a great job assembling a group of guys. We weren’t big named ball players leading the league in anything but we came together as a very good team in terms of playing baseball the way you are supposed to play it. It was a hardnosed group of guys and I take my hat off to Lee Thomas and, later, Jim Fregosi, for putting up with us and getting us to win ballgames.

IR, PN: How important was Jim Fergosi? There was a lot of different personalities of folks like Dykstra who seemed fiery to the public and Dutch who seemed laid back.

TM: Jim was a player’s manager. He wasn’t going to treat you like a kid. We were all men in his eyes and our biggest responsbility was to go out between the foul lines and give him everything he asked for from us and it turn, he let us do whatever we wanted outside those lines.

IR, PN: Who would you say was your favorite battery mate? I know you were caught by Dutch, Todd Pratt

TM: And Steve Lake earlier on. They were all great and they all handled the game how they saw I could best utilize what I had that day. I didn’t always have the best stuff every time out but Dutch and Steve and Todd were always really good about communicating and we were always honest. Nobody was blowing smoke up anyone’s ass. If you didn’t have it that day, they would tell you. But then the days when you had the good stuff, it was a lot of fun.

Continue reading PN Interview: Terry Mulholland

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PN Interview: Cody Asche

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Wed, October 01, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 2

This weekend, Phillies Nation was granted VIP Access to Sports Vault’s All Access program at the Philadelphia Sports Card Show and Convention. There, we were able to speak to a number of the guests which included many Phillies, past and present. For the next week, please check out our exclusive interviews and give our friends at Sports Vault a click for the best sports memorabilia and upcoming autograph signings!

Ian Riccaboni, PN: What was the biggest challenge of competing in your first full season at the Major League level?

Cody Asche, third baseman, Philadelphia Phillies: I would say, since I spent time on the DL this year, staying healthy was one of my bigger challenges this year which was unfortunate that it happened, but it did. But I learned from it and I moved on.

IR: Does that make it tougher to your rhythm at the plate?

CA: Certainly doesn’t help! I mean, I wouldn’t say it makes any more difficult. Major League pitching is hard enough as it is. Any time you miss a significant portion of your games, it is going to be tough to find it, yeah.

IR: You’ve come up with a group of guys, a crop of guys, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Darin Ruf. What’s it like coming up with a group of guys, guys that you know?

CA: It’s good. I think we’re all eager to prove that we are capable of being winning players and capable of being part of a winning team. We naturally have a little big of camaraderie together. We just have to go out there and keep working and keep playing together.

IR: What’s the biggest challenge you are looking forward to in 2015?

CA: Improving. I think that is the challenge that faces every player and I think that’s why we all play, to get better and to prove to ourselves that we can get better.

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Phillies Ask Entire Coaching Staff to Return

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Tue, September 30, 2014 06:30 PM Comments: 32

The Phillies have asked the entire coaching staff to return for the 2015 season but have not yet offered them contracts, per CSN Philly. Manager Ryne Sandberg put together his coaching staff, including bench coach Larry Bowa, first base coach Juan Samuel, third base coach Pete Mackanin, pitching coach Bob McClure, bullpen coach Rod Nichols, hitting coach Steve Henderson, and assistant hitting coach John Mizerock, prior to the 2014 campaign with General Manager Ruben Amaro. The coaching staff presided over the Phillies’ first last-place finish since 2000.

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