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Dom Brown Optioned To Lehigh Valley, Has Yet To Report

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Tue, April 28, 2015 06:03 PM Comments: 0

The Phillies activated Domonic Brown (left Achilles tendinitis) from the 15-day DL on Tuesday, and promptly optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. As of the writing of this post, he has yet to report. He has 72 hours. Manager Dave Brundage said he doesn’t know when he will. Phils manager Ryne Sandberg wasn’t exactly enthusiastic, either.

Brown was hitting just .139 for the IronPigs during his rehab assignment.

Baseball wise, the Phillies could’ve used Brown on the roster–their collective outfield has the 2nd lowest OPS in the NL. But the Phillies are clearly trying to send a message to their 27 year old outfielder. We’ll see how this unfolds, but this is certainly could be the beginning of the end of the Dom Brown era in Philadelphia. But then again, this could light a fire under him, too.

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Small Ball? Not So Much

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, April 27, 2015 09:01 AM Comments: 6

PHOTO: AP

PHOTO: AP

Coming into the season, the Phillies offense wasn’t expected to be much of anything. So manager Ryne Sandberg figured that the best way to get these guys to produce would be small ball. Here’s what he told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki in March:

That’s something that I’m stressing this spring. We’re working on it. We’re practicing it. If it’s not a bunt, it could be a hit and run. Get a baserunner, make something happen–really to set the tone for the season. … I look at our bats and our type of team, and I think we’re going to have to be good at that game.

And so far in 2015, they’ve been trying. Kind of. They’ve been one of the worst teams at the plate–last in the league in total runs and runs per game, last in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, and more. But they have the most sacrifice bunt attempts (17) and successes (8) in all of baseball. However, their 47% success rate is near the bottom of the league at 26th. So in reality, they aren’t that good at sac bunts, they just lead the league because they attempt so many.

So what about other forms of “small ball”? I define small ball as advancing the most baserunners as possible. That can come in the form of bunts and steals, but also things like going 1st-to-3rd on a single to right, or advancing a runner from 2nd to 3rd on a ground ball. Elias/ESPN classify a “productive out” as (1) successful sac bunt by a pitcher with one out, or (2) advancing any runner with none out, or (3) driving in a baserunner with the second out of the inning. A failure is determined as making an out without advancing the runner(s). Using that criteria, the Phillies are 11th in the league in with 22 successes in 61 opportunities. So at least they’re in the top half in that category.

But how about baserunning? They have 10 stolen bases in 13 attempts, which is about the league average. However, they haven’t been very good on the basebaths. According to Baseball Reference, the Phillies have taken extra bases (defined as taking more than one base on a single or more than two on a double) at a rate good for third-worst in the league. Furthermore, they are 2nd-to-last in the rate at which any baserunner scores on a batter’s play. They are last in total baserunners that scored and last at advancing a runner from second with none out as well.

So, the Phillies are trying the small ball thing with lots of bunts, but they don’t do the other things that are required to make “small ball” successful. If they really want to stress this play style, they need to do a better job, as Andy Reid would say, of situational hitting and running the bases. They could vastly improve their run output if they just improve in those areas.

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Gameday 19: Phillies vs Braves

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Sun, April 26, 2015 11:12 AM Comments: 5

psd_1247504565philadelphia-phillies-pAtlanta Braves (9-8) at Philadelphia Phillies (6-12)

Starting Pitchers:

PHI: Jerome Williams (1-1 , 3.71)
vs.
ATL: Trevor Cahill (0-2 , 9.95)

Time: 1:35 EST, Citizens Bank Park
TV: MLBN, CSN
Weather: Mostly sunny, low 60”s
Media: Twitter and Facebook

A note for today:  The Phillies will try to steal the series from the Braves today, but Atlanta’s offense may just have gotten the spark they needed in yesterday’s 5-2 win over the Phils. Jerome Williams gets the ball for Ryne Sandberg‘s squad, while Trevor Cahill will be on the mound for Fredi Gonzalez‘s Braves. Ryan Howard, hitting in the five hole today, has a pair of home runs as his last two hits. Freddy Galvis will be in the lineup, despite getting banged up while making one of the best plays we’ll see in 2015 last night.

Lineup: Revere LF, Herrera CF, Utley 2B, Francoeur RF, Howard 1B, Hernandez 3B, Rupp C, Galvis SS, Williams RHP

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Harang Stellar In 1-0 Phils Win

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, April 24, 2015 10:02 PM Comments: 14

The Phillies shutout the Braves Friday night, thanks to an outstanding performance by Aaron Harang. He threw eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. He struck out six, and even contributed as a hitter with two sacrifice bunts. However, he didn’t get any help from the Phillies offense, as he left the game with the score still 0-0, and didn’t get the win. His season ERA is now at a cool 1.37.

There’s been a lot of talk about small ball with the Phillies this year. In their game against the Braves, the Phillies had three total sacrifices–one of which set up the game winning run in the ninth. Freddy Galvis led off the inning with a single–his third hit of the night. He raised his average to .345. He advanced to second on a sacrifice by Cesar Hernandez, and swiped third on a bobbled ball by Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Ben Revere then hit a soft grounder to first, which was bobbled by Freddie Freeman–his second error of the night. Game.

The normally sure-handed Braves committed four errors, including the fateful one in the ninth. They had made only four errors in their entire season prior to tonight.

Tomorrow, David Buchanan will get the ball for the Phils in a 7:05 game. Shelby Miller gets the start for Atlanta.

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Gameday 17: Phillies vs Braves

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, April 24, 2015 06:00 PM Comments: 0

Atlanta Braves (8-7) at Philadelphia Phillies (5-11)

Starting Pitchers:

PHI: Aaron Harang (2-1 , 1.96)
vs.
ATL: Alex Wood (1-0 , 3.93)

Time: 7:05 EST, Citizens Bank Park
TV: CSN
Weather: Clouds, low 50′s
Media: Twitter and Facebook

A note for today:  Aaron Harang has been the Phillies best starter in 2015, and he’ll try to keep up the good work against his 2014 team, the Atlanta Braves. He had one of his best seasons in a long time last year, going 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA in 33 starts–his most since 2007. The Braves will counter with 24 year old lefty Alex Wood.

Lineup: Revere LF, Herrera CF, Utley 2B, Francoeur RF, Howard 1B, Asche 3B, Ruiz C, Galvis SS, Harang RHP

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Howard, Revere Power Phils Past Marlins

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Tue, April 21, 2015 09:51 PM Comments: 3

Coming into Tuesday’s game against the Marlins, Ryan Howard was homerless and in a heavy slump at the plate. But he had himself a good night. He went 2-3 with 2 RBI and a walk–and hit his first home run of the year. That home run, a two-run shot in the sixth, put the Phils ahead 4-3 and proved to be the eventual game winner.

Ben Revere, who was also in a bit of a slump, hit a two-run triple in the next inning, giving the Phils some insurance runs. He ended up going 1-3 on the night, and just like The Big Piece, had two RBI and a walk. The rest of the Phillies seven runs came from a home run by Freddy Galvis and a sacrifice fly by the ice cold Chase Utley.

On the mound, Phils starter Jerome Williams had a decent outing, giving up two earned runs over six innings. He gave up three runs total. The unearned run was a result of an error by Howsard. Williams also scattered eight hits, and recorded six strikeouts. After him, Luis Garcia, Ken Giles, and Jonathan Papelbon all tossed a scoreless inning each. Giles again looked a bit shaky, but came away unscathed. His season so far has a very “2008 Brad Lidge” feel to it.

For the Marlins, starter Dan Haren threw six innings, allowing four runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out seven. Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster home run in the fourth inning, which landed in the upper bullpen. Tuesday night was Ichiro’s first ever game at Citizens Bank Park.

The two teams are at it again tomorrow, with Cole Hamels getting the ball for the Phillies, and former Phillies prospect Jarred Cosart getting the start for the Marlins.

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Gameday 13: Phillies at Nationals

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Sun, April 19, 2015 12:35 PM Comments: 24

Philadelphia Phillies (4-8) at Washington Nationals (5-7)

Nationals

Starting Pitchers:
PHI: David Buchanan (0-2 , 11.42)
vs.
WAS: Stephen Strasburg (0-1 , 6.75)

Time: 1:35 pm,
TV: CSN, MLBN
Weather: Overcast, low 60′s
Media: Twitter and Facebook

A note for today: The Phillies will try to string two wins together and split their four game series with the Nationals today. David Buchanan gets the ball for the Phils, and he has really struggled in his two starts this year. The Nats will counter with Stephen Strasburg, who has had the Phillies’ number of late. Ryan Howard hits fifth.

Lineup: Herrera CF, Galvis SS, Asche 3B, Francoeur RF, Howard 1B, Ruiz C, Hernandez 2B, Revere LF, Buchanan RHP

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Gameday 11: Phillies at Nationals

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, April 17, 2015 06:05 PM Comments: 36

Philadelphia Phillies (3-7) at Washington Nationals (4-6)

NationalsAtlanta Braves

Starting Pitchers:
PHI: Sean O’Sullivan (0-0, 3.00)
vs.
WAS: Max Scherzer (0-1, 0.66)

Time: 7:05 pm,
TV: CSN
Weather: Partly cloudy, 60′s
Media: Twitter and Facebook

A note for today: Can the Phillies avoid losing their sixth straight game? They’ll have to beat a somehow winless Max Scherzer to do so, as well as hope that Sean O’Sullivan can be as solid as he was in his last outing. Ryan Howard is batting seventh again, and the Phils will again go with an outfield of Darin Ruf-Odubel Herrera-Jeff Francoeur.

Lineup: Herrera CF, Galvis SS, Utley 2B, Francoeur RF, Asche 3B, Ruiz C, Howard 1B, Ruf LF, O’Sullivan P

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Utley Finds His Swing, But Phillies Still Lose to Mets, 6-5

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Tue, April 14, 2015 10:28 PM Comments: 9

PHOTO: AP/Kathy Willens

PHOTO: AP/Kathy Willens

Chase Utley seems to have found his swing. In Tuesday night’s game against the Mets, he was 3-3 with two home runs–one of which came off Mets starter Matt Harvey–and 3 RBI. Unfortunately for the Phillies, Utley’s night wasn’t enough. The offense would only score one other run–a home run by Cody Asche, also off Harvey. Starter David Buchanan gave up five runs in 5.2 innings, and just looked off all night. He couldn’t find the strike zone, and when he did, he was tagged by the Mets hitters. He gave up nine hits, and 13 total baserunners.

He hit two batters in the second inning, which caused a bit of tension between the two teams, especially since Michael Cuddyer had to leave the game to get x-rays (which later came back negative). Mets fans even booed Buchanan when he came up to bat in the next inning, and chanted some Not-Safe-For-Work words at him. Harvey would later hit Utley on the first pitch of an at-bat, which resulted in a warning from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez and a death stare from the Phillies second baseman.

After that Utley HBP, Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud was charged with catchers interference on Ryan Howard. Upon replay, it wasn’t even close to interference. d’Arnaud immediately began yelling at the umpire, and Terry Collins actually stepped in between the two to save d’Arnaud from getting ejected. Collins was then ejected. The play loaded the bases, but the Phillies wouldn’t capitalize on the mistake.

The good news is that the Phillies were able to get to Matt Harvey, something they haven’t been able to do in the past. Prior to Tuesday night, Harvey had only given up four earned runs and one home run to the Phillies in 33.1 innings. He had faced 122 batters and only gave up 15 hits.

With four home runs, the Phillies tripled their 2015 total (2).

David Wright left the game in the eighth inning after hurting himself on a slide into second on a steal.

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Aaron Harang Off To Good Start

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Tue, April 14, 2015 10:52 AM Comments: 0

It’s only two games, but Phillies righthander Aaron Harang has been a pleasant surprise for the club this year. He’s 1-1 with a 0.73 ERA–or, just one earned run over 12.1 innings pitched. That’s 7th in the NL. He throws first pitch strikes about 70% of the time, which is good for 6th in the NL.

He had a similar start with the Braves last season, allowing just three earned runs in his first 31.2 innings pitched–a 0.85 ERA. However, this is not something that’s common for Harang. Over his career, he has a 4.25 ERA in the months of March and April, which is slightly above his career ERA.

So what makes this season different? Well, in a word, he’s benefited from a bit of luck. He’s currently allowing just a .176 average on balls in play–sixth-lowest in the NL. He also surrenders the most fly balls in the NL, but has yet to give up a home run. His first five starts with the Braves last year were very similar: low ERA with a low BABIP, a high fly ball percentage, and no home runs.

His velocity is about one MPH lower than it was through five starts last year–88-89 this year, 89-90 in 2014. But it’s still just about his career average. One thing that is different is that he’s been throwing a cutter a lot more. He throws it 16.2% of the time in 2015, but only 2.0% over his career. He’s also throwing more strikes (55.2% in the zone according to FanGraphs) and more strikes that don’t induce swings (in-the-zone swings down a whole 10%). As a result, he’s striking out more batters than usual and walking less.

It would be foolish to think he’ll keep up this pace, but if he can repeat what he did for the Braves last year–which was a 3.57 ERA in 33 starts and 204.1 innings–it would be more than enough for a Phillies team desperate for quality starting pitching.

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