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Ken Rosenthal, Awkward Press Conferences, and Why The Phillies Are Stuck In Neutral

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, February 12, 2015 10:30 AM Comments: 81

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“Stuck in neutral”

Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal wrote about the Phillies in his column over at Fox Sports.

He started out with four hypothetical “awkward” press conferences–Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee, and Ryan Howard–asking the players about potential trades when Spring Training rolls around. These are all guys that the Phillies probably should’ve parted ways with by now. They know it, reporters know it, most fans know it. Heck, even the Phillies might know it. Here’s a quote from Rosenthal following the intro:

We’re talking awkward — painfully awkward. And unless things change before the Phillies’ first workout a week from Thursday, their offseason will look like a major fail.

Now, I think I disagree that the offseason will be a major fail if they don’t move any of those four guys before Spring Training. They did manage to make deals to part ways with Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd, which was noted by Rosenthal. Those weren’t exactly blockbuster deals, but they were something.

But I agree that a failure exists with the Phillies front office. The failure, in my opinion, does not lie in the 2015 offseason. It has already happened. They should’ve moved Cliff Lee a long time ago. Ryan Howard, in my opinion, should’ve been simply released during the season last year. Jonathan Papelbon should’ve been traded for something, either at the deadline last season, or any time during this offseason. Only Cole Hamels was worth hanging on to going into 2015. The David Price trade at the deadline last year hurt Hamels’ value, and the free agent moves this offseason (Jon Lester to the Cubs, James Shields to the Padres, to be precise) didn’t help either. I think they’ll get some better offers leading up to the deadline, as contending teams realize that they need a starter.

But Rosenthal is right. Maybe the Phillies are being too stubborn, and maybe it’s doing more harm than good. Here’s what he had to say about it:

The front office’s stubbornness, though, appears to go even deeper, whether it’s Amaro or Gillick who is actually calling the shots. The Phillies refuse to accept that they might not get exactly what they want.

Can the Phillies fix their mistakes? Sure. But, as Rosenthal states, it would require the Phillies to loosen up and entertain some offers that might not be up to their standards. Unless something changes soon, things will only get worse. Here’s how he put it:

And good luck to the Phillies persuading their fans to buy tickets for a team that remains stuck in neutral.

Stuck in neutral. I like it. The car that is the Phillies is on a downward path, stuck in neutral, and Ruben Amaro Jr. is at the wheel. He still has time to turn that baby around, but time is running out. Tick, tick, tick.

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Matt Stairs Headed to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, February 04, 2015 12:08 PM Comments: 3

PHOTO: Chris Carlson/AP

Former Phillie hero and current broadcaster Matt Stairs is headed to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame with the class of 2015.

He will join two other notable MLB players in Carlos Delgado and Felipe Alou in this year’s class.

We all remember Stairs for his moonshot against the Dodgers in 2008. I’m going to link it because we can never watch that home run enough times. That was his only career postseason home run.

He’s played for 13 MLB teams–counting the Expos and the Nationals as two separate entities–from 1992 to 2011, and has appeared in 1895 MLB games. He hit 265 home runs and finished with a career OPS of .8323–which is good for 238th all time, just above guys like Justin Morneau (.8321) and Ernie Banks (.8296), and just below guys like Pat Burrell (.8338) and Roberto Clemente (.8344).

He appeared in just 115 games for the Phils, and notched seven dingers and 22 RBI in 148 plate appearances. Nowadays, he calls Phillies games alongside Tom McCarthy.

Congrats to Matt–while the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t quite Cooperstown, it’s still a well deserved honor for one of our most beloved Phillies.

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Stigall Rips Chase Utley’s “Ellen” Appearance

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, December 17, 2014 10:47 AM Comments: 11

In case you missed it, Julie Kramer, a 23 year old woman battling stage-4 Synovial Sarcoma appeared on “Ellen” this week for an interview on inspiring women. Kramer, from Tabernacle, NJ, a big Phillies fan, was surprised with a nice amount of Phillies merchandise and a check for $10,000, presented by Chase Utley himself. He also invited her to any Phillies game next season–including a batting practice invite to “meet the guys”.

It was an amazing moment.

But a radio talk show host for 1210 WPHT didn’t seem to think so. Chris Stigall absolutely trashed the whole situation, at one point even questioning if she will live through the season. Yikes. Remember, 1210 PHT is the flagship station for the Phillies. Listen here:

There’s nothing like crapping on an amazingly nice gesture, by the current face of the Phillies, on a national stage–during the holidays. It was an unbelievably low blow to everyone involved, and way out of line.

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On A.J. Burnett Going To The Pirates

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Tue, November 18, 2014 03:15 PM Comments: 5

A.J. Burnett didn’t have the best time in his one-year stint with the Phillies. After a start on April 11 against the Marlins, he was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia–or, in other words, a part of his abdomen was bulging or protruding where it should not have been. The injury is not the type to fix itself with rest, and Burnett elected to pitch through the pain, rather than have surgery.

The result, at least in my opinion, was a decidedly sub-par A.J. Burnett pitching for the Phillies. His ERA was more than a full run above what he posted in 2013. His K% was down, BB% was up, and his velocity was nearly a full MPH lower on average than in 2013. He relied on his slider much more than he has in the past, and neglected his fastball.

Still, made 34 starts, which was tied for most in the NL and tied for a career high. He tossed 213.2 innings, which was good for 7th in the NL, and the 2nd most of his career. He threw 3472 pitches–2nd in the NL and also 2nd most of his career.

My point here is that he fought through his hernia injury and gave the Phillies all he could. What did he get in return? A whole lotta criticism from fans and media alike. Now, I understand that it’s fair to criticize his performance. He didn’t have a good year. But that criticism should also come with praise for what he gave the Phils. Had he elected to do the surgery, the Phils would’ve had a really tough time filling his spot in the rotation. The entire dynamic of the season would’ve been different. We may not have seen Jerome Williams. We might have been stuck with Sean O’Sullivan and another minor leaguer in the rotation.

During the season Burnett hinted at not wanting to pitch in 2015. When that decision had to be made, however, he decided that he did want to pitch. Just not for the Phillies. He declined his player option–which was a cool $12.75 million. He then signed a contract with the Pirates for $8.5 million–more than $4 million left on the table. He lost out on 1/3 of what he would’ve made with the Phillies to get the heck out of Philadelphia. He clearly did not enjoy his time here, and the outlook of another bad season in 2015 could not have been too appealing to him. With the Pirates, he has a shot to compete for a playoff spot next year, and I think he will be happier than he was here. And I can’t blame him.

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2014 Player Reviews: Jonathan Pettibone & Sean O’Sullivan

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, November 13, 2014 12:05 PM Comments: 0

Both Jonathan Pettibone and Sean O’Sullivan saw little action for the Phils in 2014. Pettibone made two starts in April–a five inning, two run performance against the Marlins and a four inning, eight run outing against the Rockies.

He was then sent down to make room for Cole Hamels to join the rotation, but shortly thereafter he was placed on the DL with shoulder issues. After being examined by Dr. James Andrews, we learned that Pettibone had a small tear of the labrum in his shoulder. Since then, there has been little information released regarding the righty. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters that Pettibone may not be ready for Opening Day in 2015.

O’Sullivan, on the other hand, appeared in only three games for the Phillies, but for other reasons. He began the year in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and didn’t make his first start for the Phils until June 28 against the Braves. After allowing four runs over 5.2 innings, he was sent back down. His next start came when the Phillies traded Roberto Hernandez, and they needed an emergency start. He allowed five runs over six innings, and again was designated for assignment and sent to the IronPigs a few days later.

They called him up once more, and he made a relief appearance–one shutout inning–against the Pirates on September 10. Following the season, the Phillies released O’Sullivan.

Grade: Pettibone C, O’Sullivan D-

Pettibone was injured for the majority of the year, so I can’t bring myself to give him a bad grade. He gets a C. O’Sullivan was never really a factor for the big club, but when he was in, he was bad. He gets a D-.

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2014 Player Reviews: Cole Hamels

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, November 12, 2014 12:00 PM Comments: 6

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Back in February, we learned that Cole Hamels was dealing with biceps tendinitis over the winter, and was behind his recovery schedule. We were told that he wouldn’t be ready for Opening Day. In March, he suffered a setback, telling reporters that he wasn’t in pain, but was fatigued. He was placed on the 15-day DL on March 27 (retroactive to March 21). After a handful of rehab starts, he was finally cleared to join the team in L.A.

He began his 2014 season with a six inning, two run outing against the Dodgers. His next start, however, didn’t go as well. The Mets tagged Hamels for six runs over 4.2 innings. Then he allowed five runs over six innings against the Blue Jays. He was 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in those three starts. It wasn’t looking good.

But then he settled into the Cole Hamels that we all know. Over his next 27 starts, he posted a 2.06 ERA. His changeup was as good as ever, and he seemed to get stronger as the year went on. He went over 100 pitches 17 times, and allowed more than three earned runs in an outing just three times.

His best Game Score in a start was against the Padres on June 11. He threw eight shutout innings, while allowing five hits, one walk, and struck out 11 batters. His worst was that second start of the year against the Mets. He was the starting pitcher in a combined no-hitter against the Braves, and finished the season with the 5th-lowest ERA in the NL.

He was the subject of several trade rumors leading up to and at the deadline, but the Phillies did not move him.

Grade: A

Hamels was fantastic in 2014. Aside from an injury that delayed his season debut, he was as consistent as we’ve seen him in a Phillies uniform. He didn’t have many wins, but that has very little to do with how well he pitched. It was a career year for Hamels, and he was easily the Phillies best player in 2014.

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2014 Player Reviews: Cliff Lee

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, November 07, 2014 10:00 AM Comments: 5

PHOTO: AP/Alex Brandon

PHOTO: AP/Alex Brandon

Cliff Lee came into 2014 with his usual high expectations. He was coming off a pretty good 2013 season where he posted a 2.87 ERA in 31 starts.

His first start of the year was less than ideal. He allowed eight earned runs in five innings against the Rangers. However, he followed up that start with seven shutout innings in Chicago against the Cubs.

Up until May 18, he had started ten games, and had an ERA of 3.18. But then we got some bad news. He got an MRI on his sore elbow, which revealed a flexor strain. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 21, retroactive to May 19. Initially, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. downplayed the severity, saying it was “pretty mild”. But by May 26, he wasn’t yet cleared to throw, and by May 27, Amaro admitted that he didn’t know when Lee would be ready to pitch again.

By June 11, he was able to play catch, and threw a bullpen on June 17. He began his rehab in the minors. Things were looking better. He was set for a mid-July return to the Phils. At this point, it was looking like the Phils might actually be able to trade Lee–one of their most valuable and coveted assets at the time–at the deadline. He was activated on July 21, and gave up six runs in 5.2 innings that day. His trade value went down. In his next start, he gave up three runs in five innings. Again, his value went down, as scouts were unimpressed with him. Finally, on July 31, Lee started against the Nationals–meaning he wasn’t traded by the July 31 deadline. He was, according to Buster Olney, a strong candidate for an August waiver trade, however. But that would be the last time we would see Lee pitch for any team. He went just 2.2 innings before leaving due to injury. He pointed to his elbow after throwing a pitch to Denard Span and motioned to be taken out.

As I said above, he wouldn’t pitch again in 2014, and, while his elbow wouldn’t require surgery, it would require a ton of rest. On October 1, an MRI revealed his elbow was healing well. And that’s the last news we’ve heard.

His stats for 2014 were poor by Cliff Lee standards, and were surely impacted by his elbow injury–which he admitted he had pitched through. He finished with a 3.65 ERA, and a higher walk rate and a lower strikeout rate than 2013. He was getting less swings-and-misses and pitching at a slower pace. His velocity was also down, as was the effectiveness of his pitches, including his cutter. Especially in those final three games in July. He simply wasn’t right, which tells me he wasn’t ready to come back.

Grade: D/Incomplete

If I was forced to give Cliff Lee a letter grade, it would be a D. He wasn’t around for much of the year, and while he was, he wasn’t what we expected. And if the Phillies were hoping to trade him, that option was eliminated as well. Of course, it’s hard to punish a guy for an injury, which is why I added the incomplete grade as well.

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The Phillies Should Be More Like The Dodgers

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, November 05, 2014 10:00 PM Comments: 58

The Dodgers are making some changes in their front office. They hired Farhan Zaidi–away from Billy Beane and the Athletics–as their new GM, in addition to Josh Byrnes to a yet unknown position. Zaidi and Byrnes join Andrew Friedman to make up one of the youngest and smartest a front offices in MLB.

It’s no question that the future of the Dodgers is looking bright with the front office they now have.

So why can’t the Phillies follow in L.A.’s footsteps? And, while I’m not being anti Ruben Amaro Jr., I am against the RAJ-type mentality. I don’t think it’s doing the Phils any good. The front office needs to be more welcoming to the analytical side of baseball, and willing to make smart moves over flashy ones. Amaro has shown his resistance to the analytical side of things in the past.

I think if the young and smart minds are good enough Los Angeles, it should be good enough for the Phillies.

  • 58 Comments
 

2014 Player Reviews: Jerome Williams

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, November 03, 2014 11:00 AM Comments: 11

PHOTO: AP/Chris Carlson

PHOTO: AP/Chris Carlson

The Phillies claimed pitcher Jerome Williams off waivers from the Rangers back on August 10. They needed starting pitching help, and likely didn’t want to go with Sean O’Sullivan for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Williams, however, didn’t appear to be all that good of an option at the time. He posted a 6.71 ERA for the Astros and Rangers up to that point in 2014. Many Phillies fans didn’t even know who he was, had never even heard his name before. We cleared that up, though.

But then something great happened. He was good. Not good-for-a-fifth-starter good, either. He posted a 2.83(!!!) ERA for the Phils in nine starts. The 32 year old averaged just over 6.1 innings and about 2.2 runs (including unearned) per start. For comparison, Cole Hamels averaged between 6.2 and 7.0 innings and exactly two runs per start, and A.J. Burnett averaged just under 6.1 innings and 3.58 runs per start.

Williams, who generally used his fastball and sinker the most, never really pitched that well, despite his outstanding ERA. His K% was just 16.5% and his BB% was 7.4%. League averages for NL starters were 19.5% and 7.1%. His K-BB% was 9.1%, with the league average being 12.4%. Many of his other stats were at or close to league average.

One thing that sticks out, however, was his BABIP. While he was surrendering around the league average in line drives, ground balls, and fly balls, the ones that were in play were turned into outs at a higher rate than average–his BABIP was .257, and the league average was .294. .257 was the 8th-lowest among NL starters with at least 50 innings pitched. Combine that with his solid (8.5%) HR/FB rate, and we’ve got a pretty good explanation for his great ERA, despite his average peripherals.

GRADE: A+

I don’t see how Jerome Williams can receive any other grade. He came to the desperate-for-starting-pitching-help Phillies and gave them all that they could ask for and way more. I would feel pretty comfortable saying that Williams’ performance-to-expectations ratio was the highest on the Phils. He was outstanding, and pitched himself into a new contract in Philadelphia.

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Phillies Release Spring Training Schedule

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, November 03, 2014 10:10 AM Comments: 0

The Phillies have released a tentative Spring Training schedule. All dates and times are subject to change.

Their first game will be on March 1st, and The On Deck Series will be against Pittsburgh on April 3rd and 4th. They play three home games on March 15, 16 and 17.

Also, Phillies Nation will be making our annual pilgrimage to Clearwater and we have another fun Spring Training trip Clearwater lined up for St. Paddy’s Day!  Check out the details, call some friends and email us with any questions.

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