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Race to the Bottom: #4 1945 Phillies

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Tue, July 07, 2015 02:36 PM Comments: 3

38-year old “Kewpie Dick” Barrett was the workhorse of the ’45 Phils, pitching over 190 innings and posting a 8-20 record with a 5.39.

This is the second entry in the countdown of the five worst teams in Phillies history. For the introduction and criteria used for this series, please check out the first entry here.

Team: 1945 Phillies

Record: 46-108 (6th least wins in any season, 5th least wins in seasons with 140 games played or more)

Winning Percentage: 29.9% (6th worst winning percentage in any season, 5th worst winning percentage in seasons with 140 games played or more)

Run Differential: Minus 317 (worst in team history)

An older team doesn’t directly equate to a bad team. In fact, the five teams with the oldest average age among positional players in Phillies history (1983, 2010, 2011, 2009, and 1981) all won division titles and two of those teams won pennants while number 11 and 13 on that list won the World Series. And of the 15 Phils’ squads with the oldest pitching squads, seven were playoff teams, a group that includes three pennants (2009, 2008, and 1983) and a World Series winner (2008).

Obviously, older teams do have some measure of risk as older players are at greater risk for injury. Finishing 52 games out of first place, the 1945 Phillies, known for the second season in a row as the Blue Jays, had the 14th oldest hitting and fifth oldest pitching group in Phillies history. In part because of World War II, the Phillies, as well as many other teams in the Major Leagues, relied on veteran players too old to serve. Continue reading Race to the Bottom: #4 1945 Phillies

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Race to the Bottom: #5 1961 Phillies

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, July 06, 2015 01:53 PM Comments: 7

Slugging first baseman Pancho Herrera couldn’t keep the floundering Phillies’ offense afloat in 1961.

The 2015 Phillies enter today with a 28-56 record, good for a 33.3% winning percentage, on pace for 54 wins. The last Phillies’ club to finish in the 50s in the W column in a non-strike shortened season were the 1972 squad who finished that campaign with 59 wins, led by 1972 Cy Young Award winner Steve Carlton who accounted for 27 wins on his own.

If the season ended today, the Phillies would finish with their 13th worst winning percentage in the history of the team, putting them in the bottom 10% of Phillies’ squads in history by using just W/L%. With the possibility of trading Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and others realistic, the Phillies could, in some regards, get worse before they get better. And yet, somehow, it is very unlikely that they end up among the worst teams in Philadelphia Phillies’ history.

This is the first of five articles taking a look at the five worst teams in Phillies’ history. The criteria for this exercise are pretty simple: the Phillies had to finish in last place in their division or league to be eligible and have played over 140 games, thus disqualifying the inaugural 1883 edition of the club that went 17-81-1, good for 17.3% winning percentage. Here is the first team on the race to the bottom.

Team: 1961 Phillies

Record: 47-107-1 (10th least wins in any season, 7th least wins in seasons with 140 games played or more)

Winning Percentage: 30.5% (8th worst winning percentage in any season, 7th worst winning percentage in seasons with 140 games played or more)

Run Differential: Minus 212

The 1961 Phillies were a rare case of a rock-bottom scenario getting even worse. The 1960 Phillies had won just 59 games and were beginning to jettison the final pieces of the Whiz Kids. Prior to the ’60 season, Philadelphia traded then 33-year old future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn and proceeded to release then 31-year old Curt Simmons mid-season. Both moves would prove to be mistakes for the Phillies: Ashburn would lead baseball in on-base percentage with the Cubs while Simmons would post a 2.66 ERA for the Cardinals across 23 appearances, 17 starts. For the 1961 season, there was even more turnover. While seeds were planted for future success in 1963 and 1964, growing pains were visible box scores and in the standings. Continue reading Race to the Bottom: #5 1961 Phillies

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PN Interview: Rhys Hoskins talks transitioning to pros & his knowledge of Phils history

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, April 17, 2015 08:00 AM Comments: 0

RHoskins

Rhys Hoskins, image- Jay Floyd

First baseman Rhys Hoskins was selected by the Phillies in the 5th round of last year’s amateur draft.  After debuting as a pro, the six-foot-four 225-pounder showed some nice pop, slugging nine homers while lacing 15 doubles and driving in 40 runs to go along with his .237 average over 70 games with short-season Class A Williamsport.

Thus far this season, through seven games with Class A Lakewood, the California State University-Sacramento product sports a .261 average with two doubles and two RBI.

Last week I spoke with the 22-year-old about adjusting to the minor leagues straight out of collegiate ball.  Hoskins also scouted himself, offered some thoughts on the BlueClaws’ excitement level for a new season and proudly showed off his (limited) knowledge of Phillies history.

Read ahead for those interview excerpts from Rhys.

-How do you feel college ball prepared you for the minors?

I mean it did.  It just taught me about the game itself.  You know, obviously, the more you play, the better you get.  So, I definitely wasn’t ready to play pro baseball out of high school and just getting to learn the ins and outs, the way you have to think, has really prepared me for right now. 

-You posted some good power numbers, but your average wasn’t gleaming last year.  What was the adjustment period like for you?

It definitely was not easy by any means.  It was about as I expected.  I think the biggest thing to get used to was just playing every day.  And then, obviously, with the traveling- traveling through the night and that sort of thing.  Probably, the biggest transition was, facing the quote-unquote “Friday night guy” in college, you face that guy every single night (in the pros).  And then you get to the bullpen and face a guy that throws harder.  And the next guy throws harder than that.  So, it definitely wasn’t an easy transition. I think, as a competitor, I was just trying to compete and, you know, the season, stat-wise, didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but the power numbers were there and I think that’s why I’m here, so I am satisfied with that.  We’ll see if (I) can get better this year and we’ll see what happens. Continue reading PN Interview: Rhys Hoskins talks transitioning to pros & his knowledge of Phils history

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The Pete Rose Debate

Posted by Brian Michael, Mon, February 16, 2015 12:24 PM Comments: 49

Recently, former Phillies legend Pete Rose was quoted as saying that he’d love to talk to the new MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred, about his lifetime ban from baseball. Besides being unable to take part in most official MLB events, the doors to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown are locked for the All-Time hit leader. It is this point, above all, on which the debate to allow Pete back into baseball pivots.

The man known as Charlie Hustle said, “I’ll always have hope. That’s all I’ve got. I just want to be on that writer’s ballot. Let the writers decide. If they want me in, I’m in. If they don’t feel I should be in, I can live with it.” This is an interesting challenge to the writers especially in light of the recent steroid debate in which many writers have ignored the accomplishments of PED-tainted players.

To his credit, the new commissioner has taken it upon himself to settle this issue once and for all. Manfred told ESPN, “There will come a point where I will have to decide that issue [and] I fully intend to decide it.”  In addition to the performance enhancing drugs issue, this reconsideration comes within the context of a growing push to legalize sports gambling (which has already occurred to an extent in New Jersey).

As we all know, Pete Rose bet on baseball while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds.  There’s no denying that.  Yet the process by which he was banned from baseball was akin to a Greek tragedy – wrought with institutional failures similar to what we’ve seen more recently with the Penn State scandal and the NFL’s wavering domestic abuse policy.  Which means now, some people see Pete as a victim himself.  He is absolutely adored by many Phillies fans of the Baby Boomer generation. His play on the field reminds current fans of the grittiness they’ve come to appreciate from players like Chase Utley. His catch in the 1980 World Series and his 1970 All-Star Game game-winning run exemplify this.

Yet with all these contextual issues swirling around, the question for fans is simple – should Pete Rose be in the baseball Hall of Fame?

Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?

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Phillies Top 10 Free Agent Signings: #5 Eppa Rixey

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, January 05, 2015 08:49 PM Comments: 1

Eppa Rixey was a rare, straight-from-college signee in 1912. Rixey wasted no time establishing himself in the Majors, winning ten games in his rookie season with a 2.50 ERA. Rixey would be a key on the staff that took the 1915 club to the World Series but lost his only decision, the series-ending Game 5, to the Red Sox. Rixey would have his finest season in 1916, going 22-10 with a 1.85 ERA.

Rixey was named the 36th best Phillie of all-time in our Top 100 countdown last winter. Here is an excerpt from that post:

Continue reading Phillies Top 10 Free Agent Signings: #5 Eppa Rixey

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Phillies Top 10 Free Agent Signings: #6 Jim Thome

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Sat, December 27, 2014 02:00 PM Comments: 3

thome“Gentleman” Jim Thome came to the Phillies a year removed from a promising, yet disappointing, 80-81 finish. A clear upgrade over incumbent first baseman Travis Lee, Thome would lead MLB in homers with 47 in 2003 and helped the Phillies improve to an 86-76 mark. The following season, Thome would earn an All-Star birth, hitting 42 homers and leading the Phillies to an identical 86-76 mark. Thome’s arrival showed Philadelphia fans that the front office had shown a commitment to spending money to build a competitor.

Injuries limited Thome’s first stay in Philadelphia and the slugging lefty was dealt away midway through 2005 to make room for Ryan Howard. Thome wasn’t dealt away before creating lasting memories in Citizens Bank Park, however, hitting his 400th home run there on June 14, 2004.

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Phillies Top 10 Free Agent Signings: #7 Pete Incaviglia

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Fri, December 26, 2014 01:42 PM Comments: 3

Incaviglia (ESPN)

Incaviglia (ESPN)

Pete Incaviglia burst on to the Major League landscape in 1986 without playing minor league baseball. Originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1985, Incaviglia was traded to the Texas Rangers during the 1985 season and broke camp with the Rangers in 1986, hitting 30 home runs while simultaneously falling just four strikeouts shy of breaking Bobby Bonds‘ then single-season strikeout record. Inky arguably had a better sophomore season in 1987, hitting 27 homers with nine steals while improving his triple-slash line to .271/.332/.497 while reducing his strikeouts.

The lumbering outfielder would go from defensive liability to league average defender over the next five seasons before seeing a downturn in both offensive and defensive stats in 1991 after being released in late March of 1991 and being picked up by the Detroit Tigers. Inky would sign with the Astros for the 1992 season and would be worth 1.9 wins according to FanGraphs, posting one of his best offensive lines of his career at .266/.319/.430 with 11 homers in 379 plate appearances. In 1992, Inky’s splits foreshadowed later success: Inky hit .282/.344/.494 against lefties for the Astros while splitting time with Luis Gonzalez in left and Eric Anthony in right. Incaviglia would become a free agent following the 1992 season and would sign with the Phillies on December 8, 1992.

1993 would be a career year for Incaviglia, reaching career highs in batting average, slugging, and RBI while hitting 24 homers with a career-low 20.4% strikeout rate. While the idea of someone being “clutch” is debatable, Inky hit .304/.338/.520 with RISP for the 1993 Phillies, hitting a staggering .361/.409/.590 (!) in 66 PA with two outs and RISP. Inky’s career year wouldn’t necessarily translate well into the postseason but Inky had two moments in the playoffs. Inky hit a game-tying homer in Game 1 of the NLCS off Steve Avery and was responsible for driving in the then go-ahead run in Game 6 of the World Series, plating Dave Hollins, the last scoring before Joe Carter ended the series just two innings later.

Incaviglia would come back to Earth in the strike-shortened 1994 season, hitting just .230/.278/.439 before missing the entire 1995 season. Incaviglia would return to baseball in 1996, hitting 16 homers before being dealt to the Baltimore Orioles for starting pitchers Calvin Maduro and Garrett Stephenson. Inky would spend time with the Yankees and have a second stints with the Tigers and Astros in 1998 before spending four seasons in the minors and retiring in 2002. Inky’s stint was short but sweet with the Phils but his career year came at the perfect time and it is unlikely the Phillies would have won the 1993 NL Pennant without him.

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Phillies Top 10 Free Agent Signings: #8 J.C. Romero

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Mon, December 22, 2014 09:46 PM Comments: 7

It’s difficult to see how J.C. Romero became a free agent in 2007. Afterall, he had a 3.15 ERA for the first-place Red Sox. Not bad. But for whatever reason, Romero wasn’t a good fit in Boston and he was let loose midseason to the open market. General Manager Pat Gillick swooped in, picked Romero up, and the rest is history.

Romero led all Phillies relievers in ERA (1.24 in 36.1 IP) in 2007, helping stabilizing one of the worst bullpens in the Major Leagues en route to the first of five-straight NL East division crown. Romero would post a 2.73 ERA while with the Phillies in 165 regular season IP, earning two wins in the 2008 World Series as the Phillies marched to a Fall Classic victory. Romero would be second in appearances and holds on the Phillies from 2007 through 2011 only behind Ryan Madson. Aside from a hiccup in 2007, Romero was dynamite in the postseason with the Phils striking out eight in 10.1 IP with a 0.87 ERA, a .147 BAA, and a .216 OBPA with two wins and four holds.

Romero was with the Phillies during all five division-winning seasons but was released midway through the 2011 campaign and signed with Colorado. Romero’s 2011 was a bit misleading; always  a left-handed specialist, Romero continued to thrive in that role (.231 BAA) but struggled mightily against righties in what were bad match ups (.322 BAA, .429 OBPA). Romero would retire after the 2013 season, last playing in the Majors in 2012.

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Phillies Top 10 Free Agent Signings: #9 Del Unser

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Sun, December 21, 2014 12:01 PM Comments: 2

Photo: OOTP Developments

Photo: OOTP Developments

The 1968 NL Rookie of the Year voting was dead heat between two very deserving candidates. Catcher Johnny Bench would hit .275 and slug 15 homers en route to securing 10.5 first place votes to edge out Mets’ southpaw, and future Phillie, Jerry Koosman who went 19-12 with a 2.08 ERA for the prestigious award. Bench, of course, would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame while Koosman would become the answer to a trivia question (who does Nolan Ryan share his rookie card with?) despite being a multiple-time All-Star and winner of 222 Major League games.

The American League race for Rookie of the Year in 1968 was, well, not as exhilarating. Yankees’ hurler Stan Bahnsen ran away with ROY voting in a pretty weak class. Reggie Jackson, who by today’s rules would have still been an eligible rookie, hit 29 homers with 14 steals but was not eligible for the award. Second place fell to center fielder Del Unser of the Washington Senators who hit .230 with one homer and 11 steals.

Unser was drafted three times before signing with Washington in June 1966 and reached the Majors by Opening Day 1968. Unser would patrol center field for the Sens before being traded in a massive, eight player deal in December 1971 to Cleveland. Unser would be dealt to Philadelphia in November 1972 in a deal that  involved Oscar Gamble going to Cleveland in return. Unser was a solid player during his first stint in Philadelphia, hitting .276/.345/.413 with 22 homers in from 1973 to 1974, grading out as the seventh-most valuable center fielder in the National League per fWAR. Before returning to Philadelphia in March 1979, Unser would be dealt twice more, first to the New York Mets as part of the Tug McGraw trade and then to Montreal in a deal that netted the Mets some of the best sideburns in baseball history on the face of Pepe Mangual. Continue reading Phillies Top 10 Free Agent Signings: #9 Del Unser

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Phillies Top 10 Free Agent Signings: #10 Jay Johnstone

Posted by Ian Riccaboni, Sat, December 20, 2014 02:25 PM Comments: 0

With free agent movement hot and heavy throughout MLB, and the Phillies seemingly nowhere to be found, we present the Top 10 Free Agent Signings in Phillies History.

Jay Johnstone made his Major League debut at age 20 with the California Angles on July 30, 1966, singling off of All-Star Gary Bell and scoring the game’s tying run. Johnstone would finish the year as a starting outfielder for the squad, mostly in right and then left, before finally becoming a full-time starter in 1969. Trades to the White Sox in 1971 and then the A’s in 1973 proved detrimental to the rising star and by age 27, Johnstone was seemingly almost out of the Majors despite hitting .347/.424/.562 for the Triple-A Tuscon Toros.

After the A’s won World Series ring with the A’s in 1973, Johnstone was purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals in January 1974 before being released in late March of the same year before camp broke. Johnstone signed with the Phillies on April 3 and became one of the squad’s most dangerous hitters. Whether it was off the bench or in the starting line-up, johnstone made an impact. Johnstone would hit .303/.368/.455 for the Phillies from 1974 through 1978 and .778/.800/1.111 against the Reds in the 1976 NLCS, one of the few standout offensive players in that series. Johnstone was traded to the Yankees on June 14, 1978 for reliever Rawly Eastwick. Johnstone was not on the A’s roster for their World Series win in 1973 but would win two World Series of his own, one in 1978 with the Yankees and another in 1981 with the Dodgers, before retiring after the 1985 season, his twentieth.

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