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Posts Tagged ‘Citizens Bank Park’

Phillies plan to extend protective netting at Citizens Bank Park

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Fri, August 28, 2015 11:09 AM Comments: 10

1501_Seating_Bowl_at_NightThe Phillies are putting fan safety near the top of their priority list.

According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the organization is vying to become the first team to install extended protective netting at the ballpark, but is currently waiting for MLB to finalize regulations regarding the netting.

Once baseball does reach a conclusion, the Phillies will commence their efforts to keep fans safe from foul balls and flying bats. Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke at Citizens Bank Park Thursday and discussed a possible timetable for the extended netting.

“We are examining all of the relevant information,” Manfred said. “Our goal to is to put the commissioner’s office in a position where we can make a complete recommendation to ownership in November and give people an opportunity to be ready to make changes for next year if, in fact, we decide that changes are necessary.”

Baseball will likely not come to a conclusion by the end of the 2015 season, but extended protective netting could be implemented in ballparks around the league as soon as next season.

According to Rosenthal, MLB must thoroughly examine the laws and codes in the cities and counties where its teams play before deciding on a uniform set of rules.

During Thursday night’s extra-inning loss to the New York Mets, a woman was struck in the forehead by a Freddy Galvis foul ball. She was evaluated by the park’s medical staff, but did not need to be sent to the hospital. Her seat was just to the right of where the netting ends.

There have been numerous incidents with fans suffering injuries from foul balls and airborne bats this season, including a June 5 incident where a woman at Boston’s Fenway Park was struck in the face with a shattered bat and suffered life-threatening injuries.

While there are worries about the extended netting negatively affecting the fan experience, the priority for MLB and the Phillies is to assure fans that they are safe when they take their seat at the ballpark.

  • 10 Comments
 

Why Keeping Chase Utley Is A Good Thing

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, August 19, 2015 08:51 AM Comments: 6

CHUTLEY

The Man™

UPDATE: Welp.

Yesterday, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Sports Radio WIP that Chase Utley will likely spend the rest of the season on the Phillies. He would later clarify to reporters before yesterday’s game that “I don’t think that Chase has that desire to leave, frankly,” and “the Phillies don’t have the desire to move him out of here.”

It sure sounds like Utley is adamant on staying in Philadelphia. And that’s fine with me. He’s one of the best players to ever wear a Phillies uniform, and arguably the best position player we’ve seen since Mike Schmidt. In over 1500 games since 2003, he’s had over 6600 plate appearances, and hit .282/.366/.481. His OPS+ is 122, and his wRC+ is 124. He’s accumulated 60+ WAR, which is second all time in franchise history.

So why do these things matter when he’s hitting just .217/.284/.333 in 2015? Normally, trading an aging vet would be a smart move for a team in the middle of a rebuild. The Phillies have already done that with Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, and Jonathan Papelbon, among others. The return wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was better than getting nothing for guys who weren’t going to be a part of the future here.

But Utley’s situation is unique. He wants to be here. We are so used to players wanting to leave a bad team to chase a ring (Papelbon), or money (looking at you, Jayson Werth), which is why so many are perplexed by Utley’s desire to stay. But him wanting to be here is why holding on to him is a good thing. Not only for Utley himself, but for the Phillies, for Ruben Amaro Jr., and for the fans. It’s a win-win-win-win. It will look good for RAJ because it shows a willingness to cater to players. It might make Philadelphia more desirable for free agents. It’ll be good for the fans because they will get to see one of their favorites a little bit longer. He’s going to be in the Phillies Hall of Fame one day, and maybe likely the Baseball Hall of Fame as well. If he wants to stay, he should stay. No LOOGY (lefty, one out guy) or whatever they would’ve gotten for him would be worth it. There is no realistic return that would justify a trade.

Now we can just sit back, relax, and not have to worry about seeing Utley in another uniform this year. I mean, Imagine him playing for the Giants–that would be a nearly unbearable sting. It gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it. So rest easy Phils fans, The Man™ is staying in Philadelphia. For now.

  • 6 Comments
 

Ryan Howard Is The Hottest Man In Philadelphia

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, May 22, 2015 10:10 AM Comments: 6

A few weeks ago, we noted that Ryan Howard seemed to be heating up at the plate. He was seeing the ball well, getting lots of solid contact, and finally started to hit some home runs.

Since then, he’s hit .324/.370/.632, with five home runs–including one off a lefty yesterday–and 11 RBI. His 1.002 OPS is 7th in the NL among qualifiers over that time, and his .309 ISO (isolated power, or simply slugging percent minus average) is 5th. His hard hit % (46.8%) is third in the NL, and, if you want to really get advanced, both his wOBA (.429) and wRC (15) are good for seventh in the league as well.

Every single one of those numbers–OPS, ISO, hard hit %, wOBA, and wRC–leads the Phillies not only in May, but for the entire season as well. He also leads the team in home runs (9), and RBI (21).

He went from hitting .194/.247/.417 in April, to hitting .257/.307/.521 for the season, as of yesterday. That’s about a 24.5% increase across the board in three weeks. Prior to the season, ZiPS projected Howard to hit .234/.310/.415, with a total of 18 home runs on the season. He has half that, and it’s not even June yet. So far, he’s outperforming expectations. According to FanGraphs, he’s the most valuable hitter on the Phillies (excluding baserunning).

Trade value status: increased. He might even be on track to hit his way out of Philadelphia. 

He’s been good. Really good–just not Bryce Harper good. But there’s always a catch, right? He’s still striking out a ton–actually a bit more (27.5%) than he was in the first month of the season (25.6%). His line drives are slightly down as well. His BABIP is at .405 in the month of May, which is just a bit higher than his mark of .208 in April.

Putting those things together, it’s easy to say that no, he won’t be able to keep up this outstanding pace. He’ll likely come down to earth. ZiPS projects him to hit .238/.310/.436 the rest of the way, with 15 more home runs and 57 more RBI. He’s been hitting a home run every 16.78 plate appearances this year (once every 14.6 PA in May). ZiPS says that’ll come down to about once every 22.8. And stats aside, I simply can’t see this continuing for much longer, especially from a guy of his age and injury history. 

But he is the hottest player on the Phillies right now. That’s a fact. Who thought we’d be saying that, almost two months into the season?

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Jonathan Papelbon, And Why You Should Appreciate Him

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, May 14, 2015 09:45 AM Comments: 4

PHOTO: AP

PHOTO: AP

Last night, Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 113th save for the Phillies, passing Jose Mesa for the franchise record. It wasn’t any ordinary save, though. After walking Francisco Cervelli to begin the inning, a throwing error on a pickoff attempt allowed pinch runner Steve Lombardozzi to reach third with just one out. Two pitches later, Jordy Mercer hit a fly ball in foul territory that looked like it could be a game-tying sacrifice fly. Jeff Francoeur had other ideas, as his monster of a throw home ended the game with a double play. It was an incredible way to get the record. Papelbon even said in his post game interview “what just happened?”

Now, 113 saves with one team is a lot. Brad Lidge had 100 with the Phils. Tug McGraw had 98, Ricky Bottalico had 78. Ryan Madson had 52. As far as Phillies closers go, Lidge, Tug, and Papelbon are all at the top. But only one of those guys makes Phillies fans blood boil. Continue reading Jonathan Papelbon, And Why You Should Appreciate Him

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Inside Chase Utley’s Slump

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, May 13, 2015 08:00 AM Comments: 11

PHOTO: Billy Hurst/AP

PHOTO: Billy Hurst/AP

Slumps are a part of baseball. Heck, they’re a part of life. Only there aren’t usually TV cameras and thousands of people watching your every day life. So when Chase Utley began the 2015 season with a lengthy slump at the plate, I didn’t think much of it. “He’ll come around,” I thought. But so far he hasn’t. His slump has continued and continued, as we are in the middle of May and it still looks like Utley is having difficulty finding his swing–although he is four for his last eleven. But I’m not talking just statistics. Baseball is more than that. He’s looked decidedly un-Utley-like at the plate. And it’s even bled into his fielding and baserunning as well, because he hasn’t looked like The Man™ in any phase of his game. It’s been tough to watch at times. Let’s take a deeper look at his slump.

He started the year just 1-for-14, and his batting average reached the .200 mark just one time all season. One! That was after he went 3-for-3 with two home runs against the Mets on April 14 at Citi Field. Two of those hits and one of those home runs came off Matt Harvey. After that game, he was hitting .200/.267/.440. Since then, he’s hit .096/.183/.151 (not counting last night). Oof. Here’s a visual of how his batting average has fluctuated game-by-game over the last three seasons:

As you can see, his highest average so far this year is still lower than his lowest average from 2013-2014. It’s an extreme drop off.  So what causes such a change? First, I’ll take a look at his plate discipline. His walks are way down–6.9% is the lowest since 2004. And he’s actually seeing fewer pitches in the zone than he has over his career.

He’s swinging at pitches slghtly less than he has in the past. But according to FanGraphs, he’s swinging at more pitches outside the zone than usual, as well as not swinging at pitches inside the zone as often. His contact and whiff rates have been normal. Here’s a heat map on what pitches he’s swinging at (the top is 2015, the bottom is his career prior to 2015):

 Next, I’ll look at his batted ball data. He’s pulling the ball slightly more than normal–47.7% this year compared to 45.6% over his career. However, he’s hitting the ball to center a lot more than normal (38.6% compared to 33.1%), and hitting the ball the other way a lot less than normal–21.3% for his career, but just 13.6% in 2015.

Still, the big change, I think, is in the quality of his contact. He’s getting “hard hits” (according to FanGraphs) less than half of the time compared to his career average. He’s hitting less line drives and more ground balls as well. Here’s a visual on the types of hits he’s getting:

His ground balls and fly balls have generally fluctuated, but his line drives are clearly down. It’s a lot to digest, so, to summarize, Utley’s struggles are in all likelihood a result of a lot less hard hit balls, in addition to a lot less line drives. Other things obviously factor in, but those are the main issues. There’s no way to really tell if, or when, he will snap out of it. It’s not like he’s getting bit by the BABIP “luck” bug. His is absurdly low (.118), but there’s reasonable explanation with his batted ball data.

The longer this slump goes on, the worse it’ll get. He’s in his own head–it’s a bit different when you slump to start the year. When you slump mid season, your numbers will just dip a little bit. When you slump to begin the season, your numbers will go low and stay low. And we are seeing that with Utley. I won’t make any outlandish predictions based on this slump, because I seriously doubt this is what Chase Utley is anymore. But it is concerning, and something we all will be keeping an eye on as the season progresses.

  • 11 Comments
 

Is Ryan Howard Heating Up? 

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, April 30, 2015 09:18 AM Comments: 3

PHOTO: Laurence Kesterson/AP

PHOTO: Laurence Kesterson/AP

Ryan Howard hit another home run last night, giving him four on the season. All four of them have come within the last eight games. Over that span, he’s hitting .214/.290/.643 (a .933 OPS), and has two walks and eight RBI to go with it.

In those eight games, the Phillies as a whole are are hitting .239/.289/.351. Howard accounts for 9.7% of their plate appearances, but 67% of their home runs and 29.6% of their RBI.

Over the last week, he’s been hitting the ball hard 36.8% of the time (according to FanGraphs), which is best on the Phillies and up from his season average of 33.3% (fire emoji). However, his BABIP has been absurdly low. It’s at .063 over the last week and .205 on the season. This is easily explainable. Howard pulls the ball 54.2% of the time in 2015 (68.4% over the last week). With the insane amount shifts he sees, tons of hard-hit balls to the right side get swallowed up for outs. By my count, about 63% of his outs in play in 2015 have come on the right side, with many of them being fielded in shallow right field. This explains his low season batting average of .191.

Still, Howard has been producing over the last week or so. He’s looked good. I think it’s a little much to expect him to hit a home run every seven or eight plate appearances, which is what he’s been doing over the last eight games–that would equate to about 82 home runs over 162. But I don’t think it’s too much to expect him to produce for the Phillies. Remember, there were a lot of people, myself included, that believed Howard shouldn’t start for this team. Yet, now he’s on pace for 35 home runs and 86 RBI.

He’s moved himself up to fourth on the Phillies–behind Odubel Herrera, Freddy Galvis, and Cody Asche–in advanced stats like wOBA and wRC+, and he’s doing it with a BABIP at least 168 points below the three ahead of him and a batting average under .200. We are still in the first month of the season, so a lot can obviously change–small sample sizes can be extremely deceiving. But Howard has been one of the better Phillies hitters, and, for now, deserves some praise.

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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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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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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.

  • 81 Comments
 

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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