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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: 82

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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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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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2014 Top Moments: #1 J-Roll Breaks Hit Record

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Wed, October 29, 2014 12:00 PM Comments: 18

We are finally at our top moment of 2014. This time, we look at when Jimmy Rollins broke the franchise hits record.

We all knew it would happen. Barring injury, Jimmy Rollins was sure to break Mike Schmidt‘s franchise hits record in 2014.

And he did just that.

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PHOTO: AP

Schmidt’s record was 2,234 hits. J-Roll notched his 2,235th on Saturday, June 14. He lined a single off Edwin Jackson in the 5th inning in front of 31,524 fans at Citizens Bank Park. The game was then delayed while celebrations took place. Schmidt came out and got Jimmy’s bat and gave him a hug. The entire Phillies team also came out to celebrate with J-Roll.

Rollins has been with the club since 2000, and is a potential Hall-of-Famer. He’s been the face of the Phillies for several years, and has given us countless memories. He provides a unique combo of power and speed from the shortstop position, and is an exceptional fielder. He won an MVP in 2007, and is at or near the top in almost every offensive category in Phillies history. This moment is more of a result of what Jimmy has given us over the years, which is a ton. If we did a countdown of top moments of the last 10 years for the Phillies, this one would still be near the top.

This concludes our top moments countdown. Hope you enjoyed! Here are the others.

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2014 Top Moments: #4 Ben Revere’s First Home Run

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Thu, October 23, 2014 10:05 AM Comments: 6

We are continuing with our 2014 Top Moments countdown, this time taking a look back at Ben Revere‘s first MLB home run.

PHOTO: AP

PHOTO: AP

Ben Revere had over 1,400 major league at-bats coming into the game against the Rockies on May 27. There were 23,159 in paid attendance that night at Citizens Bank Park, but an hour-and-22 minute rain delay subsequently caused fans to leave and the stadium to be nearly empty.

Revere had grounded out three straight times–one to first and two to third. Coming into his fourth at-bat in the seventh, the situation was this: The Rockies had just taken the lead on a three-run home run by Wilin Rosario. Revere, the second batter of the inning, was facing lefty Boone Logan, who was usually pretty darn good against lefties–a 1.71 ERA and 1.58 xFIP against lefties in 2013.

It was a 1-1 count, and Logan threw an 91-MPH inside fastball. Revere turned on it perfectly, sending it over the right field fence into the first row. As expected, the entire Phillies dugout ignored him at first before celebrating. It broke the longest homerless drought for an MLB player since Frank Tavares for the Pirates in the 70′s.

ESPN’s home run tracker had the home run at 357 feet, and, in the part of the ballpark it was, would’ve been a home run in just six MLB ballparks. What makes his home run even more surprising, outside of the fact that he’s never hit one before, is that he doesn’t usually have success hitting the ball to right field. Most of his success is up the middle or to left field. He also doesn’t typically hit fly balls, as the majority of his hits are grounders or line drives. He even said that he “usually gets in trouble” when he hits fly balls. Here’s a chart from Fangraphs:


Source: FanGraphs

Over his career, he has a .178 average on fly balls, a .242 average on grounders, and a .676 average on liners. For comparison, the MLB average in 2014 was .202 on flies, .212 on grounders, and .712 on liners. Revere hits .280 when pulling the ball (2014 MLB average .319), .327 when hitting it up the middle (2014 MLB average .324), and .358 to the opposite field (2014 MLB average .298).

Revere would go on to hit another home run, this time against the Nationals on September 5. This home run tied the game for the Phillies in the top of the ninth–a game they would eventually win. It traveled 401 feet–would’ve been out in all 30 ballparks–and came off of Washington’s closer Rafael Soriano.

His two home runs ended up being a part of a special season for Revere, who would compete for the NL batting title and finish with 49 stolen bases. His first home run was a treat for Phillies fans, and a sigh of relief for Revere, who was just waiting for that moment to happen. He said he wants to get 400 more, but somehow I don’t think that will happen.

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Phillies Uniforms, and the Color Blue

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, September 01, 2014 12:30 PM Comments: 10

Happy Labor Day, Nation! Here’s a little change-of-pace post on the Phillies uniforms.

I was browsing the Phillies hat selection on Lids.com and came across this. That hat was worn by the Phillies in the 2000′s as an “Interleague Hat”, as they wore it, as an alternate, for when they played teams from the American League. It got me thinking: what would the Phillies look like if they added more blue to the uniform?

In recent years, they have worn the new “Diamond Era” batting practice (BP) hat for a few games, both home and away. But it kind of looks out of place, since the rest of the uniform lacks any kind of blue, save for the blue stars that dot the i’s on the front logo.

So, my idea is to add more blue to the entire uniform. Let’s start with hat. I would change the normal red hat with a white “P” to something that resembles the current BP hat. Something like this.

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Now for the home pinstripes. I’d like to see blue outlining on the “Phillies” script on the front, and on the name and number on the back. It would look like this:

cliff lee

JonathanPapelbonCarlosRuiz

For the gray away uniform, I would make the same changes, and add a little blue to the stripe on the pants.

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Some History

The Phillies have had blue in their uniform in the past, as well. The current “day game” home alternate uniform is based off an old Phillies uniform from 1948. (H/t Uni Watch). Also, the classic throwback jerseys that you see around Philadelphia and at Citizens Bank Park are powder blue, and were worn for road games in the 70′s and 80′s. The Phils also had an away jersey prototype that featured “Philadelphia” across the chest (the norm for away jerseys in MLB), and a blue outline on the sleeve numbers. That is taken from this, by Bill Henderson (via Dan Fuller here).

What do you think? Do you want to see more blue in the Phillies uniforms? Or should they stick with the classic red look?

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Ken Giles, And The Battle For Closer In 2015

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, August 29, 2014 11:00 AM Comments: 6

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

Ken Giles has been good this year. Really good. The 23 year old, flamethrowing reliever was called up on June 8 after Mike Adams was placed on the disabled list with shoulder issues. Giles had a 1.88 ERA and 12 saves in the minors for Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley prior to the call up.

He was only expected to fill in for Adams and provide some spark in the late innings ahead of Jonathan Papelbon.

But he’s done so much more.

In 32 appearances and 33.2 innings, Giles has given up just six runs–five earned, good for an ERA of 1.34. He doesn’t give up many home runs (0.27 per 9), and doesn’t allow much contact–battersare making contact at a rate 67.4% against him, 4th in the NL. He has a 5.33 K/BB ratio, which is 8th in the NL (relievers, min 30 IP), and largely due to his absurd amount (48) of strikeouts. Among NL relievers with at least 30 innings pitched, both his K/9 (12.83) and his K% (38.1%) are in the top five. An interesting and unrelated note–Jake Diekman is right up there with Giles in both those categories.

Giles has an average velocity of 97.1 on his fastball, second in MLB to only cyborg Aroldis Chapman of the Reds. He also throws a nasty slider, and, according to PITCHf/x data, is the 16th most valuable in the league. 32 of his 48 strikeouts (two thirds) have come via the slider, and opponents are hitting just .137/.154/.157 against it. He’s given up just one extra base hit in 208 sliders thrown (0.48%).

The fastball-slider combo reminds me of another Phillies closer–Brad Lidge. His fastball velocity hovered around 95 MPH before he began to lose it (the average fell to about 89 MPH by 2011) and his slider was valued at 4th in all of baseball from 2007-2011. About 81.8% of his strikeouts came via his slider, and opponents hit just .190/.251/.301 against it. They’d only make contact on 54.8% of swings against it, and hit just 35 extra base hits in 2202 total pitches seen (1.6%).

PHOTO: (AP/Laurence Kesterson)

PHOTO: (AP/Laurence Kesterson)

The current closer for the Phillies–Jonathan Papelbon–has been as good as ever in 2014. He has an ERA of 1.60 (11th in NL), a K/BB ratio of 4.15 (21st in NL, and a fastball valued at 4th best in the NL. Many of his numbers this year are somewhere near his career bests, even though his fastball velocity is down. I should also mention that a few of his numbers are somewhere near his career lows as well. He gets a lot of flack for his comments to the media and his slow pace on the mound, but there’s no denying he’s been good this year.

But what about next year? The Phillies have been openly trying to trade Papelbon, or “Cinco Ocho”, as he likes to call himself–no no avail. In that article, Ken Rosenthal ponders that the lack of interest in Papelbon might be due to his falling velocity and his personality, but that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. doesn’t think so.

Regardless, the Phillies will have to make a decision on Papelbon for next year, because Giles seems ready to take over at closer and I don’t think it’s likely that Papelbon can continue to pitch at this level. If they want to go with Giles, they will have to get rid of Papelbon in some capacity, whether it be via trade or release, because Papelbon will not want to be a setup man, even though he’s really helped groom Giles this year.

I think Giles deserves it, and I think Papelbon will regress next year, and has rubbed Phillies fans the wrong way too often for the Phillies to sell him as the closer over Giles in 2015.

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Just Who Is Jerome Williams?

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, August 25, 2014 07:00 AM Comments: 14

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Carlson)

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Carlson)

Jerome Williams is not a household name. Many Phillies fans are still wondering just who he is. And I don’t blame them. In the scorebook, he’s the guy who’s thrown three straight gems for the Phillies.

August 12: 5.1 innings and 2 earned runs against a tough Angels team.

August 18: 7 innings, one earned run against the Mariners.

August 24: 8 innings, one earned run against the Cardinals.

All together, that’s just four earned runs given up in 20.1 innings–a 1.77 ERA.

But who is he? The 32 year old grew up in Hawaii, and prior to coming to the Phillies, he’s played for (starting with most recent) the Rangers, Astros, Angels, Nationals, Cubs, and Giants.

Continue reading Just Who Is Jerome Williams?

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Byrd On Pace For (Slightly) Historic Season

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Mon, August 18, 2014 07:00 AM Comments: 17

Marlon+Byrd+Philadelphia+Phillies+v+Texas+Gey0d7AmFRKlIn this forgettable string of baseball games that we are calling the 2014 Phillies season, there is not a single thing we could look at and say “yeah, I’m going to remember this for years and years”. However, things aren’t all bad. The bullpen has been surprisingly strong, and a few hitters have been swinging the bat well–particularly the gentlemen that patrols right field for the Phils.

Marlon Byrd has been one of the most consistent offensive players on the Phillies in 2014, and he’s 36 years old.

Let’s go back to last November. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. signed Byrd to a 2-year contract, and, at the time received a load of criticism. The Phillies needed outfield help, and there were guys like Nelson Cruz still available.

He leads the team in home runs and slugging, and is 2nd on the team in OPS, doubles, and RBI.

He has missed just two(!) of 124 games this season. He’s slashing–at the time of writing this post–.270/.320/.473, has hit 22 home runs, and has 70 RBIs. By the end of the year, he’ll likely have somewhere around 28 home runs and 90 RBI.  A season with those numbers, at his age, would be among the best seasons all time for the Phillies.

The last time we saw something like this was in 2009 when Raul Ibanez had a monster season offensively. He hit 34 home runs and collected 93 RBI that year, when he was 37. Prior to that, we haven’t seen anything like this since Hall-Of-Famer Mike Schmidt had back-to-back years of 35+ home runs and 113+ RBI in 1986 and 1987. Beyond Ibanez and Schmidt, the only other player in Phils history to reach 28 home runs and 90 RBI at age 36 or older was Cy Williams in 1927.

That’s three players, one of which is an all-time great. If Byrd can manage to tally 6 more home runs and 20 more RBI in the final month and a half of the season, which should be easily attainable at his current pace, he’ll join them.  And if he does (or even if he doesn’t), it’ll go down as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dreadful season for the Phillies.

 

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Why The Phillies Failed At The Trade Deadline

Posted by Jonathan Nisula, Fri, August 01, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 34

Mo Money Mo Problems

Yesterday, the 4 PM MLB trade deadline came and went without a single move by the Phillies. Marlon Byrdthe player thought to be the most likely to be dealt, and the one who should have been dealt for at least something, didn’t go anywhere. A.J. Burnett wasn’t traded, and neither were Jonathan Papelbon, Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels.

Around the league, Jon Lester was traded along with Jonny Gomes to the Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes. David Price was traded to the Tigers in a three team deal. John Lackey was sent to the Cardinals, and Martin Prado to the Yankees. The Phillies? Nada.

Continue reading Why The Phillies Failed At The Trade Deadline

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