Posts Tagged ‘Ryan Howard’

Offseason 2015 Deep Dive: 3B, 1B

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, November 25, 2015 02:25 PM Comments: 7

Until the beginning of the Winter Meetings (Dec. 7-10 in Nashville, Tenn.), I’ll be doing a deep dive on the Phillies with particular focus on their offseason plans. What may happen? What’s the future hold? Seriously, how excited should you be?

We’ll try to answer all the questions here.

Today: Third base and first base.

Third Base


Past – Since the Phillies traded Scott Rolen, the Phillies have been unsuccessful finding the right combination of power and glove, a profile epitomized by the greatest Phillie of them all: Mike Schmidt.

MLB PresentMaikel Franco, 23; Cody Asche, 25

Maybe that will change. Very few spots on the Phillies’ roster are as secure as Franco’s, as the 23-year-old Dominican will begin the 2016 season as the team’s starting third baseman, barring injury. He was called up to Philadelphia in May 2015 and immediately made an impact, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 50 in 335 plate appearances. His .280/.343/.497 line was among the best of all Phillies in 2015.

Since Franco endured a wrist injury for a spell in 2015, the Phillies asked the slugger to spend some time in the Dominican Winter League. He just arrived, but in eight plate appearances for the GIgantes del Cibao, Franco has already homered once. He’ll probably play out the string in the Dominican before preparing for spring training.

And once he arrives in Clearwater, Franco will be tabbed as the Phillies’ opening-day third baseman. He’ll also likely hit anywhere from the 3-5 hole. With a full season without injury, one could expect Franco to hit around .265 with a .330 on-base percentage and .500 slugging mark. Somewhere between 18 and 25 home runs is a decent bet.

Asche, meanwhile, will likely be asked to fill in for Franco while getting outfield time and pinch hitting. He lost the starting third base job to Franco in 2015; needless to say, with Asche’s often toothless offensive game, he won’t be getting that job back any time soon.

MiLB PresentHarold Martinez, 25

Martinez, meanwhile, hit a solid .292/.335/.400 in 86 games in Reading in 2015, though with very little pop to stick at third base. He’ll likely reach Lehigh Valley in 2016 with an outside chance at seeing the majors, but bet on the Phillies to grab veteran depth to sub Franco in a pinch, or simply slot Asche at third base.

Further on Down the LineMitch Walding, 23; Damek Tomscha, 22; Jan Hernandez, 21; Lucas Williams, 19

Walding hit a pedestrian .233/.318/.315 in Clearwater in 2015, but he might head to Reading in 2016 just because there’s little positional depth in the system. He doesn’t look like a major leaguer.

There seems to be slightly more promise for Tomscha, the third-sacker who hit .282/.368/.417 with eight homers and 59 RBI in Lakewood. The 81/39 K/BB ratio doesn’t help, though, for the 2014 17th rounder. Still, he deserves a promotion to Clearwater.

Most interesting is Hernandez, who will be 21 in 2016 and can probably flash the leather better than any third baseman in the system. His .211 average and .258 on-base percentage are bad, but his .413 slugging percentage is good, with 10 homers and 21 extra-base hits (in 213 at bats) to show for it. The Phillies hope he continues to improve the bat as he likely heads to Lakewood in 2016.

Finally, 2015 third-round pick Williams was off and running in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .288/.400/.331 with a sterling 23/21 K/BB ratio in 118 at bats. He also stole nine bases, thus the “off and running” part.

Present Need – So the Phillies may want to sign to a minor league contract a veteran with major league experience, in case Franco goes down with an injury. Of the free agents available, Conor Gillaspie (.228/.269/.359) has some pop, and Joaquin Arias (.207/.207/.276) may accept a minor league deal.

Otherwise the Phillies may test at third base some of their homegrown middle infielders with better arms, just to see if something sticks.

Future – I’m sure the Phillies organization, and the Delaware Valley at large, would love to see Franco play third base in red pinstripes for the next 10-15 years. Whether or not it happens, Franco is the man in 2016. Nobody is even close. Be excited.


First Base


Past – Since 2005, first base has been the home of Ryan Howard, who has been both a one-man wrecking crew and the one man wrecking the patience of fans everywhere. And when all’s said and done, he’s probably the greatest first baseman in franchise history.

MLB PresentRyan Howard, 36; Darin Ruf, 29

Howard has hit 357 home runs in 12 seasons, an absolutely prodigious display. He’s also flamed out as a subpar ballplayer, striking out far too much while walking far too little, and fielding his position like a drunk getting out of his stool after a long night at the bar. Most every metric says Howard is one of the worst everyday players in baseball; his 2015 wins above replacement was actually below replacement, at -1.4.

And the days of -1.4 are nearly over in Philadelphia. Howard’s contract expires after the 2016 season, though the Phillies could pay his team option of $23 million to keep him on board (they won’t, electing instead to pay a $10 million buyout). It’s also possible the Phillies trade Howard to an American League team seeking a designated hitter, any time before the season or during the season.

Chances are, however, that it won’t happen, and Howard will remain the starting first baseman for the Phillies as he goes on an award tour with Darin, his man. What could you expect from Howard? Maybe a line of .235/.290/.450 with 20-25 home runs, if we’re being charitable.

Darin, his man, is Darin Ruf, who pulled a .235/.300/.414 line in 2015 with 12 homers and 39 ribbies. Ruf did most of his damage against left-handed pitching (.371/.447/.660, 8 HR), so popular opinion would be to platoon Ruf and Howard (who hit righties to .256/.304/.499, 20 HR) on the strict lefty-righty tip.

And really, that should be what happens. A Howard-Ruf platoon could generate a semi-productive first base bat. It won’t do any good with the glove, though.

MiLB PresentBrock Stassi, 26; Art Charles, 25; Andrew Knapp, 24

The 6’2”, 190 pound, left-handed hitting Stassi broke out with Reading in 2015. He slugged 15 home runs and dove in 90, walking 77 times while striking out only 63 times. His .300/.394/.470 mark was highly impressive, winning him the Eastern League’s Most Valuable Player award.

And because of this, Stassi is the surefire starter at first base for the 2016 Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. If the Phillies move either Howard or Ruf, you’ll probably see Stassi get a shot in the majors. At most, he’s another version of Ruf – not an everyday player, but maybe worth a thrill or two off the bench.

Charles, meanwhile, towers over Stassi at 6’6” and 220 pounds. After a solid 2014 pounding the ball in Clearwater (though with plenty strikeouts), Charles had a little more difficulty in Reading, hitting .215/.304/.367. The strikeouts continued – an atrocious 100 strikeouts in 289 at bats. He did collect 26 extra-base hits, though. Still, Charles will probably move to Lehigh Valley as a pinch hitter and little else; if he doesn’t improve his plate discipline, he’ll forever be minor league filler.

Then there’s Knapp, who is a catcher first and foremost, but spent some time playing first base in the Arizona Fall League. Knapp hit very well in Reading in 2015, putting together an astonishing .360/.419/.631 line with 36 extra-base hits in 241 plate appearances. His bat may play at first, but his glove needs to get there. It’ll be some time before the Phillies make any rash decisions regarding Knapp, who will probably play some first, while catching, in Lehigh Valley in 2016.

Further on Down the LineRhys Hoskins, 23; Zach Green, 22; Kyle Martin, 23; Brandon Hayden, 23; Luis Encarnacion, 18; Jhailyn Ortiz, 17

Another rather large man, the 6’4”, 225-pound Hoskins was superb in 2015 for Lakewood and Clearwater, not missing a beat between levels. He finished with an outstanding .319/.395/.518 mark with 17 home runs and 90 RBI. His 99/55 K/BB ratio is slightly troubling, but he’s still young, and he actually improved the discipline in Clearwater. He’s also a good defender. Hoskins should start 2016 in Reading, his biggest test yet.

Green, a 2012 third-round pick, has methodically moved up the system but stalled in 2015 with a DL stint in Clearwater (.173/.216/.221 in 104 AB). Because of solid movement behind him, Green could be the odd man out.

At 23, 2015 fourth-round pick Martin is ready to move to Clearwater, and the lefty’s bat confirms as much. He hit .279 with a .446 slugging march in Lakewood, socking 28 extra-base hits in 251 at bats.

Hayden will also move up. The 16th round pick from 2015 had a nice 27/23 K/BB ratio in 50 games in Williamsport, to go along with a .291 average.

And then there’s Encarnacion, the Dominican teen who started to come into his own with the Gulf Coast Phillies. In 2015 he hit four home runs with a 38/12 K/BB ratio. He’s a work in progress, but he has promising power. He’ll likely head to Williamsport in 2016, but there’s a chance he goes right to Lakewood.

Finally, the Phillies signed Dominican Ortiz to a $4 million bonus in July. At 6’2” and 260 pounds, the No. 18 international prospect (Baseball America) is a hefty kid with big power, but he’s a long way to the show. He’ll be in the development pipeline in 2016, but don’t expect full-season play for Ortiz until probably 2018 or 2019.

Present Need – Unless the Phillies add some depth to the middle levels of the minor league system, first base is basically set in stone for 2016. No need to change anything now – just let Howard and Ruf play out the string and see what develops in the pipeline.

Future – This is where it gets fun. Hoskins has suddenly become a genuine possibility to start at first base in 2017. If not, maybe Stassi or Ruf fill the hole until real upgrades are possible. Or Knapp turns out to work out at first, and he gets the gig. And if not, maybe Matt Klentak and Co. trade for a stud like Paul Goldschmidt (toward the end of a five-year deal next year), or pick up a 2016 free agent like Edwin Encarnacion (don’t bet on it).

Point is, it’s wide open. For now, though, enjoy what highlights Howard can give us in what is likely to be his final days as a Philadelphia Phillie.


Next: Saturday I review starting pitching, and Sunday I look at relief pitching.


Let’s make a deal? Few trade options remain

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, November 12, 2015 12:35 PM Comments: 6

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

PHOTO: (AP/Chris Szagola)

Baseball’s general managers are in Orlando this week, hanging at their annual meetings, sort of a prelude to the larger Winter Meetings, which will take place in December. The GMs are talking deals, with most recently Atlanta dangling shortstop Andrelton Simmons. As for the Phillies? There are rumors of an available Ken Giles.

Is trading Giles a good idea? Who else should the Phillies put on the block? Let’s talk trade.

Ken Giles

It’s not often you stumble upon an elite relief pitcher in your own farm system, but the Phillies did with Giles. He’s 9-4 with a 1.56 ERA, 151 strikeouts and 36 walks in 115.2 innings. That’s great – really, really great. He’s also young (age 25) and doesn’t reach arbitration until after 2017. That makes him attractive to plenty of teams, and since the Phillies won’t be contending this year (or probably in 2017), an elite closer like Giles isn’t a necessity.

That said, because they pitch so little, and because their performance can vary wildly from year to year, relievers are a little harder to peg in trades. Giles is more of a sure thing than other relievers, but teams may play cautious when talking with the Phillies about him.

If a team, however, really wants Giles and would surrender a top hitting or starting pitching prospect for him, the Phillies should listen. Otherwise it may be wise to hold onto Giles, at least until the trade deadline, when a contending team may want to raise the ante for the closer.

In short, the Phillies have young and proven value in Giles. They shouldn’t trade him unless the return gives them a workable, everyday future piece.

Freddy Galvis

The reason Atlanta is dangling Simmons is because the shortstop market is paltry this offseason (Ian Desmond represents the cream). Galvis could be an intriguing option for teams seeking a more affordable option without having to resort to an older player like Alexei Ramirez.

Now, Galvis will be 26 and, while he’s facing arbitration this year, should be a very affordable option for anyone. But he’s not Giles, in that he’s not an elite shortstop, and behind him is a possible franchise-altering player in J.P. Crawford. Galvis is, however, a passable starter on a team with higher quality players in other places. Teams potentially seeking shortstops include the Brewers, Angels, Mariners, Rockies, Nationals and Mets. The Dodgers and Padres have been rumored to be interested in Simmons, so it’s possible they’d entertain offers for Galvis.

If the Phillies traded Galvis, they could expect an MLB-ready reliever, back-end starter or utility player. A team-top-10 prospect could be a stretch. That doesn’t seem like much, but frankly, you can’t expect to get much for Galvis, who has pretty much shown himself to be an average-at-best player. A Galvis trade would also mean starting the 2016 season with Andres Blanco at shortstop. Or the Phils could experiment with Darnell Sweeney or Cesar Hernandez. There are options.

Cody Asche

There’s a possibility Asche turns into a solid bench player, and yes, there’s still a chance he can turn into a good starter. That doesn’t seem so likely now, which means his value today could be his highest value.

Who would want Asche? Admittedly teams wouldn’t see him as a starter, so you’re looking at teams wanting low-risk bench bat options. You could expect a mid-level prospect, at best, for Asche.

Truth be told, it may be wiser for the Phils to hold Asche and hope he accumulates some value in 2016. With value, a team seeking a bench bat for the stretch run might give the Phils something juicier.

Ryan Howard

We’ve previously been on the go-round with Howard, who would only be an option for American League teams seeking a platoon partner at designated hitter. That’s not a big group – maybe Detroit and the Yankees. Cleveland seeks a designated hitter, too. The Phillies would have to eat most of the remaining $25 million on Howard’s contract.

Would the Phillies get anything for Howard? Maybe a mid-level prospect. It’s not much. Maybe it’s not necessary to deal Howard and just let the final year play out.

Darin Ruf

American League teams seeking a platoon for a designated hitter may, however, be interested in Ruf, who mashes left-handed pitching (.371/.447/.660 in 114 PA).

The one team that could use a right-handed bat to pair with an existing DH is the White Sox, who currently employ Adam LaRoche from the left side. Ruf would likely be a productive hitter at U.S. Cellular Field.

Like Giles, Galvis and Asche, Ruf has a low salary, making him attractive to potential suitors. But his market is limited. A return for Ruf would – forgive the pun – be roughly the same as the return for Howard or Asche. At this point it may be wise to just stick with Howard and Ruf at first in 2016, giving them a true platoon (which could actually work), while looking to dangle Ruf at the trade deadline.

Other options

There aren’t many clear options for trade bait in the roster. Of course GM Matt Klentak could deal anyone. Hell, nobody can rule out even trading a young player like Maikel Franco or Aaron Nola, however unlikely that would be.

It’s more likely Klentak makes trades involving players in the minor leagues. These are the kinds of depth-building moves that can pay off in the long run.

As for the majors, what is most likely is Klentak entertains a number of deals and sits on what he has, since he’s still very early in his evaluation process. Still, dealing a player like Galvis or Giles shouldn’t be out of the question. There could be some value to be had there.


What GM Matt Klentak should be considering

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Fri, October 30, 2015 04:02 PM Comments: 19

KlentakSeven years ago today, we were preparing for a victory parade on Broad Street. And we were four days from Ruben Amaro Jr. being named general manager of the Phillies.

But today the Mets are in the World Series, and Matt Klentak is now general manager of the Phillies. Things happened between then and now; let’s not talk about it.

Instead, let’s talk about the future. Along with President Andy MacPhail, Klentak symbolizes a new era for the franchise, one in which outsiders with a heightened analytical perspective plan and execute strategy. This team of outsiders have a lot to consider, starting with the overall direction of baseball operations. Remember, we’re at a much different place than we were on Oct. 30, 2008.

To me, here are the most pressing things Klentak – and MacPhail – will consider in Year One.

The Overall Direction of the Phillies

As Klentak and MacPhail mentioned during Monday’s introductory press conference, nothing happens until this is addressed. That means understanding the franchise’s current strengths and weaknesses, taking stock of every baseball operations department, then creating a strategy that plays to current strengths while remaining unique to the vision of its leaders.

So what are the strengths? I’d say a major strength comes from the Phillies’ Latin pipeline, especially the franchise’s Venezuelan academy. Surely the club has a few stronger scouting lines, too. And the scouting that led to the 2015 trade-deadline windfall of prospects was very impressive. Continue reading What GM Matt Klentak should be considering


Howard’s 2015 could be over after trip to ER

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Wed, September 16, 2015 11:37 AM Comments: 7



With just 16 games left to play in 2015, it appears Ryan Howard’s season is over after taking a short-hop throw by Freddy Galvis to his left knee Monday night.

The initial diagnosis was a bruised knee, but Howard was forced to take a trip to the ER later Monday night after his condition worsened, according to interim manager Pete Mackanin.

“He had to go to the emergency room to get his knee drained, so that doesn’t look good,” Mackanin said. “But we’re just going to go day to day to see what happens.”

With just over two weeks left in the season, the chances of Howard playing again in 2015 are slim, especially when you consider his history with knee injuries. The 35-year-old is just two years removed from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the same knee he injured on Monday.

“It’s a possibility,” Mackanin said about shutting down Howard. “Day to day could be eight days from now, so I don’t know for sure. We just don’t want to commit [if], three or four days from now, he says he feels fine. The thing with Howie that’s admirable is this guy wants to play. You’ve seem him over the years, he posts up every day, he’s ready to play every day. That’s a nice trait to have. So we’ll wait and see.”

Howard would join Cesar Hernandez on the Phillies’ recent season-ending injury list. The second baseman suffered a dislocated thumb during Sunday’s game against the Chicago Cubs that will require season-ending surgery.

The veteran first baseman had endured one of the roughest stretches of his illustrious 12-year career before the injury. Over his last 64 at-bats, Howard recorded just 11 hits, good for a meager .172 batting average. The stretch included an 0-for-35 drought, the longest hitless streak of his career. In the process, Howard’s season batting average dropped from .243 to .229, and is the mark the former MVP will likely finish with. If it is, the average would be good for the second-lowest mark of his career in a season where he recorded 400 or more at-bats. Overall, Howard would finish 2015 with a slash line of .229/.277/.443 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs.

Darin Ruf will assume duties as the team’s every day first baseman in Howard’s absence. It’ll be the first time the 29-year-old will get a chance to play every day since the second half of the 2013 season, where he replaced Howard after his knee surgery. Ruf has played in 90 games this season, but has made only 46 starts. Overall, he is batting just .237 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs.

With Howard likely done for the season, the question is this: Has the first baseman played his final game in a Phillies uniform? Howard is set to earn another $25 million in 2016, and with a new general manager incoming, the new brain trust may elect to part ways with one of the franchise’s most esteemed sluggers if they’re unable to trade him.


Top-10 September callups of the last 20 years

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, September 01, 2015 01:00 PM Comments: 10

120312-darin-ruf-600Sept. 1 is one of my favorite days on the baseball calendar, as teams begin calling up new faces to help pad the major league roster. Historically teams may use the September callup season to give fans a taste of a top prospect ready to become an everyday player. Most of the time, though, it’s more conservative than this, as teams are usually hoping to add depth, or even protect a player from the dreaded Rule V draft.

The Phils are no different. While many of the Phils’ September callups have been for depth (especially between 2007 and ’11), a special few have been hotly anticipated. I went back 20 years to 1995 to determine the top-10 September callups of the last 20 years, focusing mostly on younger players getting their first taste (or close to it) in the majors.

So this isn’t a scientific ranking. More a combination of hype and production. Enjoy.

10. Cesar Hernandez – 2013
We were told Cesar Hernandez had outstanding infield defensive ability upon his first cup of coffee in midseason 2013. But it was in September that we saw his true range, as he started almost exclusively in centerfield. He did okay, displaying average-at-best ability in center while singling pitchers to death to a line of .289/.344/.331. He remains with the club today, starting at second base after the Chase Utley trade. His future remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

9. Vance Worley – 2010
Vance Worley made his major league debut in a July blowout against Colorado, but he had an extended stay in September, helping the Phillies give some rest to a pitching staff that cruised through a dominant 2010 campaign. Worley had a solid first start against the Marlins, then started once more, against Atlanta, twirling five shutout innings. Worley would become a great fifth starter in an awesome 2011 pitching staff, before being dealt to Minnesota for Ben Revere. He’s been a league-average pitcher, most recently throwing out of the Pittsburgh bullpen before being optioned to AAA.

8. Carlos Ruiz – 2006
While Carlos Ruiz had a cup of coffee in May (and July) of 2006 because of injury, he was brought up to the Phillies for good in September. Starting a few games, Chooch had his finest offensive run of the season, collecting eight hits, including two home runs. Ruiz would stay with the Phils in 2007 and beyond, turning into one of the franchise’s most revered catchers.

7. Gene Schall – 1996
Back in 1996 we had two major callups: Calvin Maduro and Gene Schall. Maduro, 21, pitched decently well, but his contribution was small. Schall – a 26-year-old Abington kid who went to La Salle High and Villanova – had a little more room to grow in 1996, getting 41 plate appearances in his September stay. He did well, too, hitting two homers, three doubles and a triple en route to a line of .306/.390/.611. I mean, that’s seriously good. Sadly, though, Schall was traded for Mike Robertson (yes, THE Mike Robertson) and never made it to the majors again. He had a solid AAA career, however, retiring in 2002 with 125 career homers at the top minor-league level.

6. Gavin Floyd – 2004
Rewind to 2004. Citizens Bank Park is glistening and new. Jim Thome is rocking homers into the seats. And the Phils have two surefire stars ready to reach Philly in Ryan Howard and Gavin Floyd. At just 21, Floyd was a big deal upon his arrival in Philadelphia in September 2004. He lived up to the hype, tossing a decent seven innings in a win over the Mets in his major league debut. He would move to the bullpen during his time in Philly, but return as a starter in 2005 and ‘06, all to pretty bad results. (Maybe Floyd was best known as the pitcher on the mound when Aaron Rowand slammed his face into the fence to catch a would-be Xavier Nady grand slam.) Floyd would find some success in Chicago, traded in the wonderful Freddy Garcia deal. Memories.

5. Darin Ruf – 2012
And it was on Sept. 14, 2012, that 26-year-old super prospect Darin Ruf got his first action in a Phillies uniform. After tearing up the minors with his power, Ruf started slow, but on Sept. 25 hit his first major league homer in a win against Washington. He’d hit two in one game a week later, ending his 2012 callup campaign with three bombs, 10 RBI, and a good line of .333/.351/.727. Ruf has been a mainstay on the Phils bench since then, playing respectably, but especially good against left-handed pitching (.291/.378/.518).

4. Marlon Anderson – 1998
Sept. 8, 1998. The Phillies are blasting the Mets, 12-3, in the seventh inning. Manager Terry Francona motions to 24-year-old Marlon Anderson. It’ll be his first career plate appearance, right there in front of a crowd of maybe 10,000 at Veterans Stadium. Against Mel Rojas, Anderson works a 2-2 count, then knocks it deep to right. It clears the fence. Marlon Anderson’s first career appearance is a home run. He’d finish 1998 with solid numbers, and would win the starting second base job for 1999. That year began with a sterling 3-for-4 day in Atlanta. That was pretty much his peak as a Phillie.

3. Ryan Howard – 2004
With the Phillies under .500 on Sept. 1, 2004, they opted to call up top prospect Ryan Howard, who was blocked as an everyday player by all-world slugger Jim Thome. Howard would mostly pinch hit through September, garnering just a few starts toward the end of the season. He homered twice, doubled five times and finished with a good line of .282/.333/.564. This, coupled with his solid 2005 season – during a Thome injury – allowed the Phils to deal Thome to Chicago and start Howard for good.

2. Bobby Estalella – 1997
Imagine a hyped catching prospect reaching the major leagues at age 21 as a September callup. Imagine him swatting two home runs late in the season, finishing with a 6-for-11 performance in three games at Shea Stadium. Then imagine, a year later, he’s called up and starts in Montreal. Second inning, against future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez … home run. Then, down two, sixth inning, against Martinez … home run. Finally, in the ninth, he leads off … a third home run. That was Bobby Estalella, 1997.

What you can’t imagine is the excitement on a 12-year-old’s face when this veritable child socks three homers in a game. “He’s the future!” I thought. Estalella never again matched the magic he sparked that evening at Olympic Stadium.

Yes, Howard had a more impressive September statistically, but when you hit two homers off a future Hall of Famer, you earn the spot.

1. Jimmy Rollins – 2000
Highly rated shortstop prospect James Calvin Rollins joined the Phillies in mid-September 2000, immediately making his presence felt with a triple, stolen base and two runs. He would only notch one more extra-base hit that year, but he accrued 17 hits in 53 at bats, good for a .321 AVG.

The 21-year-old became an instant fan favorite, proving the hype, and would quickly be penciled in as starting shortstop. Thirteen years later, would break the franchise record for career hits.

Rollins is the best measure of a September callup. He was given a chance to play everyday, made the best of it, and set the table for an outstanding rookie season. For that, he’s the best Phillies callup of the last 20 years.


The 7-year battle: Accepting Ryan Howard

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, August 13, 2015 11:30 AM Comments: 21

(Eric Hartline/ USA Today Sports)  Via Philly.com

(Eric Hartline/ USA Today Sports) Via Philly.com

Jimmy Rollins is gone.

Cole Hamels is gone.

Chase Utley may be gone soon.

And all that’s left from that 2008 team is Carlos Ruiz

Wait. Oh yes. There’s him, too. Him, standing there at first base, now folding his arms as he’s watching me. He’s aggravated, isn’t he? It’s Ryan Howard, who thanks to Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera, we sort of forgotten. Of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? Let him just fade into obscurity and just ignore the $25 million the Phillies are paying him this year … and next year … oh, and there’s a 2017 club option, too. Hooray.

I should go on record. On April 14, 2008 – way in the beginning of what became a legendary season – I published a piece that helped put Phillies Nation in the national eye. It was titled “Why I Would Trade Ryan Howard.”

“It sounds almost ridiculous that a team in the top half of the payroll list contending for a World Series would want to trade its biggest power hitter, a man capable of hitting 60 home runs,” I wrote at the time. “But there are reasons to think heavily about dumping Howard.”

Those reasons, I continued, included that Howard “is an average at best first baseman in the field.” I said he’d be a logical designated hitter for an American League team. Moreover, I wrote, “Ryan Howard wants to make big bucks, especially if he’s not getting a long-term deal. This season he’s making $10M, the largest arbitration victory ever. Experts say a $20M arbitration prize before 2010 isn’t out of the question. That means a long-term deal would mean potentially $25M per year.”

Son of a …

I then outlined a number of potential returns in a Ryan Howard trade. In retrospect, most of them would have turned out dreadfully. My best hypothetical return was from the Yankees: Ian Kennedy (12.7 fWAR since 2008), Austin Jackson (16.9 fWAR), Chris Britton (-0.2 fWAR), David Robertson (10.8 fWAR) and Marcos Vechionacci (0.0 fWAR). Compared to Howard’s 9.3 fWAR since 2008, it would’ve been a steal. Maybe with Kennedy the Phillies don’t pay hefty prices for starting pitching. Maybe with Jackson the Phils trade Shane Victorino and restock the system. Maybe with Robertson they can shift easily from Brad Lidge and never sign Jonathan Papelbon. And look, I basically would’ve traded Howard around the peak of his value.

Seriously, why didn’t they make this deal?

A month later, in May 2008, Howard was hitting .183. In May. I attempted to lambaste Howard. Continue reading The 7-year battle: Accepting Ryan Howard


Suddenly, the Phillies are fun to watch again

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Mon, July 27, 2015 01:44 PM Comments: 2

What a weekend it was for the Phillies, who capped off a three-game sweep of the Cubs with an 11-5 lopsided victory in the “friendly” confines of Wrigley Field. The series provided some of the most entertaining baseball the city of Philadelphia has had the pleasure of watching since 2011.

It had everything a baseball fan could ever want—a dramatic comeback victory, an offensive explosion, and a masterful no-hit performance from a guy who could very well have pitched his final game for the only team and city he’s ever known during his 10-year Major League career.

It all began during the top of the ninth inning Friday afternoon, when Cody Asche smashed a game-tying ground-rule double into the ivy in center field to tie the score at three. After a scoreless frame by Ken Giles, Jeff Francoeur, yet again, played the role of hero by delivering a two-run blast to left field to give the Phillies a 5-3 lead. Jonathan Papelbon recorded his 17th save in as many opportunities, and the Phillies won the game in exciting come-from-behind fashion.

Then there was Saturday afternoon’s game with Cole Hamels on the mound seeking redemption.

After struggling in his previous two starts—14 runs in 6 1/3 innings—and trade rumors swirling around him, the left-hander took the mound to prove that he is one of the game’s top pitches. It was evident early on that Hamels had his “good stuff.” His fastball, which had averaged out at 92.3 according to FanGraphs, was consistently hitting 95-96, according to Wrigley’s radar gun. The increase in his fastball velocity made his already effective change up even more so, and the pinpoint location of his curveball had hitters off balance, which helped him earn 13 strikeouts. Continue reading Suddenly, the Phillies are fun to watch again


Offense erupts to back Nola as Phills sweep Cubs

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Sun, July 26, 2015 06:55 PM Comments: 5

On a Sunday afternoon in late July in front of a sold out crowd, Ryan Howard homered and the Phillies’ offense scored 11 runs on 17 hits with a 22-year-old future ace on the mound, making only his second Major League start. It felt like 2006 all over again, except the 22-year-old was Aaron Nola, not Cole Hamels, and the sold out crowd was there to cheer on their hometown Cubs, who are currently in a dog fight for the National League’s second Wild Card spot.

On the heels of Hamels’ historic no-hitter, Nola followed with solid outing of his own, pitching 7 2/3 innings en route to his first career win. The offense erupted for 11 runs, and the Philles completed their second sweep since the All-Star Break, crushing the Cubs, 11-5.

Each player in the Phillies’ starting lineup had a hit, including Nola, who notched his second career hit and his first career RBI. Maikel Franco and Howard led the offense, as the Phillies’ three and four hitters combined for five RBIs, including two home runs. For Franco, the home run was his first since June 23 at Yankee Stadium.

Domonic Brown also added three hits of his own to go along with three RBIs. Of the Phillies’ 17 hits, eight went for extra bases, including three doubles, three triples, and two homers. For the series, the Phillies’ offense recorded 21 extra-base hits (13 doubles, four triples, and four home runs).

The Cubs managed to out-homer the Phillies 3-2, but Jason Hammel and the Cubs’ relievers were unable to quiet the Phillies’ bats. Backup catcher David Ross had arguably the easiest inning on the mound for either club, managing a 1-2-3 9th inning on just eight pitches. He then added the Cubs’ fifth run of the game on a solo shot to left.

The Phillies are now 8-1 since the All-Star Break, and are playing their best baseball of the season. They’ll look to stay hot on the north side of the border, as they head to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays for a quick two-game inter-league series.


Phillies walk off on Francoeur’s home run

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Sun, July 19, 2015 06:06 PM Comments: 18

On a day where the Phillies celebrated Christmas in July, Jeff Francoeur gave the fans a present in the form of a walk-off two-run home run. In the process, he kept his team hot with an 8-7 win over the Marlins, completing the team’s first sweep since mid May.

“Hitting season,” as former manager Charlie Manuel used to call it, was in full effect as the two clubs combined for 15 runs and 24 hits on a scorching hot day at the park. The Phillies’ bats struck early in the second, scoring five runs highlighted by a pair of home runs by Ryan Howard and Freddy Galvis. Howard’s home run—an absolute bomb to the second deck in right field—was the 350th of his career and his 16th of the season.

While Francoeur’s homer wasn’t the longest, it was the one that decided the game. After Ken Giles gave up two runs in the eighth inning to give the Marlins a 7-6 lead, Francoeur followed a Carlos Ruiz walk with a two run shot to left, winning the game for the Phillies, 8-7.

In what could’ve been his last start at Citizens Bank Park as a Phillie, Cole Hamels had his second-straight poor outing, giving up five runs on eight hits over just three innings. The lefty has now given up 14 runs in his last 6 1/3 innings-pitched with only 12 days left before the July 31 trade deadline.


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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