Tuesday, May 19, 2015

We Call This a Winning Streak

Maikel Franco hits his first Major League Home Run - Photo Courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer

It has been a week since the Philadelphia Phillies last lost a baseball game. I didn’t think there was any way we’d be able to say that this year unless they strung together three in a row around the All-Star Break. In fact, the six game streak the Phils are currently riding is the longest since September of 2012 which also happens to be the last time they played meaningful baseball games. They’re playing good enough ball that I have to postpone the second volume of the The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly because I can’t come up with anything too bad this past week.

It really comes down to the offense finding a little  bit of life and the pitching staff doing their share to keep the Phils in games and hold leads late. In the first 34 games of the season the Phils scored four or more runs just 12 times, and they had an 8-4 record to show for it. In the other 22 games, when they scored 3 or less, they went 3-19. Yikes.

Cole Hamels got the Phils their first win of this streak (and also secured the 6th straight in Colorado) against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 3-2 victory. Since that game, the Phils have run totals of 4, 4, 7, 6, and 4. It’s fairly simple, you score more, you win more. How have the Phils been doing it though?

The answer once again is simple. They are getting more hits. In the first 34 games of the season the Phils averaged 7.6 hits per game while the National League averaged a hit more at 8.6 per game. In those 34 games the Phils managed double digit hits just 5 times. During the 6 game win streak the Phils have had 4 double digit hit games and are averaging 9.8 hits per contest. They have raised their team batting average 17 points from .223 to .240 since the last Hitter’s Count post and are now 12th in the NL in batting average as opposed to dead last.

There is still a serious lack of power from the offense, as they are averaging a measly .55 home runs per game when the NL average is .9 per game. That lack of power hasn’t stopped several key Phillies from raising their slugging percentage a considerable amount in the last six games. Ryan Howard is 8 for his last 16 and raised his average from .211 to .252. The Big Piece has impressive numbers for the month of May with a .327 average, .383 on base percentage, and .582 slugging mark. His strikeout rate has also come down a considerable amount from his career average. Howard is striking out 25% of the time this season down from a career 30% rate.

Meanwhile, Chase Utley, I don’t want to say he’s found a groove yet, but he’s certainly had better results at the plate since finally being dropped in the batting order to 6th. It took Sandy a month too long to do this, 3 weeks if you want to be generous. Utley has hits in 7 of his last 9 games and has raised his average from .099 to .143. He has doubled in 3 consecutive games after only recording one two base hit in the first 36 games of the season.

But now to the important stuff. Hamels is doing what he can to keep his trade value very high and Howard and Utley are 2011’s news. The Phillies that may actually mean something when this team is good again are showing some signs of life and that’s really all us Phillies fans are asking for this year. That and hopefully 63 wins to avoid the triple digit loss embarrassment.

Somehow Freddy Galvis is still hitting over .340 - .341 to be exact. This is the same Freddy Galvis that started his 2014 season 1 for 30. He’s also proven to not be a serious drop off in talent at the shortstop position from Jimmy Rollins. This cannot be taken for granted. Galvis seems to make all the routine plays and can certainly go deep in the hole or dive for a ball up the middle, pirouette, and fire a strike to first. JP Crawford is waiting in the wings to be the heir apparent to Rollins, but outplaying Galvis for the shortstop spot would be a tall order right now. Perhaps, if Freddy is still playing at a high level he would be able to step in for Utley once his day finally comes.

And then finally we have young Maikel Franco. The 22 year old Dominican third baseman has arrived and early signs point to him being a stalwart at the hot corner for years to come. His call up was delayed until Friday in order to give him another year under Phillies control before his first chance at free agency. The Phillies have not lost with him in the lineup. Sunday he hit his first major league home run and that ball went 40 feet shorter than the triple he slammed off the center field wall. He’s also made several nice plays in the field and could give Phillies the first right handed at bat to look forward to since Jayson Werth left town.

In a sad bit of irony, the Phils won Cody Asche whiffle ball bat giveaway day two days after Asche was sent down to the minors to get some experience in left field. You have to chuckle at that.

Things will no doubt be tougher for the Phils than the past week has been, but hey let’s enjoy this while we can.

As part of a new initiative on The Hitter's Count Blog we're welcoming guest blogger Andrew Eisenhart. If you're a frequent reader of The Hitter's Count, you'll remember Mr. Eisenhart as the loser in the Michael Carter-Williams Shooting Challenge. Mr. Eisenhart will provide his generally unique opinions on different Phils matters via three paragraph essays. Here is his initial offering.

Phillies Pride

There is a great scene in the movie Trainspotting in which a few friends from Scotland argue over Scottish pride.  Ultimately, they determine that it is shite to be Scottish.  Personally, I happen to enjoy Scottish culture quite a bit; Edinburgh’s a fine town, I’ve been through there once.   However, this scene examines more than just an opinion.  It examines one’s ability to recognize that something you hold with such high pride is ultimately shite

With 10,150 losses since 1890, I think it’s time that we realistically examine our own pride for the Philadelphia Phillies.  They are the losingest sports club in this country, and perhaps the world.  If we lived in Europe, the club would most likely be playing year after year in either the country’s 4th or 5th division; playing in a wretched stadium with an optimistic future that could easily be compared to the optimism surrounding Syria’s economic future.  Luckily, for the owner’s sake, the MLB does not have a relegation system.  Therefore, as fans, we can take pride in 2 World Championships, 7 Pennants and 14 Playoff Appearances in 125 seasons. 

Recently, Jonathan Papelbon broke the organization’s saves record with 113 saves.  Go Jonathan!  If Papelbon were playing for the Colorado Rockies, a club that has been around since 1993, he would be 2nd on their saves list.  This is salt in the wound for Phillies fans.   Not only are we a shite organization, but players realize this and choose not to remain and/or play in Philadelphia.  Papelbon, along with consistently making it clear he is fine with being traded, has made this sentiment very clear: “No, I would like to stay here.  But if I’m going to have to put up with this year after year, then no, I don’t want to be here.  Why would you?  Why would anybody?”

Jonathan, you are correct.

It is easier to think than write and this is what I think.