Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Sad State of Affairs

Looks About Right

I know it’s been quite a while but given the current state of the team I felt it incumbent upon me to give my loyal readers an update on the sad state of affairs that is the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. Have any of you been paying attention? Holy shit! They are going in the wrong direction again!

After a 2015 season that saw the Phils win on the last day of the season to avoid losing 100 games and a 2016 season that showed clear signs of improvement, it was expected this young group of kids would continue to build on last year’s 71 win campaign.

Well, after the longest May of Pete Mackanin’s life (it still has a week to go), that even saw him get a 2 year contract extension, the Phils would have to play their final 118 games at 56-62 to finish ahead of last year’s pace. It wouldn’t be impossible, but from the looks of things right now it’s right next to it. My god, they have been a 5-alarm tire fire the entire month of May having dropped 20 of their last 24. Today, they have to be praying for a rainout so they can avoid getting bushwhacked for a fourth straight time by the red hot Colorado Rockies in South Philadelphia. I’ve joked with my buddies that any team that gets done a series with the Phils leaves town with the NL RBI lead. Ask Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, or Charlie Blackmon about the Phillies staff. The Rockies are in town for a four game set and have outscored the Phils 23-4 in the first three games. But let’s take a step back from the here and now.

With three days left in April, the Phillies were 11-9, had just won 6 games in a row, and had scored 95 (4.75 per game) runs while allowing 84 (4.20 per game). In the 24 games since they have gone 4-20 while scoring 93 (3.88 per game) runs and giving up 141 (5.86 per game). Ugly is the first word that comes to mind to describe the play. Undisciplined, sloppy, disinterested, and stubborn are a few more. In those 24 games the Phils have held their opponent under 5 runs just 5 times and there is plenty of blame to go around among the pitching staff. The starters have a 6.39 ERA in May while the relievers are checking in with a better than expected but still not great 4.46 ERA. The staff on the season is at 5.10 overall.

Jeremy Hellickson has the lowest ERA of any starter at 4.28. Jerad Eickhoff has been up and down and registers at 4.70 while Vince Velasquez (5.98), Zach Eflin (5.36), and Nick Pivetta (5.12) have for the most part struggled.  Eflin has had some solid starts but has been blown out his past few. In 19 starts , Velasquez, Eflin, and Pivetta have combined to pitch 105 innings while giving up 117 hits,  21 home runs, and 37 walks while failing to reach the 6th inning 11 times. The Phils are 4-15 in those 19 games.

Twenty-four year old Nick Pivetta may not have been quite ready for The Show yet, but early injuries to Clay Bucholz and Aaron Nola forced the Phillies’ hand. Pivetta was part of a memorable moment, for the wrong reasons, in Texas when Pete Mackanin decided to lift the youngster with 2 outs in the fifth inning of a game the Phillies were leading 2-0 at the time. Pivetta was most likely gassed having thrown 107 pitches through four and two thirds but for a guy that had yet to record his first major league win this was a cosmic karmic fuck up by Petey Mack. You don’t pull a guy in that situation when he is in line to win a game and has yet to give up a run!

What happened? Left hander Joely Rodriguez came on and here is the game log for the rest of the inning. One man was on first base when Rodriguez entered with 2 outs.

Choo to second on balk by Rodríguez.
Mazara walked.
Chirinos singled to right, Choo scored, Mazara to third.
Odor singled to left, Mazara scored, Chirinos to second.
Rua homered to right (366 feet), Chirinos and Odor scored.
Gallo struck out swinging.

You have to laugh at the immediate balk and walk. Then you can cry from there on out. I was actually watching when this happened. It went south quick.

Another memorable couple of Ls came at home against the Seattle Mariners who dusted up Phillies pitching for 21 runs and 32 hits… in a two game series. The Tuesday night opening game of the series saw the Phillies jump out 4 nothing in the first inning only to see that lead vanish by the middle of the 5th. Trailing 5-4 the Phils put up another crooked number and took the lead 9-5 giving themselves a second 4 run lead in the same game. After Jerad Eickhoff squandered the initial lead by failing to complete the 4th inning, the bullpen combined to allow 5 more runs (3 earned) and give the Phillies the terrific feat of blowing two 4 run leads in the same game in a 10-9 loss.

The very next game with Seattle still in town the score was tied at 3 after 6 innings courtesy of a quality start from Eflin. Then veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit entered the game and failed to record more than one out in the 7th. Benoit gave up 5 earned runs and gave out 3 free passes while recording that out in a game he essentially lost for the Phillies. After the game, Benoit had the nerve to criticize Mackanin’s use of the bullpen and the lack of defined roles for the relievers. Whether or not Benoit had a valid point is moot considering the explosive diarrhea he resembled on the mound that day. Here is a clip of Joaquin spouting off.

So what about the offense you say? Boy oh boy, do they stink at the plate as well. At least in May they have. When you think about the Phils offense you have to assume they will live and die with the guys that should be their best two hitters. Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco. Well, they’re dying here folks.

Odoobs, wow Odoobs. How many of you have been paying attention to his at bats this year? They are a thing of disaster. I’ve never seen a guy announcers discuss as “capable of winning a batting title” so absolutely clueless at the plate. The guy takes swings that you’d see your average little league rightfielder take against the best pitcher in the league. Then from time to time he’ll slap an 0-2 pitch in to left for a base hit and make you scratch your head, but make no mistake Odoobs does not have the correct approach at the plate (Where you at Matt Stairs?). After walking 10 times in April over 94 plate appearances, Herrera has eked out one walk during the entire month of May spanning 89 plate appearances. The nerve of this guy. Take it easy up there. His .205 average in May has his season average down to .231. His regression in his third year as the everyday centerfielder is not something you are expecting to see for a 25 year old who should be entering his prime.

Wild Swing, I Think I Love You

Maikel Franco has shown flashes of dynamic power over his still very young career but the only thing he’s done consistently at the plate is be inconsistent. He still flails wildly dislodging his helmet on far too many swings. His walk rate of 7.6% is in line with his career numbers and still far too low. In May, Franco is slashing a paltry .231/.292/.369 and the .231 batting average and .292 on base percentage are both improvements from April. The .369 slugging percentage which is 84 points lower than Ryan Howard slugged last year, is due to the fact that Franco has one home run in his last 82 at bats. The lack of power has been combined with an inability to drive in runs. Through 27 games, Maikel managed to knock in 25 runs despite his average hovering around the Mendoza line. Since then, he has driven in 3 over his last 14.  That kind of production is just not going to get it done.

Cesar Hernandez has cooled considerably in May after a torrent start. Tommy Joseph has come on of late after a slow start but has been inconsistent at best. The addition of Michael Saunders in the outfield has been a total non-factor. Freddie Galvis remains to be Freddie Galvis. Cameron Rupp has been serviceable and really just looks the part of a catcher if you ask me.

The lone bright spot, perhaps on the entire roster right now, has been the play of leftfielder Aaron Altherr. Altherr leads the Phils in home runs with 8 and had a stretch of 5 home runs in as many games including 3 straight games with a 3 run home run. Understandably, the power has cooled some since that outburst and Altherr has now gone 38 at bats without a home run. Nevertheless he has been drawing a few Jayson Werth comparisons due to his lanky frame and ability to hit for power. It remains to be seen if Altherr can continue to be an above average hitter but right now it’s what us Phils fans have to cling to given the current state of affairs for our ball club.

Until next time folks, whenever that may be.

Werth the Watch:

Cole Hamels started the season in typical Cole Hamels fashion but has been on the shelf with an oblique for a month. He was 2-0 in 5 starts with a 3.03 ERA in the early going.

Jayson Werth has been batting second and playing everyday leftfield for the first place Nationals. He's hitting .283 with 7 home runs and 16 RBI. He turned 38 last week and his gross paycheck every two weeks should average out to about $807,692 give or take a few bucks. He is in the final year of that contract.

Chase Utley is still starting about 75% of the games at second base for the 27-20 Dodgers. He bats 7th and has yet to hit a home run in 90 at bats. After a ghastly start that saw him batting under a .100 about a month in to the season he has turned it around some hitting .265 in May to raise his average to an even .200. It's the end of the line for Chase who is also 38 years old, but he's still out there doing it.

Chooch made it to town during that awful Mariners series and gave the Phils fans something to smile about. He's playing in about half the Mariners games and I'll do him a favor and not list his stats.

Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard are out of baseball.

Ken Giles has 12 saves and a 3.44 ERA as the closer for the best record in baseball Houston Astros.

Jim Eisenrich is hitting lasers at a local high school field twice a week just for fun.

Pete Incaviglia is smoking Marlboro Reds and hitting moon shot home runs in beer league softball.

Lenny Dykstra is face down in a ditch and having a laugh about it.


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