The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
The Philadelphia sports scene is already overcrowded. But here's one more thing.
Published July 25, 2019
The Phillies finished off a quick two-game sweep of the awful Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, and they managed to do so with one of the worst starting outfields that I have seen them send out in a long time.
Thanks to Bryce Harper slotting in as the DH in the first game of the series and then getting a rest in the second game, it was the triumvirate of Nick Williams, Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley manning the outfield for both of the Phils’ games at Comerica Park.
The group did about as well as you’d expect in the series, going a combined 5-for-26, though Williams and Quinn both managed to hit home runs. And so it appears that manager Gabe Kapler and the Phillies really “got away with one” against an inferior opponent despite one-third of their lineup being extremely underwhelming at this point in time.
As we often do here at Philly Sports Complex, this curious configuration got us thinking of similar cases in recent Phillies history. While we could go back to the late 1990’s for some truly horrendous starting outfields, we decided to limit our lookback to this decade alone.
Join us, won’t you, for a trip through the worst starting outfields that the Phillies have put on the field this decade.
Brock Stassi- Aaron Altherr - Daniel Nava
You can really get a handle on how bad the Phillies were in 2017 when you see that this was their starting outfield in the 12th game of the season. It was one of Stassi’s two career outfield starts in his appropriately brief MLB career. And while Altherr went on to hit 19 home runs that season, I think we can all now officially label him as “not good”. At least Nava was an upgrade over Michael Saunders, but that’s about it. Not surprisingly, the Phillies would lose to the Nats on this day.
Hyun Soo Kim- Freddy Galvis - Nick Williams
Later on in 2017, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin apparently fired up the crack pipe between games of a doubleheader against the Braves, coming up with this outfield for the second game. It remains the lone center field appearance of Galvis’ career. Kim, who you forgot about, batting .230 with zero home runs in 87 AB over his time with the Phils. And while I’m sorry to pick on Nick again, even he would admit that this outfield was a mess.
Tyler Goeddel - Peter Bourjos - David Lough
As bad as 2017 was, I think that 2016 has it beat as the worst season for Phillies outfielders in recent memory. Do you remember guys like Cedric Hunter, Emmanuel Burriss and Jimmy Paredes? God, I hope not. But this trio from a May 18 game against the Marlins was probably the worst group. It was the only MLB season for Goeddel, the final MLB season for Lough, and featured a center fielder in Bourjos who amassed a .237 average over the course of a decade in the league. Amazingly, Goeddel was the star of the day, collecting 7.3% of his career hits in this game to lead the Phillies to a 4-2 win.
Darnell Sweeney - Aaron Altherr - Brian Bogusevic
Coming in the final week of the 2015 season, the Phillies were once again seemingly just pulling names out of a hat. Sweeney, who had come over from the Dodgers in the Chase Utley trade, obviously never panned out. He wouldn’t be seen in the bigs again until 2018. Bogusevic got a September sniff to see what he could do, but it would turn out to be his swansong in the majors. The group would strike out a combined seven times against Stephen Strasburg in this one, but the Phillies still managed to make it a game before finally losing 2-1 in 12 innings.
Steve Susdorf - John Mayberry Jr. - Laynce Nix
It turns out that this week’s Phillies outfield against the Tigers may not have even been the worst trio that they’ve fielded in Detroit this decade. Take a look at this mess from a 2013 game. If you don’t remember Susdorf existing, there’s a reason for that. This was the only start of his MLB career, but he did collect his lone hit in this game, an ugly 12-4 loss. Nix was two weeks away from the Phillies releasing him, which was the end of his MLB career. And Mayberry was putting together his third and final season of “doing just enough to keep a job” by hitting double-digit home runs and playing in over 100 games before the Phillies finally woke up and stopped settling for his subpar play.
Pete Orr - Roger Bernadina - Darin Ruf
The Cubs’ Jake Arrieta had no trouble mowing down the Phillies on this day. Despite Ruf actually showing a little bit of promise during the 2013 season, we all know how misplaced that was. Orr was playing out the final year of his MLB career, just barely finishing ahead of Rafael Belliard on the career home runs list by a 3-2 count. Bernadina brought nothing to the table, hitting .187 in his short Phillies tenure. 2013 was a bizarre time for the Phillies outfield, as they started Freddy Galvis 10 times in left and Cesar Hernandez 22 times in center. As for Arrieta, I like to think that this was the performance that stuck in Matt Klentak’s mind and contributed to his insane contract four years later.
Ty Wigginton - John Mayberry Jr. - Michael Martinez
We’ll wrap this list up with this outfield grouping from September 2, 2012. Wigginton started 68 games in the outfield over his career, but he was ill-suited to play there. We’ve already discussed Mayberry, and that finally brings us to Martinez. The guy hit .196 over 209 at bats in 2011, and apparently the Phillies thought it was enough to keep him around. Though he played substantially less in 2012 (115 AB in 45 games), his average fell to .174, making his inclusion on this list an absolute necessity. Even with two all-stars in your outfield, Martinez’s mere presence would downgrade it to “terrible”.
Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? I don’t know which of these outfield groups classifies as the absolute worst, but one thing is for certain. Bryce Harper really needs to stay healthy.
Patron saint of horrible Phillies outfielders? (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Published July 15, 2019
I come not to bury Maikel Franco, but to praise him. Actually, “praise” is too strong. I’ll just try to get across the point that the guy has been given an undeservedly rough ride, both by the fans and the entire Phillies organization.
Here’s a guy who, with his walkoff home run yesterday, became just the 25th Phillie to reach the 100 home run plateau for the club in its long history. And he’s actually the first Phillies player in over a decade to reach this mini-milestone with the team. So, even though every player in the league seems to be homering at a prodigious rate this year, at least a little golf clap for Maikel would be nice.
Anyway, it all started with what were probably unreasonable expectations for Franco earlier this decade, with the Phillies trying to tout future stars within their organization as the likes of Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard were fading. Franco was the one most often brought up as some kind of future savior, the next coming of Mike Schmidt over at third base.
So, right off the bat, it was a case of a team laying it on thick with its fans to whet their appetites and drive future ticket sales. Franco made his debut in 2014, a 16-game audition at the end of the year where he didn’t do much.
But it was in 2015 that he truly tantalized us, putting up 14 home runs and 50 RBI in just 80 games played. He looked like he could be the next big building block for a club that was completely barren. Yet the success didn’t translate in 2016 and 2017, years in which he played full seasons and put up numbers that were “just ok” and fell short of some people’s lofty expectations, all while playing a third base that was at times very good, but ultimately graded out as probably at or below average overall.
Is this a star player? No. But is this a player you can have on your team and still win ballgames with him in the lineup? Yes. It’s easy to forget that Franco is still only 26. And the company he keeps, according to Baseball-Reference.com, in “similar batters through age 25” is actually pretty good, as it includes the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Dale Murphy and Edwin Encarnacion.
It’s worth noting that Ramirez and Encarnacion were both traded around this time of their careers to new destinations where they went on to become all-star players. And Murphy, while he wasn’t traded, started hitting like a madman at age 26 with the Braves, ripping off six straight all-star seasons, leading the NL in home runs and RBI a pair of times each.
I am not trying to say that I think that Franco will achieve these heights, but merely that he clears the bar (a rather low one at that) of Philadelphia athletes who deserve our ire for massively underachieving. He is not making insane money, and he never truly was some kind of “can’t miss prospect” that turned out to merely be a league average player.
So let’s enjoy Maikel’s hot streaks like he had in April and is currently enjoying once again. We’ll have to suffer through the cold spells as well, even ones so bad that they get him benched in favor of Sean Rodriguez. I don’t think that any local team has treated one of their players as disposable so overtly as the Phillies have done to Franco for multiple seasons now.
Yet here he is, still sticking around and making the occasional impact like he did yesterday. It’s nowhere near ideal for anyone involved, and maybe the best course would be an eventual trade that gives Franco a fresh start somewhere else. Following that, he will probably be brought up as some kind of future punchline among Phillies fans. But he shouldn’t be. We’ve seen far worse. And there are guys on the current team who are pulling even less weight than Franco might be perceived by some as doing right now.
In a way, he has fallen victim to becoming Bobby Abreu 2.0, a guy that was the best player on a lousy team for a time, but who became an afterthought once the Phillies finally found other good players with which to bolster the roster.
Make no mistake, if the rest of the Phillies’ overhauled roster were reaching expectations, we’d all be just fine with this version of Maikel Franco. Instead, for those looking to point the finger at the 2019 Phillies, he’s an easy but unfair scapegoat. I cannot fully sing his praises. But I’d at least like to call out the injustice of how he’s been treated for a while now.
Remember the time Franco yelled at a baseball? (The Associated Press File)
Published July 11, 2019
I will start by saying that I fully supported the Phillies’ signing of Jake Arrieta before the 2018 season. The contract was almost certainly an overpayment, but it really didn’t matter much because that’s what the market dictated for his services. Plus, the Phillies had money to burn. They needed to start getting better, and bringing in a decorated pitcher like Arrieta was a solid first step.
We’ll get to the murky waters of the contract itself in a bit, but let’s look at his results with the Phillies so far.
Last year, Arrieta ping-ponged between good and bad, and in the end he finished with a 3.96 ERA. Arrieta had actually been humming along at a 3.11 clip following a fantastic performance on August 6 when he threw eight scoreless innings. But he managed only two more quality starts over the rest of the season after that while seeing his ERA climb following each of his final eight starts before finishing ultimately just a tick under 4.00.
Talk about mediocre. You might even be tempted to call the results just plain “bad” when you consider the money he makes. Throw in the fact that he showed himself to have the surliest of personalities and wasn’t afraid to rattle the cages of his teammates, and Year One of Jake Arrieta was a big disappointment.
This year, things have gotten even worse, as Arrieta’s ERA stands at 4.67. But we recently found out that there might be an underlying cause, as he’s got a bone spur in his pitching elbow. Still, he and the Phillies have decided to push onward, and he’s scheduled to stay in the rotation for the time being, with his next start coming on Sunday in the finale of a critical three-game series against the Washington Nationals.
You can blame the Phillies on one hand for this, because they simply have no better options than to send a compromised Arrieta out there to pitch in an important game. Gabe Kapler said as much this week. If anyone in the organization was showing enough signs of life so as to be worth a shot right now, the Phillies would throw the dice.
Instead, we are told that a miserable underachiever whose best days seem far behind him is still the best chance that we’ve got for the time being. So, let me tell you exactly what I think is going to happen…
Arrieta takes the hill against Washington on Sunday (hopefully as the Phillies are trying to at least win the series and not just attempting to avoid a sweep) and gets shellacked. I’m talking five or six runs in less than three innings. Shortly thereafter, he goes on the IL. Then he’s either out for the season or comes back so late that it doesn’t matter.
I realize this is extremely pessimistic, but really, what are the chances that he pitches well Sunday, stays in the rotation for the next ten weeks and regains some semblance of his old self all while dealing with a bone spur that could affect his release point and velocity?
If the Phillies (i.e. Matt Klentak) had played their cards right, they would have enough rotation depth right now that they could have shut Arrieta down right away, taken care of the bone spur and then just maybe have gotten him back for the final month of the season if everything went well. Instead, we have this.
Finally, the worst part of this thing.
Arrieta has an opt-out clause after the second year of the contract that he signed. If he had pitched fantastically well, there’s no doubt that he would trigger it. But now, ineffectiveness and injury all but guarantee that he’ll be staying put here next year and earn a cool $20 million for it, because he certainly wouldn’t get anywhere near that on the open market.
Remember, it could actually max out at a 5-year contract, but I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance of both parties agreeing that he should stick around for that long.
So, maybe I need to get to work on another article, one that asks whether or not signing Arrieta was the worst free agency contract given out by a Philadelphia team this decade. It’s certainly up there.
But, until that time, I want to reiterate that I really wish things were working out better. The guy was clutch and at the top of his game just three years ago. But the Phillies appear to have gotten him just as he was toppling off the cliff, one that there’s no coming back from.
I don’t want him to get hit hard. I don’t want him to have to go on the injured list. But I know that when all signs point to disaster concerning the Phillies, things almost certainly head in that direction.
Prove me wrong, Jake.
I'm boney, I'm boney. Leave me aloney.
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Published July 4, 2019
We are a little past the 50% mark for this Phils’ season. This article will statistically dissect the Phillies’ trades (not free-agent signings) since December 2018 that have had an immediate impact on their MLB team or another MLB team.
On December 3, 2018, the Phillies acquired Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio and James Pazos from Seattle in exchange for Carlos Santana and JP Crawford. Santana was coming off an underwhelming season in which some of his best contact came in the clubhouse against a flat screen TV, while Crawford’s performance so far for the Phils could have been defined as lackluster at best. Fans were particularly eager to have a proven offensive weapon at shortstop for the first time since Jimmy Rollins’ departure.
So far this season, Segura has not been his career .300/30 SB self. In fact, sometimes it appears he’s forgotten how to run altogether, but his average is still decent, and he’s put up stats of 10 HR, 38 RBI, a .272 avg and 5 SB thus far. Juan Nicasio has been about what you’d expect, with a record of 1-2, a 5.24 ERA in 34.1 IP and one random save in Kapler’s mess of a bullpen. Pazos has since been traded away for some A-ball second baseman, so we’ll rule him out of the comparison here.
Santana was later traded to Cleveland for him to have a homecoming with the Indians’ fans who love him way more than the Phillies fans ever would have. Maybe it’s the fan support, maybe it’s the city – but Santana is currently batting .298 with 19 HR, 52 RBI, has been named a starter on the AL All-Star team and will be taking some hacks in the home run derby. I’d say it’s a great year for him.
Crawford, meanwhile, has put up a .291 average in Seattle with 3 HR and 22 RBI. That’s already more than he did with the Phils. Between Santana and Crawford, that’s 74 combined RBI to Segura’s 38.
Verdict: Bad trade for the Phils, though Segura could make it more even with a solid second half.
Three days later on December 6, the Phils traded Luis Garcia to the Angels for Jose Alvarez. Let’s keep this one simple. They’re basically the same dude, just do a Google image search. One just throws right while the other throws left.
Garcia: 1-1, 4.06 ERA, 1 SV, 31 IP
Alvarez: 0-2, 4.11 ERA, 1 SV, 30.2 IP
Doesn’t get closer than that.
After the new year, the Phillies made all fans jump out of their skin a bit by trading with the division “rival” Marlins for catcher J.T. Realmuto. In exchange, the Phils gave up their own catcher in Jorge Alfaro, minor league top prospect Sixto Sanchez, and some dude named Will Stewart.
Realmuto has since been named the Phils’ only All-Star, but only because the catcher position league-wide is horrible offensively yet again this year.Statistically speaking, Realmuto and Alfaro are quite comparable so far since the trade:
Realmuto: 10 HR, 37 RBI, .266
Alfaro: 10 HR, 29 RBI, .256
One big difference is that Realmuto is significantly better defensively than Alfaro. Just watch the highlights of Alfaro’s defense during the Phils-Marlins game from Sunday, June 30. Hilarious.
Verdict: Phils win.
In June, Klentak decided he wanted to bolster the Phils’ bench with a left-handed threat. He traded away a high-A level 3B to Seattle in exchange for Jay Bruce. With an injury to Andrew McCutchen thanks to Jean Segura’s inability to run, and Odubel’s Atlantic City incident, Bruce was thrown into the fire relatively quickly and has started the majority of the games since the trade. With a .271 clip since the trade along with 7 homers and 22 RBI in just 24 games played, he’s quickly becoming a fan-favorite in town. Bruce may be a big difference-maker down the stretch for the Phils.
Verdict: Phils win again.
Later in the month, the Phils traded away minor-league pitcher Tom Eshelman to the Orioles in exchange for “international bonus allocations”. Huh? Since then, Eshelman made his MLB debut for the O’s and had a no-decision. He was 4-18 in the minors over the past two seasons prior to his debut. He’ll fit right in there before long.
Verdict: Phils win, I guess, by getting rid of him?
In a June 13 move after which Phils’ fans reacted “Who the hell is Brad Miller?”, the Phillies traded cash to the Yankees for 2B Brad Miller. He actually hasn’t been awful since the trade – in 16 AB, he has 2 homers, 4 RBI, and is hitting .375.
Verdict: Phils win.
Overall Verdict: So far, the Phils’ trades overall have proven slightly better than what they’ve given up, but they have left a lot to be desired.
With less than a month before the trade deadline, Klentak needs to prove he’s all-in with this roster and trade for a starter, a bullpen arm or two, and another proven bat. If he can make all this happen, they might have a chance to go far.
Photos by Kim Klement, Eric Hartline and Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports
Published June 30, 2019
I’ll be the first one to admit that I was wrong last year. I didn’t think the Flyers were going to make a move when the NHL’s free agency period opened on July 1, but they did, bringing back James van Riemsdyk on a rich contract.
But this year, I’m seriously doubting anything is going to happen. And I’m not even talking about a splashy signing like JVR was last year. I don’t even think they’re going to pay up for a third-line winger.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the team is probably banking on a young (also, cheaper) internal candidate filling a void left in the forward ranks after the conclusion of all of GM Chuck Fletcher’s wheeling and dealing in the last few weeks.
But it’s a shame that the team had so much cap space at season’s end, but now finds itself basically priced out for even the lower tiers of unrestricted free agents who will officially hit the market on Monday.
By taking on contracts such as those belonging Justin Braun and Matt Niskanen, plus footing the bill for some of Radko Gudas’ salary even after trading him, the Flyers’ budget surplus is all but gone.
On the surface of all of his moves, I don’t have a problem with anything Fletcher did in re-shaping the roster. He didn’t make any awful decisions that are going to hurt the club long-term. But did he do enough? This team missed the playoffs by a wide margin last season. Can it close that sizeable gap as currently constructed?
Maybe, especially if some of the Flyers’ returning players take a big step forward this season. Looking at you, Nolan Patrick. But I know that I’d feel a lot better as a fan if the Flyers still had a boatload of cash to spend and had been at least rumored to be in on the top free agents this offseason.
Instead, even before Fletcher’s moves increased the team’s cap commitment in the last month, I never heard the Flyers linked to Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin or any of the premiere players up for grabs. This is all indicative of what I fear is a larger issue, that Philadelphia is simply not a destination for players and the Flyers “brand” is not what it once was. But this is all a discussion for another day.
The crux of what I’m saying is that the Flyers sure could use another piece, especially among their forward group, but I believe they’ll be priced out of any players who might interest them. For instance, I think that Joonas Donskoi, formerly of the San Jose Sharks, would be a very nice addition to the Flyers as a third-line winger.
But even this kind of player isn’t cheap anymore, as he’ll likely fetch a contract that would pay him around $3 million per year over the next three or four campaigns. And this might be simply too much for the Flyers are they inch ever closer to the salary cap ceiling with Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Scott Laughton all needing new deals for next year that need to be factored in as well.
I’d also be exploring Corey Perry, the longtime (but now former after he was bought out) Anaheim Duck, if I were Fletcher. But this again goes back to the Flyers probably not being seen as serious contenders that Perry would want to bother “wasting” his services on. He’s near the end of the line and can’t sit around waiting for a team to develop around him. Because of this, he’ll likely be heading somewhere on an incentive-laden one-year contract. It just won’t be Philadelphia. Pity, as I think he’d be a good match here, and the Flyers could always trade him at the deadline if things went south anyway.
One name you may hear mentioned a lot if he isn’t snapped up right away is the Wayne Train himself, Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds really hurt his stock last year, and so he may also need to sign one of those one-year “prove it” contracts. Could he be interested in a reunion with the Flyers? Should the Flyers even want that?
Look, I know the Flyers’ history with being overly loyal to guys. They often keep them around way too long, something that extends to the front office as well with people like Paul Holmgren. But, concerning the product on the ice, I would be good with Simmonds coming back to the team this year if that’s what both parties agree on.
It can’t be for anything long-term, of course, and I would urge the Flyers to stay away if some other team is willing to offer Simmonds a multi-year deal that could turn into a disaster if Simmonds’ production falls off even more precipitously than it has recently. But if the price is right, I think we should all welcome him back, with the understanding that he will be playing a lesser role on the team than he had previously.
So, there you have it. I don’t think the Flyers are going to do anything in free agency. But if they do, Wayne Simmonds is the most likely candidate. And while that’s underwhelming, let’s all remember that the team has been making some effort recently to improve, especially with the Kevin Hayes signing. Whether or not you liked said signing is another debate we can all have down the road.
This aggressive approach all but took the Flyers out of the running for big-name free agents. But if Fletcher and company thought that they were unlikely to get the guys they wanted on July 1, they pivoted to the strategy that they felt would be most helpful to the team.
Let’s just hope they’re headed in the right direction, because this team needs to make the playoffs this year. Desperately.
Feels familiar (Photo by Heather Barry - SB Nation)
Published June 20, 2019
The 2019 Philadelphia Phillies season was not supposed to be like this.
Specifically, its offense was expected to be a juggernaut.
But the team’s criminally underachieving bats hit (or didn’t hit, which was the problem) a new low on Wednesday, as they cranked out a total of two runs on ten hits in dropping a pair of games to the Nationals. The Phillies couldn’t even plate a run against a pitcher who had broken his nose less than 36 hours before facing them. Talk about flaccid.
It was an embarrassment.
But is it the worst doubleheader that the Phillies have experienced this decade? Our crack staff is on the case, looking over the other instances since 2010 where the Phils dropped two games in one day. There’s a surprisingly large number of them. Or, if you have ever watched the Phillies, it’s not surprising.
Here’s a quick look at the facts.
Yesterday was the Phillies’ 20th doubleheader this decade. They have been swept in ten of them. Half! Ridiculous. They also have 7 splits, and they’ve won both games a measly 3 times, and not since 2012.
Let’s go from “just bad” to “biggest disaster”...
September 11, 2015
Taking on a far superior Cubs team, the Phillies had basically zero chance on this day. Some great pitcher named Jake Arrieta shut them down in the first game, a 5-1 Cubs win. Adam Morgan started and lost for the Phils. Remember that failed experiment? In Game Two, the Cubs started scoring right off the bat against Alec Asher (ew), and the Phillies had to dip deep into the ‘pen to trot out the likes of Kenny Roberts, Dalier Hinojosa and Nefi Ogando in a 7-3 loss. My God.
August 22, 2017
Facing the Marlins, Aaron Nola got lit up in the first game to the tune of 7 runs, and the Phillies bullpen of Jesen Therrien (who?) and Ricardo Pinto (also, who?) didn’t fare much better. The Phils actually hit 5 homers of their own, but it didn’t matter in a 12-8 loss. Nick Pivetta was even worse in the second game, as he couldn’t make it through the second inning, allowing 6 runs. The rest of the game didn’t matter, as the Phillies largely sleepwalked through a 7-4 loss.
June 28, 2014
In a close game vs. Atlanta, Antonio Bastardo imploded in the 8th inning to pave the way to a 10-3 Phillies loss in the first game of that day’s twinbill. The Phillies’ bats were then eerily silent in a 5-1 loss in the second game against a collection of Braves pitchers that I’ve never heard of.
June 24, 2012
Even though Cole Hamels outdueled David Price in the first game of this day’s Rays-Phillies doubleheader, the Phils’ bullpen couldn’t hold a lead, and they lost 3-1. In the second game, Cliff Lee allowed 5 Tampa runs, and a random collection of Rays pitchers handled the Phillies in a 7-3 Tampa win.
September 24, 2011
Coming into the day having lost 6 games in a row as they coasted into the playoffs, the Phillies saw their skid reach 8 games after they mailed in this entire day against the Mets. They dropped the first game 2-1, and then a costly Hunter Pence error turned into 4 unearned runs in the second game, which made the difference in a 6-3 Mets win. These would be the Phils’ last two losses of that regular season. Don’t ask me how the playoffs went.
September 20, 2011
In a tightly contested opening game, the Nationals eeked out the go ahead run in the 10th inning against Phils legend Michael Stutes, winning 4-3. In the second game, the Phillies committed as many errors (3) as they managed hits. Needless to say, they didn’t score in a 3-0 loss. It was a pretty uncharacteristic day for that year’s excellent (in the regular season) Phillies team.
October 3, 2015
When it’s the next-to-last day of the season and you’re 27 games out of first, these things happen. In the opener, the Phillies took a 6-5 lead into the 9th inning against the Marlins. One Ken Giles blown save later, they had lost 7-6. Alec Asher was at it again in the second game, allowing 3 runs in 2 innings in a 5-2 setback, the Phillies’ 99th and final defeat of that season.
August 30, 2017
The Phillies hadn’t lost a doubleheader in eight days, so they were due. The Braves blew up Jerad Eickhoff, and the Phillies had no answer for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who stifled them for eight innings. It all ended in a 9-1 loss. The Phillies, as they so often do, then fell behind immediately in the top of the first of the second game. They would lose it, 5-2. The Phillies only managed 13 hits the entire day. Pretty bad, but of course we’ve seen worse.
September 11, 2018
Another pair of losses to the Nationals, but this one came at the not-so-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park. In the opener, the Phillies’ anemic offense didn’t score until the bottom of the 9th in a 3-1 loss. The nightcap ended up being an unmitigated disaster, as the bullpen choked on a 6-3 lead in the 9th inning and allowed the Nats to tie it up. Then, the Phillies got their first two runners on in the bottom of the inning but were unable to score. In extras, a Juan Soto bomb gave the Nats a 7-6 win and a sweep of the day.
So there’s our power (or weakness) rankings. As you saw, some of those days were pretty bad, wretched even. But I’ve reached the conclusion that yesterday was the single most putrid day of Phillies baseball this decade, and that’s saying something.
Yes, they were just two regular season losses in June, and that hurts far less than losing a single game down the stretch in a tight pennant race. But they all count the same, and the abysmal showing yesterday highlights some serious problems with this current team.
Basically, yesterday was the worst.
How’s your seat feeling, Gabe?
The Phillies played like Max Scherzer's face looked. (Photo by Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)
Published June 16, 2019
If this is what “stupid money” buys you, maybe we’d have been better off just staying cheap for a while longer.
A lot has changed since the Phillies blew the Braves’ doors off in a season-opening sweep over two months ago, something painfully obvious if you put yourself through the torture of watching any of this weekend’s series between the teams.
Namely, the biggest change is that the Phillies look like a team destined to finish second to a younger and seemingly more balanced and skilled (and also healthier) Braves team. And while you shouldn’t be “embarrassed”, as this article’s title says, just by losing to a rival or not finishing at the top of the standings, this weekend’s developments are an indictment of the entire organization in my eyes.
First, all those offseason moves. They obviously improved the Phillies on paper. But, through 71 games this year, the Phillies have one more win than they did at this point last season. And the offensive totals, expected to increase greatly because of the influx of talent, have merely moved the team up to the middle of the pack, far from the elite level that everyone was talking about a few months ago.
So while we are still yet to reach the midpoint of the season, the early-ish returns on ownership and management’s offseason moves aren’t great. There’s time for the grade to go up, and nobody could have foreseen the Andrew McCutchen injury, but the team is not measurably better than it was last year at this point.
Let’s talk about Friday night’s horrendous loss. My 64-year old father who’s seen every Phillies failure since the Kennedy administration says it was the worst loss of the decade for the Phillies. I can’t verifiably prove him wrong on that one.
Hector Neris, I’ll admit, has been pretty good this year. But he had absolutely nothing on Friday night. I’m talking “Mitch Williams Game 6 in Toronto” nothing. You could honestly feel that the Phillies were going to lose despite entering the bottom of the 9th with a 2-run lead.
But the truth is, the game had already started to creep away from them before that, as Vince Velasquez allowed an inherited runner to score when he replaced Nick Pivetta in the 7th inning, and then Jose Alvarez and Edubray Ramos combined to allow another pair in the 8th inning.
I can’t really fault the Phillies’ bullpen for being as leaky as it has because there is simply no way to prepare for the rash of injuries they’ve had. But sometimes you need to have enough organizational depth and be able to lean on guys you didn’t think you’d need to, whether it be someone in a different role like Velasquez or a young player thrust into a critical spot. And I’ve yet to see anyone on the Phillies really step up when taken out of their comfort zone so far this year.
After Friday’s inconceivable loss that was actually pretty predictable if you’ve been a Phillies fan for more than five minutes, the team sent its “ace” Aaron Nola out to the mound on Saturday.
What a letdown.
In a game where your best pitcher needs to stop the bleeding for your ballclub, Nola threw 92 pitches in just 4.1 innings. Then, his 93rd pitch was deposited into the seats by Josh Donaldson, sending Nola to the showers with his team down 5-4. That’s simply an unacceptable performance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something seriously wrong with Nola, given how he’s pitched to a 4.89 ERA so far this year. Or this may just be a case of a good pitcher achieving great results one year (2018) and then lousy ones the next. I really hope he gets things turned around because the Phillies are screwed if their supposed best pitcher keeps this up.
Amazingly the Phillies did come back to win despite the Nola start, as they turned the tables on the Braves from the night before by performing their own 9th inning comeback. So I do give them credit for that. But the win came at a price as both Jay Bruce (hamstring) and JT Realmuto (foul tip destroyed his genitals) left the game.
The Realmuto injury and subsequent absence from the lineup the next day exposes another area where the Phillies are woefully inadequate: backup catcher Andrew Knapp. Why is this guy in the majors? What I wouldn’t give for a Brian Schneider-type veteran who knows that he’s only going to play once every 7 or 8 games but can still give you competent at bats when he has to.
Realmuto to Knapp is such a precipitous dropoff that it weakens the Phillies’ entire batting order by shifting players around and basically adding another pitcher-level bat to the lineup. Hopefully Realmuto’s groin is ok and he gets back in there soon.
Any long-term absence to Bruce would also be a killer for the team, whose MLB-caliber group of outfielders is paper-thin. Don’t even mention Roman Quinn. He’s yet another Phils dud in a long line of them.
Really, this whole situation reminds me of an NFL team that has several high-priced star players but that turns into a dumpster fire when said players get injured and the team has to turn to replacement guys making $11 per hour because that’s all they could afford.
The mess in Atlanta ended with a bang on Sunday as the Phillies got obliterated 15-1. Gabe Kapler employed the “opener” strategy by starting Velasquez, and he promptly gave up 3 runs in the first inning. I was 100% sure the game was already over then, even before the Braves tacked on a dozen more runs.
And while Kapler’s call to make Sunday basically a bullpen game ended up being wrong in hindsight, he wasn’t given much choice because this rotation is a mess right now. I would say that they need to figure out what they want to do about the 5th starter spot, but the problems are more pressing than that.
Aside from the Nola issues I talked about, Jake Arrieta’s inconsistency and then subsequent irritability at all times has been a pain to watch and deal with as a fan. Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin seemed to have earned their spots though, and that’s a good thing because the Phillies have a dearth of options to start games right now.
I realize that a decent amount of the Phillies’ farm system has been sacrificed through trades in an effort to speed things up and get the team back to contender status. But really, you can’t point to anything they’ve done since the end of last season and say it was the right call, not at this point of an underachieving season.
I’m taking a deep breath and trying to remind myself that the Phillies are only 2.5 games out of first. But I’ve seen this story before, and I feel like it might as well be about 30 games. They have problems across the board. This isn’t going to end well.
All this should really be a source of embarrassment for the organization. But I feel like it’s only the fans who are going to feel it in the end.
Some Braves do something stupid after a play that didn't matter. (Photo by Dale Zanine)
Published June 11, 2019
Since we’re gluttons for punishment here at Philly Sports Complex, the eight home runs allowed by the Phillies pitching staff last night just weren’t enough to make us feel bad today. So we decided to go back two decades to a Saturday night at the Vet when the Phillies did one better (or worse) and gave up nine bombs in an absolute shellacking at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds.
All statistical information courtesy of the invaluable Baseball-Reference.com.
It’s September 4, 1999 and a near sellout crowd of 16,357 is on hand to see the actually above .500 Phillies host the Reds, who are on their way to a strong 96-win season that would incredibly see them miss out on the wild card by a game.
On the mound for the Phillies is Paul Byrd. Yes, that Paul Byrd who was an all-star that season but who was in the midst of a bad second half that would see his ERA balloon to 4.60 by year’s end. This would not be his night.
The Phillies actually draw first blood by scoring twice in the bottom of the first, but the Reds’ homer barrage begins in the second inning when Aaron Boone goes deep to put them up 3-2, a lead they would not relinquish.
Cincinnati would strike for solo homers in both the third and fourth innings, by Dmitri Young and Jeffrey Hammonds respectively. A few hitters later, Terry Francona has seen enough of Byrd and lifts him in favor of the immortal Billy Brewer. Brewer retires Young to end the inning but serves up a 2-run home run to Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee after coming back out for the fifth. That’s four longballs so far, for those of you who are counting.
Exit Brewer. Enter Cliff Politte. Politte manages to keep the Reds in the yard, although he retires just one of the seven hitters he faces. Small victories here. Then, the crucial decision by Francona. Another call to the bullpen, this time for Chad Ogea.
If you had asked me to name which Phillies pitcher from the last twenty years was most likely to have appeared in a game where the team gave up 9 home runs, I’d have chosen Ogea. And the guy sure did his part on this night.
His first assignment is Greg Vaughn, who promptly launches one to left for Cincinnati home run #5. In the following inning, Pokey Reese hits one of his 44 career home runs. That’s 44 home runs total, not 44 off Ogea, although some players probably came close to that number. Then Taubensee strikes again in the seventh against Ogea. To recap, that’s 7 Reds home runs to this point and a 16-3 lead which stopped mattering several innings before.
The next victim to take the mound for the Phillies is Amaury Telemaco, who I once saw get drilled in the balls during fielding practice at spring training. You can read about it in my book. Anyway, Telemaco serves one up to whoever Brian Johnson is, then gives up the ninth and final dinger later in the inning to former Phillie Mark Lewis.
But hey, at least Steve Schrenk pitches a clean top of the ninth.
Final score: Reds 22, Phillies 3. A 6th inning home run by Rico Brogna fails to make a difference for the Phillies.
Well, that was exhausting.
The nine home runs in a game are the most ever allowed by the Phillies, the most the Reds have ever hit in their history, a National League record and is one shy of the major league record of ten home runs that the Blue Jays hit in a 1987 game versus the Orioles.
Rob Ducey hit one of the Blue Jays’ home runs that day.
Baseball is weird.
There is a 90% chance this pitch ended up being a home run. (Photo by Tom Mihalek/Getty Images)
Published June 7, 2019
I guess all of the “stupid money” got spent in the offseason.
Facing questions up and down their pitching staff due to injuries and ineffectiveness, the Phillies were curiously nowhere to be found as Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel both finally agreed to contracts this week. And, from a Phillies standpoint, there are big-time issues with where they each signed.
Kimbrel, the first domino to fall on Wednesday, is headed to the Cubs on a strangely long 3-year contract given how long it took him to sign and the almost universal concerns about his struggles last year. Still, he represents a possible high reward at the back end of the Cubs bullpen. Let’s not forget that the team went all the way the last time they had a dominant closer, Aroldis Chapman back in 2016.
Kimbrel signing with the Cubs becomes problematic because the Phillies could very well be on a collision course with Chicago in the playoffs. It would have been a lot nicer if he had found a home in the American League where the Phillies weren’t as likely to run up against him. But here we are, with him ending up on a direct competitor. And that can only make the road out of the National League playoffs potentially even more difficult for the Phillies.
Despite some reports earlier in the week, I find it hard to believe that the Phillies were ever seriously in on Kimbrel. He would have been nice to have, sure, but committing that kind of money to yet another bullpen arm may have been yet another Phillies folly. It remains to be seen if all of the injuries to Phillies’ relievers prove to be the team’s undoing, but the Phils are hoping that they can pull off a decent patch job with what they have while some of the walking wounded return soon enough to stabilize things for the rest of the year. Surely, the Phillies are thinking that they can spend Kimbrel-type money elsewhere to address other pressing needs.
And when I say “pressing needs”, I think that adding a left-handed starter would rank high on that list. A left-handed starter like Dallas Keuchel, who just signed with the Braves, which is even worse news for the Phillies than the Kimbrel signing.
Since Keuchel’s contract is only for this year, I’m going to assume that Braves manager Brian Snitker has the go-ahead to absolutely run him into the ground in an attempt to win the NL East and push things as far as the team can. I mean, why not? It’s not entirely unlike what the Brewers did with CC Sabathia in 2008, although they are two different kinds of pitchers. The Braves are about as close to “all-in” as they can be this season, yet they have so many young players that they will remain a threat for years to come even after 2019. And that’s scary.
I believe they see the Phillies as some kind of (literally) wounded animal that can be beaten out this year despite all of the Phils’ high profile moves. So, by signing Keuchel, they accomplish two things. First, they keep him away from their only real competition in the division and continue to leave them without a southpaw in the rotation. And secondly, they add a second left-hander to their own rotation who can match up against Bryce Harper.
Really, this all played out about as badly as possible for the Phillies. Maybe Matt Klentak came close in one or both cases, or maybe the team never really got that serious about either player. One can only hope that the Phillies have other moves in mind for later in the year.
And let’s also hope that Kimbrel and/or Keuchel don’t end up having a hand in wrecking this Phillies season, because this team would get absolutely roasted, as it should be.
He's been spending most his life living in an Amish Paradise. (Getty Images)
Published June 4, 2019
Just a few days ago, I wrote an article for Section215.com where I discussed the Phillies’ wretched play on West Coast trips in each of the past two seasons and how they hoped to avoid doing the same thing in 2019. I closed the article, however, saying that they have been good enough so far this season that even a “disaster” of a road trip couldn’t completely derail what they’ve accomplished so far.
Let’s just say that I’m reconsidering that stance.
After last night’s 8-2 beating at the hands of those mighty San Diego Padres, the second straight game in which the Phillies allowed a 7-run inning that turned a close game into a laugher, the team has dropped five games in a row and now holds just a 0.5 game lead over Atlanta in the NL East.
To make matters worse, they will be without Andrew McCutchen for what looks like an extended period of time (and hopefully not the rest of the season) after he suffered a knee injury in the first inning of last night’s game.
Also of great concern, Aaron Nola couldn’t even finish six innings as his hot-and-cold season continued. Last night’s performance leaves him with an ERA of 4.63 so far this campaign, almost double the 2.37 mark he posted last year.
This trainwreck of a road trip is ⅔ of the way over, and it has offered little to no positives outside of Nick Pivetta’s sterling start in LA on Sunday, one that Gabe Kapler still managed to wreck by prematurely pulling him for pinch hitter Phil Gosselin, who predictably took a called third strike right down the middle.
And while Kapler has been outmanaged and has had zero answers on this trip, the offense as a whole should shoulder a lot of blame here. Maikel Franco, Jean Segura and the formerly hot Cesar Hernandez have combined to go 1-for-32 in California so far, with the likes of Bryce Harper not lighting the world on fire either.
This was supposed to be an elite offense. Instead, it is middle of the pack in many categories and severely underperforming in others. Obviously, this does no favors to Nola or the rest of the starters, nor does it put an undermanned bullpen in a good position.
With almost $30 million worth of relievers on the shelf with injuries, the Phils’ bullpen is not reliable enough at this point to hold a slim lead for multiple innings or keep an opponent at bay in a tie game. Most of all, it’s time to trash Vince Velasquez once and for all. His talent continues to support the idea that he could be effective in relief, but you can only go to the well so many times. If he can’t go deep enough into games as a starter OR give you a clean inning of relief when you need it, what good is he?
Of course, he’s probably not going anywhere, not while the Phillies are so riddled with injuries, but Vinny’s future is just one of numerous hard facts that the team is going to need to face.
The Jay Bruce pickup was a good start toward improving the roster, but the offense will continue to need tweaking if they continue to underperform.
In addition, the team needs Dallas Keuchel or some other competent left-hander (or two) in the worst way. Look no further than the first game of this abhorrent road trip on Friday night in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers’ murderers’ row of lefties had their fun at the Phillies’ expense. The Phillies currently have no answer for left-handed power, and this will come back to bite them at a crucial time later this season if they don’t address it.
I understand that a 162-game season is going to have a lot of ups and downs, and that the Phillies are currently in this year’s largest crater, at least so far. But things can unravel pretty quickly in the grand scheme of things, so it’s time for the bats to wake up, Aaron Nola to revert to last year’s stellar form and for the manager to show that he is capable, which still remains a huge question mark over 200 games into Gabe Kapler’s tenure with the Phillies.
With just two games left in a putrid trip that the Phillies are hoping to upgrade to merely “bad” by virtue of improved play in their final two games against San Diego, at least we can say one good thing about this road swing...it’s been a total team effort.
Either being helped off the field because of an injury or leaving a bar.
(Photo by Gregory Bull/AP)