PHILLIES have now been eliminated from 2018 MLB postseason play following Sunday's 2-1 loss to BRAVES *** PHILLIES are 78-77 and must close season at least 4-3 to finish with a winning record in 2018 *** BE BOLD ***

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Phillies should not shut Aaron Nola down with just two starts remaining

By Arturo Pardavila III on Flickr - Originally posted to Flickr as "Aaron Nola faces Mets: 9/2/2015", CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42895650
Nola has become an ace for Phillies
(Photo: By Arturo Pardavila III via Wiki Commons)
This 2018 season has been a true breakout campaign for Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola. In his fourth year at the MLB level, Nola has shown that he can be that rarest of commodities – a true ace.
The 25-year-old right-hander was chosen by the Phillies out of Louisiana State University with their first round selection at seventh overall in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. As he developed professionally over parts of two minor league seasons, consensus expert opinions had him with the upside of a mid-rotation starter.
That is a fairly common tag hung on pitchers when scouts and other talent evaluators are not absolutely certain the pitcher has a top-of-the-rotation arm. However, that pitcher also has amateur and minor league performances and pitching repertoires which demonstrate a likelihood of reaching and sticking in a big-league rotation.
As a perfect example, Nathaniel Stoltz of Fangraphs summed up his own scouting report on Nola in August 2014 as follows:
…it’s hard to see him having more than a #3 starter’s ceiling. If he settles in at a #3/#4 level quickly, that won’t be the flashiest of payoffs, but it’ll also be hard to really take issue with his selection…There’s a solid chance he could get to that level of performance, but the line between it and interchangeable back-of-the-rotation, Kyle Kendrick sort of output is fairly thin, and he’s not guaranteed to end up on the right side of it.
Over Nola’s first two partial seasons with the Phillies, his results were indeed those of a solid #3 starter in the rotation. He went 12-11 over 33 starts during the 2015-16 campaigns, allowing 190 hits across 188.2 innings with a 189/48 K:BB ratio.
Last year, Nola reinforced that level of performance over a full season. In 27 starts during the 2017 campaign, Nola went 12-11 with 3.54 ERA and 1.208 WHIP. He allowed 154 hits over 168 innings with a 184/49 K:BB ratio.
Due to the fact that he was able to compete so effectively at just age 24, many began to adjust their evaluations up on Nola, feeling that he could develop into a solid #2 starter for a contending team.
One key for him to reach his potential was going to be for Nola to demonstrate longevity, that he could remain healthy over a full season.
His 2016 campaign was ended in mid-August when he was shut down for the year with a low-grade UCL sprain and flexor pronator tendon strain. In 2017 it was a strained lower back that kept him out of the Phillies rotation for a month from late-April through late-May.

In this 2018 campaign, Nola has ticked off all of the boxes and elevated himself to that “ace” or #1 starter level.
Following last night’s outing against the New York Mets, Nola has surrendered just 143 hits in 199.1 innings over 31 starts. He has a 16-5 record, and a dominating 210/53 K:BB ratio with a 2.44 ERA, 0.983 WHIP, 2.97 FIP, and a 173 ERA+ mark.
In his own piece on last night’s game, Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia pointed out that no Phillies pitcher in over a century has pitched at least 200 innings in a season while holding opposition batters below a .200 average. Nola has held hitters to a .201 average over his 199.1 innings this year.

Fangraphs ranks Citizens Bank Park poorly for "walkability"

Citizens Bank Park isn't an easy place to walk to for fans
(Photo: Matthew Veasey)
If you’ve ever been to Citizens Bank Park you know that it is a gorgeous ballpark. Tremendous sight lines, a 360-degree open main concourse that allows you to have a view of the action as you walk around nearly the entirety, and some of the best ballpark food in the game.
I wax nostalgic at times for Veteran’s Stadium. After all, it was there that I was introduced at age nine to the Phillies and Major League Baseball when the glittering new facility first opened near my South Philly home back in 1971.
But even that nostalgia isn’t enough to overcome the truth, one that I recognized the very first time that I stepped foot in the new place for an exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians prior to the start of the 2004 regular season. Citizens Bank Park is better than The Vet ever was in every way imaginable.
Back in 2012 for a piece at Bleacher Report, Kyle Yahn describe it perfectly when he said: “There is not a bad seat in the entire stadium. Whether in the nosebleeds or right behind home plate, the fans are always right on top of the action” and “The food at Citizens Bank Park is incredible.
One concession made by the powers-that-be in the Phillies ownership group and with the city of Philadelphia was the actual location of the ballpark itself.
In the pre-planning stages, there were discussions regarding and even plans drawn up regarding the possibilities of moving the new ballpark out of South Philly to locations either near Penn’s Landing along the Delaware River or adjacent to the Center City area.
Those locations would have been in walking distance of restaurants, shops, and clubs already in place. And new such spots certainly would have opened up to service ballpark patrons for Phillies games, concerts, and other events.
However, traffic and parking infrastructure was already in place at what had become known as the Sports Complex. The Vet, the Spectrum, and JFK Stadium had stood for years in the location along Pattison Avenue just east of Broad Street.
As the now Wells Fargo CenterLincoln Financial Field, and Citizens Bank Park were planned, the final decision was made to keep each of the major sports facilities right there. As they sprouted up, the older facilities were torn down. Finally, a food and drink entertainment facility known as “Xfinity Live” was also opened up in the area.

The distance from the Sports Complex to any of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, including to those downtown shops and restaurants, is the main reason that Fangraphs just placed Citizens Bank Park at 24th of the 30 facilities in Major League Baseball in their “Walkability” rankings.
This was a major drop from just five years ago, when Citizens Bank Park ranked 14th in that same index. This time around, CBP was given a ‘Walk Score’ of just 38. This placed it in a tier called ‘Car-Dependent’, meaning that most errands from the immediate ballpark area would require a car.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Phillies can only hurt themselves by finishing the season strong

Phillies need roster changes to become true contenders
(Photo: Keith Allison via Wiki Commons)
As recently as one month ago it was a foregone conclusion that the Philadelphia Phillies would finish with a winning record in the 2018 season.
On August 18 the Phillies were 68-55 and just one game behind the Atlanta Braves in the loss column in what seemed to be a spirited race between the two rivals for the National League East Division crown.
The Phillies led the NL Wildcard standings on that day, but had a bunch of teams right on their heels. The Saint Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies were just a game behind them, with the Milwaukee Brewers two back and the Los Angeles Dodgers three games behind.
As every Phillies fan now knows, the team would not remain in either race. Instead the Phillies have collapsed over this past month, going 8-19 in that time.
It’s just not going well all the way around,” Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia following last night’s loss to the New York Mets.
“It’s kind of plain and simple. Yeah, the Braves lose and that’s great, but we have to win some games. We haven’t done that consistently and that’s why we are where we are.”
The foregone conclusion of a winning season is now a thing of the past. Yes, the Phillies are still three games over the .500 mark. Yes, with just 13 games left to play there is a chance that 2018 still turns out to be a winner. Yes, they are still mathematically alive in both the division and wildcard races.
But let’s take off the rose-colored glasses and get real for a minute. This 2018 Phillies team was always doing it with smoke and mirrors.
Educated fans didn’t need me to point out – though I did a number of times – that this team as currently constructed was not good enough offensively or defensively to sustain their place in the standings without some dramatic, significant changes.
Had they actually wanted to win this year, that need for change needed to be recognized by management a couple of months ago, despite the winning record. They either failed to recognize it, refused to believe it, or decided to ignore it.
If either of those first two possibilities were the Phillies actuality, then the worst thing that could possibly happen now would be for the team to suddenly start winning again.

The Phillies would now need to finish the season 6-7 over their final 13 games in order to finish with a winning record at 82-80. Of course, anything better would also do the trick.
However, should they continue at their pace of this past month, the club will actually finish more like 4-9. That would give them an 80-82 mark at the season’s conclusion. While it would be a 14-game improvement over last season, many fans would feel disappointed. Don’t count me among them.
My concern would be that the Phillies somehow catch fire and finish with something like a 10-3 record. Such a positive sprint to the finish would leave them with an 86-76 mark. And since seven of those games are against the Braves, it would likely mean that they fall just a couple games short of a division title. Probably just a few shy of a wildcard berth.
Now why would that concern me? Shouldn’t that actually be exciting?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Phillies receive strong relief from rookie Victor Arano

By Ian D'Andrea - https://www.flickr.com/photos/143615892@N05/29772550258/in/album-72157671582350228/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71149755
Phillies 2018 rookie reliever Victor Arano
(Photo: Ian D'Andrea via Wiki Commons)
The Philadelphia Phillies have one of the youngest overall rosters in Major League Baseball. 
One of the more anonymous but successful of those youngsters this season has been relief pitcher Victor Arano.
A 23-year-old right-hander originally signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers out of his native Mexico back in 2013, Arano was a starter when first acquired by the Phillies as the “player to be named later” in a 2014 deal for veteran reliever Roberto Hernandez.
The Phillies converted the 6’2, 200-pound Arano to the bullpen full-time beginning in 2016. He would largely thrive in that role while rising through the minor league system over the next couple of years.
Appearing on the verge of a big-league promotion, Arano was backed up some when a UCL sprain in his right elbow sent him to the DL at the outset of the 2017 campaign.
He was able to avoid surgery, and finally received a first cup of coffee in Major League Baseball last September. Arano showed that he could get big-league hitters out during that 10-game audition, when he allowed just six hits over 10.2 innings with a 13/4 K:BB ratio.
Towards the end of last season, respected prospect evaluator John Sickels with Minor League Ball wrote up the following scouting profile on him:
“He can push his fastball as high as 96 but more commonly works around 92-94, mixing the heater with the low-to-mid-80s slider and a mid-80s change-up. While I would not describe his stuff as excellent, he mixes his pitches efficiently and usually throws strikes. He throws harder as a reliever than he did as a starter and the extra velocity improves his margin for error. Overall this is a middle relief profile but Arano is just 22 years old and has demonstrated advanced pitchability skills when he’s going well. He could have a very long career.“
Arano came north with the Phillies from spring training back in March and fared well over another 10 games. But then a mild rotator cuff strain sent him back to the DL in late April. It would take him until May 20 to get back to the Phillies, and he hasn’t left since.
During what is officially his rookie season, Arano has surrendered just 49 hits over 55 innings across 54 games. He has strong 2.45 ERA and 1.164 WHIP marks with a 70/19 K:BB ratio and three Saves.

In a piece on Arano back in early August, Stephen Loftus of Fangraphs described his journey and his season as follows:
“Arano has made a long, quiet trip to the majors. First an underrated signing, then a fringe prospect. First a mediocre starter, now a shutdown reliever. He has molded unique movement and pitchability into an effective arsenal, one that has kept major-league hitters guessing this season.”
As Phillies management begins planning the makeup of what they hope will become a truly contending 2019 roster, Arano will certainly have a place on the pitching staff.
Arano was reportedly unavailable earlier this week due to tenderness in the same right elbow that caused him to miss the start of last season. It was not believed to be serious, and sure enough the pitcher returned for a perfect inning on Thursday night.
Arano is closing his rookie season with a flourish. Appearing in eight of the Phillies 18 games since August 25, he did not surrender an earned run in any of those outings.
Not eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, should Arano remain healthy he is likely to remain a valuable member of the Phillies bullpen for years to come.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as "Victor Arano closing his strong rookie season on a hot streak"

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mid-September MLB Power Ranking

Terry Francona's Tribe clinch the AL Central once again
(Photo: Arturo Pardavila III via Wiki Commons)
This past week was the final full week of summer in the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season. 

The teams are now fully immersed in the stretch run, those final pivotal battles to determine division champions and wildcard playoff participants.

One team, the Cleveland Indians, has already clinched its division crown. 

Terry Francona's Tribe took the lead in the American League Central Division for good on April 21. Struggling a bit from mid-May through mid-June, once they got hot they pulled away and were never seriously threatened

In the American League East Division, the Boston Red Sox are on the verge of clinching. The Bosox "Magic Number" is down to just four to eliminate the arch-rival New York Yankees.

Out in the American League West Division, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros have re-established some measure of control. The Astros now hold a 3.5 game lead on the Oakland Athletics, four in the all-important loss column of the standings, and 11 is now their "Magic Number" to clinch.

Despite likely falling shot in their bids for a divisional crown, both the Yankees and A's can begin printing their playoff tickets as well. Each team is firmly in control of the two AL Wildcard playoff berths, and they are headed for a one-game playoff showdown with one another.

The Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays each trail Oakland by seven games in the loss column. The A's "Magic Number" is now just 7 in order to clinch that last available postseason berth.

While the AL playoff race is pretty much set, the National League races promise a far different and much more exciting final two weeks to the regular season.

Thanks to a collapse over the last six weeks by the second place Philadelphia Phillies, the Atlanta Braves are closing in on the franchise' first division title in five years. The "Magic Number" is down to just nine for Atlanta, though the Phillies and Braves will meet seven times over the final week and a half.

The Chicago Cubs are trying to take their third consecutive NL Central crown. It would mark the first time since a 1906-08 run that the Cubs finished in first place. Chicago has just a 2.5 game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers, three in the loss column, and it's still a bit too premature to be discussing a "Magic Number" for the South Side ball club.

A two-horse race appears to be emerging in the wild, wild west. The National League West Division's five-time defending champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, just took over the lead by a half-game on the Colorado Rockies.

The two clubs are tied in the loss column, and they will meet for the final time this coming week. That three-game set will take place at Dodger Stadium with a sweep by either team probably settling things.

The Arizona Diamondbacks began the month in first place. But losses in 10 of their last 14 have likely doomed the Dbacks to fighting for a Wildcard berth. Those two NL Wildcard slots are currently held by the Brewers and Rockies.

The Saint Louis Cardinals are just a game back of Colorado in the loss column for the second and final spot. Arizona and the Philadelphia Phillies are sitting four games out of that final playoff position and are both running out of time. If either or both is going to make a final push, the time is now.




There is an old sports saying that goes "If you want to be the champ, you've got to beat the champ." Well at least as far as my MLB Power Rankings are concerned, that remains the case in Major League Baseball. The Houston Astros are once again on top. They have sat there alone or shared the lead all summer long.

My formula for compiling the rankings has remained unchanged. I researched each of the 30 MLB teams current position in the four categories of winning percentageruns scoredpitching OPS, and fielding percentage. I then assigned each of those rankings a 1-30 value and added them up to determine an overall score.

The current MLB Power Ranking going into games of Sunday, September 16 are presented below. Each team's previous rank from the MLB All-Star break in mid-July, then the middle of August, and finally back on Labor Day is also presented from L-R in parentheses:

1.   Houston Astros (1-1T-1)
2.   Boston Red Sox (2-1T-2)
3.   New York Yankees (3-3-3)
4.   Atlanta Braves (4-6-4)
4.   Oakland Athletics (11-7-6)
6.   Cleveland Indians (10-4T-5)
7.   Los Angeles Dodgers (6-9T-10)
8.   Chicago Cubs (5-8-6)
8.   Washington Nationals (13-11-9)
10. Tampa Bay Rays (15-16-12)
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (7-4T-8)
12. Colorado Rockies (9-9T-11)
13. Los Angeles Angels (14-12-15)
14. Milwaukee Brewers (8-14-14)
15. Seattle Mariners (12-13-16)
16. Saint Louis Cardinals (18T-15-13)
17. Pittsburgh Pirates (18T-20-20)
17. New York Mets (24-26-20)
19. Cincinnati Reds (21-21-18)
19. San Francisco Giants (20-18T-17)
21. Philadelphia Phillies (16-17-18)
22. Minnesota Twins (17-18T-20)
22. Toronto Blue Jays (25-24-23)
24. Kansas City Royals (27T-27-27)
25. Texas Rangers (26-22-24)
25. Miami Marlins (23-25-26)
27. Detroit Tigers (22-23-24)
28. San Diego Padres (27T-28-29)
29. Chicago White Sox (30-29T-28)
30. Baltimore Orioles (29-29T-30)

These will be the penultimate MLB Power Rankings for this season. The final rankings are scheduled to come out on October 1, at the conclusion of the regular season and before the playoffs begin. They will be based on the final statistics accumulated by each team this year.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as "Mid-September MLB Power Ranking"

Saturday, September 15, 2018

It's past time for the Phillies to move on from Cesar Hernandez at second base

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA - Cesar Hernandez, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41010340
Cesar Hernandez during 2018 season
(Photo by Keith Allison via Wiki Commons)
If you want to go ahead and say that this has been a roller coaster of a season for Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez then you would be on a really exaggerated summer coaster ride.
What this season has demonstrated as well as any in recent memory is exactly what I was saying about him before it even began – it’s time for him to go.
Hernandez has some of the most empty and inconsequential offensive statistics in the game, his defense is nothing special, and at age 29 next season he should not be considered a piece for a future contending Phillies ball club.
This season began with Hernandez hot. Over the Phillies first 43 games through May 19 he was slashing .282/.392/.448 with six homers, 15 RBI, 34 runs scored and nine stolen bases. That would represent the roller coaster upward climb.
Then on May 20, Hernandez wrapped up a road trip in Saint Louis by going 0-3. It was the start of that roller coaster drop-off. And unlike most roller coasters, this one would not be over quick, nor would it lead to a series of thrilling ups and downs.
From that May 20 game through nearly the entirety of summer, Hernandez’ performance would plummet through a prolonged, nauseating, lineup defeating drop.
Across 93 games through September 3, Hernandez hit just .237 with a .309 slugging percentage. Over more than twice the number of plate appearances as in his quick start he hit one fewer home run and stole one fewer base.
It’s not as if Hernandez has been playing outstanding defense. His 1,217.2 innings played is the third-most of anyone at second base in all of Major League Baseball this year. According to Fangraphs he ranks just 12th on their Advanced Defensive Index and 13th in Defensive WAR at the Keystone.
And still, manager Gabe Kapler kept writing his name into the starting lineup. Hernandez has started 138 of the Phillies 146 games through Friday night.
Hernandez made $5.1 million this season and will be arbitration-eligible this coming off-season. He will most certainly be looking for a raise, possibly to the $10+ million per year mark. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2020 season.


There will be a bevy of free agent second basemen or players who could be used at the position who will be hitting the market this winter. The list includes potentially enticing names like Brian DozierDJ LeMahieuJed LowrieDaniel MurphyIan Kinsler, and Asdrubal Cabrera. But each has already reached age 30, and all will be hoping for expensive contracts at multiple years of commitment.
With two years remaining until his own free agency, and with those years coming in his ages 29 and 30 seasons, it is entirely possible that Phillies GM Matt Klentak could convince some contending general manager to give up a young prospect with reasonable upside in a trade for Hernandez.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

MLB, NFL, and college football to join those affected by Hurricane Florence

By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA - Limb View of Hurricane Florence, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72696528
Hurricane Florence (upper right) approaches the Carolinas
(Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Wiki Commons)
The Philadelphia Phillies have an off-day in the 2018 schedule today. Thursday will be spent at their homes, with the slumping club in the middle of the final lengthy home stand of the season.
As the Phillies sit at home, the Miami Marlins are on the road. Today they will be making the short trip down I-95 from New York to Philadelphia following a series there with the host Mets.
After completing their sweep of the Phillies last night, the Washington Nationals headed back south to their home in the nation’s capital. The Nats will host the Chicago Cubs to make-up a game postponed during a series affected by weather just last weekend.
The Nationals, who have now pulled within a single game of the Phillies in the loss column in the National League East Division standings, then go on the road further south for a five-game trip to Atlanta and Miami.
All of this Major League Baseball action up and down the east coast comes at exactly the same time that Hurricane Florence will be reaching the United States.
The massive storm is expected to strike directly at the North Carolina-South Carolina border late Thursday and into Friday leaving destruction and likely death in its wake thanks to high winds, storm surge, flooding, and related issues.
The weather forecast in Philadelphia is looking good for this weekend, with no more than a 20% chance of rain at any point. That is thanks to a high-pressure system, one that will actually be a major contributor to the problems experienced by others.
That high-pressure system will keep Florence to our south, holding it in place in the Carolinas longer. This means heavy rainfall and flooding will continue inland for days after the storm makes its initial landfall at the coast.

But for their division rivals and for at least one of the Phillies own players, the storm will still be having an effect. In fact, because of the proximity to the storm area and even the slight chance that it could track a bit further north, the Cubs wanted to have their trip to D.C. postponed until October 1.
Whitney McIntosh with SB Nation described how the whole Nationals-Cubs situation developed in the first place, and why this particular date was selected for the make-up game:
“…all stemmed from a rainy weekend in D.C., which involved more than 10 hours of rain delays over multiple days. Including a Friday night debacle (September 7) where the Nationals wanted to call it early and Cubs players held out in the hopes the rain would move on. Frustration abounded and fans were confused as the delay dragged on into the night. That all led to a late-night postponement and a true doubleheader played on Saturday (which was also delayed!), followed by yet another postponement on Sunday. With Thursday the only shared off day for both teams, it was the easiest and only choice for a rescheduling.”
Bottom line, MLB did not want to risk the chance of rescheduling on October 1, which was the Cubs preference due to the storm. What if that game proved vital to the standings and was itself postponed by weather? Such a scenario could then back-up the entire postseason schedule. “Our voices have certainly been heard, but we don’t have any control,” said Chicago GM Theo Epstein per McIntosh.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

2018 Twins provide lesson and warning for the 2019 Phillies

By Paul Morse - http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/07/images/20050724_p072405pm-0149jpg-1-624v.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1459062
Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins manager
(Photo by Paul Morse via Wiki Commons)
In 2016 the Minnesota Twins finished with a record of 59-103. It was the worst record in all of Major League Baseball. But the following year the Twins shocked many with an 85-77 season and an American League Wildcard playoff berth.
That 2017 Twins team of a year ago were led by a number of exciting young players such as 24-year-old third baseman Miguel Sano, 23-year-old center fielder Byron Buxton, 25-year-old left fielder Eddie Rosario, and 24-year-old right fielder Max Kepler.
On the mound the Twins received a major boost when 23-year-old rookie right-hander Jose Berrios entered their starting rotation in the middle of May. Another rookie, 24-year-old Adalberto Mejia, provided the club with 21 mostly solid starting outings.
There were key veteran contributions mixed in from players such as Brian Dozier (30), Ervin Santana (34), Kyle Gibson(29), closer Brandon Kintzler (32), Minnesota native and favored son Joe Mauer (34), and even 44-year-old pitcher Bartolo Colon.
Though AL Manager of the Year Paul Molitor‘s club went down to the powerful New York Yankees in the AL Wildcard Game, they had set the stage for what appeared to be a regular run of contending seasons.
And then the 2018 season got underway. Injuries and poor performances plagued key youngsters Sano and Buxton all year. A Gold Glover last season, Dozier slumped in his free agency year and was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July trade deadline. Kepler didn’t necessarily regress, he just failed to step up.
The struggles throughout the lineup have produced a 66-78 season that can be considered nothing less than a disappointment.
In the 2017 season the Philadelphia Phillies went 66-96, the third-worst record in Major League Baseball. It marked a fifth consecutive losing campaign from the Phillies, and the club’s third last-place finish in the division in four years.
But then the 2018 season got underway and the club appeared improved. They jumped to a 16-9 start by April 27, and then to 29-20 by May 26. By the MLB All-Star Game break the Phillies were at 53-42 and had taken over first place in the NL East.
On July 26, a third straight win pushed them to what would be a season-high 2.5 game lead in the division. Continuing to fight through ups and downs as they tried to learn how to win, the Phillies reached their apex on August 5 when a fifth consecutive victory raised their record to 15 games over the .500 mark at 63-48.
Since August 17, when back-to-back wins left them still 14 games above .500, the Phillies have collapsed. In the past month the club has gone just 6-16, and losses in eight of their last 10 games have virtually eliminated them from the postseason conversation.
However, there is no denying that this is going to be considered a step forward season for the Phillies. They are going to finish 10 or more games better in the standings than a year ago. They will be at or near the .500 mark for the first time since 2012 and could have their first winning season since the record-setting 2011 club.
Though they won’t reach the postseason as the Twins did a year ago, they will in many ways have replicated Minnesota’s worst-to-first climb.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

As Phillies starting pitchers have faded, so have 2018 playoff hopes

By Ian D'Andrea - Nick Pivetta, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68533424
Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta
(Photo: Ian D'Andrea via Wiki Commons)
The Philadelphia Phillies were carried to the top of the National League East Division standings over the season’s first four months by their starting pitching rotation.
All season long the team had struggled to score runs on a consistent basis. They played shoddy defense on an individual and team basis. And for the first three of those months the bullpen struggled to close out victories or keep the Phillies in ball games.
But that starting rotation competed hard and kept the Phillies competitive. Aaron Nola became a true ace and a National League all-star. Jake Arrieta provided a proven, quality, veteran presence that had been missing since Cole Hamels was traded three years ago.
Those two pitchers were expected to win. The real revelation were the performances being delivered on a consistent basis by the Phillies back-end starting pitchers Vince VelasquezNick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin.
Through August 3, Velasquez had made 21 starts over which he went 8-8 with a 3.80 ERA. Turning 26-years-old at the end of June, he was dominating opposing batters, holding them to a .222 batting average against with 129 strikeouts over 113.2 innings. A dozen times he had pitched at least six full innings.
Eflin turned just 24-years-old right after the season opened. He would go 8-4 over his first 16 starts with a 3.57 ERA. The right-hander had allowed just 91 hits over 90.2 innings with an 86/19 K:BB ratio.
The 25-year-old Pivetta began the season going 4-6 over his own first 16 starts, but he was pitching much better than that win-loss record indicated. He allowed 80 hits over 84.1 innings in those outings with a sensational 101/24 K:BB ratio.

But those three starting pitchers would not hold up as the summer wore on. As Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia pointed out in a tweet just yesterday, that has been especially so when it comes to outings against divisional opposition.
Phillies are 28-32 vs. the NL East.

Aaron Nola & Jake Arrieta started 25 of those games and have a 2.39 ERA.

In the other 35 games, the rest of the Phillies' rotation has a 5.41 ERA.

In his last half-dozen starts, Velasquez has a 6.66 ERA and has given up 28 hits over his last 24.1 innings. Hitters have spanked him to the tune of a .292 batting average against in that span. He hasn’t reached the sixth inning even once.
Over his last 13 appearances, a dozen of those starts, Pivetta is 3-5 with a 5.49 ERA. He has surrendered 66 hits including 11 home runs over his last 60.2 innings. Over his last five starts Eflin has a 7.71 ERA, allowing 36 hits across 23.1 innings.
I have nothing but confidence in Eflin,” manager Gabe Kapler said per Scott Lauber of Philly.com after the pitcher’s latest failed outing last week against the Mets. “Eflin’s going to go out there and make his next start. And I would not be surprised if we rode him to the end of September.