*** Phillies walkoff Dodgers in wild 9-8 affair at Citizens Bank Park on Bryce Harper's two-run double on Tuesday night *** Phillies control the second NL Wildcard berth *** Visit PHILLIESNATION.com and follow @PhilliesNation on Twitter and Facebook for updates on the Philadelphia Phillies all year long ***

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

MLB 2019 Power Rankings: Minnesota Twins take over the top spot

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The Minnesota Twins outfielders celebrate another victory

The Philadelphia Phillies have sat pretty much right in the middle of the MLB Power Rankings since I began producing them for 2019.
From June 1 (15th), through June 15 (14th) and on to July 1, when they ranked in the #18 slot the last time around, the rankings have not revealed much movement at all.
The Phillies currently sit in the #16 spot, buoyed by their defensive play, which ranks fourth in all of baseball. With a middling (15th) offense, what is truly weighing the club down and keeping them from seriously competing is their 25th ranked pitching staff.
As always, my own personal feelings have nothing to do with the MLB Power Rankings published here at Phillies Nation. Instead, the rank is all about actual results and statistical performances.
There is never any subjectivity on my part. I always take key statistics and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to actually win ball games as well as their performance on offense, on the pitching mound, and in the field.
The MLB Power Rankings are going to be updated at Phillies Nation on roughly the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon. That formula carries two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. The first is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control damage.
As of my first ranking in this 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced simple “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This acknowledged the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. It wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.
There has now been a new update to the methodology. The new defensive metric will be the “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing simple “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive competence.
I then assign each of those component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there was a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage, then by runs-per-game, followed by pitching OPS.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

As the MLB trade deadline approaches, Phillies center field target emerges

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Jackie Bradley Jr would slide perfectly into Phillies center field

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches in Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies have a number of holes that could use filling if the club wants to seriously take a run at the 2019 postseason.
The struggles of the pitching staff are well known to all Phillies fans. The starting rotation could use two more reliable, veteran arms. The bullpen, struggling through numerous injuries all season, could use better options as well.
Among the reserve position players, a more reliable, veteran backup is needed at catcher. In addition, the club could use a more talented veteran bat with some pop than is currently available off the bench for manager Gabe Kapler.
The glaring need in the everyday lineup can be found out in center field. That is the one position that immediately jumps out as an area where improvement is needed.
During this season, the Phillies suffered the unexpected loss of the incumbent starter, Odubel Herrera, to his legal troubles and league suspension stemming from a domestic violence incident. It is not likely that he is ever going to appear in a Phillies uniform again, at least not if the fan base has anything to say about it.
Andrew McCutchen sliding over was a possibility, and the veteran actually filled in a number of games when Herrera had suffered an April injury. But McCutchen was also lost for the season when he suffered an ugly knee injury which required surgery. He will not return until spring training of next year.
Kapler has been trying to get by with a combination of the perpetually out-of-position Scott Kingery and the perpetually injured Roman Quinn. Also, youngster Adam Haseley has been given a shot when healthy.
But if the Phillies are serious about getting to the 2019 postseason and making a legitimate further run by 2020, they need a more proven answer in center field. Enter my suggestion as a potential trade target, Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
Bradley is a 29-year-old Virginia native who was the Red Sox pick at 40th overall in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of South Carolina. He made his big-league debut in the 2013 season, and is now in his fourth season as Boston’s full-time starter in center field.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Streaking Nationals come to Citizens Bank Park on a roll

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Red-hot Juan Soto leads the streaking Nats into South Philly

The Philadelphia Phillies (47-43) and Washington Nationals (47-42) return to play following four days off for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game break with a Friday night contest at Citizens Bank Park.
These two NL East Division rivals currently control the two National League Wildcard playoff positions in the league standings. However, for nearly two months they have been travelling in opposite directions.
On May 29, the Phillies were 33-22 and held a 3.5 game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings. That same day, the Nats were 24-32 and 9.5 games behind the Phillies.
But since May 24, Washington has forged a 28-11 mark. That is the best record in all of Major League Baseball since that date.
Meanwhile, the Phillies have slumped to a 14-21 record since their May 20 high-water at 11 games over the .500 mark. That is the same record in that time frame as the last place Miami Marlins have fashioned. Only the 13-22 record of the New York Mets over that period has been worse in the division.
All of that – the Phillies hot start, the Nationals recent hot stretch – is now in the rear view mirror. The ultimate story of the 2019 season for these two division rivals is going to be written over the next two and a half months. If the Phillies want to begin to turn their season back around, it has to begin this weekend.
For more than three weeks, the Phillies have faced nothing but NL East Division rivals on the schedule. The club has gone just 9-13 in those games. That stretch ends with this three-game weekend tilt with the Nationals.
The Phillies are going to come out of the stretch with a losing record. But winning this series would still mark a big step forward. It would also move them past the Nationals in the standings heading into a very tough four-game series to open next week with the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both teams have a middle-of-the-road offensive attack. The Nationals rank 14th in all of baseball with their average of 4.94 runs scored per game. The Phillies are right behind, their 4.91 runs per game ranking 15th among the 30 MLB ball clubs.
There is a big difference on the mound. Washington’s pitching staff ranks 5th in the National League with a .247 batting average against, and their .720 OPS against is 3rd in the league. Their pitchers collectively rank 4th in MLB in strikeouts.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Phillies may finally have a legitimate lefty starting pitching prospect emerging

Damon Jones has emerged as a legit Phillies pitching prospect
Baseball America is one of the most respected resources in all of baseball for all sorts of information on the game. That is especially so regarding their evaluation and coverage of minor league baseball and top prospects.
In a regular feature, the periodical and website releases a monthly “Dynasty Stock Report” as a research tool for fantasy baseball players who might be looking for emerging prospects.
For their June release, Baseball America had an interesting name pop up in the “Surging” category of that stock report. The named belonged to a Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, left-hander Damon Jones.
Jone is a 24-year-old southpaw (he turns 25 in September) from Idaho who was the Phillies 18th round selection in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft out of Washington State University.
After signing with the organization, Jones began his professional career that same summer at short-season Williamsport. He then advanced to Low-A Lakewood for his first full season in 2018 and began to excel. That season, Jones went 10-7 with a 3.41 ERA, striking out 123 batters over 113.1 innings across 23 games, 22 of those as starting assignments.
This year, Jones has upped his game. Over 11 starts at High-A Clearwater the lefty went 4-3 with a 1.54 ERA and 1.063 WHIP. He allowed just 38 hits over 58.1 innings, earning a promotion to Double-A Reading. There he has continued to dominate, allowing nine hits over his first 22 innings across four starts.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Look back at the Phillies in the MLB All-Star Game during the 2010's

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On right, Victorino, Polanco, Lee, Hamels repped Phillies in 2011

On Tuesday night, Major League Baseball will celebrate many of it’s top names with the playing of the All-Star Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
For Phillies fans, this 90th version of the Midsummer Classic will feature just one member of their favorite ball club. That has been the case in most recent years with the team usually in a non-contending position.
However, this second decade of the 21st century did not begin that way. When the decade opened, the Phillies were on top of the National League. The were two-time defending NL champions, had been legitimate contenders for most of the previous decade, and featured a star-studded lineup and pitching staff.
In the 2010 MLB All-Star Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the Phillies had three representatives. First baseman Ryan Howard started and batted in the cleanup spot for the NL squad. Second baseman Chase Utley was voted as the starting NL second baseman for a fifth consecutive year, but sprained his thumb in late June and had to miss the game. Roy Halladay was one of the NL reserve pitchers.
Howard went 0-2 that night, striking out to leadoff the top of the 2nd inning against David Price. Halladay came on to pitch in the bottom of the 6th inning. He surrendered a leadoff single to Derek Jeter, but then got Paul Konerko to roll into a double play. After giving up a base hit to Josh Hamilton, the Phillies righty was lifted by manager Charlie Manuel.
The 2011 MLB All-Star Game was played at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. For the first time since 2004, no Phillies position players were voted in as starters. However, Halladay was selected to start on the mound for the National League.
After Doc pitched two perfect innings, he was followed to the mound by rotation mate Cliff Lee. The Phillies lefty would retire the first five batters he faced before Adrian Gonzalez homered with two outs in the top of the 4th inning. It would be the only run allowed by NL pitching in a 5-1 victory.
The Phillies had three more All-Stars in 2011, but none got into the game. Those three were pitcher Cole Hamels, third baseman Placido Polanco, and center fielder Shane Victorino.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Mickey Moniak beginning to look like a worthy top draft pick

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Moniak was the top overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft

During their recent half-decade plummet to the bottom of the National League standings, the Philadelphia Phillies found themselves picking at a high position in the annual MLB Amateur Draft on a regular basis.
The Phillies had such a horrendous season in 2015 that their 63-99 record proved to be the worst in all of Major League Baseball. That set the club up with the #1 overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft.
This was going to be far from a slam-dunk selection. Sure, the draft has yielded some true impact players with that first overall pick. Since the turn of the century, that top pick has produced stars in Joe MauerDavid PriceStephen StrasburgBryce HarperGerrit Cole, and  Carlos Correa.
However, there have been as many misses as hits. Players selected #1 overall since the year 2000 also include Bryan Bullington (2002), Delmon Young (2003), Matt Bush (2004), Mark Appel (2013), and Brady Aiken (2014). Some were injury casualties. Some simply never developed as hoped.
Others made an impact, but it would be hard to say that they justified a first overall draft selection: Luke Hochevar (2006) and Tim Beckham (2008) fall into this category.
Even Justin Upton, taken first overall in 2005, has to be considered an overall disappointment when considering he was the top draft pick. Dansby Swanson, the top selection in the 2015 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is just emerging this year as an impact player after being traded to the Atlanta Braves.
In June of 2016, Matt Klentak was overseeing his first draft as the general manager of the Phillies. Johnny Almaraz was the club’s head of amateur scouting at the time. When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped to the podium to announce the selection, he called the name of Mickey Moniak, an outfielder from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California.

As MLB All-Star break arrives, Braves in charge, Nats hot, Phils not in NL East race

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The Braves have taken charge of the NL East at the All-Star break

The Philadelphia Phillies (47-43) have arrived at the MLB All-Star break in third place in the National League East Division standings. They trail the Atlanta Braves by 6.5 games and are a half-game behind the Washington Nationals, but still control the second NL Wildcard playoff berth.
The Phillies captured a weekend series over the New York Mets at Citi Field by winning two of the three games, capped off by a rousing 8-3 victory in Sunday’s series finale. That followed on the heels of a series defeat after they dropped two of three to the first-place Atlanta Braves to open last week.
Now nearly three and a half months into the six-month long MLB regular season, the Phillies appear to be approaching a cross-roads. They led the division for all but seven days up until June 12, then were passed for second place by the Nats just this past week.
While the club has struggled to produce runs on a consistent basis over the traditional first-half of the season, their real problem has been on the mound. Phillies pitchers rank at or near the bottom of most important statistical categories. While the bullpen appears to finally be getting healthy, the starting rotation has become a complete mess.
The ability of general manager Matt Klentak to find a pair of more stable, veteran, productive starting pitchers prior to the trade deadline at the end of this month will likely prove pivotal to any hope of reaching the postseason.

If Klentak is unable to procure those new starters, even a bit of improvement from the offense is unlikely to keep them in contention through the dog days of August and the crucible of a September stretch run.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Jake Arrieta has bone spurs on his elbow, could be lost to surgery

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On Saturday night in Queens, Jake Arrieta was downright horrendous in his starting assignment at Citi Field against the New York Mets.
The Phillies 33-year-old right-hander was torched by the Mets batters for 11 hits which produced six runs, five of those earned, and he was almost constantly in trouble.
In the bottom of the 1st inning, a base running gaffe by Robinson Cano helped Arrieta escape having allowed just one run despite surrendering two hits and hitting a batter. In the bottom of the 2nd, the Mets had the bases loaded with one out. Again, Arrieta wriggled out of it, allowing just one run.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Todd Frazier led off with a single and came home on a double by the next batter, Dominic Smith. Arrieta again escaped with just one run allowed, thanks largely to Smith being thrown out trying to stretch that double into a triple.
In the 5th inning, the Mets finally kicked in the door, driving Arrieta from the game amidst controversy. With one out, he hit Frazier with a pitch, prompting Frazier to bark at Arrieta all the way down to first base.
When home plate umpire Tripp Gibson immediately warned both benches, Mets skipper Mickey Callaway came out to argue. Frazier then turned his barking to Gibson and was ejected. The Mets third baseman had to be restrained from going after Arrieta, and was fuming as he made his way to the dugout and locker room.
Smith then doubled again, moving pinch-runner Adeiny Hechavarria around to third base. Arrieta then hit another batsman, Amed Rosario. Despite the earlier warning, the Phillies pitcher was not ejected, but Callaway was when he argued that fact.
It might have been better for the Phillies had Arrieta been ejected, because the very next batter, catcher Tomas Nido, ripped a bases-clearing double to put the Mets on top by a 6-4 margin. That would prove the game-winner, as the hosts would go on to an eventual 6-5 victory.
Following the game, Arrieta made this controversial comment: “Frazier’s not happy about it, he can come see me. I’ll put a dent in his skull.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mets fight off Phillies on wild Saturday night

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Todd Frazier got tossed after getting hit by Jake Arrieta

The New York Mets (40-49) held on for a tense 6-5 victory over the division-rival Philadelphia Phillies (46-43) on Saturday night at Citi Field. The two teams will meet in the series rubber match on Sunday afternoon in what will be the final game before the four-day MLB All-Star Game break.
In a nationally televised game delayed for 40 minutes at the outset thanks to thunderstorms in the area, neither starting pitcher looked good in this one. Jake Arrieta was simply awful on the mound for the Phillies, only getting into the 5th inning thanks to some poor Mets base running and their failure to cash in on early opportunities.
Noah Syndergaard continued to show that his 2019 version may still look like ‘Thor’, but he is not overpowering anyone with the thunder bolts from his right arm.
The two pitchers allowed 10 runs through the first five innings. Syndergaard was touched for a pair of home runs in the top of the 2nd, a blast to right by Jay Bruce and another to left off the bat of Maikel Franco.
Things got a bit testy in the bottom of the 5th, and then the Mets finally cashed in against Arrieta, who had dodged trouble a couple of times. The Phillies righty hit Mets third baseman Todd Frazier with one out. Frazier took offense, barking at Arrieta the entire way down to first base as home plate umpire Tripp Gibson warned both benches.

Saturday night's alright for fighting between NL East rivals

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Phillies try to overcome Thor in Saturday night fight in Queens

The Philadelphia Phillies (46-42) exploded for five runs in the top of the 9th inning to pull away from the host New York Mets (39-49) for a 7-2 victory on Friday night.
With the win, the Phillies once again find themselves in control of an NL Wildcard playoff slot.
The victory was a sixth straight for the Phillies over their division rivals. By winning just two of the remaining eight games between the two teams this season, the Phillies will capture the season series between them for the first time since 2011.
It is possible that those two wins could come with the final two games in this weekend series at Citi Field. The first of those comes with Saturday night’s contest pitting veteran right-hander Jake Arrieta against the Mets golden-maned ‘Thor’, right-hander Noah Syndergaard.
The host Mets have dropped nine of their last 11 contests and have not enjoyed a winning record since sitting at 16-15 all the way back on May 2. Despite their fourth place standing, the Mets generally are a tough opponent. They have lost 22 games by just one or two runs, and have been the victims of a half-dozen walkoff defeats.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Phillies open final series before MLB All-Star break

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Jacob deGrom takes the mound vs the Phillies on Friday night

The Philadelphia Phillies (45-42) pay a visit to Citi Field in Queens to take on the host New York Mets (39-48) on Friday night. This weekend’s three-game set between the two NL East Division rivals will be the final series before Major League Baseball takes a four-day break for next week’s All-Star Game.
Both teams enter this series cold. The Phillies have dropped four of their last six games, losing two of three to both the Marlins and Braves. The Mets have dropped eight of their last 10 games.
These two teams began the season with what appeared to be legitimate division title possibilities. In fact, in late April the Mets were in first place and the Phillies on their tails in second.
A losing 13-15 was followed by a rough 10-18 June month for New York. The Phillies bolted past them, and actually controlled the division lead for all but seven games through late May. However, both teams were not only passed, but are getting left in the dust by the defending division champion Braves. And now the Washington Nationals have also passed them both.
The Mets season appears to already be over. There are just too many teams to climb over to get into playoff position, and they have struggled with too many injuries and too much inconsistency. The losing campaign could yet cost manager Mickey Callaway his job.
For the Phillies, there is a near desperation to win this series and remain in the NL Wildcard playoff hunt. They now sit a half-game off that pace. If they can duplicate what happened just 10 days ago, when the Phillies swept out the Mets in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park, it would be a major shot in the arm heading into the break.

Slumping Phillies visit struggling Mets prior to MLB All-Star break

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Phillies visit Citi Field just prior to the 2019 All-Star break

It was just 10 days ago that the Philadelphia Phillies (45-42) season was on life support. Seven straight defeats and losses in nine of their previous 10 games had dropped the club to just a game over the .500 mark.
Turned out the temporary cure at that time was arriving at Citizens Bank Park in the form of the New York Mets, a club perhaps struggling even more than the Phillies.
Now here we are, a week and a half later, and the Phillies season appears to once again have relapsed. Since that visit to South Philly by the Mets, the Phillies have dropped two of three games to both the last-place Miami Marlins and first-place Atlanta Braves.
The Phillies are not only looking up at the Braves in the NL East standings, they are also now trailing behind the Washington Nationals by a game in the loss column. This marks the first time all season that the Phillies have fallen below second place in the division. In fact, they have now also slipped out of even an NL Wildcard playoff slot.
Could the Mets once again prove to be just what the Phillies need to feel a bit rejuvenated heading into next week’s four-day MLB All-Star Game break? As this weekend before that Mid-Summer Classic break begins, the Phillies will visit Flushing, Queens for three games at Citi Field.
The Mets slipped to fourth place in the division back on June 19 and have been stuck there ever since. They are coming off a split in their two-game Subway Series match-up with the New York Yankees and had the day off on Independence Day. Losers of eight of their last 10, the Mets have not won three games in a row since mid-May.

NEW YORK METS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Michael Conforto: 26-year-old right fielder slashing .247/.361/.477 with 16 homers, 32 extra-base hits, 43 RBIs, 47 runs.
Jeff McNeil: 27-year-old left fielder slashing .349/.411/.516 with 7 homers, 31 extra-base hits, 35 RBIs, 38 runs.
Amed Rosario: 23-year-old shortstop with 9 homers, 42 RBIs, 36 runs.
Todd Frazier: 33-year-old third baseman with 11 homers, 34 RBIs, 27 runs over just 236 plate appearances.
Wilson Ramos: 31-year-old catcher slashing .275/.348/.414 with 9 homers and 41 RBIs played with Phillies in late 2018.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Braves bats pound Pivetta as rookie hurler shuts down the Phillies

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Rookie righty Bryse Wilson largely shut down the Phillies bats

The first-place Atlanta Braves (51-36) used a big six-run 6th inning to pull away from the visiting Philadelphia Phillies (45-41) and register a 9-2 win on Wednesday night at SunTrust Park.
With the win, the Braves pushed their lead in the National League East Division standings back out to 5.5 games (five in the loss column) over the second place Phillies, who are now just a half-game ahead of the third place Washington Nationals. The Phillies have not been lower than second place in the division standings all season.
The two teams were battling in a tough 3-2 game after the first 5 1/2 innings, with all of the runs coming via the long ball. Josh Donaldson ripped his 16th homer of the season in the bottom of the 4th inning, a three-run shot off Phillies starter Nick Pivetta, to open the scoring.
In the top of the 6th, Bryce Harper got the Phillies back within a run by blasting his 16th homer. For the Phillies big free agent signing, it was the 200th home run of his big-league career as well as his 1,000th career hit.


There was one bright spot tonight. Bryce Harper’s 16th home run of the season was the 200th of his big-league career, as well as career hit 1,000.

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