From blowouts to walk-offs, Jacob DeGrom to Jeremy Guthrie, Phillies fans have already seen a fair share of outcomes on both ends of the spectrum through the first nine games of the 2017 season.
Let’s take a look back at the (short) season thus far, rating the top nine facts through the first nine.
- Adam Morgan is (really) bad at baseball
Morgan broke Spring Training as a left handed long man out of the bullpen for Pete Mackanin, posting a 2.45 ERA in seven games and 18.1 innings pitched. He’s a major league veteran at this point, having pitched two seasons on and off for the Phillies as a starter and in relief, but that shouldn’t automatically qualify him for a role on the big league roster.
Morgan has proven time and again to be a liability on the mound, pitching to a career 5.52 earned run average in 40 games (36 starts) and a hefty .292 batting average against. Opponents can clearly read his pitches well, and fans have become overly frustrated with why he is still an option for the Phillies bullpen. In two games (six innings) this year, the 27-year-old has already surrendered seven runs on 11 hits- six of which were home runs- leading to an ugly 10.50 ERA.
Regardless of if the club is rebuilding or not, Mackanin made the wrong decision in going for versatility in Morgan over the young Alec Asher, who’s been since traded, or MLB experienced relief arms Cesar Ramos and Luis Garcia. Luckily, the Phils realized their mistake early in the season, opting to option Adam Morgan to AAA Lehigh Valley following Tuesday’s game in favor of Garcia.
- Jerad Eickhoff will be Mr. Consistent with no run support
After coming to Philadelphia via Texas in the Cole Hamels trade, Eickhoff has been one of the best surprises of the young squad, entrenching himself in the rotation for years to come. The 26-year-old Eickhoff has arguably been the most consistent Phillies starting pitcher; unfortunately, offensive struggles fail to get him the run support needed for wins.
As Hamels often faced late in his time as a Phillie, the young righty needs to be near-perfect to earn a win. Eickhoff boasts a career 3.37 ERA in 43 starts, yet has a sub-.500 record at 14-18. In his starts, he averages 3.85 RS/9, a statistic that measures the run support that a team gives his pitcher throughout any given season. To compare, Hamels received about 4.47 RS/9 in his days in red pinstripes, heavily inflated by the near six runs he’d receive in his earlier years.
Eickhoff is certainly not at fault for the lack of runs, but he must learn to focus on honing his craft to be the best he can be each time out on the mound, eventually help will come. Offensive outbursts should become more consistent than it currently is, and runs should come around; hopefully it’ll be during Eickhoff’s next turn in the rotation because we’re sure he’d appreciate it as much as we’d like to see.
- Brock Stassi is indeed a beast incarnate
At 6 foot 2, 190 pounds, Brock Stassi is a beast. In Clearwater, Stassi tied Maikel Franco for the team lead in home runs with six in 62 at-bats, knocking in 17 in the process. He also was slashing .306/.368/.645 in the 25 games, earning his way onto the big league roster as a reserve for the first time in his career. Stassi was brought to tears over making it through final roster cuts, knowing he was headed to the City of Brotherly Love and could finally call himself a major league ballplayer.
In a role backing up starting first baseman Tommy Joseph, Stassi hasn’t seen too much action through the first nine games, drawing one start in seven games played. In that one start, he started out major league ball with a bang, hitting a round-tripper for his first MLB hit. Though Stassi may only be hitting .182 thus far, there’s a positive in his ability to draw walks having three base on balls to four strikeouts, upping his on base percentage to a shiny .357. In the little time Stassi has been around, we can already see the potential for when and if he gets regular playing time.
There are many uncertainties surrounding Stassi. Does he get a regular role soon if Joseph continues to struggle? Was his spring just a fluke? Or even, does Stassi have the skill set to move into the outfield? The season is young, and it’s hard to tell what’s to come for the rookie. All that can be said is he’s come a long way since being drafted in the 33rd round of the 2011 draft.
- Odubel Herrera is no fluke
Herrera was the Phillies’ only All Star Game representative in 2016 following a season in which we saw him build off an impressive rookie year. He was a lock for a starting outfield spot since the final out of last year, using the spring to represent his home country Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic and sharpen his skills. The time away from camp against some of the best in the world paid off for Herrera, at least in the early get go.
El Torito as he is known, is proving worthy of the Rule 5 draft selection in 2014 from the Texas Rangers organization. Herrera continued where he left off, registering a hit in the first eight games, and getting on base in all nine so far. The batting average is at a healthy .313, as he is becoming a reliable top of the lineup batter. If he can receive some help with other driving him in, then the Phillies can become a force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. For now, Herrera will do his part in getting on base for some small ball action.
Since he came onto the scene two seasons ago, it remains to be seen where the best place for his bat is in the order. What we do know is that Herrera will be a mainstay in for the Phillies throughout the rebuild, hopefully as a key cog to the next championship team. If there was any doubt of his all star caliber ability, all should be washed away this year.
- Hail Cesar! The second baseman of the present…. And future
Much like Odubel, Hernandez was a question mark when he initially took over for Chase Utley in the middle infield. Since replacing the 39-year old up the middle, he’s teamed with Freddy Galvis to create one of the most athletic, defensive middle infields in the National League, becoming a pleasant surprise for Phillies fans. A fielding percentage of .981 will earn you respect around the league, no matter which team you’re on. As a bonus, Hernandez has the skills all around the diamond, getting playing time in four different positions through five years.
He doesn’t have the most power or speed, but will certainly knock in the runner when necessary. Hernandez’s bat is nothing spectacular, but it’ll get the job done slashing .281/.350/.365 for his career. A for-average hitter is good for the young squad’s ability to generate runs. Mackanin has used Hernandez as the lead off man this season, and it’s paid off with his knack of getting on the basepaths. He’s even got a walk-off to his name, driving in the winning run against the Nationals after Jeanmar Gomez’s blown save.
J.P Crawford is on the horizon for the Phillies, but if Hernandez has anything to say about it, it won’t be at the second base position. Crawford hasn’t been able to get going at Lehigh Valley which bodes well for Hernandez who should continue to be the primary man in the middle until he proves otherwise. For now, Mackanin and crew will continue rolling with Hernandez as he should only continue to progress his skills.
- Daniel Nava over Chris Coghlan was the right choice
Nava versus Coghlan was a heated battle during Spring Training, but when the dust settled, the staff decided on the switch-hitting outfielder Daniel Nava. It’s obvious he isn’t any long term solution and just a place holder until the likes of Nick Williams or Roman Quinn get the call. Regardless, the 2013 World Series champion plays the veteran role in the clubhouse, knowing he’ll play sparingly to give rest to any of the three starting outfielders.
The knack for right handed hitting was in action from the opening series in Cincinnati when Nava went yard in back-to-back at-bats against Rookie Davis to give the Phils a three-run lead which Adam Morgan would eventually blow. Coghlan was the younger, more versatile man, however, Nava proved to be the better hitter of the pair. He’s never been much of a starter having two seasons of over 100 games played, but when he did the numbers supported his cause.
There’s a good chance that Nava is shopped at the July 31 trade deadline; whether he’s moved or not depends on the offers. General Manager Matt Klentak will do what is best for his club, and if that means keeping Nava around, he’ll do so. The Phillies have one of the largest amounts of cap space available so they can afford an extra contract or two as long as the bat or arm is able to help out the ball team. Nava had more value than Coghlan then and still does now. It was the right call.
- Clay Buchholz has already lost trade value (of what he had)
After coming to Philadelphia via the Red Sox, Buchholz is an arm who was supposed to be an innings eater in the back end of the rotation. With Boston, there were spurts of Cy Young talent mixed around with years of mediocrity. Coming to the NL East, he was an experimental piece who was a prime candidate for the trade deadline if he were to be fully healthy and performing. It’s a big if.
Yes, we are speaking in past tense here. A lot has happened.
Buchholz was recently ruled to have a partially torn flexor-pronator mass in his pitching arm which will require a second opinion by Dr. James Andrews. He is expected to be placed on the DL and miss significant time from the injury, meaning any team looking for help at the deadline will look past the Phils. Every start missed for Buchholz is a decline in value for the 32-year old righty.
Value was lost since he first toed the rubber in 2017 against Cincinnati when he yielded four runs in five innings, and against the Mets (which he left early due to injury) after giving up six earned in two and a third innings. Buchholz’s season numbers are not pretty, sitting at 12.27 ERA in 7.1 total innings and a whopping .457 BAA. If the Phillies want to get anything more than a handshake in return, Buchholz must return healthy, bounce back from his horrid start, and demonstrate his worth to a contender.
- Jeanmar Gomez is not an MLB closer
Pete Mackanin carried in Gomez as the closer from last year when he accumulated 37 saves in 43 opportunities with a 4.85 ERA. Behind those numbers, though, was a tale of two halves for Gomez. Before the all star break, Gomez looked poised to be the next Phillies closer possessing a 2.59 ERA and only two blown saves. It was too good to be true. The former starting pitcher does not have the makeup of a closer, no specific “out pitch,” relying on the fastball more often than not. Disaster struck as the earned runs piled in, inflating the average to over 12.
Being the veteran in the position, Gomez opened and left Clearwater with the ninth inning role locked in, beating out Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris. His pitching from September carried over to the start of this year, already blowing one save in a game the Phillies were luckily able to win later. Thus far, Gomez has allowed more runs (6) than innings pitched (4.1) with three home runs allowed- a common theme for the oft-hit bullpen. Mackanin already began to grow weary of the role he was in, giving Jeanmar a short leash to excel in the closing position.
Gomez is more fit as the middle reliever in lower leverage innings than in critical situations such as the closer’s role. He’s started on the wrong foot and has kept spiraling downward, leaving Petey with no choice but to remove him as the closer just three appearances into the season. From here on out, Benoit will be the closer, hoping to build his value for the trade deadline where he may be valuable to a team in contention of the pennant. We don’t expect Jeanmar Gomez to reclaim his post in the ninth, instead giving way to Neris who has the stuff to finish the game off.
- There are 153 games remaining. We promise it won’t always be this bad
When Spring Training arrived, Phillie fans were ready for a new start with more new faces. The Cubs were world champions of 2016, meaning every team was 0-0 and had a chance to claim the crown. Position battles gave hardcore followers something to look towards each day in March, who would win what spot, what shockers would be next. We all knew it would be a year to continue the rebuild, but the goal was .500, seemingly the next step towards rekindling the Phillies as a National League power.
Through the first nine, there’s been everything from the sixth straight home opening loss to 12 run first innings to 14 to 4 defeats by division rival New York. And that’s not all that there will be. The Phillie Phaithful will continue to experience ups and downs consisting of disappointments, but it’s all in hopes for the brighter, better, future of the team.
The summer is still young, meaning plenty more baseball is ahead in South Philadelphia where the Phillies call home. Get out and support them, something is guaranteed to be worth the trip, even if the win is not. For one thing, we can assure you the Phillie Phanatic is still the best mascot in all of baseball.
Photo by Lindsey B via Flickr