Phillies

Phillies' rotation figures to be one of MLB's slowest in Pace in 2017

Phillies' rotation figures to be one of MLB's slowest in Pace in 2017

For the last few months, there have been plenty of stories about baseball and pace of play. It seems to be one of the main focuses of commissioner Rob Manfred's early tenure and we can expect more new rules to come out of the league office over the next few years beyond just a streamlined intentional walk.

Unfortunately for Phillies fans, the team's current rotation may be the antithesis of the pace of play crusade. Fangraphs.com makes available the stat Pace, which is an approximate average amount of time in between pitches for a player. Here's its primer on the statistic. It takes out pickoffs and other pitch-disrupting events, but it isn't a perfect stat.

That being said, it gives a pretty good idea of which pitchers are fast or slow. Fangraphs ranks fast pitchers at around 20.0 seconds between pitches, average around 21.5 seconds and slow at 23.5 seconds or above. 

So here's the average Pace over the last two years for the Phillies' projected rotation:

Jeremy Hellickson: 25.1
Clay Buchholz: 24.9
Vince Velasquez: 23.7
Aaron Nola: 21.3
Jerad Eickhoff: 20.3

The first observation is that you have three pitchers that are well below average in Pace, a concerning development. Let's say Eickhoff and Hellickson each have a game where they throw 100 pitches. Hellickson would add an average of eight extra minutes to the game compared to Eickhoff. It's not ideal.

That being said, Eickhoff is especially fast, a relief to anyone who likes little down time in between pitches. Eickhoff doesn't tend to mess around when he's on the mound. Nola is pretty similar and the stats bare that out.

As for Velasquez, his numbers actually improved by 1.6 seconds (24.8 to 23.2) from 2015 to 2016. Who knows what he'll actually settle in at for his career? 

One thing to keep in mind is that a pitcher's pace doesn't have any tangible effect on performance. You can be really fast and effective (Eickhoff) or really slow and perform well (Hellickson). But if you're looking for a pitcher that's going to give you a crisp and quick game, Eickhoff is your man. 

Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

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AP Images

Healthy Jerad Eickhoff says, 'The sky is the limit'

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jerad Eickhoff is an important man in this Phillies season. He needs to be closer to the guy who pitched to a 3.65 ERA in 197 1/3 innings in 2016 than the one who had a 4.71 ERA in 128 innings last season.

It all starts with good health. Eickhoff, 27, missed time with an upper-back strain and a nerve issue near his right shoulder last season.

He is healthy now and has made a tweak in his mechanics to ease pressure on his shoulder. He made his spring debut with two hitless, scoreless innings in a 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa on Thursday (more on the game here). Eickhoff threw 17 pitches, 14 of which were strikes. He struck out two, walked none and hit a batter. 

“No matter what game it is that you pitch in, you get that intensity, there’s a hitter in the box, you still get butterflies being back at it,” Eickhoff said. “Today was a big day, facing some competition. The live batting practice was checking off the first box. A game setting was kind of the second box, so I think the sky is the limit from here. I feel great.”

Eickhoff developed a mechanical flaw last season as his body would often fall toward first base after delivering the ball. That put pressure on his shoulder. He has tried to correct the flaw this winter by holding his glove a little higher before he releases the ball. That helps him get going toward home plate.

If healthy, Eickhoff will be in the starting rotation. (Former bench coach Larry Bowa is high on him). But he’s taking nothing for granted.

“I try to approach every spring like I’m trying to win a job,” Eickhoff said. “I have something to prove every year.”

Notes
• Andrew Knapp caught and batted leadoff. He worked a walk to lead off the game and that impressed manager Gabe Kapler. Kapler advised not to read into batting order positions this early in camp. 

“These are practice settings,” he said.

• The Phillies play their Grapefruit League opener Friday afternoon against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. Rotation candidates Nick Pivetta and Mark Leiter Jr. are expected to get some work. Non-roster invite Francisco Rodriguez, he of the 437 career saves, could also get an inning.

Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

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USA Today Images

Future closer? Power-armed Seranthony Dominguez dazzles in opener

CLEARWATER, Fla. — This was a nice little glimpse of the future.

Seven of the eight pitchers used by the Phillies in Thursday’s 6-0 exhibition win over the University of Tampa were prospects who likely need a little more time in the minors, but could someday be mainstays in Philadelphia.

Jerad Eickhoff started and pitched two scoreless innings (see story). After him, prospects Jose Taveras, Tom Eshelman, Franklyn Kilome, Enyel De Los Santos, Seranthony Dominguez, Cole Irvin and Ranger Suarez kept the shutout intact. None of the Phillies’ pitchers walked a batter, though Eickhoff did hit one.

“No walks, that’s fairly unusual for spring training,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “It was like Command City. Guys were on top of it.”

Kapler singled out Dominguez, a strong-bodied, power-armed, 23-year-old right-hander who earned a spot on the 40-man roster in November. Dominguez allowed a leadoff single in the seventh then came back with three swinging strikeouts, all on high-80s sliders.

“He maintained his composure, had electric stuff and the bravado of a seasoned veteran,” Kapler said.

Dominguez, signed out of the Dominican Republic for $25,000 in 2012, touched 100 mph with his fastball as a starter in the Florida State League early last season. He ended up missing time with biceps tendinitis, but is healthy now. The Phillies have reduced his pitch mix from four to three (fastball, slider, changeup) and he will convert to the bullpen, where he profiles as a potential closer, this season. He is likely to open at Double A Reading. Don’t rule out seeing him in Philadelphia later this season if all goes well.

“As a bullpen guy, he could be a quick mover,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

“He has a top-of-the-scale fastball,” director of player development Joe Jordan said. “He has a chance to really dominate in the late innings.”