Phillies

Aaron Altherr reaggravates hamstring, Vince Velasquez struggles early in Phillies' loss

Aaron Altherr reaggravates hamstring, Vince Velasquez struggles early in Phillies' loss

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DENVER — A frustrating outing by starter Vince Velasquez wasn’t all that plagued the Phillies on Friday. 

Outfielder Aaron Altherr aggravated his right hamstring and is headed for the 10-day disabled list. Again.

Altherr’s single in the seventh gave the Phillies a one-run lead in what became a 4-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies (see Instant Replay). Atherr played right field in the bottom of the inning but was double-switched out of the game in the eighth.

“He came in after the inning and said he didn’t like the way it felt,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “We’ll have a replacement tomorrow.”

Altherr was activated off the disabled list July 26 after missing 10 games with a right hamstring strain.

He broke a string of 13 hitless at-bats with a single in the sixth and finished 2 for 4.

Velasquez was coming off a sterling start Sunday against Atlanta when he tossed seven scoreless innings with two walks, six strikeouts and six hits allowed. He threw 108 pitches but got deep into the game, which wasn’t the case Friday.

“He was effectively wild,” Mackanin said. “Walked six players and didn’t issue many hits but sprayed the ball all over the place. I don’t think they felt comfortable against him.”

Velasquez threw 36 pitches (18 strikes) in the first when he walked the bases loaded and gave up one hit, Carlos Gonzalez’s two-run single on a grounder to right that found a hole in the Phillies’ shift.

Velasquez then threw four scoreless innings on 60 pitches and left after the fifth. He allowed just three hits and those two first-inning runs with a career-high six walks and four strikeouts.

“What we’re looking for from him is to throw 96 pitches in more innings,” Mackanin said. “That’s the next step for him. We need him to economize his pitches and get outs early in the count so that he can go deeper into the game.”

Velasquez said his tempo at the outset of the game was too quick, something he rectified after a visit from pitching coach Bob McClure during the prolonged first. 

“It was just a bad tempo right from the get-go,” Velasquez said. “I could have gone out there an extra two more innings, possibly three more innings. I had extra pitches and walks, and it all added up. It was a snowball effect.”

In the first, Velasquez issued a leadoff walk to Charlie Blackmon but got DJ LeMahieu to ground out and struck out Nolan Arenado. Velasquez then issued back-to-back walks to Gerardo Parra and Mark Reynolds before Gonzalez singled.

“One, two — first out, second out was easy,” Velasquez said. “I just couldn’t close the deal.”

Phillies cannot improve without making these defensive fixes

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Phillies cannot improve without making these defensive fixes

The Phillies' defense was atrocious this season. It was the worst in the majors. It was the worst this city has seen in decades. 

When looking at why the Phillies fell apart in the second half, the offense deserves its share of the blame, but the defense faltered all year long.

The Phillies are not going to contend with below-average defenders at nearly every position. You just can't, even if you have a staff full of aces.

I personally take defensive metrics with a grain of salt, but the Phils' figure of minus-129 defensive runs saved this season is hard to ignore and certainly passes the eye test. It's 28 defensive runs worse than the next-worst team, the 111-loss Orioles.

The four main reasons:

1. Infield defense an overall weakness

There was a 100 percent chance the Phillies' shortstop defense was going to be worse this season. That's what happens when you move on from a defensive whiz like Freddy Galvis, who by the way is still making sensational plays and saving his pitching staff in San Diego.

Phillies shortstops have committed 19 errors this season, a dozen more than their league-low seven last year.

Scott Kingery did improve at short after a shaky start. And it seems clear the Phillies aren't sold on J.P. Crawford's defense at short. Crawford had more errors — mostly on throws — in 30 games at shortstop this season than Galvis had in 155 starts last year.

To make matters worse, the Phillies received Galvis-like offensive production from their shortstops this season. They got Galvis' bat without his glove. Don't be surprised if the Phils add a defensive-minded veteran shortstop this offseason, especially if Kingery moves to 2B.

2. Catchers couldn't catch

Jorge Alfaro graded out well this season with pitch-framing. Every other aspect of his receiving was poor. There is a case to be made that Alfaro's focus — and really the organization's focus — on pitch-framing and catching the ball perfectly made him worse at catching it, period.

The Phillies have the most passed balls in the National League. A lot of them were inexcusable for a major-league catcher. Only the Pirates have more combined passed balls and wild pitches.

These are costly, costly events that increase the other team's scoring chance in a substantial way. 

Alfaro's offseason focus will likely be enhancing his receiving ability. If the Phils move on from Wilson Ramos, they need to add a second catcher who excels defensively. The free-agent pickings are slim. Yasmani Grandal is out there but why would the Dodgers let him walk?

3. Rhys Hoskins is not a leftfielder

It's not his fault he's out there, but Hoskins is not a leftfielder, he's a first baseman. Hoskins' range is comparable to Pat Burrell's midway through Burrell's career, but Burrell could at least make up for it with a strong and accurate throwing arm.

The Phillies had the fourth-most errors in left field this year and the fifth-fewest assists.

Hoskins at first base with Carlos Santana at 3B is a legit possibility for 2019. Third base defense would be sacrificed for the betterment of offense and left field defense ... which is definitely more palatable if it means Bryce Harper is there.

4. Odubel Herrera regressed in CF

The defensive metrics liked Herrera until this season, and again, the eye test backs up the change. Herrera did not get good jumps this season. He did not make strong throws and was routinely tested by baserunners. The throwing arms of Herrera and Hoskins both grade out toward the bottom of baseball, with Hoskins ranking dead last among 58 qualifying outfielders.

Roman Quinn's above-average defense was glaring because of what it replaced.

Herrera had another multi-blunder game Tuesday night in Denver, not hustling on a double-play ball he had no excuse to not beat out, then later muffing a ball in deep right field.

The Phillies probably realize at this point Quinn is the better all-around player, but Quinn's constant issues staying healthy mean that the Phils would also have to bring in a fourth outfielder they'd feel comfortable playing a lot in center. Keeping Herrera as that fourth outfielder if no intriguing trade offer materializes could be an option.

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Will losing deter free agents from joining Phillies? Gabe Kapler weighs in

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Will losing deter free agents from joining Phillies? Gabe Kapler weighs in

DENVER — Sometimes you look at the mounting losses and wonder why Bryce Harper would want to be part of this.

Or Manny Machado.

Or Patrick Corbin.

The Phillies will be active in this winter’s free-agent market. They have the money. They have the desire. If you know owner John Middleton, you might call it an obsession.

But lately there’s been a feeling that all the Phillies’ losing — another loss Tuesday night made it 31 in the last 46 games — coupled with the unorthodox managerial stylings of Gabe Kapler might be a turnoff to free agents.

We don’t particularly buy this narrative because 1) the signing of one or two key free agents could help turn the losing around next season and 2) in free agency it’s all about the Benjamins and the Phillies have lots of them.

Kapler, whose team led the NL East on Aug. 5, does not believe the shine has worn off the Phillies as a free-agent destination.

“I think it’s likely a more attractive destination because I think people are very aware of the resources that the Philadelphia Phillies have,” Kapler said. “I don’t think that there’s any shortage of information on how we intend to be especially competitive in 2019.

“I think it’s really important to not respond to, and when I say not respond I mean not evaluate, based on a 45-game stretch. We haven’t played good baseball for quite some time. You cannot argue with that fact. It’s unacceptable. But it’s a fact. You also cannot argue with the fact that we played very good baseball for a half-plus of the season. And finally, you can’t argue with the fact that we have tremendous resources and a very young and talented core group of players. So if you look at all of those things combined, I think you have an especially attractive destination.”

No changes on coaching staff

Kapler said his entire coaching staff would return next season. All are under contract for 2019.

“I love our staff,” Kapler said. “I think they’ve done a tremendous job. They’ve worked especially hard all year long. They look out for each other and I think they are already seeking process improvement for 2019.”

The game

The Phillies gave up 10 runs for the second straight night in a 10-3 loss to the Rockies.

The Phils have lost six in a row and are 6-17 in September. They are under .500 for the first time since April 9. They had been 15 games over .500 on Aug. 5. The Phils need to win four of their remaining five games to finish with a winning record.

Odubel Herrera drove in the Phillies’ first run. He also dropped a ball in right field and did not run hard on a ground ball in the first inning. In other words, Odubel being Odubel.

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