Phillies

Phillies 2017 betting guide: Individual player over-unders

Phillies 2017 betting guide: Individual player over-unders

With less than a week until opening day, let's take a look at some Phillies over-unders for the 2017 season, courtesy of Bovada:

Maikel Franco: O/U .265 BA, 24.5 HR, 85.5 RBIs
Franco hit .255 with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs last season, his first full year in the majors.

Those weren't bad stats for a 23-year-old, but Franco fell short of the lofty expectations set for him by the Phillies and their fans. There was a lot of "future MVP" talk before last season, as well as an endorsement from Mike Schmidt that Franco has a chance to be a better defensive third baseman than Schmidt himself was.

Advice: I'd go under .265, over 24.5 HR and over 85.5 RBIs.

The reasoning? I just think Franco is, long-term, going to be a .260ish hitter. There are legitimate flaws in his swing, approach and, at times, his concentration. Franco gave away far too many at-bats last season, and while I do think he learned from that, I don't think he's going to, within a year, significantly improve upon his ability to lay off breaking balls low and out of the zone.

Franco isn't a fast runner, either, so infield hits will be hard to come by.

The homers and RBIs, however, seem like safe bets to go over. Franco had more homers and RBIs than Vegas' projection with less lineup protection last season. And his power is real enough that I don't see him finishing a full season with fewer than 25 homers.

With a 1-2-3 of Cesar Hernandez, Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, Franco's RBI opportunities should be plentiful.

Tommy Joseph: O/U 24.5 HR, 70.5 RBIs
I'm going under on both.

Joseph hit 21 home runs last season in just 347 plate appearances. That's a full-season pace of 32 HR. But that's not how baseball works -- think about how many times over the years we looked at Darin Ruf's numbers in limited time and extrapolated them over a full year.

Now, Joseph and Ruf are different players. Joseph is a better hitter, simple and plain. He has a better idea at the plate, and midway through last season Joseph showed an ability to adjust. There was a little over a week there when he couldn't catch up to any above-average fastballs. From June 27-July 3, Joseph went 0 for 16 and struck out four times in a game in Arizona. It made some start to wonder if he was just a flash in the pan.

But Joseph responded by going 14 for his next 28 with five homers and two doubles.

My rationale for going under with Joseph's HR and RBI numbers in 2017: 

• He's been injury-prone throughout his career so a season-long over bet doesn't feel safe. 

• Pitchers always adjust to a hitter in the hitter's second season.

• The Phillies have multiple players who can play first base, so I don't expect Joseph to start, say, 140 games. When he's slumping, the Phils could do something like move Kendrick to first base and start Aaron Altherr in left field. Or they could put Brock Stassi (assuming he makes the team) at first against a tough righty.

Odubel Herrera: O/U .280 BA, 22.5 steals
I'm easily taking the over on both. 

What has Herrera done through two years to make us think he won't reach .280? He hit .297 as a rookie and .286 last season, and if anything those two years felt like less than his potential, not more. I don't think Herrera's going to hit .330 this year, but I could definitely see a .310 in his near future as he continues to grow.

Herrera's speed and his ability to hit lefties along with righties makes this a pretty safe over bet.

As far as the stolen bases, Herrera went 25 for 32 last season, and now has a first base coach in Mickey Morandini who is focused on improving his players' jumps. 

Herrera had a .361 OBP last season. When you get on base that much and you're fast, you're in a position to steal plenty of bases. 

Put me down for a .312 batting average and 31 steals for El Torito.

Cesar Hernandez: O/U .285, 25.5 steals
This one is tougher. I think the signs Hernandez showed in the second half last season were real, and I expect him to post a .350-plus on-base percentage, but I'm not fully confident that he'll exceed .285.

Would it be all that surprising if Hernandez hit something like .282 with a .360 OBP? I don't feel great about the batting average bet.

As far as the stolen bases, I'm taking the under, despite the aforementioned addition of Morandini. Hernandez has well-above-average speed, but he just hasn't proven to be an instinctive or efficient base stealer. He went 17 for 30 last season, becoming the first player since Brady Clark in 2005 to be caught at least 13 times in 30 or fewer attempts.

If the number was 20.5 or 22.5, I think I'd take the over. But 25.5 is a bit high for Cesar.

Howie Kendrick: O/U .275 BA
Taking the over. Kendrick hit .255 last season. He was also moved all over the field and all over the lineup by the Dodgers.

In the 10 seasons before last, Kendrick hit over .275 every year and hit .285 or better nine times.

He's a good singles hitter, and .275 is not a high benchmark. Unless Kendrick's skills have just completely eroded, this one feels safe.

Jerad Eickhoff and Jeremy Hellickson: O/U 10.5 wins each
Both pitchers were models of consistency last season -- Eickhoff made 33 starts and had a 3.65 ERA; Hellickson made 32 with a 3.71 ERA.

Both guys keep you in the game. Both guys will benefit from an improved offense and bullpen. And both go deep into games regularly enough to factor into the decision.

I feel slightly better about Hellickson's chances because the possibility exists that he'll be traded to a contender by the deadline, which would only enhance his chances of getting a bit more run support and being in position for an additional win or two. 

But I'd take the over on both.

Ricky Bo's MLB rule changes if he was commish for a day

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AP Images

Ricky Bo's MLB rule changes if he was commish for a day

I think most of us would agree baseball has gotten too slow and there's too much inactivity in the modern game.

MLB met last week to discuss possible rule changes, so here are mine, all designed to either speed up the game or make it more exciting.

1. Instant decisions on challenges

No more of this 45-second crap deciding whether to challenge a play. No more of the manager holding up his hand while waiting for his bench coach to get off the phone with the video coordinator to decide whether to challenge. Either you make the call with your naked eye or don't.

It makes the games several minutes longer and can take pitchers out of their rhythm.

2. Move bullpens closer to dugouts

This might not make a huge impact on the length of games, but moving bullpens closer to dugouts would cut down on the 20- to 30-second run-ins from the bullpen, especially with how often teams make pitching changes these days.

The whole process of a manager slowly walking to the mound, taking the ball, making the call to the 'pen and the pitcher coming in for him warmups would be sped up.

3. Four total pitching changes per game per team (barring injury)

It would add a lot of strategy to the games if you limited the number of decisions a manager can make. The game is overly specialized these days so it would mean we'd see less of a lefty specialist coming in for one batter and then coming out.

It might also create some more offense.

4. Limiting defensive shifts

Two infielders on each side just like it was for a generation. I get that teams want to use the available data to determine where to place their infielders for specific hitters, but it wipes away so many hits and has turned the sport into a strikeout-fest.

Hitters who have trouble beating the shift are trying more than ever before to beat it by hitting the ball out of the ballpark. The result is more home runs but also so many more strikeouts. We're on pace for about 500 more strikeouts than any season in history.

This last one won't be popular, but down with the shifts!

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Forget Machado (for now), Phils reportedly eyeing HOF third baseman

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Forget Machado (for now), Phils reportedly eyeing HOF third baseman

Forget Manny Machado (for now). The Phillies are reportedly also interested in an older third baseman who can still hit but would come much cheaper.

That would be Rangers 3B and future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Beltre, according to MLB's Jon Paul Morosi

"The Phillies also have interest in Beltre, sources say, as much for his professionalism as his production," Morosi wrote. "The Phils have the youngest group of position players in the Majors, and team officials see long-term value in Beltre's influence on an emerging core."

Beltre turned 39 in April and has been on the DL four times in the last two seasons, including twice this season with hamstring strains. Still, he's remained one of the better all-around third basemen in the majors, hitting .304 with an .877 OPS the last three seasons. He'd be an unquestioned upgrade at third over Maikel Franco, who has talked over the years about how much he admires Beltre's game.

Beltre is in the final year of his contract and is owed $18 million. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and Beltre would need to waive it to potentially join the Phils. The Phillies are a fringe contender but the Rangers are already out of it at 32-44 and 18 games back in the AL West.

This week, Phillies GM Matt Klentak said he is not opposed to trading for a rental player so long as the Phillies hang around the playoff picture in the next month. Royals 3B Mike Moustakas is another player to monitor in that regard.

Of course, this doesn't mean the Phillies are out on Machado but trading for him midseason would be much more complicated and there's little chance he'd re-sign before first testing the free-agent market.

If the Phillies do trade for him, they just have to make sure everyone in the clubhouse knows the rules about touching his head.

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