Phillies

Phillies face same deficit as 2007, but this couldn't feel more different

Phillies face same deficit as 2007, but this couldn't feel more different

With 17 games to go, the Phillies are 7½ games out in the NL East.

Sound familiar?

In 2007, the Phils were seven games back in the NL East with 17 to play, the year they famously ran down the Mets and won the division the final day of the season.

But that's where the similarities end. This year has looked and felt different in just about every way.

The 2007 Phils had a dynamic offense that exemplified the current team's offensive philosophy of seeing a ton of pitches. They just didn't mention it every other day. Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell, even Ryan Howard at that point — all guys who would work deep counts and could end them in a powerful way.

Yet for Charlie Manuel, it was Hittin' Season ... not Takin' Pitches Season.

That '07 team was also great defensively. Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, Utley in his prime at second base. The range and strong throwing arms from Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino and Werth, the steadiness behind the plate of Carlos Ruiz.

They also ran the bases extremely well. Utley (87.5 percent) and Werth (85.2) rank second and fifth, all-time, in stolen base success rate. Rollins and Victorino possessed game-changing speed atop the lineup. That team went 138 for 157 stealing bases — 88 percent.

The '07 team would have loved to have had Aaron Nola. Jake Arrieta would have fit in that rotation as well. Is there anyone else on this 2018 team who'd even sniff playing time? Keep in mind that Burrell in 2007 was an even more productive offensive player than Rhys Hoskins has been this season.

More of an '06 feel

The last two months of 2018 have felt more like 2006 than 2007 for the Phillies. In '06, a young Phillies team on the precipice of contention acquired a bunch of vets after the trade deadline: Jeff Conine, Randall Simon, Jose Hernandez. Jamie Moyer, of course.

Just like this team with Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Bour, Jose Bautista. (Wilson Ramos is a better player than all of the above so he doesn't count.)

That ‘06 team, though, did a lot of winning down the stretch and you knew the future was bright because it was a group of multidimensional, athletic players who also had the hit tool.

Still so many questions

As crazy as this sounds, the 2018 Phillies will enter the offseason with as many questions as the 2017 Phillies did.

This offense has averaged 4.23 runs per game. Last season, when the Phillies lost 96 games? They averaged 4.26 runs per game.

Despite adding Carlos Santana, having a full season of Hoskins and replacing Freddy Galvis with a young shortstop they felt great about, the Phils' offense did not improve.

The Phillies have no proof that they can contend with Cesar Hernandez at second base, Odubel Herrera in center, and Jorge Alfaro behind the plate. You'd think an upgrade of about a dozen wins would result in more answers, but Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail still have a ton of work to do.

More on the Phillies

Why Andrew Miller would be better for Phillies than Zach Britton

Why Andrew Miller would be better for Phillies than Zach Britton

The Phillies should go get Andrew Miller.

They're pursuing him hard, two sources told Jim Salisbury Wednesday night. We know the Phillies are also after Zach Britton, but if forced to choose between the two, it should be Miller all the way.

Miller, when healthy, is the best left-handed reliever in baseball. From 2014-17, he made 260 appearances and had a 1.72 ERA with 421 strikeouts in 261 innings. There was simply no weakness in his game over those four years. Nobody hit him. Few players homered off him. He had an elite walk rate. Batters from both sides struggled mightily.

Miller's 2018 season was incomplete because of three different injuries to his shoulder, knee and hamstring. In 37 games, he had a 4.24 ERA and every peripheral number was worse. He appeared in two playoff games, allowing three walks and a hit while recording one out.

The biggest consideration is Miller's health. He was recently given a clean bill of health from Mets team doctor David Altchek, who once gave Roy Halladay a second opinion on his shoulder and performed surgery on Sixers legend Andrew Bynum.

If Miller is indeed fully healthy, he would significantly improve the Phillies' ability to prevent runs. A healthy Miller would be closer to that dominant 2014-17 stretch because his repertoire remains the same. 

He still has a funky, whip-like delivery with a low arm slot that deceives hitters and keeps them uncomfortable. Most lefty hitters have no chance.

He still has a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider. How devastating? From 2014-17, Miller's opponents hit .118 against the slider. They made an out in 550 of the 612 at-bats ending in his slider.

The reasons to like Miller go even beyond that, though. He also has stamina and the willingness to pitch in any role, which Gabe Kapler of all managers would love. Sixth inning, seventh inning, ninth inning, whatever. Miller just wants to pitch in high-leverage situations.

From 2014-17, Miller went more than one inning 61 times. In the 2016 playoffs with the Indians, he went at least two innings seven times. Re-read that sentence. He went at least two innings seven times. There's just no other reliever used this way, except maybe Josh Hader in 2018.

If the Phillies get Miller, the combo of Miller and Seranthony Dominguez would be one of baseball's most unique bullpen duos. They possess different strengths, and it's a good mix of youthful energy and veteran experience.

The addition of Miller would obviously help the Phillies a ton against tough lefties, but he's far from a platoon specialist. From 2013-17, righties hit between .131 and .155 off Miller each season.

Britton is no slouch, but a healthy Miller is better, with more versatility.

What kind of contract might it take? Well, Jeurys Familia found $30 million over three years from the Mets, and Joe Kelly is set to receive $25 million over three years from the Dodgers. Miller is coming off a four-year, $36 million contract with Cleveland. Something like three years, $36 million seems about right this time around.

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More on the Phillies

At The Yard Podcast: Recapping winter meetings, latest on top relievers

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At The Yard Podcast: Recapping winter meetings, latest on top relievers

On this edition of At The Yard, Corey Seidman and Jim Salisbury wrap up the winter meetings. Are the Phillies making progress with a signing of Andrew Miller or Zach Britton? Is there a chance they sign both?

Plus, Jim explains why the Phils couldn't land J.A. Happ.

The guys react to Jim's interview with Scott Boras. Also, are the Phillies dangling their top prospects in an effort to get a front-end starting pitcher?

1:00 — Latest on Andrew Miller and Zach Britton.
5:30 — Why couldn't the Phillies sign J.A. Happ?
6:30 — Reaction to Scott Boras interview.
10:30 — Phillies offering their top prospects in a trade?

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