Phillies

'This obviously goes down in the history books' — how Aaron Nola is staying ready and keeping busy

'This obviously goes down in the history books' — how Aaron Nola is staying ready and keeping busy

In a normal year, teams would be fleeing from Florida or Arizona right now to head home or to the destination of their first regular-season series. Hitters would be ready to mentally turn the page to at-bats that count and pitchers would no longer be experimenting or just getting work in.

In a normal year, Aaron Nola would be readying for an opening day start in about 36 hours. Instead, he's still down at his condo in Clearwater, working out like it's January and enjoying some peaceful time on the water.

"Just kind of taking it like an offseason program, throwing three days a week, working out three days a week," Nola said in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia Tuesday. "Still running a few times per week. You can't really do much right now because it's not time to ramp up because we don't know when the season is gonna start or when they're gonna tell us to come back to Clearwater. Just kinda waiting to hear."

When spring training was halted because of the global COVID-19 outbreak, there was some uncertainty as to whether Nola was going to be ready for his opening day start. He had missed his most recent Grapefruit League start because of a stomach bug and it was unclear whether he'd have enough time to get stretched out for the opening series in Miami. Nola had topped out at four innings.

That's not a consideration now, though as the Mets learned with Noah Syndergaard on Monday, drama can come even during a quarantine.

"It's weird. It's weird for all of us," Nola said. "I had a little food poisoning or stomach bug, had missed my last start. Right after that, I was getting ramped up again. My body felt really good, my arm was getting in shape pretty well. And then to ramp back down because of all this coronavirus stuff. It's definitely different for all of us. It's a bump in the road and we gotta figure out how to organize things for ourselves and for the team. 

"I think you prepare for June. We don't really know when they're gonna say come back to your spring training complex or how many weeks you're gonna have before the season. So it's kind of our job right now to keep our arms healthy, whatever we have to do with arm care, whatever your program is. I think ramping down right now to a certain extent is kinda what we need to do."

Nola is still in regular communication with manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Bryan Price, last speaking with them Monday. To keep busy, he's been "rolling around and fishing" and spending time on his kayak. 

What he misses most right now is the competition. There's no substitute.

"I miss baseball in general," he said. "The start of the season. It's opening day, it's special no matter where it's at. This obviously goes down in the history books."

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Only 3 teams gained more value than Phillies from 2019 to 2020

Only 3 teams gained more value than Phillies from 2019 to 2020

The valuation of the Phillies franchise is up to $2 billion, according to Forbes. It’s an 8 percent increase from last year.

The only teams in the majors to experience a higher percentage year-over-year increase than the Phillies are the Yankees, the World Champion Nationals and the Orioles. Seven teams saw no gain or lost value: the Marlins, Pirates, Royals, Athletics, Indians, Tigers and Diamondbacks.

The Yankees are valued at $5 billion, leading the league for the 22nd straight year.

At $2 billion, the Phils’ valuation is eighth-highest in the majors. They are behind, respectively, the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, Giants, Mets and Cardinals.

The only team with a current valuation below $1 billion is the Marlins at $980 million. Miami was the only team to lose money in 2019, according to Forbes.

MLB’s total revenue in 2019 was $10.5 billion. More than 30 percent of that was from gate receipts, which baseball would not have in 2020 if games are played in empty stadiums. That was the largest chunk, followed by national TV deals, local TV deals and sponsorships.

The Phillies’ 13-year investment in Bryce Harper and the resulting increase in attendance and merchandise sales played an obvious role in the increase but the terms of rights deals are one of the biggest drivers of organizational values.

League-wide, profits have never been higher, which puts MLB in a position to at least withstand the pain of a shortened 2020 season. Forbes estimates that coronavirus concerns will cost U.S. pro sports leagues $5 billion.

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What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

Scott Kingery hit his first major-league home run two years ago today, a solo shot to left-center at Citizens Bank Park against Reds left-hander Cody Reed.

Kingery's first two weeks in the majors went well but his rookie season was a slog after that. He expanded the strike zone a ton, struck out more than you'd like and barely got on base when the hits weren't falling.

Kingery took a big step forward last season at age 25. He missed a month between April 19 and May 19 with a hamstring injury but hit .347 from opening day through June 1. 

In the month of June, he was an extra-base hit machine with nine doubles, a triple and seven home runs in 114 plate appearances.

August was another productive month for Kingery. He hit .287 with 13 extra-base hits and an .825 OPS. 

All told, it was a solid second season from Kingery. His .788 OPS was exactly the league average, and his extra-base hit total increased from 33 to 57 in just 16 additional plate appearances. When you factor in the strong defense he has played at six different positions, the value is easy to see.

Kingery has started games at second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield spots. No major-leaguer since 1958 has amassed as many plate appearances in his first two seasons (984) while playing all those positions. That's not just a random fact — it illustrates the rarity of a player being not just a super-utility player but a super-utility starter, and how doubly rare it is for a player to begin his career in that role. 

In 2020, whenever the season begins, Kingery will likely be at second base for the majority of the season. Things can change quickly, though. If Jean Segura suffers an injury, Kingery could shift to third base. If Didi Gregorius gets hurt, Kingery or Segura would slide over to short. If there are injuries in center field, Kingery would likely be the next man up after Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley.

Kingery's versatility is a good thing, not a bad thing, though it probably cost him some offensive effectiveness over his first two seasons. Kingery remarked this offseason that by preparing for so many different positions, there have been many nights in his first two big-league seasons that he felt spent by game time.

His biggest issue at the plate is his constant expansion of the strike zone. Kingery knows it. It's a goal of his to be better at laying off of pitches he has no chance of making good contact with.

Through two seasons, Kingery's strikeout-to-walk ratio is ugly. He's whiffed 273 times and taken 58 walks. No Phillie has struck out that many times in his first two seasons since Pat Burrell in 2001 — but Burrell also walked 75 more times than Kingery has.

Last season, 24% of the pitches Kingery saw were low and away off the plate. He swung at those low-and-away pitches nearly 30% of the time and hit just .127. Obviously, that is a zone a hitter would rather leave alone. 

Kingery's selectivity must improve for him to reach a higher offensive level. There are 118 players with as many plate appearances as him the last two seasons and Kingery ranks 108th in walks.

The Phillies are not relying on Kingery to be their offensive centerpiece or even their sixth-best hitter. However, they'd be so much stronger as a lineup if Kingery could maneuver his way closer to the top of the order and produce. If Kingery could provide consistency in the 2-hole, it would allow someone like J.T. Realmuto or Didi Gregorius to move into more of a run-producing role. And even if Kingery does stay in the 7-spot in the lineup for most of the season, he has a chance to lengthen the Phillies' lineup and turn it into one of the NL's best if he can build on his sophomore season.

Kingery had a .315 on-base percentage last season. The league average was .323. Had he reached base just 10 more times in his 500 plate appearances, he'd have been at .334, which is the same as Realmuto's OBP the last three seasons.

It's a realistic target for Kingery, who does not need to become the next Chase Utley to be valuable or to live up to the $24 million contract he signed before ever playing a major-league game.

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