Phillies

All this spending and still, half of Phillies' pitching staff in question

All this spending and still, half of Phillies' pitching staff in question

The Phillies have added more than $100 million of payroll three offseasons in a row.

There was the $135 million combined to Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta in 2017.

There was the $403 million for Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson.

And then $132 million more for Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this offseason.

The Phils have been as aggressive as any team over those three offseasons, yet as they prepare for 2020, questions remain about more than half of the pitching staff.

All that spending and the No. 5 spot in the rotation still projects to go to Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta.

Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, if healthy, will fill the Nos. 3 and 4 spots.

A Phillies optimist could say that the battle between Velasquez and Pivetta could lead to actual progress, that a healthy Arrieta will be better and that Eflin showed meaningful signs of promise in 2019. But there are just as many valid reasons to be skeptical about that group.

In the bullpen, Hector Neris is proven and that's really it. 

Adam Morgan has shown at times he can be a very good left-handed reliever. Seranthony Dominguez in 2018 looked like a dynamic right-handed flamethrower. Jose Alvarez was solid as a lefty specialist a year ago. But those three are far from slam-dunks as your setup trio, especially from a health perspective with Dominguez.

Over the past week, the Mets signed Dellin Betances and the Twins reportedly added starters Rich Hill and Homer Bailey on one-year deals. There aren't many free-agent pitchers left even if the Phillies wanted to add between now and spring training.

The free-agent starting pitching market is now so thin that Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas might really be two of the top five options left. 

Lefty Alex Wood is still out there. So are low-risk, potentially high-reward reclamation projects like Danny Salazar, Aaron Sanchez and Jimmy Nelson. It would behoove the Phillies to take a serious look at one of them; they sure could use a player who outperforms the contract he signs.

The most notable relievers left on the free-agent market are Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Steve Cishek, Jeremy Jeffress, Arodys Vizcaino and Pedro Strop. All could help. All have pitched higher-leverage innings than many of the Phillies' relievers.

The best path to a good starter would be a trade. Lefties Robbie Ray and Matt Boyd still look destined to be dealt between now and the trade deadline. The issue there is the Phillies will have trouble acquiring any high-end starting pitcher without trading Spencer Howard or Alec Bohm, which is extremely unlikely. Ray and Boyd themselves might not be good enough to warrant a big prospect package anyway.

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Can we order these Philly team hats with or without cheesesteaks on them?

new-era-phillies-front.jpg
New Era

Can we order these Philly team hats with or without cheesesteaks on them?

Uh … what in the world are these?

Listen, I’m not a ‘let me speak to the manager’ kind of person … but who approved this? I’d just like to talk to them.

New Era released a new line of hats called Team Describe for select NBA and MLB  teams and I hope for everyone’s sake, they stop there.

When you look at the design for both the Sixers and Phillies, it almost seems like a parody of what the actual hat should be. And what stinks even more is the fact other teams actually have some pretty cool looking hats  — a favorite of mine being the Toronto Blue Jays.




On the site alongside the hats, it says, “The Philadelphia 76ers/Phillies Team Describe 59FIFTY Fitted Cap features an embroidered 76ers/Phillies logo at the front panels alongside the Liberty Bell with a Philly cheesesteak embroidered at the rear beside a team color NBA/MLB logo.”

The front of the hat was manageable … it’s the chili-dog looking cheesesteak on the back though that raises some concern.

I promise you, designers of the world, there is more to Philadelphia than just cheesesteaks. And even though there are most certainly fans that will purchase them, the majority are looking at this and wondering … what the heck is this?

If you want to check out the website for them, which apparently has sold out in certain sizes, you can go here for the Phillies and here for Sixers.

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MLB rule changes 2020: Phillies most affected by the new 3-batter rule

MLB rule changes 2020: Phillies most affected by the new 3-batter rule

MLB's new three-batter rule for relievers should have a fairly significant impact on the way managers manage and pitching coaches handle their bullpens.

To review, the new rule is that a pitcher entering after the starting pitcher must face at least three batters or pitch to the end of the current inning. So, for example, if Adam Morgan comes in with two on and two outs in the sixth inning and gets the third out, he does not need to come back out for the seventh.

This rule will obviously most affect relief specialists. Let's use Jose Alvarez as an example. Last season, Alvarez was one of the few Phillies pitchers who didn't take a step back from the prior year. He had a 3.36 ERA in 67 appearances. In 14 of those appearances, Alvarez faced one or two batters. It's why he amassed just 59 innings in those 67 appearances.

As best as they could, the Phillies tried to avoid having Alvarez face right-handed hitters. But it still happened frequently because there are more righties than lefties and because other teams routinely try to gain the platoon advantage by pinch-hitting.

Lefties hit just .236 with a .277 on-base percentage and .382 slugging percentage vs. Alvarez in 2019. Righties hit .328/.385/.475. 

An actual example

To find an example of the type of appearance we'll no longer see, let's go back to last June 15, a 6-5 Phillies win in Atlanta. In that game, Alvarez came on with runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the seventh to face left-handed hitting Nick Markakis. He struck him out looking to end the inning.

This season, Joe Girardi and Bryan Price may be leery of bringing in Alvarez in that spot. The next two hitters were right-handed Austin Riley and switch-hitting Ozzie Albies, who was one of the best hitters in baseball last season against lefties (.389/.414/.685). The upside of ending the inning at Markakis may not be worth having to potentially use the lefty Alvarez against Riley and Albies. 

Risk vs. reward

Managers and pitching coaches will have to constantly weigh whether the platoon advantage against a specific player (Markakis in this case) is worth the subsequent disadvantage if the inning doesn't end. You're always going to want a lefty facing Freddie Freeman, but you may be able to get away with keeping your right-handed pitcher in to face Markakis in that instance above.

Recently signed Francisco Liriano could be better equipped to deal with this rule change. While he's been much better against lefties throughout his career, he's also had some success against righties because of the effectiveness of his changeup. His career splits: .218/.296/.305 from lefties and .249/.335/.399 from righties. That follows closely with how he performed against righties last season as well.

Morgan should be relatively unaffected — when he's been successful it has been against hitters from both sides, not just lefties.

Righties could feel it, too

The rule change doesn't end with southpaws, though. While the left vs. left matchup traditionally is harder on the hitter than right vs. right, some right-handed relievers will feel this too.

Vince Velasquez, for example, could play a key relief role for the Phillies. Throughout his career, Velasquez has allowed left-handed hitters a batting average 24 points higher than righties and an OPS 67 points higher. Maybe you want Velasquez coming in to face Marcell Ozuna, who is 3 for 20 lifetime off of him, but you're going to hesitate if Markakis (9 for 22 with a double and four walks) is lingering on deck.

How 'bout the hitters?

On the flip side, this could benefit a few Phillies hitters. We don't yet know how the Phils are going to construct their lineup, but you'd think that Bryce Harper will be followed by right-handed Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto. Harper was so good against lefties last season (.283 BA, .949 OPS, 15 HR) that teams in 2020 may opt to just use a right-hander against those three hitters. Why bring in a lefty who may not retire Harper anyway just to be forced to use that lefty against Hoskins and Realmuto?

Faster pace of play

It's unclear exactly how managers will adapt to the new three-batter rule but it is clear that it will shorten games. Think about all the innings last season — particularly in September — when three or four different pitchers were used. That's about 10 minutes right there of just pitching changes, factoring in the time it takes a manager to walk to the mound and the time it takes the new reliever to get to the mound and complete his warmups.

This should also create more offense, too, since there will be fewer platoon-based matchups late in games. If MLB goes away from golf balls and goes back to actual baseballs that don't turn 50 percent of the league into 20-home-run hitters, that extra offense should be a positive as well.

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