Phillies

Despite losing out to Kapler, Dusty Wathan 'all-in' with Phillies

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Photo: Reading Fightin Phils

Despite losing out to Kapler, Dusty Wathan 'all-in' with Phillies

Dusty Wathan got the news from general manager Matt Klentak on Sunday. He'd lost out to Gabe Kapler in the Phillies' manager derby.
 
Truth be told, there was a moment of disappointment for Wathan, as there should have been for anybody who makes his living in a competitive industry. But not long after, his naturally upbeat personality took over. He has spent the last 10 seasons trying to make the Phillies a better organization. And that's what he'll do in 2018.
 
"I'm a very positive guy," Wathan said Tuesday morning, the day after the Phillies officially announced that Kapler had been hired as the 54th manager in club history, succeeding Pete Mackanin, who had been reassigned to the front office last month. "I feel like this organization is on the cusp of big things. I feel like I've been a part of that and I'm looking forward to continuing to be a part of it.
 
"Matt and I had some good talks. Obviously, he thought Gabe was the right guy and I'm all-in. I want to see these kids do well and I'm going to do everything I can to see them have success. I'm good with this. I respect the decision and hope it works out for our organization."
 
Wathan, 44, has managed in the Phillies' improving minor-league system for the past 10 seasons. He was Eastern League manager of the year at Double A Reading in 2015 and 2016 and earned a promotion to Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2017. He helped in the development of Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and a host of others who arrived in the majors in 2017 or are on their way, promising players such as second baseman Scott Kingery who the franchise hopes will make up the team's next winning core and, frankly, make Kapler look good.
 
Wathan is under contract to manage back at Lehigh Valley in 2018. He is eager to continue in that role — unless he's asked to be part of Kapler's coaching staff.
 
"They still have a lot of stuff going on with Gabe's announcement and everything, but at some point in the next few weeks we'll be talking," Wathan said. "I'm going to be here in some capacity helping the Phillies next year. Whatever happens, I feel I have the opportunity to be part of something special in the future. There will be some guys in Lehigh Valley next year and below that still need to develop if we want to get to where we want to be as an organization, and I'm excited to be part of that."
 
Wathan was a finalist for the job along with former Boston skipper John Farrell. All of the finalists went through two intense rounds of interviews that concluded Friday. There will be a news conference after the World Series to unveil Kapler; he is director of player development for the Los Angeles Dodgers and they are still playing in the Series.

During the news conference, Klentak will surely be asked what separated Kapler from the rest of the candidates. Kapler is highly literate in analytics and he brings an outside perspective to the organization, two qualities that have been stressed from ownership on down over the last two-plus years.
 
Was Wathan too "inside" for the Phillies?
 
"I don't think so," Wathan said. "Gabe and I have different personalities. The relationship between a general manager and a manager is the most important in an organization and sometimes it's just a personal feel. I know the players a lot, but there's more to it than that."
 
Was he analytically driven enough?
 
"I can only speak for myself," Wathan said. "I enjoy the analytical side of the game. When I broke in, it had just started and we were behind. But we've caught up and I've learned it as we've gone on."
 
A few weeks ago, at the end of the Phillies' season, Wathan received strong endorsements for the position from young players such as Hoskins and Crawford. He believes those players will continue to thrive under Kapler.
 
Wathan still has the goal of managing in the majors someday, just like his dad, former Kansas City Royals catcher John Wathan, did. He speaks to his dad frequently and both believe that being considered so strongly for the Phillies job was a positive.
 
"At the end of the minor-league season I had no idea the job would even be open," Wathan said. "So to go through this experience, to have my name brought up and to have the opportunity to be interviewed, can only help me. Interviews for major-league manager jobs don't come around every day.
 
"I won't lie, Sunday was a little difficult. When you're so close to a goal you've had your whole life ...

"But I've been around this game a long time and I know there's a winner and a loser every day. That's how it is. But still, I don't look at myself as a loser in this. It's gratifying that the organization gave me a look."

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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NBCSP

At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies