Phillies

'Furious' Jake Arrieta unloads on everyone and everything after Phillies suffer embarrassing sweep

'Furious' Jake Arrieta unloads on everyone and everything after Phillies suffer embarrassing sweep

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SAN FRANCISCO — Jake Arrieta has had enough of this shift.

The Phillies right-hander oozed molten lava after the San Francisco Giants completed a three-game sweep of the punchless Phillies at AT&T Park Sunday afternoon. Arrieta pitched well for five innings only to absorb a 6-1 defeat after giving up five runs in the sixth inning (see first take).

Despite facing rookie starting pitchers in the last two games, the Phillies scored just one run in the three-game series. They went 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position.

No one was immune to Arrieta’s criticism after what he correctly called a “horsebleep series.” He called out the offense, rookie shortstop Scott Kingery’s defense, and the failed defensive shifts that plagued the team in the series. He added that there needed to be “an accountability check because this is a key moment in our season.” He did not leave himself out, saying, “I’m part of it, too. There’s no way I should have given up five runs in that inning.”

Arrieta, who had given the Phillies a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the third inning, gave up five straight one-out hits, four singles and a three-run home run, in this sixth. One of the hits was a broken-bat single. One was a check-swing that was scored an infield hit after Kingery failed to get an out. Another was a ground ball through a wide-open right side of the infield. It was all capped by Andrew McCutchen’s pop-fly home run down the right-field line that barely cleared the wall.

Arrieta began his rant after being asked about what happened in the inning.

“Well, we’ve had bad defensive shifts, we had a check swing, Kingery should have gone to second on that play and they got three hits in a row,” he fumed. “The home run, credit McCutchen for putting a good swing on it, but I did not expect a ball like that to get out. Overall, it’s just a really horses--- series. Really bad. Really bad.”

Arrieta was asked what upset him the most.

“We scored one run,” he said. “That’s not good.”

As a franchise, the Phillies pride themselves in the strides they’ve made in analytics, but Arrieta is not impressed by some of the defensive alignments that have been used.

“We’re the worst in the league in shifts,” he said, referring Sports Info Solutions data, which has the Phillies at minus-11 shift runs saved, by far the worst mark in baseball. “So we need to change that. Copy the best. I don’t know. That’s not my job. Use your eyes, make an adjustment and be better. We need some accountability all the way around — everybody, top to bottom.”

Manager Gabe Kapler met with Arrieta behind closed doors shortly after being made aware of the pitcher's stinging commentary.

“He’s a really passionate individual,” Kapler said. “He cares a lot about winning and this series pissed him off. It pisses me off, too. It was not our best series.

“He and I are going to spend some time talking about how we position defenders behind him. We are flexible and reasonable as it relates to the way we position defenders and we will be responsive to the optimal positioning based on our spray charts and based on where guys hit the ball, and we’ll also be responsive to our players, their needs and the best way to position defenders behind them so they are comfortable as they make their pitches.”

Kapler understood Arrieta's point of view.

“I have a ton of respect for the leadership characteristics he brings to that clubhouse,” Kapler said. “I know why he responded the way he did and we talked it through like men. And we’ll continue to do that.”

In the meantime, the Phils head into Monday’s off day and then a difficult series in Chicago against the Cubs with a 6-10 record in their last 16 games, hitting .205 over that span. They have scored five runs in the last five games.

Is Kapler worried about this snowballing?

"Not at all,” he said. “I don’t have an ounce of concern long term. Because we have the same group of talented individuals that we had when we were working deep counts, scoring more runs, having more success, making more solid contact.

“To take it to a statistical place, we have strong expected outcomes going forward. I don’t even think that’s necessary to dive into, but we have the same personnel and deep lineup we had before, minus Rhys (Hoskins), and he’s not far away either. So for all of those reasons, I’m not concerned about the long-term prospects of this offense.

“I have tremendous confidence that they are a resilient bunch and a bunch that stays together and they are a group that is determined and has the will to get through a tough stretch.”

This indefinite delay may be frustrating for these five Phillies

This indefinite delay may be frustrating for these five Phillies

Everyone is disappointed that the 2020 MLB season didn't start on time — owners, executives, managers and coaches, players and of course the fans who have been longing for baseball's return. There are so many intriguing storylines surrounding the Phillies. We were all so excited to watch this season play out.

The players themselves are all undoubtedly bummed. But this indefinite delay has to be especially frustrating for these five Phillies.

Rhys Hoskins

I can't imagine anyone was more anxious to get back to work in 2020 than Hoskins. The second half of his 2019 season was brutal. He hit .180 with just nine HR and 26 RBI in 71 games following the All-Star break. You could see that prolonged slump taking its toll on Hoskins. He wore the frustration outwardly on a nightly basis. For a guy who has experienced success at every stop of his baseball career, his struggles last season had to be confusing. What am I doing wrong? How can I get this fixed? Will I ever break out of this slump?

Hoskins spent a lot of time in the offseason adjusting his mental and physical approach at the plate. He admitted he was thinking too much last year. He worked with new hitting coach Joe Dillon, lowering his hands and opening his stance. He was eager to get back to being a force in the middle of the Phillies batting order, eager to prove that the second half of 2019 was a fluke. He wanted to get back to being one of the premiere sluggers in the National League.

But now Hoskins waits just like the rest of us to find out when (or if) he'll get that opportunity.

Jake Arrieta

This is the final year of the three-year, $75 million contract that Arrieta signed with the Phillies prior to the 2018 season. He'd be the first one to tell you that the Phillies haven't gotten their money's worth on that deal. Arrieta battled injuries and inconsistency in his first two seasons in Philadelphia. He pitched through a knee injury that required surgery in 2018, finishing that season with a 3.96 ERA in 31 starts. His 2019 season was cut short due to surgery in August to clean out a bone spur in his right elbow. He posted a 4.64 ERA in 24 starts before he was shut down.

The 34-year old Arrieta has hardly resembled the guy who won a World Series and Cy Young Award with the Cubs. But this spring he said he's 100 percent healthy and ready to make the type of impact the Phillies bargained for when they signed him to that big contract. Arrieta looked sharp in spring training. He was going to slot into the third spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. A big year from Arrieta would do wonders for the Phillies' playoff chances. It would also put him in a great position as he ventures back into free agency following the 2020 season.

Bryce Harper

A lot of signs pointed to Harper having a monster 2020 season. He had a full offseason and spring training to focus solely on baseball as opposed to a year ago when he didn't know which team he'd be playing for or where his family would be living until the end of February. He was settled in playing with his new team and living in his new city. And perhaps maybe most telling, he was tearing the cover off the ball in spring training. Harper hit .500 with three doubles, three HR and 11 RBI in eight exhibition games. He was locked and loaded for the regular season.

But now Harper's potential MVP caliber season has been put on hold. If there is a 2020 season, it almost certainly won't be 162 games. Which means we won't find out what numbers he was capable of putting up in his second season with the Phillies. At 27 years old, Harper still has plenty of his prime years ahead of him. But this one could have been special. Hopefully it still can be.

Zach Eflin

Of all the Phillies starting pitchers, Eflin may be best positioned to make 'the leap' in 2020. The righthander is coming off an uneven 2019 season, posting a 10-13 record with a 4.13 ERA. It was a year full of ups (a pair of complete games) and downs (a July demotion to the bullpen). Eflin's skill set didn't mesh with how former pitching coach Chris Young wanted pitchers to attack hitters. Young stressed the importance of throwing fastballs up in the zone. Eflin is most effective when he relies on his sinker.

New pitching coach Bryan Price wants Eflin and the rest of the Phillies starters to pitch to their strengths. Price preaches efficiency, he wants Eflin to use his sinker early in the count to get ground ball outs. This appears to be a perfect union of coach and player. Eflin turns 26 on Wednesday, he enters his fifth big league season with 74 career starts under his belt. A lot of evidence suggests he may be poised for a career year.

Scott Kingery

After bouncing all over the diamond during his first two seasons with the Phillies, it looks like Kingery will finally get the chance to settle in at his natural position of second base this year. He played mostly shortstop, center field and third base in his first two major league seasons with cameos at second base, left field and right field. He's been valuable in that super utility role but he's mentioned his desire to play second base regularly. With Didi Gregorius at shortstop and Jean Segura playing third base during spring training, Kingery appears to be penciled in as the starter at second base.

Kingery's offensive numbers improved significantly from 2018 to 2019. He hit .258 last season with 34 doubles and 19 home runs, up from .226 with 23 doubles and eight HR in 2018. Being more comfortable at his natural position in the field should only enhance his production at the plate. Kingery bulked up in the offseason in hopes of taking his game to the next level. Time will tell if he gets the chance to do so.

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How Jean Segura's heroics vs. Mets in 2019 further debate on his future

How Jean Segura's heroics vs. Mets in 2019 further debate on his future

There’s few things Phillies fans enjoy more than a comeback, walk-off win against the Mets. So make sure to give yourself a smile by watching just that on NBC Sports Philadelphia today. 

Specifically, we’re bringing you a 5-4 win from June of last season that ended with a Jay Bruce RBI double in the bottom of the 10th. But it was the play of Jean Segura that night that got the Phillies into a position to win it. The then-Phillies shortstop hit a solo home run off future and past teammate Jason Vargas (what a Phillies career he had) in the bottom of the 6th to cut the deficit to 4-1. In the 7th, Segura connected off Seth Lugo for a game-tying 2-run single.

That game proved to be a positive moment in a below-average season for the veteran infielder. In his 1st campaign with the Phillies, the walk and strikeout averse Segura hit .280. That’s 24 points lower than he batted with the Mariners the year before. His home runs only improved from 10 to 12, despite moving from cavernous T-Mobile Park to the much more long-ball conducive Citizens Bank Park.
    
All signs point to Segura moving from shortstop to 2nd base when regular season baseball takes place with Didi Gregorius signed in the offseason to play shortstop. While the returns on the infield realignment remain to be seen, Segura’s impact needs to be most felt at the plate and in the Phillies lineup.
    
So was last season the beginning of a decline for the recently-turned 30-year old Segura? Or just a slight dip for a player that hit .300 or better in each of the previous three seasons? 
    
A reason for optimism is Segura’s assertion that he entered spring training in February in much better shape than the previous season. That said, we don’t definitively know how this current hiatus will impact that physical conditioning. Pessimists will point out that history (not including the late 80s to the early 2000s) suggests players don’t get better as they enter their 30s.
    
Ultimately, it will add to the degree of difficulty for the Phillies to get where they want to go this season if Segura is not a .300 hitter that sets the table for the heart of the lineup.

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