Phillies

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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Phillies part with last man in Cole Hamels trade, demote Nick Pivetta, add reliever Connor Brogdon

Phillies part with last man in Cole Hamels trade, demote Nick Pivetta, add reliever Connor Brogdon

The Phillies on Tuesday made some changes to the worst bullpen in the majors.

Promising right-hander Connor Brogdon and veteran Blake Parker were both promoted from the team’s reserve camp in Lehigh Valley. 

In corresponding moves, the Phillies optioned pitcher Nick Pivetta to the camp in Lehigh Valley. That move came the day after he was torched for six hits and six runs in the ninth inning of Monday’s 13-8 win over Atlanta.

To make room for Brogdon and Parker on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated reliever Trevor Kelley and outfielder Nick Williams for assignment.

The removal of Williams from the roster was hardly surprising, but it was certainly noteworthy. Williams, 26, came to the Phillies in one of the biggest trades that the club has made in recent years, the deal that sent Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman to the Texas Rangers on July 31, 2015.

In addition to Williams, the Phillies picked up catcher Jorge Alfaro and pitchers Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson and Alec Asher in the deal. Five years later, all of those players have moved on. J.T. Realmuto, acquired from Miami in February 2019 for a package that included Alfaro, represents the last vestige of that deal. He will be eligible for free agency after this season.

Williams played parts of three seasons in the majors with the Phils. He hit .269 with 29 homers, 105 RBIs and a .776 OPS in 720 at-bats in 2017 and 2018 but could not solidify a spot in the team’s future plans. When the Phils signed corner outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper to long-term deals before the 2019 season, Williams’ days with the club became numbered because he’s only capable of playing corner outfield spots. Williams struggled mightily in limited time in the majors last season. He fell out of favor with management and openly longed for the change of scenery he will get if he is traded or picked up on waivers by another club.

Pivetta was also acquired in a trade in the summer of 2015. He also could be in need of a change of scenery after a poor season in 2019 and a poor start to this season. He allowed 10 hits and 10 runs in 5 2/3 innings before being sent out Tuesday. According to a source with another big-league club, the Phillies are open to trading Pivetta, but that’s hardly a surprise.

The Phillies entered Tuesday night’s game against Baltimore with the worst bullpen ERA in the majors at 9.87. The starters, meanwhile, had an ERA of 3.20, fifth best in the majors.

Parker spent some time with the Phillies last season.

Brogdon, 25, pitched at three levels of the Phillies’ system last season and had a 2.61 ERA in 51 games. The lanky righty has a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and an excellent changeup. He struck out 106 and walked just 24 in 76 innings last season. The Phillies actually considered bringing up Brogdon late last season. Now, he’s here.

“There’s a lot of upside with Connor,” manager Joe Girardi said.

In other bullpen news, David Robertson and Ranger Suarez are both scheduled to throw bullpen sessions at Citizens Bank Park in the coming days before joining the 60-man player pool in Lehigh Valley. Robertson had Tommy John surgery a year ago. The Phillies hope he can make it back to help during the final month of the season. Suarez could also help. He is building strength after being in COVID protocol.

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Phillies Spencer Howard picks his favorite MLB uniform, hints at a number change

Phillies Spencer Howard picks his favorite MLB uniform, hints at a number change

Spencer Howard's first career start with the Phillies over the weekend wasn't a storybook debut - but in such an unusual season, and considering the high expectations, it also could've been way worse. 

He flashed some good stuff, struck out his last batter, and came away with some building blocks for his next appearance.

Howard appeared on former Phillie Kevin Frandsen's podcast to chat about his MLB debut, including what went well, what he wants to improve, and - most importantly - baseball uniforms.

Because the youngster managed to make his major league debut in the Phillies' throwback blues, lending a little extra stylish pizazz to what was already a big day, both for Howard and the organization:

Frandsen asked Howard during the podcast what his first thought was when he saw his own uniform hanging in the Phillies' clubhouse, and Howard had a fantastic answer:

HOWARD: That those are probably the best unis in baseball, man, the baby blues.

FRANDSEN: And you got to make your debut in that!

[...]

HOWARD: It's so pretty, they're so comfortable. It was incredible.

While Phillies fans will likely see Howard in the greys or the red pinstripes more often than not, it's probably so cool to make your first start in a universally-beloved throwback uniform.

A little later on during the appearance, Frandsen asked Howard about a sneaky big part of a player's identity: the number!

FRANDSEN: Are you a big number guy? Did you want a certain number? Were you hoping for a certain number? Did you want to keep 83?

HOWARD: No, I - definitely not 83 [laughs] - I'm not too big on it, but I think 48 is nice. I was more curious, than anything, to see what they'd give me.

FRANDSEN: What did you want? 

HOWARD: Out of all the available ones, I was shooting for 28, maybe? Hoping?

Frandsen, of course, pointed out that he wore No. 28 with the Phillies. A true legend. The most notable recent Phillie to wear No. 28? Jayson Werth, from 2007 to 2010. Since then, Frandsen, Kevin Correia, Erik Kratz, Vince Velasquez, and Mike Morin have donned the number. 

A decade between important players feels like enough time for Howard to claim the No. 28, if he feels like making the switch.

Or he could stick with No. 48, a number without much significant Phillies history, and make it his own. Up to him.

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