Phillies

Phillies Mailbag: Starting pitching frustration, Nick Williams trade thoughts and more

Phillies Mailbag: Starting pitching frustration, Nick Williams trade thoughts and more

Why, there’s mail in this bag! Answering some key Phillies questions ahead of the start of the second half:

Q: How big of a mistake was not improving the starting rotation during the offseason? I get that they were outbid for Patrick Corbin, but even beyond that, there was Charlie Morton who signed a relatively modest deal. 

-@dannmaal

I’m glad that you mentioned Morton because, wow, what a season he is having. Forget that, what a dominant two-year stretch he’s had. 

Since opening day 2018, Morton is 25-5 with a 2.80 ERA. He’s struck out 11.0 batters per nine and maintained a low home run rate. He’s legitimately been a top-10 pitcher league-wide. 

Morton could have been had by many teams this past offseason. The Rays, typically shrewd when they do spend, pounced and got him on a two-year deal. 

I can tell you from my previous dealings with Morton when he was briefly a Phillie that he’s not the type who would have held out for the biggest possible payday. That’s just not his personality. He’s a baseball geek obsessed with advanced analytics and he likely saw the Tampa Bay fit as a no-brainer. 

How frustrating it must be for the Phillies to have received only four starts from Morton before a season-ending hamstring tear and his subsequent success. 

Beyond Morton, there wasn’t a ton out there this offseason. The Nationals paid big for Corbin, who so far has been worth it but may not be two or three years from now. Still, awesome lefty.

The other name connected to the Phillies heading into the offseason was J.A. Happ, who has not been good this season. 

The lack of starting pitching moves worked out horrendously for the Phillies, no doubt. But how much better would they even be with Happ? One win better? 

It would have been nice if at some point over the past three or four years, the Phillies acquired an under-the-radar starting pitcher they saw something in. That is how deep rosters are built.

Q: If they're as unwilling to pay the price to acquire starting pitching as they've shown themselves to be but they also have no real help coming in their organization, how do they fix this quickly?

-@Johnny_2Hats

I’m not convinced they’re unwilling to pay the price. I think they will ... for the right guy. 

Some of these available starting pitchers are not major long-term upgrades. Madison Bumgarner is a rental. Marcus Stroman is better than what they have but is a contact pitcher who is a No. 3 on a good team. Tanner Roark, Mike Leake ... blah. They raise the 2019 Phillies’ floor but don’t impact the future in a meaningful way. 

Robbie Ray is worth trading two good pieces for. Zack Greinke is worth taking on a huge salary if the D-backs choose to go that route. I think Texas keeps Mike Minor. 

Q: Is the high home run rate just a result of juiced balls, or is the pitching REALLY that bad?

-@zachary_east412

The pitching is really that bad, but it’s mostly the baseballs. There are more throwers than pitchers in the majors now than ever before. Guys make it to The Show based on huge strikeout rates even if their command is below average. Can you miss a bat? Can you execute a high fastball a little more than half the time? Way to go, you’re on your way. 

The story of 2019 is a confluence of events that led to the most ridiculous power spree we’ve ever seen. I’d say it’s 65 percent the ball, 20 percent the lack of command and 15 percent the launch angle revolution. 

Q: Where do the Phillies stand in regards to opponents’ production in pitchers’ counts? And if it’s as bad as it feels like it is, what’s the explanation?

-@fanofthegreeser

The Phillies have allowed 18 home runs on 0-2 counts since the start of 2018, third most in the majors. When your rotation pitches to contact more than it finishes two-strike counts with a whiff, this can happen. There’s also just been poor location from every Phillies starting pitcher when they’re ahead in the count. Aaron Nola has been a different story lately but even he was guilty of it in April and May. 

Q: It doesn’t appear there’s a spot for Nick Williams in the Phillies’ outfield. Is it a good time to trade him, given his hot bat in AAA?

-@dlearjet1975

Of course it is. It has been all season. Williams needs a change of scenery because the starting opportunity will not come here. Andrew McCutchen will be back in 2020. Jay Bruce is under contract for 2020 and probably isn’t going anywhere. I don’t need to lay out the right field plans. 

The Phillies did not play the Williams situation the right way. It’s hard when this happens to decipher whether the team failed the prospect or the prospect just wasn’t that good. Williams sure hasn’t been productive this season at the major-league level when he did get chances. 

His trade value is insignificant. He’s not bringing you back a young mid-rotation piece at this point. Every team knows the Phillies would like to trade him and Williams isn’t an impactful enough hitter to drive another team to make an illogical offer.

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Best pranks in Philly sports history

Best pranks in Philly sports history

You know what we miss about live sports? The games. The competition. The unknown outcomes. Absolutely all of that. But also all of the shenanigans that go on before and after the games.

Our favorite goofy players having a gag with each other is just fun. We miss it. So in honor of today being April 1, we put together a fun video featuring some of the greatest pranks in Philly sports history.

One of the more elaborate pranks in recent memory is when the Phillies players convinced pitcher Kyle Kendrick he had been traded to Japan. You all likely remember that.

But do you remember when Charles Barkley and Rick Mahorn messed with Manute Bol or when John Kruk and Ed Wade got Chase Utley after the rookie got his first big league it?

Throw in a little Fletcher Cox / Chris Long Twitter trolling for good measure and you've got yourself some of the best pranks in Philly sports history. What were your favorite Philly sports related pranks?

 

Still in awe of this crazy Jimmy Rollins accomplishment over a decade later

Still in awe of this crazy Jimmy Rollins accomplishment over a decade later

Our classic Phillies game re-airs continue tonight with the final regular-season game of the 2007 season, a 6-1 Phillies win over the Nationals that wrestled the NL East crown away from the Mets, who had famously held a 7-game lead in the division with 17 to play.

The Phillies were abruptly swept in the NLDS by the Rockies but prior to that, they were on fire. From Sept. 13 through the end of the regular season, the Phils went 13-4 and the Mets went 5-12.

Jimmy Rollins, who began that season by calling the Phillies "the team to beat" in the NL East despite their 14-year playoff drought, finished it by winning NL MVP. Rollins had a storybook season with his bat, with his glove, with his legs and with his mouth.

One of the most unique accomplishments in Phillies history was achieved by Rollins late in that 6-1 win we're re-airing Wednesday night. Jimmy always had a flair for the dramatic, as these memorable moments illustrate.

Sitting on 777 plate appearances for the season, Rollins stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Phillies were winning, there might be no bottom of the ninth and you figured it was likely going to be his final trip to the dish. Rollins needed one more triple to become only the fourth player in baseball history with at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in the same season.

As Rollins reached the batter's box for that 778th plate appearance — still a big-league record — the only thing on the minds of Phillies fans watching was the hope that Jimmy would finish the job and hit that triple.

If you watch baseball, you understand that a player can't go to the plate trying to hit a triple. Triples are about solid contact, fortunate placement, speed and aggressiveness. Last season, for example, players hit a triple in just one of every 250 plate appearances. There were about 11 times more doubles and nine times as many home runs.

Ridiculously, impossibly, Rollins hit that 20th triple in his last plate appearance of the season.

In the history of baseball, the only players to achieve this feat were Rollins and Curtis Granderson in 2007, Willie Mays in 1957 and Frank Schulte in 1911. It's so random that it happened twice in the same season after occurring just once in the previous 94 years and not at all since.

The Phillies, who won the division by one game in '07, needed absolutely everything Rollins gave them that season. None of these were empty-calorie stats. 

Many Phils fans will remember the fateful four-game home series against the Mets Aug. 27-30 that summer, a four-game sweep for the Phillies that made a division crown actually feel realistic. Beginning with that series, Rollins hit .335 over his final 34 games with 6 doubles, 5 triples, 8 homers, 22 RBI, 31 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 17 attempts. The Phillies went 23-11.

"The triple — I was stuck on 19 for a while," Rollins said years ago. "Milt Thompson (the hitting coach) was saying, 'You'll get it on your last at-bat, a little drama.' I was like, 'Of all guys, (Luis) Ayala,' because I never hit him. 

"The count was 3-and-2 and I said to myself, 'Don't be dumb. He's going to throw a slider, sit on it.' He threw it. I knew Austin Kearns was in right field and he could throw but I went for it. I remember going hard into [Ryan] Zimmerman. If I didn't go for it, I would have been upset. The crowd was just incredible that day."

Rollins was just incredible that season. He narrowly beat out Matt Holliday for NL MVP in one of the closest votes ever. Rollins received 79% of voting points to Holliday's 75%. Holliday had better offensive numbers (he hit .376 at Coors Field that year) but Rollins had the better story and the better all-around season.

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