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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Gabe Kapler’s non-answer on Nick Williams’ future speaks volumes

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Gabe Kapler’s non-answer on Nick Williams’ future speaks volumes

ATLANTA — Nick Williams has become a forgotten man on this Phillies roster. He was brought back from Triple A when rosters expanded in September, but entered Tuesday night with just one at-bat in 13 games since his return.

Williams was a key piece in the big rebuild trade that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers in July 2015.

But time seems to be running out on the 26-year-old outfielder and manager Gabe Kapler’s response to a question on Tuesday about Williams’ future seemed to confirm that idea.

The question went like this:

Do you think Nick Williams has a future in this organization?

Kapler’s answer went like this:

“Um, I think he has the talent. He’s a gifted athlete from every perspective.”

That was it.

Kapler did not answer the question directly and that was telling. Williams will probably be on the move this winter, along with Maikel Franco and others.

Williams was in a tough spot from the get-go this season. The team is not comfortable playing him in center field and the acquisitions of Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen, both former NL MVPs, left him with no corner spot to get at-bats. Williams was sent to Triple A four times during the season. He .316 with 10 homers, 25 RBIs and a .955 OPS in 190 at-bats at Triple A, but struggled in sporadic action in the majors. Entering Tuesday night, he was hitting .157 with a .459 OPS in 102 at-bats at the big-league level.

“I think he’s put in a lot of work and people have put in a lot of work thinking about him,” Kapler said. “I don’t know. I think he’s struggled with some things this season.”

Williams, at times, has looked beaten and worn down this season. He seems to be the epitome of someone who’d benefit from a change of scenery. His name has come up in trade discussions before and he likely will be shopped this winter. Like Kapler said, Williams has talent. Maybe a different team can unlock it.

For now, don’t look for Williams to get a bunch of playing time over the final two weeks of the Phillies season.

Kapler said Williams was “behind a few guys on our roster.” He mentioned Brad Miller and Jay Bruce as two of them.



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At the Yard podcast: How much could final 2 weeks affect Gabe Kapler's job status with Phillies?

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Will Gabe Kapler get a third season as Phillies manager? What organizational changes might we see this offseason? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss.

• Will 82-80 mean anything different to Phillies' decision-makers than 80-82?

• Is Gabe Kapler managing for his job?

• How much will final two weeks affect Kapler?

• If Phillies do make a managerial change, who might be top candidates?

• Background on exciting young pitching prospect Ethan Lindow.

• Offseason plans for Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard.

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