Phillies

Phillies name Rick Kranitz pitching coach, make long-shot pitch to Shohei Ohtani

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Phillies name Rick Kranitz pitching coach, make long-shot pitch to Shohei Ohtani

Updated: 9:27 p.m.

The Phillies closed the work week with a flurry of moves on Friday.

The club officially named Rick Kranitz as pitching coach and announced the hiring of Chris Young as assistant pitching coach — as well as some front-office moves.

Also, as expected, the Phillies tendered contracts to all five of their arbitration-eligible players — infielders Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez, catcher Cameron Rupp and relief pitcher Luis Garcia.

Much of the focus in the baseball world Friday was on the international game as the ground rules for signing Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani were made official. The Phillies have made their interest in Ohtani known to the pitcher/slugger's representatives and they are ready to pay the $20 million release fee to his Japanese club.

Ohtani is beholden to international signing-bonus limits, so he will not be the subject of a bidding war. The Phillies have constructed a recruiting pitch to the 23-year-old player, trying to sell him on being a centerpiece talent on a growing team. But signing Ohtani remains a serious long shot for the rebuilding Phillies. The player is seeking a team that is ready to win now in markets where Japanese players have succeeded before. He would also like to get some at-bats, probably as a designated hitter, in addition to pitching. That points to the American League. The Yankees, Mariners, Rangers, Angels, Dodgers and Cubs remain the most likely landing spots for Ohtani.

The hiring of Young, a former minor-league pitcher who finished his career with the Camden Riversharks in 2008 and most recently served as a scout with the Houston Astros, as assistant pitching coach leaves the Phillies with just two more openings on new manager Gabe Kapler's coaching staff — bench coach and first base coach. Multiple reports have the Phillies considering Rob Thomson, the former Yankees bench coach, for the same role in Philadelphia.

It is not surprising that Kranitz is the new pitching coach. He was bullpen coach in 2016 and assistant pitching coach in 2017. The team announced a month ago that it would retain him in some pitching-related role. Kranitz has 10 years experience as a major-league pitching coach with the Marlins, Brewers and Orioles.

The Phillies' 2018 coaching staff will have a heavy emphasis on pitching. Jim Gott, who pitched 14 seasons in the majors, was recently named bullpen coach.

Now that they've been tendered contracts, Franco, Galvis, Hernandez, Rupp and Garcia are considered signed players for 2018. They will have their salaries determined by an arbitration panel later this winter if they fail to come to agreement on a salary before then. It is still possible that any one of these players could be traded. It's no secret that the Phillies have a pair of young middle infielders on the way in J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery. Galvis and Hernandez are both very much available for trade and the Phillies have received offers, according to sources. However, none of the offers have been to the Phillies' liking.

While the Phillies remain open to dealing Galvis and Hernandez, they would be comfortable hanging on to both if they do not get the value they seek. The Phillies ended last season with four infielders — Franco, Galvis, Hernandez and Crawford — sharing time at three infield spots. It's not a perfect solution but something a progressive front office that has stressed versatility and giving its manager lineup options could employ for a while.

In other Phillies matters, reliever Jesen Therrien, who became a free agent in October, signed a two-year, minor-league contract with the Dodgers. Therrien is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will be sidelined for much of 2018.

Pitchers Alberto Tirado and Mark Appel both passed unclaimed through waivers and were assigned outright to Triple A. Appel, the former No. 1 overall pick by Houston in 2013, has struggled as a starter in two seasons in the Phillies' system and sources say the club will look to transition him to the bullpen in spring training.

Krukcast: All-Star Game memories

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Krukcast: All-Star Game memories

On this edition of Krukcast, John Kruk and Gregg Murphy discuss Kruk's All-Star Game memories. Kruk participated in three Midsummer Classics. What goes into them? Why it isn't a break for the players. And the moment everyone remembers when Kruk faced Randy Johnson.

1:30 - The All-Star experience.
4:00 - It isn't a "break" for the players.
8:00 - Uniform issues.
14:30 - Facing Randy Johnson.

Subscribe to Krukcast: Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

Under-the-radar 1st-half trends from Phillies hitters

Under-the-radar 1st-half trends from Phillies hitters

Taking a look at some under-the-radar developments for key Phillies position players with the first half in the books.

C Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp

Alfaro has swung at a higher percentage of pitches this season than any player in the majors — 61.5 percent. The only other player who's swung at more than 59 percent of the pitches he's seen is Javier Baez.

Defensively, it's been an up-and-down season for the Phillies' catchers. They've combined to allow 12 passed balls, most in the National League. And the Phils have allowed 58 stolen bases, second most in the NL.

1B Carlos Santana

Santana's plate selection has been as advertised, with him entering the All-Star break with more walks than every player in the majors except Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

But Santana's also been helped out a bit by umpires. No player in the National League has had more pitches in the strike zone called balls than Santana (55). Some of it, obviously, has to do with his reputation. His exaggerated movements on inside pitches help, too.

2B Cesar Hernandez

Hernandez has a .380 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot this season, tops in the National League and second in baseball behind only Mookie Betts (.452).

Hernandez hasn't been driving the ball a whole lot lately — his three-run triple Sunday was his only extra-base hit in July — but you know the singles and walks will always be there for him. Hernandez has spent just one day all season with an OBP lower than .367.

3B Maikel Franco

Do you realize that we're 95 games into the season and Franco has a higher OPS than Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, George Springer, Mike Moustakas, Santana, Trea Turner, Brian Dozier, Anthony Rizzo and Adam Jones?

SS Scott Kingery

There's a baseball cliche that when a player is in a slump, he's down 0-1 or 0-2 every time he comes to the plate.

If it seems like Kingery has spent much of the first half in a hole, it's because he has. He's gotten a first-pitch strike 66.5 percent of the time, the fifth-highest rate in the NL. 

A major reason for that is Kingery's rate of swings at pitches outside the strike zone — 39.7 percent, also fifth highest in the NL.

LF Rhys Hoskins

You hear a lot about how much a plate appearance changes when you start 1-0 as opposed to 0-1. For Hoskins this season, it's made a world of difference.

When Hoskins starts 1-0, he has a .457 on-base percentage. When he starts 0-1, he has a .292 OBP. That OBP gap after 1-0 vs. 0-1 counts is 48 points higher than the league average gap.

So next time you see Hoskins begin an AB 1-0, flip a coin. Nearly half the time, he's getting on base.

CF Odubel Herrera

If you've watched Herrera over the years, you've likely noticed that he takes forever in between pitches, even in an age when MLB wants to speed up the game by eliminating dead time.

Well, Herrera does indeed have the slowest pace of any MLB hitter, taking 29.3 seconds on average in between pitches.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Hernandez, who rarely steps out of the box. Hernandez takes 21.0 seconds in between pitches, third fastest in the majors.

RF Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr

The interesting trend with these two is how much better Williams, a left-handed hitter, has been against left-handed pitching.

Williams has hit .265 with a .321 OBP against lefties and .243 with a .324 OBP vs. righties. For his career, he's hit .271 against each side.

Altherr, contrarily, has hit just .169 against lefties. In a larger sample, it stands to reason that Williams' numbers against same-handed pitching would come down. But to this point, the platoon aspect of the right-field tandem hasn't worked out as expected.

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