Phillies

Phillies looking toward the Bronx in future-shaping week

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Phillies looking toward the Bronx in future-shaping week

Phillies officials begin an important work week Monday, one that will have a significant impact on the team's future.

On Monday, the club will host Joe Girardi at Citizens Bank Park in a second interview for the team's open manager's job.

Girardi met with team officials last Monday in the New York metropolitan area. He is the third candidate to receive a second interview for the position. Dusty Baker and Buck Showalter visited Philadelphia for second interviews on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

The Phillies have a narrow focus in their search for a new skipper; they are seeking someone with previous big-league managerial experience. Girardi, Showalter and Baker, with 53 combined years of big-league managing experience and seven manager of the year awards, are the only candidates for the position and it is possible the team could make a hire this week. Thursday could be a target for an announcement as the World Series pauses for an off day between Games 2 and 3.

The Phils could make another important announcement this week. Multiple sources around baseball say the Phils have completed their search for a new amateur scouting director and that Brian Barber is the guy they are locked in on. Barber is a highly regarded national scout for the New York Yankees. His hiring by the Phillies could be announced this week. Barber will replace Johnny Almaraz, who last month stepped down as the Phillies' director of amateur scouting.

Of course, Barber isn't the only man with Yankees roots in the Phillies' sights. Girardi won four World Series rings with the Yankees — three as a player and one as a manager — and is believed to be the Phillies' preferred candidate for manager. 

In addition to having a wealth of experience in running a game with his instincts and intuition, Girardi is well versed in the use of analytics in roster building and game management. Phillies ownership has committed millions to building an analytics department and the club is looking for a manager who can blend a traditional approach to running a game and a team with an approach that uses data and analytics. Girardi managed the Yankees from 2008 to 2017 and in that time the team became an analytics powerhouse.

Girardi is also a candidate for the New York Mets managerial opening. It is not clear if the Mets are prioritizing previous big-league managing experience like the Phillies are. The Mets have interviewed Girardi as well as a number of candidates who have not managed in the big leagues, such as Carlos Beltran and Eduardo Perez.

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Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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NBCSP

At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies