Phillies

What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

Scott Kingery hit his first major-league home run two years ago today, a solo shot to left-center at Citizens Bank Park against Reds left-hander Cody Reed.

Kingery's first two weeks in the majors went well but his rookie season was a slog after that. He expanded the strike zone a ton, struck out more than you'd like and barely got on base when the hits weren't falling.

Kingery took a big step forward last season at age 25. He missed a month between April 19 and May 19 with a hamstring injury but hit .347 from opening day through June 1. 

In the month of June, he was an extra-base hit machine with nine doubles, a triple and seven home runs in 114 plate appearances.

August was another productive month for Kingery. He hit .287 with 13 extra-base hits and an .825 OPS. 

All told, it was a solid second season from Kingery. His .788 OPS was exactly the league average, and his extra-base hit total increased from 33 to 57 in just 16 additional plate appearances. When you factor in the strong defense he has played at six different positions, the value is easy to see.

Kingery has started games at second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield spots. No major-leaguer since 1958 has amassed as many plate appearances in his first two seasons (984) while playing all those positions. That's not just a random fact — it illustrates the rarity of a player being not just a super-utility player but a super-utility starter, and how doubly rare it is for a player to begin his career in that role. 

In 2020, whenever the season begins, Kingery will likely be at second base for the majority of the season. Things can change quickly, though. If Jean Segura suffers an injury, Kingery could shift to third base. If Didi Gregorius gets hurt, Kingery or Segura would slide over to short. If there are injuries in center field, Kingery would likely be the next man up after Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley.

Kingery's versatility is a good thing, not a bad thing, though it probably cost him some offensive effectiveness over his first two seasons. Kingery remarked this offseason that by preparing for so many different positions, there have been many nights in his first two big-league seasons that he felt spent by game time.

His biggest issue at the plate is his constant expansion of the strike zone. Kingery knows it. It's a goal of his to be better at laying off of pitches he has no chance of making good contact with.

Through two seasons, Kingery's strikeout-to-walk ratio is ugly. He's whiffed 273 times and taken 58 walks. No Phillie has struck out that many times in his first two seasons since Pat Burrell in 2001 — but Burrell also walked 75 more times than Kingery has.

Last season, 24% of the pitches Kingery saw were low and away off the plate. He swung at those low-and-away pitches nearly 30% of the time and hit just .127. Obviously, that is a zone a hitter would rather leave alone. 

Kingery's selectivity must improve for him to reach a higher offensive level. There are 118 players with as many plate appearances as him the last two seasons and Kingery ranks 108th in walks.

The Phillies are not relying on Kingery to be their offensive centerpiece or even their sixth-best hitter. However, they'd be so much stronger as a lineup if Kingery could maneuver his way closer to the top of the order and produce. If Kingery could provide consistency in the 2-hole, it would allow someone like J.T. Realmuto or Didi Gregorius to move into more of a run-producing role. And even if Kingery does stay in the 7-spot in the lineup for most of the season, he has a chance to lengthen the Phillies' lineup and turn it into one of the NL's best if he can build on his sophomore season.

Kingery had a .315 on-base percentage last season. The league average was .323. Had he reached base just 10 more times in his 500 plate appearances, he'd have been at .334, which is the same as Realmuto's OBP the last three seasons.

It's a realistic target for Kingery, who does not need to become the next Chase Utley to be valuable or to live up to the $24 million contract he signed before ever playing a major-league game.

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Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard open up about frustrations with institutional racism

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Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard open up about frustrations with institutional racism

Former Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard sat down this week for a wide-ranging discussion about race in baseball and in America.

The talk, hosted by The Athletic, comes amid nationwide protests speaking out about institutional racism in the United States and in its police system after last week's killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis last Monday night by a police officer in an incident caught on camera. The officer kneeled on his neck for an extended period of time while Floyd was handcuffed.

Rollins and Howard both discussed the frustration, anger, and sadness they felt from watching the widely-shared video of Floyd's death:

ROLLINS: [...] In the beginning, it was more shock. It was like, 'This dude, he really just sat there on his neck.' And then, the next day, you think about it, I remember I was picking up some food, and like Torii, I just started crying. Just angry. What do you do? This man has no remorse. There was not one second it appeared he considered (stopping). It was kind of like, 'I hear you, but I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to. I don’t have to do it. I’m protected by the badge. If he dies, he dies.' That was his attitude.

And that’s the part that really, really gets to you. How many other people, whether behind the badge or just in life, literally have the same feeling, think the same way? That if this person dies because I’m white and he’s black, and he didn’t listen to what I said, then I’m going to do what I want with him until I get his compliance? And if he dies, he dies.

HOWARD: It’s kind of like what Jimmy said: This dude was just sitting on his neck. But what got me was, he’s telling you he can’t breathe. You haven’t learned from the past in the sense of what happened in Ferguson and other cities? This man is telling you. He’s on the ground. He’s handcuffed. You’ve got four or five different police officers right there. There’s no need for that. My man started crying out for his mother. At what point do you think this dude is a threat, when he’s calling for his mom?

Howard then went on to recount a time he was pulled over by police in Philadelphia late at night, in what he believes was 2007 or 2008, without being provided a clear reason from a police officer.

HOWARD: Everybody knows what the police-car lights look like. I’m like, 'OK, let me act right because this cop is right behind me. I’m going to try and let this dude pass.' We pull up to the same light. He pulls up next to me. I’m going left. He’s going right. The light turns green, boom, my signal is on, I’m doing everything proper. I make my left turn. He sits there at the light. Two seconds later, boom, he makes the left and follows me. Pulls me over and asks for a license, registration, the whole nine yards.

I said, 'Officer, can you tell me what I was doing?' He said, 'Well, I ran your plates and nothing came back.' I was like, 'Isn’t that a good thing? I didn’t speed, didn’t run any lights. I wasn’t doing anything crazy, but you felt the need to pull me over.' Then another police officer pulled up, a black police officer. He went over to the dude and said, 'You know who that is?' He came over and talked to me, the dude wound up leaving.

I said, 'Look, man, if I’m breaking a law, I don’t care who I am, what I do, that don’t matter. If I’m running a light or not signaling and you pull me over, that’s fine. But when he tells me he pulled me over because he ran my tag and nothing came back what am I supposed to do?' The black officer said, 'Yeah, that dude has done that a few times.' He ended up getting reprimanded by his superiors. But when you have people like that working in that capacity, what can you do?

The whole conversation, which also includes former Phillie Doug Glanville and other former MLB players, is extremely important reading, and well worth your time.

It's important to note the differences in Howard's experience and that of former Flyers winger Todd Fedoruk, who noted in 2015 that Philadelphia police officers were known to give hockey players, an overwhelmingly white group of athletes, free passes on dangerous harmful behavior, like driving drunk.

Rollins and Howard are the latest Philadelphia athletes to publicly voice their frustrations with instituional racism and abuse of power by police officers.

In the last week, Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz, Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, Bryce Harper, Jason Kelce, and dozens of other local athletes have spoken up in support of the black community, and against racism.

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Brett Myers' walk against CC Sabathia was an all-time Philly sports moment

Brett Myers' walk against CC Sabathia was an all-time Philly sports moment

I was sitting in section 110 at Citizens Bank Park when the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. “They actually did it,” I remember thinking. It was a truly remarkable feeling.

It was the first championship I ever witnessed a team from Philadelphia pull off.

But if you asked me what the most memorable play that I witnessed in person from that run was, my answer probably wouldn’t be from Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Or even from any of the three World Series games I attended in South Philly that series.

That’s because Brett Myers drew a walk.

NBC Sports Philadelphia will re-air Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS against the Milwaukee Brewers this evening and I’ll get to watch Shane Victorino take CC Sabathia deep for a legendary grand slam once again.

But it was all made possible by the Phillies' starting pitcher working a remarkable at-bat against the Brewers' ace that had the 46,208 screaming fans at Citizens Bank Park going ballistic.

"Myers looked like a woodchopper as he fouled off pitches to prolong the at-bat and the full house loved it. The crowd and the length of the at-bat clearly weighed on Sabathia because he walked the next batter, Jimmy Rollins, on four pitches to load the bases,” is how Jim Salisbury described it today. My memory is pretty similar, but from the vantage point of the second row in the third level in right field where I was sitting with my dad and friend Matt.

One of the aspects of sports that makes it such a joy is its unpredictability. Myers shouldn’t have stood a chance against Sabathia, and yet with each fouled-off pitch, the roar of the crowd grew, the white rally towels waving higher.

And the chants. How can you forget the chants?!

“CEEEEE! CEEEEE! … CEEEEEE! CEEEEEE!”

Man, that sure was fun. One of the most joyous moments of being a Philly sports fan I've experienced.

“Most f******g insane [stuff],” Matt texted me yesterday when reminiscing.

“SHANE.”

That’s all that needed to be said. No questions asked.

I took out my camera prior to the seventh pitch of the Myers' at-bat and started recording. My favorite part of the video is the laughing at what we were witnessing. So rewatch the TV broadcast of the 2008 NLDS tonight but enjoy the view from the crowd once more below. 

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