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Phillies Blog Articles - May 2014

Domonic Brown wants to learn to hit before becoming a power hitter
by Scott Butler 5/3/14

Domonic Brown has become virtually invisible this season, but if his plan works, he will be making headlines very soon.

After hitting 27 home runs last season, Brown has just one through 27 games in 2014, pacing him for slightly over 6 homers this season. Dating back to last August, Brown has 1 home run in his last 58 games. He has exactly one more long ball in his last 58 games than Ben Revere.

And here is something to send shivers down your spine: in their last 58 games played, Ben Revere has a higher slugging percentage than Domonic Brown by 74 points (.369 to .295) and has more doubles (8 to 6), triples (3 to 0), and RBI (17 to 15).

To be significantly behind a hitter with no home runs in 1,504 career plate appearances for over a third of a season is particularly disturbing for a player who hit 16 bombs in a span of 36 games last season. But Domonic Brown is not panicking about the power outage just yet.

“I think that comes with games played,” he said. “It’s my third year, second full season, so I’m definitely getting more comfortable. You have to learn how to hit first (before you become a power hitter). You hear a lot of great hitters say that.”

Some may interpret his comments as hollow remarks delivered with the sole intention of diverting attention from an alarming drop in production, but Ryne Sandberg expounded this with a deeper explanation, lending merit to Brown's claim.

Keep reading...

Don't look now, but the Phillies have a pretty darn good closer
by Scott Butler 5/6/14

After suffering a Texas sized meltdown against the Rangers in his second outing, just imagine the reaction if Jonathan Papelbon blew a couple more saves. Never a fan favorite to begin with, let's just say that Pappy would be a topic of conversation...a loud topic of conversation. But since that horrible appearance, Papelbon has been destroying opposing hitters and his name is barely mentioned. 

Such is the life of a closer. 

That is especially the case following a season in which Papelbon earned $13 million and blew 7 saves. He did himself no favors by telling fans, “I didn’t sign up for this” during a week in which he blew 4 out of 5 saves.

When Papelbon allowed 3 runs in a third of an inning in game three of the season, fan fury had reached its peak. Naturally, all eyes were glued to Papelbon in his next save opportunity as he tried to preserve a 2-0 lead over the Cubs - he sent them down 1-2-3. Then Pappy got the call to protect a 6-3 lead over the Marlins after getting swept by the Brewers in three games - he pitched another perfect inning. He was also asked to save a 1-0 lead over the Braves before a 10-game west coast swing and a 10-9 game after losing the first two in Colorado. 

Papelbon converted each of those saves and all 9 saves since Texas. Of his 9 save opportunities, six of them came with a one run lead or less.

And don’t forget that he is part of a bullpen whose 4.77 ERA ranks dead last in the National League. As demoralizing as the Phillies bullpen has been this season, a few blown saves by their expensive closer would be disastrous. Considering the circumstances, Papelbon has been perhaps the biggest reason the Phillies are at .500 right now.

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Philler Up! Shift, bench, 20,000, and other Phillies notes
by Scott Butler 5/8/14

Oh shift! 

After utilizing the shift less than all but one team last season, the Phillies finally joined the 21st century and decided to give it a shot.  Ryne Sandberg was still warming up to the idea to begin this season, shifting just 13 times in April compared to 152 times for the Yankees according to Matt Gelb

Sometimes the decision has been easy for Sandberg. "When it's black and white, when a guy goes the whole year last year without hitting a ball to a certain spot, on the opposite field, we just say, 'Hey, we're going to play a shift there and see what happens, make that hitter change his approach,' " Sandberg said.

Keep reading...

Phillies rumors week of May 1-9
by Scott Butler 5/9/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from May 1-9:

Keep reading...

Phillies formula for success: win with top 3
by Scott Butler 5/10/14

After getting smoked by Toronto and barely outlasting the Mets, the Phillies find themselves tied for the cellar in the National League East. The Phils are two games below .500 and they probably should be much worse with a run differential of -30 that ranks 4th worst in all of baseball.

But there is reason for optimism which begins and ends with the Phillies top three starters. With Lee, Hamels, and Burnett, the Phillies 1-2-3 is perhaps one of the three best in the NL behind the Dodgers and Nationals. With an offense ranked close to the middle of the pack (9th in the NL with 3.88 runs per game), the Phillies should be able to win a considerable number of games when their top three starters take the hill. Just use 2011 as an example. Behind the best starting staff in baseball, the Phillies won 102 games with an offense that ranked 7th in the NL in runs per game.

If you break it down to the simplest of all measures, if the Phillies can win two-thirds of their games with their top three starters and play close to .500 in the remaining starts, they have a great shot of making the playoffs. I know this simplifies things way too much, but stay with me on this.

If Lee, Hamels, and Burnett combine for 90 starts this season and win two-thirds of those games, it would give them a record of 60-30. In this scenario, for the remaining 72 games:

To reach .500 they need to go 21-51

To reach 90 wins they need to go 30-42

To reach 95 wins they need to go 35-37

To reach 100 wins they need to go 40-32

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Phillies at a glance through 35 games
by Scott Butler 5/11/14

Last night's victory over the Mets was game number 35 and a good time for a pulse check on the Phillies.

The Phillies are 17-18, a game ahead of the Mets for last place, 1.5 games behind the Nationals for third place, and 3 games behind the Braves for first place in a tight National League East.

Here's how their win/loss chart looks:

Phillies 2014 Win/Loss Chart

The Phillies run differential is -29, which is third worst in baseball, ahead of only the Astros and Diamondbacks. Their Pythagorean win/loss record according to Baseball-Reference, which factors in run differential, is even worse, giving the Phillies a 14-21 record. Of course that figure is a bit misleading. If you remove the lopsided decisions of six or more runs which includes four losses in which the Phillies were outscored 44-11 as well as a 7-0 victory, their run differential is just -3.

The only stat that really matters is that the Phillies are 1 game beneath .500, which may not be too bad considering their schedule to this point.

They have played 22 games against winning teams and 13 games against losing teams with 20 games on the road and 15 at home.

Here is their record breakdown:

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Kablooey! The destructive force of the Phillies bullpen
by Scott Butler 5/12/14

After an embarrassing four games against Toronto, The Phillies were three outs away from escaping New York with some dignity and a .500 record. Anything equaling an 18.00 ERA or better for the ninth inning would do. Surely the Phillies' bullpen was capable of that much, right?

Ryne Sandberg didn't even have that much faith. Sandberg had such little confidence in his relief corps that he chose to allow Cole Hamels, who missed an entire month due to injury, toss the most pitches (133) of any hurler this season.

Then, after Bastardo allowed two runs and put the tying run on second with one out, Sandberg made the call to the bullpen...for another starter. He preferred Roberto Hernandez, who threw 99 pitches 2 days earlier, over any other available reliever. Granted, Papelbon was unavailable and Adams and Diekman had pitched in back-to-back games, but it still sends a very clear message.

The message is that the Phillies' bullpen is unreliable. The Phillies once again blew a lead, marking their eighth blown save this season. Only the Pirates have more blown saves with nine. The Phillies' bullpen now has a 4.95 ERA which is worst in the National League and third worst in baseball.

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Ryne Sandberg's management of Phillies' pitching staff
by Scott Butler 5/14/14

Here's an early scouting report on Ryne Sandberg: his starters throw a lot of pitches and he leans on his "good" relievers a lot. Charlie Manuel was mercilessly scrutinized for his usage of pitchers and it will be interesting to see the consensus on Ryne Sandberg at the end of the season.

His management of his pitching staff has been curious this season. In his last start against the Mets on Sunday, Cole Hamels threw 133 pitches. It was the most in his career, the most in Major League Baseball this season, and it came in his 4th start after missing a month to start the season.

37-year-old AJ Burnett has thrown an average of 102.2 pitches in his 6 starts since being diagnosed as having an inguinal hernia.

The strength of this Phillies team is without question their top three starters and with the second worst bullpen in the NL (4.68 ERA), it's hard to blame Sandberg for leaning on his top three. But he needs them for the entire season and you have to wonder if he is utilizing them too much.

Both Lee and Burnett are averaging more pitches per start in 2014 than they had in the past two years and their top pitch counts are equal to or higher than those in 2012 and 2013. Hamels' average pitch counts in 2014 are below 2012 but higher than 2013, and his top pitch count of 133 is higher than both seasons, and this is as they "ease him" into the season.

It hasn't been an outrageous usage, but for pitchers with ages of 37 (Burnett), 35 (Lee), and 30 (Hamels), will this catch up with the Phillies later?

Here's a detailed look if you are interested: 

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Phillies rumors May 9-13
by Scott Butler 5/15/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from May 9-13:

May 13

Jayson Nix Outrighted By Phillies, Elects Free Agency

TODAY: Nix has elected free agency, the club announced.

YESTERDAY: The Phillies announced that they’ve outrighted infielder Jayson Nix off the 25-man and 40-man roster. Nix will have 72 hours to accept or his assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley or elect free agency. A corresponding roster move will be made before tomorrow’s game, according to the Phillies.

The 31-year-old Nix appeared in 18 games for the Phillies this season, batting just .154/.214/.231 while appearing at third base, shortstop and second base. Nix appeared at the Major League level in the 2009-13 seasons with the White Sox, Indians, Blue Jays and Yankees, batting .223/.293/.367 and posting a pair of double-digit homer seasons along the way. He’s never been able to carve out a role as a regular, but he does have some pop in his bat and speed on the basepaths to go along with his defensive versatility.

He is the second Nix to wear a Phillies uniform in the past year, as his brother, Laynce, was with the Phils from 2012-13, though Laynce was released last August near the end of his two-year, $2.5MM contract.

May 12

--The Phillies bench is in a state of flux amidst serious struggles, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. Infielder Jayson Nix was just outrighted, while recently demoted utilityman Freddy Galvis fractured his clavicle upon his return to the minors. Meanwhile, John Mayberry Jr. and Tony Gwynn Jr. are struggling as reserve outfielders, and the team currently has just one utility infielder on its roster in Reid Brignac. While a recovering Darin Ruf could see another shot at the bigs, as could infielder/outfielder Cesar Hernandez, top prospect Maikel Franco is likely not going to be called up for a bench role. Philadelphia is still just four games back in a densely-packed NL East, and it will be fascinating (as always) to see how GM Ruben Amaro Jr. attacks the trade market this summer if the team stays within striking distance.

May 11

--No posts

May 10

--The Phillies have promoted relief prospect Ken Giles to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer reports. Giles struck out an incredible 29 batters in 15 innings at Double-A Reading, walking five while posting a 1.20 ERA while throwing a fastball in the high 90s. The Phillies’ bullpen has struggled this season, and they recently outrighted Shawn Camp and promoted Luis Garcia. They aren’t promoting Giles all the way to the big leagues right now, but he might be capable of helping soon.

May 9

Shawn Camp Elects Free Agency

FRIDAYCamp has elected free agency, the team has announced.

THURSDAYThe Phillies have outrighted veteran reliever Shawn Camp, the team announced. In a corresponding move, Philadelphia called up fellow righty Luis Garcia.

Camp, 38, can refuse the assignment and elect free agency. In three appearances this year, Camp gave up two earned runs on seven hits. Though he avoided any free passes, he mustered only one strikeout. In parts of 11 big league seasons, Camp has compiled a lifetime 4.41 ERA in 592 1/3 innings, all in relief. His last effective season as a big leaguer came in 2012, when he led the league with 80 appearances and registered a 3.59 ERA for the Cubs.

Garcia is a 27-year-old who has seen his only MLB time with the Phillies. In 31 1/3 innings of relief last year, he put up a 3.73 ERA while both striking out and walking 6.6 batters per nine. Garcia was throwing well at Triple-A this year, going 13 2/3 frames without giving up an earned run while posting a much more attractive 8.6 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9. He becomes the latest hurler to receive a chance to settle a Phillies bullpen that has struggled to a 4.97 ERA out of the gate.

The 2014 Phillies in graph form
by Scott Butler 5/16/14

The Phillies win/loss graph below says all you need to know about the story of the Phillies' season. It tells a tale of a Phillies team like a tide rolling out to sea. Fight as they may to earn a winning record, they cannot match the stronger force pulling them back. 

2014 Phillies Win/Loss Chart through game 38

While the Phillies just barely poked their head to one game above .500 four times, they also fell to 3 games below .500 four times, eventually bottoming out at their current position of 4 games below.

If we were to base our Phillies predictions exclusively on this graph, we should expect the Phillies to win a few games soon and climb closer to .500, but not much higher.  Unlike many Charlie Manuel teams with huge peaks and valleys, the 2014 Phillies squad seems on a smoother path. 

Of course, last year's graph said the same thing when the Phils reached their peak of 1 game over .500 as late as game number 97 in the first game after the all-star break. You can see how that ended...

Phillies 2013 Win/Loss Chart

The Phillies lost 21 of their next 25 games and ended the 9 year managerial career of one Charlie Fuqua Manuel.

If the 2014 Phillies can keep their core pieces healthy, they aren’t likely to make jumps in either direction. They have too much pitching at the top of the rotation and too much talent (albeit elderly) to crash hard, but the bench and bullpen are big enough issues to keep them from rising much, either. That might be the best case scenario…

Phillier Up! Base path allergies, this thing called video, Kendrick’s gone streaking, and other Phillies notes
by Scott Butler 5/17/14

There is this thing called video

Ryne Sandberg gave an indirect message that he believes his players aren’t giving full effort.  Ryno was asked about why Utley had two doubles and the rest of the team did nothing against Garrett Richards of the Angels on Wednesday. 

"He does a good job with video, and video is available," Sandberg said. "Guys have a chance to use video, and that goes a long way with not seeing somebody. We have film on him, and guys had a chance to see him." 

I guess that means a lot of zeros on the homework grade.

Keep reading...

Just one game, fellas, for Brown and Asche? Sure hope not
by Scott Butler 5/18/14

After finally ending their scoreless streak and breaking out for 12 runs on Saturday night, Domonic Brown decided to be a party pooper. “It definitely feels good, but it’s just one game though, fellas,” Brown said. “One game.”

Dobo is exactly right. It was just one game and for a team that is still four wins away from an even record, it will take much more than one offensive outburst to fix the cracks of the season. This is the game of baseball, you know.

But the hope is that this one game was like a leadoff hitter turning the ignition and getting things going. Just for one game, the Phillies eradicated two of the biggest problems that have plagued them this season.

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Saturday's game big for Phillies in so many ways
by Scott Butler 5/18/14

The Phillies won last night, Hamels earned his 100th victory, the offensive exploded for 12 runs, and the man looking back at me in the mirror resembled a young Paul Newman. In other words, it was a good night for the Phillies.

But the Phillies are four games under .500 and still in last place in the NL East.

Outside of ending a four-game losing streak, last night's victory over another losing team changed very little. But, it checked a lot of negatives off the checklist.

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Domonic Brown continues to impress with confidence and patience
by Scott Butler 5/19/14

2014 has been an awful season for Domonic Brown and I mean really awful. When Ben Revere has a higher slugging percentage, you know you are in trouble.

Brown finally hit a home run on Saturday, breaking a stretch of 69 games with just one long ball and covering a span of 257 plate appearances. Entering the game, he had just 5 doubles in 38 games for the season.

With such a horrendous start to the season, many players would be hurling Gatorade tubs or moping around the clubhouse, but not Domonic Brown. He continues to maintain confidence, at least outwardly, that things will turn around.

"Like I told you guys the other day with getting my number of at-bats I’m gonna do what I have to do on the field," Brown said. "It’s just all about keeping my confidence levels up and having fun and playing the game of baseball."

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Cliff Lee who? Yesterday a decent day for Phillies
by Scott Butler 5/21/14

Outside of the small issue of Cliff Lee going on the disabled list (we didn’t want his 3.18 ERA, 6.78 SO/BB ratio, and 6.8 innings per start anyway!), yesterday was a decent day for the Phillies.

A lot went right in the Phillies 6-5 victory over the Miami Marlins.

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With Cliff Lee out, are Phils sinkers or floaters?
by Scott Butler 5/21/14

Make no mistake.  Cliff Lee’s injury is devastating news.  It sounds like the verdict is better than most could hope for entering the game and we all must rejoice if it is only a few weeks, but it might be too late by then.

If Lee is sidelined for three weeks as doctors suggest, he will miss at least four starts. Unlike with Hamels, the Phillies can’t hide their lack of starting pitching depth behind numerous off days. In the middle of a stretch of 42 games in 42 days, the Phillies must replace Lee's spot. Removing Lee from the rotation (pretending the Phils use a four man rotation) increases the starters’ ERA from 3.65 to 3.83 and drops their innings per start from 6.23 to 6.03, which isn’t as bad as you might think.

But that is before adding David Buchanan who has not pitched in the majors and owns a 3.98 career ERA in the minors.

For a team barely able to poke its head above water at .500, this might be enough to take the Phillies under for good.

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Jimmy Rollins is a leadoff hitter!
by Scott Butler 5/21/14

Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a single, stole second, and scored to give the Phillies the lead. 

That is what Rollins did last night against Miami and it is exactly how most managers draw it up for their leadoff hitters. The debate over whether or not to pencil Rollins into the leadoff spot has raged for years now.

He swings at the first pitch too much, he’s a pop-up machine, he’s always swinging for the fences, he doesn’t walk enough. 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

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Phillies rumors May 16-21
by Scott Butler 5/22/14

In our regular feature on Phils Baseball, here are the rumors from the past week from the guys at MLB Trade Rumors. They have a page devoted just to Phillies rumors (this is not a paid plug, honest) and all we do is put everything from the past week in one post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors from May 16-21:

Keep reading...

Phillies decide to skip situational hitting for a day
by Scott Butler 5/24/14

The Phillies were shutout last night for the fourth time in their last eight games at home in a 2-0 loss to the Dodgers.

They could have won 5-2 and it would not have required a single additional hit.

In a frustrating evening in which the Phillies only mustered three hits, they had numerous chances to win the ball game. The Phillies went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base.

Frustrating loss?

"We don't use the word frustrating anymore," Marlon Byrd said after the game. "Every time that we get a loss, you guys use the word frustrating. It's not about that. It's about coming in tomorrow and getting a win. Kershaw did the job when he needed to, and we didn't."

Perhaps a more fitting description of last night's effort against the Dodgers would look more like this one from Kyle Kendrick regarding Wednesday's loss.

But frustrating works.

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Ryno loves messing with his lineup
by Scott Butler 5/25/14

Ryne Sandberg's M.O. to this point is that he loves to tinker with his lineup. As much as Charlie Manuel talked about his lineup, Ryno has shown more of a willingness for change.

As you can see from this table showing the number of times each of the regulars has batted in the different positions, Sandberg has rotated his lineup quite a bit.

Phillies Batting Order Positions

Player 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th
Carlos Ruiz   9 2 2 1 4 19  
Ryan Howard       38 7      
Chase Utley     44          
Jimmy Rollins 7 35            
Cody Asche           5   27
Domonic Brown           36 7  
Ben Revere 32             1
Marlon Byrd     1 7 38      

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Oh no! Phillies get no-no'd
by Scott Butler 5/25/14

I always wondered what it was like to witness a no-hitter from the losing end. Now I know and it stinks.

Having only watched no-hitters from afar or from a Phillies hurler, I naively thought players from the losing team could appreciate the rarity of a no-hitter and tip their caps along with the rest of baseball, realizing that a no-hitter is not the end of the world.

I was wrong. It is the end of the world.

We as Phillies fans should be embarrassed, frustrated, ashamed, and angry. This offense is terrible, this team is terrible, it is time to trade everyone and offer to drive Ruben Amaro personally to the airport.

I can admit that all of these feelings ran through my head after the Phillies were no-hit for the first time in 36 years.

Overreact much?

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Utley and Howard make their bid to win back fans
by Scott Butler 5/29/14

Last night’s game at Citizens Bank Park reminded us of a kinder, gentler, time at the Vet in the 90’s when available seats were plentiful, lines for food were short, a package of Phillies Franks earned you a free ticket, and beautiful harmonies of E-A-G-L-E-S filled the empty stadium.

It was as if Sunday’s no-hitter sent us back in time over a decade to when the Phillies were perennial bottom feeders and Bill Giles decried Philadelphia a small market town. It was tough to watch, painful really. A long, boring game, on a cool, damp evening. When Jake Diekman allowed an eighth inning home run to give the Rockies the lead, it unofficially declared the Phillies season over.

It was hard to see it any other way last night in an empty Citizens Bank Park. Yeah, it was a little chilly, had rained most of the day, and could explain the announced crowd of 23,691, but not the embarrassingly smaller number of fans in actual attendance. Excitement for the Phils has dropped so far that thousands of fans considered wasted money from a ticket purchase preferable to watching the home baseball team.

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Phillies Win/Loss ChartIf you are a Phillies fan, I think you will enjoy this. Available now!