Friday, January 24, 2014

State of the Phillies: January 24, 2014

Like many people, I would like to know where this 2014 Phillies team is headed because as of right now this Phillies baseball team does not have much of a chance of making the playoffs in 2014. Going into this off-season the fans have been sitting on their hands hoping for Ruben Amaro Jr. to make some big moves instead he signs big Byrd's. 

Last year the Phillies had 73 wins. The second wild card team in the Cincinnati Reds had 90. That means the Phillies were 17 game out of the playoffs which is nowhere close to contending. As of right now the Phillies have only made marginal improvements to the team. Signing Marlon Byrd is an upgrade in right field but not by much. Byrd had a solid 2013 season but how much faith can you put in a 36 year old juicer? Don't hold your breath. But wait there's more.....they also signed Roberto Hernandez who is at best a number four starter and he will give the rotation some depth and Hernandez has a chance of pitching well this year but how much can he really help this team? Is he going to bridge the gap between the 73 win team and a 90 win team? No chance. The other moves this off-season from the front office have been additions in Brad Lincoln and Wilson Ramos. For Lincoln the best case scenario is that he becomes a 7th inning pitcher for the Phillies, similar to a Chad Durbin in 2008 and 2009. Ramos will be the back up catcher for Carlos Ruiz and there's really nothing more to say about that.

The biggest thing Ruben Amaro Jr. is banking on for 2014 is the health of the veteran players on this team like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and even Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. In my opinion, the only chance the Phillies have at the playoffs in 2014 is if everyone stays healthy for the most part (losing a guy here and there for 15 days is acceptable) and these veteran players listed above play like the way they are getting paid. But in all reality, the chances of Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz playing 120 plus games each and producing like we expect is highly improbable. 

In addition, the bullpen would have to improve from last year. Papelbon has to be able to close out games better, Mike Adams needs to stay healthy, Bastardo needs to stay away from PEDs. I like the bullpens chances of bouncing back better than the offense. Hopefully Diekman can be a good situational left-handed reliever and Rosenberg can emerge as a good bullpen pitcher. 

Let's not forget about the young players in Domonic Brown, Cody Asche, Darin Ruf, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, and Jonathan Pettibone. Dom Brown had a solid month of May but everything else was pretty pedestrian in 2013. Cody Asche got his feet wet in 2013 but can he turn into a good everyday player? Will Darin Ruf ever play like the player he is in the minor leagues? 

Right now the Phillies 2014 starting pitching rotation is Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez or Jonathan Pettibone. Keep in mind that Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has not pitched a single inning in the United States. The Phillies will need Lee and Hamels to pitch as a well as possible in 2014 and for Kendrick to pitch like he did in the first half of 2013.

If ALL of this happens in players staying healthy, veterans performing well and young players emerging then the Phillies have a chance of making the playoffs but in every baseball season there are multiple injuries for each team and Ruben Amaro Jr. would be naive to think that injuries won't happen in 2014 to injury prone players.

And one more thing and this may be the most important thing. The Phillies clubhouse needs to be more cohesive in 2014. We hear in the media that there was a lot of finger pointing and some players did not get along in 2013. For any team to be successful in sports they have to be able to get along, and play as a team. It may sound cliche but it is true.

It might be time to blow up the entire team instead of giving the fans false hope every off-season. This core of Phillies players had a great run but the end is here.

But have no fear Abreu is here.....

Friday, December 13, 2013

Phillies Sign Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona

Yesterday, the Phillies signed starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez to a one year deal worth $4.5 million with $1.5 million in incentives. People may forget or not know but when he was Fausto Carmona in 2007, he placed fourth in the American League Cy Young Award voting, but he has never had a season close to that since. Last season Hernandez pitched 151 innings with a 4.89 ERA and a 4.63 FIP,  but a xFIP of 3.60. Those numbers are not astonishing in the least, the xFIP is lower because xFIP is more in favor of ground ball pitchers and Hernandez induces a lot of ground balls. Since 2006, Hernandez is 6th in Major League Baseball with a ground ball rate of 57.5%. Yesterday, Cory Seidman pointed out in a tweet that since 2006 Hernandez has the lowest line drive rate out of any pitcher in baseball. Another stat to point out is Hernandez has the 11th lowest fly ball rate since 2006 which is good since his home ballpark for 2014 will be Citizens Bank Park and that rate is at 25.8%. This signing has me wondering if the guy the Phillies brought in to analyze the statistical side of baseball has been making an impact because this is not a typical Ruben Amaro Jr. move. This could end up being a very underrated signing, and if not, Hernandez is only signed to a one year deal not worth too much, so low risk, high reward.

Hernandez's raw stats based off of wins and loses (6-13 in 2013) and ERA does not look promising and this recent signing by the Phillies is not a signing that will get fans super excited but if you dig a little bit deeper into Hernandez's stats it will show that he has the potential to be a decent pitcher for the Phillies. He will not be an ace but he could fill a hole in the rotation and hopefully he will eat up innings and have a successful year along the way. If Hernandez continues throwing ground balls like he has in past seasons than I expect him to be a successful number three or four starter in the rotation.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Phillies Re-Sign Carlos Ruiz

The Phillies must be reading this blog because a couple of weeks ago I encouraged them to re-sign Carlos Ruiz. Although I must say I was a little surprised to see that Ruiz signed a 3 year deal with a club option for a 4th year worth $26 million. I'm thinking that Ruiz is unlikely to be in Phillies pinstripes in that 4th year because it is a club option and he would be 38 years old and the buyout is only $500,000. I know $500,000 what's that right? Not much to the Phillies.

The good news for the Phillies is that Ruiz is a productive player. If Ruiz can stay healthy and play the majority of the season then this deal will work out for the Phillies and Ruiz but if injuries sideline Ruiz then this will be a bad signing. One positive from this signing that some people may overlook at this time is that Ruiz knows the Phillies pitching staff extremely well right now and all of the pitchers feel comfortable with him, and since the Phillies will eventually get a pitching coach, Ruiz will already be on page with the pitchers and hopefully it can help the new pitching coach learn the Phillies pitching staff.

I wouldn't be too surprised if the Phillies signed another catcher to back up Ruiz. Obviously another catcher would not be a big name or anything special but someone better than Erik Kratz and someone who could fill in for Ruiz on rest days or DL stints.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Phillies Sign Marlon Byrd

Earlier today, the Phillies christened the off-season by signing former Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd to a two-year deal worth $16 million. Byrd, age 36 is coming off a "career year" where he hit 24 home runs and had 88 RBI. That's pretty good production for a 36 year old guy like Byrd but considering that 2013 was his best season and he hasn't had too many seasons similar to that and questions have been raised as to whether this signing was worth it. For a team that might be a small piece away from being contenders I would say yes this is a good signing but since the Phillies have so many holes in their roster, I do not see his being that good of a signing. Is Marlon Byrd an upgrade over what they have in right field right now? Yes he is, but it isn't a huge upgrade. I think Phillies fans were hoping for the Phillies front office to sign a big name right fielder such as Nelson Cruz, but who's to say they are done in the outfield? There is still a possibility that the Phillies could look to sign a player like Nelson Cruz because they know that Marlon Byrd is not the long term solution in right field but I highly doubt that Marlon Byrd would sign a deal like that to be the fourth outfielder especially after coming off of a 24 home run, 88 RBI season.

I cannot say I like this move cause there is nothing to like. Byrd had a good 2013 season there is no doubting that but if you look at his track record from seasons prior to 2013 he is extremely inconsistent. 2013 he had a 4.1 WAR, 2012 he was -1.0, 2011 was 1.8. Chances are Byrd will have one decent season with the Phillies and have one horrendous season. The signing of Byrd isn't necessarily a high risk or low risk signing. Considering that the Phillies are coming off of two seasons where they missed the playoffs, there is probably more pressure on Ruben Amaro Jr. to have a good off-season and make good signings and from the naked eye Marlon Byrd does not seem like a good season and if signings like this do not work out this year Amaro could be looking down the barrel of a gun. Hopefully not. Best case scenario is that Byrd plays between a 2.5-3.5 WAR player for the next two years. Worst case scenario is that he becomes another Delmon Young. We'll have to wait and see.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Phillies 2013 Review: First Base

First base used to be a position of strength for the Phillies but ever since Ryan Howard tore his achilles tendon in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, first base has been a weakness for the Phillies. Since Howard tore his achilles tendon in the last game of the 2011 season he missed about half of 2012 while he was recovering from his injury and people were not expecting big things when he returned in 2012 because it was going to take a little while to get used to playing again. And in 2012 Howard was not extremely productive. His best stat was that he had 56 RBI in 74 games but he had a -1.1 WAR, a .295 OBP, and only 14 home runs.

With having an entire off season to prepare for 2013, fans and colleagues around Major League Baseball were expecting Howard to have a good season with 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI. This did not happen. In 80 games in 2013, Howard hit 11 home runs and 43 RBI with a .319 OBP. Howard injured his knee in the beginning of July and did not return for the remainder of the season. 

So now moving forward there are a lot of questions surrounding Ryan Howard. Can he stay healthy for a full season? If he does stay healthy can he produce like the way we are accustomed to seeing? Nobody knows. In 2013, Howard was only on pace for 22 home runs which is extremely rare for someone as big and strong for Howard. From 2006-2011 he had at least 30+ home runs in each season. Although his home run total has gone down from being in the 40's from 2007-2009 to 30's in the 2010 and 2011 season. I am not as concerned with home runs from Howard as I am with him driving in runs. His RBI total was 56 in 2012 in only 74 games so over the course of a full season his RBI total would have most likely been over 100, which is the magic number here. We need Howard to drive in 100 runs or more. And as stated earlier, in 2013 he only drove in 43 runs in 80, which is worrisome. 

Right now it seems like the Phillies are stuck with Howard. Over the next three seasons he is owed $25 million in each season, which makes Howard unmovable. To me, I think if Howard produces like the way he did in 2013 then the Phillies have a clog in the middle of their line up. You have to play him because there are no other options. Yes, they could play Darin Ruf against left handers from time to time but Ruf has not shown much that shows that he can play consistently. 

If I am the Phillies front office I am trying to trade Howard and offer to eat between $8-10 million of his salary for the next three years which would be about a third of his salary and if Howard was able to produce at all then the  $15 million or so the new team would pay him would be about what he should make. Getting rid of Howard would open up a lot for the Phillies. Right now, the Phillies can't sign any left handed hitters because of the surplus they have. With Utley, Howard, and Brown in the middle of their line up, they cannot afford to sign another one because they can't have a line up with four left handed hitters in the middle of it. 

If Ryan Howard comes back to the Phillies in 2014, which will most likely happen and he can produce like we have seen in the past then the Phillies will be in business but if he does not produce and continues down the path of injuries then the Phillies are stuck in a big hole.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Phillies 2013 Review: Second Base

Ah finally, second basemen, Chase Utley *in Dan Baker voice*.  2013 was a pretty successful year for Chase. He played in 131 which is the most since 2009. He did spend about 4 weeks on the disabled list from the end of May to the end of June but for someone as injury prone that Chase is playing in 131 games is pretty good.

I think we can all agree that Chase Utley is still a very good player but he is not as good as he was a few years ago. This is expected due to the amount of injuries that he has had and the natural decline players have when reaching a certain age. Utley turns 35 in December and last season he signed a deal with the Phillies that will keep him in Phillies pinstripes for at least two more seasons. He has options for years 2016, 2017, and 2018. The options become guaranteed with at least 500 at bats in the previous seasons. That would mean Chase would have to play in about 120-125 games to reach 500 plate appearances.

In 2013, Chase Utley had a 3.9 WAR and .348 OBP. Both of those stats are respectable and above league average. Phillies fans are used to Chase having higher stats in both of those categories but like I said Chase is a step below the player he used to be, but still very good.

In the Phillies line up, Chase bats third. I do think in a "good" line up he would be the number two hitter, but with the players that the Phillies have he is their best hitter and fits the third hole well, but I believe he would be suited better in the second spot in the line up in this point in his career.

Like a lot of Phillies players the big question with Chase is always IF he can stay healthy. And going into 2014 and beyond, IF Chase can stay healthy he will continue to be one of the best second basemen in baseball and will be a fan favorite throughout Philadelphia through he "dirt ball" style of play with his relentless hustle, dropping infield fly balls on purpose in hopes of getting a double play, crashing into catchers, and playing the game the right way.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Phillies 2013 Review: Catcher

In 2012, catcher Carlos Ruiz had a breakout year. Ruiz made his first All-Star team and had a WAR of 5.2. Ruiz had a career high with 16 home runs, 68 RBI, and a batting average of .325. During the off-season Ruiz was charged with a 25 game suspension for taking an illegal substance. This gave Erik Kratz the chance to be the starting catcher for the first 25 games.

2012 was the first time Erik Kratz was giving a chance to play at all in the major leagues. In 50 games, Kratz hit 9 home runs in 50 games and played well enough to earn his first full season in the MLB. Kratz did not follow up his solid 2012 performance with a good season. In 68 games he posted a WAR of 0.7 with 9 home runs in 68 games. Kratz did go on the disabled list for about 6 weeks but in all reality there was not much hope for Kratz other than him being a solid back up catcher and that's all he is. Kratz is 33 years old with minimal major league experience and in 2014 he will either be the Phillies back up catcher or on another team.

Carlos Ruiz came back from his suspension on April 28 and when he returned he struggled hitting. After being back for three weeks Ruiz went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and missed the next month. When Ruiz came back he hit pretty well. In the last ten days of June he had a .357 OBP but when the calendar turned Ruiz went into a hitting slump. In July, Ruiz hit .232 with a .274 OBP. Ruiz got out of his slumped and really proved why he should be the starting catcher in the future. In August Ruiz got hot. He had an OBP of .370 and a batting average of .333. For the most part, fans were not expecting to return in 2014 prior to August but as of right now the fans are expecting the Phillies to resign Ruiz.

Although Ruiz did not have a spectacular 2013, it would be wise for the Phillies to resign him. Out of all of the free agent Catchers, Ruiz has the second highest WAR for catchers over the past three years at 9.5. There has been mumblings about possibly inquiring about recent world champion Jarrod Saltalamacchia but I think the if the Phillies are going with the choice between Ruiz and Salty I would go with Ruiz. Chooch is a better defensive player and Salty has only had one decent offensive season, that being this past season.

Mike Napoli is also a free agent but he plays first base more than catcher and I do not see him wanting to play catcher every day when he can play first base. The Phillies need to resign Ruiz soon because it would be unfortunate for him to get to free agency and sign with someone else and leave the Phillies in a bind.