Sorry. I know. Rhyming “Alfaro” with “ball far-o” is a small sorrow. But how am I supposed to resist when the facts back up a dumb joke? Since his 2017 debut, Alfaro has hit 4 home runs, and they aren’t wall scrapers – Alfaro’s average home run distance is 423 feet. Among Phillies with at least 4 homers, it’s…well, take a gander.
That’s a gap. “So what, the Phillies stink!”, yells someone for the convenience of a segue. You have a point – not just that “the Phillies stink”, but that I’m cutting out 29 other teams. It’s easier for things to look impressive when you divide the sample size by 30. How does Alfaro stack up next to the rest of the league? There are 351 players that have hit 4 homers (or more). Alfaro’s 423 foot average HR distance is good for 2nd place.
“So what!”, yells the same person, “Four homers is a small sample. There’s obviously going to be noise when you’re only averaging four different homers, as each discrete home run will have a much bigger impact on the final result.” To that I say two things – One, you’ve become a much more eloquent over the course of these two paragraphs. Good for you. Two, you once again have a point, but you’re missing the bigger picture. The point isn’t the exact average or where it ranks. If I want to know if a player throws hard and they hit triple digits on the radar gun, a sample size of one suffices. If we can agree that strong people tend to hit the ball far and balls hit far tend to be home runs, then we only need to see the following to know that Alfaro has the potential to be a formidable power threat.
Whether he’s able to harness his strength on a regular basis is another question. His plate discipline numbers haven’t been good – only two walks since his promotion this year, one of which was intentional. As free of a swinger as Nick Williams has been, Alfaro has been worse – Alfaro’s swing rate is 62.4%, the highest in all of baseball. It’s one thing if he’s swinging at pitches in the strike-zone, but Alfaro is offering at nearly half of the pitches he sees outside the zone. Compare that to Rhys Hoskins – Hoskins has swung at 72 pitches out of the zone vs. Alfaro’s 68, and yet Alfaro has only seen 302 pitches vs. Hoskins’s 715.
To make matters worse, Alfaro’s contact rate is an abysmal 64.0%. This can work for some (Miguel Sano, Joey Gallo), but those that make it work are more selective swingers, punishing the ball when they make contact. Alfaro can certainly punish the ball… but unless he learns to be patient, his offensive upside is going to be limited.
- Game 144: vs. Mia. Win, 9-8. It started off typically enough. The Phillies were down by a sizeable number of runs in the bottom of the 7th (5, to be exact). To date, they have a .127 W% when trailing entering the 7th inning. This game seemed to be headed down that same path, each out another step toward a loss….until Rhys Hoskins defiantly whispered “No”. He hit a home run in the bottom of the 7th, which cut into the Marlins lead and shifted the momentum of the game. 3 more runs scored in the bottom of the 8th, and the stage was set for the comeback to be completed in the bottom of the 9th. Bases loaded. 1 out. Phillies down by 1. Unlikely hero Hyun Soo Kim stepped to the plate. After working a 2-1 count, he delivered a single to walk off the game…or so it had seemed. Upon replay review, Cesar Hernandez was tagged out at home. The game remained tied, and to extras the teams went. The 10th inning started with a bang – Marcell Ozuna went deep, once again claiming the lead for the Marlins. Fans, the few that remained, felt uneasy. They had just been celebrating a victory, and now it looked as though the comeback would be for naught. Leave it to Rhys “The Beast” Hoskins to right what was wrong. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th and the game on the line, Hoskins turned on a 99.8 MPH fastball and sent it screaming into the night. (By my research, potentially the hardest pitch ever turned into a home run by a Phillie ever. EVER.) The Phillies had life once again.The game continued on. Scoreless 11th. Scoreless 12th. 13th. 14th. The teams were deadlocked until the bottom of the 15th when two more pieces of the Phillies future shone. Aaron Altherr singled and was sent home by a Nick Williams double. With that, the longest game of the year (15 innings, 4:57) was finished. It seemed improbable (the 5-run comeback was the team’s largest of the year), but they fought, won the game, and gave fans a reason to believe that the next core might be falling into place.
- Game 145: vs. Mia. Win, 8-1. The day after the Phillies won the marathon game, they completely handled the Marlins behind the strong pitching of Aaron Nola (7 IP, new career high of 11 K’s) and the bat of – who else – Rhys Hoskins (Single, Walk, Homer, Sac Fly). The Phillies might not be good yet, but it’s hard to watch games like this and believe that they aren’t close in some ways.
- Game 146: vs. Mia. Win, 10-0. The Marlins held a 7-2 lead to start the series. After that point, the Phillies outscored them 25-2. The highlight of the game was the sizzlingly hot Rhys Hoskins hitting his 18th homer of the season, and in the process of doing so secured chicken nuggets for everyone. Thank you, King Nuggets.
- Game 147: vs. Oak. Loss, 0-4. Daniel Mengden and his throwback facial hair threw it back to earlier in the season when, you know, the Phillies couldn’t win. Prior to the game, I had run some numbers to figure out where Rhys Hoskins fit into “all-time best home run rates”. Below are the results (which I presented in last week’s post).
The top 10 is entirely Rhys Hoskins, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and…Matt Olson. “Who is Matt Olson?”, I thought. This series, Olson would take the opportunity to make sure Phillies fans remembered him, going deep in each contest. Sorry for doubting you, Matt.
- Game 148: vs. Oak. Win, 5-3. The game was knotted up at 2 apiece through 6 innings. Enter free-swingin’ Jorge Alfaro, who attacked a first-pitch fastball and deposited into the center field bushes to break the tie. The pitchers did their job – all seven of them. Rhys Hoskins continued to demonstrate his patience, taking yet another walk. For all of his power, his patience should be what gets you excited – if he shows pitchers that he won’t chase, then he will be given pitches to hit. If he is given pitches to hit, he will succeed. If he succeeds…well, hopefully the Phillies succeed as well.
- Game 149: vs. Oak. Loss, 3-6. Some players make their debuts on Opening Day. Others, like Henderson Alvarez, take a bit longer. In Alvarez’s case, his debut in Game 149 of the season is the first big league action he’d seen in over 2 years. The 27 year old former All-Star had been battling shoulder injuries and found himself in unaffiliated ball earlier this year before signing with the Phillies. That he’s pitching in the majors at all should be enough for him to consider 2017 a success. His outing wasn’t particularly pretty (4 K’s, 2 BB’s, 2 HR, 4 ER), but perhaps it will be something he can build upon as he looks to get his career back on track.
Around the League Round-Up
- As Major League Baseball begins its final stretch of regular season games, independent and minor league playoffs are wrapping up. The World Series they are not, but that’s not to say they are without drama of their own. The Wichita Wingnuts found this out firsthand when they celebrated what they thought was the final out of the championship game, only to realize a balk had been called prior to the pitch. They went on to lose in 17 innings. Surreal.
- Odubel Herrera draws the ire of many due to his style of play and occasional mental lapses, but you can count me among his fans. I particularly love his propensity to flip his bat, as you can see (over and over and over) in this 8 minute long compilation. Bat flipping a walk? A thing of beauty.
- Many of us have dreamed of playing in the big leagues, coming up to plate with the game on the line, and carrying the team to victory. Ginji Akaminai of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles likely had the same aspirations – and on September 18th, was able to realize this dream. Just not in the way he desired.
- This past week, the longest winning streak in baseball history (and likely the longest winning streak we will see for the rest of our lives) ended. In this day and age of parity and advanced statistics, the Cleveland Indians somehow were able to string together 22 straight victories, the longest of all time (there is some debate about this – the 1916 New York Giants had a 26 game unbeaten streak, but there was a tie in the middle of the streak). It might not be the World Series they wanted last year, but I’d argue winning 22 straight is much more impressive than winning 4 out of 7.
- At the same time that Cleveland couldn’t stop winning, the LA Dodgers couldn’t stop losing. From August 26 through September 11, the Dodgers went 1-16. In spite of that streak (which included 11 straight losses), they still hold a 4 game advantage over Cleveland for the best record in baseball. That’s what happens when you start 91-36.
- Finally, I’ll leave you with a Mets fan who was displeased with Todd Frazier for hitting a 3 run bomb in Citi Field. If you could sum up the Mets season in one image, it would be this.