Hello, friends, family, and fellow fans that have stumbled their way through Google/Bing/Ask Jeeves to find yourselves on my humble Phillies blog. It’s been a while since I’ve updated, though I’ll spare you the apology. I assume you were able to find other ways to entertain yourselves for the 10 minutes a week you used to spend reading my updates. Even if you weren’t, you’ve still managed to widdle away at the intervening months, so congratulations all around.
We left off with only the final week’s worth of games to recap. While the final 6 games have largely faded from memory (though not relevancy, as having never been relevant do not have the opportunity nor the privilege of doing so), it would be a shame to get 97% of the way through the season only to stop just short of the finish line. Let’s wrap this up so we can put 2017 behind us and look forward to (hopefully) better years.
- Game 157: vs. WAS. L, 1-3. Aaron Nola’s final appearance of the year would epitomize his season – a 6-inning, 9-strikeout, 2-earned run loss. Nola’s third year solidifies him as one of the top 10-15 pitchers in the game. Besides health, there’s nothing about Nola that falls short of expectations.
- Game 158: vs. WAS. W, 4-1. Striking out batters is good. Walking them is bad. One statistic that sums this up well is K-BB%, which simply looks at the percent of time a pitcher walks batters and subtracts it from the percent of time a pitcher strikes them out. If you sort by this stat, you’ll find excellent pitchers at the top (Sale, Kluber, Kershaw), and not-so-excellent pitchers at the bottom. Jake Thompson doesn’t fare well by K-BB% – 374th out of 410, which is pretty solidly in the “not-so-excellent” range. If he finds his way into the rotation in 2018, don’t be surprised if his ERA goes up by a run or more.
- Game 159: vs. WAS. W, 7-5. 7 runs were scored in large part due to the patience on display – 7 walks were 1 shy of a season high. For those who don’t get excited by excellent plate discipline, fireworks were provided by Alfaro and Herrera (doubles) and Altherr (a triple). Mark Leiter was shaky, but was taken off the hook by the aforementioned offense and a solid bullpen, which combined for 4.2 scoreless innings.
- Game 160: vs. NYM. W, 6-2. I was looking for something fun to say about this game. Three homers were hit. Ben Lively was OK. Matt Harvey wasn’t. There didn’t seem to be much to it. Then I saw the team had a .361 OBP collectively. “That seems pretty high”, I thought. And it is – only about a quarter of the 2017 Phillies games had a team OBP of .361 or higher. But that led me to another game – July 19th against the Marlins. The Phillies ran a .510 OBP in that game, which is incredible – that meant that they got on base more often than they got out, the only time they did that all year. It’s a rare feat – the Phillies have only done it 7 times since 2010. That’s 1,296 games, with some great offenses, and they’ve only managed that 7 times. So – did I find something interesting to say about this game? No… but I still found something interesting to say – and that’s more than I thought I was going to.
- Game 161: vs. NYM. L, 4-7. With this loss, the Phillies secured a sub-.500 record for the 2nd half of the season. While seemingly negative, this is actually a marked improvement from the first half – it took only 66 games (out of 87) for the Phillies to secure a sub-.500 first half. The Phillies could have gone on a nigh-historic 21-game win streak and still ended the first half with a mediocre record. The Phillies didn’t go down without a fight – down 2-4 in the bottom of the 7th, a bases-loaded sac fly by Altherr and an RBI single by Hoskins tied the game up. The two teams flailed about helplessly and remained knotted up until the 11th inning. Adam Morgan, in his final appearance of the year, allowed a 3-run shot to Asdrubal Cabrera that gave the Mets the lead for good. A dubious end to a dubious year for the middle reliever.
- Game 162: vs. NYM. W, 11-0. Wow. What a way to cap off the season. Four pitchers combined for a shutout (as evidenced by the 0 in the score) of the Mets while the offense rode two strong innings (a 6-run 4th and a 5-run 8th) to finish the year on a high note. The 11-run margin of victory was the second largest of the year, topped only by the 17-3 win on April 8th (The Jeremy Guthrie Birthday Bash). Every position player got on base at least twice with the exceptions of Aaron Altherr and Maikel Franco, who hit a double and a 3-run homer respectively. The Mets offense was limited to two singles and five walks. It’s an encouraging game from what is hoped to be the bulk of the 2018 starting lineup (Altherr-Herrera-Williams in the outfield and Franco-Crawford-Hernandez-Hoskins in the infield, although Franco hasn’t exactly made a case for being third baseman of the future this year).
- The entire postseason has come and gone since my last update, so congratulations are in order for the Houston Astros. It was their first World Series in team history, and it was history earned. Fun fact: They were also the first team to win the pennant in both leagues.
- There have been a number of transactions that the Phillies have made in preparation for 2018 and beyond. A few of the highlights (if mostly under the radar moves are your thing):
- Mark Appel, former #1 overall pick and one of the centerpieces of the Ken Giles trade (along with Vincent Velasquez), was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was sent to AAA. The prospect has struggled with both health and consistency in his time in the minors (averaging 75 IP per year with a 4.87 ERA across all levels). Appel has a lot left to prove in 2018, and as he’s entering his Age 26 season, he’s running out of time to do so.
- Dab-master (uh, and part-time outfielder) Cameron Perkins was claimed off waivers by the Mariners, ending his brief tenure with the Phillies. 21 dab salute.
- The Rule 5 draft went down on December 14th. While Rule 5 players are typically fringe major leaguers at best (Remember Mini Mart?), the Phillies have scored some truly talented players in the past (Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera). This year, the Phillies played it safe – they drafted oft-injured flamethrower Nick Burdi from the Twins and flipped him to the Pirates in exchange for $500,000 in international cap space. Meanwhile, they lost Carlos Tocci, a 22-year-old outfielder who sported a .727 OPS across AA and AAA in 2017. Given that the Phillies have Herrera, Hoskins, Altherr, Williams, Quinn, and Cozens ahead of him, this is a loss I doubt they’ll regret.
- Despite being the longest tenured member of the Phillies, Freddy Galvis’s role in 2018 was uncertain. With only a year of team control left and J.P. Crawford in the majors, there wasn’t much of a reason to keep him and his usual adequate level of play in Philly. On December 15th, he was traded to the Padres for starting pitcher Enyel De Los Santos. De Los Santos, 22, ran a 3.78 ERA in 24 starts at AA in 2017. He figures to fill out the rotation in Reading or Lehigh Valley in 2018, but is considered a legitimate prospect with a chance to crack the big league roster one day. Not bad for a single year of Galvis.
- Entering the offseason it looked like the Phillies were set at first base with Rhys Hoskins having proven himself capable at the big league level. The front office had a different plan, signing 31-year-old Carlos Santana to a 3 year/$60 million deal. Santana’s offensive output can be described as (*sigh*) smooth – a career 15.2% walk rate against 15.6% strikeout rate with above average power to boot. He may be entering his mid-30’s but this kind of offensive skillset tends to age well. The move pushes Hoskins out to left, where his defense wasn’t noteworthy (in either a good or bad way). It’s hard not to like this deal – it adds value to a lineup that has lots of potential but not much certainty, and indicates that the Phillies believe they are ready to begin competing once again.
- The Phillies bullpen in 2017 was middling, ranking 16th in FIP and 14th in ERA. Among the few bright spots was lone All-Star Pat Neshek, who will look to repeat his performance in 2018 and beyond as he was signed to a 2 year/$16.25 million deal. Joining him in the pen will be Tommy Hunter. Hunter, 31, was a member of the Rays in 2017 and sported a 2.61 ERA with peripherals to back the results up. Together they should firm up the back end of the bullpen and give the Phillies plenty of late-game options.
- Pete Mackanin will not return as the manager of the Phillies in 2018. When Mackanin took over in 2015, the Phillies were a team in flux – the rebuild was underway, the roster was getting younger, but relics of the 2008 World Series team still remained. Two years later, the last of the old guard has departed and Phillies officially had the youngest team in baseball. With the young roster in mind, the front office decided they needed a manager who can help these players deal with the inevitable growing pains. Mackanin ends his Phillies managerial stint with a record of 174-238. Of the 36 managers in Phillies history that have managed at least 154 games (a season’s worth before “a season’s worth” became 162), this .422 winning percentage ranks 12th worst. That’s not something he can be blamed for – he came along when the team had bottomed out and waded through some murky seasons as the team figured out where they were going. Mackanin’s firing signals that the Phillies have picked a direction and are moving in it. Thank you for sticking through thick and thin, Mr. Mackanin, even if the latter was far more prevalent during your tenure.
- The Phillies managerial vacancy didn’t hang around collecting dust – less than a month after the search began, the Phillies picked Gabe Kapler as Mackanin’s successor. Kapler is a former major leaguer who was most recently with the Dodgers as the Director of Player Development. Given 1.) How well recent Dodgers prospects have panned out and 2.) How young the Phillies are, this could end up being the most impactful move of the offseason. In 2013, Kapler was interviewed on Effectively Wild and I think it does a good job of illustrating the passion and intelligence he brings to the table. Give it a listen here.
- Roy Halladay, former ace pitcher and excellent human being, was killed in an accident on November 7th. A lot has been written about him, and the people that knew him best said it better than I ever could. I’ll just leave it with – it was a privilege to watch him compete in Philly, and I’ll always remember how he looked invincible on the mound.
That wraps up 2017.
I hope 2018 is full of surprises.