Week 2: The “J” Stands for “JCould Be Better”

I like games. Do you like games? Good. Let’s start this off with some fun, then. This game is called, “Guess the players!”. It’s called that because you have to guess who the players are from the presented stats, and also! because I lack ~cReAtIvItY~.

Wow, whoever those two guys are, they certainly aren’t tearing the cover off the ball. Player B has better (read: still poor) plate discipline, but Player A is superior in every other way. Neither of them should be able to call themselves “major league hitters”, though.

Who are these offensively challenged players? Player B is…*drumroll*… J.P. Crawford, highly touted prospect and starting shortstop for your Philadelphia Phillies. Player A is… *drumroll into extended drum solo*… not a single player at all. It’s the combined line for pitchers in 2018. Pitchers! Including American League pitchers! You know, AMERICAN LEAGUE PITCHERS! The guys who stand at the plate like they’re at the grocery store waiting for the path to baked beans to clear. That’s not good company to be compared to, and even worse company to compare unfavorably to.

How did J.P. get here? Is there a path to salvation?

  1. His contact rate is low. For a player without much power, he should be able to foul off pitches, but instead he’s swinging right through them.
  2. He’s facing an 0-1 count in 66.7% of his PA. Falling behind early is never good.
  3. He’s running an unsustainably low .100 BABIP (5th lowest in baseball, but still ahead of teammate Aaron Altherr). His xBA is 100 points higher than his BA, which points to a bit of a turnaround.

Crawford’s main strength is his plate discipline. I don’t see anything to suggest his eye suddenly got worse – he’s just swinging and missing too often to take advantage of it. He’ll never have prodigious power, but if he can start making more contact, then he will be able to foul off more borderline pitches and take easy walks. Walk more, strike out less, and have some luckier bounces, and his offense will rebound to an acceptable level. If he doesn’t improve his contact rate…things won’t be pretty.

Phillies Recap

Weekly Record: 5-1.
Standout Hitter: Maikel Franco. Franco had a :fire emoji: week, with twice as many extra base hits (4) as strikeouts (2). He SLUGGED .800, which is likely due to his launch angle improvements – his average launch angle is 17.2° (yes, small sample), up from 11.4° in 2017. He always hit the ball hard, but now he’s hitting them into the air instead of into the shift. If he maintains this, 2018 will be a major turnaround for the player many had deemed “toast”.
Standout Pitcher: Nick Pivetta. Whew lads! Pivetta had two strong starts with 16 strikeouts, 0 walks, and 0 home runs. He used his 94.1 MPH fastball often and to great results. There’s not really a flaw I can point to – Pivetta pitched like a true ace. Well done, Nick.
Sit-Down Hitter:
Jorge Alfaro. With a 5-1 week, it’s harder to find truly “poor” performances. Typically win streaks coincide with strong play from a team, and this was no exception. Still, looking at both results and approach, Alfaro has secured the spot as the week’s worst hitter. Alfaro (.176/.300/.353) was weighed down by his strikeout rate (35.0%), which was a result of his high swing rate (64.8% which easily led the team and was 3rd out of 304 hitters). His propensity to swing at everything is already affecting his production. He’ll have to learn to leave the bat on his shoulder if he hopes to be a valuable contributor to the team.
Sit-Down Pitcher: 
Ben Lively. This one was harder to pick – the Phillies benefitted from some great pitching this past week. Someone has to be “the worst”, though, even if that “worst’ is still “pretty good”. Lively went 5.2 innings and got BABIP’d to death, allowing 9 hits that ultimately sunk his day (he was tagged with 5 earned runs). He still punched out 7 and only walked 2 – overall, not a bad week from Lively.

Around the League Round-Up

  • April 11th was brawl day! Benches cleared once in the Rockies/Padres game and twice in the Yankees/Red Sox game. Nothing quite as exciting as a bunch of grown men rushing on the field to stand at each other.
  • The Mariners have exactly one Canadian player – James Paxton. Perhaps this eagle could sense that.

  • Looks like the Denver Post is ALSO excited for the Phillies…

  • If you spend 81 seasons as an usher for the Pirates (at least 3 of them winning!), I think you at least deserve an acknowledgement here. Phil Coyne, I tip my hat.
  • “Walk-off” and “pop-up” are two phrases that rarely get paired together, but thanks to the efforts of 4-time “Gold Glover” Eric Hosmer, we got to witness such a thing.

  • The legend grows – in the span of a week, Shohei Ohtani homered in three straight games and carried a perfect game into the 7th inning. He can throw as hard as anyone, hit the ball as hard as anyone, and run as fast as anyone. It’s early, but Ohtani could be the best player on the Angels (which is saying a lot considering he’s teammates with the best player in baseball).
  • 974 people attended a White Sox-Rays game. I can’t say anything the pictures can’t, so here. Enjoy.

The Phillies are 6-5. The 2017 Phillies topped out at 2 games over .500. Will they beat that mark? Up next is a series against a limping Rays club, followed by a Braves team that’s found some surprising success in the early going. The Phils have a shot.

Go Phils!

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