Phillies Head West with Massive Momentum Swing

By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff

Just one week ago, the Phillies were sludging their way through a spell of mediocrity. One bad stretch and “panic mode” may have been in full effect.

The club was just 4-6 in their last 10 games, and they would prepare to take on the Atlanta Braves next, a series in which they ended up losing game one. This ultimately landed the Phillies at a subpar record of 28-31.

But more importantly, the Mets continued to extend their division lead, and the Phillies had a treacherous June schedule staring directly at them.

Then, the Phillies altered the outlook of their season in dramatic fashion.

Three straight walk-offs and a 7-0 blowout in the remaining 4 games of the homestand against quality baseball teams spurred hope in the team and fanbase.

Arguably the most significant development throughout the win streak was the offense.

The offense may be heating up with the weather after months of inconsistent offense from an oft-injured lineup, one that appeared to sleepwalk through many games. They averaged 5.2 runs per game versus the Braves and Yankees opposed to 4.26 runs per game on the season.

For reference, the difference in average runs per game between the teams with the highest (Astros--5.51 runs) and lowest (Pirates--3.48 runs) in MLB is 2.03, so jumping nearly an entire run per game is significant.

I attribute some of the offensive uptick to Alec Bohm, a key contributor to the elite 2020 Phillies lineup, who has heated up in June. He is batting nearly .400 this month, and the “clutch factor” appears to be back as well.

In addition, Jean Segura is tearing the cover off the ball. The should-be-All-Star has raised his batting average to .339, and he was responsible for 2 of the 3 walk-off hits in crunch time.

Pair that production with Odubel Herrera’s .347 average in the leadoff spot and you have got a LETHAL one-two punch to begin ballgames.

This offensive surge comes at an opportune time. They will need to scratch and claw for runs in the upcoming Dodgers series, although the pitching matchups do seem to be slightly in the Phillies favor.

Spencer Howard, piggy-backed by rookie Bailey Falter, faces off versus Tony Gonsolin in game one. Zach Eflin opposes Julio Urías in game two, and Zack Wheeler is set to duel future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw in game three.

Speaking of starting pitching, the Phillies rotation ranks 11th in the majors in ERA and sixth in WAR.. It has undeniably been a strong suit for the ballclub this season.

It is precisely why it is imperative for the Phillies lineup to continue having success.

If you combine the 2021 rotation and improved bullpen with the elite production of the 2020 lineup, a lineup that is nearly identical to the current one, the Phillies suddenly look like a threatening playoff contender.

Only time will tell if the Phillies can sustain this level of production on both sides of the ball, but two series wins against the NL West's best teams would turn heads around the baseball world.

 


Phillies: NL East’s X Factor in 2021

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful believe a full season represents normality, an underlying element will determine the divisional victor more than they expect. Like 2020, 2021 is already a unique campaign with its own complexion --unlike average annual differences. It stands alone!

 

Summer’s Discontent:

Expectation-wise, baseball men were at a loss to completely plan for ‘21 because they’ve never had a 60-game schedule preceding a full 162. For, however, the strike-abbreviated seasons of 1994 and 1995, 113 contests were the lowest mark. So, the doubling or tripling of injuries doesn’t have a precedent as a guide. 

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Write your injuries in dust, your benefits in marble.” - Benjamin Franklin

A normal year has injuries based on being hit by a pitch, crashing into a wall, collisions, and sprains due to forcing one’s body to make a catch or avoid a tag. In ‘20, missing a month was the equivalent of half a campaign. And misfortune affected the Phillies bullpen with no David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez.                   

Currently, the pandemic has changed the last two offseasons because some players returning to an adjusted winter routine probably didn’t compensate to avoid overdoing their workload. And the result could be an unprecedented number of injuries. 

Continue reading "Phillies: NL East’s X Factor in 2021" »


Powder Blue Podcast: Nola Comes Up Small, Kingery Outrighted, and Welcome Luke Williams

Logo Mosher Klose

On the latest Powder Blue Podcast, Frank Klose and Geoff Mosher break down the Phillies' recent stretch, including last night's loss to the Atlanta Braves.  We discuss:

  • What is up with Aaron Nola?
  • Scott Kingery is outrighted off of the roster
  • The Phillies spoil what would have been a really neat Luke Williams debut

And finally, Suzie Hunter calls in from the road to discuss her current fundraiser: She is visiting all 30 MLB Parks to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club.  Check out more here:

Suzie's MLB Road Trip


Phillies Win Two in a Row, But Tough June and July Still on The Horizon

By Ben Ballier, Sports Talk Philly Staff

Many baseball fans speculated that if the Phillies could survive the gauntlet of 16 straight games vs. the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals to begin the season, then they might be just fine…

As it turned out, the Phillies went 8-7 through those first five series (one game was rained out up in Queens, NY).

Things were looking promising until they lost 2 of 3 at home versus Gabe Kapler’s San Francisco Giants. Then came another series loss versus the Rockies, and a barrage of injuries in the subsequent Cardinals series spiraled the team downward.

Ever since, it has been a battle to achieve, and stay over, a .500 record. As it stands on June 6, 2021, the Phillies are 28-30, good enough for 3rd in the NL East.

The club has struggled to capitalize in very winnable games. Failing to bury opponents when given the chance to tack on runs,  losing momentum late in ballgames, and playing lackluster defense is an all-too-familiar story as of late.

The last time the Phillies won a series not against the Washington Nationals was in the first week of May versus the Brewers. One would think that the schedule must be due to lighten up.

However, it does not get any easier leading up to the All-Star Break.

The Phillies homestand concludes with the division rival Atlanta Braves coming to town in addition to a 2-game set with the 31-28 Yankees.

Then they make their way out west where they will face the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers as well as MLB’s league leading 37-22 San Francisco Giants.

The Nationals, Mets, Reds, Marlins, Padres, Cubs, and Red Sox round things out before the All-Star Break. Four of those seven teams have win percentages over .500. Three of those seven teams are division rivals. And the Reds split a series vs. the Phillies a week ago.

In other words, there are no “gimmes” for at least another month and a half.

This is especially significant because the Phillies are in a position where they can either buy or sell at the July 31st trade deadline, depending on their chances of making the playoffs.

Another bad month and the Phillies could look to trade veterans such as Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Andrew McCutchen, or possibly even Rhys Hoskins to contending teams. It would likely signal the 11th straight year of playoff-less baseball in Philadelphia.

On the other hand, if the Phillies manage to stay healthy and play winning baseball in June and July, they will undoubtedly be buyers at the trade deadline.

Lighter schedules in August and September certainly bodes well for the Phillies chances of making the playoffs, but first, they must earn the trust of the front office and ownership group who will ultimately decide if the Phillies wave the white flag or push all of the chips in on a playoff run.

It is officially go time!

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Phillies Add Team USA Olympic Qualifier Luke Williams to Roster

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While he appears number 29 on the MLB Pipeline Top 30 Prospects, Luke Williams has never been considered a top prospect in the Phillies system.  It's rare to have someone on that prospect list be listed as a utility player.  But Williams is, and that's likely why he is headed to Philadelphia.

The Phillies announced on Tuesday that they have purchased the contract of Williams from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and he was added to the 25-man and 40-man rosters.  

Williams replaces shortstop Nick Maton, who was optioned to Triple-A on Monday.  Maton had a hot start for 
Phillies, but was really struggling upon his return to Triple-A.   Maton had not picked up a hit dating back to May 18, going 0 for 20 in the process.

The MLB Pipeline profile of Williams shows he can help a team defensively around the diamond:

Williams truly is a jack of all trades defensively, having played every spot, except on the mound and behind the plate. He’s shown he’s capable at all of them, with enough arm for the left side of the infield or corner outfield spots and enough speed and range to handle center field or the middle infield. 

Williams is also a right-handed bat, which should help balance the Phillies much more.

Speaking of his bat, Williams really hit his stride at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2021. In 71 at bats over 18 games, Williams is batting .352, with an OPS of .904.  While he has no home runs, he has four doubles and two triples in 2021.

These numbers took place before Williams joined Team USA and helped them qualify for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Toyko.  On a roster that included some well-known veterans such as Matt Kemp and Todd Frazier, Williams led the team in hits, going 8 for 18 in the tournament. 

Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that players who are not on a team's 40-man roster are eligible for Team USA.  A promotion would take Williams out of the running to participate in the 2021 Summer Olympics.

Even though Dave Dombrowski mentioned yesterday that Adam Haseley would need a 40-man roster spot at the end of the week, the Phillies still made this move, meaning a separate 40-man roster spot will have to be opened for Haseley.  Stay tuned. 


Phillies Outright Scott Kingery Off of 40-Man Roster

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Former Phillies general manager Matt Klentak thought he was being shrewd when he gave second baseman Scott Kingery a six-year, $24 million major league contract. Kingery had not played a day above Double-A, but after a strong Spring Training, the Phillies opened up their wallets in a big way.  For that, the Phillies have gotten little in return.  Now, the Phillies do not even have a player on their 40-man roster for it.

The Phillies announced Monday that they have outrighted Kingery off of the 40-man roster.  That will make the path back to the major leagues much more difficult for Kingery, as the Phillies will have to clear roster space to bring him back.  He will have to demonstrate he deserves it.

Kingery batted just .053 at the major league level in 2021 (1 for 19), striking out 12 times in those at bats.  At Triple-A Kingery had a better batting average at .250 in a similar sample size (20 at bats).  However, the strikeouts remained an issue; Kingery struck out in half of his at bats.

The move means that Kingery cleared waivers and that all 29 other teams declined claiming Kingery.  A claiming team would have been responsible for the remainder of Kingery's $4 million 2020 salary, Kingery's 2022 $6 million salary, and Kingery's $8 million salary.

The Phillies will be responsible for that money whether he ever plays in the major leagues again or not.   I suggested the Phillies try to outright Kingery at the end of Spring Training.  Perhaps without 2021's disastrous start, a team might have relieved the Phillies of the financial obligation.

The Phillies also optioned infielder Nick Maton to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Monday.  No move has been made yet to replace either Kingery on the 40-man roster or Maton on the 25-man roster.

Outfielder Adam Haseley is currently rehabbing at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and will be reinstated to the 40-man roster in about a week or so. It is unclear if Haseley would the player added to the 25-man roster by Tuesday.

It likely will not be Didi Gregorius, either.  The Phillies probably will send Gregorius on a minor league rehab assignment before activating him.  Gregorius has been sidelined with a rose elbow.

One possibility is pitcher Matt Moore.  Moore made two rehab appearances at Triple-A last week.  The Phillies promoted Cristopher Sanchez Sunday after David Hale and Chase Anderson were placed on the COVID-related injured list.   The Phillies had been carrying 14 pitchers up until then.


Phillies: 2021’s Make-or-Break Month

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While some Philadelphia Phillies faithful expect them to be out of contention by June 30, others have already reached this conclusion before June 1. Regardless, baseball men realize June will determine the organization’s direction if they are still competitive in early July. Translation: limited holes and good health.

 

No Silver Bullet:

Phillies fans bemoan each loss and scapegoat some players and hurlers, while other supporters believe they are suffering the most. Wrong! Basically, stars and broadcasters experience defeat in real time, while beat scribes and writers who cover every game relive each loss while writing about it: me in 2009.

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Losing feels worse than winning feels good.” - Vin Scully

In the rotation, the signings of Matt Moore and Chase Anderson soothed the locals who had wanted Vince Velasquez pruned from the roster. Clue: Some even now merely tolerate Zach Eflin as a five-slot arm, until he has a bad inning. Then, the doubting Thomases have all the logic-eliminating proof required.    

With only Hector Neris, Connor Brogdon and David Hale returning on Opening Day, the faithful were happy with five new relievers. They had pictured Archie Bradley as a solid closer and wondered why Neris was still on the team. Unfortunately, some expected a lights-out pen to protect almost every lead.      

After a winter of low expectations, JT Realmuto and Didi Gregorius re-upped with the Fightins because other franchises didn’t want to wait and/or pay their asking prices. Realistically, the 2020 offense was going to take the field again and provide the needed run support for Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.

Continue reading "Phillies: 2021’s Make-or-Break Month" »


Phillies Adam Haseley, Matt Moore to Rehab at Triple-A Tonight

Haseley

The Phillies will have a couple reinforcements in the pipeline as they return home for a homestand on Friday night.  Pitcher Matt Moore will make his second rehab appearance as a member of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  But tonight he will be joined by another name: outfielder Adam Haseley. 

The Phillies announced to the media, including Tim Kelly of Audacy Sports, that Haseley will formally begin his rehab assignment.  Haseley left the team for personal reasons on April 14.  The Phillies placed him on the restricted list, and he re-joined the organization on May 14.  Being on the restricted list, the Phillies have 30 days from the day he returned to re-instate Haseley to the 40-man roster.  That means Haseley will have about two weeks to show he is major league-ready.

Moore makes his second start at Triple-A after being placed on the 10-day injured list with back spasms on May 22.  Moore pitched three innings on Saturday, allowing one hit and striking out five.  Moore surrendered no runs.

Meanwhile, Scott Kingery continues a rehab appearance for Lehigh Valley.  Kingery was placed on the 7-day Concussion Injured List on May 18 and then the 10-day Injured List on May 26.  He began a rehab assignment at Triple-A on June 1.  Kingery is looking to prove that he is worthy of reinstatement to the major league roster.  Kingery went just 1 for 19 with the Phillies.


Phillies Promote Top Infield Prospect Stott to Double-A

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The Phillies selected infielder Bryson Stott with the fourteenth overall pick in the first round of the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft.  However, thanks to COVID and the 2020 minor league season not taking place, Stott has yet to play in full-season minor league ball.  Stott was assigned to the High-A Jersey Shore BlueClaws to start the 2021 season and already he is on the move.

The BlueClaws announced Stott's promotion to Double-A Reading on Tuesday afternoon:

While Stott has been hot with the bat, his glove is going to be something the Phillies will focus on.

Drafted as a shortstop, Stott remains listed at the position.  However, in Major League Spring Training and in six games for the BlueClaws, Stott played second base. There have been some long-term questions about where Stott will end up with the Phillies upon his call-up to the major leagues.

The Phillies have Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius both signed through 2022, but as 2021 injuries have been a challenge up the middle, Stott's call could come sooner.  The Phillies will continue to evaluate his defense at Double-A.

Overall for the BlueClaws, Stott batted .288 with five home runs and 10 runs batted in.

Stott is ranked as the number two prospect on the MLB.com's Pipeline, behind last year's first round pick, Mick Abel.   At 23 years old, Stott could move quickly through the Phillies system.


2021 Phillies: Acquiring a New Closer

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies are only nine weeks into the 162, the faithful mostly voice their displeasure with struggling players on the mound, in the field, and on the bench. Every campaign, stars receive their ire based on performances, real or perceived; and some judgements begin after only two weeks.  

 

Greener Pastures:

One Phillies fan believes the organization has tons of closers (his words) in the minors because that’s what scouting is for. Meanwhile, others think replacing Hector Neris could have been done long-ago or during the offseason. But if the front office can’t accomplish this immediately, are they incompetent?

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Have you ever considered that your perception of reality could be wrong? If you haven't, this is a pretty good sign that it is.” - Ernie J Zelinski

In November, management targets their shortcomings, but the emphasis is on their greatest needs. Not all! And they reassess their team’s weaknesses after a competitive three months because players tend to be streaky. Ergo, those 26 men have the opportunity to succeed, but there are surprises, disappointments and injuries.           

During the winter, the Fightins sought a catcher, a shortstop, a left-handed bat with 20-homer power, two starting pitchers and a totally revamped bullpen. However, today’s execs don’t have unlimited spending. Even the New York Yankees no longer pay penalties totaling over $500 million for one World Series title.                           

By June’s end, the Phils’ roster picture may change significantly, and the higher-ups are willing to exceed the $210 million CBT (competitive-balance threshold) by $15-20 million AAV (average annual value) for one --one-- year if the club has a realistic postseason chance. And the players know they control this by winning. 

Continue reading "2021 Phillies: Acquiring a New Closer" »