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Phillies: AL X Factors before 2020's October Battles

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Reentering the campaign, the Philadelphia Phillies took the field in Gotham against a team they thankfully play only for four regular-season games. Hopefully, the red pinstripes will achieve a 2-2 split by winning a second contest against the New York Yankees after returning to the Bank’s friendly confines.    

 

Eastern Complications:

After rearranging the same rejected offer repeatedly, the lords of baseball had instituted a 60-game schedule, and holes in their scheme didn’t take long to appear. Basically, the Phillies will have six makeup contests after their fourth game against the Yanks. Weather permitting.                                              

IN OTHER WORDS:

“A plan is an example of what could happen, not a prediction of what will happen.” - Kent Beck

According to speculation, the COVID-19 outbreaks on the Miami Marlins were due to players patronizing a bar. As for the St. Louis Cardinals, those stars went to a casino if the scuttlebutt is accurate. Meanwhile, more injuries than normal could be resulting from this stop-and-start competition or limited preparation.                         

This abbreviated campaign could have other pauses to compensate for additional youthful indiscretions, and it should be no surprise because the under-30 crowd believes they are indestructible. And if you’re a professional athlete in playing shape, what do you do with hours of downtime?     

Hitters are usually their most dangerous in their first game after an injury hiatus, but how would an entire offense react in a comparable situation? And would these four contests qualify if the Phils secure a 2-2 split? Now, their early record may not inspire the fan base, but it isn’t a season-ending blow either.   

Phillies IL (Injured List):

  • David Robertson (unknown) and Seranthony Dominguez (out for the year).

Beginning in New York, Joe Girardi  had penciled Jake Arrieta in against Gerrit Cole, and then the skipper had Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola starting against two hurlers with other surnames. Ergo, the manager challenged Arrieta and lined up Zach Eflin for the final game.       

In the rotation, Nola had struggled only when he had reached his pitch-count limit in his first performance, while Wheeler displayed the hoped-for dominance. So, the Phils will have one turn through the five-man staff after Eflin’s appearance, and then Vince Velasquez can perhaps redeem himself after his rough first outing.

Because the Bombers have predominantly right-handed power, the three-batter rule means southpaws Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez had limited opportunities in critical situations. Penwise, Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter and Victor Arano were the go-to arms against New York (AL).                  

Even though the Phillies have played a handful of contests, Didi Gregorius has already established an important batting-order role. Apparently, he’s one hitter who’s ahead of the pitchers, but these COVID-19 postponements will likely provide no advantage to either bat or glove.  

Yankees IL:

  • SP Luis Severino (out for the year).
  • RP Tommy Kahnle (out for the year).

Following Cole in the rotation, the Yanks have James Paxton with his decreased velocity leading to four frames total in his first two starts. Moreover, Mashahero Tanaka who had suffered a light concussion after a comebacker off his head has only worked 2 ⅔ innings on 51 pitches with perhaps five frames next time.     

JA Happ is struggling again in ‘20, and the Yankees wanted to move him during the offseason. Lastly, Jordan Montgomery had a good first performance after only seven starts in the last two years due to Tommy John surgery, but he had produced a 3.88 ERA in 2017 as a rookie. Expect growing pains!                     

In the relief corps, they have Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Chad Green getting the job done until Aroldis Chapman returns: The Fightins avoided this X factor. And their bullpen is also weaker this summer due to Kahnle’s absence and Dellin Betances signing with the New York Mets.        

While the Bronx Bombers have Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, they have no left-handed hitter with pop since Gregorius departed. For the most part, a right-handed closer will only face power from right-side bats, but they otherwise have no glaring offensive holes.  

2020 Predictions:

  • One: FanGraphs
  • Two: Davenport
  • Three: Pecota (Baseball Prospectus)
  • Four:  FiveThirtyEight
  • Avg.1: RotoChamp (Avg. of 1-4)
  • Avg. Wins of 1-5

NL East

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR  

AVG. 1  

AVG. WINS

Nationals 

33-27  

33-27  

32.9-27.1  

34-26

33-27

165.9 = 33.2 

Braves

33-27

32-28

30.4-29.6

32-28

32-28

159.4 = 31.9

Mets

33-27

31-29

32.2-27.8

32-28

33-27

161.2 = 32.2

Phillies

30-30

30-30

28.3-31.7

29-31

29-31

146.3 = 29.3

AL East

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

AVG. 1

AVG. WINS

Yankees

34-26

36-24

36.5-23.5

36-24

36-24

178.5 = 35.7

Rays

33-27

33-27

32.4-27.6

33-27

33-27

164.4 = 32.9

Red Sox

30-30

30-30

30.0-30.0   

30-30

31-29

152.0 = 30.4

Blue Jays

28-32

28-32

28.3-31.7

27-33

27-33

137.3 = 27.5

Although the Tampa Bay Rays are relatively healthy, their five-man staff hasn’t gone beyond the fifth inning, and ace Blake Snell has lasted five frames total in his two appearances. Moreover, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton and Ryan Yarbrough have had some difficulties, while Yonny Chirnos has excelled.                  

In the Rays’ pen, Oliver Drake has closed, and his setup men are Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado. Basically, they have a handful of middle relievers, who had limited ramp-up time, plus the 28-man roster means two hurlers who wouldn’t usually be on the parent club.   

As for hitting, Austin Meadows had led Tampa Bay in average (.291), home runs (33) and RBIs (89) in 2019, but he just returned to the lineup due to having the coronavirus. So, the Rays have been a middle-of-the-pack offense so far.   

Red Sox IL:

  • SP Chris Sale (out for the year) and SP Eduardo Rodriguez (out for the year).
  • RP Collin McHugh (opt out).

Without Sale and Rodriguez, Nathan Eovoldi heads the Boston Red Sox rotation. Remember, they traded David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That stated, Boston’s staff isn’t strong enough to make the playoffs.      

Their relief corps has Brandon Workman closing if they have a ninth-inning lead, but the Red Sox are 14th in American League pitching and only ahead of the Seattle Mariners. According, though, to one of their players recently, they must score heavily to win.

Hitting-wise, Boston has a solid offense even without Mookie Betts. In the AL, they’re sixth in runs scored (a tie), fifth in homers (a tie) and fourth in average,  but they won’t go far with their shortcomings on the mound.          

Blue Jays IL:

  • RP Ken Giles (right-forearm strain).

Toronto inked veteran Hyun-Jin Ryu over the winter to head their rotation, but he isn’t off to a dominant start. However, they have also promoted Nate Pearson who had a solid first outing, but he’ll take his lumps for a couple 162s before making an impact. And the rest of the staff are innings-eaters.           

Presently, former Phillies closer Giles is on the IL; though, he also had a mild elbow issue in ‘19. So Anthony Bass is handling the ninth frame, and they can rely on Jordan Romano and Rafael Dolis in setup roles.

With runs scored, the Blue Jays are last in the AL with 28, but youngsters Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Bo Bichette are having some success. Unfortunately, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are struggling so far. The odds, however, are low the three household-named offspring will have a breakout summer in ‘20.          

With Wheeler and Nola handling the seven-inning doubleheader, the bullpen had its best available arms after a day off, but the Phillies will still need a second win for a split with the Yankees. Outwardly, Girardi is guiding his team to avoid unnecessary risks, COVID-19 or injury, with what he hears. Opportunity knocking! 

 

NEXT:

Phillies, NL East: National Predictions for 2020

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