Most of the talk surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies these days rightly involves two main topics. First is just how bad the current group of placeholder players is performing.
The other major topic revolves around when the Phillies will begin to promote some of its better minor league prospects. And which of those prospects will get the call first?
Management is evaluating the current players to determine which will be here for the long-term. A look over the active roster shows that there are very few such candidates. Maybe three or four position players at best.
But on the mound, the Phillies developing pitching staff is a different story. A number of the current arms have a chance to stick around for the next few years.
One of those arms is starting pitcher Jerad Eickhoff. The soon to be 27-year old right-hander is struggling through a difficult individual season.
Eickhoff enters his start on Saturday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks with an 0-7 record. He carries a 5.09 ERA, 1.528 WHIP, and an ERA+ mark at just 85 through 13 starting assignments. Eickhoff has allowed 81 hits over 70.2 innings with a 63/27 K:BB ratio.
There are a few encouraging signs, however, when you continue glancing at Eickhoff’s 2017 stat line. His 4.20 FIP mark is just a tick higher than the 4.19 he posted last year in what was considered a successful season. After yielding 30 home runs last year, his nine thus far in 2017 leave him on pace to allow a few less this season.
In nine of Eickhoff’s 13 starts he has gotten the Phillies into the sixth inning. He has allowed three or fewer earned runs in eight of those 13 starts.
ENCOURAGING RECENT OUTINGS
His two most recent appearances came on the road at Atlanta and Boston. He surrendered 11 hits over 11 innings with a 10/3 K:BB ratio.
However, one bad pitch resulted in a Dansby Swanson home run and cost him against the Braves. “I did a really good job except for the one pitch,” said Eickhoff per Philly.com’s Matt Breen. “That’s the most frustrating part. You look at the scoreboard and see three runs from that homer. That’s not any indication of how things have went.”
At Fenway Park, he was handed a 4-0 first inning lead. But then Eickhoff was tagged by Mookie Betts for three doubles in four innings. The young Boston star outfielder has victimized many big league pitchers already in his short career. “These guys did a really good job of getting us out to a good lead, and I was just trying to keep us in the game the best I could,” said the pitcher per Reuters.
LONG-TERM BACK-END STARTING PITCHER
Eickhoff, obtained by the Phillies from the Texas Rangers as one piece of the huge haul for Cole Hamels, is never going to be an ace. His strong performances in 2015 following that deal, and then last year, left some misguided fans and writers thinking that he had that type of potential.
The Phillies don’t need Eickhoff to be an ace. They need him to be what his talent and personality say that he should be, a solid back-end starting pitcher for the next four to five years.
Eickhoff has indeed been hit a little more this season, and his command and control have been off. Chuck Booth at FanSided’s Section 215 pointed out that the solution may be as simple as the reintroduction of the changeup to Eickhoff’s repertoire.
Whatever Eickhoff’s issues, he does not appear to be very far off based on what I saw in those last two performances. They were far more indicative of his bulldog ability to fight to keep the club in the game. He is certainly not an 0-7 pitcher, talent-wise.
As the Phillies continue to evaluate their future, my bet would be that Eickhoff finds himself a key piece. The role will be as a workhorse, back-end starting pitcher. Hopefully tonight’s outing at Citizens Bank Park proves to be a step back towards more consistent results of that type.