Category Archives: SPORTS

As MLB All-Star break arrives, Braves in charge, Nats hot, Phils not in NL East race

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The Braves have taken charge of the NL East at the All-Star break

The Philadelphia Phillies (47-43) have arrived at the MLB All-Star break in third place in the National League East Division standings. They trail the Atlanta Braves by 6.5 games and are a half-game behind the Washington Nationals, but still control the second NL Wildcard playoff berth.

The Phillies captured a weekend series over the New York Mets at Citi Field by winning two of the three games, capped off by a rousing 8-3 victory in Sunday’s series finale. That followed on the heels of a series defeat after they dropped two of three to the first-place Atlanta Braves to open last week.
Now nearly three and a half months into the six-month long MLB regular season, the Phillies appear to be approaching a cross-roads. They led the division for all but seven days up until June 12, then were passed for second place by the Nats just this past week.
While the club has struggled to produce runs on a consistent basis over the traditional first-half of the season, their real problem has been on the mound. Phillies pitchers rank at or near the bottom of most important statistical categories. While the bullpen appears to finally be getting healthy, the starting rotation has become a complete mess.
The ability of general manager Matt Klentak to find a pair of more stable, veteran, productive starting pitchers prior to the trade deadline at the end of this month will likely prove pivotal to any hope of reaching the postseason.

If Klentak is unable to procure those new starters, even a bit of improvement from the offense is unlikely to keep them in contention through the dog days of August and the crucible of a September stretch run.

The 2019 MLB All-Star Game will take place at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday night. The lone Phillies representative will be J.T. Realmuto, who was selected as a back-up catcher for the National League.
As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of the Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week with a presentation of the standings, last week’s results, and the upcoming schedules for each club.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

EAST DIVISION

    <th aria-label="Win-Loss %" class=" poptip hide_non_quals center" data-filter="1" data-name="Win-Loss %" data-stat="win_loss_perc" data-tip="Win-Loss Percentage
    W / (W + L)
    For players, leaders need one decision for every ten team games.
    For managers, minimum to qualify for leading is 320 games.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>W-L%

    <th aria-label="Games Back" class=" poptip sort_default_asc center" data-stat="games_back" data-tip="Games Back of Division/League Leader
    Computed as games over .500 of leader (W-L) minus games over .500 of team divided by two.
    Typically computed at the end of play for a particular day.
    Blank for 1st game of DH.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>GB

    East Division
    Team W L
    Atlanta Braves 54 37 .593
    Washington Nationals 47 42 .528 6.0
    Philadelphia Phillies 47 43 .522 6.5
    New York Mets 40 50 .444 13.5
    Miami Marlins 33 55 .375 19.5

    ATLANTA BRAVES (4 – 2)

    Summary: The first-place Braves continued to win series as the month of July opened, beating the Phillies and Marlins in two of three games each last week.
    While it was nothing special, it demonstrated exactly the kind of consistent, winning performance that the Phillies had been producing over the season’s first two months.
    Upcoming: Atlanta will head out on the road following the All-Star break, visiting San Diego and Milwaukee for three games each.
    Player of the First HalfMike Soroka, SP
    NL All-Star repsFreddie Freeman 1B, Ronald Acuna Jr.OF, Mike Soroka SP

    MIAMI MARLINS (1 – 5)

    Summary: For a second straight week, Don Mattingly‘s Fish dropped five of six games, this time to the division’s top two ball clubs. The Washington Nationals swept the Marlins in D.C. to open the week, and then the Braves won two of three in Atlanta over the weekend.
    After a stretch of strong play from mid-May through mid-June, the Marlins have begun to collapse. They are just 3-9 over their last dozen contests, and their overall .375 winning percentage is the worst in the entire National League. However, their 8-7 mark against the Phillies is proving to be a major factor in the division race.
    Upcoming: The Marlins will be at home coming out of the break, hosting the New York Mets for three games over the weekend. The San Diego Padres then come to South Florida to open next week.
    Player of the First HalfGarrett Cooper, OF/1B
    NL All-Star repsSandy Alcantara P

    NEW YORK METS (2 – 3)

    Summary: A losing week has dropped the Mets to 10 games below the .500 mark on the season, with the second-worst record in the NL behind only the Marlins.
    They began last week with a two-game split of a Subway Series match-up with the New York Yankees. Then the Phillies came to Citi Field and took two of three over this past weekend. The Mets are seven games behind the Phillies for the second NL Wildcard, but would have to climb over nine other teams to get there as well.
    Upcoming: New York will come out of the break and head out on the road to begin a nine-game trip that will start in Miami over the weekend. The road trip will then take them to Minnesota for two with the AL Central-leading Twins and out to San Francisco for three with the Giants.
    Player of the First HalfPete Alonso, 1B
    NL All-Star repsPete Alonso 1B, Jeff McNeil 3B/OF

    WASHINGTON NATIONALS (5 – 1)

    Summary: The Nationals are white-hot after appearing to be on the verge of getting buried just a month ago. Since May 23, when they were 19-31 and sitting in fourth place, 10 games behind the first-place Phillies, Washington has gone 28-11 to overtake the Phils in the standings.
    This past week, the Nationals stayed hot by sweeping the Marlins at home to open the week. Then they took two of three over the weekend from the visiting Kansas City Royals.
    Upcoming: The Nats also come out of the break and head out on the road. It all starts with a visit to Citizens Bank Park this coming weekend to take on the Phillies in a showdown for second place in the NL East. The trip doesn’t take them geographically very far at all. Next week they will drive to Baltimore for a pair with the Orioles at Camden Yards. Then it’s down south for a huge four-game set next weekend in Atlanta.
    Player of the First HalfAnthony Rendon, 3B
    NL All-Star repsAnthony Rendon 3B, Max Scherzer P

    MLB 2019 Power Rankings: Astros, Dodgers remain at the top of each league as July opens

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    Texas Rangers have been a surprise AL contender in 2019

    This is a Philadelphia Phillies site, and so the team’s place on my MLB Power Rankings always needs to be highlighted. When I debuted the 2019 rankings on June 1, there were fans upset that the first-place club was in the #15 slot.

    By the June 15 rankings, the Phillies had moved up a spot to #14, although by then the team had dropped to second place. Still, I heard complaints from fans who believed the club should be ranked higher.
    Maybe now they can admit that the rankings were on to something? The Phillies have now slipped to the #18 spot. They have the 12th-best record in MLB overall, and are buoyed by their defense, tied for 8th in the game. But their hitting attack has been mediocre (15th) and they are seriously weighted down by a pitching staff rated just 25th in baseball.
    Fans are allowed to be unrealistic about their team based on pure emotion. My own personal feelings have nothing to do with the MLB Power Rankings published here at Phillies Nation. Instead, it’s all about each team’s actual results and statistical performances.
    There is never any subjectivity on my part. I take key statistics and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to actually win ball games as well as their performance on offense, on the pitching mound, and in the field.
    The MLB Power Rankings will be updated here at Phillies Nation on the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

    RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

    Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings received another tweak to begin this year. By the end of 2018, I was researching each of the 30 MLB teams current position in the four categories of winning percentageruns scoredpitching OPS, and fielding percentage.
    This year, runs-per-game has replaced that simple “runs scored” category in order to get the offensive component. I then assign each of those component category team rankings a 1-30 value and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there was a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage, then by runs-per-game, followed by pitching OPS.

    2019 JULY 1 –  MLB RANKINGS

    The Houston Astros repeat at the top of the Power Rankings. But the top four teams remain the same, just with a slight juggling of the order.
    The hot risers are the Washington Nationals, who have shot up 11 places since June 1. In the American League, the Texas Rangers are up again, this time from 11 to 8 after going from 16 to 11 in the June 15 rankings. And the Oakland A’s burst up from 12 to 5 this time around.
    On the down side, the Milwaukee Brewers have dropped from the top ten down to 16. Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres, who like the Phillies landed a huge off-season free agent in Manny Machado, have been struggling along in the lower half. The Friars are 20th for a second straight ranking.
    In parentheses are the team’s positions from the June 1 and June 15 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
    1. Houston Astros (3-1)
    2. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3)
    3. Minnesota Twins (2-2)
    4. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4)
    5. Oakland Athletics (8-12)
    6. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5)
    7. Atlanta Braves (12-9)
    8. Texas Rangers (16-11)
    9. New York Yankees (5-8)
    10. Boston Red Sox (6-6)
    11. Chicago Cubs (10-13)
    12. Colorado Rockies (11-7)
    13. Washington Nationals (24-19)
    14. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15)
    15. Cleveland Indians (18-18)
    16. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10)
    17. Cincinnati Reds (13-16)
    18. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14)
    19. Los Angeles Angels (19-17)
    20. San Diego Padres (17-20)
    21. Miami Marlins (23-26)
    22. Kansas City Royals (21-21)
    23. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25)
    24. New York Mets (22-23)
    25. San Francisco Giants (29-27)
    26. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28)
    27. Seattle Mariners (26-22)
    28. Chicago White Sox (25-24)
    29. Detroit Tigers (27-29)
    30. Baltimore Orioles (30-30)

    SPOTLIGHT TEAM: TEXAS RANGERS

    Few people had the Texas Rangers as a serious contender entering the 2019 Major League Baseball season. But the Rangers have bashed the ball around the yard, ranking 5th in runs-per-game, and have also played solid defensively.
    Unfortunately for the Rangers they play in the same division, the American League West, as the top team in our rankings, the Houston Astros. As of today, the Rangers trail their Texas rivals by six games in the loss column. The Rangers are tied with the Cleveland Indians in the loss column in the race for the second AL Wildcard playoff berth.
    The big bats in the Texas attack have been a trio of hitters who have rotated the left field and designated hitter positions: Joey GalloShin-Soo Choo, and a rejuvenated Hunter Pence. Shortstop Elvis Andrus is also enjoying a strong first half. Both Gallo and Pence, who is currently on the IL, were selected for the AL squad in the 2019 All-Star Game.
    What has held Texas back is their pitching staff, which factored at just 23rd in the rankings category of OPS-against. One bright spot has been AlLAll-Star Mike Minor, a 31-year-old left-hander who could become a big trade chip should Texas fall out of the playoff race later this month.
    Credit first-year manager Chris Woodward for keeping the team believing in themselves. Now, does GM Jon Daniels believe enough to go out and try to bolster that rotation for a genuine playoff run? Or will the Rangers actually become sellers as that July 31 trade deadline approaches?
    (Previous spotlight teams: June 1 – Minnesota Twins , June 15 – Atlanta Braves)
    Originally published at Phillies Nation as “2019 MLB Power Rankings: July 1

    June bug Nats beginning to prove major pests in NL East

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    Anthony Rendon has led a Nationals charge back into the race

    The Philadelphia Phillies begin the month of July in a far different position than they started out the month of June.

    When the calendar made the flip from May to June, the Phillies were on top of the National League East Division standings. Their 33-24 record had the club three full games ahead of the Atlanta Braves to that point.
    The month of June was not kind to the Phillies, as the club stumbled to an 11-16 mark. Now, the Phillies begin July in second place, staring up at the Braves through a five-game deficit in the loss column.
    The Phillies went 5-2 over this past week, though it was a bit of a mixed bag of results. It began with an uplifting four-game sweep of the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. But this past weekend saw the Marlins capture two of three in Miami to take some wind out of the Phillies sails.
    This week’s upcoming games will lead into a four-day break for the MLB All-Star Game.
    As always, my NL East Beat report reveals how each of the Phillies divisional rivals fared over the course of the past week with a presentation of the standings, last week’s results, and the upcoming schedules for each club.

    NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST DIVISION STANDINGS

    EAST DIVISION

      <th aria-label="Win-Loss %" class=" poptip hide_non_quals center" data-filter="1" data-name="Win-Loss %" data-stat="win_loss_perc" data-tip="Win-Loss Percentage
      W / (W + L)
      For players, leaders need one decision for every ten team games.
      For managers, minimum to qualify for leading is 320 games.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>W-L%

      <th aria-label="Games Back" class=" poptip sort_default_asc center" data-stat="games_back" data-tip="Games Back of Division/League Leader
      Computed as games over .500 of leader (W-L) minus games over .500 of team divided by two.
      Typically computed at the end of play for a particular day.
      Blank for 1st game of DH.” scope=”col” style=”background-color: #dadcde; border-color: rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(116, 118, 120) rgb(170, 170, 170); border-image: initial; border-style: solid; border-width: 1px; float: none !important; margin: 0px; opacity: initial; padding: 0px 12.375px; text-align: center;”>GB

      East Division
      Team W L
      Atlanta Braves 50 35 .588
      Philadelphia Phillies 44 40 .524 5.5
      Washington Nationals 42 41 .506 7.0
      New York Mets 38 47 .447 12.0
      Miami Marlins 32 50 .390 16.5

      ATLANTA BRAVES (4 – 3)

      Summary: Atlanta split a four-game set at Wrigley Field with the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, then moved on to Citi Field where they took two of three from the struggling New York Mets.
      While the Phillies were stumbling through their losing June, the Braves went 20-8 to put themselves firmly in control. Now this young and talented ball club will to capture a second straight NL East crown.
      Upcoming: Following Monday’s off-day, the Braves return home from a 10-game road trip on which they went 6-4 to welcome in the Phillies for a huge three-game series at SunTrust Park. Then over the coming weekend they will receive a visit from the Miami Marlins.

      MIAMI MARLINS (1 – 5)

      Summary: The Marlins went 2-4 this past week, with both wins coming against the Phillies at Marlins Park over this past weekend. They had begun the week getting swept in a three-gamer by the visiting Washington Nationals.
      The Marlins competed tough by going 13-14 during the month of June, aided greatly by their 5-1 mark against the Phillies over the past two weekends. Still at 18 games below the .500 mark, with an extremely difficult schedule into early August, the Fish are likely about to get cleaned, scaled, and fried.
      Upcoming: After Monday’s off-day, the Marlins will be paying visits to a pair of division rivals, Washington and Atlanta, for a three-game series with each this week.

      NEW YORK METS (1 – 6)

      Summary: This was a devastating week for the Mets, who built a seven-game losing streak before finally snapping it in Sunday’s series finale with the Braves. They began the week getting swept by the previously ice-cold Phillies, then continued the skid by dropping the first two games to Atlanta at home.
      The month of June was even worse for New York than it was for the Phillies, if you can believe that. The Mets went just 10-18 during the month, plummeting from just a game below the .500 mark and five back in the division race to their current 12 games out.
      Upcoming: Following Monday’s off-day in the schedule it will be two at Citi Field with the New York Yankees in the continuation of this year’s Subway Series. The two local rivals split a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium just three weeks ago. Then the Mets will welcome in the Phillies for three over the coming weekend.

      WASHINGTON NATIONALS (5 – 1)

      Summary: If the Braves are looking back in the standings with concern at anyone these days, it is probably more at the surging Nationals than the slumping Phillies. The Nats began the month of June nine games below .500 and a distant nine off the NL East lead.
      But then it all began to finally click. The Nationals went 18-8 during the month of June to push above the .500 mark. They still trail in the division by seven games, but are within a single game in the loss column of the Phillies and Rockies for the final NL Wildcard berth.
      This past week they swept the Marlins in Miami, then captured two of three Inter-league games at Detroit against the Tigers.
      Upcoming: The Nationals will be home all week following Monday’s off-day. They will try to keep it rolling with three games each against the Marlins and Kansas City Royals.

      Phillies organization to hold several open tryout camps over the summer of 2019

      Embed from Getty Images

      The Phillies will hold a half-dozen open tryouts over next seven weeks, including in South Philly at FDR Park

      You played sandlot ball growing up, or in the schoolyard or fields back in your old neighborhood. You were one of the better players on your Little League or rec league or local age-bracket league as a kid. In high school, you had some flashes of brilliance. Maybe even dominated your league at times.

      So, you’ve always thought to yourself, “I wonder if I could make it in the pros?
      I mean, okay, maybe you don’t think that you could hit big-league pitching. As Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) said in “Bull Durham“: “They throw ungodly breaking stuff in The Show. Exploding sliders.
      But maybe you’ve seen your fellow 18-20 year-olds playing on the back fields in Clearwater while visiting Phillies spring training and felt that you could compete with them.
      Or maybe you’ve attended a rookie-league game up in Williamsport, or a Low-A game in Lakewood and thought that you could have made that play. You could hit the right cutoff man. You could throw as hard as that pitcher, or with better command.

      Maybe you were actually pretty good in high school or college, but you just never got noticed. Or you stunk on the days that scouts were watching. Or you got hurt, missed some amount of time, but are healthy now.

      Well, if you really think that you have a shot, then now is the time to put up or shut up. Over the next six weeks or so, the Philadelphia Phillies will be holding seven different tryout camps. Four of those will be held in Philly as well as at the locations of their area minor league clubs. Three will be held down south in Texas.
      Per the team: Tryout camps are open to players ages 15-23. There is no fee. Registration will be done 30 minutes prior to the start of camp. All players must bring their own equipment and water.
      Here are the dates, times, and locations:
      The June 20 (tomorrow – Thursday) camp at Coca-Cola Park will be a limited indoor workout with registration starting at 9:30 a.m. and camp starting at 10 a.m..
      The July 11 camp is at FDR Park, which for those unfamiliar with South Philly is located just two blocks west of Citizens Bank Park, across from the Philadelphia Eagles’ NovaCare Complex on Pattison Avenue.
      Back in 2015, Bill Bavasi, director of the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau and a former big-league general manager, was quoted as part of a nice piece that is worth a read by Danny Wild at MiLB.com on players looking for a way into affiliated ball:
      There’s no end of showcases or games or independent leagues; there’s so many opportunities to play baseball. That’s besides 30 teams having six or seven of their own teams. There’s tons of baseball opportunities. I think the independent leagues are probably the best non-affiliated situation you could get with, no doubt about that.
      Here is one of those chances, all you wannabe’s. Go for it!

      MLB Power Rankings: Houston Astros take over the top spot on June 15

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      Houston Astros take over top spot with the June 15 rankings

      When my first MLB Power Rankings for the 2019 season were released two weeks ago on June 1, I took some guff from a couple of Phillies fans who thought that I was nuts for ranking the club in the #15 slot.

      At the time, the Phillies were in first place in the National League East Division, leading the Atlanta Braves by two games. But the Braves came out three places above the Phillies, ranking in the #12 slot. My own personal feelings have nothing to do with it. Instead, it’s all about the results and the statistics. Those rarely prove wrong over the long haul.
      As with last season when I began this evaluation process, there will be no subjectivity on my part. I take the key statistics and rank teams based on their ability to actually win ball games as well as their performance on offense, on the pitching mound, and in the field.
      The MLB Power Rankings will be updated here at Phillies Nation roughly every two weeks for the remainder of the regular season using the below methodology.

      RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

      Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings gets another tweak to begin this year. By the end of 2018, I was researching each of the 30 MLB teams current position in the four categories of winning percentageruns scoredpitching OPS, and fielding percentage.
      This year, runs-per-game will be replacing simple runs scored to get the offensive component. I then assign each of those component category team rankings a 1-30 value and add them up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there was a tie, it was broken by W-L percentage, then by runs-per-game, followed by pitching OPS.

      2019 JUNE 15 MLB RANKINGS

      The Phillies moved up one place from #15 to #14 on the strength of a defense that went from  a tie for 15th in fielding percentage two weeks ago all the way up to a tie for 6th at this point. They are also still being somewhat buoyed by their 8th-ranked win-loss record. But an offense that is just 14th in runs-per-game is hurting, and even worse is a pitching staff whose collective OPS-against is tied at just 21st overall in MLB.
      The top four teams remain the same from two weeks ago, but have been shuffled around, with Houston vaulting Minnesota to take over the top spot. Both the Astros and Twins slipped past the Dodgers, who were at the top on June 1.
      The hot risers are the Arizona Dbacks, who moved up four places from #9 to #5, the Texas Rangers who rose from #16 to #11, and the Washington Nationals, up from #24 to the #19 slot as they try to recover from a horrendous start.
      On the down side, the Oakland A’s fell out of the top ten, from the #8 spot two weeks ago down to #12 this week. The Chicago Cubs also lost a grip on a ten ten spot, falling from #10 to the #13 place in this week’s rankings.
      1. Houston Astros
      2. Minnesota Twins
      3. Los Angeles Dodgers
      4. Tampa Bay Rays
      5. Arizona Diamondbacks
      6. Boston Red Sox
      7. Colorado Rockies
      8. New York Yankees
      9. Atlanta Braves
      10. Milwaukee Brewers
      11. Texas Rangers
      12. Oakland Athletics
      13. Chicago Cubs
      14. Philadelphia Phillies
      15. Saint Louis Cardinals
      16. Cincinnati Reds
      17. Los Angeles Angels
      18. Cleveland Indians
      19. Washington Nationals
      20. San Diego Padres
      21. Kansas City Royals
      22. Seattle Mariners
      23. New York Mets
      24. Chicago White Sox
      25. Pittsburgh Pirates
      26. Miami Marlins
      27. San Francisco Giants
      28. Toronto Blue Jays
      29. Detroit Tigers
      30. Baltimore Orioles

      SPOTLIGHT TEAM: ATLANTA BRAVES

      The Phillies got a taste of the improved Braves attack in Friday night’s opener of the pivotal three-game weekend series between the two clubs. The Braves never let up after the Phillies broke on top early, and the hosts pulled out a 9-8 walkoff victory at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
      Ever since manager Brian Snitker moved Ronald Acuna Jr. the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, into the leadoff spot in his batting order, the Braves have taken off. They were just 18-20 and had fallen four games behind the Phillies at that point. Since the move, Atlanta has gone 23-9 while the Phillies have stumbled. Now the Braves lead the division by 2.5 games.
      The Braves have scored 5 or more runs in 17 of those 32 games including the last six straight, and scored in double-digits five times. Before the lineup change, Atlanta had produced double-digits in runs just twice over the first 38 games of the season. The improved offensive attack has allowed Atlanta to win eight consecutive games heading into Saturday night.
      The June 15 rankings find the Braves up three places, from #12 into the top ten at the #9 overall slot. Their runs-per-game are up from 16th to 9th in MLB, which is the primary reason for the rise in both the Power Rankings and in the standings. That offense has covered for an ever-so-slight slippage by their defense and pitching over these last two weeks.
      Originally published at Phillies Nation as 2019 MLB Power Ranking: June 15