Tag Archives: Kyle Kendrick

Philadelphia Phillies December 2019 mailbag

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No one in baseball is more under the spotlight this off-season than Phillies general manager Matt Klentak.

 

Back on Christmas Eve Eve, I asked my social media followers to shoot me out any questions that they might have on the Phillies.

As you might expect, the majority of those ended up in reference to moves the club has made and might still make during this current off-season.

Following are a representative sampling, along with my responses, presented in a question (Q) and answer (A) format.

 

Q: Sean Fitzpatrick (@SeanFit91141350 on Twitter) asks “I’m questioning the configuration of the infield as it stands now. I dont see either Segura or Kingery as a legit third base option, and which one plays second? Do we bring in an outside option?

A: As we sit here in the week between Christmas and New Year’s the Phillies 2020 infield configuration appears that it will feature Rhys Hoskins at first base, Jean Segura at second, Didi Gregorius at shortstop, and Scott Kingery at third base. Kingery is likely keeping the spot warm until top prospect Alec Bohm is ready, at which point Kingery would return to a super-utility role. That assumes he is not needed at another position due to injury.

Q: Robin Heller (@flower_auntie on Twitter) says “I am wondering about who will play third base and how they will address the holes in the rotation!

A: As for third base, see the above answer – though there remain rumors that the Phillies could consider a trade for Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. The starting rotation is currently projected to be made up of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez.

It doesn’t appear as though GM Matt Klentak feels that there are “holes in the rotation” – though you and I would disagree with him. Arrieta needs to prove that he can stay healthy and produce past May. Eflin and Velasquez have been consistently inconsistent.

Wheeler was a great signing. But we went into this off-season believing that the Phillies needed two new starting pitchers of the type who had proven to be winners at the big-league level. There is still plenty of time to bring in another arm via free agency or trade.

Among free agents remaining, perhaps Klentak would consider taking a shot on Alex Wood, if the 28-year-old southpaw keeps hanging out on the market and his price is reasonable. The Phillies have also been linked to Arizona lefty Robbie Ray.

Q: Dan McElhaugh on Facebook asks “You (Phillies) need to address the bullpen and get another starter. What are you doing about it?

A: I addressed the starting pitchers above. However, you also have to consider that top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is close to big-league ready and will likely impact the rotation at some point in 2020. He is probably going to start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and assuming health and success there we should see him by the second half of the season, at the latest.

The bullpen is a tough question. There actually are the makings of a decent group here. But much of that depends on them being healthier than last year’s group. Right-handers include Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, Trevor Kelley, Robert Stock and possibly even Nick Pivetta or prospect Adonis Medina.

Among lefties the club currently has Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Austin Davis, and Cristopher Sanchez. You could even see minor league starters Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and JoJo Romero slide into a pen role.

There are a number of veteran relievers remaining on the free agent market including Daniel Hudson, Will Harris, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Francisco Liriano, and Fernando Rodney. Any of them would help upgrade the bullpen. Klentak may be waiting to see if any can eventually come dirt cheap.

Q: JBFazz1213 (@JBFazz1213 on Twitter) stated “Very Disappointing if the Phillies don’t sign Dellin Betances because of the Luxury Tax.

A: As we now know, the Phillies indeed did not sign Betances, who received a one-year deal at $10.5 million guaranteed from the division-rival New York Mets which can rise to $13 million based on incentives. He also received two player option years, though if he proves himself healthy it is likely that Betances re-sets his value and returns to the free agent market next fall.

Having previously pitched his entire career in the Big Apple with the Yankees, he has a number of ties to New York. Likely of most importance were that the doctors who treated his shoulder injury and his Achilles injuries are located there. Those injuries, especially the September Achilles, are likely most of the reason that the Phillies and any number of other ball clubs in need of bullpen help were not involved.

Q: Wally Potter on Facebook asks “Why does the Phillies farm system have a bad history of producing quality starting pitching ? More specific within the last 40 years.”

A: Back in July of 2019, Dan Roche of NBC Sports Philadelphia did a nice piece on this very subject. In that piece, Roche listed the top 10 homegrown Phillies pitchers over the last four decades as ranked by Baseball-Reference WAR value.

Those ten arms belong to, in order, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Kevin Gross, Randy Wolf, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Don Carman, Kyle Kendrick, Hector Neris, and Ricky Bottalico.

It’s not a bad list, but there is a major and obvious flaw. Nola and Neris are “now” arms on the current roster. Hamels, Myers, Madson, and Kendrick were all pitchers with the 2008 World Series champions and were with the club for a number of years around that magical season.

What you are left with are Gross, Carman, and Ricky Bo as the only pitchers developed out of the Phillies farm system from the late-1970’s through the mid-2000’s who had any real impact on the ball club.

Roche estimates that the Phillies have drafted upwards of 1,000 pitchers over the last 40 years and stated “Even by blind luck, a team should be able to do better than the Phillies have.

The answer to the “why” is difficult to explain. That poor history comes under various regimes led by eight different general managers and a number of higher executives.

Perhaps that poor homegrown pitching record is beginning to change. If you make the history just of the last dozen years or so, you get seven of the above 10 names. You also get arms such as current top pitching prospect Spencer Howard and former top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, the centerpiece of the J.T. Realmuto deal.

Q: d dask (@DocD19 on Twitter) wanted me to “Ask Matt Klentak if he is allergic to southpaws?

A: I am not sure regarding the topic of Klentak’s allergies. But I get it. Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, and Hyun-Jin Ryu were all available as free agents this time around. Any would have been a perfect fit for the Phillies rotation – especially our old hero Hamels on a one-year deal. The exact reasons why the GM didn’t get any of those arms to Philly is perplexing, to say the least.

Q: DDNAGS (@DDNAGS1 on Twitter) opined “They will not win with the current roster. Ask Matt Klentak when he is going to get off his big ass and make a couple trades? We don’t need all these scrubs he always signs.

A: Well, that’s simply wrong. Klentak signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen last off-season. He signed Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this off-season. They had a .500 roster prior to the recent moves and on paper appear to be improved. So, it would seem that, given health, they are already good enough to “win with the current roster.
Now, if you are talking about winning enough to reach the playoffs, maybe even contend for a division crown, and beyond that, a world championship, I get it.
It is my contention that the Phillies need a more proven center fielder, a left-handed veteran starting pitcher, another veteran bullpen arm with a successful track record, and another bench bat with pop from the right side similar to what Jay Bruce brings from the left. Let’s see what the GM does between now and the start of the season.

Q: PhilliesCurveballMachine (@phillies_the on Twitter) asks “Will a “culture change” in the clubhouse under the new coaching staff really make a difference in the team’s intensity/ focus/ “hustle” this season? And will this translate into wins? Why/how?

A: When you talk about a “culture change” inside the Phillies clubhouse, you specifically mention the change of managers from Gabe Kapler to Joe Girardi. Honestly, we’re not going to know how the club responds. But I expect that a proven winner with a championship pedigree will be more influential and regarded more positively than a rookie with a cheerleader personality.

There is another major change inside the clubhouse, with a pair of starting players gone in Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. This year should find Realmuto, McCutchen, and Harper stepping into even more vocal leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but that prospect elicits more confidence from me.

I am expecting that Girardi will simply not tolerate any lack of hustle. He is not only going to be willing to make an example out of any player, but also have the confidence and support from management to bench anyone for any reason.

This comes from the popularity of his hiring, the unpopularity of the general manager, the fact that Girardi is just beginning what should be at least a three-year run in the dugout, and his own confidence based on his experiences as a championship-winning player and manager.

Now, will this change in style and substance result in more victories? I think it will have some effect. However, the team has to stay mostly healthy, especially where its biggest stars are concerned, and needs to receive actual improved performance from a few players. Any more positive attitude needs to be backed by positive performances.

Q: Andrew (@Andrew201711 on Twitter) asks “With the roster as it stands , I don’t see the Phils doing any better than third place …. your thoughts ?

A: For me the big thing right now is that factor of health. If the roster as currently assembled remains healthy, they can contend for a postseason berth. If they stay healthy, get improved performances from a few players such as Adam Haseley, Hoskins, and Arrieta, and if Klentak can make a couple of big in-season moves, they can win the division.

All of that said, the Braves are two-time defending NL East champions with a talented young core. The Nationals are defending World Series champions. Both teams have solid overall rosters. The Mets have improved their already tough pitching staff in both talent and depth this off-season. All three of those teams finished above the Phillies in the 2019 standings.

It is way too early for me to make any predictions. A lot can still change on not only the Phillies roster, but that of their division rivals. But right now you can make a legitimate argument for the club finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the National League East Division in the 2020 season.

That’s it for the mailbag this time around. I’ll open it up once again as spring training gets underway in February. Between now and then, you can always hit me up on social media: @philliesbell on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

2020 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot includes six former Phillies

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Who will be the next former Phillies player to receive a plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame?

 

35 formers players are enshrined with plaques. Two managers and a pair of executives as well. Even five broadcasters and 10 writers whose work was featured in Philadelphia have found a place at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That makes a grand total of 52 individuals with ties to the Phillies organization now honored with a place in Cooperstown. Who will be next?

The official nominees for 2020 enshrinement as a player were announced earlier this week. The ballot submitted by the Hall for voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) includes six players who pulled on a Phillies jersey at some point in their career.

All six of these players left an indelible impression on Phillies fans during their stay with the ball club. Three of them even performed during Veteran’s Stadium days. The six players are pitchers Curt Schilling, Cliff Lee, and Billy Wagner, outfielders Bobby Abreu and Raul Ibañez, and third baseman Scott Rolen.

Let’s take a look back at a snapshot of each player’s overall career and their time in Philadelphia. I’ll also give you my opinion as to their chances of actually gaining enshrinement with their own plaque at the Hall of Fame. The players are presented in alphabetical order.

BOBBY ABREU

MLB: 18 seasons (1996-2012, 2014)

Phillies: Nine seasons (1998-2006)

Stats: WAR – 60, Slash – .291/.395/.475, 2,470 hits, 288 home runs, 1,363 RBIs, 1,453 runs, 400 stolen bases, 574 doubles, 59 triples

Career highlights and awards: 1996 Houston Astros Minor League Player of the Year. 1999 Venezuelan Winter League Player of the Year. 1999-2001 Phillies Player of the Year. 2004-05 All-Star, 2004 Silver Slugger Award, 2005 Gold Glove Award, 2019 Phillies Wall of Fame, Led MLB in triples 1998, Led NL in doubles, received MVP votes in six seasons.

Abreu hit the first official home run in Citizens Bank Park history in 2004 and had the last stolen base at the original Yankee Stadium in 2008. 2005 NL Player of the Month in April and 2009 AL Player of the Month in July. Won 2005 Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in which he was a starter at the game in Detroit.

Abreu produced two 30/30 (HR/SB) seasons and nine 20/20 seasons. He is one of just six players in MLB history to reach 250 home runs, 2,000 hits, 1,000 runs, 1,000 runs batted in, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. Hit .284 with a .392 OBP over 79 career postseason plate appearances.

HOF chances: Borderline, but not likely during time on writer’s ballot, though he will justifiably receive votes and support. Abreu is 20th all-time in the right field JAWS ranking, which falls just shy of the Hall of Fame as it trails such players as Larry Walker, Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith, and Sammy Sosa, who have not been able to get in to this point.

RAUL IBAÑEZ

MLB: 19 seasons (1996-2014)

Phillies: Three seasons (2009-11)

Stats: WAR – 20.4, Slash – .272/.335/.465, 2,034 hits, 305 home runs, 1,207 RBIs, 1,055 runs, 50 stolen bases, 424 doubles, 51 triples

Career highlights and awards: 2009 National League All-Star while with Phillies. Received MVP votes in three seasons. 5x Player of the Week. 2002 Kansas City Royals Player of the Year. In 2004 with Seattle Mariners he  tied the AL record with six hits in one game.

Ibanez became a beloved Yankees player on his heroic late-game performance which led to a victory in Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS vs the Orioles. In that game he pinch-hit for a slumping Alex Rodriguez and ultimately became the first player in major league history to hit two home runs in a postseason game he did not start; the first to hit two home runs in the 9th inning or later of a postseason game; the oldest player to hit a postseason walk-off home run; and the oldest player to hit two home runs in a postseason game.

In a second stint with Mariners in 2013, Ibanez became the oldest player in MLB history to blast 20 home runs prior to the All-Star break. His 29 home runs that season at age 41 tied Ted Williams for the most homers in a season by anyone aged 40 and over.

Ibanez hit .245 with six home runs and 22 RBIs over 151 career postseason plate appearances. With the Phillies he hit .240 with three homers and 17 RBIs over 108 plate appearances.

HOF chances: Zero as a player. His career 20.2 JAWS mark is 119th all-time among left fielders. Players ahead of him not enshrined include a trio of Phillies Wall of Famers in Greg Luzinski, Sherry Magee, and Del Ennis, former Phillies Lonnie Smith and Gary Matthews, as well as players such as Lance Berkman and George Foster.

CLIFF LEE

MLB: 13 seasons (2002-13)

Phillies: Five seasons (2009, 2011-14)

Stats: WAR – 42.8, 143-91 record. Innings – 2,156.2; Strikeouts – 1,824; K/BB – 3.93; ERA/WHIP/FIP – 3.52/1.196/3.45; 328 games, 324 starts, 29 complete games, 12 shutouts.

Career highlights and awards: 2008 AL Cy Young Award and Comeback Player of the Year. 2008 Warren Spahn Award as baseball’s best lefty pitcher. 4x All-Star. Received Cy Young Award votes in five seasons, MVP votes in two seasons. Led MLB in Wins and Win Pctg in 2008, WHIP in 2010. Led AL in Win Pctg 2x. Led MLB 4x in fewest BB/9. Won his first seven postseason decisions, including Phillies only two wins in the 2009 World Series vs Yankees. Lost two games with Texas in 2010 World Series.

HOF chances: Zero. His 41.6 career JAWS mark is 132nd among starting pitchers in this history of the game. That is excellent, but is well behind the 79.5 mark of Schilling and trails others such as Rick Reuschel, Kevin Brown, Luis Tiant, David Cone, Bret Saberhagen, Dave Stieb, Tommy John, and David Cone among many others who are not enshrined as yet.

SCOTT ROLEN

MLB: 17 seasons (1996-2012)

Phillies: Seven seasons (1996-2002)

Stats: WAR – 70.2, Slash – .281/.364/490, 2,077 hits, 316 home runs, 1,287 RBIs, 1,211 runs, 118 stolen bases, 517 doubles, 43 triples

Career highlights and awards: 1997 NL Rookie of the Year. 8x National League Gold Glove Award at third base, trailing only Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10) at the position in MLB history. 2002 NL Silver Slugger Award. 7x All-Star. Received MVP votes in four seasons, including finishing fourth in 2004. Had seven RBIs in one game in 2006.

Rolen had five homers in 159 career postseason plate appearances. His two-run home run in the 6th inning of Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS won the National League pennant for the Cardinals over the Houston Astros. His second inning homer in Game 1 of the 2006 Fall Classic vs Detroit tied the game and helped the Cardinals to victory. Saint Louis would go on to win the World Series in five games.

In June 2010, Rolen slammed his 300th career home run off Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies.

HOF chances: Solid – eventually. Rolen is in his third year of consideration by the BBWAA voters. He barely stayed alive his first year on the ballot, finishing with just 10.2% of the voters support in 2018. But that support rose to 17.2% last year and should continue to rise steadily during the 2020’s. His career JAWS is 10th among all third basemen to ever play the game, and all eight eligible ahead of him are already enshrined. It is possible that it might take a future Veteran’s Committee to get him in, similar to Ron Santo. But modern BBWAA voters are more likely to eventually come to fully appreciate his all-around game.

CURT SCHILLING

MLB: 20 seasons (1988-2007)

Phillies: Nine seasons (1992-2000)

Stats: WAR – 80.5, 216-146 record. Innings – 3,261; Strikeouts – 3,116; K/BB – 4.38; ERA/WHIP/FIP – 3.46/1.137/3.23; 569 games, 436 starts, 83 complete games, 20 shutouts.

Career highlights and awards: 3x World Series champion. World Series and NLCS Most Valuable Player. 6x All-Star who started the 1999 All-Star Game. Received Cy Young Award votes in four seasons, finishing as runner-up 3x. Received MVP votes in four seasons. Twice led MLB in wins and innings pitched. Back-to-back seasons with 300+ strikeouts with Phillies in 1998-99, also reached in 2002 with Arizona. His 319 strikeouts in 1997 passed Steve Carlton to set a new Phillies single-season record.

One of the greatest postseason pitchers of all-time, Schilling’s .846 career winning percentage is highest of any pitcher with at least 10 postseason decisions. He has an all-time record of 11-2 with 120 strikeouts over 133.1 innings across 19 postseason starts, including two shutouts and six complete games.

One of his shutouts came in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series with the Phillies, keeping the team alive against Toronto. He pitched into the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series vs the Yankees for Arizona, a game the Dbacks would eventually win in walkoff fashion. His most memorable postseason performances are likely the “bloody sock” games in which he shut down the Yankees in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS and the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series.

Schilling has the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio of any of the 18 pitchers in baseball’s career 3,000 strikeout club. In 2013, he was enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame.

HOF chances: Excellent. Schilling is in his eighth of 10 seasons in which the BBWAA voters will consider his worthiness. Over the last three years his percentage of support has risen from 45% to 51.2% to 60.9% a year ago. Other than the fact that some voters do not appreciate his outspoken conservative political and social speech since retiring, it is hard to understand how anyone could leave him off their ballot. Schilling ranks 27th among all starting pitchers in all-time JAWS, and the only one ahead of him not already enshrined is 19th century hurler Jim McCormick.

BILLY WAGNER

MLB: 16 seasons (1995-2010)

Phillies: Two seasons (2004-05)

Stats: WAR – 27.8, 47-40 record with 422 career saves. Innings – 903; Strikeouts – 1,196; K/BB – 3.99; ERA/WHIP/FIP – 2.31/0.998/2.73; 853 games, 703 finished.

Career highlights and awards: 1999 NL Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year. 7x All-Star. Received Cy Young Award votes twice, finishing fourth in 1999 and sixth in 2006. Received MVP votes twice. Led MLB in games finished in 2003 with Houston and again while with the Phillies in the 2005 season.

Wagner is sixth on the all-time MLB saves leader board. The top three on the list, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Lee Smith, all went into the Hall of Fame in recent years as the closer and relief pitcher position has been given more respect from voters. Only two ahead of him not enshrined are Francisco Rodriguez and John Franco.

HOF chances: Not likely. This is his fifth of 10 years on the BBWAA ballot. He has received minimal support, with the 16.7% a year ago as his strongest finish. Wagner is just 19th on the JAWS career ranking of relievers. Only a half-dozen ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. His total number of saves and strikeout dominance help elevate his case over many of the other 13 ahead of him on that list, but I just don’t see him making it on the writer’s ballots. Maybe a Veteran’s Committee will see it differently down the line.

 

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Cliff Lee: he never wanted to leave Phillies in the first place

During what all fans of the Philadelphia Phillies have been led to believe will be one of the most significant off-season periods ever for the franchise, I’ve been taking a look back at the team’s ‘Hot Stove’ history.

So far we have recalled the signings of Pete Rose (1978), Jose Mesa(2000), and Jim Thome (2002) in free agency. We have also revisited key off-season trades: the 1981 three-way deal that resulted in Lonnie Smith leaving and Bo Diaz arriving, the 1982 trade of future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, and the trading away of Thome.
Probably the most recent important Phillies move during a Hot Stove season came in the middle of December back in 2010. It was then that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. began trying to reverse a huge prior mistake from exactly one year earlier. Both decisions were among the most influential during the 2009-11 period when the club was trying to get back to the World Series.
Those two moves involved a left-handed starting pitcher named Cliff Lee. His pro career had begun after he was drafted three times. Lee finally signed after being selected by the Montreal Expos with their fourth round selection in the 2000 MLB Amateur Draft.
In June 2002, Lee was dealt to the Cleveland Indians as part of a four-prospect package that also included Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips in an overall six-player deal that brought starting pitcher Bartolo Colon to Montreal.

LEE DEVELOPS INTO AN ACE

In Cleveland’s minor league system, Lee showed enough with Buffalo of the Triple-A International League that he was given a two-start cup of coffee with the Indians in September 2002. He went 10.1 innings allowing just six hits over those two outings.
Lee won the 2008 AL Cy Young Award with Cleveland
After beginning the 2003 season back at Triple-A, Lee received a spot start with Cleveland in late June. Then in mid-August he was called to the big-leagues for good. Lee would enter the Tribe’s starting rotation and remain there for the next six years.
Lee would develop into one of the top starting pitchers in the game, culminating in a memorable 2008 season. While the Phillies were driving towards their first World Series crown in nearly three decades, Lee was putting together a Cy Young Award-winning season in Cleveland.
In that 2008 campaign, Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.110 WHIP. He also had a fabulous 170/34 K:BB ratio over 223.1 innings across 31 starts. In addition to the Cy Young honors, he was an AL All-Star for the first time, and even received AL MVP votes.
Lee was scheduled to become a free agent after the 2010 season, and it became obvious that the Indians would not be able to get him to sign a contract extension. Looking at a rebuilding situation, Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro decided to find a deal for him a year early.

LEE ACQUIRED BY CHAMPS IN-SEASON

As defending World Series champions, the Phillies were struggling to open up a lead in a tight NL East race in July 2009. A big reason was that the team’s starting pitching was looking a bit fragile.
Cole Hamels, the hero of the prior season, appeared to be going through a World Series hangover campaign. Brett Myers struggled the entire year with injuries. At age 46, Jamie Moyer was getting hit hard. Joe Blanton and rookie J.A. Happ were giving the club innings, but were not the kind of arms that a team looking to repeat as world champions wanted at the front of a rotation.
On July 15, the Phillies signed 37-year-old veteran Pedro Martinez, who had been sitting out the season to that point. It was going to take Martinez a few weeks to get into pitching shape, and in fact he would not join the team’s starting rotation until August 12.
Amaro was still rumored to be hot after both Lee and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay. Finally, just before the non-waiver trade deadline, Amaro and Shapiro reached a deal. The Phillies would acquire Lee in exchange for a four-prospect package led by pitcher Carlos Carrasco.
Cito Gaston was manager of the Blue Jays at the time. Once the Phillies had traded for Lee, it meant that Gaston was likely to keep his ace in Halladay. Jayson Stark at ESPN quoted Gaston after the Lee deal was announced: “Who knows? They may come back and get [Halladay], too. That’d be a pretty good staff there, wouldn’t it?” How prescient that comment would eventually prove.
The 30-year-old Lee was everything that the Phillies hoped, and more. Over a dozen starts he went 7-4 with a 74/10 K:BB ratio. Martinez went 5-1 over nine starts with a 37/8 K:BB ratio. The two veterans gave the rotation just the shot in the arm that it needed to push the club to its third straight NL East title.
In the 2009 postseason, Lee upped his game. He made two strong starts in a tough NLDS victory over the Colorado Rockies, then a brilliant start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Three of the NLCS.
When Lee shut down the New York Yankees in Game One of the World Series, the Phillies appeared on their way to back-to-back championships. Alas, it was not to be. The team did win his next start in Game Five, but that only kept them alive. The Yanks would take the Fall Classic two nights later.

THE LEE HOT STOVE TRADE

After the season, Amaro resumed his pursuit of Halladay, who was scheduled to become a free agent following the 2010 season. On December 16, 2009 the Phillies acquired Halladay from Toronto in exchange for a three-prospect package.
Amaro had negotiated a four-year contract extension with the 32-year-old Halladay, who thought that he was joining Lee in the Phillies rotation. Instead, Amaro shocked everyone in the Phillies community by dealing away Lee just hours later.
The justification given by Amaro at the time was shaky from the start. He felt that Lee’s contract demands were unreasonable, and also claimed that the Phillies needed to re-stock their farm system after it had been depleted by that summer’s Lee trade and the Halladay aquistion.
However, the package that Amaro obtained from the Seattle Mariners that day of prospect pitchers Phillippe Aumontand J.C. Ramirez and young outfielder Tyson Gillies failed to convince anyone that it improved the organization to the same level as having Lee remain on the big-league pitching staff.
It would prove to be one of the worst trades in Phillies history. Our own Tim Kelly here at PN wrote in August 2018 about comments made by former outfielder Jayson Werth to a local radio station. Included among those revealing remarks were this quote:
…they [the Phillies] offered Cliff a contract at a marginal number, we’ll say. And then he counters at a reasonable counter, far less for what he ends up signing back for. Within that day, a day or two, Ruben freaks out, he can’t believe that they would ask for that type of money – which was under-market for Cliff – and trades him to Seattle. So he was traded to Seattle for a bag of balls and a couple Fungos.”
 
Halladay would enjoy a memorable 2010 season in which he would capture the National League Cy Young Award while tossing a Perfect Game and a playoff no-hitter. Hamels rebounded with a solid campaign. The rest of the rotation struggled, but Amaro swung a trade to bring in three-time NL All-Star and perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Oswalt from Houston.
The Phillies struggled much of that summer. But then from late August through late September the team went on an incredible run, winning 23 of 27 games to pull away to a fourth straight NL East title.
As for Lee, he would make just 13 starts for the Mariners. With the club struggling and with Lee still scheduled to become a free agent in the coming off-season he was shipped off to the Texas Rangers following a final start for Seattle on July 4.
At the time of that deal, Lee was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and had been selected to the AL All-Star team. He would attend the game not as a member of the Mariners, but instead wearing a Rangers cap.
Over the rest of the season in Texas, Lee would go just 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. He did produce solid numbers otherwise, allowing 103 hits over 108.2 innings with a 96/12 K:BB ratio in 15 starts.
The Rangers won the AL West crown and the American League pennant, reaching the World Series. However, the Phillies were not there to great their former pitcher. Halladay, Werth, and the two-time defending NL champion Phillies had been beaten in six games in the 2010 NLCS by the San Francisco Giants.
San Francisco would then take out the Rangers in five games to capture the first World Series crown for the Giants franchise in 56 years. Lee was rocked in the opener of that Fall Classic in San Francisco. He then would also lose a pitcher’s duel to Tim Lincecum in the Game Five clincher at Texas.

THE LEE HOT STOVE FREE AGENT SIGNING

The off-season got underway following that 2010 campaign with Lee entering free agency for the first time in his career. A return to the Rangers was possible, but the New York Yankees were seen by most as the early and overwhelming favorites to land his services.
The Yankees had finished in second place in the AL East in 2010, a game behind the Tampa Bay Rays but had comfortably won what was the lone Wildcard berth available at that time. The Yanks then swept the Minnesota Twins 3-0 in the ALDS, but were beaten by Texas in six games in the ALCS. Adding Lee, and subtracting him from the Rangers, would likely push them to the top of the American League favorites list.
The Phillies were not seen to be a contender for Lee at first. They already had a rotation that would include Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt coming back in 2011. It was projected at that point that Blanton and Kyle Kendrick would make up the back of their rotation.
A formal contract offer was extended to Lee by the Yankees, one that would turn out to be the highest offer that he would receive. It wouldn’t be enough.
Shock waves rolled across the game on December 15, 2010 when, seemingly out of nowhere, it was announced that the Phillies and Lee had agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract. Lee would join Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt in what the baseball world would call the “Four Aces” rotation, one of the best in the history of the game.
In Philadelphia it became known as “Merry Cliffmas”, and Phillies fans were euphoric. They would have a dominating pitching rotation that would give their still-potent offensive attack a chance to win every single day.
Not only was Lee’s signing a surprise gift to Phillies fans, but he also won their hearts forever with what he said upon agreeing to the deal: “I never wanted to leave in the first place.” It turned out that Lee and his wife Kristen had enjoyed their brief 2009 time in Philly so much that returning was a relatively easy decision.
The Phillies of 2011 would not win every day, but it seemed like it at times. That club would set a franchise record with 102 regular season wins, leading the NL East from wire-to-wire and ultimately taking the division crown by 13 games.
Lee went 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA and was named as NL All-Star, finishing third in the NL Cy Young Award voting. Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and finished as the Cy Young runner-up. Hamels was 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA, finishing fifth in that Cy Young Award voting.
Oswalt won just nine games and struggled some with a 3.69 ERA. In fact, he wasn’t even one of the four most effective members of the rotation that year. Neither were Blanton or Kendrick. That status was provided by 23-year-old rookie Vance Worley, who surprised everyone with an 11-3 mark and 3.01 ERA over 25 games, 21 as a starter. Worley would finish third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
When the 2011 postseason opened, the Phillies were clear favorites to capture their second World Series title in four years. But in one of the most disheartening endings in franchise history, they were edged out in five games by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
Lee played a part in that loss. After the offense bailed out Halladay to take Game One, those same bats then provided Lee with an early 4-0 lead in Game Two. But the Cardinals then chipped away, scoring three runs in the top of the 4th inning and one each in the 6th and 7th, rallying for a 5-4 win to tie the series.
The Phillies took a 2-1 series lead behind a strong outing from Hamels in Game Three, but Saint Louis beat Oswalt in Game Four to once again tie the series.
In a decisive Game Five at Citizens Bank Park, a pitching battle for the ages took place. Halladay allowed just one run on six hits. It would be enough to win almost any game. But Saint Louis received an absolute gem from their starter, Chris Carpenter. He would shut the Phillies out on three hits in a complete game.
With two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning and the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead, Saint Louis native Ryan Howard stepped in for the Phillies. On a 2-2 pitch, Carpenter’s 110th of the game, Howard topped a slow grounder to second base. As the final out was being recorded, the big slugger crumpled to the ground, having blown out his Achilles tendon.
It wasn’t obvious yet at that point, but history would show that the Phillies era of contention at the top of Major League Baseball would end with that play.
The 2012 Phillies struggled from the beginning but were still three games above the .500 mark and within 2.5 games of first place as June began. But the team would collapse under the weight of injuries.
Howard wouldn’t return until July and was never the same dominating slugger. Chase Utley wouldn’t begin his season until late June, and at age 33 was beginning his own slow decline. Both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the latter obtained just a year earlier to bolster that 2011 team, were traded away at the non-waiver deadline as Amaro threw in the towel.
Lee would pitch well in both 2012 and 2013 as the Phillies tried unsuccessfully to quickly rebuild. He went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA, made the NL All-Star team, and finished sixth in National League Cy Young voting in the 2013 season. Incredibly, less than a year later his career would be over.
The 2014 season opened with Lee as the Phillies primary trade candidate. At 35-years-old he still had that season and then 2015 to go on his contract, with a $25 million salary owed both years. There was a $27.5 million club option or $12.5 million buyout for the 2016 season as well.
He began the year as the Opening Day starter. Over his first 10 starts through mid-May he went 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA and a 61/9 K:BB ratio in what seemed a typical Lee season. But following a May 18 win over the Cincinnati Reds he was placed on the disabled list with discomfort in his left pitching elbow.
The Phillies tried to bring him back as the non-waiver trade deadline approached, hoping to find a deal, but he was hit hard in two late July starts. Then on July 31, the exact date of the deadline, he was given a final chance to show that he was healthy and could help someone.
It appeared to observers that things had started out well that night at Nationals Park. Through 2.2 innings, Lee had allowed just one hit and walked no one, striking out four Washington Nationals batters. And then it ended, just that suddenly.
With two outs in the third inning, Lee delivered his first pitch to Denard Span and walked off the mound, tapping his left arm. It turned out that he had been experiencing discomfort while warming up before the game, and then when warming up before each inning. This time it wouldn’t go away.
‘It was there every throw and I just felt like if I kept throwing something was going to snap and I just wanted to make sure that didn’t happen,” Lee said per Sports Illustrated via the AP following that game.
He tried to come back for the 2015 season but was able to throw just two innings at spring training in Clearwater. Lee would spend that entire season on the disabled list after suffering a left common flexor tear. After the season ended the Phillies declined his option for 2016, and his career was over.
In February 2016, when it was becoming obvious that Lee would never pitch again, Grant Brisbee at SB Nation wrote a fantastic piece on the pitcher who he correctly called “one of the best pitchers of his generation.” In that piece, Brisbee described what it was like for a batter facing Lee:
Watching a pitcher move inside and out, up and down, is absolutely symphonic. But it’s even more entertaining to watch the hitters panic, knowing that the baseball can dart a foot away from the plate if it doesn’t bore right in on their damned thumbs. The hitter is acutely aware that the pitcher on the mound can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and there’s a split second to determine if the ball is going to hurt him, be hittable or be so unhittable that it will make him look like an idiot if he swings.
Over parts of five seasons with the Phillies, Lee recorded a 48-34 record with a 2.94 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, and 2.85 FIP. He yielded just 777 hits over 827.1 innings across 118 starts, surrendering just 80 home runs while registering a 21.6 WAR mark.
He also produced an other-worldly 813/124 K:BB ratio, made a pair of NL All-Star teams, and finished among the leaders in Cy Young voting twice. In his time with the Phillies, Lee led the National League in shutouts in 2011, and twice led the league in both the K/BB and BB/9 categories.
Cliff Lee was one of the most popular players on a team populated with those types of individuals, the greatest Phillies team to never win a world championship. That popularity has never waned.
His being traded away in December 2009 may have kept the 2010 Phillies from winning another World Series crown. But neither was his return as a free agent in December 2010 enough to make that happen for a record-setting Phillies team in 2011.
It remains possible that one day we’ll be watching Lee enjoy an induction ceremony to the Phillies Wall of Fame. For the millions of fans who packed Citizens Bank Park during the final years of that heyday, it would be a well-deserved honor.

Phillies should not shut Aaron Nola down with just two starts remaining

Nola has become an ace for Phillies
(Photo: By Arturo Pardavila III via Wiki Commons)
This 2018 season has been a true breakout campaign for Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Aaron Nola. In his fourth year at the MLB level, Nola has shown that he can be that rarest of commodities – a true ace.
The 25-year-old right-hander was chosen by the Phillies out of Louisiana State University with their first round selection at seventh overall in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. As he developed professionally over parts of two minor league seasons, consensus expert opinions had him with the upside of a mid-rotation starter.
That is a fairly common tag hung on pitchers when scouts and other talent evaluators are not absolutely certain the pitcher has a top-of-the-rotation arm. However, that pitcher also has amateur and minor league performances and pitching repertoires which demonstrate a likelihood of reaching and sticking in a big-league rotation.
As a perfect example, Nathaniel Stoltz of Fangraphs summed up his own scouting report on Nola in August 2014 as follows:
…it’s hard to see him having more than a #3 starter’s ceiling. If he settles in at a #3/#4 level quickly, that won’t be the flashiest of payoffs, but it’ll also be hard to really take issue with his selection…There’s a solid chance he could get to that level of performance, but the line between it and interchangeable back-of-the-rotation, Kyle Kendrick sort of output is fairly thin, and he’s not guaranteed to end up on the right side of it.
Over Nola’s first two partial seasons with the Phillies, his results were indeed those of a solid #3 starter in the rotation. He went 12-11 over 33 starts during the 2015-16 campaigns, allowing 190 hits across 188.2 innings with a 189/48 K:BB ratio.
Last year, Nola reinforced that level of performance over a full season. In 27 starts during the 2017 campaign, Nola went 12-11 with 3.54 ERA and 1.208 WHIP. He allowed 154 hits over 168 innings with a 184/49 K:BB ratio.
Due to the fact that he was able to compete so effectively at just age 24, many began to adjust their evaluations up on Nola, feeling that he could develop into a solid #2 starter for a contending team.
One key for him to reach his potential was going to be for Nola to demonstrate longevity, that he could remain healthy over a full season.
His 2016 campaign was ended in mid-August when he was shut down for the year with a low-grade UCL sprain and flexor pronator tendon strain. In 2017 it was a strained lower back that kept him out of the Phillies rotation for a month from late-April through late-May.
In this 2018 campaign, Nola has ticked off all of the boxes and elevated himself to that “ace” or #1 starter level.
Following last night’s outing against the New York Mets, Nola has surrendered just 143 hits in 199.1 innings over 31 starts. He has a 16-5 record, and a dominating 210/53 K:BB ratio with a 2.44 ERA, 0.983 WHIP, 2.97 FIP, and a 173 ERA+ mark.
In his own piece on last night’s game, Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia pointed out that no Phillies pitcher in over a century has pitched at least 200 innings in a season while holding opposition batters below a .200 average. Nola has held hitters to a .201 average over his 199.1 innings this year.

Seidman quoted Phillies manager Gabe Kapler on those numbers and Nola’s performance in this 2018 season:

“It speaks to durability. Look, if you’re the best option for your team, more times than not, the manager is going to give you the opportunity to take down an additional inning. Almost always, Nola feels like the best option to get the next three hitters out. Piling up 200 innings is a huge accomplishment.”

Nola was also named to his first National League All-Star Team back in July, and pitched the 5th inning of that mid-summer classic. Nola punched out the first two AL batters that he faced in Salvador Perez and Mookie Betts, gave up a base hit to Jose Altuve, then got Mike Trout to pop out for a shutout frame.
Here in the season’s final month, it appears as if Nola may have slowed down a bit. In three of his four September starts including last night, Nola failed to reach the 7th inning.
While that isn’t a big deal for most starting pitchers – after all, he did go five or more in each – it was different for Nola. He reached at least into the 7th in 15 of his first 27 starts prior to this month.
There have been some calls lately for the Phillies to shut Nola down for the season. The club has all but mathematically slumped their way out of both the divisional and wildcard races, trailing in each by five games in the loss column with just a dozen left to play.
Even if the Phillies were mathematically eliminated from postseason play, the club should not stop Nola’s season short. At this point he is only scheduled to make two more starts, both against the division-rival Atlanta Braves. Those should come this weekend in the Sunday series finale in Atlanta, and then on Friday night September 28 at Citizens Bank Park.
Two more starts and 10-12 more innings are not likely to do any harm. What they will do is give Nola the physical, mental, and emotional satisfaction of getting through an entire season in Major League Baseball.
At some point, perhaps as soon as next year, the Phillies will expect Nola to lead their rotation into and through an October playoff run. With just two starts left in this 2018 season, especially with both coming against their likely biggest rivals in battling for those playoff positions in the coming years, now is not the time to start babying the young ace.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “No reason for Phillies to baby Aaron Nola at this point

Phillies Christmas Stockings: Gifts or Coal?

Phillies Christmas stockings: coal or gifts?
It’s Christmas morning, and all across the Delaware Valley folks are waking to find presents under the Christmas tree and stockings stuffed with gifts. But what about the Phillies? For their 2014 performance, what did we leave in their TBOH Phillies Christmas stockings: gifts or coal?
For the good boys, the good performers who busted it hard all year and held up their end in trying to bring a winner to the fans, there will be gifts. For the bad boys, the poor performers whose play constantly let us down and led most directly to the losing season, there will be only coal. Here’s what every player who appeared in 2014 received:
BAD BOYS – COAL IN THEIR TBOH STOCKINGS 
Domonic Brown: the worst player on the roster in 2014, especially given his playing time. Also, easily the biggest disappointment, coming off what was hoped to have been a breakout 2013 All-Star campaign. His season was a disaster: a .235 batting average, .285 on-base percentage in 512 plate appearances. Hit just 10 homers, scored just 43 runs, and was the worst player on the roster in WAR.
Ryan Howard: a real shame to watch his deterioration. This man was a true force for a long time, 7 dominating seasons from 2005-2011. He needs to be remembered by fans for the peak performance over the long haul. But he is a shadow of his former self now. In 2014 only Brown was a worse WAR player among the regulars. He hit just .223 with a .310 on-base percentage. He was 2nd on the club with 23 homers, and was 4th in the NL with 95 rbi. But in 648 plate appearances, even these are disappointing figures.
Cody Asche: the 25-year old 3rd baseman played his first full season in 2014. He generally fielded his position well, but he basically brought nothing to the batting order of any consequence. Hit just .252 with a .309 on-base percentage. In 434 plate appearances he produced just 10 homers, 46 rbi, 43 runs scored, and stole 0 bases. He only even attempted one steal. That’s zero bases stolen for a 25-year old man. I know that’s not his game, but even 35-year old catcher Carlos Ruiz stole 4 bags.
Mario Hollands: the 25-year old rookie lefty reliever appeared in 50 games. Though he allowed fewer hits (45) than innings (47), he also walked 21, resulting in a 1.404 WHIP and the worst pitching WAR among those given any significant time on the mound.
Kyle Kendrick: I’ve never been one to beat up on KK, as many other Phillies fans have over the years. He is what he is, a #4 starter at best, a #5 on a contender. But in 2014 he was given significant innings, and he lived down to his potential. In 199 innings pitched over 32 starts, 3rd and 2nd most on the staff in those categories, he had a 4.61 ERA. Kendrick allowed 214 hits, and struck out just 121 batters.
It's coal in the stocking for AJ, gifts for Chooch (Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
A.J. Burnett: brought in to be a veteran innings-eating #3 behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, he had to step into the #2 role with Lee’s injury, and he just wasn’t up to it most games. He did eat innings, leading the staff with 213.2, and he struck out 190 batters. But his ERA was 4.59 and he walked 96, resulting in a 1.409 WHIP.
Management: manager Ryne Sandbergwas dealt a bad hand of mismatched, injured, and aging players. But he didn’t do much to bring it together either. If these were grades, I’d give him an incomplete. He needs a more clean slate. But for now, can’t “gift” him. Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro Jr? Please. There isn’t enough of a coal supply available to appropriately fill those stockings.
More coal: John Mayberry Jr, Tony Gwynn Jr, Darin Ruf, Cesar Hernandez, Reid Brignac, Freddy Galvis, Jayson Nix, Maikel Franco, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Altherr, Koyie Hill, Cameron Rupp, Grady Sizemore, Cesar Jimenez, Wil Nieves, Andres Blanco, B.J. Rosenberg, Phillippe Aumont, Luis Garcia, Sean O’Sullivan, Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin, Brad Lincoln, Shawn Camp, Miguel A. Gonzalez, Jeff Manship, Hector Neris, Mike Adams
GOOD BOYS – GIFTS IN THEIR TBOH STOCKINGS
Cole Hamels: just 9 wins for the 30-year old lefty, but hardly his fault. He made 30 starts, allowing just 176 hits in 204.2 IP, striking out 198 and allowing just 59 walks. It added up to a 2.46 ERA and a 1.148 WHIP, and a pitching WAR value that was more than twice any other arm on the staff.
Jonathan Papelbon: the closer was outstanding with 39 Saves, a 2.04 ERA, a 0.905 WHIP, and a 63/15 K/BB rate over 66.1 innings. Some negative commentary and off-color antics aside, he has done everything asked of him in the closer role since being signed as a free agent.
Cliff Lee: I’m not holding the injury against him, hardly his fault. When on the mound, he was mostly himself. In 81.1 innings over 13 starts, the 35-year old lefty had a 72/12 K/BB ratio. He was hit more than usual, but the excellent control kept his ERA down to a 3.65 mid-level result.
Jerome Williams, Roberto Hernandez & David Buchanan: it’s all about expectation and production for these three. I didn’t expect anything, and I got something, although modest. Both Hernandez & Buchanan received 20 starts, kept their ERA’s below the 4.00 mark, and allowed about a hit per inning. Buchanan had a tidy 71/32 K/BB ratio for a 25-year old rookie, which was especially nice. Hernandez, a free agent who would have left after the season, ultimately yielded a 19-year old pitcher and 20-year old infielder in trade. Not a bad result all around. The 32-year old Williams was a very nice find, with a 4-2 record in 9 starts. He had a 38/17 K/BB ratio, and allowed just 48 hits in 57.1 innings. It all added up to a 2.83 ERA and 1.134 WHIP.
Chase Utley: the 35-year old 2nd baseman returned to the All-Star Game as the NL’s starter at 2nd, and led the team in WAR. A .278 average and 78 rbi were more than anyone expected from a player who appeared physically shot just a year ago at this time. His defense was also strong, as he was 2nd on the club in defensive WAR. A very nice bounce-back season for the fan favorite.
Jimmy Rollins: the 35-year old shortstop said goodbye at the top of the franchise all-time Hits list, and went out much as his longtime doubleplay partner produced. He was 2nd on the club in offensive WAR to Utley, producing a 17 homer, 68 rbi, 78 runs, 28 steal year. Then he yielded a pair of Top 5 club pitching prospects in trade. Goodbye Jimmy, we love ya. 
Carlos Ruiz: at 35-years old, Chooch has caught over 900 games, and he’s starting to show the wear and tear, at least in his offensive game where he hit just .252 with 6 homers in 445 plate appearances. But the respected team leader and fan favorite remains elite in the defensive game, leading the club in defensive WAR. He retains strong catch and throw skills, and his handling of the pitching staff is outstanding.
Ben Revere: the 26-year old centerfielder hit .306 and contended for the NL Batting crown for much of the late season. He also stole 49 bases and hit 7 triples. He clearly uses his speed well. But he has no pop whatsoever, hitting just 2 homers and 13 doubles in 626 plate appearances. His defensive game was disappointing, and will have to improve for him to retain value going forward.
Marlon Byrd: the 36-year old rightfielder led the club with 25 homers and was 2nd with 85 rbi. But his defense was below par, and his offensive production seriously declined post-All Star break as he had just 7 homers and 31 rbi in 247 plate appearances after mid-July. He is borderline “gift” over “coal”, and hopefully yields something of value in trade this off-season that makes us happier to have him on this side of the ledger.
The Bullpen: Antonio Bastardo (28), Jake Diekman (27), Justin DeFratus (26) and most especially Ken Giles (23) had teamed with Papelbon to make this one area of true strength for the team by season’s end. They combined for 233.1 innings in which they allowed just 179 hits. They struck out 294 batters while walking just 92.