Tag Archives: Patrick Corbin

2018 Twins provide lesson and warning for the 2019 Phillies

By Paul Morse - http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/07/images/20050724_p072405pm-0149jpg-1-624v.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1459062
Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins manager
(Photo by Paul Morse via Wiki Commons)
In 2016 the Minnesota Twins finished with a record of 59-103. It was the worst record in all of Major League Baseball. But the following year the Twins shocked many with an 85-77 season and an American League Wildcard playoff berth.
That 2017 Twins team of a year ago were led by a number of exciting young players such as 24-year-old third baseman Miguel Sano, 23-year-old center fielder Byron Buxton, 25-year-old left fielder Eddie Rosario, and 24-year-old right fielder Max Kepler.
On the mound the Twins received a major boost when 23-year-old rookie right-hander Jose Berrios entered their starting rotation in the middle of May. Another rookie, 24-year-old Adalberto Mejia, provided the club with 21 mostly solid starting outings.
There were key veteran contributions mixed in from players such as Brian Dozier (30), Ervin Santana (34), Kyle Gibson(29), closer Brandon Kintzler (32), Minnesota native and favored son Joe Mauer (34), and even 44-year-old pitcher Bartolo Colon.
Though AL Manager of the Year Paul Molitor‘s club went down to the powerful New York Yankees in the AL Wildcard Game, they had set the stage for what appeared to be a regular run of contending seasons.
And then the 2018 season got underway. Injuries and poor performances plagued key youngsters Sano and Buxton all year. A Gold Glover last season, Dozier slumped in his free agency year and was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July trade deadline. Kepler didn’t necessarily regress, he just failed to step up.
The struggles throughout the lineup have produced a 66-78 season that can be considered nothing less than a disappointment.
In the 2017 season the Philadelphia Phillies went 66-96, the third-worst record in Major League Baseball. It marked a fifth consecutive losing campaign from the Phillies, and the club’s third last-place finish in the division in four years.
But then the 2018 season got underway and the club appeared improved. They jumped to a 16-9 start by April 27, and then to 29-20 by May 26. By the MLB All-Star Game break the Phillies were at 53-42 and had taken over first place in the NL East.
On July 26, a third straight win pushed them to what would be a season-high 2.5 game lead in the division. Continuing to fight through ups and downs as they tried to learn how to win, the Phillies reached their apex on August 5 when a fifth consecutive victory raised their record to 15 games over the .500 mark at 63-48.
Since August 17, when back-to-back wins left them still 14 games above .500, the Phillies have collapsed. In the past month the club has gone just 6-16, and losses in eight of their last 10 games have virtually eliminated them from the postseason conversation.
However, there is no denying that this is going to be considered a step forward season for the Phillies. They are going to finish 10 or more games better in the standings than a year ago. They will be at or near the .500 mark for the first time since 2012 and could have their first winning season since the record-setting 2011 club.
Though they won’t reach the postseason as the Twins did a year ago, they will in many ways have replicated Minnesota’s worst-to-first climb.

There will be some who look over their roster and see young players such as Rhys HoskinsScott KingeryNick WilliamsAaron Nola, and Maikel Franco and think many of the same thoughts as were hung on this year’s Twins prior to the season.
The lesson of the 2018 Twins for the 2019 Phillies should be one of failure to significantly improve the roster with additions from the outside, relying almost solely on perceived natural growth and improvement from young players already here.
In Minnesota, the resources are simply not as great as they are here in Philadelphia. Twins ownership and management did not have the financial wherewithal to go out and add impact talent.
Twins general manager Thad Levine certainly did try. He signed 41-year old closer Fernando Rodney to an affordable one-year deal last December. He got veteran starter Lance Lynn to ink a one-year deal in the middle of spring training. And Levine made a trade with Tampa Bay to bring in starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
Phillies GM Klentak squarely on the hot seat this off-season
Rodney and Lynn ended up being dealt to Oakland and the Yankees respectively after the Twins season fell apart. Phillies GM Matt Klentak cannot think that small when putting together his 2019 Phillies roster.
Yes, the Phillies will have taken a step back towards respectability and even contention this year. Yes, there is some young talent on hand that should continue to grow and improve.
But the Phillies are also one of the worst defensive teams in the game by any metric. They are just 11th of the 15 teams in the National League in both OPS and runs scored. As I outlined just yesterday, their back-end starting pitching has largely collapsed over this past month.
Klentak is going to need to find a way to land two proven, impact run-producers for his everyday lineup. He is going to also need to bring in at least one proven, impactful starting pitcher.
The Phillies GM will have plenty of his financial assets with which to work. With less than $70 million in contract commitments the club can afford to take on three big contracts if they so wish. Perhaps more if Klentak can find a way to unload some of the $20 million currently budgeted to be wasted on a 33-year old Carlos Santana.
Those big contracts could take the form of any number of free agents. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the two most frequently mentioned. They would actually be perfect fits at shortstop and in right field, joining Hoskins to form as formidable a 3-4-5 lineup combination as the game would offer for years to come.
The list of free agent starting pitchers could include Patrick CorbinDallas KeuchelJ.A. HappMatt HarveyGio Gonzalez, and more. At the right price for the right number of committed years, any of them could help the rotation.
With a controlling owner in John Middleton who is hungry to win, getting ownership to lay out that financing will not prove to be a problem. It will be squarely on Klentak this winter to make the right moves, convincing the right players to come to Philadelphia in order to ensure that next year’s Phillies do not resemble this year’s Twins.

Phillies may still have one final playoff push left in their 2018 season

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Asdrubal Cabrera’s addition failed to help Phillies stay in contention

Frankly, I’m tired of thinking in terms of what this 2018 Philadelphia Phillies ball club can’t get done. 

I really don’t think they are a playoff team just yet. But I’ve also always been a glass-half-full guy. So, it’s time to examine the possibilities once again.
Much has been made of the Philadelphia Phillies sudden inability to win a series. They have now lost nine in a row going back to an early-August four-game sweep of Miami at Citizens Bank Park.
What you may not realize is that it was exactly one month ago today that the team’s 2018 hopes had crested. Fans had little reason to suspect what was about to happen next and unfold over this past calendar month.
On Wednesday morning, August 8, the Phillies woke up in Phoenix, Arizona as a first-place team. They were tied in the loss column with the Atlanta Braves, but had played and won three more times. Their lead was at two games in the loss column for an NL Wildcard playoff berth.
The club had defeated the host Arizona Diamondbacks the previous night by a 5-2 score when Nick Pivetta matched Dbacks ace Zack Greinke pitch for pitch. What had been a 1-0 pitcher’s duel was busted open with a four-run rally in the top of the eighth against former Phillies reliever Jake Diekman.
It was a sixth victory in seven games for the team. The lone defeat had come in the series opener on a 14th inning walkoff. The last defeat prior to the winning stretch had been a 13th inning walkoff at the hands of the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Phillies were winning baseball games and playing good teams tough on a regular basis. And there were signs that the club might finally be scoring runs on a consistent basis, something which had eluded them for much of the season. The Tuesday night victory was the fifth straight in which the club had scored at least five times.
Then on that Wednesday night the Phillies were shutout by Arizona’s lefty ace Patrick Corbin. No shame there. Corbin was an NL All-Star this season and was emerging as one of the top pitchers in all of baseball.
After an off-day the Phillies moved on to San Diego to face the Padres, the last place team in the West Division and owners of the worst record in the entire National League. Once again, they were shut out, this time by rookie Jacob Nix.
Those consecutive white-washings proved to be the beginning of a month-long 9-17 collapse leading up to last night’s opener at Citi Field in New York.
The month of losing had left the Phillies staring up at a three-game deficit to Atlanta in the division and had dropped them four games off the final Wildcard pace with four teams between them and that last-chance playoff spot.
But here we sit on Saturday morning, September 8, and the Phillies are still very much alive. The Braves faced a tough schedule this week, playing the Red Sox and Diamondbacks. They have gone just 1-4 to this point. Atlanta has lost seven of their last 10 overall, nine of their last 14 games.
With the Phillies 4-3 win over the Mets last night coupled with a Braves 5-3 loss to Arizona the division deficit has been cut to just two games in the loss column. There are still 22 games remaining for the Phillies this season, including seven of the final 11 as head-to-head battles with Atlanta.
The Phillies still have not resolved a huge negative issue that has plagued the team all year long. They still are not scoring on a consistent basis. 
Prior to last night the lone Phillies victory of the past week came when the offense erupted for nine runs in Miami. But in the other four games, all losses, the team managed to score just a single run in each.
Management tried to help by bringing in veterans Asdrubal CabreraWilson Ramos, and Justin Bour to bolster the attack and provide greater depth. It really hasn’t helped very much.

Cabrera arrived and played in his first game on July 28. The club lost the first three games in which he played. That was followed by a five-game winning streak. But then the month of losing began immediately afterwards. Over 36 games he is slashing .235/.273/.419 with a .692 OPS.
Ramos was injured when the Phillies acquired him from Tampa Bay and didn’t play in his first game until August 15. The Phillies have gone 9-13 since then. Ramos has hit well, slashing .375/.426/.604 with a 1.030 OPS. However, he has only played in 15 of those 22 games, including just a dozen starts.
Despite all of the offensive struggles, the Phillies have something fundamental that could still help them win the division this season: math. There is no way that this team is going to continue to play down to the .346 winning percentage of this last month. That math is going to eventually turn back in their favor.
Here is what the Phillies need to do at this point. They need to keep fighting, game to game. They need to believe again, something that Kapler had them doing well up until a month ago.
They need to remain within no worse than a couple of games out, as they are right now, for the next 10 days. That would get the Phillies into the final stretch of games with the Braves with their 2018 fate right in front of them in their own hands.
At this point, the Phillies are what they are: inconsistent offense, mediocre defense. But there are also just three weeks left in the regular season, and they are right there battling for the division crown.
I’ve been as critical of the Phillies over this last month as anyone. Mistakes have been made, both in putting this team together and in managing it during the season. 
I truly believe with just a couple of different decisions, and with handling some of these players just a little differently, that it could have been even better at this point.
But we all know that for the last five years it has been much, much worse. Losing, last place, bottom-feeding, ugly baseball with little hope for a brighter future. 
That is not where we are now. This team is clearly ready to win. They’re hungry for it, and they were able to find a way to do it for most of the year.
Former Phillies superstar shortstop and team leader Jimmy Rollins was asked about the current mostly young Phillies squad and quoted this week by Scott Lauber of Philly.com on the importance of developing a winning mindset:

“This late in the season, it’s about the win-loss column, but in the beginning, you have to believe you can win. It’s like, ‘I know we’re going to win.’ And once you get that mentality — it starts with the first guy, through the staff, through upper management, to the last guy in the bullpen — you know something good is going to happen. You have to learn how to think, ‘I am not going to lose.’ “

If someone told me back in Clearwater during spring training in March that the Phillies could be two games out of the division lead with three weeks to play, I would have been ecstatic. I would have been excited for the season ahead.
That is how Phillies fans should feel right now. Ecstatic at the results of this 2018 season. Excited at the possibilities for the future. And by the future, I don’t mean next year or the next decade. I mean for these next three weeks.
Possibilities are still very real for this current Phillies team, warts and all. There is no reason that this team can’t suddenly get hot again for a couple of weeks and push the Braves, maybe even pass them, before those two late-September series arrive.
The last of those regular season games with the Braves is scheduled for Sunday, September 30. The Phillies no longer have to play well for 162 games to make the playoffs. They just need to play well for most of the 22 games remaining. 
If they have three mostly good weeks in them, we could still see a return of ‘Red October’ baseball to Citizens Bank Park.

Swept by Padres a year ago, Phillies return to Petco Park in first place

Host Padres swept the Phillies a year ago at this time
The Philadelphia Phillies will open a three-game weekend series with the San Diego Padres on Friday night. 
It will be important for them to recall what happened on their last visit to Petco Park last August and ensure that the same results do not repeat.
A year ago, at this same time, the Phillies were swept out of San Diego. The host Padres captured the three games by an 18-8 combined score.
That 2017 series between these two ball clubs held little importance. The Phillies were 30 games below the .500 mark and buried in last place in the NL East. The Padres were 14 under .500, in fourth place out in the NL West, and buried 14 games out of the Wildcard race.
But this year there is something at stake. The Phillies have completely flipped the standings from a year ago and are now in first place. 
They hold a one-game lead on the Atlanta Braves, who will host the Milwaukee Brewers in a game that should be nearly over by the time the Phillies game gets underway. The Phillies and Braves are actually tied in the all-important loss column.
The Phillies are coming off a series defeat after dropping two of three at Arizona to the host Diamondbacks. Going back over the last couple of weeks, the Phillies have roller-coastered their way to a 6-6 record.
Manager Gabe Kapler was quoted by Bob Nightengale of USA Today on Wednesday in Arizona on the team’s ability to step up when they have been challenged this season.

“One of the characteristics of this team is that we know how to take a punch. We get knocked down, but we pop right back up. [Expletive] days happen. You don’t get bent out of shape. … These guys know how to stay calm even when a storm is happening around us.’’

The Phillies didn’t get punched hard in Arizona, but they did take a couple of hard shots. The bullpen blew what should have been a victory on Monday night. The offense was completely handcuffed by Patrick Corbin and two relievers on Wednesday.
It will be important to demonstrate once again that they can pop right back up. They don’t want to lose this series to a last place team. Not if they want to be taken seriously as a division championship contender.
Orginally published at Phillies Nation as Phillies look to avoid a second straight August debacle at Petco Park

Rotation Rebound is Key to Dbacks Bounce-Back

After winning the National League West Division crown in the 2011 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks fell to a .500 finish in each of the next two seasons.
Arizona further collapsed to a 64-98 finish in 2014. However, the club bounced back in 2015, picking up 15 wins to finish within four games of the .500 mark at 79-83.
Diamondbacks management felt that the club was coming on, and so a couple of key moves were made with an eye towards contending for at least a 2016 NL Wildcard berth.
At the Winter Meetings in December of 2015, the team signed free agent ace right-hander Zack Greinke. A day later they dealt an extremely valuable package of prospects led by shortstop Dansby Swanson to the Atlanta Braves in order to land pitcher Shelby Miller. Then in January they traded with the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Jean Segura.
Adding these players to a lineup that was led by the 2015 NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt and rotation with emerging young talents such as Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray, Arizona believed they would indeed contend for a postseason berth.
Instead, the Diamondbacks collapsed back to a 69-93 record, 18 games off that NL Wildcard pace and 22 games behind the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers.
Key injuries decimated the lineup, as a pair of starting outfielders, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta, missed most of the season.

WHAT WAS EXPECTED OF THE 2016 ROTATION

However, it was the collapse of the starting rotation, in particular the failures of the two big acquisitions in Greinke and Miller, that led to the team collapse.

In three years with the Dodgers prior to arriving in the desert, Greinke had finished among the top ten in the NL Cy voting. In the previous two years he was an NL All-Star and Gold Glover.
Miller had lost 17 games with the Braves in 2015. However, he also had recorded a 3.02 ERA, allowing just 183 hits in 205.1 innings as a 24-year old.
Corbin had missed the entire 2014 season and the start of 2015 after needing Tommy John surgery. He went 6-5 with a 3.60 ERA in making 16 starts after finally returning, with a 78/17 K:BB ratio over 85 innings.
The lone left-hander in the group, Ray had registered a 3.52 ERA in making 23 starts as a 23-year old in 2015. He also struck out 119 batters and allowed just 121 hits over 127.1 innings.
These four gave the Diamondbacks hope that they could contend with any starting group in the 2016 campaign. In the end, none lived up to their billing or their potential.

WHAT WENT WRONG IN THE 2016 ROTATION

Greinke went 13-7, but finished with a 4.37 ERA and 1.273 WHIP. He allowed 161 hits over 158.2 innings, with a 134/41 K:BB ratio.
Those aren’t bad numbers – for a #3 or 4 starter. Greinke is supposed to be a Cy Young-caliber ace, and at $34 million per year, he is being paid like one.
Miller went 3-12 with a disastrous 6.15 ERA and 1.673 WHIP over 20 starts. He missed a month with a sprained finger, and then was demoted to AAA for a month due to his ineffectiveness.
Corbin went 5-13 with a 5.15 ERA and 1.561 WHIP over 36 games, 24 of them as a starter. He allowed 177 hits over 155.2 innings while walking 66 batters.
Ray was 8-15 with a 4.90 ERA and a 1.468 WHIP over 32 starts. He allowed 185 hits in 174.1 innings. While he showed dominating potential in recording 218 strikeouts, he also walked 71 batters.
The failures and injuries to these starting pitchers meant that Arizona had to rush a pair of prized prospects to the big leagues quicker than they would have liked. 23-year old Archie Bradley went 8-9 with a 5.02 ERA over 26 starts, while 24-year old Braden Shipley went 4-5 with a 5.27 ERA in making 13 appearances, including 11 starts.

WHAT CAN GO RIGHT IN THE 2017 ROTATION

There is hope for 2017 in that it would be almost impossible for these pitchers to do much worse. The more important point will be to find out if they can actually do much better.
Corbin will pitch much of the 2017 season still at age 26. Miller pitches the entire season at age 26. Ray will pitch all year at age 25. Shipley turns 25 in February. Bradley will be 24 for the entire season. They all remain young and talented, all capable of a bounce back season.
And now Arizona has added to that depth, bringing in talented 24-year old righty Taijuan Walker in a trade from Seattle for Segura. Walker went 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA and 1.236 WHIP in making 25 starts for the Mariners in 2016.
This remains an enviable group of young, talented arms led by Greinke, who will pitch at age 33 in the 2017 season. There has been talk that the Dbacks have been shopping the righty. But his huge contract, his down season, his age, and a likely high asking price have scared off suitors to this point.
Arizona could very well get a greatly improved performance from 3-4 of these starting pitchers in the 2017 season. If that does happen, Arizona has enough offense that they could make that NL Wildcard push a year later than planned.