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Philadelphia Phillies current roster and payroll evaluation

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How the Phillies choose to utilize Scott Kingery in 2020 will be the key at a few positions

 

Welcome to the second episode and the first original topic episode for the ‘Ring the Bell’ podcast.

Today, I’ll be covering a pair of topics. We’ll take a look at the Philadelphia Phillies current roster makeup with an eye towards the weak spots and any holes that the team may need to fill this off-season.

Along that same vein, a second topic will be the current salary budget situation as the club enters this important off-season, and how this might affect their pursuit of free agent talent.

There is a lot to cover, so let’s jump right into it.

POSITION PLAYERS

A look at the best possible starting lineup made up of players currently on the roster, from my perspective, would go like this:

1B – Rhys Hoskins, 2B – Scott Kingery, SS – Jean Segura, 3B – Alec Bohm, C – J.T. Realmuto, LF – Andrew McCutchen, CF – Adam Haseley, RF – Bryce Harper

Other position players currently being carried on the Phillies 40-man roster include infielders Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, and Arquimedes Gamboa. The club is also carrying outfielders Jay Bruce, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, and Nick Williams. Also on the 40-man are catchers Andrew Knapp and Deivy Grullon.

There are three major question marks which new manager Joe Girardi is going to need to answer, and likely answer prior to spring training. He may need help from general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies management group in finding those answers.

The questions come at the second base, third base, and center field positions on the diamond.

For a couple of years now, the Phillies have avoided handing over the everyday second base job to Scott Kingery, who won a minor league Gold Glove at the position during the 2017 campaign.

Kingery has proven a valuable and versatile asset while bouncing around from third to second to the outfield in his first two big-league seasons. But it has and remains my position that the Phillies are not getting, and will not get, the best they can from him until they give him the respect of settling into an everyday role on defense.

If Girardi hands the starting job at second to Kingery, that means the club will need to move on from Hernandez, who has been the starter at the position for the better part of the last five years. It solidifies the second base position for the next five years, but also opens up a couple of other situations that will need addressing.

Hernandez will turn 30 years of age next May and is due to become a free agent after next season. He is coming off a pair of mostly solid, if unspectacular, seasons.

Committing to Kingery at second means that center field is wide open. Are you comfortable with Haseley, the eight overall pick from the 2017 MLB Draft, as the starting center fielder for a club with championship aspirations? Frankly, I’m not.

I liked what I saw from Haseley, who turns 24 years of age in April, during a freshman campaign that saw him rise from Double-A to the big-leagues. But I did not see a player who was ready to be a key everyday regular on a World Series team. At least not right now.

However, let’s plug him in there as the starter for now. It would be nice if we could ever rely upon the dynamic Roman Quinn to handle the position. But that ship has sailed. He is simply too injury prone to ever count on at this point. About the best the Phillies could hope would be that the speedster and elite defender would somehow be healthy during September and into the postseason, when his skill set could prove valuable.

Another situation can be found at the hot corner. Franco, who has been the starter for most of the same time that Hernandez has been at second, clearly fell out of favor with former skipper Gabe Kapler.

While it remains unclear what Girardi or the higher-ups in the organization think about him, it might be a good time to say goodbye to Franco as well. He plays most of next season at age 27, arguably just entering his prime, and is under club contractual control for two more years.

The Phillies are likely going to have to make a call on both Hernandez and Franco very soon. The club has until December 2 to decide whether to offer salary arbitration to either or both. The call here would be to simply let them go into free agency. The other option would be to sign one or the other, or both, and then hope to cut a deal in spring training should everyone prove healthy and some other club have a need.

Moving on from Franco and giving Kingery the second base job means that you either hand the everyday role at third base to top offensive prospect Bohm, or you go after a veteran free agent. There are good reasons to go down either path.

Bohm appears ready to me. The 23-year-old has slashed .293/.368/.474 with 21 homers, 63 extra-base hits, and 98 RBIs across 698 minor league plate appearances during his first two seasons after being drafted third overall in 2018. He then starred in the Arizona Fall League and is currently the starting third baseman with Team USA in the Premier 12 tournament.

But if the Phillies brain trust wants to give Bohm most of another full season to consolidate his game in Triple-A, there are interesting free agent options available. We’ll look at those in a few minutes.

Another situation which needs resolution is that of Herrera. There is really no way that the Phillies fan base is going to accept his returning to the team after last year’s domestic violence incident. These are different times than even a decade ago.

Herrera needs to find a new home, and Klentak should be able to swing a deal, even if it’s just to bring back cash or a lower-level minor league prospect. If not, the team could just cut him. There are certainly justifiable baseball-only reasons, which is what it would take, to hand him his release. If it were up to me, he never steps foot in Clearwater.

The bench is a genuine area of concern. Saying a final farewell to Herrera, Hernandez, and Franco would cut ties with three key players from the losing teams of the last handful of seasons, but also creates depth issues.

Depth in the outfield comes from Bruce, Quinn, and Nick Williams – the latter of whom could also end up as a valuable trade piece. It would also include Haseley if the Phillies can find a better everyday answer in center. But there is virtually no depth on the infield, and it would be nice if the club could add a better offensive player as a veteran backup catcher than Knapp.

Building a truly competitive bench group will be yet another tricky mission for Klentak this off-season. It will take a creative combination of brave trades and wise free agent signings. I’ll give some suggestions before we wrap this up.

PITCHING NEEDS

In order to become genuine challengers to the world champion Washington Nationals and the two-time defending division champion Atlanta Braves in the National League East Division, the Phillies must add two new starting pitchers to their rotation for 2020 and beyond.

Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, and Jake Arrieta appear to be reliable. However, the latter two would probably best slot in as the 4-5 starter in a contending rotation at this point.

What the Phillies really need is a genuine top-of-the-rotation ace to front the group, and then a proven veteran mid-rotation starter who would come a bit more inexpensively.

In a recent piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bob Brookover quoted GM Mike Rizzo of the Nationals: “Starting pitching is king….for the marathon that is the season you better have some starters that you can run out there and give you a chance to win each and every day.

Klentak must bring in a pair of proven, winning veterans if he wants to elevate the Phillies rotation to a contending level. It’s my bet that principal owner John Middleton has already made this the single biggest off-season mandate, and is willing to again open his substantial wallet to make it happen.

The bullpen is trickier. It’s possible that the Phillies could do little or nothing here and end up with a competitive group in 2020.

Slated to return, assuming health, are the following arms: Right-handers Hector Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, Edgar Garcia, and newcomer Robert Stock. The best left-handers on-board are Adam Morgan and Jose Alvarez.

They probably cannot hope to get David Robertson back until August at the earliest, and probably not until September. If they actually contend and he is available for the stretch run and postseason, that would be a “found arm” bonus.

Also in the mix would be former or spot-starters Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin, and Ranger Saurez. And organizational arms in righty J.D. Hammer and lefty Austin Davis remain.

Velasquez and Pivetta are particularly interesting as potential bullpen weapons. While either could end up as trade bait, either or both could be extremely valuable if they bought into the role fully, and if new pitching coach Bryan Price can work his magic with them.

The Phillies could shop for a more proven bullpen arm to bolster the group, but that should not be a priority from my perspective. There will be a strong arm who floats through the early stages of free agency and ends up being more affordable than he might appear at first blush. There are plenty of arms already on hand to make something competitive work.

None of that discussion of the pitching takes into account either of the Phillies top two pitching prospects, Spencer Howard and Adonis Medina. The latter is already on the 40-man roster and is likely to be ready at some point in the second half of the 2020 season.

Howard could actually push for a role in the starting rotation as early as spring training, and looks like the most talented arm developed by the farm system since Cole Hamels.

SHOPPING LIST AND BUDGET

So, for me anyway, there is a lengthy “To-Do List’ for Matt Klentak this off-season, if the Phillies truly want to contend for a deep October 2020 postseason run.

Two starting pitchers and a starting center fielder. At least three proven veteran bench players – two infielders and a catcher – at least two of those with extra-base pop. And possibly a third baseman and bullpen arm. It’s a daunting task, but it’s what needs to be done in order to catch and pass Atlanta and Washington.

The Phillies currently have $108 million in 2020 salary commitments. Cot’s Contracts projects the club’s 40-man payroll hit for Competitive Balance Tax purposes at $131 million. This would leave them some $76 million below the $208 million CBT threshold.

While there are a few roster machinations which could slightly elevate those financial commitments, those are not substantial. The Phillies have a lot of money to spend if they want. The problem is that they have a lot of needs as well, and with veterans, those needs won’t come cheap.

There will be tremendous competition for Gerrit Cole, the best starting pitcher on the free agent market. With Scott Boras as his agent, you can expect Cole to remain unsigned through a lengthy winter process of shopping and city/team visits, similar to what we saw last winter with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

The Phillies will be in the hunt for Cole, but so are other big spenders like the Yankees, Angels, Padres, Astros and perhaps even the Dodgers.

Perhaps the more likely “Cole” that the Phillies could bring in would be former 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels. The lefty turns 36 years of age just two days after Christmas and is clearly past his prime. However, he knows how to pitch in Philly and remains popular with the fan base, is a proven veteran winner, and is a southpaw. On a reasonable three-year deal, he could slot into that #3-4 starter role.

Other starting pitching names the Phils will look into should include Stephen Strasburg at the top of the market, and mid-market arms like Zach Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Rick Porcello. Perhaps even veteran lefty Madison Bumgarner.

Longtime Yankees reliever Dellin Betances might make for an intriguing addition as a new closer with the Phillies.

If the Phillies decide to go hard after Anthony Rendon as their new third baseman, they would likely be betting heavily that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will include the National League going to a Designated Hitter as soon as the 2021 season. This would allow for the club to fit in all of Rendon, Bohm, and Rhys Hoskins to their lineup.

Landing Rendon would likely take them out of the running for Cole or Strasburg, and perhaps put their pitching focus on a combination like Wheeler and Hamels, or any two of the more mid-market arms previously mentioned. Other potential third base targets would be Mike Moustakas and Josh Donaldson, each of whom would come far cheaper than Rendon.

An interesting outfield depth piece would be Corey Dickerson. The Phillies would certainly love to have him back, and judging by social media posts, so would the fan base. However, Dickerson is not an everyday center fielder. Neither is McCutchen at this stage of his career. So Dickerson would be more of a fourth outfielder. He will likely command too much money and will get an everyday role offered from someone.

An interesting catcher option could be former Phillies prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Turning 31 in February, he has the combination of offensive and defensive skills the club needs from a backup, and finally stayed healthy in 2019.

There really are no interesting center fielders on the free agent market this off-season, so if the Phillies do want a better option there, they are likely going to have to trade for it.

However, one roll-of-the-dice name could be Japanese free agent Shogo Akiyama. A star with Seibu in the Japanese Pacific League for the past nine years, Akiyama turns 32 years of age in April. He is a solid hitter with a career .301 average, and is a power-speed combination guy. The dice roll, of course, would be how his talent translates to America, especially considering he is moving past his prime.

Among the interesting veteran bench options in free agency, former Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence and an infielder who proved to be a Phillie killer a year ago, Starlin Castro. Also among free agent infielders are Jonathan Schoop, Eric Sogard and Jose Iglesias.

THE WRAP

There is much to be done this winter. But the mandate from Middleton and the fan base is clear: the 2020 season cannot be another .500, or God forbid, losing campaign. It is time to win, and Klentak knows it. His job is now squarely on the line.

Join me tomorrow when I’ll take a much more detailed look into the free agent market. We’ll go over specifics on those mentioned today and even more names who could slot into Phillies positional needs.

I hope you’ll come back and listen then. And in the meantime you can visit the @philliesbell sites on Twitter and Facebook for continuing Phillies information. Talk to you next time, and until then, God bless you and yours.

Bryan Price brings tremendous experience as new Phillies pitching coach

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Price has been a pitching coach and manager in MLB for two decades

 

Just days after officially hiring Joe Girardi as their new manager, the Phillies have filled one of the key open positions on his coaching staff.

Bryan Price, who most recently served as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds from 2014 into the 2018 season, has been hired as the Phillies new pitching coach.

Price brings tremendous experience to the job. He previously served as pitching coach with the Seattle Mariners (2000-06), Arizona Diamondbacks (2007-09), and the Reds (2010-13) in addition to his managerial term in Cincinnati.

Girardi and Price have a recent link. Back in the summer, the Phillies new skipper was named as the manager of Team USA for the upcoming international Premier 12 tournament. Price was scheduled to be his pitching coach.

However, on taking the Phillies job, Girardi was replaced as Team USA manager by Scott Brosius. It remains unclear whether Price will remain with Team USA through the Premier 12 tourney, which kicks off the qualifying process for the 2020 Summer Olympics and runs from November 2-17, 2019.

The Mariners pitching staff led the American League in ERA in the 2001 season, earning Price the USA Today Baseball Weekly Pitching Coach of the Year Award. In 2007, his Dbacks staff finished fourth in ERA in the National League and helped the club reach the NLCS. For that performance, Price was named as the Major League Baseball Coach of the Year by Baseball America.

With the Reds, Price guided a pitching staff that twice finished among the top five in National League ERA. However, his managerial stint did not prove as successful. Cincinnati went just 279-387 in parts of five seasons, and he was ultimately fired after a 3-15 start in 2018.

Price was involved in a highly publicized and controversial incident in April of 2015 when he went on an expletive-laden rant against the Cincinnati media after a reporter published what Price felt was information regarding an injury to catcher Devin Mesoraco which put the Reds at a competitive disadvantage.

The 57-year-old Price is a native of San Francisco. He was the eighth round choice of the California Angels in the 1984 MLB Draft as a pitcher out of the University of California-Berkeley, the 190th player selected overall.

Price reached the Double-A level in the Angels organization before being released following the 2016 season. After taking a year off in 2017, Price signed with the Seattle Mariners and eventually reached Triple-A. Over a five-year minor league career he accumulated a 31-19 record with a 3.74 ERA across 90 games, 75 of those as starting assignments.

Price has other prior Phillies connections besides his brief period with Girardi in preparation for their Team USA assignment. Phillies Wall of Famer Pat Gillick hired Price as the pitching coach in Seattle when Gillick was the general manager of the Mariners.

Phillies 2008 World Series hero Jamie Moyer was a pitcher on those Mariners’ staffs under Price.

If I was looking for a pitching coach, he’d be at the top of my list.~ Jamie Moyer

“He’s a student of the game and he cares about his pitchers,” Moyer said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I think first and foremost that’s what jumps out about him — how much he cares about his pitchers. He was a first-time pitching coach when he came aboard and we had a lot of veterans on that team. He quickly earned their trust with great communication and with a lot of give and take. His style was basically, ‘What do you do well and what can we do with it to make you better?’

On Monday, prior to the announcement of Price’s hiring, Girardi had commented on the pitching coach position. “Just as important is a real ability to relate to the pitchers, sometimes the struggles they’re going through, and that there’s a deep relationship there,” Girardi said per Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The pitching coach has a tough job because there’s so many pitchers that they deal with. But he has to know each one of them really well, and they have to trust him, and that’s really important.

Based on his long history of success as a pitching coach and Moyer’s comments, it appears that Price fits that need for a strong communicator well. He looks like a perfect fit for the new Phillies coaching staff, which now seeks a similar strong addition for the hitting coach position.

Per Matt Gelb at The Athletic, Price turned down at least two offers to coach elsewhere before taking the job with the Phillies. One concern that he had was the ability to infuse the game’s new shift towards analytics with his more natural old-school style approach.

What I don’t know, I can learn,” Price said per Gelb. “But one thing I won’t forget is the fundamentals of pitching — of competitiveness and preparation and the detailed work that is really the lifeblood of being a competitive major-league pitcher. There are just essentials to it that aren’t going to be defined by a spreadsheet or technology that tells you if you’re doing it right or wrong. A reasonable mind says they both have a place. To think that one thrives without the other, it doesn’t. I can tell you, in pitching, there’s no uniformity.

Now, who exactly will be the pitchers under his tutelage during the 2020 season? The Phillies staff finished 17th in ERA, 20th in OPS against, and  22nd in batting average against among the 30 teams in Major League Baseball this past season.

Given health, the starting rotation in 2020 is almost certain to include Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Based on the majority of his performances combined with his age and upside potential, Zach Eflin would also seem a lock. Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is likely to make a strong push for a rotation spot as well, possibly as early as spring training.

More questionable are the fates of Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta. Each is talented, but neither has been able to establish themselves as a reliable starting pitcher for the Phillies. They both could end up as trade candidates this off-season, or end up in the bullpen if better options are found.

I don’t speak for the Phillies in any way, shape or form. I’m new to the organization,” said Price per Gelb. “We had a good talk about philosophy. We will use our analytics and technology department in a very strong and positive way. But I think the pitching coach’s job is to help extract as much talent and build as much confidence in the group as possible through relationship building. It’s through building trust. It’s through sharing experience and knowledge. We give these guys a goal of becoming something special, instead of something that’s specialized.”

Most observers believe that the Phillies are going to need to add two new, veteran arms to that rotation in free agency in order to compete against talented Washington and Atlanta teams in the NL East. At least one of those new starting pitchers needs to be ace-caliber, someone such as Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg.

That will be the primary job of general manager Matt Klentak this off-season, providing pitching talent of a caliber that can help the Phillies to become winners and return to the postseason for the first time nine years.

 

More on the Philadelphia Phillies and Major League Baseball:

Phillies off-season personnel schedule and deadlines

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Baseball super agent Scott Boras will be a central figure in the game, likely including with the Phillies, once again this off-season

 

Much of the attention surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies during this coming week will be rightly focused on the interview process as the ball club searches for a new manager.

Meanwhile, the Major League Baseball postseason excitement will roll on as both the National and American League Championship Series continue. By the end of this week or early next, both pennants will have been won, and the World Series match-up will be set.

Where individual veteran players are concerned, at least those not still participating in the playoffs, the month of October largely finds them in a holding pattern.

Most of those players are safely under contract for the 2020 season and have a fairly good idea of where they will be playing next year.

However, there are a number of players who will become free agents or the object of trades. Others will have their roster spot come up for evaluation, with some to be protected and remain with their current organization while others are exposed to the free agent market.

Let’s take a first look at the 2019-20 Major League Baseball off-season schedule and deadlines, and the individual Phillies players who will find themselves directly affected.

As the off-season moves forward, I will frequently be addressing these players, events, and deadlines on a more individualized and detailed basis. This should once again be an eventful off-season for the Philadelphia Phillies, so stay tuned.

The NLCS will last at least through Tuesday and the ALCS at least through Thursday. That means the earliest the World Series can begin would be this coming weekend.

Odds are that at least one LCS will go farther, meaning the Fall Classic probably won’t begin until some time next week. The likelihood is that we will have a new world champion crowned by the final week in October, which gets this off-season clock started.

First day after the World Series ends: Teams can trade Major League players once again. Also, eligible players will officially become free agents. However, they must first pass through a five-day period in which these new free agents may negotiate only with their current team.

The following are players of interest who appeared with the 2019 Phillies and who will also become free agents at the conclusion of the World Series: Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Sean Rodriguez, Logan Morrison, Drew Smyly, Jason Vargas, Pat Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Jared Hughes, Juan Nicasio, Nick Vincent.

Fifth day after the World Series ends: This is the final day to reinstate players from the 60-day injured list. Importance? Room will need to be made on the 40-man roster for any players who the club wishes to retain. This is also the deadline for clubs to tender qualifying offers to eligible free agents.

Currently on the 60-day Injured List with the Phillies are Dickerson, Hunter, Neshek, Robertson, Victor Arano, Jake Arrieta, Seranthony Dominguez, Jerad Eickhoff, Adam Morgan, Andrew McCutchen.

With Dickerson, Hunter, and Neshek all becoming free agents, the Phillies will have to make decisions involving the others. Robertson will be an interesting decision.

If the club protects all seven non-free agents, there are a number of 40-man roster players who still have minor league options and could be strategically demoted/opted to make room. Those include Arano, Deivy Grullon, Edgar Garcia, Austin Davis, Cole Irvin, Ranger Suarez, and Enyel De Los Santos.

Fifth day after the World Series ends: Perhaps most importantly at this time, free agents may now sign with any club they wish. Just as last off-season with the pursuits of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, expect the Phillies to be involved in both rumors and actual negotiations with most big-name available players.

The club is expected to go hard for one or two veteran pitchers this off-season in the free agent market. Possible targets include starters Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Rick Porcello, and Stephen Strasburg (should he opt out of his contract with the Nationals), reliever Dellin Betances, and former Phillies hero Cole Hamels.

Among position players the Phillies could target as new starters, third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson and outfielder Marcell Ozuna (as a center fielder) would be among the leading possibilities. GM Matt Klentak will certainly be looking at strengthening his bench in free agency as well.

Players who appeared with the Phillies this past season who will become free agents and could be targeted to return include Dickerson, Miller, Hughes, and Vincent.

Fifteenth day after the World Series ends: Deadline for players to accept qualifying offer.

This should not affect the Phillies in any way. There are no pending free agents who are eligible for a qualifying offer from the club who will receive one.

November 20: In addition to my birthday, this will also be the deadline for MLB teams to add players to their 40-man rosters to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

The Phillies will need to add top ten organizational prospect pitchers Adonis Medina and JoJo Romero to their 40-man in order to protect both this year.

December 2: Tender deadline. Sometimes referred to the non-tender deadline, it is the time by which teams must formally tender 2020 contracts to unsigned players. If a player is non-tendered, he becomes a free agent.

The Phillies will be tendering 2020 contracts to Rhys Hoskins, Vince Velasquez, and Hector Neris. Interesting decisions will come on a few other players including Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, and Blake Parker.

December 9-12: The baseball Winter Meetings are held during this week in San Diego. On the final day, the Rule 5 Draft will be held.

For years, this was when many big trades went down. That was because it was a rare opportunity for the management teams of each club to be located in the same place at the same time.

While the Winter Meetings remain a hotbed of rumors in that regard, with the advent of modern communication methods the bigger trades can happen at any time.

Last year, the Phillies signed McCutchen during this period. Also, Carlos Santana, whom the Phillies had dealt to Seattle as part of the Jean Segura deal less than two weeks earlier, was traded by the Mariners to the Cleveland Indians.

January 10, 2020: Salary arbitration figures are exchanged between MLB clubs and any eligible players. It will be interesting to see the figures exchanged between Hoskins, Velasquez, and Neris with the Phillies. Possibly even Hernandez and/or Franco, if either or both is indeed offered a contract.

February 3, 2020: Arbitration hearings begin. The Phillies have not been to a hearing in more than a decade since losing in February 2008 to first baseman Ryan Howard. The club avoided a hearing with Aaron Nola a year ago, agreeing with their budding ace on a four-year, $45-million dollar deal with a club option fifth year.

  • February 22, 2020: The spring training Grapefruit League schedule begins with the Phillies visiting the Detroit Tigers at Lakeland, Florida. The club’s pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Clearwater on a date yet to be set, but which will come roughly a week or so earlier.

There is a chance that big personnel doings could still take place at this point. The Phillies are expected to once again be major players in free agency. Remember, Harper was not signed until spring training was already underway prior to the 2019 campaign.

The story of the 2019 Phillies to date is one of blown opportunities

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So, you are a Phillies fan, and you are exhausted after Friday night’s 15-inning, 4-3 loss to one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball, the Chicago White Sox.

One strike away from victory, the Phillies blew it. The offense left 15 runners on base and went just 2-13 with runners in scoring position. The bullpen coughed up the late lead in the 9th inning. Manager Gabe Kapler‘s decisions resulted in outfielder Roman Quinn having to pitch two innings, ultimately getting hung with the loss.
If you are anything like me, you are completely exasperated with the way this team has lost many games this season. It feels as if there have been a dozen games or more in which the Phillies should have won, but somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Well, I decided to actually go through the grueling ordeal of researching it. And looking back over the 2019 results shows that we are correct in our feelings. It’s not just that the Phillies have blown games that they should have won, they have also won a ton of tight games. The club has been involved in more than their share of close contests this season.
The Phillies have suffered 18 losses by two runs or fewer, and have been walked-off five times. On the flip side, they have 25 wins by two runs or less, with four walk-off victories. That makes 43 of the Phillies 109 games, nearly 40%, as having been extremely tight affairs.
In many of those losses, the Phillies had a late lead. In each of the following 17 games, fans would not need to apologize if they felt that the club missed a golden opportunity at a victory. These are the 17 games, 11 of them coming at home at Citizens Bank Park, that have caused the collective blood pressure to rise.
In the vast majority of these cases, the bullpen blew a late lead or failed in a tie game. However, in a few of them, greater success by the offense earlier in the game would have kept the pen out of the equation.
Nailing down the win in just under half of these games, simply going 8-9 rather than losing them all, would have the Phillies sitting at 65-44, a game up on Atlanta in the division and seven games clear of the NL Wildcard pack. If you have the stomach for it, let’s relive the excruciating details together.

HALF-DOZEN APRIL CRUSHERS

Wednesday, April 3 at Washington: This was the first loss of the season. The Phillies were 4-0, having swept the Braves and taken out the Nats by 8-2 in a series opener. They had outscored those two teams by a 31-13 margin. In this one at Nationals Park, the Phillies rallied to score four runs in the top of the 8th inning to take an 8-6 lead. But then Seranthony Dominguez surrendered a pair in the bottom of the 8th to tie it up. In the bottom of the 9th, David Robertson surrendered a leadoff base hit, then walked three straight batters to walk in the winning run.
Saturday, April 6 vs Twins at CBP: This was the club’s second loss of the season, just three days after the Nats debacle. The Phillies trailed in this one by 3-2 after the offense had left runners on base a couple of times. They would have one more shot in the bottom of the 9th inning. But before it ever got there, Dominguez surrendered a back-breaking three-run homer to Eddie Rosario in the top of the final frame, giving the Twins a 6-3 victory.
Tuesday, April 9 vs the Nationals at CBP: The third loss of the young season was yet another heart-breaker. The Phillies led this one 6-1 after five innings at home with Aaron Nola on the mound. But their ace would struggle in the early going this season, and this was one of those times. After he had allowed just two runs and five hits through six innings, the Nats got to Nola for a pair of 7th inning homers to cut their deficit to 6-5. Then with two outs and two strikes in the top of the 9th, Juan Soto homered off Edubray Ramos to tie it up. It would not be the last time that the Phillies bullpen would blow a game just one strike away from victory. Washington would whack Jose Alvarez around, scoring four times in the top of the 10th to win 10-6. The Phillies offense failed to score over the final six frames after building that early 6-1 lead.
Monday, April 15 vs Mets at CBP: Every time the visiting Mets scored, the Phillies had an answer. The Phils tied it when Mets pitching walked four batters, including walking in the tying run in the bottom of the 8th with two outs. Bryce Harper then stepped to the plate, but popped up, missing a chance to push the lead runs across. In the bottom of the 10th, Jean Segura struck out with the winning run at second and two outs. The rivals went to the 11th inning still tied at 6-6. The Mets put two men on with two outs and Pat Neshek on the mound. Then, an error by Rhys Hoskins on a grounder allowed what would prove to be the winning run to score. Harper, Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto each struck out swinging in the bottom of the inning to end it.
Friday April 19 at Colorado: Vince Velasquez was shutting out the host Rockies at Coors Field into the 6th with the Phillies leading 2-0. But he gave up a one-out homer and a pair of two-out doubles, and the game was tied at 2-2. The Phillies offense failed to score after the 5th, and the teams moved into the 12th still tied at 2-2. In the top of the 12th, Harper’s clutch two-out RBI double put the Phils on top 3-2. But in the bottom of the 12th, Juan Nicasio surrendered a two-out, two-strike, walkoff home run to Charlie Blackmon to blow it.
Thursday April 25 vs Miami at CBP: The Phillies took an early 1-0 lead on a solo homer from Sean Rodriguez in the bottom of the 2nd inning. It was the only run they would score. The Marlins tied it in the top of the 3rd off Nola, and the game remained 1-1 into the 10th inning. Hector Neris retired the first two Miami batters. But then he allowed a two-out, two-strike double to Neil Walker followed by a two-strike, two-run homer to Starlin Castro to give Miami a 3-1 lead. The Phillies went out 1-2-3 in their half and suffered yet another home heartbreaker.

PAIR OF MAYDAY CALLS

Saturday, May 4 vs Washington at CBP: With the game tied at 3-3 into the 7th, the Nats scored twice to take the lead. But the Phillies offense responded immediately on this night, scoring five times in the bottom to take an 8-5 lead. In the top of the 8th, Neshek put two runners on base, and with two outs he was lifted for Adam Morgan. The lefty promptly surrendered a game-tying home run to Kurt Suzuki, and then a go-ahead homer to the very next batter, Victor Robles. The Nats tacked on one more in the 9th off Ramos, and escaped with a 10-8 win in South Philly.
Tuesday, May 21 at Wrigley Field vs the Cubs: After blowing that game against Washington, the Phillies recovered to begin one of their best runs of the season, winning 10 of 15 to move out to a 2.5 game division lead. In the second game of their series at Wrigley Field, the Phils suffered what would be just their second truly blown opportunity of the month of May. Leading 2-1 into the bottom of the 9th inning, Nicasio loaded the bases with one out. The Cubs then tied it on a fielder’s choice in which Kris Bryant was nearly thrown out at the plate. The Cubs then did the ending, when Javier Baez drilled a first-pitch walkoff single.

HALF-DOZEN MORE DURING JUNE SWOON

Saturday, June 1 at Dodger Stadium: Still in first place themselves, the Phillies had a chance to dump the best team in baseball on the road. Harper’s two-run home run in the top of the 8th inning tied the game at 3-3. But with one out in the bottom of the 9th and the count full, Neris gave up a walkoff home run to rookie Dodgers catcher Will Smith for a 4-3 defeat.
Sunday, June 9 vs Reds at CBP: After a tough road trip, the Phillies had won four straight to move 10 games over the .500 mark and two games up in the NL East race. Nola took a 3-1 lead into the top of the 7th inning at home, then again ran out of gas after retiring the first two batters. After he surrendered a two-out single and walk, manager Gabe Kapler brought in Alvarez. The lefty reliever promptly yielded a two-run single to tie it up, and then an RBI single to the very next batter to give Cincy a 4-3 lead. The Reds bullpen then retired nine of the final 10 Phillies batters.
Friday, June 14 at Atlanta: A truly back-breaking defeat. The Braves had slipped past the Phillies in the NL East standings by 1.5 games as the two division rivals opened a big weekend series in Atlanta. The Phils bolted out to a 5-1 lead behind Nick Pivetta, who then took a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the 7th inning. Brian McCann reached him for a leadoff home run. Then with two outs, Pivetta allowed a double and a walk. Kapler went to Vince Velasquez out of the bullpen, and the former starter immediately allowed an RBI single to Freddie Freeman to cut the Phils lead down to 7-4. The Phillies pushed their lead out to 8-4 in the top of the 8th, but then Alvarez allowed a two-out, two-strike RBI single. Ramos came on and yielded a two-strike RBI triple to the next batter to make it an 8-6 ball game. In the bottom of the 9th, Neris put two on but also got two outs. Then he gave up a two-strike RBI double to Austin Riley to make it 8-7, followed by a two-strike, two-run walkoff double to McCann to blow it.
Friday, June 21 vs Miami at CBP: The Phillies were in the midst of their worst stretch of the season, having lost four straight and six of seven. When the last-place Marlins came to town, it was a chance for the Phillies to get things re-stabilized. It was not to be, as the Fish would win all three games of the weekend set by two runs or fewer. In this Friday series opener, the Phillies offense left 11 men on base and went just 2-12 with runners in scoring position. With the game knotted at 1-1 into the 6th, Miami scored an unearned run off Nola to take a 2-1 lead. The Phillies left the tying run at third base in the home 8th, and dropped a lifeless decision.
Saturday, June 22 vs Miami at CBP: The very next night, the Phillies took a 3-1 lead into the top of the 7th against Miami. Morgan came on in relief and allowed the first three men to reach base, giving up a run to make it a 3-2 game. Then with two on and two out, Ramos came on and allowed a two-run double on the first pitch he threw, putting the Marlins up 4-3. They pushed another across on J.D. Hammer in the top of the 8th, and beat the Phillies by 5-3.
Saturday, June 29 at Miami: A week after that second-straight disheartening defeat at home to the Fish, the Phillies suffered one at Marlins Park. After building a 6-1 lead behind Zach Eflin, Miami got a two-run homer from Walker to make it a 6-3 game in the bottom of the 6th inning. In the next inning, Nicasio allowed a run and gave way to Morgan with one out and runners at first and third. Morgan then got ripped by the Marlins, allowing two singles around a pair of doubles over the next four batters. The result was five more runs for the hosts, who took a 9-6 lead. The Phillies bats went silent over the final four frames, and it was another loss to the last place team in the division.

TRIO OF SECOND HALF COLLAPSES (SO FAR)

Saturday, July 13 vs Washington at CBP: Their awful 10-17 stretch had dropped the Phillies into third place, 8.5 behind Atlanta and now 1.5 back of the Nationals. With a chance to gain ground head-to-head, Nola had the Phillies on top with a shutout, leading 3-0 into the top of the 6th inning. But then he walked two and allowed a two-out RBI single to Robles to make it a 3-1 game. In the top of the 8th, Morgan would blow it again, though his defense also let him down. He walked two and retired two batters. With two outs, an error by Maikel Franco at third base allowed a run to score, cutting the Phillies lead down to 3-2. Then it was Neris’ turn in the top of the 9th inning. The closer retired the first two batters, but then allowed a base hit to Anthony Rendon. That was followed by a game-turning, first-pitch, two-run homer off the bat of Soto that put the Nationals up 4-3. The Phillies got Roman Quinn to second base with two outs in the bottom of the frame, but a series of moves by Kapler had left his best pinch-hit option for Neris as backup catcher Andrew Knapp. The result was as expected, a 4-3 Phillies loss.
Wednesday, July 17 vs the Dodgers at CBP: After winning a spirited walkoff victory the prior night against baseball’s best team, the Phillies and Dodgers were tied at 2-2 into the 7th inning. But Nicasio allowed a two-run homer to David Freese in the top of the 7th, Austin Davis gave up a two-run homer to Justin Turner in the top of the 8th, and the Dodgers coasted home with five runs over the final three innings for a 7-2 victory. The Phillies offense produced just two hits off a half-dozen Dodgers pitchers, who retired nine Phils batters in a row in the late innings as their own hitters opened up the lead.
Friday, August 2 vs the Chisox: Last night. I refuse to relive this 15-inning debacle completely. But the Phillies offense failed to score over the final eight frames, Velasquez was forced to play left field, and Quinn was forced to pitch two innings. If you are that much of a masochist that you need the full details, enjoy my game story at that link.
The Phillies have lost 52 games this season, so their performances in these 17 do not tell the full story. However, they do tell much of the frustrating 2019 story for Phillies fans who feel that they have suffered through far too many late defeats that looked like the could have, usually should have, been put into the win column.
Again, the Phillies did not need to win all of these games. They didn’t even need to win half of them. An 8-9 record in games they definitely could have won with a few timely hits and/or a better effort from the bullpen would have them in first place right now. Somehow, they have to find a way to make this stop over the next eight weeks.

Phillies beaten by lowly White Sox in 15 inning series opener

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The Philadelphia Phillies (57-52) got a strong first start from newcomer Jason Vargas, but blew a two-out, two-strike lead, ultimately losing a 4-3 game to the Chicago White Sox (47-60) in 15 innings at Citizens Bank Park.

With the loss, the Phillies will drop one game back of the Cubs and Nationals, who each won, in the National League Wildcard race heading into Saturday action.

 

The visitors jumped on top first when Cuban-born first baseman Jose Abreu blasted his team-leading 23rd home run of the season deep into the seats in center field. The two-run shot off Vargas in the top of the 3rd inning put Chicago up by 2-0 early on.
The Phillies got one of those right back in the bottom of the frame when Roman Quinn rocketed his third home run of the year, his second in as many days, deep into the right field seats.
Roman Quinn’s solo shot got the Phillies on the board.

 

 

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The Phillies finally got the score knotted up with a 6th inning mini-rally. Jean Segura led off with a single to left and Rhys Hoskins drew a walk. That was the end of the night for Chisox starter Ivan Nova, and manager Rick Renteria called on Jace Fry out of his bullpen.

Bryce Harper then grounded what appeared to be a double play ball. The White Sox got Hoskins for the first out, but Harper was hustling all the way, forcing a bad throw from shortstop Tim Anderson. Harper was safe, Segura raced home, and the game was tied at 2-2.
In the bottom of the 7th, another mini-rally produced the go-ahead run for the home side. Quinn beat out a bunt back to new Chicago reliever Aaron Bummer for an infield single. Quinn then promptly stole second base. Cesar Hernandez then chopped one past Bummer for his own infield hit, with Quinn moving over the third base. Segura followed with a base hit to right, and Quinn raced to put the Phillies on top for the first time all night.
Vargas lasted 6.1 solid innings in his debut with the Phillies, who acquired him at the trade deadline from the division-rival New York Mets. The bullpen then did the job at first, with Mike Morin and Nick Pivetta getting them to the top of the 9th with the lead.
Juan Nicasio retired the lead batter in the 9th, but then yielded a double to Eloy Jimenez. He then struck out James McCann, and Kapler decided to go to Jose Alvarez. The lefty gave up a single to Ryan Goins that moved Jimenez to third. Then Alvarez got to two strikes on pinch-hitter Matt Skole. But Skole came through, lining a single to right with Jimenez scoring the tying run.
New bullpen addition Blake Parker shut down Chicago 1-2-3 in the 10th and 11th, striking out four batters. Zach Eflin then shut them down with 1-2-3 frames in the 12th and 13th, striking out two of his own. Meanwhile, Jose Ruiz kept pace by shutting the Phillies offense down in the 10th and 11th innings, striking out three of his own. Carson Fulmer then shut them down in the home 12th and 13th innings.
In the bottom of the 13th, Quinn singled with one out. He was erased when Eflin hit into a force out. Then with two outs, Segura drew a walk, moving the potential winning run to second base. Kapler opted to put the speedier Vince Velasquez in as a pinch-runner for Eflin, but that ended up a wasted move when Hoskins popped out to end the threat.
With all the juggling, it meant that Quinn was forced by Kapler to take the mound as a pitcher. The Phillies got away with it in the top of the 14th thanks to a tremendous throw from Velasquez (?) in left field, who nailed Abreu at the plate.
In the 15th, Quinn retired the first two batters, and then perhaps the inevitable. A base hit, walk, and RBI single from Abreu to score Leury Garcia gave Chicago a 4-3 lead. Josh Osich set the Phillies down in order in the bottom of the 15th, and this long, ugly ball game for the home team was brought to an unmerciful end.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

Phillies – Jason Vargas: 6.1 IP, 5 hits (1 HR), 2 earned, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts. 90 pitches, 56 for strikes.
White Sox – Ivan Nova: 5 IP, 5 hits (1 H), 1 earned, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts. 78 pitches, 48 for strikes.

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: ROMAN QUINN

The White Sox won, and got a home run and the game-winning RBI from Abreu. But Quinn, hitting out of the #9 spot in manager Gabe Kapler‘s order, was in the middle of the Phillies limited offense all night long. He delivered three hits including a home run that put the Phillies on the board, stole a base and scored what looked to be their winning run for awhile, and then pitched two innings, nearly getting away with the mound appearance before finally cracking with two outs in the 15th.

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