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Phillies visit San Francisco for a season-defining long weekend

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The Philadelphia Phillies (59-55) will continue their roller-coaster ride of a 2019 regular season out west with a long weekend visit to face the host San Francisco Giants (56-59) at Oracle Park.

The Giants, who stormed back into the National League Wildcard playoff picture with a scorching hot July, have stumbled backwards in August. Since flipping the page over on the calendar, San Francisco has gone just 1-6.
Wins in just four of their last 13 contests, including dropped two of three to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, have dropped the Giants 3.5 out in that Wildcard race with four teams now standing between them and a spot in the postseason.
For the Phillies, losses in three of their last four games leave them tied for one of the two NL Wildcard berths. However, there are now five teams within 1.5 games of one another in what looks like it is shaping up to be a wild sprint (stumble?) down the stretch.
The biggest problem for both of these teams of late has been an inability to score runs. The Giants enter the series having put just 17 runs up on the scoreboard across their seven August games. That is an average of just 2.43 runs per game. Meanwhile, the Phillies have crossed the plate just 23 times over their own last half-dozen, or an average of 3.83 runs per contest.
The Giants have averaged just 4.24 runs per game over the entire 2019 season, the second-lowest per-game output in the National League. They also have registered the league’s second-lowest OPS, and have the second-lowest home run total in the NL, ahead of only the rebuilding Miami Marlins in each of those categories.
Things aren’t much better statistically on the mound for San Francisco. The pitching staff ranks just 10th of the 15 NL ball clubs in batting average against (.254) and OPS against (.754) as well as strikeouts. The Giants came in at 18th of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball in our latest MLB Power Rankings released one week ago, with the Phillies ranking in the No. 14 position.
With so many teams between them and a postseason berth, this is now a pivotal series for the host Giants. If the Phillies manage to somehow take three of four here, that would probably sound the death knell for the 2019 season by the bay.
For their part, the Phillies need to come out of this with at least a split. That would allow the club to return home next week having gone no worse than 3-4 in a two-city western swing.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Kevin Pillar (30/CF): .252/.281/.420, 13 HR, 42 XBH, 56 RBIs, 55 runs, 9 steals
Brandon Belt (31/1B): .233/.347/.390, 12 HR, 33 XBH, 39 RBIx, 57 runs
Evan Longoria (33/3B): .239/.314/.439, 13 HR, 30 XBH, 39 RBIx, 38 runs
Pablo Sandoval (32/3B): .267/.312/.507, 14 HR, 37 XBH, 41 RBIs, 42 runs
Mike Yastrzemski (28/LF): .264/.316/.477, 10 HR, 24 XBH, 34 RBIs, 37 runs
Scooter Gennett (29/2B): .218/.233/.310, 1 HR, 6 XBH, 7 RBIs, 5 runs (90 plate appearances with CIN/SFG)
Gennett arrived in a trade deadline deal from the Cincinnati Reds, leading to the release of longtime Giants second baseman Joe Panik.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Buster Posey: A Georgia native now in his 11th big-league season, Posey was the first round pick of the Giants at 5th overall in the 2008 MLB Draft out of Florida State University.
After receiving a cup of coffee in September 2009, Posey became the Giants starting catcher in the 2010 season. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and finished 11th in NL MVP voting, then led the Giants past the Phillies in five games in the NLCS enroute to the first World Series championship for the franchise in 56 years.
Two years later, Posey made his first of six NL All-Star teams, won his first of four NL Silver Sluggers, and won that NL MVP Award. He also once again helped the Giants to a World Series crown.
Posey and the Giants would add a third World Series championship to their franchise trophy case in the 2014 season. In 2016, Posey won his long career NL Gold Glove Award at catcher.
The wear and tear of catching more than 900 games at the big-league level have taken their toll on Posey, who is now 32-year-old. Still, he has been behind the plate in 74 of the team’s 115 games this season.
He received a nine-year contract at $167+ million which runs through the 2021 season with a 2022 team option. It will be interesting to see whether the Giants can remain a playoff contender over the next year or two, and if not, whether he could end up moving on to another team. For all the world, Posey feels like a one-team player to me, and he will make an interesting Hall of Fame case one day late in the 2020’s.

GIANTS SHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

Thursday – Madison Bumgarner (29/LH): 6-7, 3.92 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 1.175 WHIP, 140 hits over 144.2 IP across 24 starts with a 142/30 K:BB
Friday – Tyler Beede (26/RH): 3-6, 5.38 ERA, 5.50 FIP, 1.602 WHIP, 84 hits over 73.2 IP across 15 games (13 starts) with a 69/34 K:BB
Saturday – Jeff Samardzija (34/RH): 8-9, 3.70 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.164 WHIP, 111 hits over 126.1 IP across 23 starts with a 110/36 K:BB
Sunday – Conner Menez (24/LH): 0-1, 5.73 ERA, 7.49 FIP, 1.273 WHIP, 9 hits over 11 IP across 2 starts with a 10/5 K:BB

THE SKIPPER

Bruce Bochy – (reprinted from CBP series 7.30.19)
Now 64 years of age, Bochy was actually born in Landes de Bussac, France while his father was serving in the U.S. Army. His family ultimately moved to Florida, and he became the first round draft choice at 23rd overall in the 1975 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.
Bochy reached the big-leagues with Houston in 1978, beginning what would become a nine-season career as a player in Major League Baseball. A catcher, he was famously plowed into by Pete Rose, who was scoring what would prove to be the winning run in the top of the 10th inning as the Phillies rallied to tie up the 1980 NLCS at two games apiece. He was the backup catcher with the San Diego Padres team that won a National League pennant in 1984.
After his retirements as a player, Bochy was hired to manage in the San Diego minor league system. In 1993 he was moved up to the big club, taking over as the third base coach. Then for the 1995 season, Bochy was finally hired as manager of the Padres. Over 12 years as skipper in southern California, Bochy amassed a 951-975 record, guiding the Friars to four division crowns and a 1998 NL pennant.
Let go following the 2006 season, Bochy immediately caught on as manager with the division-rival Giants, and has been the skipper in San Francisco ever since. Over 13 years by the bay, Bochy has a 1,029-1,021 record and has led the Giants to three World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. His 2016 team went to the postseason as a Wildcard team.
Overall, Bochy is now in his 25th consecutive season as a manager in Major League Baseball. He has a combined record of 1,980-1,996 between his work with the Padres and Giants organizations. He is just 28 wins behind Leo Durocher for 10th place on the all-time MLB managerial wins list, 60 behind Walter Alston for 9th place on that list. That top ten spot is his goal, as Bochy has battled health issues and has already announced that this will be his final season as manager.

THE BALLPARK

Oracle Park: Originally opened for the 2000 season as “Pac Bell Park” and having undergone two prior name changes, most recently to “AT&T Park”, this gorgeous facility took on the “Oracle Park” name this season.
Lying off the San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is visible from the right field bleachers, beyond which lies China Basin, now nicknamed “McCovey Cove” after Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. The Cove is a hangout via kayack and small water craft for souvenir hunters hoping to snare a home run ball flying entirely out of the yard.
To hit a ball into that cove, batters have to lift one over the 24-foot high right field wall, that number in feet chosen to honor Willie Mays, the Hall of Famer who wore that number with the Giants.
Behind the left field bleachers is a giant Coca-Cola bottle, which lights up after any Giants home run. Playground slides can be found inside the bottle, which is located in a park-like area. Next to the bottle is the “Giant 1927 Old-Time Four-Fingered Baseball Glove” art work.
It is 309 feet down the right field line to that wall, out to 365 feet in right field and 421 to right-center, the deepest part of the ballpark. Around to dead center field it is 399 feet, then 404 in left-center, 364 in left field, and finally 339 feet down the left field line.
Though the Giants have won three World Series titles earlier in this decade – 2010, 2012 and 2014 – all of those championships were clinched on the road. The ballpark has been the site of three no-hitters, including a 2012 ‘Perfect Game’ thrown by Matt Cain.
The semi-finals and championship round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic were held here, and the park was an official sellout for Giants games over 794 consecutive games between October 2010 and July 2017.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Thursday: Partly cloudy with temps dropping from the lower-60’s at the 9:45 pm EDT first pitch into the upper-50’s during the series opener with winds moderate off the bay and just the slightest chance of precipitation.
Friday: Partly cloudy with temps in the lower-60’s at the 10:15 pm EDT first pitch and remaining consistent all evening with winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during the game.
Saturday: Sun breaking out for the 4:05 pm EDT first pitch with winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during the game.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, gorgeous afternoon for what will be a 7:05 pm EDT first pitch. Winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during this ESPN Game of the Week.
San Francisco area forecast from The Weather Channel
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies opposition preview: San Francisco Giants

Phillies fans are going to have to wait on Mike Trout

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Phillies fans have never been shy about their affection for local guy Mike Trout

If you follow discussions among the Philadelphia Phillies fan base on social media you know that it is difficult to go more than a couple of days without someone admonishing the team to “bring home” the best player in baseball, Mike Trout.

It takes just a glance at the career of the “Millville Rocket” to understand the desire of fans to see the native of that South Jersey town play his home games in the Phillies red pinstripes.
While the Phillies were setting a franchise record with 102 wins during their last winning season back in 2011, Trout was breaking into Major League Baseball with an extended 40-game cup of coffee with the Los Angeles Angels.
During his official rookie campaign a year later, Trout captured the American League Rookie of the Year honors. He slashed .326/.399/.564 that year with 30 home runs, 65 extra-base hits, 49 stolen bases, and 129 runs scored.
Trout has now played in eight big-league seasons. He has been the AL Most Valuable Player twice and finished runner-up for the honors on three occasions. During his seven full seasons the lowest that he has finished in AL MVP voting has been fourth.
Now 27-years-old, Trout has 240 career homers, 648 RBI, 793 runs scored, and 189 stolen bases with a .307/.416/.573 career slash line. The OPS mark of .990 that he has put together during that period is the best in all of baseball. He is also a seven-time American League All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
Trout now has a 64.3 career WAR mark, tied with Roy Halladay for 144th in baseball all-time. With a typical season in 2019 he would move past a couple of dozen Hall of Famers including Halladay, Willie McCoveyAndre DawsonCraig BiggioErnie BanksDuke Snider, and Roberto Alomar.
Trout has never won a Gold Glove Award and yet is widely considered among the best center fielders in the game. Early in his career, television highlight shows featured him frequently. His everyday excellence in this area of the game simply seems to now be taken for granted.
Trout did not commit a single error last year, the only center fielder in Major League Baseball who can make that claim. In fact, he has not committed an error since April of 2017.
But the affection for Trout extends beyond his phenomenal on-field performance for Philly sports fans. Trout is one of us. He grew up as a fan of Philadelphia sports teams. Trout tailgated at the 2008 World Series. He is one of the biggest fans of the Philadelphia Eagles that you are going to find.
USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that when responding to questions about the Phillies current free agent search, Trout showed that he fully understands the passion and interest of the fan base by referencing his own situation.
Mike Trout on Free agent search: ‘I didn’t go a day this winter without someone asking, ‘When you coming to Philly.’ I can’t predict the future.’

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Despite the enthusiasm and desire of the Philly fan base, it is no slam-dunk that Trout will ever pull on a Phillies jersey for even one day of his career. He remains under contract with the Angels through the 2020 season. Their owner, Arte Moreno, fully understands what Trout means to his organization and is on record that he is going nowhere during his contract.
Moreno has spent plenty of money before and is fully prepared and capable of doing so again. He lured Albert Pujols away from the Saint Louis Cardinals, where the player had become an icon, with a 10-year, $240 million free agent contract back in 2012. Last off-season, Moreno won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, landing the Japanese star for the price of a $20 million posting fee and $2.315 million signing bonus.
The Angels owner has also already demonstrated his specific appreciation for Trout’s value and talents. He bought out the first few years of the superstar’s free agency eligibility with a six-year, $145.2 million-dollar deal covering the 2015-20 seasons. That contract set Trout up for life, kept him with the Halos for most of his prime years, but also allows him to become a free agent at age 29.
Fabian Ardaya, who covers the Angels for The Athletic, asked Trout about possible contract extension talks with the team. It would appear from his response that there are none happening as of this time.
Mike Trout declined to comment on any potential contract negotiations with the Angels. Said he likes where he’s at, and said he wants to win. Said he feels they haven’t been far off.

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You can expect that Moreno will make a major push to sign Trout long-term in an attempt to make him an Angel-for-life at some point. As long as there is any chance of that happening, Trout will not be traded. Phillies fans may as well stop hoping for it right now. It just is not going to happen.
It is an entirely different question as to what the Angels should do, as opposed to what they will do. If there are indications that Trout will give them no special consideration in free agency, and if the Angels are not in true contention, then trading him at the 2020 non-waiver deadline would be the smart move. He would likely land them a major package in return.
An even better opportunity would come this summer. Again, if the Angels engage with his agent and learn that he intends to enter free agency, and if the Angels are again not in contention, then dealing Trout this year would land them an even stronger package in return.
But that will not happen. Trust me. You don’t have to like it, you just have to accept it. Moreno will not trade away the best player in baseball, his franchise icon. At least not this year. My bet it that he will not even consider it at next year’s trade deadline.
Trout knows the fan base. Aside from baseball (for now) he is one of us. “I’m an Eagles fan. I know how we are,” he recently said to reporters.

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Why are free agents reluctant to sign with the ? Philadelphia sports fans are no joke.

Mike Trout: “I’m an Eagles fan. I know how we are.”

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The most likely scenario for Phillies fans, by far, is to simply be patient. Enjoy whatever teams the Phillies run out during this 2019 season and then again next year. And when the 2020 season draws to an end, well, then we can talk about Trout. My guess is that 2020 off-season will make what we have gone through with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado this winter look like child’s play.

David Bell, former Phillies third baseman, named as new Cincinnati Reds skipper

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Bell started at third base for the Phillies from 2002 through July 2006

The Cincinnati Reds have announced that former Philadelphia Phillies third baseman David Bell has been named as their new manager. Bell will be introduced to the Cincinnati fans and media at a Monday press conference.

The 46-year-old Bell signed a three-year contract with a club option fourth season in 2022. He and his father, former big-leaguer Buddy Bell, become the fourth father-son combination to manage in Major League Baseball.
Bell was already an eight-year big-leaguer when he signed with the Phillies as a free agent for the 2003 season. He, first baseman Jim Thome, and closer Billy Wagner were brought in specifically to help the Phillies try to contend as they transitioned from Veteran’s Stadium to Citizens Bank Park.
Over parts of four seasons with the Phillies, Bell slashed .258/.331/.385 with 38 home runs, 209 RBI, and 191 runs scored. On June 28, 2004 at Citizens Bank Park, Bell became the 264th player in MLB history and the eighth and most recent player in Phillies history (Chuck Klein did it twice) to hit for ‘The Cycle’ (a single, double, triple, homer in same game.)

Bell was dealt away by the Phillies to the Milwaukee Brewers at the 2006 trade deadline. He would then play the final 53 games of that, his final season, with the Brewers.
Overall, he played in a dozen MLB seasons with a .257/.320/.396 slash line. Bell produced 123 home runs and 589 RBI over 5,380 plate appearances with six organizations. In 2002, Bell received the Willie McCovey Award as the San Francisco Giants most inspirational player for a team that reached the World Series.
A Cincinnati native, Bell helped Moeller High School win the 1989 Ohio state championship. He also managed for four seasons from 2009-11 in the Reds minor league system, compiling a 227-332 record.
Bell became the Chicago Cubs third base coach during the 2013 campaign. He also obtained managerial experience in 2009 in the Arizona Fall League.
In 2014, Bell became the assistant hitting coach with the Saint Louis Cardinals. For the last three years he served as Mike Matheny‘s bench coach with the Cardinals.

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David Bell has been named the new manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He will be introduced at a press conference on Monday at 11:00 a.m.
Bell comes from a baseball family. In addition to his father, his grandfather, Gus Bell, is a Reds Hall of Famer. His brother, Mike Bell, was also a third baseman. He appeared in 19 games with the Reds during the 2000 season.
With his grandfather and father having played Major League Baseball, the Bell’s are one of five families to send three generations to the majors.
One of the others is the family of former Phillies catcher Bob Boone. Boone’s father, Ray Boone, played in MLB, as did sons Brett Boone and Aaron Boone. Both Brett and Aaron had multi-year stints with the Reds.
Bell spent last season with the Giants as their Vice-President of Player Development. That type of role may become a trend in the grooming of managers. Gabe Kapler served as the Los Angeles Dodgers Director of Player Development prior to landing his current job as the Phillies manager.
The Reds finished the 2018 season in fifth (last) place in the National League Central Division with a 67-95 record. It was the team’s fourth straight last place finish. Cincinnati last reached the postseason as an NL Wildcard team in 2013. They last won an NL Central crown in 2012.

The Reds have not been to the World Series since sweeping the Oakland A’s 4-0 in 1990. That was the fifth victory in the Fall Classic in the history of the franchise, which began play in the old American Association as the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1882. They joined the National League as the Reds for the 1890 season.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Former Phillies third baseman David Bell named new Cincinnati Reds manager

Chase Utley continues to add to his Hall of Fame resume

Chase Utley continues adding to his Hall of Fame resume
In the bottom of the 8th inning on Friday night at Dodgers Stadium, Chase Utley added yet another milestone to his growing Baseball Hall of Fame resume.
Utley drove a 91 mph fastball from Kansas City Royals reliever Neftali Feliz off the base of the center field wall. As Utley hustled to second base with a double, Joc Pederson rounded third and scored a run to put the Dodgers on top by a 3-1 score.
As Pederson crossed the plate, Utley officially reached a milestone. He became the ninth active player in Major League Baseball to reach the 1,000 career RBI mark.
Utley is now 38 years old and appearing in his 15th season in the big leagues. In 13 of those seasons he became a legend with the Philadelphia Phillies.
His first career hit was a grand slam homer at Veteran’s Stadium. The first runner to cross the plate with Utley’s first career RBI on that blast was none other than Jim Thome.
Now as Utley winds down his career in Los Angeles, his career statistics and reputation continue to pile up, adding to what should one day be a relatively easy decision for Hall of Fame voters.

THE UTLEY STATISTICAL CASE

Utley is a six-time National League All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner. He has finished in the top ten of NL Most Valuable Player voting three times.
With 255 career long balls, Utley is now 7th on the all-time MLB list of home runs by players who were primarily second basemen during their career. Six of the seven are in the Hall of Fame.
Utley ranks 6th all-time in National League home runs by a second baseman. He is 3rd in OPS, 7th in RBI, 9th in Doubles, 11th in Runs, and 14th in Hits.
Those are all-time rankings. More than 800 players have appeared in at least one game at second base in their careers. There have been 90 players with at least 1,000 career games at the position.
With a career WAR mark of 64.6 he ranks 94th among all players to ever appear in Major League Baseball. Utley recently passed Hall of Fame legends Andre Dawson, Willie McCovey, Dave Winfield, and the Phillies own Richie Ashburn for career WAR. He is now hot on the heels of a second baseman just elected to the Hall, Craig Biggio.
Though he has never swiped more than 23 bases in any one campaign, Utley is well-known as one of the best base runners of recent years. His 87.57 career Stolen Base Percentage is the second-best mark in MLB history. He was famously nicknamed “The Man” by legendary Phillies Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas after just such a play in the 2006 season.

UTLEY’S UNDERRATED DEFENSE

Utley has not only been an offensive force at the Keystone position, but he has also been a far greater defensive player than often given credit.
His remarkable play in the 7th inning of the 2008 World Series is one of the two greatest defensive plays in the 134-years of Phillies history. What became known as “Utley’s Deke” kept that Fall Classic game tied late. The Phils would then score themselves, and clinch the crown two innings later.
In three different seasons, Utley led all MLB second basemen in Range Factor/Game. He finished second two other times, and has eight seasons in the Top 10 at the position. His 4.68 career mark is currently sixth among all active players at second base.
His 52 Total Zone runs rank him 22nd all-time at the position. While Utley has never won a Gold Glove Award, the fact remains that any attempt to paint him as one-dimensional is simply ignorant.
JAWS measurements for Hall of Fame worthiness also reveal that Utley has a strong case. The average Hall of Fame second basemen have a 56.9 JAWS mark, 69.4 WAR, and a 7-year peak WAR of 44.5. Utley’s totals are 56.8, 64.6, and 49.1 respectively.

UTLEY WITH THE DYNASTIC PHILLIES

During his peak years, Utley was clearly the top second baseman in the game. He was a key member of five consecutive Phillies division winners, two NL pennant winners, and the 2008 World Series champions.
Two of Utley’s teammates, Ryan Howard in 2006 and Jimmy Rollins in 2007, won NL MVP Awards during that time. Cole Hamels was the MVP of both the 2008 NLCS and World Series. Howard was the 2009 NLCS Most Valuable Player.
But everyone who followed the Phillies will tell you that no player was more valuable to the sustained success of that team over the entire half-dozen or so years in which they were contenders than was Utley.

UTLEY IN THE POSTSEASON

Utley came up big in the postseason as well. He memorably crushed five home runs in the Phillies six-game defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees in the 2009 World Series. Utley has 10 career home runs, 27 RBI, and 40 runs scored in his postseason career.
Utley has already made his mark in Philadelphia. He is the single most popular Phillies player of the last three decades. He will continue to be celebrated at Citizens Bank Park for decades. One day not long after his retirement, he will be enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
No, Utley is not Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, or Mike Schmidt. Yes, there are other players for whom an argument can be made belong in the Hall of Fame, but who have not yet been elected. Those statements have nothing at all to do with Utley’s worthiness.
Chase Utley belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Voters will get their first shot at electing him at some point in the early-mid 2020’s. Considering past votes on players such as Utley, I doubt that he makes it on the first ballot.
But at some point, let’s hope those voters get it right. At some point before those 2020’s are out, Phillies (and Dodgers) fans should be able to travel to Cooperstown, New York and admire a plaque describing Utley’s Hall of Fame career.