Tag Archives: Zack Greinke

2019 Major League Baseball Awards

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Realmuto was honored with his second consecutive career Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Award


Major League Baseball has entered its off-season period, but there is still plenty of action surrounding the game. As teams begin to evaluate their future needs and prepare to shop in the Hot Stove free agent market, the game steps back momentarily to honor the best performances from this past 2019 season.

This past week, MLB continued the process of handing out the hardware to the top players from this past season. Winners of both the Silver Slugger Awards and Gold Glove Awards were announced, honoring the top offensive and defensive performers at each position in both leagues.


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Winners are listed below with their position and team. Number of career Gold Gloves won are shown in parentheses.

National League: P – Zack Greinke ARZ (6), C – J.T. Realmuto PHI (2), 1B – Anthony Rizzo CHI (3), 2B – Kolten Wong STL (1), SS – Nick Ahmed ARZ (2), LF – David Peralta ARZ (1), CF – Lorenzo Cain MIL (1), RF – Cody Bellinger (1)

American League: P – Mike Leake SEA (1), C – Roberto Perez CLE (1), 1B – Matt Olson OAK (2), 2B – Yolmer Sanchez CWS (1), SS – Francisco Lindor CLE (2), 3B – Matt Chapman OAK (2), LF – Alex Gordon KC (7), CF – Kevin Kiermaier TB (3), RF – Mookie Betts BOS (4)

Arenado (below right) and Chapman (below left) were further honored when they were each named as winners of the National and American League Platinum Glove Awards. This is the second consecutive Rawlings Platinum Glove for each as the overall top defensive performer in their respective leagues.

Rawlings is not the only sponsor of awards for MLB defensive excellence. The winners were also announced for the Wilson Defensive Players of the Year at each position in Major League Baseball.

The Houston Astros were honored as the Wilson Defensive Team of the Year. Individual winners with their number of career Wilson awards in parentheses were:

P – Zack Greinke HOU (3), C – Roberto Perez CLE (1), 1B – Freddie Freeman ATL (2), 2B – Kolten Wong STL (1), SS – Andrelton Simmons LAA (6), 3B – Matt Chapman OAK (2), LF – David Peralta ARZ (1), CF – Lorenzo Cain MIL (4), RF – Aaron Judge NYY (1)

Perez was further honored as the overall Wilson Defensive Player of the Year.


The Silver Slugger Awards as the top offensive performer went to:

National League: P – Zack Greinke ARZ (2), C – J.T. Realmuto PHI (2), 1B – Freddie Freeman ATL (1), 2B – Ozzie Albies ATL (1), SS – Trevor Story COL (2), 3B – Anthony Rendon WAS (2), OF – Cody Bellinger LAD (1), Christian Yelich MIL (2), Ronald Acuna Jr.ATL (1)

American League: DH – Nelson Cruz MIN (3), C – Mitch Garver MIN (1), 1B – Carlos Santana CLE (1), 2B – DJ LeMahieu NYY (1), SS – Xander Bogaerts BOS (3), 3B – Alex Bregman HOU (1), OF – Mike Trout LAA (7), George Springer HOU (2), Mookie Betts BOS (3)

The overall top hitter in each league is honored with the Hank Aaron Award. Each MLB team’s radio and television play-by-play broadcasters and color analysts vote for three players in each league, and fans are given the opportunity to vote via MLB’s official website. Fans’ votes account for 30% of the final points, while broadcasters’ and analysts’ votes account for the other 70%.

The winners of the 2019 Aaron Awards were Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League. It was the second career Aaron Award for each, the second consecutive for Yelich. Trout was previously honored back in 2014.

Prior to Game 4 of the World Series, the winners of MLB’s Relief Pitcher of the Year Award in each league were announced.

Taking the award as the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year was Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees, who was honored for the first time.

The Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year was awareded to Josh Hader of the Milwaukee Brewers, who became just the second relief pitcher to be honored two years in a row.


The winners of the rest of baseball’s official awards will be announced this coming week. Voting was conducted by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The following is the awards announcement schedule. You can watch as the honorees are named in a live broadcast on the MLB Network each day at 6:00 pm EST.

The nominees were selected based on regular season performance only.

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order with their position and current team, and I have highlighted my pick as the winner in red.

MONDAY: Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award

NL: Pete Alonso 1B NYM, Mike Soroka P ATL, Fernando Tatis JR SS SD

AL: Yordan Alvarez DH/OF HOU, Brandon Lowe 2B/OF TB, John Means P BAL

TUESDAY: Manager of the Year Award

NL: Craig Counsell MIL, Mike Shildt STL, Brian Snitker ATL

AL: Rocco Baldelli MIN, Aaron Boone NYY, Kevin Cash TB

WEDNESDAY: Cy Young Award

NL: Jacob deGrom NYM, Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD, Max Scherzer WAS

AL: Gerrit Cole HOU, Charlie Morton TB, Justin Verlander HOU

THURSDAY: Most Valuable Player Award

NL nominees: Cody Bellinger OF LAD, Anthony Rendon 3B WAS, Christian Yelich OF MIL

AL nominees: Alex Bregman SS HOU, Marcus Semien SS OAK, Mike Trout OF LAA

Other MLB award winners this season included starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg of the world champion Washington Nationals, who was named as the Most Valuable Player of the World Series.

Howie Kendrick of the Nationals took the NLCS Most Valuable Player honors, while second baseman Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros won the ALCS MVP honors.

Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award in recognition for his many charitable efforts both stateside and in his native Venezuela. The pitcher was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year and “put in the difficult work to make a return to pitching amid his treatment — all while continuing to give his time, attention and financial assistance to young leukemia patients.”

Mike Trout received the Players Choice Award as the overall Major League Baseball Player of the Year and was also the AL Player of the Year. It was his second American League and first overall honor in voting by his fellow ball players.

Others receiving Players Choice Awards were Anthony Rendon as the NL Player of the Year, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom as the AL & NL Pitchers of the Year, Hunter Pence and Josh Donaldson as the AL & NL Comeback Players of the Year, and Yordan Alvarez and Pete Alonso as the AL & NL Rookies of the Year.

On Sunday, November 17 at 8:00 pm EST, the MLB Network will take a final look back on 2019 as it presents the Plays of the Year for this past season. That highlights loaded program will re-air a number of times throughout the month of November.

I suppose that after finishing exactly at the .500 mark and in fourth place this season, the Phillies could not have expected much more in the way of award winners than the Gold Glove-Silver Slugger combo taken by Realmuto.

Hopefully the results in the standings and in the postseason, including award winners, are more substantial for the club in the 2020 campaign.



Phillies visit the Arizona desert for key series with host Diamondbacks

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The Philadelphia Phillies (58-53) are tied for the second of two National League Wildcard playoff positions as they take on the Arizona Diamondbacks (56-56) in a three-game series starting on Monday night at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Dbacks 2019 regular season has gone much as the Phillies own season, see-sawing back and forth between control of one of those NL Wildcard spots and then sitting just on the outside looking in at a possible postseason berth.
Victories in 10 of 14 games at the start of June lifted the Dbacks from fourth place to second place in the National League West Division. But then Arizona dropped six straight, and the club has pretty much tread water ever since.
At the MLB trade deadline, general manager Mike Hazen was a busy man. He made four trades on July 31, highlighted by a deal in which he dealt away the club’s pitching ace, Zack Greinke, to the Houston Astros for a four-prospect package.
Hazen also brought in two new arms for the rotation in veteran Mike Leake from Seattle and young Zac Gallen from Miam. Both of those pitchers will make their debut with the Dbacks in this series.
The Arizona offensive attack has been fairly solid this year, currently ranking ninth in all of Major League Baseball by scoring 5.21 runs per game. That is almost a half-run per game better than the 16th ranked Phillies. The Dbacks hitters rank 5th in the National League in both batting average and OPS, and have the fourth-fewest strikeouts in the league.
On the mound, Arizona pitching ranks 5th in the National League in batting average against and sixth in strikeouts. An area where the club truly excels is on defense, where they are by far the top-ranked defensive unit in baseball according to Fangraphs. That helped the Dbacks finish 7th in the August 1 MLB Power Rankings here at Phillies Nation.
These two teams met once earlier this season, with Arizona taking two of three games at Citizens Bank Park in the second week of June by two very different methods. They crushed the ball in a 13-8 victory in the opener, then received a gem from Merrill Kelly, who pitches the opener this time around, in a 2-0 victory in that June series finale. The Phillies won the middle contest by a 7-4 score.
This is a chance for Arizona to make up ground head-to-head with one of the teams it trails in the playoff hunt. It is also an opportunity for the Phillies to distance themselves from one of their nearest pursuers. If it goes anything like the vast majority of this 2019 Phillies campaign, one of these teams will simply take two of three. Which team remains to be seen.



Eduardo Escobar (30/3B): .279/.336/.531, 24 HR, 53 XBH, 88 RBIs, 69 runs, 4 steals
Christian Walker (28/1B): .257/.349/.483, 20 HR, 41 XBH, 53 RBIs, 59 runs, 7 steals
Nick Ahmed (29/SS): .265/.326/.429, 11 HR, 38 XBH, 55 RBIs, 58 runs, 7 steals
Carson Kelly (24/C): .263/.348/.535, 14 HR, 31 XBH, 37 RBIs, 29 runs (247 plate appearances)
David Peralta (31/LF): .282/.347/.457, 9 HR, 37 XBH, 47 RBIs, 43 runs
Adam Jones (33/RF):. 270/.320/.433, 13 HR, 36 XBH, 51 RBIs, 56 runs
Jarrod Dyson (34/OF): .250/.333/.356, 6 HR, 16 XBH, 23 RBIs, 48 runs, 24 steals


Ketel Marte (25/CF): The switch-hitting Dominican made his big-league debut with the Seattle Mariners at the 2015 MLB trade deadline, then spent most of the remainder of that season and all of the following as the Mariners starting shortstop.
In November 2016, Seattle shipped Marte and pitcher Taijuan Walker to Arizona for current Phillies shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger and pitcher Zac Curtis.
Marte’s career with the Dbacks organization saw him begin back at Triple-A. Following his promotion back to the big-leagues on June 28, 2018 he took over as the starting shortstop in Arizona.
This season, Marte has been used much as the Phillies have used Scott Kingery, as a super-utility player. He was featured mostly at second base and in center field, with occasional appearances at his natural shortstop position, for most of the first couple of months.
Now, Marte appears to have settled in as the regular center fielder, though manager Torey Lovullo will flip him back into the infield at times. He has responded well, breaking out to become a first time National League All-Star.
Marte enters this series with a .319/.380/.577 slash line His 24 home runs, 56 extra-base hits, 66 RBIs, 75 runs scored, and six stolen bases make him the single most dangerous all-around offensive performer in the Arizona lineup. And at just 25 years of age, he appears to be only scratching the surface of his talents and production.
Marte also has a Phillies connection. His uncle is former Phillies 2010-11 popular utility player Wilson Valdez. Marte is married to a cousin of Toronto Blue Jays third base phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr.


MONDAY – Merrill Kelly (30/RH): 7-11, 4.52 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.277 WHIP, 127 hits over 125.1 IP across 22 starts with a 100/33 K:BB
TUESDAY – Mike Leake (31/RH): 9-8, 4.27 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 1.255 WHIP, 153 hits over 137 IP across 22 starts with a 100/19 K:BB, all with the Seattle Mariners.
WEDNESDAY – Zac Gallen (24/RH): 1-3, 2.72 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 1.183 WHIP, 25 hits over 36.1 IP across 7 starts with a 43/18 K:BB, all with the Miami Marlins in this, his rookie season, following a June 20 promotion.


Torey Lovullo: Having turned 54 years old just last week, Lovullo is now in his third full season at the helm in Phoenix. He has a career 231-205 mark thus far. After leading Arizona to a 93-win, second place season and an NL Wildcard playoff berth in his first year back in 2017, Lovullo was named the National League Manager of the Year.
During those 2017 playoffs, Lovullo’s Dbacks outscored the division-rival Colorado Rockies by 11-8 in Phoenix to win the Wildcard Game. However, they were promptly swept out in three straight by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in an NLDS.
Arizona entered September in first place a year ago, but the Dbacks collapsed to lose 20 of their final 28 games to finish in third place. Despite a second straight winning record for Lovullo, it was considered a disappointing finish after the club had led the division for most of the season.
Lovullo is a SoCal native from Santa Monica. As a player, he was the fifth round choice of the Detroit Tigers in the 1987 MLB Draft out of UCLA. He would play in parts of eight big-league seasons, though only in 1993 with the California (now Los Angeles) Angels did he play regularly, spending much of that season as the Halos second baseman.
Lovullo actually wrapped up his playing career in Major League Baseball with the Phillies, appearing in 17 games with the club in the 1999 season. His final big-league home run came in a Phillies uniform on September 8 of that year against the Houston Astros. On October 2, he registered his final hit against the Montreal Expos at Veteran’s Stadium.
After playing the 2000 season with the Yakult Swallows in Japan, Lovullo retired. He was then hired by the Cleveland Indians to tutor their minor league infielders during the 2001 season, beginning a lengthy career as a coach and manager in the minor leagues.
After spending the decade of the 2000’s as a respected manager in the Indians farm system, Lovullo had become one of the top candidates any time a big-league managerial opening occurred. He interviewed for a few positions, and was finally brought on board as a coach under John Farrell with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010.
When Farrell left for the Boston Red Sox managerial job after the 2012 season he brought Lovullo with him as the bench coach in Boston. The two would win the 2014 World Series together in Boston. Meanwhile, Lovullo continued to be one of the hottest names for any MLB managerial opening.
When Hazen took over as the Dbacks general manager in October 2016, Lovullo was his top name to take over as the new skipper in Arizona. Lovullo was hired on November 4, and has been in the position ever since. Highly respected in the game and with a strong relationship with Hazen, look for Lovullo to be just at the start of a long run as Dbacks manager.


Chase Field: The first stadium in the United States to be built with a retractable roof, one that protects fans from the brutal heat of summers in the Arizona desert, Chase Field opened with the Diamondbacks first game as an MLB expansion team for the 1998 season, and has been their home ever since.
Located in dowtown Phoenix, Arizona, the fences are 330 and 334 respectively to left and right field. It is 374 to left-center, 413 feet to what is known as deep left-center, and 407 straightaway to center field. Around to deep right-center field the fence is 413 feet away, and then 374 to right-center field.
The stadium has played host to the 2001 World Series, in which the Dbacks led by pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling won the franchise only world championship. It was also host to the 2011 MLB All-Star Game.
Originally having a natural grass playing surface, for last season the Diamondbacks went to a synthetic sports turf. Chase Field also has a swimming pool located in right-center field, which is rented to patrons as a suite holding 35 guests.

How Phillies GM Matt Klentak channeled "Hoosiers" at the trade deadline

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In the classic 1986 film “Hoosiers”, Gene Hackman stars as basketball coach Norman Dale, who takes the reigns of a rural Indiana high school team in the early-1950’s.

Hackman/Dale is an old-school coach, even for those long-ago days. He uses a number of tough-love methods, trying to mold his team into a winner despite a highly skeptical and passionate fan base in the local community.
In one such incident, Dale’s Hickory High School team begins a game with just six players. He benches one for disobeying his rules, and when another player fouls out, Dale refuses to allow the benched player to take the floor.
The referee approaches and says “Coach, ya need one more,‘ to which Dale replies “My team’s on the floor.
In this analogy, Phillies fans are the referee. Matt Klentak is Norman Dale.
Sure, leading up to Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline, Klentak had added lefties Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas, bumping both Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin to the bullpen.
But Phillies fans wanted more. They wanted a co-ace to pair with Aaron Nola at the top of the rotation. Or at the very least, someone who would slot in as a legitimately talented, proven #2-type starting pitcher behind the right-hander.
Those Phillies fans wanted someone such as Zack GreinkeMadison BumgarnerRobbie Ray or Alex Wood.
And so, on trade deadline day, the fan base sat staring at their laptops, pads and phone screens thinking “Ya need one more.
But there would be no new ace added to the Phillies starting rotation on this day. And since are no longer waiver trades allowed during the month of August, there will be no new aces at all during the 2019 season.
Matt Gelb of The Athletic tweeted out that, in summary, Klentak’s position was that “We can’t trade our best prospects all the time. We weren’t willing to meet prices on better players.



Matt Klentak, summarized: We’ve been adding for the last two months. We can’t trade our best prospects all the time. We weren’t willing to meet prices on better players. Dickerson has a groin injury and will be “eased” into action.



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In other words, Klentak answered those Phillies fans as Dale answered the referee: “My team’s on the floor.
It remains to be seen what will happen over the final 8 1/2 week of the regular season. The Phillies rotation is certainly deeper, has more experienced arms in it, and now has a pair of southpaws. But will that be enough to help push the club to the postseason for the first time in eight years?
Dale’s methods worked. His team won the Indiana state high school basketball championship in the film, which was inspired by the real-life Milan High School team which had won the 1954 Indiana state basketball championship.
But Dale won thanks not only to his methods, but also to the return and excellence of a genuine great player to the team. Will any such player step up, stand out, and lead these Phillies to the promised land? Or at least into October baseball?

Phillies have a number of potential starting pitching trade targets this summer

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Marcus Stroman is a major trade chip for Blue Jays

Like pretty much every other legitimate contending team in Major League Baseball, the 2019 Philadelphia Phillies could really use another solid veteran pitcher to bolster their starting rotation.

The top four starters for the club this season have been Aaron NolaJake ArrietaZach Eflin, and Nick Pivetta. The Phillies have also given regular turns to Jerad Eickhoff to this point, and just recently finally made the long-anticipated move of flipping Vince Velasquez to the bullpen.
When emergencies have cropped up, 25-year-old lefty Cole Irvin has been given three starts. Manager Gabe Kapler even turned to Jose Alvarez as an “opener” in one game, using the veteran lefty for the first two innings and then bringing in Irvin to cover nearly four frames on June 1 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
In most of the Phillies recent seasons, Eickhoff would deserve more of a chance. And he will continue in the rotation as long as he remains healthy and doesn’t completely implode. Having allowed four earned runs or more in half of his 2019 starts, Eickhoff would likely be the odd man out if general manager Matt Klentak was able to bring a solid option in to bolster the rotation.
But is such an arm actually out there and available? In evaluating the landscape in Major League Baseball, there would appear to be a number of such options. Their skills and experience levels are wide-ranging. It could be arguable as to whether a couple of them would be a legitimate upgrade.
These 10 arms seem to be the best possibilities for a trade to the Phillies. Many of them will absolutely find themselves putting on the uniform of a new team prior to the July 31 MLB trade deadline. You can bet that Klentak has already been considering most, if not all, of these pitchers, and has perhaps already been engaging in some preliminary negotiations.
Each pitcher is listed with their their team, “handedness”, age, and 2019 statistics through games of June 8. Also shown is their current contract status.
Trevor Bauer (28/CLE/RHP): 4-6, 3.93 ERA, 1.156 WHIP, 66 hits allowed over 91.2 IP across 14 starts with a 103/40 K:BB. Contract moved from $6.25 million last year to $13 million this year through arbitration. He is again arbitration-eligible for the 2020 season, after which he is due to become a free agent at age 29.
Madison Bumgarner (29/SF/LHP): 3-5, 4.05 ERA, 1.200 WHIP, 80 hits allowed over 80 IP across 13 starts with a 79/16 K:BB. He turns 30-year-old on August 1, and will be a free agent after this season. Currently making $12 million in the final season of an eight-year deal worth just north of $58 million total.
Andrew Cashner (32/BAL/RHP): 6-2, 4.73 ERA, 1.379 WHIP, 71 hits over 70.1 IP across 13 starts with a 51/26 K:BB. The least attractive arm on this list, but perhaps also the least expensive from the perspective of what you would have to give up. Making $9.5 mill this year, $10 mill option for next year is guaranteed if he reaches 187 innings this season, which is not likely. If not, he becomes a free agent after this season, so the commitment is also short-term.
Zack Greinke (35/ARZ/RHP): 7-2, 2.87 ERA, 0.935 WHIP, 68 hits over 87.2 IP across 14 starts with an 82/14 K:BB. Did you realize Greinke was already 35-years-old? Good for you, because I thought he was about three years younger before researching this piece. He is owed $35 mill in each of the next two seasons. His performance has shown no signs of slipping over the last few years. Can he actually remain an All-Star caliber ace for two more? That would be the big bet.

Lefty Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers will be a hot commodity as the 2019 MLB trade deadline approaches. (Keith Allison)
Mike Leake (31/SEA/RHP): 5-6, 4.30 ERA, 1.273 WHIP, 88 hits over 81.2 IP across 13 starts with a 56/16 K:BB. Along with Cashner, he isn’t going to elicit excitement in the fan base. But Leake is a steady, reliable, experienced starting pitcher who got a start in the 2014 NLDS for the Cincinnati Reds. He will earn $15 mill next year, with $4 of that paid by Saint Louis. He has a 2021 mutual option for $18 million with a $5 mill buyout.
Mike Minor (31/TEX/LHP): 5-4, 2.55 ERA, 1.217 WHIP, 73 hits over 81.1 IP across 13 starts with an 87/26 K:BB. The southpaw is owed $9.83 mill for next season and then is due to become a free agent. After missing most of the 2015 season and all of 2016 following shoulder surgery, Minor came back in 2017 as a reliever with Kansas City. Texas signed him as a free agent, moved him back into the rotation where he began his career in Atlanta, and he has looked strong.
Tanner Roark (32/CIN/RHP): 4-5, 3.74 ERA, 1.411 WHIP, 68 hits over 67.1 IP across 13 starts with a 69/27 K:BB. He will become a free agent after this season, in which he is being paid just $10 million. The ultimate pure rental.
Aaron Sanchez (26/TOR/RHP): 3-7, 4.25 ERA, 1.542 WHIP, 71 hits over 72 IP across 14 starts with a 61/40 K:BB. The youngest and cheapest salaried arm on this list is making $3.9 mill this year and arbitration-eligible next season, after which he can become a free agent. What is Sanchez? Starter or reliever? Sort of a Velasquez-type situation. Do the Phillies want to get involved in that again? Do they believe he can be more?
Marcus Stroman (28/TOR/RHP): 3-8, 3.31 ERA, 1.322 WHIP, 80 hits over 81.2 IP across 14 starts with a 63/28 K:BB. Making $7.4 million, eligible for arbitration next season, and then up for his first possible taste of free agency. Stroman is one of the more intriguing options out there and will be highly sought at this year’s deadline. The Jays could wait until the off-season or even into next year before making a deal, so the cost in trade to add a talented arm in his prime would be high.
Zack Wheeler (29/NYM/RHP): 5-3, 4.61 ERA, 1.226 WHIP, 78 hits over 84 innings across 13 starts with a 93/25 K:BB. Pending free agent would be a great candidate for a trade-for-and-extend deal for the Phillies. However, his being on the market at all would require the Mets falling totally out of the race, so it wouldn’t happen until after the MLB All-Star break in all likelihood, if at all. Even then, would the Mets deal him inside the division? Sure, if the Phillies paid the right price. Tough one. Would probably have to give up good prospects, with no guarantee beyond the last 2-3 months of this season.

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.