Ron Costello

Sunday, August 23, 2020

From the start of the season through August 7, 2018, the Phillies had the NL's second-best record at 64-49. 

Yet, from August eighth through the season's end on September 30, the Phillies were the NL's worst team, going 16-33 and outscored by 90 runs.

What happened?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Should we be thankful about the Phillies? Hmm, I don't know

From the start of the season through August 7, 2018, the Phillies had the NL's second-best record at 64-49. 

Yet, from August eighth through the season's end on September 30, the Phillies were the NL's worst team, going 16-33 and outscored by 90 runs.

What happened?

  • Bringing in veteran players and inserting them in the starting lineup killed team chemistry; 
  • The young players who got the team to August 7 — and not accustomed to the long season grind — tired and lost their edge;
  • The rotation fizzled out from fatigue and inexperience and got hammered;
  • Finding themselves in a  tight  NL Eastern Division race, the young team folded under pressure;
  • The young players grew tired of their musical chairs manager and quit on him;
  • The veteran players showed up at the end of July and told the young players, "Kapler doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. Don't listen to him." 

Could be more than one of the above or all of the above. But at this point it doesn't matter, it was what it was.

It does bring to question whether the young core is good enough. Once you're past Aaron Nola, everyone is questionable. 

Who else besides Mr. Nola won a job for 2019?

Maybe Rhys Hoskins, but he cooled off faster than a dead man's nose. The Phillies had him playing out of position, and throughout the season he looked awkward in left. 

Take your time, I don't mind waiting: One position player who won a job for 2019? 

Maikel Franco? I don't think so. The Phillies seem inclined to trade him to open third up for Carlos Santana. That will be another disaster. It's only to cover one mistake — signing Santana — with another.

Odúbel Herrera? He's reversed course in a few offensive categories and continues to make stupid mistakes. 

J.P. Crawford? Scott Kingery? Nick Williams? Jorge Alfaro? Roman Quinn? Aaron Altherr?

No. They all played so-so baseball. Or less.

Or the rotation. Is it good enough with Nick Pivetta (7-14), Vince Velasquez (9-12), and Jerad Eickhoff (0-1)? Even Zach Eflin (11-8) tanked at season's end, going 2-4 with a 6.46 ERA in his last seven games. 

Beyond Mr. Nola, the rotation underperformed.

Mr. Middleton says he has money to spend. But who's making the decisions to spend it? If the $135 million dished out to Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana is an example of wise spending, perhaps Mr. Middleton should hang on to his money.

Aside from the July deadline trades — which you or I could've done, teams want to unload pending free agents — what has the Phillies' GM Matt Klentak accomplished?  

That is, other than putting Mr. Santana in Hoskins way at first base and tendering questionable contracts to Kingery and Odúbel? He's not obtained one 'impact player' in the three years he's been GM.

He's hired a manager that's big on analytics and small on experience and at times appeared to go out of his way to shove analytics down the throats of the Faithful.

Mr. Kapler moved players around like he was committed to changing the game — whether it made sense or not. He says he's learned and next season he'll make adjustments.

Would you trust your money — and we're talking big money and long-term contracts, contracts that could stymie the success of the club for years — to Matt Klentak and Gabe Kapler?

Of course, I could be wrong, and the Phillies will make the necessary trades and free agent signings needed to play October baseball, now and long into the future.

But I wouldn't bet on it. 

Would you?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

On Tuesday, April third, at the Phillies 2018 home opener, Gabe Kapler was booed when introduced onto the field.

It was the quickest boo job the Philadelphia Faithful ever rendered since Dick Allen tested out his 42 ouncer' on Frank Thomas' left shoulder.

Mr. Kapler got booed for lifting Aaron Nola five days earlier— with a five-run lead after five and-a-third innings and 68 pitches — at Atlanta's Sun Trust park. The Phillies lost that game on a walk-off three-run shot delivered up by none other than Hector Neris.

But the Faithful were not booing Mr. Kapler. They might not have realized it, but they were booing analytics. Because analytics were responsible for Nola's removal. 

The opener in Atlanta was the first taste of analytics and sabermetrics for the Phillies' Faithful. There were more to come, especially for the lineups Nick Williams said was being made out by a computer. There was analytics during the season that the Faithful wouldn't — couldn't — recognize. 

But what are the analytics baseball people use? Do we know? Not really. Peruse the modern analytics of the game quickly: 

BABIP: batting average on balls in play; BB% or BBr: base on  balls percentage or walk rate; BB9/W_IP: walks per nine innings pitched; BF or TBF: batters faced  or total batters faced; DRA: Deserved run average: deserved run average; DRS: defensive runs saved; FIP: fielding Independent pitching; FRAA: fielding runs above average; ISO: isolated power; K% or SOr: strikeout percentage; PA: plate appearances; PECOTA: a player position system: Pythagorean winning percentage: a complicated method of comparing runs scored vs runs allowed;  SIERA: skill-interactive earned run average; SO9/SO_IP: strikeouts per nine innings pitched; SO/BB: ratio of strikeouts to walks; WAR: wins above replacement; wOBA: weighted on base average; wRC+: weighted runs created; UZR: ultimate zone rating; Starcast: technology used by teams to gather data on velocity, spin rate, exit velocity and launch angle; defensive shifts: moving fielders depending on hitters' strengths and weaknesses; fly-ball revolution: hitting more fly balls to hit more home runs; park factors/park adjustments: factering in the deminsioins of ball yards; platoon splits: data on left-handed hitters facing left-handed pitchers, same with right-handed hitters and facing right-handed pitchers.

Look, here's the thing. If you want to look these up and try to understand them, be my guest. But you don't need them. And I'm not sure you could recognize any of them during a game, anyway.

It's not Mr. Kapler's fault, either. If he leaves tomorrow, another analytical manager will replace him fast as a dog will lick a dish. The next one might not be as open about his decisions as is Mr. Kapler, who is happy to explain anything, anytime.

So try to get comfortable with the following analytics — the fans'  analytics, at least for the time being: 
  • Most pitchers won't last beyond the fifth, and relief pitchers will come and go like runners in the Broad Street Run.
  • Defensives will shift like hurricane winds and most batters will not try to go the opposite way.
  • Home runs will be up as will strikeouts and walks. Batting averages will be down. Bunts, hit-and-runs, stolen bases, and moving runners will disappear faster than thoughts or time.
  • And lineups, like Mr. Williams pointed out, will be determined by computers.

But here's another set of analytics, one that we are familiar with: TS: tickets sold; and TR: television ratings. If they disappear like thoughts and time, so will baseball analytics.

A good friend — and a good baseball man — as he pointed first to his head and then his heart, recently told me, "analytics will never determine what's in here and what's in here."

So don't let it bother you and enjoy the game. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

One player does not guarantee a postseason appearance.

Take the California Angels. They arguably have the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, and still finished two games under .500 and 23 games behind the Astros.

Even two players — Manny and Bryce — don't mean a hill of beans without the proper combination, herein called the mix. That's the mix of homegrown talent and expensive free agents. 

In today's game, the mix is THE most important way to October baseball.

It's how it's done: the Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, Rockies, Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs all used the mix of homegrowns and expensive free agents to win. 

Therefore, for the Faithful, it's all about the two-part question: Are the Phillies' homegrowns good enough to win with the mix? And, will the good free agents come to Philadelphia?

You know the Phillies' homegrowns: Hoskins, Williams, Odubel, Kingery, Crawford, Alfaro, Knapp, Franco, Hernandez, Altherr, Cozens, Quinn, Nola and other rotation and bullpen pitchers — and kids still on the farm.

You can bet that Bryce and Manny are looking at the Phillies' homegrowns closely. Sure, the money is essential and it's the number one bait, but neither Manny or Bryce — or any free agent — wants out of the post-season for the next five years or longer.

Mr. Klentak will be up against the big boys (GM's) wheeling and dealing for the 2019 prizes; prizes that could determine which clubs make the postseason. The Phillies' suits say they are ready to open their checkbook. 

But it's more than money.

Look, here's the thing. What happened to the Phillies in July is telling. Surprising everyone, a young and inexperienced team of homegrowns held a one-game lead over Atlanta on July 10. Two weeks later on July 25, the Phillies still held a one-game lead. 

Phillies management then went on a shopping spree. With the trade deadline looming, at a time when cheap trades are easy to make, the club went out and traded for older "replacement players." 

Bringing in replacement players over top of the homegrowns — even though the kid GM and the moves-manager deny it — killed team chemistry.

Grabbing one or two players to strengthen the club is one thing; replacing half the lineup is another. It was an organization-wide catastrophic decision. 

A decision that will affect 2019 more than anyone might realize. Why? 

Because if the Phillies organization didn't have allegiance to their homegrowns back in July, why should Manny and Bryce have it now?

Saturday, November 3, 2018


For the first time in ML baseball history Phillies ownership has stepped out of the box to remake the team. In a lottery, you were selected as a member of the Faithful to make critical decisions on player personnel for the 2019 season.

So go ahead, tell the boss to "take this job and shove it." You've got a new office at Citizens Bank Park. GM Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler report to you. The Phillies want you to start right away.

You better go in on Monday. There 25 key decisions awaiting your approval. Here they are:

1. Fire manager Gabe Kapler.
2. Keep him.
3. Sign free agent Manny Machado, 26, no matter what the cost and contract length.
4. Or, Sign free agent Bryce Harper, 26, no matter what the cost and contract length.
5. Sign them both no matter what the cost and contract length.
6. Don't sign Manny "no hustle and leg spiker" Machado and put J.P. Crawford, 23, at shortstop, PERMANENTLY.
7. The hell with Machado and Harper.  Put a trade package together including Aaron Nola, 25, Odubel Herrera, 26, Maikel Franco, 26, and Dylan Cousins, 24, for Mike Trout, 27.
8. Sign Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin, 29, as the number three starter behind Nola and Jake Arrieta.
9. Sign free agent and former Phillie left-hander Cole Hamels, 34, for the rotation.
10. Sign former Phillie free agent J.A. Happ, 36, or right-hander free agent Nathan Eovaldi, 28, for the rotation (sign them both if you trade Nola to the Angels for Trout.)
11. Sign free agent and former Phillie J.A. Happ for the bullpen as either closer or set up.
12. Put a trade package together of Herrera, Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, and Roman Quinn, for Arizona right-hander Zack Greinke.
13. Move Rhys Hoskins back to first base, PERMANENTLY.
14. Move Scott Kingery to second base PERMANENTLY. 
15. Either trade Hernandez or bring him off the bench in 2019.
16. Leave Kingery at Lehigh Valley in April for another year of seasoning and keep Hernandez at second base.
17. Get rid of Franco and put Santana at third.
18. Keep Franco at third and bring Santana off the bench or trade him.
19. Bring free agent and former Phillie Freddie Galvis, 29, back for shortstop or a bench role.
20. Make Jorge Alfaro, 25, the number one catcher and sign free agent Wilson Ramos, 31, as number two (or vice versa.)
21. Put a trade package of prospects together for Miami catcher J.T Realmuto, "TOOOOOO," 27.
22. If you trade Herrera or Quinn or both, sign free agent outfielder and former Dback A.J. Pollock, 30.
23. Sign free agent and former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, 30.
24. Sign free agent and former A's closer Jeurys Familia, 29. 
25. Sign free agent and former Rockies closer Adam Ottavino, 33.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Members of the Faithful still genuflect when they hear the late
Harry the K's name.
On this blog, I call them 'the Faithful.' The men, women, and children who are diehard Phillies' fans. Some grew up listening to By Saam and Bill Campbell; or Harry Kalas and Chris Wheeler. Members of the Faithful still genuflect when they hear Harry the K's name.

Personally speaking, I can still imitate the batting stances and swings of Dick Allen, Johnny Callison, Wes Covington, Schmidt and Bowa, and Chase Utley. Many other card carriers of the Faithful can do the same and more.

Some are season ticket and game plan holders. Some just only hold Xfinity seats in their living room. It doesn't matter, they all love the Phillies and aren't afraid to speak out.

My last three posts — on changes in the game, manager Gabe Kapler, GM Matt Klentak, and third base coach Dusty Wathan — drew nearly 15,000 viewers and hundreds of comments on Facebook. Plus about 40 shares.

The Faithful are not happy. Below are some of the comments I received on my last three posts. Some were positive, but most were not. And they pulled no punches.

Don Fergeson: This team got worse in every category this year on offense besides walks and had 9 more wins than last season, they were also worse defensively this year than last. I've been to 32 games this year, I think this is one of the worst teams I've ever seen and I'm and 45 years old

John Wilson: This Phil's team will not win with Kapler as manager. Players clearly quit on him, and for good reason.

"I've been a Phillies fan for plus-35 years and the duo of Matt Klentak and
Gabe Kapler is the worst of the worst."
Phl Rhoades: I’ve been a Phillies fan for 35-plus years and the duo of Matt Klentak/Gabe Kapler are the worst of the worst! If it wasn’t for Aaron Nola the Phillies would've been battling the Marlins for the best seat in the basement. Gabe Kapler has ruined watching Phillies baseball for me as well as a huge chunk of the Phillies fan base. 

Randy DeCampli: Ron, enjoyed your article. Management was not very good it started with the hiring of Kapler. When he was announced how many folks (fans) scratched their heads and said, "who is this guy?" From the start, he was over his head and lacked experience.

Terry Algier: Dusty is a fabulous coach and if the Phillies don’t realize that, I wish him well as other organizations appreciate his talents. This current ownership favors analytics over baseball know-how. That doesn’t always work and doesn’t always fill the stands. A cohesive spirited team is what fills the stands. Winning is important, but how fans view the team's spirit is vital.

Norman Basilone: Absolutely correct — on the money — the Rangers should hire the man on the spot. As for Gabe, he is the National League equivalent to the Yankees' Aaron Boone.

Jerry Arnken: Neither Harper or Machado will sign with the Phillies, why would they want to play for this manager? He would probably bat them at the bottom of the lineup, then take them out for defense with a one-run lead, then lose that lead. I can’t even watch them anymore. Tired of 10 run losses.

"I didn't like the veteran pick-ups at all."
John Hamer: I didn't like the veteran pick-ups at all. Messed up the team, but Go Phillies! 2019 Playoff bound!

Kevin Shire: Enjoyed the blog post, Ron. Very insightful. One problem, though. You said John Hamer is the man. I thought I was?

Bob Suskin: It would be more enjoyable to watch if they started hitting again.

Duane MeyersYoung team young manager. Be patient. They shouldn’t have brought in those late-career players. Things went downhill when they arrived

Fred Gaskins: Ron, you seem to be one of the few who understand what has happened this season; and hold out hope for a promising future with the core that we have. You know I write on occasion. I've been a fan since the late 50s but ... Still cheer, root and hope every year. I have never booed at a game. Never!!! I am looking forward to 2019. Thanks for keeping all of this sane!

Bradley Ferrell: Machado will resign with the Dodgers because he is enjoying the west coast and Harper will stay in Washington, especially since the Nationals are going to finish in front of the Phillies. Kapler did a decent job and deserves another year.

Paul Roberts: I do not like all of the shifting. They are out of position when a DP is in order. I hate that he doesn’t care a bit about defense. I bet every pitcher on the staff hates that, too. I do agree wholeheartedly that all the moves hurt the team.

Linda Kegel: No way he should get another year. I’ve said this before, the team ended last season on a high note and the future looked bright! A year later, look how the season is ending. No sign of life. Kapler ruined the rebuild and he managed to ruin the confidence of the young players. Thank you Mr. Klentak.

Kenneth Keller: Wathan should be the manager, but hey, if he goes somewhere else he is probably better off.

Ben Doto: Not at all he’s doesn’t relate to the Philly fan, need somebody with more balls and less moving players every game; that can make ballplayers not get comfy with the position and his batting order is atrocious, not enough experience and as far as I’m concerned definitely not qualifies.
"I'll drive both Kapler and Klentak to the airport."

Rick Morello: Embarrassing! I'll drive both Kapler and Klentak to the airport. Horrendous.

Andy Kennard: He made some rookie mistakes in the beginning for sure and recovered, he doesn’t bat, pitch, or field so there’s only so much he can do. They were right in the mix until about three weeks ago, that’s not on the manager.

Lou Fumo: No, he’s not a manager. Stinks. Never holds the players accountable; lets them run the ship, never can win like that, he's got to go and take the GM with him

Jack Lutes: Why don’t we let Congress decide, they get involved in everything else and screw it up.

Bill Keith: Give him a plane ticket back to his hometown.

John Camp: Ron, great column and right on target.

Steve Cunningham: Keep Dusty!!

Todd Schafer:  (Dusty) is smart to leave.

Robert Petitti: I’m done with the Phillies. After the end of the season useless chatter by both Gabe and Matt it appears they’re running the show and it is what it is. But the big questions are? Will this hinder big name free agents? I think the Phillies won’t sign anybody. 

Paul Roberts: The young starters were worn out by season’s end. Hoskins and Herrera slumped at the wrong time. Franco and Williams were hurting. I agree the acquisitions didn’t get it done but it was far from all their fault that the team imploded.

Bruce Pergament: You cannot ruin chemistry and keep moving players to different positions on the field and in the batting order then expect them to perform. You perform as you train. If you do not know your job, how do you prepare for it?

George Pellegrino: Get Mike Trout. They will sell a ton of tickets.

Ernie Quatrani: If you don’t play defense you don’t win championships. Santana at 3rd and Kingery at short is a recipe for mediocrity.

"I am dying for the days of Dallas Green and Larry Bowa and any other
manager with the guts to stand by his players without playing musical chairs."
Susan Wood: I turn 60 in 16 days & I love the Phillies. That said, I am dying for the days of Dallas Green and Larry Bowa and any other manager with the guts to stand by his players without playing musical chairs. If you screwed up, you heard it and we knew it. But those position players were not put through the magic blender to see who plays first today and who’s a good boy? You can hit clean up! I’ll give it to Kap, it’s his first year ever managing but that’s it GO PHILLIES.

Gary Doyle: I agree. BORING. I wonder how many times this season the Phils got shut out for 3, 4, 5 innings playing this type of ball? How f-ing boring can it get? No wonder attendance is down.

Howard Royer: Analytics is ruining the game of baseball. Whatever happened to strategy? Whatever happened to both teams playing their best players and may the best team win? They've lost me as a fan.

Ben Doto: Let’s get a petition up to get rid of Kapler, have no idea what this organization thought when they brought him in. Inexperienced man and awful decisions moving players all over every game, nobody can get comfy in one position, let’s get a real manager in there.

Joe Merlie: Kapler is a classic over thinker. I see value in analytics but not to the extent he does. This micromanaging disorder is in opposition to the soul of baseball. This taking pitches approach for example... you see a pitch you can hit then you go at it. 

Dan Higgins: I love the Phillies and never missed a game but I can’t watch this team with this guy totally ruining the game I love.

Lip Dip Ferzetti: Hate Kapler since Day ONE! I've never watched him in an interview! He's an embarrassment to Philly, send him with CHIP! We'll never get a big contract player here who would want to play for him KRUK AND RICKY BO tell it like it is!

Mike Guzman: Kapler is a bad manager and he isn't going to get better either.

Tom Hans: They (Phillies) were a lot better than anyone expected.

Matthew Ingeni: No matter who or how you manage, you need good players to win

John Wilson: I was A season ticket holder for 25 years. This guy is the worst manager I have seen in A Phillies uniform. The lineup juggling never works in MLB. Using 6 and 7 pitchers in a game will wear your bullpen out Midway through the season. Starters don't even get a chance. Most are pulled in 5 or less even when not pitching badly. Franco has been his highest average batter as well as best Fielding third baseman and he hardly ever plays. Nothing he does makes any baseball sense and certainly doesn't lead to wins.

"I  hope Klentak and Kapler find a computer that lets them buy one-
way tickets out of town."
John Isaac: I hope Klentak and Kapler find a computer that lets them buy one-way tickets out of town. The 162 different lineups, the bad shifts, the 8 pitchers used per game are all bad ideas. They won because the young guys started to gel and immediately they added Bautista and Cabrera and while they played okay it killed the momentum. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

One word sums up the Phillies from now until the start of Spring Training: CHANGE.

Player position moves, trades, free agent signings, and coaching changes will be surfacing like smallmouths on the Susquehanna.

Except, one. The manager.

Nonetheless, if Gabe Kapler's name is among the Republicans and Democrats on the November 6th midterms, it's a safe bet he'd never win — no matter his opponent.

Well, okay, sure, there may be a few he could beat, like J.D. Drew,  Danny Tartabull, or Scott Rolen. Or, the most hated vermin since William Penn stole the Leni Lenape's land in the "Great Treaty:" The rally squirrel.


All in all, however, the Phillies may be letting a good baseball man leave right beneath the noses of the Faithful: Dusty Wathan. And there are few smallmouths amongst the Faithful. Mr. Kapler can vouch for that.

Mr. Wathan has managed in the Phillies minor league system since he took over the Williamsport Crosscutters in 2008. Before the start of the past season, he lost out to current Phillies manager Gabe Kaper, and then served faithfully and expertly as Mr. Kapler's third base coach.

Mr. Wathan played a considerable role in helping to develop some of the Phillies' current young stars on the 44 man roster and in the minor leagues.

His minor league teams reached the postseason five times in his ten years as a manager in the Phillies' system. He was Eastern League manager of the year at Double-A Reading — twice — in 2015 and 2016.

Young Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford called Mr. Wathan, "the best manager I've ever had."

We're talking pedigree, here, Philadelphia Phillies pedigree. We're talking about a potential Buck Showalter, Mike Matheny, or Bruce Bochy. Maybe a Joe Maddon.

While the Faithful's attention has shifted to the Eagles, Flyers, Union, Soul, Wings, and Sixers — or for those hibernating until spring — Mr. Wathan is interviewing in Arlington for the Rangers' managing job.

What can be done about it? Absolutely nothing. Gabe Kapler and the young and inexperienced Matt Klentak are stuck together like a sheet of sticky buns.

They will succeed or fail together, and as always, all the Faithful can do is watch.

It's not like it's the first time. We've seen this dog and pony show before. But there is one thing that sticks in the craw of the Phillies organization: Empty seats.

Even with the team in first place in August, there was game after game, sections of empty seats and a half-filled ballpark. Though there'll be no mid-term elections for the Faithful in November — not for baseball, anyway — yet one thing is for sure.

For the Faithful, voting starts on March 28, 2019: The home opener.