Ron Costello

Saturday, November 20, 2021

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.

Isn't it  true, eh said. The he collected hims self. 

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?