Series Preview: Phillies, July 3-5

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It has been said on numerous occasions over the years that baseball is America’s pastime. Indeed, there is nothing more inherently American than watching grown, costumed men swing sticks at balls in an attempt to traverse a diamond 90 feet at a time. Of late, there have been serious challengers to the moniker, mostly football. But the college football game is executed at a level so far below that of the pros as to render most of the games meaningless, while the politics of the NFL make the NCAA look downright moral. But as we gather family and friends around pools, pits, grills, tables, and televisions to celebrate Independence Day, it is with the utmost gravity that I tell you I have discovered the ultimate threat to our nation’s greatest sport: the 2015 Philadelphia Phillies.

Guys. First I want to apologize. On BGS ‘Cast 3 I had the nerve to insinuate that the Braves would finish behind the Phillies in the division. Part of that was me playing devil’s advocate, part of it was me trolling Davie, and part of it was, “Wow, those veterans can’t all be that bad for the whole year, can they?” My God, I was wrong. The Phillies are horrible. They are an abomination to watch and an affront to the very institution of professional organized baseball. They’re so terrible that Phillies Twitter celebrated during MacPhail’s presser because someone from the front office finally bought a computer acknowledged sabermetrics. At 27-54, they are a very bad .333 for the year. Tommy Lasorda is often attributed as saying, “No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.”

The Phillies, not content with just losing a third of their games, decided to mail in the latter third as well. They’re even outpacing the tear-it-down 2011-13 Astros, but that was a rebuilding team with hope in the minors and youth all over the major league club. And Philly may challenge those ‘Stros, yet, as Cole Hamels is rumoured to be traded at the deadline for what feels like the 12th year in a row. Not since the 2003 Tigers has there been a veteran-laden team this abysmal. This is a team that’s running out only two above-average hitters every day, and the third best hitter is frickin’ Jeffrey Braden Francoeur. The fourth best is Ryan Howard’s contract. It’s bad. It’s really, really bad. If there is any hope in Philly, it’s in those top two hitters, though.

Maikel Franco has been a top 10 ‘spect in the Philly system since 2011, and a consensus MLB Top-100 prospect since 2013. He has very real, very good power, and so far it’s translated in the majors. Franco’s .244 ISO paces the Phillies, and his 10 dongers trail only noted Subway spokesman Ryan Howard. His no-walk, no-strikeouts, hit-ball-far approach reminds me of another famous NL-East’er, Vladimir Guerrero, and thus far in 2015, Franco’s 141 wRC+ is certainly reminiscent of the former Montreal slugger. The other hitter of note is César Hernández. Hernández had all of the looks of a fringey, BABiP dependent guy whose inclusion in Philly top ten lists was more of an indictment of the system than it was optimism about him as a player. Then the abrupt downfall of Chase Utley thrust Hernández into duty and he has promptly hit better than anyone could’ve imagined (which for him, means a 112 wRC+). JFYI, we’ve seen this happen before:

SpaceJam

Perhaps Domonic Brown’s return will help their offense. Granted, he’s been back for three weeks and has done nothing, so perhaps not. As a former top prospect, it wasn’t hard to look at Brown’s 27 dinger, 123 wRC+ 2013 and think he was putting it together at the age of 25. Alas, it now looks like so many weird one-season blips that dot the landscape of baseball history; a ghost of ’96 Brady Anderson returning to taunt you with what might’ve been.

On the pitching front, Hamels vs. Miller is the marquee match-up this series, as those two get the nod in the Sunday matinee. That is, of course, assuming Hamels is still a member of the Phillies in three days time. Quietly, game two starter Alex Wood has pulled up alongside Shelby in FIP, WAR, and xFIP. He’s seemingly been inconsistent at times, but a .334 BABiP could be to blame. He will face Kevin Correia, who hasn’t had an FIP below 4.40 or a K% over 15% since 2010. He is very uninteresting, and should mostly be congratulated on managing to stick around for so long despite being a lot worse than most of the players around him. The struggle-bus Teheran gets game one, where he will try not to make us all very very sad. He’ll be met by rookie Adam Morgan, who will be making his second career start. Morgan, out of Marietta by way of the Crimson Tide, was a top ten-ish prospect in the Phil’s system from ’11-’13 before injury took him off both mound and prospect lists. Back in 2012 Baseball America rated his slider the best in the Phillies system and his change up the best in the Florida State League. Scouting reports generally had his ceiling as a #3 starter, but after the injury, his K’s have plummeted and his BB’s are up (granted, it’s only about 70 innings).

I want to say the Braves will sweep this series. I want to say this Philadelphia lineup is so awful that not even Cole Hamels can stymy our styrofoam bats. But alas, we are bad, and baseball is unpredictable. So I boldly declare the Braves will win this series. We will do it behind good pitching and an offense that is just good enough against pitching that is just bad enough to give us a chance. We will win because the Phillies are trash. We will win because the horrible Phillies must fall if baseball is to remain the preferred sport of leisure in our nation. And above all else we will win because we are the Atlanta Braves and drunk Uncle Ted and Turner Broadcasting want to remind you that this is America’s team, damnit.

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About

K believes in very few things that don’t adhere to the transcendentalist manifesto prescribed by Henry David Thoreau. He is a stat head who loves numbers and spreadsheets, but after a 7 year fight against the Chip Carrays and Joe Morgans of the world, his online presence has spiraled downward into a depressing series of long-cons and trolls.

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