Does It Matter How Bad the Phillies Are?

There has been much written and argued about regarding the quality of the Phillies big league club for the 2015 season.  The truth remains the same, the Phillies are going to be really bad in 2015 and there is nothing that can be done about it.  The real question is does it really matter, and in a way isn’t it actually good.

The Pitching:

The pitching strategy is summed up very well in the persons of Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams.  Both are:

  • Relatively cheap
  • Durable (both GS and P/G)
  • No long term commitments
  • No repercussions if they are bad (not worried about their confidence)
  • Entirely replaceable
  • If healthy, easy to trade

Essentially you can run them out every 5 days until they either they break, they are unusable, or they stay healthy long enough that other teams have pitching injuries and give you something for them.  The only stats we truly care about are GS and IP.  They are merely placeholders in the rotation.  If you want, imagine Williams walking around with a sign on his back that says, “This spot reserved for Aaron Nola”.  You can add Kevin Slowey, Sean O’Sullivan, and Jeanmar Gomez to the flaming dumpster.

This leaves the rest of the rotation as Cole Hamels (trade chip), David Buchanan (competent starter), Chad Billingsley (¯(ツ)/¯), and prospects.  Of this group, probably only Buchanan is around at the end of the year.  Right now it is all about stalling until the prospects are ready.  Aaron Nola showed why he could be very good in his cameo, Jesse Biddle has flashed his old potential, Joely Rodriguez and Adam Morgan are interesting, Jonathan Pettibone is throwing again, and the three offseason trade acquisitions are quick trip away in Reading.  This is all about them arriving on their own schedule, nothing more.  The placeholders are just placeholders.

Hitting:

Hitting on the other hand is a bit bleaker.  The Phillies don’t have a mass of prospects in AA/AAA like they do on the pitching side.  The hitting all comes down to this:

None of these hitters will be impact members of the next great Phillies team.

It really doesn’t matter.  Darin Ruf is already old.  Odubel Herrera is a utility player.  Ben Revere is happy and that is wonderful.  Freddy Galvis can’t hit.  Ryan Howard was done in 2010. Chase Utley is a Hall of Famer.  Carlos Ruiz might as well be a coach.  Domonic Brown is just a hope and a prayer.  Cody Asche is a nice bench player on a good team.  The bench probably shouldn’t have jobs on any team other than the Phillies or the Braves.  Any hitting breakouts are going to have to happen in the minor leagues.

Losing is Better:

Major league baseball isn’t the NBA, tanking for a superstar isn’t really the best strategy for getting better (just ask the Houston Astros).  But guaranteeing a top pick and a shot at getting a very good prospect at the top of a draft is not a bad consolation prize.  Not that it should be difficult for the Phillies, but guaranteeing a protected pick for next year’s free agency is important too.

It Really Doesn’t Matter:

It matters what happens in the minor leagues as players grow and step forward.  But in the major leagues the Phillies have punted the season because they have to field a baseball team.  They are going to keep flinging crap at the roster until they run out of crap.  At that is what will happen.  Come about August you are going to look around and the piles of crap are going to gone and in their place will be the players being hidden.  The offense will need work and outside influence, but the pitching staff is going to turn over.  Change is coming, but right now someone has to go lose some baseball games, so bring out the chumps.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

6 comments

  1. Matt from Detroit

    Solid stuff Matt, always like reading your stuff. First time poster, long time follower.

  2. Can we make this required reading for every idiot who keeps asking “how do they expect to win with Jerome Williams?”

  3. Hi Matt. Here are some things I’ve been thinking about this offseason, which are maybe relevant to this blog post:

    Right now it is all about stalling until the prospects are ready, but what do you do if the prospects don’t end up being any good?

    Is there such a thing as front office player development analytics? Can we examine which GMs, Assistant GMs, scouting directors, player development personnel, scouts, etc have performed the best? I’ve seen this sort of analysis at a team level (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/building-through-the-draft-worst-of-the-worst/) but would there be a way to attribute performance at an individual level? As an example of what I’m thinking, how would you analyze a move like the Phillies getting rid of Marti Wolever and hiring Johnny Almaraz?

    According to that link, between the 2002 draft and winter of 2012, the Phillies averaged 1.78 WAR per homegrown player and 30.2 cumulative WAR, good for 25th in MLB over that span. How much of that can you attribute to Marti Wolever?

    As for Johnny Almaraz, he worked for both the Reds and the Braves during that span, joining the Braves in 2007 mostly focused on latin/international player development. According to that fangraphs post, the Reds produced 64.5 total WAR (2.58 per player) in those 10 years, and the Braves produced 70.9 total WAR with 3.22 per homegrown player. Both teams were in the top 10 of MLB over that span.

    These metrics are pretty coarse, and it’s not clear how much credit can be given to Johnny Almaraz. It’s also not even clear that these numbers necessarily imply success. Even though the Braves and Reds produced far more homegrown WAR between 2002 and 2012 than the Phillies did, in the end they combined for zero World Series appearances.

    Like I said, without deeper analysis it’s hard to know how much you can attribute on the field success to individuals in the front office. But for all the time we spend talking about and waiting for prospects to develop, I think it’s interesting to take a closer look at how prospects end up in the organization to begin with.

    Stalling until the prospects are ready is a lot more fun if you’ve got numbers to show that the people bringing in those prospects are getting guys that will actually perform at the big league level.

    • Romus

      On building thru the draft between 2002 draft and 2012….wouldn’t the bulk of the young player be stymied in their progression with already in place at the MLB level players positional (exclude pitchers) like Rollins, Utley, Howard, Burrell and Ruiz for a good portion of the bulk of that time frame?

  4. Romus

    I guess there is hope in looking forward to the 10th pick this year and possibly the overall number one or two pick in 2016.
    In any event, with the cyclical nature of professional sports, it will be a few years before the team is competing for the division top spot.

  5. CK

    Of the youngish guys on the MLB roster, I agree, none of them profiles as an everyday player on a winning team, but who knows, maybe one of them could develop further. Brown and Revere will not, because they are so limited defensively. But if we’re lucky, one of the others (Herrera, Asche, Ruf or Galvis) could become an everyday player. If I had to guess, I would say Asche. In the meantime, there’s no harm in running them out everyday.