Friday, September 25, 2020

Series Preview: Phillies at Rays, 9/25- 9/27

The Phillies enter the final weekend of the regular season clinging to postseason hopes as they travel to St. Petersburg to take on the American League East Division champion Rays in a three-game set.

Losers of six of their last 10 games, the Phillies urgently need wins in order to qualify for the expanded 16-team playoff format.  The enter the weekend 1/2 game behind Miami for second place in the National League East and they trail San Francisco by 1/2 game for the last NL Wild Card spot.   

Read ahead for a rundown of the pitching match ups and other key statistics for this series.


Friday, 6:40pm.  Vince Velasquez (1-1, 5.46 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (2-2, 4.64 ERA).  Velasquez notched a win in his last outing against the Blue Jays, going six innings while allowing one earned run on two hits.  Velasquez is averaging 12.1 K/9 in eight appearances this season.  Velasquez has allowed eight earned runs in 8 2/3 innings on the road this season.  Since his first start of the season in which Morton allowed six earned runs over four innings of work, the former Phillie has tallied a 3.41 ERA.  In 24 career starts at Tropicana Field, Morton has posted a 3.24 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP.  Bryce Harper is 4-for-8 with a home run and four RBI in his career when facing the right-handed Morton.

Saturday, 7:07pm.  Zack Wheeler (4-1, 2.67 ERA) vs. Ryan Yarbrough (1-4, 3.78 ERA).  In four road starts this year, Wheeler has a 1-1 record with a 3.28 ERA.  Yarbrough, a lefty, has a 1-1 record and a 4.03 ERA in four home appearances this season.  Didi Gregorius is 1-for-7 in his career against Yarbrough.

Sunday, 3:10pm.  Aaron Nola (5-4, 3.06 ERA) vs. To be determined.  In five road appearances this season, Nola has posted a 2-3 record with a 3.86 ERA.  Hunter Renfroe is 3-for-7 with two doubles and two walks in his career against Nola.  Through his 11 starts, Nola is averaging 12.0 K/9 this season.  

First baseman Rhys Hoskins remains on the injured list with a left UCL strain.  It's possible he could return if the Phillies reach the postseason. In 41 games this year, Hoskins tallied a .245 average with 10 homers and 26 RBI.

In 24 road games this year, Andrew McCutchen sports a .300 average with four homers and 15 RBI.  McCutchen has a .455 average in nine career games against the Rays.

In 75 career games against the Rays, Gregorius has a .192 average.  In 25 road games, Gregorius has a .256/.316/.442 slash line.  

Rookie third baseman/first baseman Alec Bohm ranks first among National League rookies this year in batting average (.333) and RBI (22).  He also leads the NL in hits this month with 35. 

Second baseman Brandon Lowe leads the Rays in batting average (.274), home runs (14) and RBI (36).  The lefty hitter was the 3rd round draft selection of the Rays in 2015. 

With a .754 mark the Rays rank 13th in MLB in OPS.  At .791, the Phils are 6th in MLB with team OPS.  

The Phillies' 7.17 bullpen ERA ranks worst in the majors this year while the Rays' 3.50 mark is 4th best in MLB.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Catching prospect Marchan makes big league debut

Rafael Marchan, image- Jay Floyd
With an injury to J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies were forced to call up a promising young prospect to fill a void on the big league roster.  

In his big league debut on Monday at Miami, Rafael Marchan went 1-for-3, as he singled in his first at bat to notch his first hit in the majors.

Marchan, 21, was ranked at the Phils' number 16 prospect heading into the 2020 season.   

Signed in the same off-season that the Phils dished out a $4 million signing bonus to outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz, Marchan inked a deal for a reported bargain price of $200,000, as a 16-year-old in 2015.

Last year, Marchan, a native of Venezuela, played much of the season with Class A Lakewood.  In 63 games, he tallied a .271 batting average with 16 doubles and 20 RBI.  He would miss a few weeks with an injury in May, but bounced back to complete the season, earning a promotion to Class A Advanced Clearwater at the end of July.

Wrapping up his 2019 campaign as a member of the Threshers, the switch-hitting Marchan posted a .231 batting average with four doubles and three RBI in 22 games. 

Coaches feel Marchan's defense is a major key to his game.  He's known for his strong arm and quick release behind the dish.  His upside is a big reason that Phillies were comfortable removing Deivi Grullon from their 40-man roster and letting him go to the Red Sox for nothing when they claimed him off waivers.  

Realmuto is sidelined with an upper leg/hip issue.  The 29-year-old told media members that he felt a pop and clicking in the area while running late in the Phils' game on Saturday. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Phillies at Marlins series preview: 9/10- 9/14

Much is being made of the Phillies' upcoming seven-game series at Miami.  A potentially season-defining weekend that will feature two separate double-headers pit the Phils (21-18) against their pesky division rival, the germ sharing Marlins (19-19).

The teams will meet for a lengthy series due to both clubs missing considerable time after the Marlins dealt with a coronavirus outbreak when the season got underway in July and the Phillies were the last team they faced.  

If the Phillies can't secure a series win against a Marlins team that is in the midst of a rebuild, media types and baseball fans alike have been critical in stating that the big-budget Phils (2020 team salary was slated to be 6th highest in the big leagues while Miami was set to be fourth lowest) likely won't have a place in the postseason.  

Read ahead for a rundown of the pitching match ups as well as some key statistics from this series. 

Thursday, 6:40pm.  Jake Arrieta (3-4, 5.67 ERA) vs. Sandy Alcantara (2-1, 3.78 ERA).  In four road starts this year, Arrieta has a 2-2 record with a 4.22 ERA.  In 11 career starts against the Marlins, Arrieta sports an 8-1 record with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.  Corey Dickerson is 6-for-14 (.429 avg) in his career when facing Arrieta.  The righty, Alcantara, turned 25 years old over the weekend.  In five career starts against the Phils, Alcantara has a 4-1 record with a 2.51 ERA.  Alcantara missed roughly a month of the season following a positive COVID-19 test in July.

Friday, double header with game 1 slated for 5:10pm.  Rookie right-hander Spencer Howard is expected to pitch in one of these games.  It's unclear which hurler would start the other contest for the Phillies.  Howard holds a 1-2 record with a 5.66 ERA in five big league starts this year.  The 24-year-old was the Phils' 2nd round draft selection in 2017.  Aaron Nola last pitched on Sunday the 6th...throwing on Friday would be his turn on normal rest.  On the season, Nola has a 4-3 record with a 2.74 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP.  Nola is 3-7 with a 3.49 ERA in 14 career starts against the Marlins. 

Saturday, 6:10pm.  Zack Wheeler (4-0, 2.47 ERA) vs. Jose Urena (0-0, 5.40 ERA).  Wheeler, a 30-year-old righty, has no decisions with a 3.46 ERA in a pair of road starts this year.  In 15 career starts against Miami, Wheeler has posted an 8-3 record with a 1.87 ERA.  Urena has made just one start this season after missing time due to COVID-19.  Saturday will mark Urena's 29th birthday.  Urena has a 4.38 ERA in 68 career appearances at Marlins Park.  In 17 career appearances (12 starts) against the Phillies, Urena sports a 3-5 record with a 4.27 ERA.  

Sunday, double header with game 1 slated for 1:10pm.  Tentative starters for game 1...Zach Eflin (2-1, 4.58 ERA) vs. Sixto Sanchez (2-1, 1.80 ERA).  Eflin has a 6.33 ERA in five career starts at Marlins Park.  In nine starts against the Marlins, Eflin sports a 5-2 record with a 4.19 ERA.  Sanchez, a former Phillies prospect that was dealt to Miami in the swap for JT Realmuto, has been one of baseball's most exciting rookie performers.  Through four starts, Sanchez has a 2-1 record with a 1.80 ERA and has struck out 25 and walked just two over 25 innings.  He also sports triple-digit velocity numbers with his fastball. 

Monday, 4:10pm.  Righty Vince Velasquez may be tabbed to take this start for the Phillies.  In his last appearance, Velasquez struck out nine, walked none and allowed two earned runs in five innings against the Red Sox.  Velasquez has a 6.10 ERA in seven career games against the Marlins.

Since August 22nd when Bryce Harper last homered, he's 7-for-49 (.143 avg) in 15 games.  In 134 games against Miami, Harper sports a .292 average with 29 home runs and 95 RBI.  

In 26 career games at Marlins Park Andrew McCutchen is a .340 hitter with five homers and 21 RBI.  

Didi Gregorius has a .293/.384/.547 slash line in 21 career games against the Marlins.  

Former Phils lefty pitching prospect Brandon Leibrandt, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018, signed with the Marlins this season and is once again sidelined with an elbow issue, described as ulnar neuritis.  The 6th round pick from 2014 appeared in five games with the Marlins.  

Catcher Jorge Alfaro is batting .180 with a home run and four RBI in 16 games this season for Miami.  Alfaro is a .462 career hitter in 10 games against the Phils.

The Phillies' .785 team OPS ranks 7th best in MLB.  The Marlins, at .700, ranked 24th heading into action on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

RHP Tyler Burch Interview Excerpts

The complete version of this post is available over on Patreon.com/PhoulBallz.

Recently, I wrote a feature on promising Phillies minor league Tyler  Burch  and his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes.  The righty pitcher was an  undrafted free agent signing last year.  To date in 12 professional  appearances the 22-year-old holds a 4-1 record with a 1.51 ERA and an  8.6 K/9 mark.  

Included below are some excerpts from my  discussion with Tyler in which he offers his thoughts on his own  pitching repertoire, minor league teammates Logan  O'Hoppe and Albertus  Barber, college pal Connor Brogdon and more.

Chatting about developing his pitch repertoire from college to the minors...

I throw a  four-seam, two-seam, slider, change up.  It's kind of a slurve, it's not  a true slider, but it has a little depth in it.

It was more so tweaking my grips to make them more effective.  Hector Berios, the  pitching coach in Williamsport, we worked super hard that summer to work  on my slider and tighten up my change up.  I mean with him we worked so  hard on my pitches every single day. Worked on my mechanics.  In  college I was all upperbody.  I didn't even use my legs.  I sat 90-92  and in pro ball I was 93-94 with more movement on my off-speed and it  was a huge turnaround.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Jimmy Smith on his March on Washington experience

For an extended version of this interview, please consider supporting my work by subscribing to my Patreon page.  Members get exclusive interviews and early access to my other work.
Jimmy Smith, image- Jay Floyd

Former Phillies minor leaguer Jimmy Smith, along with some family, participated in the recent March on Washington and spoke about his experience at the event and what it meant to him to be there.  The march, set up by Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network, was designed as a way for citizens to stand up to racial injustices in our country.

Prior to his release by the Phillies last year, the Central Washington University product tallied a .250/.305/.337 slash line at two levels. 

Read ahead for my interview with Jimmy.

 -Why was it important to you to be present for this Commitment March, as it was called?

It was the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. Growing up, my parents shared how impactful the original March on Washington was, so I couldn’t pass the opportunity to take a stand and use my voice. 
 
One day I hope to share the stories with my children of what I saw and felt that day as proud black man. 

-I don't recall you residing anywhere close to DC, where the march took place.  Did you have to travel for this?
 
I currently live across the country in Southern California but I was born in Washington DC. I grew up within 10 miles of about 11 aunties and uncles and about twice as many cousins, so I have very fond memories of growing up in the city. My older sister and most aunties and uncles still live there so whenever I come back it feels like coming home. 

-Who joined you for the march?
 
At the March I was with my sister and best friend. I met my sister in the city and my friend flew out a few days after. 

-Did you make the impact you hoped for or was the goal to have the experience impact you?
 
I definitely felt like it was an impactful and historical day. I saw the most diverse group of people imaginable out there speaking up for injustice across the nation.

-What did you see or do that was expected and what did you see or do that surprised you?
 
The actual March itself was an incredible experience. The tone was strong and incredibly focused, so I was pleasantly surprised to see law enforcement watch and stand alongside many of the folks just looking to walk along. 
 
Over the past year or two we’ve all seen horrific images from New York, Portland, Hong Kong, of police using brutal unwarranted force against protestors. I was surprised at how constructive peaceful protests can be when done without violence from anyone.  (Those are) the driving principle of Dr. King’s original message.

-For people that don't recognize or acknowledge what Black Lives Matter stands for or for people that try to argue against it in some way, what would you want to tell them?
 
I’d want to tell them that Black Lives Matter isn’t simply a “political statement” or a hashtag. Anyone that argues against it needs to understand this isn’t a competition, it’s not black people versus the police. It’s a movement acknowledged by any person that can understand that killing humans because of their ethnicity, sexuality, or appearance is unacceptable and truly unjust. Just so happens this country has a history of hunting African Americans since its inception.
 
-Personally, I feel as though law enforcement training could be refined with a focus on less lethal force.  What else would you like to see done to address the things going on?
 
One crucial thing I believe must happen for this to move forward is qualified immunity must come to an end. My cousin was an excellent officer when she was in the force. One of my close friends father was an officer. I’ve met a few guys in college that I believe to be some of the best men for the job. I believe for the ones who aren’t fit to wear the badge, we must make sure that they are met with equal or more substantial penalties than regular citizens because they have been entrusted to protect the people. A slap in the wrist for murder is unjust.

-What else can you share about the march?
 
The march was unforgettable and I would encourage any of those that are able to safely, go and take a stand for what you believe in. Do not be afraid by the images you see on the news, they don’t fully represent the entirety of the movement or experiences you can have.

The complete version of this interview can be viewed on my Patreon page.