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The Phillies are running away with the best record in baseball with a comfortable 8.5 game lead, and the lone reason for their success has been pitching. This certainly isn’t a surprising story for a team that offered four aces to open the season with Chase Utley on the disabled list.
However, things have not sailed as smoothly for the rotation as we originally expected. For starters, Roy Oswalt is enduring a tough season, recently spending nearly two months on the disabled list. His record stands at just 4-7 with a 3.84 ERA and horrendous 1.41 WHIP. The team has also had Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, and Jose Contreras spend time on the disabled list. To put that in perspective, those were the top three expected closers coming into the season.
Considering the Phillies lack of offense and injury issues, this is by no means the team’s full potential. The fact that they still have put together an 8.5 game lead in the division says that the post-season could be a walk in the park for the Phillies.
The 32-year-old veteran Jimmy Rollins is neither as good as he was in 2007, when he earned the MVP with a career-high 30 home runs, nor as bad as he was last season when he batted .243. Rollins is somewhere in between with a .266 average, 71 runs, 13 home runs, and 26 steals.
Rollins has managed to stay away from the injury-bug this season, and he is significantly better at reaching base with a .340 OBP. In the field, Rollins is making a case for the Gold Glove award with just five errors, resulting in a stellar .989 fielding percentage.
If the Phillies are able to win the World Series and Rollins performs at a high level, considering he will likely enter next season just 100 hits shy of 2000 hits for his career, the conversation can begin about whether the Phillies shortstop will one day find himself in the Hall of Fame.
Dominic Brown (replaced by Hunter Pence)
It was certainly a difficult season for Phillies top prospect Dominic Brown. First sidelined with a broken hand, Brown hit just .246 with five home runs and three steals before returning to the Minor Leagues after the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence.
The good news for Brown is that the franchise has by no means lost hope in the 23-year-old phenom. The Phillies went to great lengths to keep him on the roster after the trade deadline, likely passing on Carlos Beltran in order to do so.
Some good news with Brown’s statistics is that even though he is struggling when it comes to his batting average, he is not getting outmatched at the plate. This is suggested by his healthy ratio of 25 walks to 34 strikeouts, as well as his 16 extra base hits in 183 at bats. Brown will certainly return to the Phillies in September, and when he does he will likely steal at bats from John Mayberry and Ben Francisco.
Top 3 in the Rotation for Playoffs
The Phillies have a problem on their hands, but it isn’t a bad one. The playoffs are quickly approaching for the first place franchise and the big question is who will start in a seven game series.
The obvious answers are Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. The problem is that Cole Hamels is another fairly obvious starter. That means the veteran Roy Oswalt will have to pitch from the ‘pen, if at all. The same holds true for Kyle Kendrick and Vance Worley, two of the more impressive young pitchers in the league this season.
The Phillies do also have the option of going four-deep in the rotation for the post-season, but my guess is that with the season on the line they will want Halladay and Lee with the ball in their hands as much as possible.
Again, this problem is far off and injuries can end up answering the question, but for now the Phillies have a delightful problem on their hands.
by Eno Sarris //
It’s always tempting to pick up the back-end starters on a juggernaut team. Their offense and bullpen should help them a little closer to wins than similar starters on bad teams. Even if you shouldn’t chase wins, these two facts are mostly unassailable. The problem is that if a starter doesn’t have real underlying skills, they won’t pitch well enough to get the win anyway.
Kyle Kendrick is getting starts for the Philadelphia Phillies and has a 3.14 ERA. Vance Worley looks like he’ll get starts for the Phillies all year and has a 2.33 ERA. Neither pitcher has the type of skills to continue that work.
Kendrick first, because he’s easiest. He’s only striking out 4.02 batters per nine, which is well below the 7.03 league average. In fact, it would be the third-worst in baseball if he qualified for the ERA title. If you’re living in that space, you need to have elite skills in other areas to make it work. Kendricks’ 2.78 walks per nine are good, but only a little better than the 3.13 league BB/9. Lastly, Kendrick has a slightly above-average ground-ball rate (47.9%, average is 44%). But recent research by Matt Swartz has shown that an elite ground ball rate (60%) is exponentially better than a good ground-ball rate (50%) and so on. So slightly above average is only slightly useful. Call Kendrick slightly useful at best.
Speaking ill of the Vanimal might release the hordes, but Worley is also a good story that might not last long. His strikeout rate (6.98 K/9) is closer to league average, but there’s a hidden flaw in using that stat. If you look at his swinging strike rate, which is more reliable 77 innings in than his per-at-bat results, he has a well-below average number (5.8%, average is 8.5%). To put this in focus, Kendrick has a 5.4% swSTR%. One strikes out four per nine, and one strikes out seven per nine. Expect those two numbers to move towards each other.
As Worley’s strikeout rate drops, the rest of his package will look a lot less interesting. His walk rate (3.14 BB/9) is league average and his ground-ball rate (40.5%) is below league average. Once the ball is put into the air, Worley has been lucky to allow so few home runs (4.8% home runs per fly ball, 10% is league average). His luck on balls in play is excellent right now, too (.242 BABIP). He’s even stranding more runners than average (78.6% LOB, 70% is league average). Most likely, he’ll start striking people out less as the league gets used to his repertoire. Once that happens, the added contact will help players get more dinks and dunks to raise the BABIP. Once more players get on base, they’ll score on those dinks and dunks and added home runs. All of this will inflate the ERA. Call him lucky if he puts up better than a four ERA going forward.
Use Worley and Kendrick in spot starts if you must. Just don’t count on their luck to continue. Trade either if someone offers you.. anything of value.
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Ailment: Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians
The former Indians MVP candidate has been slowed by injuries and will now miss the next month because of another knee injury coupled with a sports hernia. Even when he was on the field, this is not the Sizemore who was routinely a first round pick in fantasy leagues. Nope, the All-Star who once swiped 38 bases has not stolen a single bag this season through 61 games.
Cure: Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres
It seems like he has been a top prospect for more than a decade. The truth is that at just 24-years-old, Maybin is still plenty young, and he is currently enjoying his best season to date. He seems to fit well in Petco Park playing small ball with 44 runs and 17 steals through 80 games.
Ailment: Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies
After a stellar rookie campaign we expected more of the same from Chacin this season. However, the Rockies hurler has inexplicably lost his demand, most recently walking seven Braves on Thursday. His ERA spiked to 3.60, which isn’t bad at all for the ballpark he pitches in, but still Chacin has surrendered four or more runs in four of his last five starts.
Cure: Vance Worley, SP, Phillies
The 24-year-old hurler came out of nowhere, but it looks like he is here to stay. Injuries to Joe Blanton and Roy Oswalt have thrust Vance Worley into the Phillies rotation and he has responded with a 6-1 record and a 2.02 ERA. He can still get plagued by wildness at times, but he does rack up a decent amount of whiffs, and he has won his last four decisions.
Ailment: Ty Wigginton, 3B/1B/2B/OF, Rockies
This is what happens to streaky hitters. Ty Wigginton was on top of the world in June with 8 home runs and 18 RBI. However, he has yet to go deep once this month and his average this month is down to .204. It’s not a bad idea to look for other options.
Cure: Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays
Just 28 years old, Encarnacion has 107 home runs under his belt, but they do come in bunches. He has been red-hot since the All-Star break with a home run and a .400 average. With the veteran seeing the ball so well in a fine lineup, it’s not a bad idea to invest in his fantasy services for the short-term.
Ailment: Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers
He was once the best closer in the business and he holds the record for most saves in a season, however, a less than dominant tenure in New York landed him in Milwaukee where he now offers middle relief. Despite pitching in middle relief, K-Rod was credited with a blown save on Thursday. He does not get enough strikeouts or offer a low enough ERA and WHIP to remain on a fantasy roster.
Cure: Edward Mujica, RP, Marlins
Marlins manager Jack McKeon showed his cards this week, stating that if Leo Nunoz gets moved, Mujica becomes his closer. This is well-deserved to Mujica, who boasts a 35:5 strikeout to walk ratio. His 2.85 ERA and 0.87 WHIP makes him a solid pick up for fantasy managers hoping to snare a closer for later in the season.