Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Hard Hitters Taking A Break

GAME RECAP: No Game Yesterday
The Phillies took the day off to recover from the discomfort incurred by the Cardinals on Sunday.

  • After homering in 14 consecutive games, the Phillies had their streak snapped on Sunday.
  • Thompson is the No. 67 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com. He has struggled in his first three starts and has not thrown more than five innings in any of them.
  • Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (8-12, 3.91 ERA) faces White Sox right-hander James Shields (5-15, 5.98 ERA) on Wednesday night.

The last time the Phillies visited U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox were a year away from winning their last World Series, while the Phillies were four years away from winning their last World Series. The teams open a two-game series Tuesday night, their first on the south side of Chicago since 2004. White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon (3-8, 4.26 ERA) faces Phillies right-hander Jake Thompson (1-2, 8.79 ERA) in the series opener. Rodon has been on a roll this month, going 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts. He has walked five and struck out 16 in 18 innings.


Hitting It Hard – The only thing Cameron Rupp knows is that he has hit the ball hard. Rupp does not know the velocity of the baseball as it leaves his bat. He does not particularly care that he is 39th out of more than 300 hitters in average exit velocity at 92.1 mph, according to Statcast™. But he likes to know that his average exit velocity confirms what he is feeling at the plate -- he is making solid contact more often than not. "There's no need to change anything if I'm hitting the ball hard," Rupp said. Major League Baseball's Statcast™ system is in its second full season, and more and more players are becoming aware of the numbers as they appear on TV and online in stories. Sports Illustrated just featured one about Statcast™, reporting that Tampa Bay Rays players are told on the first day of Spring Training that they are measured by exit velocity, not batting average. "It's a term they use exclusively, like nothing else matters," a Rays player told SI. It also reported these interesting tidbits: In 2014, the Mets' front office chose Lucas Duda over Ike Davis as the club's first baseman largely because Duda had a far better exit velocity. One front office reportedly balked at trying to acquire Royals closer Wade Davis before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline because it noticed a drop in the spin rate on his pitches. Davis landed on the disabled list with an elbow injury a short time later, although he is pitching again. Teams clearly are using the information, including the Phillies. "If there is information available to us that can help to improve our decision making, then we will absolutely incorporate it," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "Exit velocity data certainly falls into that category. Is it powerful? Yes. Are we using it? Absolutely. But is it the only thing we're looking at? Of course not." Tommy Joseph is 62nd in the Majors with an average exit velocity at 91.3 mph. "I do check on it," Joseph said. "It's not so much a number for me. It's a number that I look at for other players around the league, just to see how they're doing it to try to put the swings together -- 'OK, what makes him that good of a player?' I think that's how anybody is. Any big left-handed hitter is going to look at other big left-handed hitters. Guys like me, I'm going to look at Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado." A friend recently told Joseph that his stats page at MLB.com broke down his hitting zone based on his average exit velocity. Naturally, he hopped online to look. "The down-and-away one was pretty low," Joseph said with a smile. "The ones out of the strike zone weren't real high, either. That stuff didn't surprise me, but it was neat to know. Like, 'OK, I handle a pitch there really well. But maybe there the contact isn't as hard.' So from that perspective it tells you, 'OK, here's an adjustment I need to make, because I'm not making as solid contact as consistently in that area.' I love those stats." Ryan Howard makes more hard contact than anybody else on the Phillies. He is 33rd in the Majors with an average exit velocity at 92.5 mph. Of course, he is hitting .198 with 19 home runs, 43 RBIs and a .697 OPS in 286 plate appearances, so hard contact has not translated into consistent success. But Howard has hit .312 with eight homers, 18 RBIs and a 1.021 OPS in 81 plate appearances since July 1. Other things might be at play for Howard's recent improvement. First, those hard-hit balls are finally falling. His batting average on balls in play was .150 before July 1. It is .348 since. Second, Howard is making more contact. His strikeout rate has dropped from 31.7 percent before July 1 to 28.4 percent after July 1. Put more hard hit balls in play and those balls have a chance to find a piece of turf in the outfield. Howard is also hitting line drives 25.9 percent of the time he puts the ball in play since July 1, compared to 21.8 percent beforehand. "If you're hitting balls hard and you don't really have a lot to show for it because balls aren't falling, yeah, I guess you're trying to find a positive out of it," Howard said. "If you're making hard outs, hopefully they start finding their way through. That's what you want to do: make solid contact. It's not like I hit it and I say, 'Hey, what's that velocity?'" Of course, no player asks that question. But they do know when they crush one. And that is when Rupp pays closer attention to the Statcast™ numbers. "When they say how far they go," he said with a laugh, "I want to know how far my homers went."

Today In Phils History – The Phillies made the mistake of hitting the ball to Pittsburgh’s Fred Clarke in 1910 as he recorded 4 OF assists in the game. Irish Meusel hit an inside the park grand slam in 1918 but it wasn’t enough as the Phillies lost to the Reds. In addition to the Cardinals turning a triple play against the Phillies in 1947, Joe Medwick also hit his final (205th) homerun of his career after angrily yelling at the Phillies dugout that he was going to hit the next pitch out. 20 years later, the Phillies lost Dick Allen for the season when he cut his hand on the broken headlight of his car. An oddity occurred in 1992 when the Cearwater Phillies beat the Winter Haven Red Sox 1-0 without either team collecting a hit. Scott Rolen tied a team and MLB record on this day in 1999 when he struck out 5 times against the Padres. A decade later, the Phillies Eric Brunlett turned an unassisted triple play against the Mets off a Jeff Francoeur line drive. Finally, happy birthday to two players who had short tenues with the Phillies, Julio Franco (1958) and Bobby Estalella (1974).  

The Phillies are currently 58-67 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 36-60-0 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record.

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