If you haven’t been watching the Phils (or even if you have), here’s some of what’s been going on:
First, there’s this incredible stat:
Ryan Howard: First player in Phillies history (yes, all of it) to win a pair of 1-0 games via solo HR in same season. @jaysonst
— Doug Kern (@dakern74) May 4, 2016
And then there’s the bomb he hit last night:
Ryan Howard goes 421 feet to center to take the lead and shut Cardinals fans up. Not sure which I appreciate more? pic.twitter.com/2bsPBU0K92
— chris jones¯_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 5, 2016
But last night’s homer isn’t surprising since, as Rich Hoffman points out, Howard has always played above and beyond in his hometown. In the 37 games he’s played in St. Louis, he has hit 13 homers and driven in 43 runs. His .331/.455/.654 slash line is well above his career average of .261/.347/.517. In fact, if he’s looking for somewhere to end his career, maybe the Cardinals will take him in. Just don’t listen to their fans, Ryan. Any of them.
Just look at this:
That knee-buckler has been uncorked by Aaron Nola over and over again this season. That Specific clip comes from Fangraphs, where they broke down Nola’s breaking ball to show how impressive his use of it really is. There’s a lot in there about how he uses it to throw his first strike vs. his second strike, but I want to focus on how often it deceives batters. According to Fangraphs, “when the curveball has been in the zone, hitters have swung 46% of the time. When the curveball has been out of the zone, hitters have swung 46% of the time.” That’s amazing. His ability to get batters to chase balls while also having them lay off strikes is incredible, and it might be the pitching staff’s best weapon.
Finally a Return on the Pence Trade?
In July of 2012, the Phils traded Hunter Pence to the Giants for catching prospect Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin and Nate Schierholtz. Rosin got Rule 5’d off the Phillies the next year (before being returned and then becoming a free agent), Schierholtz played 37 games for the Phillies before becoming a free agent, and Tommy Joseph had a series of concussions in the minor leagues that made him miss tons of time. But Joseph, who is still only 24, may be on his way to finally hitting the majors.
Joseph is batting .344/.358/.672 with five homers in only 64 at-bats for the Iron Pigs. He’s done all of this while playing 1B. He may never be the prospect he was every again, but he could eventually be your off-day first baseman while Ryan Howard trots out his last days in red pinstripes. It doesn’t make the trade a successful one, but at least there can still be something to come from it.