If you watched the Phillies get plowed by the Dodgers for three games in Los Angeles over the weekend, it’s pretty easy to make some emotionally-charged assessments. Some of those evaluations could include the following:
- The Phillies can’t beat the Dodgers.
- They’re not even close in the NL.
- The bullpen is awful.
- The bench stinks.
I get it. It’s hard to watch a team that had been playing so well go out and get beat three times in a heat check series, and if you’re down on them right now, that’s perfectly understandable. That said, I’m going to try to take a more measured approach here. No doubt, what we saw at Dodgers Stadium this weekend was discouraging to say the least, but a road series in June does not make or break a season, and any long-term evaluations based on a four-game losing streak in early June seems sort of ridiculous. The Dodgers are good. They’re really good. And they’re 25-7 at home. A bad series on the road against a good team is going to happen from time to time, so no, I’m not ready to smash the panic button, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to piss positive all over this thing. The Phillies have some issues they need to address, and I think looking at those issues is a more worthwhile exercise than dropping some feigned and exaggerated column about what they are or are not, so that’s what I’m going to do. Let’s begin.
More Jay Bruce, Less Maikel Franco?
The Phillies acquired Jay Bruce from the Mariners earlier today to help solidify a thin bench, provide some late inning pop from the left side, and patch the depth of an outfield that has had its share of injury, performance, and legal issues. While true, Bruce’s addition could also mean we may soon be seeing less of the struggling Maikel Franco. Through his first 20 games this season, the 26-year-old third baseman was hitting .271 with a .937 OPS and six homers but has been a mess since. In his last 36 games, Franco is hitting only .176 with a miserable .506 OPS and two homers. We know by now that he’s more than capable of piecing together another hot streak, but with the Phillies looking for a return to the postseason, his .209 average and .667 OPS at this point in the season just isn’t good enough.
So, what does this have to do with Bruce?
The Phillies could elect to increase his playing time in left, move Andrew McCutchen to center, and kick Scott Kingery back into the infield at third base. Gabe Kapler has previously lauded Kingery’s versatility, but it’s safe to assume the team knows center field isn’t the ideal fit.
A Bad Pitch Early Is Also A Bad Pitch Late
Vince Velasquez hasn’t worked as a starter because he lacks put away secondary stuff and too often misses spots. Fans and media types alike have long wondered what a move to the bullpen might do for his career, and while the jury is still out as he makes the transition, the early returns haven’t been great. What we’re seeing from Velasquez as a reliever is similar to what we saw from him as a starter. Flashes of effectiveness, followed by poor pacing and poor pitch location. Missing spots in the second and third innings yields the same results as it does in the seventh or eighth innings. It’s true that many former struggling starters have thrived after moves to the bullpen, but as long as Velasquez continues to make pitches like this…
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) June 2, 2019
…he’s going to continue struggle, regardless of the inning or however long he’s out there. Fortunately for Velasquez, the injuries to the Phillies’ bullpen will likely afford him more time to see if he can figure things out.
It’s Kimbrel Time!
Seriously. It’s time for a team to sign Craig Kimbrel. With this year’s MLB Draft now upon us, teams can sign Kimbrel without forfeiting picks. The Phillies are one of the teams expected to be in the mix:
The draft pick attachment goes away first minute Monday, at 12:01 am. So look for Keuchel/Kimbrel to sign after that, maybe not too long after. Hear Yankees/Braves strongly in on DK; Twins, Brewers, Cards, Rays among others. CK market also active. ATL, PHI, MINN, TB, many more.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 31, 2019
Gotta say, I wouldn’t count on it, but with those aforementioned injuries piling up, the Phillies could use a guy who converted 42 of 47 save opportunities with a 2.74 ERA, 13.9 K/9, and 0.995 WHIP last season. It feels like the Phillies would probably have some interest in a one-year deal, but it’s hard to imagine there won’t be at least a few aggressive multi-year offers on the table, and thus it’s hard to imagine he’s coming here. We’ll see.
Where’s The Pop?
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the bullpen and bench, but what’s the deal with this lineup? The Phillies produced just six runs and two homers this weekend. That’s not good enough. With the additions of premium offensive talent, it’s pretty amazing the Phillies have produced only 68 homers this season, the 23rd most in baseball entering play Sunday. And no, it’s not that this offense sucks, or that it’s inept, but it is inconsistent and has left a bit to be desired considering its 13th in runs scored, 18th in OPS, and 19th in slugging this season. When you look at the players in this lineup on an individual basis, there’s a lot to feel good about, but then they play a series like the one they did against the Dodgers, and it’s abundantly clear that they need to do a little more against elite competition if they’re going to play among the NL’s elite come October.