Many of you don't follow the Phoenix Suns during the baseball offseason. That's cool, you aren't really missing much these days.
But the last three seasons of mediocre, playoff-less basketball just served to hammer home one essential point about sports fandom: I can root for a losing team, and I can root for an old team without a future, but there's nothing worse in sports than rooting for an old, mediocre team without a future.
See, with a rebuilding team you at least get to fantasize about the players being part of The Next Great Team. As it turned out, none of Alex Cintron, Matt Kata, or Luis Terrero were actually any good in 2004, but they might have been, and that was enough. Well, maybe not quite enough, but it helped a little.
The Phillies do not have that luxury. They have two regulars who are under the age of 29, and one of those is Ben Revere, who has been around for almost 1200 PAs and has a career OPS of .630. So...let's go Domonic Brown, I guess?
And then there was the offseason. Oh, the Phillies' offseason. A late rally pumped some life into a 2012 season that looked pretty dead in July, but the team still finished with .500 record and a fading, injured roster in one of the toughest divisions in baseball.
But while the Diamondbacks tried to fix their .500 team by making low-key, non-controversial moves like trading the face of their franchise and their best pitching prospect, the Phillies made some moves that were pretty head-scratching by comparison. By which I mean that they spent about $11 million to bring in two guys who combined for -2.6 fWAR last year.
What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):
Hooray, we've finally found someone with a worse offense than the D-Backs! The Phillies are only three games below .500, but they don't really do anything all that well.
Saying that their offense is worse than the D-Backs' pretty much speaks for itself, and their fielding has been mediocre by both traditional and new-age metrics. The back end of the bullpen has been pretty good so far, but the rest of bullpen has been pretty "meh." Just nothing great all the way around.
1. A.J. Pollock, CF
2. Didi Gregorius, SS
3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
4. Miguel Montero, C
5. Jason Kubel, LF
6. Martin Prado, 3B
7. Gerardo Parra, RF
8. Cliff Pennington, 2B
1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Chase Utley, 2B
3. Michael Young, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Delmon Young, RF
6. Domonic Brown, LF
7. Erik Kratz, C
8. Ben Revere, CF
Ruben Amaro Jr.: Hey, can I have this?
Jon Daniels: Is that a Michael Young? Where'd you find that? We don't even carry those any more.
Amaro: Found it in the dumpster out back. So can I have it?
Daniels: I mean, I guess?
Amaro: Cool, how much do you want for it?
Daniels: It's yours. You can have it for free.
Amaro: I don't know...$10 million of salary seems pretty steep.
Daniels: That isn't what I said.
Amaro: Fine, I'll do it, but only if you'll take a couple of minor league relievers as well.
Daniels: I...sure. Yes. Let's do it.
I mentioned earlier that Ben Revere is not the best hitter in the game right now. What I failed to mention is that this is his fourth full season and he still has yet to hit a home run. Ever. His SLG% is .315, which also happens to be his OBP. That's the stuff of small sample sizes for most of baseball, but it's Ben Revere's reality.
Howard and Rollins got most of the headlines during the Phillies late-2000s reign, but Utley's prime was better than either of them. But he's 34 now, and while he's still a valuable contributor and an above-average Second Baseman, his best days are probably behind him.
Howard is outperforming last year's version, but which I mean that he's hitting and healthy at the same time. This probably doesn't take the edge off the fact that he's getting paid $20 million, and will be getting paid $25 million at age 36, but I'm trying here, Phillie fans.
Throughout all of the "win now" trades of the Late Phillies Dynasty, Ruben Amaro Jr. held on to Domonic Brown for dear life. The Justin Upton/Jason Heyward/Giancarlo Stanton comparisons make sense, until you realize that Brown is just eight days younger than Upton, and has been worth all of -1.3 fWAR in parts of four seasons. He isn't washed up yet, but people are starting to talk.
Thursday: Patrick Corbin (4-0, 1.80) vs. Cole Hamels (1-4, 4.34)
Insightful Commentary: Six innings, two runs against Milwaukee. That's Corbin's worst start of 2013, and it came in the first game of the season. He had three walks in his last start, but that only stands out because he hadn't walked anyone in his previous two starts.
Hamels has battled his command so far in 2013, topping out with six walks two starts ago. However, he had probably his best start of the season last time out against Miami. Sure, it was Miami, but eight innings, two runs and no walks looks a lot more like vintage Cole Hamels, and I'm guessing he'll be fine overall.
Friday: Ian Kennedy (1-3, 5.19) vs. Tyler Cloyd (0-0, N/A)
Insightful Commentary: Just over two years ago, the Phillies came to Chase Field and Ian Kennedy threw what looked like the game of his life. It was a complete game shutout, and it came against the Phillies at the height of their dominance. It was masterful, and I maintain that it's the best game I've ever seen him throw. I'd love to see that again, but if we're being honest, it sort of looks like we're a ways away from that edition of IPK.
The first thing you need to know about Cloyd is that he isn't Roy Halladay, and no matter what his numbers look like this year, that's a good thing. Cloyd started six games in 2012 and didn't do much to distinguish himself, with a 5.25 FIP. He lacks top-flight velocity, with a fastball that tops out under 90 MPH, but it looks like his change-up is a plus pitch.
Saturday: Trevor Cahill (2-3, 2.80) vs. Cliff Lee (3-2, 3.26)
Insightful Commentary: So, of course, just as soon as I mentioned Cahill was throwing his cutter more, he's publically reduced its usage in his past two starts. His cutter gets more swings and misses than his sinker, but PitchFx generally likes the sinker better, on account of all the weak contact that it generates on swings out of the zone. Given how good the results have been of late, I'm inclined to agree with PitchFx on this one.
Cliff Lee walked 18 batters in 2010, when he pitched 212 innings. If you're scoring at home, that's a walk every 12 innings or so. Over the course of a season. He's had better years by ERA, but 18 walks over the course of a season is just incredible. For context, the lowest walk total of Greg Maddux's career was 20.
Sunday: Brandon McCarthy (0-3, 6.75) vs. Kyle Kendrick (4-1, 2.45)
Insightful Commentary: The Diamondbacks' website officially lists this as "To Be Announced," but I'm assuming they aren't giving up on McCarthy after his first Quality Start of the year. He gave up his usual eight hits, but managed to spread them out so as to avoid the big inning. I'm still nervous about his LD%, and one start against a struggling offense isn't going to alleviate that, but it's nice to see him turn in a solid start for the first time this year.
Kendrick has been the Phillies' best pitcher this year, and considering how much the rest of their rotation costs, that probably qualifies as a bit of a shock. His walks and home runs are both down, and the rest of his numbers are correspondingly better than ever. He's probably going to regress somewhat, but his FIP is only 3.25, and he's already within spitting distance of his best-ever fWAR.
Three Pressing (?) Questions:
So if we blindfold Paul Goldschmidt and stick some palm trees in Chase Field, he'll totally still think he's at Dodger Stadium, right? That's really dumb. The only way this will work is if we get some beach balls and make sure that no one gets to the stadium before the third inning.
So there's no situation in which the Dodgers don't trade for Cliff Lee this summer, is there? Not unless the Phillies stay in the hunt (unlikely) and the Dodgers fall out of contention entirely (not impossible). Even then, they'll probably at least ask.
What's Ryan Howard's nickname: The Big Piece, says Baseball Reference. It doesn't make any sense, unless you assume that they're talking about Howard's role in the team's payroll. And then it makes all the sense.
Phillies Blog: The Good Phight.
(All numbers from Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)