Not So Fast, Phillies Fans

Phillies

Don’t Count Rupp Out So Quickly. Photo by Noah K. Murray – USA TODAY Sports.

While many questions deal with tomorrow’s stars, organizations make decisions based on a hitter’s performance for roughly 200 at-bats, and the Philadelphia Phillies are no different.

Up the Middle:

In a time of instantaneous expectations, the future does not have a fast-forward button to skip the journey and reach the destination.

Beginning the year with 12 of your first 15 games against contenders is a recipe for disaster – the divisional basement – if they remember your team’s relentlessness. Well, the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets weren’t forgetful despite their current difficulties. Washington compensated for their bullpen woes, and New York “parked” some homers to ease their hitting struggles. However, the Phils haven’t been pushovers for the Nationals or the Mets – who had three one-run victories in their four wins. Why? More runs by the red pinstripes.

Ranking comparison through April 20:

  • 2016: 30th in the MLB and 15th in the NL.
  • 2017: 9th in the MLB and 4th in the NL (tied with the New York Mets and the Cincinnati Reds in both).

If you take the wayback machine to 2008, the middle of the diamond featured Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz, Chase “the Man” Utley, Jimmy “J-Roll” Rollins and Shane “the Flyin’ Hawaiian” Victorino. Ergo, the heart of the defense is also an important element in a championship-caliber franchise.

A 162-game concept location-wise:

  • One strike equals one game.
  • Nine strikes equal three outs or nine games.
  • One inning equals 18 games.
  • Nine innings equals 162 games or 162 strikes.
  • The Phillies have played 15 games (6-9) or two outs in the home first.

While many locals are growing weary of the stats for a few regulars, they are immune to the runner metaphor (a marathon, etc.) needing a new, precise yardstick for the long 162. Basically, each out has three strikes and each strike equals one game. In other words, there are two outs in the bottom of the first. Would you head for the exit before inning one is over?

Knapp Gives His Rally Signal from Second Base. Photo by Eric Hartline – USA TODAY Sports.

When you read the comments on Phillies’ sites, you hear passionate fans voicing their displeasure with disappointing results: For instance, Cameron Rupp is playing instead of Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp. Why does Rupp (36 ABs) continue to start? They’re not giving Knapp (14 ABs) a chance. Alfaro is hot! When will we see him?

Behind and at the plate, the faithful envision lighttower power and a feared competitor with a .300 average. Yet, because he doesn’t have 50 at-bats for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, general manager Matt Klentak will evaluate the receiver over a two-month period. The GM will travel to Allentown near the end of April and May and scout him personally. But if you’re getting the impression the youngster has to earn a promotion, you’re right.

Catchers:

  • Rupp: 11 Gms., 36 AB, a .167 Avg., 1 HR, 3 RBI and a .629 OPS.
  • Knapp: 6 Gms., 14 AB, a .214 Avg., 0 HR, 1 RBI and a .710 OPS.
  • Alfaro: 12 AAA Gms., 48 AB, a .333 Avg., 1 HR, 5 RBI and an .818 OPS.

Don’t forget – for a catcher – Rupp hit .252 with 16 home runs last summer and earned the starting job. Remember, they didn’t immediately hand the regular role to Utley either. So, why would they treat Alfaro differently?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:    

“A good catcher is the quarterback, the carburetor, the lead dog, the pulse taker, the traffic cop and sometimes a lot of unprintable things, but no team gets very far without one.” – Miller Huggins    

If His MiLB Competition Doesn’t Challenge Him, Galvis Will Be the Shortstop This Year. Photo by Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports.

During the offseason, national writers speculated about Freddy Galvis. They would trade Cesar Hernandez and replace him with Galvis at second base, or he also could be a super sub. But even though no rumors involved the shortstop, scribes mentioned every organization needing someone at his position.

Shortstop:

  • Galvis: 15 Gms., 55 AB, a .218 Avg., 2 HR, 7 RBI and a .641 OPS.
  • Crawford: 12 AAA Gms., 41 AB, a .098 Avg., 0 HR, 2 RBI and a .376 OPS.
  • Crawford, 2016: 87 AAA Gms., 336 AB, a .244 Avg., 4 HR, 30 RBI and a .647 OPS.

IN OTHER WORDS:    

“Before, shortstops and second basemen were mostly defensive guys that made all the plays and didn’t really hit that well. But now it’s beginning to change a little bit. Now, shortstops and second basemen are very productive in terms of run producing.” – Chase Utley

Regarding a few posters, they are questioning the production of shortstop J.P. Crawford, who has only four knocks so far. What’s wrong with Crawford? Yeah, he only hit .244 last summer. But Galvis is struggling. What’s Crawford waiting for?

Hernandez Isn’t Planning on Losing His Starting Job. Photo by B. Mills – USA TODAY Sports.

Since the Minnesota series in late June, Hernandez has batted over .300 and has become a reliable leadoff man. Yes, he’s not doing it overnight but he’s improving. And if he keeps producing, he might be a Phillie for quite a while.

Even while second sacker Jesmuel Valentin is hitting over .300, last season he batted .254 for the IronPigs. Has he turned things up a notch?

Hernandez since June 23:

  • 102 Gms., 376 AB, 125 H, a .333 Avg., 7 HR, 31 RBI, 15 SB and 9 CS.

Second Base:

  • Hernandez: 15 Gms., 67 AB, a .299 Avg., 3 HR, 8 RBI and an .855 OPS.
  • Valentin: 13 AAA Gms., 42 AB, a .333 Avg., 1 HR, 6 RBI and an .844 OPS.
  • Valentin, 2016: 36 AAA Gms., 105 AB, a .248 Avg., 4 HR, 14 RBI and a .706 OPS.
  • Kingery: 12 AA Gms., 44 AB, a .273 Avg., 4 HR, 13 RBI and a 1.003 OPS.
  • Kingery, 2016: 37 AA Gms., 156 AB, a .250 Avg., 2 HR, 18 RBI and a .606 OPS.

After his March performance in Clearwater, second baseman Scott Kingery has enhanced the fans’ impression of him. However, he’s still learning with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils, where he needs – at least – a half a season. But if he impresses Klentak, the second sacker could advance to Lehigh Valley and challenge Valentin. A bottleneck?

Does Herrera Have More Surprises for Us This Summer? Photo by Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports.

With Odubel Herrera patrolling the warning track, Roman Quinn – like Aaron Altherr – may find himself in a corner outfield position. Keep in mind, Herrera is a quick study and his grip on center field might be too tight. On the other hand, Quinn has to stay healthy if the Philadelphia Phillies are going to advance him and move Howie Kendrick. Moreover, the switch-hitter would be a good fit in the two slot behind Hernandez and in front of Herrera.

Center Field:

  • Herrera: 15 Gms., 53 AB, a .264 Avg., 1 HR, 4 RBI and a .748 OPS.
  • Altherr: 9 Gms., 21 AB, a .333 Avg., 1 HR, 4 RBI and a .963 OPS.
  • Altherr, 2016: 57 Gms., 198 AB, a .197 Avg., 4 HR, 22 RBI and a .587 OPS.
  • Quinn: 13 AAA Gms., 52 AB, a .212 Avg., 0 HR, 4 RBI and a .486 OPS.
  • Quinn, 2016: 71 AA Gms., 286 AB, a .287 Avg., 6 HR, 25 RBI and an .802 OPS.

To sum up, Rupp and Galvis have earned 200 at-bats before Klentak will probably consider a change. However, Knapp could possibly have the first shot behind the plate. Meanwhile, Herrera is the best hitter on the ballclub, which is why he bats third. And Hernandez is playing like a man who wants something, what? Perhaps, a multi-year contract!

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