Phillies’ Race with Atlanta for Third Place

If Buchholz Has a Comeback Season, the Phillies Will Have a Decent Rotation. Photo by Evan Habeeb - USA TODAY Sports.

If Buchholz Has a Comeback Season, the Phillies Will Have a Solid Rotation. Photo by Evan Habeeb – USA TODAY Sports.

Before Opening Day arrives, February kicks off baseball anew and fans locally will enjoy future regulars, while veteran pitchers and hitters round into shape for the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies.

The Offseason’s Influence:  

While most businesses frequently have meetings regarding their competition, those industry rivals are making changes in their strategy to flourish as well.

During the winter, both franchises acquired experienced players to reinforce their rebuilding effort, except with different reasons. The Atlanta Braves augmented their 25-man roster for the opening of their new ballpark. They want a competitive club for their first campaign there. On the other hand, the Phillies picked up stopgaps to establish a winning attitude with an improved record, while their top prospects develop with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

For this summer, where will the Phils finish is the question this week from Double D, a poster from another site. Well, both organizations will strive for third place along with the Miami Marlins. But higher is a big if.

Double D, when it comes to Atlanta’s five-man staff in the National League, they were 14th with a 4.87 ERA, while the Phils had a 4.41 ERA for ninth place. But the Braves added Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia on one-year contracts to fill three spots in their rotation. That will help the team in the win column, but what will it cost? $32.5 million.

Starters:

  • Colon, 43.5: 191 2/3 Inn., 15-8, a 3.43 ERA, a 2.9 fWAR and a 1.21 WHIP.
  • Dickey, 42: 169 2/3 Inn.,10-15, a 4.46 ERA, a 1.0 fWAR and a 1.37 WHIP.
  • Garcia, 30.5: 171 2/3 Inn., 10-13, a 4.67 ERA, a 1.2 fWAR and a 1.37 WHIP.
  • Buchholz, 32.5: 139 1/3 Inn., 8-10, a 4.78 ERA, a 0.5 fWAR and a 1.33 WHIP.

For the Philadelphia Phillies, the trade for Clay Buchholz will reunite him in mid-February with Bob McClure, a former pitching coach in Boston; and in two weeks McClure and Buchholz will begin studying film of his successful mechanics from seasons past. Then, they’ll go to the bullpen and work on consistency. Yes, if you are nearby, you’d hear McClure’s gruff reminder to Buchholz regarding his windup. Don’t drop your arm!

A Return to Form Is Kendrick's Walk-Year Goal. Photo by Brad Rempel - USA TODAY Sports.

A Return to Form Is Kendrick’s Walk-Year Goal. Photo by Brad Rempel – USA TODAY Sports.

After scoring 307 first-half runs for last place in the NL, Atlanta received dividends by acquiring Matt Kemp: They were fifth in runs scored with 342 after the All-Star break. But what was their record after a 37-68 start when Kemp first donned their uniform on August 1? A 31-23 mark.

IN OTHER WORDS:      

“Beast Mode doesn’t make excuses. It doesn’t complain. Whatever you’re doing, go out there and get it done. Keep pushing. If I have a bad game, I think about what I have to do to return to form. Figure it out, go to sleep, and wake up a new man.” – Matt R. Kemp

Hitters:

  • Kemp, 32.5: 672 PA, a .268 Avg., 35 HR, 108 RBI, an .803 OPS and a 0.4 fWAR.
  • Kendrick, 33.5: 543 PA, a .255 Avg., 8 HR, 40 RBI, a .691 OPS and a 0.9 fWAR.
  • Saunders, 30: 558 PA, a .253 Avg., 24 HR, 57 RBI, an .815 OPS and a 1.4 fWAR.

Facing a challenge after 610 runs tallied for last in the Senior Circuit, new hitting coach Matt Stairs has Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick. And the coach will soon review batting practices with the left fielder and break down his swing. Of course, Stairs can probably fix Kendrick’s mechanical problems and get his average up to .290 or more. On the other hand, Saunders had his first full 162 since 2013; ergo, increased stamina will make a big difference to his stats.

Philadelphia Phillies closer job

Benoit Will Set Up for Neris in the Eighth Inning to Form a Solid One-Two Punch. Photo by Kevin Sousa – USA TODAY Sports.

While Atlanta was 10th in the National League with a 3.95 ERA, they haven’t made big changes to their relief corps and are still going with Jim Johnson and Arodys VizcainoJohnson has had an up-and-down career, and Vizcaino’s numbers went from a 3.65 ERA to a 4.54 ERA on August 22. He only had five appearances in the second half due to an oblique injury and right shoulder inflammation that ended his campaign on August 24. Was that the reason for the poor outing?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:   

“Losing feels worse than winning feels good.” – Vin Scully

After being 10th in the league with a 5.05 ERA, the red pinstripes acquired Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek for the eighth inning, and they’ll fill in occasionally for Hector Neris. Yes, Double D, they’ll also be insurance if Neris struggles as a closer.

Relievers:

  • Johnson, 33.5: 65 Gms., 64 2/3 Inn., a 3.06 ERA, 20 Saves, 8 Holds 2 BS (and 1 Blown Hold), a 1.4 fWAR and a 1.19 WHIP.
  • Vizcaino, 26: 43 Gms., 38 2/3 Inn., a 4.42 ERA, 10 Saves, 2 BS (and 2 Blown Holds), a 0.3 fWAR and a 1.63 WHIP.
  • Benoit, 39.5: 51 Gms., 48 Inn., a 2.81 ERA, 1 Save, 18 Holds, a 0.5 fWAR and a 1.27 WHIP.
  • Neshek, 36: 60 Gms., 47 Inn., a 3.06 ERA, 18 Holds, a 0.5 fWAR and a 0.94 WHIP.
  • Neris, 27.5: 79 Gms., 80 1/3 Inn., a 2.58 ERA, 2 Saves, 28 Holds, a 1.2 fWAR and a 1.11 WHIP.

To sum up, the Braves will score more runs and have a stronger rotation, but they’re an injury or a subpar year away from needing relief for the back-end of their bullpen. On the other hand, the Phils have the pitching to keep them in most games if Kendrick and Saunders can boost run production with solid at-bats. The Phillies won’t have to rely on homers to plate runs when doubles can drive men in and again raise the volume at the Bank. On February 24, however, what will be the best two words you haven’t heard in a long time? Play ball!

Neshek Is a Setup Man Who Can Also Close. Photo by Troy Taormina - USA TODAY Sports.

Neshek Is a Setup Man Who Can Also Close. Photo by Troy Taormina – USA TODAY Sports.

The Numerical Bible:

This review is not a sabermetrics article, which means no heavy statistical analysis. But because some readers rely on stats, this is only a reference: no reason to articulate the importance of these numbers.

* Two relief appearances. ** One relief outing.

Starters:

  • **Colon, 43.5: 34 Gms., 191 2/3 Inn., 15-8, a 3.43 ERA, a 3.99 FIP, a 4.17 xFIP, a 4.37 SIERA, a 2.9 fWAR and a 1.21 WHIP.
  • **Dickey, 42: 30 Gms., 169 2/3 Inn.,10-15, a 4.46 ERA, a 5.03 FIP, a 4.76 xFIP, a 4.81 SIERA, a 1.0 fWAR and a 1.37 WHIP.
  • *Garcia, 30.5: 37 Gms., 171 2/3 Inn., 10-13, a 4.67 ERA, a 4.49 FIP, a 3.77 xFIP, a 3.93 SIERA, a 1.2 fWAR and a 1.37 WHIP.
  • Buchholz, 32.5: 37 Gms., 21 Starts, 139 1/3 Inn., 8-10, a 4.78 ERA, a 5.06 FIP, a 5.32 xFIP, a 5.09 SIERA, a 0.5 fWAR and a 1.33 WHIP.

Relievers:

  • Johnson, 33.5: 65 Gms., 64 2/3 Inn., a 3.06 ERA, 20 Saves, 8 Holds 2 BS (and 1 Blown Hold), a 2.71 FIP, a 3.11 xFIP, a 3.03 SIERA, a 1.4 fWAR and a 1.19 WHIP.
  • Vizcaino, 26: 43 Gms., 38 2/3 Inn., a 4.42 ERA, 10 Saves, 2 BS (and 2 Blown Holds), a 3.66 FIP, a 3.99 xFIP, a 3.92 SIERA, a 0.3 fWAR and a 1.63 WHIP.
  • Benoit, 39.5: 51 Gms., 48 Inn., a 2.81 ERA, 1 Save, 18 Holds, a 3.90 FIP, a 4.24 xFIP, a 3.91 SIERA, a 0.5 fWAR and a 1.27 WHIP.
  • Neshek, 36.5: 60 Gms., 47 Inn., a 3.06 ERA, 18 Holds, a 3.68 FIP, a 4.07 xFIP, a 3.57 SIERA, a 0.5 fWAR and a 0.94 WHIP.
  • Neris, 27.5: 79 Gms., 80 1/3 Inn., a 2.58 ERA, 2 Saves, 28 Holds, a 3.30 FIP, a 3.17 xFIP, a 2.95 SIERA, a 1.2 fWAR and a 1.11 WHIP.

Hitters:

  • Kemp, 32.5: 156 Gms., 672 PA, a .268 Avg., a .304 OBP, a .499 SLG, a .231 ISO, a .297 BABIP, 35 HR, 108 RBI, an .803 OPS and a 0.4 fWAR.
  • Kendrick, 33.5: 146 Gms., 543 PA, a .255 Avg., a .326 OBP, a .366 SLG, a .111 ISO, a .301 BABIP, 8 HR, 40 RBI, a .691 OPS, a 0.9 fWAR, 10 SB, 2 CS and a 4.8 Spd.
  • Saunders, 30: 140 Gms., 558 PA, a .253 Avg., a .338 OBP, a .478 SLG, a .224 ISO, a .321 BABIP, 24 HR, 57 RBI, an .815 OPS and a 1.4 fWAR.

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