October 1, 2014

Phillies’ 5th Starter Tracker

5th-starter

Been awhile since the last update here, but it still looks like a 2-man race between Chan Ho Park and J.A. Happ. I’m keeping Happ in the lead for now (only because Park has more experience in the bullpen), but Park has looked really good this spring and has been helped out by his new Jamie Moyer inspired change-up. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that with Cole Hamels arm troubles (I thought if I mentioned my concerns on the blog enough, it wouldn’t actually happen. No go on reverse psychology) both Happ and Park could end up in the rotation to start the season and whoever pitches better will remain when Hamels returns. 

I put Carlos Carrasco ahead of Kyle Kendrick because I’ve never seen a 20.48 H/9 rate by any pitcher at any level. And that’s not even including his poor start against team USA. Phillies.com had a good article on Carrasco’s development (and some friendly advice he got from Albert Pujols) here. It’s clear Carrasco needs to develop some confidence and that bringing him up too early could cause irreversible damage. 

5th-starter4

 

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Comments

  1. Adam says:

    Great quote from Jimmy that he wrote on the clubhouse mirror late in the season.  He made it up himself.  I think it makes sense, though that may be open to debate.

    “A talented team will lose to a determined team nine out of 10 times, because a determined team isn’t going to give up. But a talented team with determination is what champions are made of.”  – Jimmy Rollins

  2. Pete says:

    yeah, that was a great article. It’s pretty clear Stark sees Rollins as the undisputed leader of the team. 

  3. bski says:

    I know he wasn’t in the running for the 5th spot, but I must proclaim this from the rooftops:  THE PHILLIES CUT ADAM EATON!  THE PHILLIES CUT ADAM EATON!  THE PHILLIES CUT ADAM EATON!

    They did the right thing.  They admitted their mistake, swallowed hard, ate his salary, and moved on.  That’s what a championship caliber ballclub does.  They earn respect, at least from me, for being open and honest and for doing what’s in the best interest of the ballclub, regardless of the financial consequences.  No doubt about it, they are no longer cheap.

  4. Zack says:

    bski, did you see Eaton signed with the O’s?  I think it’s just the right place for him, a situation where there are no expectations, no pressure, and no spotlight.  I think he’ll do OK there.  I bet a smirk slowly came across Pat Burrell’s face when he read about that signing, “That’s a couple of homers right there…”

    But we face Baltimore this year – watch that sonofagun beat us in one of those “…and then you twist the knife real slow…” games.

  5. Drolz says:

    Just for the sake of an interesting debate:
    How do you think a rotation of Hamels and the four guys competing for the last spot would do? How would Hamels, Happ, Kendrick, Park, and Carrasco compare to Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Blanton, and whoever? Would it be close, or a significant drop-off?  
    I know, the four finalists for the five spot are mostly potential and what ifs. At the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me if two or three of these guys wind up contributing one way or the other if injury (or age, in Moyer’s case) catch up with the established starters. Nice to have depth, isn’t it?

  6. bski says:

    Zack…I will be at the Sunday 6/21 game against the Orioles.  I can only hope that Eaton gets the start and we light him up.

  7. bski says:

    Drolz…That’s an interesting thing to think about.  At first glance it seems like a no-brainer that our incumbent starters would do much better for us.  I mean, they all have more experience and more of a track record to go on so it’s easier to estimate what we will get from them.  Although you never know, do you?

    If we were the Marlins we’d probably be finding out what what those other guys can do but, like I always say, the Marlins do it out of necessity, not because they think it gives them the best shot at winning a championship. 

    I’d much rather be us.  I love the depth; the fact that nobody will be rushed along; that whoever wins the 5th spot will have done through competition; that we have a few other options if someone isn’t getting the job done.

  8. Pete says:

    Drolz-

    Great question, because it’s one we would be asking of this team almost every year in the late 90s, early 00s.

    I think we would finish 3rd in the division with that rotation. Happ would probably pitch well, and Park would be so-so. But I could see Carrasco going through some growing pains, and Kendrick getting hit around like last season.

  9. wilson says:

    Zack, your comment about Eaton beating the Phils this season reminded me of the Phils game last year against the Blue Jays where Rod Barajas smashed a HR to take the lead and win the game.

  10. bski says:

    After yesterday, Kendrick is already in the doghouse.  Looks like Dubee isn’t viewing him as the front runner for the 5th spot anymore.

  11. Wilson says:

    bski,  You’re right about Kendrick.  I read about Dubee ripping Kyle K.  Also, it sounds like JA Happ pitched very well today against the Tigers.

    From the AP coverage of today’s game:

    “Happ allowed two hits and struck out seven of the 11 hitters he faced. The 26-year-old is one of four Philadelphia pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring.

    “This game is so much about confidence,” said Happ, who has a 2.25 ERA in three Grapefruit League games. “When you start to feel good and you’re making pitches where you’re aiming and things are going well, that’s kind of the way it (goes). I just tried to build momentum.” ”

    Right now Happ has the confidence and Kendrick clearly does not.  

  12. bski says:

    Yeah Wilson, it sure seems like Dubee has reached the end of his rope with Kendrick.  Not only did he rip KK after his last start, he also interrupted Charlie Manuel’s postgame inteview with reporters to do it out in the open.  Dubee is obviously really steamed.

    It’s interesting because I’ve heard others comment that Dubee isn’t a good pitching coach, but I wonder how much of it is him (or any other coach for that matter) and how much is the player.

    To me, it appears that what is really ticking Dubee off about Kendrick is that Dubee told him at the end of last season that he needs to develop his changeup.  Now here we are in spring training and Kendrick only throws a couple, only one of which was for a strike–as noted by Dubee in the aforementioned interruption of the session with the press.  It seems obvious to me that Dubee is fed up with trying to work behind the scenes and get through to Kendrick only to have Kendrick do what he wants.

    There was a similar occurence last year.  Brett Myers’ fastball lost a few mph.  I remember reading quotes from Dubee saying that he talked to Myers over and over about a long toss program, but Myers doesn’t like to long toss.  As we know, Myers went to the minors to get straightened out, but maybe it would never have come to that if he had listened to Dubee earlier last season, or in previous seasons for that matter.

    I think, in a lot of cases, guys just do what they do and, even in the face of poor results, disregard the coaches.  Then the coaches take the wrap for being lousy at their jobs.

  13. Pete says:

    not sure if anyone is watching the WBC, but Rollins looks absolutely locked-in. too bad Pedroia keeps screwing it up. 

  14. Pete says:

    bski-

    on your point. i know for a fact that Vincente Padilla never listened to a single word of advice from a Phillies pitching coach. 
  15. bski says:

    Thanks for the backup, Pete.  I think we all know that it goes on a lot in all sports without actually knowing definitively, you know?

    I really can’t understand it.  I mean, I can understand not wanting to change your routine, but when your routine isn’t delivering results why insist on sticking with it?

    For example, my son will get exasperated with me, and blow off my advice, when I try to help him with his free throw shooting.  I always tell him the same thing.  I’ll say that if he were making 90% of his free throws I wouldn’t say a word to him, even if he were bouncing the ball off his forehead.  I continue by saying that since he is not making 90% of his free throws, it doesn’t make sense to continue doing what he has always done.  Why not try doing something different?  It might actually help.

    I would guess that coaches like Phil Jackson, Popovich, Sloan, Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, or Dave Duncan (getting back to pitching coaches) have earned more credibility and would have an easier time getting players to accept their input, advice, and changes in training, etc….
    It just bugs me that many players are that unreceptive and then the coach takes the wrap for not being able to get more out of them.

    I guess the ultimate weapon for any coach, especially for dealing with unresponsive players, is the bench (or the minors, or trading him away so he can be someone else’s headache)

    Brett Myers disregards Rich Dubee….Brett Myers’ performance declines…..Brett Myers goes to the minors……Brett Myers decides he needs to get his act together…..Brett Myers listens to his coaches…….Brett Myers makes some changes…..Brett Myers’ performance improves……Brett Myers returns to the majors, hopefully learns a valuable lesson, and becomes a much more coachable player.

  16. jkay says:

    Pete: same thought bout Rollins. saw the boring game. Oswalt would sure look good in Pinstripes. between Utley and Rollins, who would you pick?

  17. Pete says:

    jkay-

    i thought the game was pretty good! lots of runs!
    Utley and Rollins would be a tougher choice than I thought. While Utley is the obvious choice because of his superior hitting, Rollins plays gold glove D at one of the most important positions in the game AND is one of the best baserunners in baseball. 
    I’d still take Utley. Would take Rollins only if he improved upon his OBP. 
  18. jkay says:

    Pete: lots of runs but not much competition or fire from anyone except DeRosa and Rollins, after the downpour in the 6th or so, it was done. everyone keeps saying Utley, throwing away stats, I would take Rollins. his OBP always suffers cos he plays the leadoff position so unconventionally. he fits our club so well. can’t wait for April. heck i’m gonna buy a new radio so I won’t miss it at work.
    Go Phils!

  19. Pete says:

    bski-

    to continue the “how can you tell if a pitching coach is any good” discussion…
    My first thought when Dubee said he thought Kendrick was the front-runner for the 5th starter spot was: “Is he an idiot? It’s pretty plain to see that Kendrick does not have the stuff to be a good starter in this league. He must know something I don’t.”
    Judging from his last 2 starts, he didn’t know something I don’t. Not sure how something so obvious to me could be so not-obvious to him. That’s a little disconcerting. 
    just a small thought. 
  20. Chris says:

    Pete,

    Dubee may have been trying to pump up Kendrick’s confidence prior to Spring Training in order to attempt to boost his performance. It seemed that a large part of Kendrick’s problems last year were based in the confidence department. Hopefully Dubee was trying to solve this problem and not severly misreading Kendricks ability.

  21. bski says:

    Pete,

    I’m thinking along the same lines as Chris.  I said as much a couple weeks ago when Dubee first made his statements about seeing Kendrick as the front runner for the 5th spot.

    I think a key here is that Dubee made his statements before Kendrick took the mound for any exhibition games.  This is why I thought, actually hoped and prayed, that Dubee was only trying to buoy Kendrick’s confidence rather than actually believing that Kendrick should be the guy.

    Since Kendrick has been pitching, Dubee has been hammering him, so I’d like to believe that this was indeed the case.

  22. bski says:

    With another good outing, Happ moves ever closer to the 5th spot.

  23. bski says:

    Well, Park continues to give Happ a run for the 5th spot with another good outing.  I guess the major concern with Park is whether or not he can get stretched out enough so he could be counted on to go 7 innings consistently.  A second factor is his injury history, along with the thought that asking him to give us 7 innings every 5th day could result in adding to that injury history.

    What’s a little scary is that we could end up seeing both Happ and Park in the rotation depending on what exactly is going on with Hamels’ left elbow.  From Andy Martino at the Inky:

    Cole Hamels will leave Clearwater tonight for the Philadelphia area to have his left elbow examined tomorrow by team doctor Michael Ciccotti. Amaro said that Hamels’ had complained of “a little bit of a persistent soreness” in the elbow. “We thought it was important at this time for Dr. Ciccotti to check it out,” Amaro said, while downplaying his concern.

    “He was (fine),” Amaro said this morning. “But he’s still got a little bit of soreness in there. We don’t feel that it’s serious, but again, I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t look inside his elbow. We just want to be cautious, and we thought it was important that he sees our doctor in Philly.”

    Amaro said that Hamels does not feel pain when he throws. “(The elbow) starts to get tight in between innings. It’s more of a tightness than anything else… I don’t believe he feels it when he throws.”

    UPDATE (10:01 AM): At about 9:45 AM, the Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury saw Hamels long tossing at a distance of about 125 feet in the outfield at Bright House.  The lefty is currently taking PFP  (pitchers’ fielding practice) with the team, fielding choppers on a back field.  That tells us that the team feels okay about having him on the field and throwing a baseball, at least.
    UPDATE 11AM:  Hamels just addressed the media. Like Amaro, he downplayed the level of concern.  “It’s not a big deal,” Hamels said, explaining that he was experiencing “inflammation” just below his left elbow.  “It’s something I don’t want to have to deal with through the season…I have it every spring training, but normally it lasts about a week to two weeks.”  Because the issue hung around longer than usual, Hamels said, “that’s when the flashing lights go off.”
    Hamels and team officials had been monitoring the situation for weeks, and decided this morning that a check-up would be wise. He still expects to start opening day.
    This is unsettling to say the least.  I hope it’s very minor and very temporary.  It could make our title defense more difficult but it would be better than the alternative, which would involve us discussing whether winning a championship was worth damaging (or possibly cutting short or even ending) what remains of Hamels’ career and our future prospects along with it.  I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I can’t stop those thoughts from creeping in, you know?


  24. bski says:

    Kendrick was sent down to AAA today.  “I know what I need to do to get back here,” he said.

    I’m sure Carrasco will be joining him shortly, so in the very near future it will officially become the two man race between Happ and Park that we all knew it was these last couple weeks.

  25. Zack says:

    bski, what do you base this on:

    “discussing whether winning a championship was worth damaging (or possibly cutting short or even ending) what remains of Hamels’ career and our future prospects along with it”

    I read this interview with the guy who founded STATS, Inc., and here’s a tidbit about Chase Utley you might like:

    “Based on that data we then look at, for example, how often every shortstop in baseball gets to a softly hit batted ball that’s 15 feet to his left. The data shows that shortstops get to a batted ball that’s softly hit 15 feet to their left 26 percent of the time. So, if a player makes that play, it’s a good play and we give him a score of +.74 for the play: 1 minus .26. If he doesn’t make that play, he gets a -.26. Over the course of a season we add up all the plusses and minuses for a player. This is his plus/minus number. Any total above zero is above average, below zero is below average, and anything near zero is average. A +10 for the season is good, while the best players might get to +30 or +40. Chase Utley of the World Champion Phillies is known for his offense, but he was also tremendous defensively as well, posting a +47 at second base in 2008.”

    I try to read stuff about the new-ish baseball stats, but a lot of it is just flat-out unreadable; I thought the above was well-articulated.  And I still love reading (or hearing) some combination of the words “World Champion” and “Phillies”.

  26. bski says:

    Zack….That’s a good find about Utley.

    Regarding Hamels, I wrote that comment last Monday when the news of Hamels flying back to Philly for an examination was fresh and we had no idea how serious of an issue we’d be looking at.  It was based on the fact that Hamels increased his workload by 71 innings from 2007 to 2008 which puts him at high risk for an injury this year, as per the Verducci thing where he singles out pitchers under 25 who have increased their workload by more than 30 innings from the previous season and then keeps track of who ends up getting injured the following season.  It really is solidly predictive, as somewhere around 75% of these guys do in fact have injury problems the following year.

    Anyway, all I was saying was that IF it turned out that Hamels was injured already and/or IF he has injury problems this season and beyond, we could find ourselves debating whether or not the long-term damage to Hamels was worth a championship.  I read about Hamels’ elbow trouble and my mind got ahead of the situation a bit, that’s all.

  27. Zack says:

    bski, that’s informative regarding the pitcher injuries, but do you have some link to that info?  Would you consider what Hamels did last year a real heavy workload?  It sure as heck didn’t seem like it.  Isn’t last year what we expected from Hamels?  As you can see, I have some questions:

    How many innings is considered a lot?
    If he needed a break, how long would he need?
    How many pitchers recover from this Verducci effect?
    At what age is it okay to increase the inning workload by more than 30 innings?

  28. bski says:

    BTW, Jason Donald was sent down this afternoon.  Kind of saw this coming too.  With the way Utley and Feliz are progressing it certainly looks like they will both be ready for full-time duties on opening day, which would mean Donald would not be getting enough PT in the bigs.  So the Phils will keep a veteran on the bench, Donald will play every day in AAA, and, hopefully, be ready for the starting 3B job in 2010.

  29. bski says:

    Zack…..Pete has a link to the Verducci stuff and here is a mention of it in an article from last week by Jim Salisbury.

    The analogy with running is a very good one.  I run and I can tell you that you need to increase your training gradually.  The general recommendation is that you do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% from one week to the next. 

    I believe that the percentage increase more important than the straight number.  I don’t know that 10% would be the correct percentage for pitching, but I don’t think it’s too far off.  Take Hamels for example.  He threw 183 1/3 regular season innings and 6 2/3 playoff innings in 2007 for a total of 190.  Well, 10% of that would be 19 innings which is below the danger zone.  As it stands, Hamels has had a 58 inning increase from 2006 to 2007 and a 71 inning increase from 2007 to 2008.  That scares me.

    The other thing is that us winning the championship meant that Hamels pitched an extra month and as a result ended up with one less month to recover.  Rest is a very important component in training, probably more important than the workouts you do to gain strength and stamina.  Rest is where your body builds itself back up after the stress of a workout.  Too many people get caught up in the “more is better” mentality.  If 6 miles is good, then 10 miles is better.  If lifting every other day is good, then lifting every day is better.  If training once a day is good, then training twice a day is better.  Many people keep pushing and pushing and end up breaking down.  In essence, it’s your body’s way of  forcing you, through an injury that shuts you down,  to get the rest that you will not take on your own.

    I don’t know if it’s ever a good idea to increase your workload by a lot.  When you’re young, you can cause a lot of damage to a still-maturing body and when you get older, like myself,  you can cause a lot more damage to a body in decline.  Gradual increases (yielding  gradual stresses that the body has a better chance of withstanding) really is the way to go.  That way you can build strength and stamina while suffering a lot less injury, pain, and suffering.

  30. Zack says:

    bski, I can sort of relate – I like to get into running when the weather starts to get nice, and I usually go at it full bore after the long fall and winter layoff.  For the first time ever, last year, I suffered a minor stress fracture my first day out (I had no idea what it was, I thought something was up with one of my muscles, and I tried to massage it out and kept trying to run on it – luckily, one of my co-workers was a former tennis player and he helped identify it for me; it made me feel so damn old – Zack does not get stress fractures, you know what I mean?).

    I liked the Salisbury piece, he does a good job of scaring the crap out of you.  I started imagining Hamels throwing the first pitch in that Atlanta game, and then immediately grabbing that elbow and rubbing it a little, followed by everyone in Citizens Bank Park turning catatonic all at the same time.

    Anyway, I think the answer is obvious – let him rest another month to make up for the postseason work.  It’s not like they come out like gangbusters every April anyway…

    One last thing – are you part of some sort of baseball fantasy league?  I think I’d be up for that.  I was thinking of using Pete’s MLB previews as some sort of guide for picking players.

  31. bski says:

    After reading my last post, I got to thinking that somebody out there might come away with the idea that I’m all for protecting/coddling/ babying today’s pitchers and as a result that I am ok with seeing fewer and fewer pitchers consistently throw 200+ innings.  That is absolutely false. 

    Actually, the exact opposite is true.  It drives me nuts that guys are throwing fewer and fewer innings because it can be done.  I think the problem is that it is not approached the correct way. 

    I find it curious that the standard approach throughout all of baseball is to “protect” players on one hand by limiting them to 100 pitches per start while simultaneously disregarding (or at least not taking into great enough account) the number of innings they throw from one season to the next.  It makes no sense.

    I think that allowing a large increase in the workload (innings pitched) of one top pitching  prospect after another ends up being counterproductive in the long run.  These guys end up with more injuries which results in a rebound effect of increased protectionism on the part of the ballclubs.

    I really believe that if everyone followed the gradual approach with regard to increasing innings pitched from one year to the next (140, 160, 180, 200, etc…) from the day these kids arrive in the minors, we would actually have more pitchers throwing 200+ innings, their yearly totals would be higher (230 innings vs 205), and they would be able to do it more consistently as a result of being healthier (or breaking down less).

    I realize there are many factors—–money (both because of what the top minor league prospects are signed for as well as the big paydays at the major league level), the number of years an organization holds a player’s exclusive rights, etc…——that conspire to push things in the opposite direction,  that of acceleration.  Because of this, the accepted approach may never be as gradual as necessary.

    Again, I find the running analogy to be very appropriate.  Pitching is an endurance activity that requires strength and stamina just like running does, and with regard to running, I know whereof I speak.  All I know is that if I can run marathons, there is no reason that these highly trained athletes can’t consistently throw 200+ innings and remain healthy.  They just need to go about it more intelligently (and gradually).

  32. bski says:

    Zack….I’m not in any fantasy baseball leagues, nor have I ever been.  I don’t know that I have the time to commit to it.  I was in the inaugural ReclinerGM fantasy basketball league on espn.com this season and that was a lot for me to handle. 

    I don’t have the time to keep on top of it the way I would like to.  I’d miss out on picking up players or I’d start guys who were out of their team’s lineup due to illness or something because I was unable to check in and get the latest info.  Baseball seems like it would be a lot more involved than basketball, so I don’t know that I’d do all that well with it.  Then I’d be ticked that my team was doing lousy.

  33. bski says:

    Well we can still talk about this, as there are several things going on.

    Reading this,  Ruben Amaro Jr. said righthander Carlos Carrasco is still technically competing for the fifth spot in the rotation. “But more than anything else, I think this is a great learning experience for him,” he added.,  confirms what we already knew about Carrasco’s chances and that it really has been a two-man competition for a while now.

    Regarding that two-man competition, Park pitched well again yesterday, and I’m really starting to wonder if he might get the nod over Happ.  Reading stuff like this,  Amaro said he couldn’t rule out Happ in the bullpen, especially since the Phillies used him in that role in the postseason last year. He also pointed out that the situation is “fluid” and that the roles Park and Happ have when the season opens isn’t necessarily the one they’ll have all year., kind of concerns me.  If anyone is going to be moved back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, I’d  prefer it to be Park.  If Happ does not get the 5th spot, I would rather see him go to AAA, remain a starter, and be ready to step into our rotation when needed.

    One last thing.  Recently demoted Kyle Kendrick has surfaced in a Ken Rosenthal rumor:

    “The Rockies often are criticized by rival executives for asking too much for their players in trades, but they figure to make a move with with utility man Jeff Baker, who is out of minor-league options and drawing interest from the Phillies, Astros and Pirates.
    One possible target for the Rox: Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick, who was demoted to Class AAA on Monday. Kendrick, for all his faults, has won 21 games the past two seasons — as many as Rockies lefty Jeff Francis, who was hampered last season by shoulder trouble and recently underwent surgery.
    Baker, who plays first, second, third and the outfield corners, would fill the Phillies’ need for a right-handed bat off the bench. The problem for the Phillies is that they would not have an available roster spot unless they traded one of their left-handed hitting reserves, Geoff Jenkins or Matt Stairs.”
    It certainly would seem that the Phils are not all that confidant that Kendrick will be able to add the necesary pitch(es) to make him an effective big league pitcher, as per Dubee’s pleas, admonitions, heart-to-heart talks, etc….

  34. bski says:

    Correction…..”It certainly would seem that the Phils are not all that confident“……I’m sure Amaro has confidants in the front office with whom he can discuss matters such as this.

  35. jjg says:

    bski, Not so confidentially, I wonder if they are confident confidants in whom he can confide with confidence. 

  36. bski says:

    jjg…Confident confidants are compulsory, complimentary council components central to constructing, cultivating, and conducting championship caliber clubs.

    On deck, the letter D?