As I have done for many recent series, I asked Liz Roscher, who's listed on the masthead of SB Nation's Phillies site The Good Phight as "Supreme Blog Lord," to write me 300 or 400 words about her team.
She got carried away and sent me over 850 words. As she told me by email, "Apparently I can't stop myself from writing about them even when they're putrid."
Here's her thoughts on the last-place Phillies.
The Phillies. You've heard the rumors about their legendary badness. You've read a few pieces. You may have even watched a video clip or two. But until you watch a full game (or two or three), it's tough to fully comprehend their putridness. (Is that a word? Well, now it is.) But now, BCB readers, you'll get to have this experience for yourselves. BEHOLD THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE 2015 PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES EXPERIENCE!
I may be exaggerating a little bit, but not a lot. And as Cubs fans, this kind of team should feel very familiar to you. You know it well! I almost think we should be asking you all for advice, but A) the Phillies have their own storied history of sucking, and B) I don't want to bring you down when there are so many amazing, incredible things happening with your team. I'm so jealous. How do people not follow Kris Bryant around all day and just stare at him? Is there a Kris Bryant fan club I can join? Or Anthony Rizzo?
The 2015 Phillies look a lot different than other Phillies teams you've seen in recent memory. While there are still a few veterans left, many have been traded, injured, or are just not playing much anymore. Jimmy Rollins was traded to the Dodgers in the offseason. Chase Utley was absolutely awful until he went on the DL, where he still resides. Carlos Ruiz fell off sharply this year both as a hitter and a catcher, and has surrendered the starting job to a younger player. Ryan Howard is still around and playing nearly every day, because it's always been that way and it will always be that way. Ryan Howard is eternal. He is the Highlander.
Replacing the old guys are players who are, surprisingly, younger! Younger doesn't automatically mean "good", and it doesn't even mean "young" necessarily, but it's a step in the right direction. Picking up Rollins' mantle is 25-year-old Freddy Galvis, who has a lot of glove but not a lot of bat. He hit .355/.395/.434 in the month of April, and since then he's hit .245/.287/.322. Yeah. Cesar Hernandez, also 25, is filling in for the injured Utley, and his solid performance may allow him to continue there even after Utley is activated. Hernandez is another player who was given a gift by the BABIP gods and isn't nearly as good as he seems. Cody Asche (another 25 year old) was moved from third base to the outfield to make room for Maikel Franco (more on him in a moment), and he's continued to be soundly "MEH" on defense and streaky on offense. Cameron Rupp is 26 and has pretty much taken over as starting catcher for Ruiz, but his offense has been lacking. Speaking of lacking offense, Domonic Brown is still hanging around, sharing playing time with Jeff Francoeur. That should tell you everything you need to know.
As far as actual bright spots, Ben Revere and former top prospect Franco provide those. Revere has been flitting between center and right field, continuing to make a ton of contact and rarely striking out. Franco was called up earlier this season, and was the reason Asche had to be moved to the outfield from third base. Franco's not a fast runner, but he's better on defense than he looks, and his hot streak last month gave fans a taste of what he could do. He's still making adjustments and getting better, but the best thing about the Phillies being awful is that no one is pressuring him to produce and he can take this at his own pace.
The Cubs will hit the Phillies rotation at the best possible time (for the Phillies), as both Cole Hamels and recent call-up Aaron Nola will get starts. Don't be fooled by Hamels' last two starts. He is not a bad pitcher. He's very good, and I'm looking forward to getting the vapors and collapsing upon my fainting couch when he and Bryant face each other. That's a whole lotta handsome. Nola was the Phils first round draft pick in 2014, a true prospect, and he made his major league debut against the Rays on Tuesday night. He took the 1-0 loss, which should really be hung around the necks of the offense as Nola was exceedingly impressive in his very first start. He's young and talented, a legitimate bright spot in this crap fest of a year, and a reason for Phillies fans to be hopeful for the future.
The Phillies you'll see this weekend are bad, and they'll probably suck. But they're a team in flux. Many of the players on the team now won't be part of the next great Phillies team, and a few pieces of that brighter future have started to arrive. So let's make a deal: the Cubs beat the Phillies this weekend, bringing the Phils closer to the number one overall draft pick in 2016, and bringing the Cubs closer to overtaking the Pirates, and maybe even the Cardinals. Because if we can all agree on one thing, it's that the Cardinals are evil and must be stopped at all costs.
Friday: Jon Lester (5-8, 3.37 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, 3.06 FIP) vs. Jerome Williams (3-7, 6.43 ERA, 1.700 WHIP, 5.48 FIP)
Saturday: Jake Arrieta (11-5, 2.52 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, 2.53 FIP) vs. Cole Hamels (5-7, 3.91 ERA, 1.253 WHIP, 3.37 FIP)
Sunday: Jason Hammel (5-4, 2.82 ERA, 0.975 WHIP, 3.06 FIP) vs. Aaron Nola (0-1, 1.50 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 3.73 FIP)
I promised, I promised, I promised, no more sweep predictions. But if there's a series the Cubs could sweep, it's this one, even with Hamels and Nola (who many here thought the Cubs might have picked in last year's first round (I think they did a lot better with the guy they did pick, don't you?).
Jerome Williams. Not only did I think he had retired years ago, he's only 33. That means he was only 23 when the Cubs acquired him, more than 10 years ago, from the Giants for LaTroy Hawkins (who's also still active). Here is the boxscore for the last game Williams started for the Cubs, which should be a source of great amusement.
If Lester is on his game, the Cubs ought to win Friday's game; Arrieta has been amazing lately, so is a good match for Hamels, and Nola has promise, but this is just his second big-league start.
Like I said, I promised not to predict sweeps, but it's hard not to think the Cubs could do that.
The Colorado Rockies visit Wrigley Field for a three-game series which begins Monday night.