So I've invited Liz back to talk about the Phillies again as they prepare to face the Cubs this weekend. They have a better record than you might have expected. But Liz says... well, I'll just let her tell you herself.
Hello, BCB readers. I’m back to talk about the Phillies again, only this time, things are different. These aren’t the same Phillies you split a four-game series with last September. And they’re even more different than the Phillies who swept and no-hit you last July.
You understand why I had to mention that, right? I just had to. I can’t not.
Now that it’s out of the way and I’ve also linked to the video right here, and aren’t I great for not embedding it, we can get to the Phillies you’ll be beating this weekend. Because the Phillies may be different, but that doesn’t mean they’re better.
They are better, at least a little bit, than they were in 2015. But the leap that the Cubs took between last season and this season is a regular human step to the Phillies’ dainty doll step. Imagine you take a regular step forward. And now imagine a G.I. Joe toy taking a step forward next to you. That’s the difference. The Phillies will get there, but they certainly won’t get there by this weekend.
So let’s get down to it. Who will the Cubs be facing on the mound? First up on Friday is Adam Morgan, who didn’t so much lose the fifth starter job out of spring training as just not get picked for it. He and Charlie Morton were neck and neck, but with Morton out for the rest of the season, it’s Morgan’s time to shine. He’s had two good starts, two really bad starts, and a mediocre start, so flip a coin and you might be able to guess how he’ll do. When he’s good, it feels like it could fall apart at any time. But that’s the joy(?) of fifth starters.
On Saturday, the Cubs will get Jerad Eickhoff. Eickhoff hasn’t pitched badly, but he hasn’t quite found his groove yet. What a great place for a pitcher to be in as he faces the Cubs! *cries*
Sunday, you'll see Vince Velasquez. He has flashes of brilliance, loves to pitch aggressively, and he’s so much fun to watch on the mound. I can’t wait until Vinny pitches to Kris Bryant. And since the inverse of “flashes of brilliance” is “moments of badness,” you should be excited, too. I feel like it’s either going to go really well, or really badly. But at least one of us will be happy!
Who should Cubs pitchers watch out for? He has one name, and it’s Odubel. Well, he doesn’t just have one name. He has two names, like a regular person. Center fielder Odubel Herrera is without a doubt the best player the Phillies have right now. He spent all of April walking, and he’s spent most of May hitting. His triple slash is .327/.440/.461, and he will get you. Take him seriously, because he is good.
Less fearsome than Odubel are newcomers Tommy Joseph and 2016 Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel. After 26 plate appearances and a .160 average in April, Goeddel has been finally been given a chance to start regularly and he’s rewarded the Phillies by hitting .311 in May. Tommy Joseph was tearing up the International League, and after Darin Ruf sucked one too many times, the Phillies couldn’t ignore Joseph anymore and they brought him up. He’s started just five games and has 30 total plate appearances, but he’s hitting .296 with two homers. He’s a first baseman, and I’m going to guess he’ll be starting regularly by the time the Phillies make it to Chicago. And I can’t forget Cameron Rupp, who has started over Carlos Ruiz lately and has pretty much taken over the title of primary catcher. Rupp has hit over .300 in May, and even after a collision at the plate, he hasn’t slowed down.
And then… and then there’s everybody else. There are a few people on the “meh” side of mediocre, and a few people who unforgivably suck. Starting with meh, we’ve got second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who is surprising only those without a brain by not hitting .280-.300. He’s hitting a pretty empty .247, and he keeps grounding into double plays with guys on base, so I hate him. Freddy Galvis is hitting .246, but avoids actively hurting the team like Cesar Hernandez does. Maikel Franco, when thrown the right pitch, will almost literally bash it to kingdom come, but he’s still struggling to figure out which pitches are the right ones.
And now for the guys who if I could, I would replace with the inflatable noodle men you see outside of car dealerships. Ryan Howard has to top this list. It hurts, but he’s earned it. His average has been under .200 more days than it’s been above. He has a .105 average in May, which is just six hits. Six! Watching him bat is not even torturous, it’s just aggressively sad. And then there’s Peter Bourjos, who has started the vast, vast majority of games this year despite sucking like a vacuum with a .203 average. Manager Pete Mackanin has said that Bourjos starts because of his defense, but he’s actually not very good at that either, and honestly wouldn’t two inflatable noodle men be more entertaining?
Finally, the bullpen. You might remember at the beginning of the season that the Phillies bullpen was very bad. That is a thing of the past. They no longer have Ken Giles, but Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, and David Hernandez are all allowing less than a hit per inning, and two of the three of them are averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Hah, I was about to say “If the Cubs are somehow trailing and they face any combination of those guys, don’t count on scoring” but seriously, there’s nothing the Cubs can’t bash their way out of.
Please be gentle with the Phillies. Please. Please please please.
The only former Cub on the Phillies' 25-man (or 40-man, for that matter) roster is Andres Blanco, who was a backup infielder for the Cubs in 2009. Blanco has appeared in nine major-league seasons while playing in 100 or more games only once.
Friday: Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 3.46 FIP) vs. Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA, 1.403 WHIP, 4.08 FIP)
Saturday: Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 3.30 ERA, 1.058 WHIP, 2.89 FIP) vs. Jerad Eickhoff (2-6, 3.86 ERA, 1.193 WHIP, 3.83 FIP)
Sunday: John Lackey (4-2, 3.38 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, 3.13 FIP) vs. Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, 3.26 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago
Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago
Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN
The Phillies are playing six games better than their Pythagorean projection. This is not sustainable. Most of that is because of an insanely good 14-4 record in one-run games, which is probably also not sustainable. They have a -31 run differential and have been saved from having the title "lowest-scoring team in the major leagues" only by the awful Braves. The Cubs appear to have righted the ship after a rough week. They'll take two of three.
The Los Angeles Dodgers come to Wrigley Field for a four-game series that begins Monday.