by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bottom line: He produces.
As maddeningly inconsistent and glaringly light with the eye-popping power displays in his first season with the Phillies as Bryce Harper may be thus far, there is no denying that.
Oh, some may try – pointing out his subpar batting average, a legit beef, or stating that teammate Rhys Hoskins shoulders most of the team’s offensive load, a laughable one. But the reality is, even with all the scuffling he has endured at the plate during much of the 2019 campaign’s first half, dipping as low as .219 after six weeks, as Harper enters his 99th game in Philly attire this evening in Pittsburgh, he has been one of Major League Baseball’s best run producers.
Forget your frustration with his sometimes ill-advised baserunning for a minute. Or your dislike for his celebratory sneers or your jealousy of his flowing hair. Or distaste for his mind-boggling, uber-long-term contract.
Here are the facts:
Not bad for a guy, well, struggling a bit in his initial season with a new team.
Thing is, this is not a career year for Harper, who is behind the pace of most averages for his first seven seasons. His MVP season of 2015, he hit 42 homers with a .330 batting average, .460 on-base percentage and .649 slugging percentage for a rather Ruthian 1.109 OPS.
But it is a career year for the likes of fellow big-namers Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Christian Yellich and Freddie Freeman. Yet, still, Harper’s production is within striking distance of all.
Thanks to his current 15-game surge (15 RBIs and 8 runs scored while going .351, .431, .596 and 1.027 on the averages), Harper has 109 runs produced (70 RBIs plus 56 runs scored, minus 17 homers).
Comparatively speaking, Freeman has 124 (76 + 73 – 25) and Yellich 113 (75 + 73 – 35) while Trout (75 + 75 – 30) and Bellinger (77 + 77 – 34) both have 120.
Pirates slugger Josh Bell (84 + 71 – 27) and Boston’s Rafael Devers (73 + 74 – 19) pace the majors at 128 apiece, with Devers’ teammate, Xander Bogaerts (74 + 74 – 21), bumping up from good to great status this season, at 127.
Anthony Rendon (116 runs produced), has picked up the pace in Harper’s absence in Washington, but, again, he’s having a career year, and Mets rookie Pete Alfonso (100) has been a revelation.
Harper, meanwhile, though starting to warm up, has yet to really go off, as he is prone to do at some point each season … and he’s already been producing at a high level by MLB 2019 standards.
For further perspective on that, consider Manny Machado.
The former Baltimore shortstop was the 1A to Harper’s 1 status in the most recent free-agent market and has had a solid start in San Diego. In fact, he’s shown more power than Harper, drilling 24 homers. But he trails Harper in runs produced, his 96 total 13 less than what the Phillies right fielder has posted.
Take note, Philly fans and media, Hoskins trails Harper by 18 … and that margin has been growing of late. Quickly.
So, pick him apart, if you like. Or simply enjoy watching him play.
Either way, bottom line: He produces.
LAST 15 GAMES
Beginning on June 31, Harper has:
TOP RUN PRODUCERS
RBIs plus runs scored, minus home runs, through July 19:
by Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
Yeah, they got some problems.
Now, two series into the 2018 Major League Baseball season, the Phillies are 1-4 and look every bit the part of that record.
They’re disjointed, disappointing and many among them are well on their way to being disgruntled if they’re not already.
They have no offense, so-so defense, a mediocre rotation and a brutal bullpen.
No doubt the new manager has not shown a midas touch with any of this. He, in fact, has proven to be a big part of the team’s problems, appearing overmatched, if not incompetent, in his first week writing out the lineups at this level.
Reality is, with so many in Philly frothing at the mouth at the idea Gabe Kapler gets soundly booed at Thursday’s home opener against Miami, the guilty culprits for both bringing Capt. Cocoa Butter to town and supplying him with an oddly conceived roster go largely unnoticed.
Matt Klentak, Andy MacPhail and their ilk deserve most of the, uh, "credit" here for …
3) Hiring Kapler
It’s early in the season, sure, but for thus of us who questioned the decision to bring in what appeared to be an all-show, no-substance talking head to run the club, it’s already too late. The presentation isn’t even all that slick. Kapler often can bumble along with his words, seeking whichever prepared response he has practiced fits, but he has a certain charm, an almost endearing quality, to him, not to mention a physique that would put most active pro athletes to shame, that helps his cause.
Ultimately, he may get torn to shreds – especially with his uber-reliance on analytics that won’t play well with the old-school crowd, or even his players. But he leaves you wanting to give him a chance, hoping he will change, even as he tells you he won’t.
The dude is who he is: a walking, talking statement to a trend whose own thoughts and beliefs likely have gotten lost in pursuit of the cause. He is an advertising campaign based around a character that he didn’t even necessarily create.
That overachieving slant most pitch about his bio? To a point, he was that guy. Low draft pick. But then he was one of the hottest major-league prospects around before becoming an all-show, no-substance player in the bigs.
Expect nothing more, or less, of him as a manager at the same level as he trots out one hollow statement of ownership in the Andy Reid vein after another.
2) Signing Carlos Santana
If ever a tribute to analytics and the movie “Moneyball” were made by an MLB front office, this was it. Sorry, the guy is a solid-field, middling-production first baseman – at best. Giving him the type of money worthy of front-line free agent and pushing prodigy Rhys Hoskins into the outfield for the foreseeable future to make room was nothing short of stupid.
Santana doesn’t make the team stronger. He weakens it at two spots – the one he plays, which would be far more valuable with Hoskins there, and left field, which has the makings of being an absolute disaster as Kapler plays musical chairs on who handles it. Not just in his starting lineup, but from inning to inning.
Ridiculous. It was a waste – AN ABSOLUTE WASTE – of money, and will, without question, play havoc to some degree with Hoskins’ development, not to mention that belonging to others in the outfield mix.
1) Trading Freddie Galvis
Hands down the dumbest decision of the organization in years. The Phillies are so hellbent to prove that they didn’t make a mistake with J.P. Crawford that they were willing to sacrifice sanity and the obvious for years to come. Regardless of what any of the purists think, Galvis was an other-worldly defensive shortstop who, frankly, was better than the brilliant Jimmy Rollins at the same position in the field.
He also produced runs. In the clutch. We’re not talking a guy who would have a high batting average or on-base percentage, but he came through so often the last few seasons when it mattered, and overall his offensive numbers, particularly in getting feet to touch the plate, weren’t far off from what Rollins did before him.
Crawford? The kid may be five years younger than Galvis, but he’s a serviceable defensive player at shortstop and we’ve seen enough at this point to realize that he’s never never going to hit at an acceptable level in the big. He just isn’t.
It was a disastrous move to get Galvis outta town, and the Phillies are going to pay for it each and every time Crawford steps to the plate with a chance to make a difference.
So, boo Kapler all you want. My ire is saved for those in higher places.
They screwed up. Bad.
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Feel for Phillies fans. Really do. Seriously.
Just one game into the 2018 season and already it appears to be “abandon ship” for many.
The object of ire: new manager Gabe Kapler.
The reason: too many kooky in-game moves and analytics-based nuances to keep track.
From pulling Aaron Nola after the right-hander had recorded an out in the sixth and tossed just 68 pitches to yanking left fielder Rhys Hoskins for defensive purposes in the eighth, Capt. Cocoa Butter had his hands all over the team’s 8-5 Opening Day loss in Atlanta.
It was tough to watch, tough to hear, tough to swallow as it seemed Kap almost systematically erased a 5-0 advantage and paved the way to the Braves’ offense coming alive with his misguided, “the bullpen is the strongest part of our team” beliefs.
No wonder so many were fed up with the guy by night’s end.
Just wish it took me that long to get there.
First pitch hadn’t even happened Thursday and Kap had lost me. Probably for good.
No Odubel Herrera or Scott Kingery in the starting lineup … are you kidding me?
OK, am out.
With no apologies to the baseball purists out there, Herrera is the team’s best player, and the one with the most tools to affect a game in the most ways – yes, even positively. His absence from the 1-9 listed on Kapler’s card handed to the home-plate ump was over-managing of the highest order … before a single pitch was even thrown.
Kingery? What the hell are the Phillies doing with locking the kid down to a long-term deal recently, bucking tradition, both their own and that belonging to the sport, making the rookie a linchpin for the organization for years to come, and then sitting him – with not even a pinch-hitting opportunity offered – once the lights hit the stage?
Holy mackerel. Enough with the over-thinking. Play your best guys. Get the season started off the right way. Guns blazing, ya know.
Not with some convoluted ode to being – gasp – different and authentic. Different, at times, ain’t necessary … and authentic? Hardly. Kapler came across like a teen trying to stand out from the crowd. Gee, how original.
Frankly, the in-game moves didn’t bother me so much. Albeit seeming to be unnecessary, ones such as those may pay off at some point during the next six months – at least Phillies fan can hope for that.
But, to me, the lineup and how it is ordered is everything. You get too cute and “clever” with that, you’re asking for trouble … and more of the same by Mr. Tan Line will burn the Phillies.
Not just this season, but possibly years down the road … with talents such as Herrera opting to leave and Kingery having his growth stunted.
by Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
Sadly, no opening day soliloquies here.
No waxing poetic about baseball games past.
No tugging at the heart strings with some proclamation of true love for the national pastime.
Sorry. Checked, but the cupboard is bare on that stuff.
However, some quick kudos are in order, and available, right here, right now, for the local contingent, as well as a few general observations for it and the sport in 2018.
For starters, yo, major tip of the cap to the Phillies’ higher ups with stepping up to sign not only potential ace Jake Arrieta but rookie Scott Kingery, essentially mocking any hints that the franchise was afraid to spend a few bucks in free agency and outright laughing at old-time baseball wisdom with delaying entry to the bigs for a major prospect just to hold maintain control on that prospect an extra year.
Put it this way, Matt Klentak and the boys may not be messing around. No “trust the process” for them – anymore at least. The GM, ownership, manager Gabe Kapler and the team itself, not for nothing, but such moves are screaming, “hey, we’re looking to win right now, not just down the road.”
That being said, was a little odd to see the multi-talented Kingery nowhere in the starting lineup Thursday against Atlanta.
What in the name of Odubel Herrera was that about? Not sure … because the regular center fielder wasn’t in that lineup, either.
But, we digress …
Push comes to shove this season, we appear to be looking at the regulars, both the old-timers and more recent, challenging for a World Series victory. The Yankees, Boston, Cleveland and defending champion Houston from the AL, and the Cubs, Dodgers and Washington in the NL.
With Giancarlo Stanton joining Aaron Judge to form a Herculean-looking order in the Bronx, you’d almost have to figure they’d bomb their way to the top. Only thing is, the Yankees might not even be the strongest 1-6 in their own division. That honor could belong to the Red Sox.
Either would face stiff competition on that front from the Cubs, who kickstarted the campaign with Ian Happ’s leadoff homer in Miami before Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell helped pound the Marlins into submission. All are capable of 25-30 homers and 90-100 RBIs.
MVPs? Easy. Angels center fielder Mike Trout in the AL and Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper in the NL.
Cy Youngs? Curveball. Since voters refuse to choose Clayton Kershaw anymore in the NL since apparently he’s won too many, let’s go with Stephen Strasburg, who was every bit as deserving last season as the guy who won it, Washington teammate Max Scherzer, and Boston lefty Chris Sale in the AL.
The Phillies? Kingery, if Kapler’s alt-managing style doesn’t implode, likely wins NL Rookie of the Year. He is that good, and, frankly, he was the talk of the entire organization most of last season before Rhys Hoskins got the call-up and showed his power display in the minors wasn’t a fluke.
The have one of the best lineups in baseball. They’re deep there now, especially with Kingery being on board right out of the chute. The bullpen is improved and the starting rotation includes quality in Aaron Nola and the potential for something more in Arrieta.
Am thinking positive – 86-76, with a legit run at the postseason … that falls just short.
Champs? The Cubs capture their second crown in three years.