That’s a wrap, folks!
The Phils capped off the final week of the season in style winning 4 of 6 against the Nationals and Mets. After another wasted quality outing by Aaron Nola where the offense didn’t show up in a 3-1 loss to start the week off. The Phils turned things around the next night with Jake Thompson and the bullpen held the Nats in check for a 4-1 win. Game 3 was a battle of the bullpens that the Phils ultimately won. After neither starter pitched well, the Phils held a 6-5 lead when they left. Both bullpens put the reigns on the opposing offense until Cesar Hernandez knocked in an insurance run in the 8th. With the Nats gone, it was time to gain some revenge over the Mets who mostly pounded the Phils into submission this season. That ended quickly in game 1 as Ben Lively shut down the Mets offense and got plenty of pop from the offense including HR’s from Maikel Franco, Jorge Alfaro and Hernandez en route to a 6-2 win. Adam Morgan picked a tough time to revert to the pre-2nd half Adam Morgan, allowing a 3 run HR in the 11th and handing the Mets a 7-4 win after both bullpens pitched fairly well in extended outings. The finale on Sunday was not quite the nail-biter that Saturday was. The Phils scored 6 in the 4th inning and 5 more in the 8th to finish off the Mets and the 2017 season with an 11-0 victory. Franco homered for the 3rd straight game. Nick Pivetta allowed just 2 hits (with 5 BB’s) in 5 innings and the bullpen did not allow a baserunner the rest of the way. The Phils finished the 2nd half just a game under .500 which is pretty much a miracle if you watched the first half of the season.
The 2nd half was a complete turnaround spurred by the insurgence of youth. Nick Williams came up and started hot finishing with a .288 average and 30 extra base hits. Rhys Hoskins came up and started even hotter although he cooled significantly over the last few weeks. Despite the cool off, especially in the power department, he continued to hit in clutch spots finishing with 48 RBI to finish 7th on the team, in just 2 months. J.P. Crawford did not do much to excite at the plate (.214) but wowed with his defense even while being moved around the infield. Jorge Alfaro (.318, 6 2B, 5 HR in 29 games) showed why he may just be the starting backstop next year but will need some coaching behind the plate (Chooch, are you ready to retire yet???). Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez battled all season to see who would still be around in 2018. Freddy flashed Gold Glove defense all season while playing all 162 games and became the de facto leader in the clubhouse while Cesar led the team in hitting (.294) and OBP (.373). The key factors in the decision will very likely be a) who is the new manager and b) who can bring a bigger return in a trade. Franco being the odd man out is also a possibility if another team sees the potential he showed early rather than the lack of plate discipline we saw most of this year but those 24 HR’s will be hard to replace with a Crawford-Galvis-Hernandez infield. Odubel Herrera continues to amaze in multiple ways. He shows flashes of greatness and flashes of stupidity…sometimes in succession. His .281 average with 42 doubles and 14 HR is significant but his penchant for boneheaded plays in the outfield and the basepath can be killers. If someone can get in his head in the offseason, an Altherr-Herrera-Williams outfield could be a good one for a long time. Overall, we saw a major change in the offense in the 2nd half but it is far from a finished product.
Let’s start with free-agent extraordinaire, Clay Buchholz. Wow! Okay, just kidding.
The starting rotation, and what an appropriate term that is, was…ok. Aaron Nola led the way with a 12-11 record (hey, no one expected anyone to be over .500) with a 3.54 ERA (3.49 in the 2nd half) and was as close to dominant in the 2nd half as a pitcher on this team could be. After that, it was made pretty clear where the Phils will need to spend money in the offseason. Jake Thompson finished 3-2 in his 8 starts with a 3.88 ERA (3.27 in the 2nd half). It seems like maybe he got himself together and may have earned a spot next season but Spring Training will tell us for sure. Beyond that, it’s a free for all. Pivetta, Lively, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin all showed that they are what they are…fringe 4th/5th starters and maybe bullpen (Velasquez) options.
For everything the offense and rotation did, the bullpen one upped them. With the offense picking up steam in the 2nd half and the starters not typically going deep, it fell on the pen to hold things together and they did so, for the most part. 5 pitchers appeared at least 24 times in the 2nd half and had ERA’s under 2.75. Hoby Milner came out of nowhere to throw 28 innings with a 1.93 ERA in the 2nd half. Adam Morgan was dominant for much of the 2nd half but had a few tough outings in the final 2 weeks finishing the 2nd half with a 2.73 ERA in 33 IP. Hector Neris found his 2017 form in the 2nd half finishing with 19 2nd half saves (26 overall). Luis Garcia earned a setup role with a 2.75 ERA in 36 IP and Edubray Ramos was effective in multiple spots posting a 2.70 ERA in 26.2 innings. It was an incredible 2nd half of the season for this squad and if they can carry it over to 2018, the brass will likely just need to plug a few holes to make it work.
Nationals– They’re in the playoffs. Here’s hoping the Cubs cut them down early.
Marlins– Giancarlo got stuck at 59. Dear Matt Klentak, that equates to 78 HR’s (by my math) with 81 games in Citizen’s Bank Park.
Braves– Won just 30 games in the 2nd half after competing for the division in the 1st half. Finished just 6 ahead of the Phils.
Mets– They aren’t good.
And so, we bid a fond-ish farewell to the 2017 season and to Pete Mackanin (got a raw deal in my worthless opinion) . It was actually fun to watch baseball in the 2nd half and it made it a lot easier to write about this team. There were certainly signs of life in all facets of the game in the 2nd half but now it becomes the Matt Klentak show. Who does he bring in to manage and will the team respond to him the same way they did for Mackanin? Does he bring in more journeymen to use as trade bait or start to open the purse strings for talented rotation arms? Cesar, Freddy or Maikel, Tommy Joseph (who handled his role with absolute class after Hoskins call up)…who stays, who goes? Who will continue to write this drivel every week? Oh wait, that’s not Klentak’s call.
Whatever the answers to the questions are, we’ll have them for you here at Pattison Ave.