Phillies Mailbag: Eflin, Franco, Defensive Shifts
Do you think Zach Eflin is going to stick around in the major leagues?
It has been so far so good for Phillies pitcher Zach Eflin in 2018. After two starts, Eflin is 1-0 with a 0.71 earned run average. Eflin has struck out 13 in 12 2/3 innings, walking three.
During Spring Training, I felt that Eflin would have gotten the nod over the likes of Ben Lively, should there have been an opening. But the starting rotation seemed set with Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and Nick Pivetta. So Eflin headed to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and pitched pretty well, though the line of his last start was not particularly stellar.
I think Eflin realizes that this is his opportunity to show he belongs in the major leagues and he is taking advantage of the opportunity so far. He looks poised and like he does not want to give up his slot. But, there always seems to be an opportunity, even when we do not expect it.
In Spring Training, the Phillies appeared to have a tremendous amount of starting rotation depth. But the Phillies have lost an unbelievable three starting pitchers plus their “sixth” starter in Mark Leiter Jr. The depth the Phillies have had is why they are just a half game out of first place on May 8, 2018.
It is hard to project where things will be once another starter is activated. But having the depth stashed at Triple-A has served the Phillies well thus far. Hopefully they will not be stretched any further.
Are we finally seeing the real Maikel Franco?
As of today, Maikel Franco is batting .283, has six home runs and has driven in 26 runs. That is good enough for fifth-best in the National League. Despite losing some starts to Scott Kingery along the way, Franco has seemed to find his groove as of late. In the last seven games, Franco is batting .320 and has two home runs and three doubles.
I think that we have seen this before with Franco: some flashes of brilliance and some instances in which he struggles some. The question still remains whether he can do this for an extended period of time. As was the plan heading into the season, 2018 must be that.
Just like the Arrieta rumors would not go away, the rumors surrounding Manny Machado will not go away, either. The Phillies are going to have to feel very certain at their different positions if they are going to make some long-term commitments. They will have the financial power to really put their foot on the accelerator this offseason to fill any gaps.
Should Franco keep the play up on a consistent basis, they may not have one at third base.
The shift is costing the Phillies more runs than any other team. Are there metrics to tell them to stop shifting so much?
I am not particularly sure where Nik is getting this information. I am not sure that there is a “runs lost by shift” metric that would be tallying teams’ information. But assistant pitching coach Chris Young is working on defensive shifts in addition to his pitching duties, and we have seen at least one doozy in the outfield.
But, I will say this. Teams are either going to shift or not shift. When teams do not shift, the balls that drop seem like balls that just happened to drop. When teams shift and a ball is hit into a gap, then people really seem to notice.
If the shift works 70% of the time, that could still mean a significant reduction in balls that land. I think it is worth considering. After all, Phillies fans should know better than any other team about how a shift can change one’s career. The Ryan Howard shift knocked a ton of points off of his batting average as time went on.
Hopefully the Phillies are doing just that to others. Overall,the Phillies pitching staff has been performing very well this season. Might the shifts have something to do with that?