Phillies Mailbag: Slow Start, Stott’s Demotion, and Home Field?
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill. Tune in each Tuesday afternoon at 2:40 to hear your question answered!
The Phillies will likely be out of playoff contention well before the trade deadline. Should fans expect the team to trade off several of the highly-paid free agents we signed in order to get back under the luxury tax and then ultimately start the next 3-5 year rebuild?
Greg, my friend and faithful Twitter follower: With all due respect, relax!
The Phillies are 7-10 after 17 games. They are not 1-16, or even 5-12. It is very, very early. There is a lot of baseball left, and I think that the Phillies will be able to get things moving. Here's why.
First, the starting rotation came into the season for the most part, unready. We knew that Zack Wheeler did not pitch in the Grapefruit League. We knew that Ranger Suárez was unable to hold traditional workouts while being stuck in a Colombia hotel. And Zach Eflin was initially thought to be out until even beyond today's date.
All three are showing signs of coming around. And looking at the play of the Phillies the first few (and really less than "few") weeks, a lot of the games involved early exits from all three.
Aaron Nola is coming around, after a slow start. While we expected he would be the one most ready, he also had a shortened Spring. Kyle Gibson is doing pretty much what's expected of him.
So then there are questions about the offense. Yes, at times they have looked dull. But there are signs that people are heating up. Rhys Hoskins was not going to hit .190 just like Alec Bohm was not going to hit .600 as he was in the early going. I think that things will hit their strides.
And let's remember: ALL teams are having a stow start, necessitated by the need to play 162 games. There are few days off in the early going, and players did not have a lot of time to warm up in Florida or Arizona.
The Phillies are sixth in MLB in team batting average. That is a sign things will come together. The bullpen has been decent, too. Let's let this play out some.
Then you can ask me in July about the trade deadline.
Why are the Phillies bent on Bryson Stott playing multiple positions? Player development director said that Stott will mainly play shortstop in Triple-A, but they will make sure he gets playing time at other positions. They did that to Scott Kingery and we all know how that worked out!
First and foremost, Bryson Stott is not Scott Kingery. They are both infielders, sure. But never was Kingery thought of as having the same ceiling that Stott did. And here is why I think that it is different.
Kingery came up when the National League had no designated hitter. And, the positions he would have played were otherwise filled. So there was no clear path for him to play, but with as many as three or even four pinch-hitting opportunities a game, Kingery would at least have those at bats.
But Kingery did get extended looks in the major leagues. We are talking 330 games over four seasons. The largest amount came at shortstop (138) compared to 47 at his "natural" second base position. I do not think that is why Kingery did not make it in the major leagues.
Stott does not even have pinch hitting opportunities right now. The Phillies are a team that needs to win. They cannot devote a spot in the lineup every day with the likes of Alec Bohm and Johan Camargo playing good baseball. The 2018 Phillies had space for Kingery to play every day.
I still think Stott's best position is second base, but he will likely get the looks at shortstop, because if he can stick there, the Phillies would love to fill shortstop with Stott next year.
Will home field vs. away be a big issue for the Phillies this year?
I really don't think so. 17 games in I do not think there is any one thing that stands out about the home performance versus the away performance. While there is a "home field advantage" in batting last, and even the comfort of one's own bed, I do not think anything is prohibitive.
I will say this: The Phillies came north after the shortened Spring Training and got right to work. By the time they got a day off, they had to travel. They were already disrupted from their routines, were catching up their development, and now they had to leave home.
The comfort of one's own bed at home is something we all know. And even though Bohm made his "I hate it here" comments that were quickly remedied by the fans, I think that most players will tell you the home crowd brings added excitement.
Even the really good Phillies teams of the late 2000s and early 2010s were not much better than .500 on the road. I don't see much out of place here just yet other than the issues I've mentioned.