With the Phillies firmly out the playoff race and few stories of interests to watch for outside of Ken Giles’ dominance, Ben Revere’s outside shot at the Phils’ first batting title since Richie Ashburn, and Ryan Howard having the worst 100 RBI season in the history of baseball, attention has turned squarely to the playoff races. A few are in hand (the Nats, Orioles, and Angels have just about clinched their respective divisions) while the NL Central and both Wild Cards are up for grabs.
With the nature of modern baseball, many former Phillies are scattered across playoff contending teams. Some have been huge contributors while others have been key bench pieces. Let’s take a look at some of the former Phils that find themselves in the thick of playoff races.
The Giants enter play today four back of the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West but with a four game cushion between them and the runner up to the second Wild Card, Milwaukee. One of the biggest reasons they are likely headed back to the playoffs again in 2014 is Pence. Hitting .292/.347/.467 with 19 homers and 13 steals, Pence ranks ninth among National League hitters in FanGraphs’ version of WAR, made his third All-Star squad in 2014, and at one point, was a legitimate 2014 NL MVP contender.
Since stumbling out of the gate in 2011 with the Nationals, Werth has hit .300/.389/.476 with 46 homers and 27 steals in 30 chances, making Werth one of the most underrated players in the Majors. While Werth is not being paid like one of the Majors’ best kept secrets, at age 35, Werth is having another fine season (.284/.384/.447, 16 HR, 9 SB) with the Nats just one game away from clinching.
The Tigers enter today’s play a game and a half up on the Kansas City Royals. Since being called up on August 1, Zeke has served the Tigers primarily as a defensive replacement and a pinch runner, racking up seven steals in just under a month and a half. Not bad. If you don’t remember Carrera, he was selected by the Phillies off waivers from Cleveland on April 2 last year, effectively ending Ender Inciarte’s phantom run as a Phillie.
The Telford native found himself thrust into one of the great surges of 2014 when he was dealt from Toronto to Kansas City. Kratz has only seen action in ten games for the Royals but has been worth a half a win per FanGraphs as a back-up catcher while hitting .229/.255/.410 with his slugging ranking 18th among 62 catchers with 100 or more PA.
Worley’s road to the Pirates was a long and confusing one. After seemingly losing just about all of his stuff in the 2013 season as the default ace of a pretty bad Twins club, Worley latched on to the Pirates for 2014. A series of injuries led Worley to being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis and pitching to a 7-4 mark with a 3.18 ERA. Worley has stabilized the Bucs rotation as they sit 3.5 games out of the NL Central lead and have a 1.5 game lead in the second Wild Card race.
Young is not a starting-caliber player. But in the correct role, Young can be an effective Major Leaguer. In a part-time role with the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles, Young is hitting .288/.328/.432 with 7 HR in 235 AB and is on pace for his first season of positive value per FanGraphs’ WAR since 2010. After a big homer in the AL Wild Card game last year, Young is all but assured to return to the postseason.
Lohse has been solid for the Brew Crew all year, pitching to a 12-9 record with a 3.81 ERA. With the Brewers just 1.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card, the Brewers will need Lohse to turn it up to the next level to help them fight their way back into the playoffs.
The Head Scratchers
The Nationals have run away with the NL East and are just one win away from clinching the division outright. This is despite Gonzalez pitching below his career averages. Well, at least below his career average in terms of ERA. In a 2009 Hamels’ like season, many of Gonzalez’s peripheral numbers remain close to his career averages but Gonzalez has been a victim of bad luck, inflating his ERA in 2014. The only reason he is in the disappointment category is the ERA and that isn’t all his fault.
Although Moss saw just a brief cameo in 2011 with the Phillies, it is enough to put him into this category. Moss is in a bit of a down season by his recent standards (.239/.333/.444 with 24 HR) and has been mired in a slump (hitting just .178 since the All-Star break after making his first All-Star team) but remains a leader on the A’s who are holding on for dear life in the AL Wild Card race after spending most of the year in the driver’s seat in the AL West.
The “They’re Still in the League?” Division
Don’t be fooled by the 29 point jump in batting average: this is the same Frandsen that the Phillies had in 2013. It was the right move to cut Frandsen and the Phillies could have saved some money had they just non-tendered him. Yes, Frandsen is hitting 29 points higher but his OPS has dropped by 13 points, he’s walking less, and striking out more.
If Roberto Hernandez was a mess for the Phillies, he has been even worse for the first-place Dodgers. Hernandez is 2-3 in seven starts for LA with a 4.76 ERA and remains a rotation option due to attrition.
“RAUUUUUUUUL” is likely on his last Major League legs. Hitting .169 with five homers, Ibanez, now 42, returned from a trip to the 15-day DL with a walk yesterday. Ibanez began the year with the Angels before signing with the Royals after the Angels released him. Ibanez may be a potent weapon in a pinch-hit role against a tough righty but I wouldn’t expect more than that from Ibanez.
Remember him? The Phillies, firmly out of the playoff picture on June 27, 2013, traded for the career back-up infielder, held on to him through the non-waiver deadline, and proceeded to deal him on the August 31, 2013 waiver deadline. The fifth team was a charm as McDonald, a part of his fifth organization in one calendar year, won a World Series with the Red Sox.
Despite McDonald being statistically one of the the worst players in the Majors, and never being an above-average player according to FanGraphs’ version of WAR, McDonald may once again have the last laugh: hitting .151/.241/.164, McDonald has been on the Angels’ active roster for the entire year and is a member of one of the favorites to win the American League.
With his third team in 2014, Nix has been worth nearly one negative win per FanGraphs while hitting .127/.179/.165. Now with the Royals, Nix is buried pretty far down their depth chart and shouldn’t be a factor down the stretch.
Punto was once considered an infielder of the future for the Phillies at a time when the club was becoming rich with infield talent. In 2014, Punto is a bench piece for the Oakland A’s that is closing in at 200 AB and is posting career-low triple-slash lines (.203/.296/.275). In some sort of weird coincidence, the A’s did well with Punto in the line-up when he split time at 2B through July but started to tailspin when Punto went down with an injury. Recently reactivated, I guess we will see if Punto was the key to the A’s early season magic. With his line, I doubt it.
Quintero is back in the Majors and has appeared in two games for Seattle in 2014. The Mariners sit two games behind the Royals for the second AL Wild Card. Quintero will not play a big part in the Mariners either making or missing the playoffs down the stretch and is a third catcher for the club at age 35.
Schierholtz brought the slump he ended the 2013 season with into 2014 and hasn’t been able to shake it. Among players with 350 PA or more, Schierholtz ranks 219 out of 224 in FanGraphs’ version of WAR and is deep down Washington’s bench since the Nats signed him on August 18, five days after the Cubs released him.