One of the most telling stats in baseball is run differential. It doesn’t say everything you need to know about a baseball team, but it’s one of the best and easiest-to-understand of all the advanced metrics as to who your baseball team is.
This Phillies currently are minus-96 in run differential, second-to-last in all of baseball. The only team worse than that is the team coming into Citizens Bank Park this weekend, the San Diego Padres, at minus-124.
In other words, this is series is (gulp!) winnable. And the Phils couldn’t have picked a better time to have a winnable series with two of the year’s biggest promotions – fireworks tonight and the Mike Schmidt bobblehead tomorrow – on the docket. If there is anyone with a sliver of hope for the somewhat immediate future of this franchise and they watch the team gaffe these games away going into the all-star break … it wouldn’t be good. If things go south this weekend, that’s probably the final, really, really, really, I-mean-it-this-time, last straw for a lot of people.
What to expect
Bad baseball? Ricky Bottalico’s head exploding on the postgame show? Balloons dropping and a celebration starting during Pete MacKanin’s postgame interview Saturday when he says, “We’ve got to be more consistent” for the one-millionth time this season?
Nothing is surprising at this point. It’s all on the table.
But since you probably don’t know that much about the Padres, let’s catch you up:
Austin Hedges, C: The one-time top prospect of the Padres probably wasn’t completely ready to hit the bigs this year, but he has hit 11 home runs and provides some sneaky value in deep fantasy leagues in a year where the catching position is a wasteland.
Hunter Renfroe, RF: A darkhorse rookie of the year pick coming into the season, he’s blasted 16 home runs and carries a .452 slugging percentage, but he’s struck out 97 times and his on-base percentage is .287.
Manuel Margot, CF: A prospect who was part of the Craig Kimbrel deal in 2015, he had been on a good two-week tear until the Padres went into Cleveland this week and he went 1-for-12.
Cory Spangenberg, utility: He’s no longer a prospect, but if you’re looking for someone to cheer for, he went to Abington Heights High School (my alma mater) outside of Scranton. And Travis Jankowski, though he’s on the DL, went to Lancaster Catholic. And Ryan Butcher is from Blackwood, N.J. AND Matt Szczur is from Lower Township, N.J. So if nothing else, the Padres have four local guys on their roster.
Aaaaand we’re done.
Friday, 6:35 p.m.: Clayton Richard (5-8, 4.85 ERA) vs. Nick Pivetta (2-4, 4.85 ERA)
In this year of learning about who exactly will be at least a semi-permanent part of the rebuild, Pivetta is one guy who’s hard to judge. He’s never been a really big prospect, but I remember watching him multiple times at double-A Harrisburg when he was still in the Nationals organization thinking, “What am I missing, this guy’s good!” But he’s been somewhat exposed in the bigs, and even when he’s been really good in his audition this year – like a seven-inning, one-hit performance Sunday against the Mets that included four walks – he’s still giving up waaaaaayyyyyy too many walks (28 in 52 innings). That’s troubling for a guy who walked two batters in 34 innings before getting called up this year. But I’m fully on board with the notion that if he figures out the walks, he could have a No. 3 starter ceiling and a very good swingman floor. Then again, that pretty much describes the franchise’s entire stable of starting pitching prospects.
Saturday, 4:05 p.m.: Jhoulys Chacin (7-7, 4.52 ERA) vs. Aaron Nola (6-5, 3.73 ERA)
I’m streaming Nola in a somewhat shallow fantasy league for this game, so I’m pretty confident. He’s looked really good in his last three (1.27 ERA, .171 AVG against, 25 K in 21.1 innings), and this lines up as the perfect matchup for him to go into the break with and come back ready to go a week from today as the first starter out of the gate for the Phils in Milwaukee.
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.: Trevor Cahill (3-2, 2.96 ERA) vs. Mark Leiter Jr. (1-1, 4.08 ERA)
The leash on Leiter is probably getting shorter after he got knocked around in Seattle and then carded a “meh” start against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The Phillies needs arms that are merely attached to shoulders in the bullpen, and if Tom Eshelman keeps dealing in Lehigh Valley (7-2, 1.96 ERA, 0.94 WHIP), Leiter is probably the odd man out of the rotation if it’s time for Eshelman’s audition (and it probably is).