It’s been almost ten years since the Tampa Bay Rays lost the 2008 World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. We can still remember BJ Upton sloshing home with the tying run to extend Game 5 (here’s a picture just for the fun memories).
The Phillies started the season losing four of the first five games, with a big spotlight focused on their new manager, Gabe Kaplan, and his sometimes unorthodox approach. But Gabe must have gotten through the rookie jitters by now, as his team comes in have won its last five of six games.
Friday 7:10 PM: Vince Velasquez vs Jacob Faria
Saturday 6:10 PM: Jake Arrieta vs Chris Archer
Sunday 1:10 PM: Ben Lively vs Bullpen
Philadelphia’s free agent faces Archer in game two.
Phillies Starters Last 3+ Years
Vince Velasquez was the main piece received in the Ken Giles trade with the Houston Astros. Velasquez went on to have a very good first full year in the majors in 2016 with a 4.12 ERA and 3.96 FIP over 131.0 innings (24 starts). Last year Velasquez struggled to stay healthy and only managed 72.0 innings (15 starts) with a 5.13 ERA and 5.52 FIP. The walks were up and the ball left the park much more frequently. In his first start this year he got shelled by the Atlanta Braves for seven runs, four earned in 2.2 innings, but bounced back to hold the Miami Marlins to one run in six innings in his last start.
Jake Arrieta was one of two big splashes the Phillies made in free agency this winter. His 2014 and 2015 seasons saw one of the best runs of a dominant starting pitcher. Last season was a bit of a drop off, but finished the season strong. Arrieta signed late in spring training so he isn’t up to full strength. In his only start of the season he only went four innings and three runs, two earned against the Marlins.
Ben Lively is a contact pitcher who doesn’t hurt himself with walks. The strikeouts are up this year, as he’s picked up 12 in 11.1 innings. In 2017 LIvely put up a solid rookie season for a guy with very little prospect status. He threw 88.2 innings with a 4.26 ERA and 4.97 FIP over 15 starts.
Phillies two big free agent relief signings are on the disabled list
Phillies Relievers Last 3+ Years
This winter the Phillies went into the free agent relief market and signed Pat Neshek for $16.25MM over two years. He is currently sidelined with a right shoulder strain. They also signed one of the Rays best performers from last year Tommy Hunter to a $18MM deal over two years. He currently is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.
This leaves Hector Neris as the most experienced bullpen arm remaining. Last season he stepped into the closer’s role and picked up 26 saves in 74 appearances. He gets big strikeout totals.
Edubray Ramos and Luis Garcia have been solid relievers and are the only other pitchers in the pen with more than 70 innings of MLB experience as relievers.
The Carlos Santana era has gotten off to a slow start.
Phillies Batters Last 3+ Years
On the offensive side of the ball the Phillies made news signing Carlos Santana to a $60MM deal over three years with a team option for a fourth. Santana has been an OBP machine posting a low of .357 over the past six years. In his first 49 plate appearances he is hitting .150/.245/.375 with a 66 wRC+. His strikeout and walk rates are in line with his recent past, but is being held back by a .118 BABIP.
So far the Phillies offense ranks 17th by wRC+ at 95 just two spots ahead of the Rays. They are hitting .221/.315/.396 as a team. They have scored 5.28 runs per game thanks in large part to a 20-1 victory over the Marlins last week.
Rhys Hoskins has been a homer machine since being promoted late last year. He’s hit 20 homers in 255 plate appearances. Over a full season that’s a 50+ pace.
Scott Kingery provided the other big story out of spring training for the Phillies. Without a single day of MLB service time the Phillies inked the second baseman to a $24MM guaranteed deal that covers six seasons with an additional three years of team options. He’s shown well against his first taste of big league pitching with two homers in his young career.
Former Ray Gabe Kapler takes the reins in Philadelphia
Most Rays fans know Gabe Kapler as part of the Gabe (with Gabe Gross) platoon that patrolled right field during the 2009 season. He has spent time in the Dodgers organization preparing for managerial opportunities and got his chance with Philadelphia.
The finale of the White Sox series was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Let’s party like it’s 2008 and avenge the 2008 World Series loss.