By this point, you may be familiar with the Pittsburgh Pirates ploy to capitalize on the broad cultural appeal of Game of Thrones by modeling their lineup introductions off of the opening credit sequence of the HBO hit show. It’s cool, for sure, and in a perfect world, all teams would have more fun with their intro videos in similar ways. But Game of Thrones is the flavor of the current era and, as they say, it’s a copycat league.
The Phillies and Game of Thrones share one main similarity. The Phillies did away with college night, so, no, bare breasts are not that common thread. Both are exciting primarily because of the building anticipation they evoke in the viewer. For the Phillies, that’s the anticipation of prospect arrival. For Game of Thrones, it's the looming possibility that the character you love is about to meet an untimely end.
Yesterday, we begun our exploration into which Phillies players most closely shared characteristics with certain characters on the hit HBO TV show Game of Thrones. Today, we complete that endeavor to one-up our rivals from across the state with the pitchers on the Phillies roster.
Aaron Nola as Varys
As major political figures in Game of Thrones go, Varys lacks just about every tool. He isn’t physically imposing; he doesn’t come from noble blood; and, frankly, he doesn’t have many powerful friends. He gets by, however, on being exceedingly crafty. He knows just about everything that is going on in the Seven Kingdoms thanks to an unimaginably extensive network of informants and spies and uses that information advantage to achieve more than his tools predict.
From his days at LSU, Aaron Nola has built a reputation of possessing elite control of his pitches that allows his otherwise lackluster repertoire to play up. Although his stuff, particularly his curveball, is better than average, he has established himself as one of the better pitchers in baseball this season on the strength of his command that he uses to keep hitters off balance and guessing.
Jerad Eickhoff—Sansa Stark
When the Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers last July for a package of prospects, Jerad Eickhoff was a bit of an afterthought and for good reason, there were three non-Eickhoff top-100 prospects involved in the deal. If he ended up as a 5th starter on a good PHillies team down the road, that would be a pleasant surprise, we though. Instead, through 21 major league starts, Eickhoff has a 3.11 ERA and looks like a potential mid-rotation arm for future, better iterations of this team.
Like Eickhoff, our first impression—at least my first impression—of Sansa was as a pretty useless member of the Stark house. Unlike her siblings and parents who uncompromisingly held themselves to a certain moral code, all Sansa seemed to care about was playing the political game—marrying Joffrey, trusting Cersei—to advance her status in the seven kingdoms. But, now in season six, Sansa is leading an army with her bastard brother Jon Snow to recapture the north from her husband Ramsey Bolton. No longer a throw-away character, Sansa is firmly a part of the “good character” contingent of Game of Thrones—a development we couldn't have seen coming just a couple seasons ago.
Jeremy Hellickson as Bronn
Bronn is a sellsword whose loyalty goes only as far as the amount he is paid. After helping arrest Tyrion Lannister, he changes teams when he realizes that Tyrion can pay him more than the Starks can. He then comes to assist Jamie Lannister when he is promised a better wife than the one Cersei arranged for him. He only sticks around as long as it is personally and financially convenient for him to do so.
Hellickson was brought in this offseason with the likely intention of trading him to the highest bidder midseason. The highest bidder will become the third team he pitches for in two seasons. His temporary status with the team hasn’t prevented him from pitching well, similar to how Bronn develops apparent friendships with Tyrion and Jamie while under their employ.
Vincent Velasquez as Robb Stark
For the first season, Robb is presented as the fourth or fifth most important Stark. Sansa is queen; Jon is really cool and is in the Night’s Watch; Bran holds the secret of Cersei and Jamie’s incestuous relationship; Arya is a straight gansta. Robb is fine, I guess, but nothing special. But then Robb comes into his own, leading an army of northerners to make a bid at the throne. He achieves moderate success in this endeavor, but is ultimately brought down by a series of tactical errors, such as not following through on an arranged marriage. He was eventually killed at the Red Wedding for that error.
Velasquez started the season in a battle for the fifth starter spot with Adam Morgan. We knew he was pretty good, but there were more important pitchers to pay attention to. Then, Velasquez won the fifth starter gig and turned in a 16 strikeout complete game against the Padres which went down as one of the greatest starts in franchise history. Since that performance—like Robb’s defeat of the Lannister army—the road has been rocky for Vince. He’s struggled with location and, as a result, the home run ball and has racked up pitch counts that prevented him from going deep into many games. He’s now on the DL for bicep tendonitis, continuing a string of injuries that have haunted his career. That tendency for injury could limit is ultimate ceiling.
Adam Morgan as Jorah Mormont
When Jorah first came into the service of Dany Targaryan, he was a spy for the Lannisters to keep them informed of the goings-on over on the eastern continent. While under her employ, Jorah developed a love for Dany and ditched his loyalty to the Lannisters and became fully hers. Once Dany found out, however, that Jorah had once spied on her, she banished him from her territories. But Jorah, possessed by love, kept on coming back first as a gladiator and then to rescue her from the Dothraki. He refused to go away and, eventually, Dany caved in and let him stay. His days are numbered though as he has become afflicted with greyscale, a disease that will eventually drive him mad.
Adam Morgan, like Jorah, seems to never go away. Any time a pitcher gets injured or the team needs a spot start, it’s Adam Morgan of the extremely hittable stuff who gets the call. Like Jorah with his greyscale, Adam Morgan’s time with the Phillies has an expiration date with Eflin, Thompson, and the like knocking on the door.
Jeanmar Gomez as Samwell Tarly
Jeanmar Gomez is the Phillies closer and has done reasonably well in that role with an unconventional repertoire for a relief ace. It rarely looks pretty with Gomez, but he gets the job done. Sam, despite obvious physical flaws in battle, has managed to accomplish a lot. He kills a White Walker almost by chance by stabbing him with a shard of Dragon glass. He acquires a Valerian steel sword—the sort of sword, we’ve learned, that can kill White Walkers—from his father by sneaking off with it into the night. It’s never pretty with Sam and he clearly lacks the tools to sustain this success, but we keep believing as long as it works.
Brett Oberholtzer as Grand Maester Pycelle
Pycelle is something of a bumbling old man who has been part of the king’s council for longer than anyone cares to discuss. He rarely says anything that resembles cogent and coherent advise and was seen declaring Joffrey’s future greatness to a woman in a whorehouse. He’s clearly senile and it really doesn’t make any sense that he’s still around. Oberholtzer is similar in that it is entirely unclear what positive value he is capable of contributing. As the Phillies long relief man, he either comes into games that are already blowouts or turns close games into blowouts. He’s not young, doesn’t have anything in the way of upside, and is out of minor league options. It’s a wonder he’s still around.
David Hernandez as Jaqen H’ghar
David Hernandez has been a lot of things in his career—starter, reliever, closer, injured—and has performed competently in all but the first role. He was brought in to be the closer, but was only given a brief opportunity to hold down that role before being exiled to middle relief. Still, he’s been one of the best and most reliable relievers on the Phillies with a curveball capable of putting any hitter away.
H’ghar is the leader of the assassins of the Many-Faced God, capable of changing his appearance on a moment’s notice. If he were a pitcher, he could just as easily be a closer, a set-up man, a long reliever, or a starter. He is no one and everyone at the same time. As we saw when he helped Arya cross some names off her list, H’ghar has the tools to kill anyone and everyone. As a servant of the Many-Faced God, his secret weapon is poisoning drinks. He could be the chief assassin of the House of Black and White, but he prefers to work behind the scenes and leave the dirty work to Arya and the Waif.
Hector Neris as Daenerys Targaryan
Dany started out her career on a high note. She was married away to the Khal of the Dothraki and, there, she blossomed into a bit of a leader who was committed to things like abolishing slavery and treating subservients as actual people. She’s good at building relationships, but really only has one trick: her three dragons. As a result, she’s good at conquering cities and freeing slaves, but astoundingly poor at ruling said cities after her conquest. When the dragons can’t help her, she’s lost. For Neris, the splitter is his dragon. He emerged early in the year with a splitter that profiled as one of the best single pitches in all of baseball. It helped him work his way up leaderboards and led to some clambering for him to be installed as the Phillies closer. He was never given that role, but still, has fallen on hard times of late as the splitter has lost a bit of its early season effectiveness. He needs that splitter to come back if he’s going to regain his early form, but as Dany has discovered, dragons can’t help you out of every bind.