So, it’s happening. The Phillies are getting the “2017 Nationals” treatment from the Braves and in turn getting the “2010 Cody Ross” treatment from Ryan Flaherty.
What that means is that they are playing the Braves all the time in the early season, and largely losing to them due to the outstanding play of a random player who until now hasn’t been much of a problem.
The NL’s leading hitter Ryan Flaherty just crushed one for a 3 run jack. I never thought I would tweet those words.— Matt Chernoff (@RealMattlanta) April 19, 2018
Let’s dive right in!
The Phillies just dropped two of three to the Braves in Atlanta, marking the second time that’s happened already in this young season, the first being in the Phillies’ opening series of 2018. In both cases, the Phillies did themselves no favors in trying to secure a win for a variety of reasons, the narrative thru line for the initial series being “Gabe Kapler is Letting a Sentient Computer Pick the Lineups and Pitching Changes and I Don’t Like It,” and the more current one being “I Don’t Care if Odubel Herrera has Been the Phillies’ Best Player Since 2015 and is Off to a Hot Start Once Again, He’s Killing the Team Because I Don’t Like Him, [Throws Straw Hat to the Ground]!”
But another subplot that emerged with all this exposure to the Braves and Flaherty is that, man, that reliably non-threatening 31-year-old sure is having a fine spring, especially when that spring pits him against the Phillies:
- vs. Phillies: .458/.500/.708, 2 SO in 26 PA
- vs. all other teams: .285/.411/.321 in 34 PA
- vs. Nationals: .176/.300/.235, 8 SO in 20 PA
It’s not quite an anomaly that Flaherty is crushing the Phillies, however, because his season slash line of .365/.450/.500 is the highest in the National League and third in all of baseball behind Mookie Betts and Mallex Smith (And Dansby Swanson is right behind him). So in general, Flaherty is seeing the ball really well right now.
This is after spending parts of six seasons in Baltimore, floating in .220-at-best territory. He’s not a notorious hot starter who flames out and he’s not typically a sneaky good fantasy pick-up. Here are the comparable months of his career to what’s happening right now:
- June 2013: .297 BA, .820 OPS in 78 PA
- September 2014: .288 BA, .804 OPS in 76 PA
- June 2016: .283 BA, .865 OPS in 59 PA
Maybe Flaherty is doing a better job of hitting the ball to the opposite field? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because Flaherty holds in his heart an tight, intense little grudge against the Phillies, who FOX Sports Atlanta refers to as “his former team” because he was in training camp with them this year. Say, how did Flaherty do this year with the Phillies in Clearwater, anyway? Why did they cut him if he was on the cusp of a torrid start to the season like this? He mustn’t have stood out too much, or someone would have said something:
- .351/.390/.514, tied with J.P. Crawford and Jesmuel Valentin for fifth on the team in hits with 13. 3 SO, 8 RBI, 37 AB.
Ah. Well, nevertheless, imagine this team with one more IF/OF guy who needs playing time. He’s wouldn’t be a prospect at whom the Phillies were giving a prolonged look, time to develop, or a job, but rather a guy who playing too well to just trade for nothing. If there’s anything this team doesn’t need, it’s more players. And the Phillies made a decision that this is the year of youth development, settled on Carlos Santana as the staff veteran early in the winter, and prepared to forge onward, assuming Flaherty’s hot spring was a mirage anyway.
Really the most unfortunate part of this is that Flaherty’s annoying early season renaissance is happening for the Braves, making Atlanta look better than they are and ensuring, given the Phillies’ April schedule is rich with Braves match-ups, that whatever success Flaherty is having, it will be coming at the expense of “his former team.” We’ll just have to bite down on a wooden spoon and wait for this to die down. There’s not much you can do when a professional ball player has an uncharacteristically hot month. In the mean time, distract yourself with toothless complaints about Odubel Herrera.
- “He’s lazy!”
- “He’s got a weak arm!”
- “I don’t like it when young people are happy!”
- “One dumb mistake every other month or so is not worth keeping around the Phillies’ team leader in hits!!!”