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Hittin’ Season #215: Things to feel good about the Phillies

Despite a lousy end to the season, there are things to feel good about the 2018 Phillies season.

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Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Stephen Nowland/Getty Images

On Episode 215 of “Hittin’ Season,” hosts John Stolnis, Justin Klugh & Liz Roscher talk about the disappointing end to the 2018 season, but try their best to focus on some of the positives from this season. Specifically, the emergence of Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins emerges as one of the NL’s best power hitters, and discuss some of the challenges that lie ahead for the Phils this off-season. In addition, if you’re not planning on watching any of the last seven games of the season, John, Justin and Liz offer some alternate viewing options!

There is no question the end of the 2018 Phillies season has been extraordinarily tough to take. The utter collapse of this team has been stark and mind boggling, and left most Phils fans with an uneasy feeling that perhaps this team is closer to being “bad” than they are to being “good.”

The Phillies this year went from having the second-best record in the NL in early August to being the absolute worst team in the National League over the last seven weeks, a feat I cannot remember any Phillie team pulling off before. However, there are a few reasons to feel good about the Phils, and as a tonic of sorts against all the negativity that has been oozing out of all our minds of late, Episode 215 of “Hittin’ Season” aimed to point out some of the things to feel good about with regard to this baseball team and its season this year.

  • Aaron Nola - For the first time in his career, Nola has cleared the 200 inning threshold, a big deal for a pitcher who missed parts of the 2016 and ‘17 seasons with injury. He will make one more start this year, against the Braves at home on the final weekend of the season, the first time he will have done that. He’s emerged as a true Cy Young candidate, one of the three best pitchers in the National League, an ace upon which to build the rest of the staff.
  • Rhys Hoskins - Hoskins himself admitted he’s frustrated by his streakiness and his failure to provide much offense during this stretch run, but there’s no doubt he’s emerged as one of the best power hitters in the National League. His 32 home runs are tied for 8th-most, his 93 RBIs are tied for 10th, and his isolated power of .245 is 9th. One would hope that, after his first full season in the Majors, Hoskins will figure out a way to even out some of his hot and cold streaks.
  • Maikel Franco - Look, I gave up on Franco in June of this year. After all, the guy had been an unmitigated disaster since his rookie season in 2015, and there was no evidence he was going to turn it around. And while he still isn’t an All-Star caliber player, we saw enough to make us believe he could be an above-average third baseman in this league. After getting off to a slow start, Franco is batting .270/.314/.467 with a wRC+ of 105 and an fWAR of 1.2. Now, that’s not fantastic, but compare it to the .230/.281/.409 slash line from a year ago and the -0.4 fWAR and you have something.
  • Vince Velasquez/Nick Pivetta - Neither pitcher performed well down the stretch, of that there can be no doubt. After getting off to hot starts and helping to carry a dead offense and subpar defense, Velasquez and Pivetta put up second half ERAs of 4.99 and 4.57, respectively, but there were lots of positives, too. Velasquez made it through the season completely healthy, with 29 starts that will become 30 after his final appearance of the season this week. He upped his K/9, lowered his BB/9, his ERA and drastically improved his FIP from a year ago. It may not seem like it, but based on those stats, Velasquez enters the final week of the season with an fWAR of 2.7. Pivetta did the same and has an even better fWAR of 2.9. Certainly there is room for improvement, but both showed enough flashes to let you know they could be pieces upon which to build.
  • Seranthony Dominguez - Dominguez faded toward the end of the season, likely due to the mid-season workload he was under. For a while there, Dominguez was the only dependable arm in the bullpen, and he simply wore down. Nevertheless, whether he’s the team’s official “closer” next season or not, Dominguez has proven he’s going to be a major contributor to the ‘pen in 2019.
  • Jorge Alfaro - Don’t look now, but Alfaro’s fWAR of 2.1 is 3rd-best among position players on the Phillies this year. His offensive numbers, despite an enormous strikeout rate, are encouraging (.262/.324/.408) and his pitch-framing ability and game-calling improved dramatically from a year ago. There is still much work to be done, however, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing at all if Wilson Ramos came back for another season or two to mentor Alfaro’s pitch-blocking and overall consistency defensively. But Alfaro was better than you think.
  • Big off-season coming - Folks, we all know the Phillies are going to go out and make a real attempt to sign Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper. It feels like a guarantee they’re going to get at least one of them. If it doesn’t happen, it’s going to be a monumental disappointment, but knowing they’re ready to offer record-breaking contracts to either player, and that they have the money and trade capital to basically do whatever they want, is a reason to feel good about this franchise.