Yep, it’s more of the same. More thoughts from my mind. Why? The real question is why not.
- The constant “Is __________ an ace?” talk is exhausting. I’m not really sure I see the point of it anymore, but it always seems to center around Aaron Nola. Lately, he hasn’t been very good lately, accumulating a 6.89 ERA over his last three starts, a total of 15 2⁄3 innings. It’s not like he has been uncharacteristically wild either, since in that three game stretch, he’s got a 21:3 K:BB ratio. He’s just getting pounded, giving up a .318/.348/.561 line on a .415 BABIP during those innings. He’s just been pretty bad. Does that automatically disqualify him as an ace though? Does it mean he can’t be counted on as an ace since that’s “not what aces do”? This is why the talk of what makes an ace so exhausting in the first place. There is no defined set of statistics that let us know what an ace is. Instead, we’re force fed all of subjective lines about “being a stopper”, “coming up big”, and the like. Zack Wheeler’s start on Sunday felt ace-like, but is Zack Wheeler an ace? I don’t know and quite honestly, I don’t care anymore. For me, there are only two three true aces in the game right now: Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom and Shane Bieber. Outside of that, I’m not sure I’m willing to call anyone else an ace.
- Brad Miller is pretty much exactly what a team would want in a bench piece. He can come up and play somewhere in a pinch - leftfield, rightfield, third base, first base, second base, anywhere. If he is needed to fill in for more than just a spot start, he’ll give the team production over those few games. Exposing him for longer than that might show the weaknesses that led to his being a bench piece, but the Phillies have been pretty good about not doing that. He’s saved the Phillies’ bacon a couple of times, Sunday included, by providing an offensive spark that was sorely needed. All of this is to say, the team should look into extending him another year. Bench playing as we know is similar to relief pitching: pretty volatile, not knowing what you’ll get from year to year. Miller seems to have perfected the art of coming off of the bench and providing his team with value though and the Phillies should be thinking of locking that up for next season.
- There was some talk this weekend on the interwebs about the Phillies selling this trade season, starting another rebuild to glory. Destiny Lugardo of Phillies Nation put together a good thread of reasons why selling doesn’t make much sense, much of which I’d agree with. The current construction of the roster has a very “ride or die” feel to it, not having the flexibility to move many people due to a lack of reserves or players on too high of contracts that drop the desirability levels of other teams. Once 2022 arrives, there will be some more financial wiggle room thanks to players’ contracts expiring, but still, they are what they are. The team will be stuck in the same rut they are in now where they do not have the depth to replace players who aren’t performing well enough. Their main goal between now and the start of the 2022 season should be to raise the floor of the 40-man roster, however that needs to be done. It’s the moves like the one they finished this weekend, where they claimed Brady Lail off of waivers and designated Ramon Rosso, that should be what they should be trying to accomplish. Try and get better around the edges of the roster to help lift the overall talent level. Teams that win these days have a lot of top end talent to be sure, but they are also the deepest ones around. The Dodgers have names like Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler that contributed to their World Series victory, but they also had players on their 40-man roster, players like Matt Beaty, Zack McKinstry and Edwin Rios that play critical roles in the team performing above expectations that help prop them up over the course of a long season. That is where the Phillies are failing. Alec Bohm looks in desperate need of being sent back to the minors for a few days to catch his breath, work on his defense and regain some confidence, but who will replace him? What kind of depth have the Phillies built up that will let them do that? The answer is none. Instead, they’re stuck with Bohm trying to work out his issues in the heat of a division race, a race they are losing.