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Flawed vs. bad: Phillies vs. Pirates series preview

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The Phillies merely adopted the dark, the Pirates were born in it

MLB: JUL 29 Nationals at Phillies Game 2
Andrew McCutchen will be heading to his old home for the weekend
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Friday marks the trade deadline in Major League Baseball. And the Phillies, assuming they fancy themselves as contenders (whether or not they should is up for debate), clearly should be looking to trade for pitching help.

But with or without pitching help, the season continues. The Phillies will travel to Pittsburgh to take on one of the worst teams in baseball. Will they take advantage? That may depend on how well their “starting pitchers” perform.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 38-64 (Fifth place in National League Central)

The manager

Derek Shelton is in his second year as Pirates manager, and because the team is losing so spectacularly, he probably won’t last much longer. The Pirates can then cycle on to the next inexperienced guy they bring aboard, because any experienced manager probably knows enough not to take this dead-end job.

I couldn’t find much criticism of Shelton on Twitter, which isn’t all that surprising. How mad can you get at a guy who’s been given perhaps the worst collection of talent in baseball?

The last time they met

The Phillies were having their share of issues late in the 2019 season, but they managed to win two out of three when the Pirates visited Philadelphia in late August 2019. The first game of the series was won by Sean “The Carny” Rodriguez who hit a walk-off home run and celebrated it by ripping on Phillies fans in a post-game interview.

This may be the first time a guy who hit a walk-off home run was vociferously booed by the home fans the following day.

Over a quarter century of awfulness

It shouldn’t be a shock that the Pirates are not having a good season. The past 28 years have been rather awful for the franchise, and if not for Andrew McCutchen leading the team to three straight Wild Card bids last decade, this team wouldn’t have finished higher than third since 1997. They still haven’t won their division since 1992, back when Barry Bonds was still suiting up in black and gold.

They’re definitely sellers

The Pirates are buried in last place, so it’s no surprise that they have been selling off all of their tradeable pieces this month. It seems that they’re so eager to trade that they’re even trading some players twice. The Pirates claim they backed out of the Tyler Anderson trade due to medical reasons, but the Phillies seem to think there was some shadiness involved. It’s just very rare that a trade doesn’t go through after all the major reporters call it final.

But apparently there were no hard feelings since the teams agreed on a trade Friday morning.

Yeah, that ought to propel the Phillies to the top of the standings.

Least valuable player

On a team this bad, there are plenty of candidates for this title, but I’ll call out Gregory Polanco who has been worth -0.5 wins this season. As recently as 2018, Polanco hit 23 home runs, and looked like he might be an offensive stalwart. Since then, his bat has gone downhill (Slash line of .205/.287/.386) and he’s regarded as an especially poor outfielder.

Let’s talk about the Phillies’ roster construction

Remember how the Phillies had to use Aaron Nola as a pinch hitter on Thursday because they ran out of position players? Yes, it’s all fun now that he walked and the Phillies won the game, but why the heck did they run out of position players, and why was this not the first time it happened this season?

Part of it was bad luck with both Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins leaving the game due to injury. But part of it was having 15 men on a 27-man roster be pitchers. (They were allowed an extra player due to the doubleheader.)

The Phillies currently have two players who are capable of pitching beyond the sixth inning, and 12 pitchers who can only be used for somewhere between zero and four innings a day (and then usually need a couple of days off afterwards). Some of them are technically starting pitchers, some of them are considered relievers. But too many of them aren’t actually good, and I’m not sure what the point of them being on the roster is.

For instance, is there a reason that Chase Anderson and Enyel de los Santos are both on this team? How many mop-up relievers does a team need? Is there a reason that Brandon Kintzler is on the team? (Okay, I’ll answer that one. He’s here because Joe Girardi seems to think he’s a guy who can be used to escape a mid-inning jam, even though he’s given no indication of being able to do that.)

As far as the position players they do have...you’ve got a young player who was tearing it up in the minors. They called him up to the majors, and just had him sit on the bench while Odubel Herrera continued to not hit well as the everyday centerfielder.

The Phillies aren’t a bad team (which doesn’t mean that they’re a good team either). But sometimes, I think they want to be.

Trivia

Last series’ answer: I caused some confusion, but I wanted to know the three players who had three games where they hit more than one home run against the Phillies. The correct answer is Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and Juan Soto. AlwaysSundayInPhilly got it.

This series’ question: The only time a member of the Phillies had a multiple-homer game at PNC Park was on August 25, 2009. Who was it?

Special request: Please don’t identify correct or incorrect answers in the comments. Let’s give everyone a chance to at least guess even if the correct response has already been given.

What to expect

  • The Phillies will pull off another trade. Will it be impactful? Who knows.
  • Andrew McCutchen celebrates his return to PNC Park by hitting a home run.
  • Alec Bohm builds off his three-hit day on Thursday by collecting six hits in the series.

Closing thought that may or may not be relevant to the series

In the past week, the Phillies have not only had back-to-back home runs on two separate occasions, but also have won two games via walk-off home runs. And yet it feels like they’ve had a bad week!