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Hittin’ Season #555: Phillies April stock up, stock down

Reading the tea leaves on which directions certain Phils players are headed in after the season’s first month.

San Francisco Giants v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

This all certainly does feel familiar.

After losing two out of three games to the first place New York Mets over the weekend, the Phillies sit at 11-12, one game under .500, five games out of first in the National League East.

Last year, they were 13-13 in April. In 2019, when MLB actually had an April not interrupted by a pandemic, the Phils were 13-13. Technically, when the calendar flipped to May following their 4-1 win over the Mets Saturday night, they were 11-11.

Of course, one season’s .500 is not necessarily another season’s .500.

Still, it’s fair to say the ‘22 Phillies are not blowing anyone’s hair back thus far, having won just two of their first six series. Their inconsistent play is the result, of course, of inconsistent players.

With one calendar month in the books, which Phils are trending up? Whose stock is down?

STOCK UP: Alec Bohm

In 67 plate appearances, Bohm is batting .309/.373/.455 with a wRC+ of 135 and an fWAR of 0.7, with 2 HRs, 11 runs and 14 RBIs at the bottom of the lineup. And after a horrific three-error game against the Mets in the second series of the season, Bohm’s defense has stabilized. Heck, he’s even made a couple nice plays here and there. The improvement offensively is across the board.

Bohm is playing confidently once again, spraying line drives all over the field, an extremely important development for the team’s long-term future, as well as its present.

STOCK DOWN: Rhys Hoskins

Among 17 qualified NL first basemen, Hoskins’ 0.0 fWAR ranks 14th, ahead of only Chicago’s Frank Schwindel, Pittsburgh’s Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto (-1.0 fWAR!!!). His walk rate, at one point his saving grace so far this year, is at 12.9%, which is still pretty good, but it comes with a strikeout rate of 29.0% that is 4.5% higher than his worst ever. He’s hitting .200/.301/.363 with only two homers and 7 RBIs, thanks to an insanely high ground ball rate of 40.7%, far higher than his career 29.7%.

It’s not nearly enough production from one of their premier middle-of-the-order bats.

STOCK UP: Kyle Schwarber

Prior to the Mets series, Schwarber likely would have been one of the “stock down” guys, but three homers in the final two games of the series has a way of changing the winds.

Only five other players have as many or more home runs than his seven so far: Anthony Rizzo (9), Aaron Judge & C.J. Crown (8), and Jose Ramirez & Byron Buxton (7). His 0.7 fWAR is 2nd-highest on the team (trailing only J.T. Realmuto’s 0.8 fWAR), and although he’s batting just .200 on the season, he’s made those hits count, with a .318 OBP and .520 slugging percentage. He’s even been an above average defender in left field, according to Fangraphs, worth two Defensive Runs Saved!

It’s been uneven, but overall, Schwarber is a player who is trending upward.

STOCK DOWN: Leadoff Hitters

At what point do we just admit that the leadoff spot in the Phillies’ batting order is cursed? It’s gotta be soon, right? Long a bugaboo of the offense, Phils’ leadoff batter are hitting just .158 with a .221 on-base percentage this season, both 2nd-worst in MLB. Those hitters have scored just 11 runs in 23 games.

  • Odubel Herrera (5 PAs: .250/.200/.1.000
  • Jean Segura: (46 PAs): .196/.245/.217
  • J.T. Realmuto (13 PAs): .154/.154/.154
  • Kyle Schwarber (36 PAs): .094/.194/.219

STOCK UP: 8-Hole Hitters

Conversely, Phils hitters batting 8th are hitting a whopping .295 this year, 3rd-best in MLB, with a .796 OPS that ranks 6th. Most of those plate appearances (37) have been taken up by Johan Camargo, who has a .726 OPS in that spot in the order this season. Bohm (7 PAs), Garrett Stubbs (5 PAs) and even Matt Vierling (5 PAs) have had success hitting down in the order.

STOCK DOWN: Didi Gregorius

Gregorius’ batting average is decent (.275), but he’s not hitting for any power whatsoever (.353 SLG), and is swinging at a ton of pitches out of the strike zone, 44.5%, which would be a career high if this keeps up. Just 15.9% of his batted balls are considered “hard-hit” by Fangraphs, even below last year’s 24.4%. His defense has also been subpar, with -3 DRS in already this season.

STOCK UP: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin & Kyle Gibson

Their overall ERAs aren’t overwhelming: 5.79, 3.90, 4.50, and 2.93, respectively, but the peripherals of all four pitchers indicate better days are ahead.

Eflin was tagged for 8 hits and 5 ER in 4.1 innings on Sunday night against New York, but he’s continued to avoid the home runs and walks that so often indicate a pitcher is lost. His expected ERA (xERA), based off of peripherals such as exit velocity, launch angle, and sprint speed on “topped” or “weakly hit” balls, is 2.64, indicating he’s been the victim of some unfortunately ball placement in his five starts thus far. Same with Gibson’s 3.04 xERA, Nola’s 2.27 xERA and Wheeler’s 3.59.

Ranger Suarez has yet to capitalize on last year’s season, with a 4.42 ERA thus far, but it’s too early to put him in the “stock down” category just yet. Meanwhile, the four starters listed above should be in line for significant improvement if the baseball world is just.

STOCK UP: Andrew Bellatti

The Phils’ bullpen has blown just one save so far this year, so that’s a good start. And while their team ‘pen ERA stands at a respectable 3.98, it still lags significantly behind the rest of the league, 23rd-best, in MLB. However, closer Corey Knebel has been outstanding thus far, with a 0.96 ERA in his nine appearances and four saves, providing badly needed stability in the 9th. Jose Alvarado (3.68 ERA, 2.20 xERA), Seranthony Dominguez (3.24 ERA), and Brad Hand (1.69 ERA, 2.45 xERA) have all been solid as well.

But perhaps the reliever whose stock is rising fastest is Andrew Ballatti, who in six appearances (5.0 IP), has a 1.80 ERA and 2.78 xERA. In an admittedly small sample size, he’s struck 40.0% of hitters he’s faced throwing a mid-90s fastball and a slider that has left hitters confounded.

The non-roster invitee could work himself into some more high leverage situations if he continues to impress.

STOCK DOWN: Joe Girardi

Well, you’re going to have to listen to the latest episode of Hittin’ Season to hear the fire coming from me, Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher on the current state of the Phils’ manager.