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After a Terrible May, the Phillies Need to Make Changes

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The Philadelphia Phillies wrapped up a terrible month of May with a 10-2 loss to the Miami Marlins yesterday. Many of the things that the Phillies have struggled with over the past month reared their ugly head again, things like poor pitching from the starting rotation and weak hitting from the lineup.

Things didn’t take long to get rough yesterday afternoon, as Phillies’ starting pitcher Aaron Nola gave up three runs, two of which came off of the bat of Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, in the first inning, and the team, as they are prone to do, never recovered. Nola, now 2-3 on the season, received the loss while making it through only three innings and allowing four runs.

The Philadelphia bullpen, which was pitching surprisingly well over the past couple of weeks, was not able to halt the Marlins’ surge. It took four pitchers to make it through the rest of the game while giving up six runs.

Philadelphia was hammered once again by the long ball, as their pitchers gave up three home runs in the losing effort. Giving up the home run has been something that Philly’s pitching has been struggling with all season long, as they are tied for first at 79 home runs allowed.

The Phillies hitting did show up today a little bit better than it has in the past month, as the team was able to string together 10 hits. However, they only managed two runs from those ten hits, showing that the team lacks the ability to drive in runs when they are given the opportunity.

Finishing the month of May with a horrendous 6-22 record, the Phillies have been one of baseball’s worst so far in 2017. The Phillies currently sit at 17-34 and they have no hope of turning it around. Their hitting and pitching are both at or near the bottom of the league in many statistical categories, and the young, promising players that many expected to blossom this season are performing far below expectations.

Third baseman Maikel Franco is hitting .216 AVG with six home runs and 28 RBIs, stats that are horrible for a guy hitting in the middle of the order with the expectations to hit 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Franco is not the only young player on the Phillies to be under-performing.

Outfielder Odubel Herrera, currently hitting .218 AVG with three home runs and 14 RBIs, has followed two very successful seasons in the majors with a terrible one in 2017. Herrera got paid a big contract during the offseason (5-year, $30.5 million according to spotrac.com) and maybe that is the reason why he has performed below expectations. However, it could be something far more deeper and more worrying than being given a new contract.

One of the things that made Herrera such a special player over the past couple of season was that he had solid plate discipline and often drew out long at-bats. In 159 games in 2016, Herrera drew 63 walks and had a .361 OBP. He made the National League all-star team using some unexpected power (15 home runs in 2016) combined with his amazing ability to get on base at an extremely high clip. However, 2017 has been a tremendously different story.

In 50 games thus far in 2017, Herrera has drawn only 11 walks and is on pace to draw only 37 walks, a massive decrease from 2016. Herrera’s OBP has also taken a nosedive, with it currently sitting at .262 (a .044 difference from his batting average). To compare, his OBP was .075 higher than his batting average in 2016. Herrera has taken a steep decline in production, and it could be due to a change in mental approach at the plate.

Herrera has been swinging at a lot more pitches that are out of the zone this season, something that he did not do very often in 2016. He has clearly been having an issue with his plate discipline and approach, as that is why he has been hitting poorly in 2017.

Phillies’ manager Pete Mackanin has been presented with a massive problem in the terrible play from two of his supposed top hitters. He has tried to move them around in the order, and to no avail. He has also tried to bench them in the hopes of sparking them out of their slump. None of that has worked, and as a result some changes are going to be needed to be made.

One option that the team could take is to send some of their slumping players down to the minor leagues for a brief time. Making this move could be risky for guys like Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera, but it makes sense if that is what it takes to get them out of their slump by fixing their approach at the dish. As more time goes by, it seems more and more likely that the Phils will end up sending Franco down to the minors for a brief stint to hopefully get him back on track. With Herrera, the team will most likely keep him up on the major league level due to his excellent fielding thus far in 2017.

Another option that seems likely to happen in the near future is for the Phillies to give themselves a jump start by bringing up some of their top prospects from triple-A. First baseman Rhys Hoskins has been tearing the cover off of the baseball (.314 AVG, 13 HR, 40 RBIs), catcher Jorge Alfaro (.286 AVG, 3 HR, 25 RBIs) has been hitting well and outfielder Dylan Cozens has been continuing his power streak from double-A to triple-A (.239 AVG, 13 HR, 38 RBIs). Hoskins and Alfaro seem to be the players that are the most ready to make the jump from triple-A to the majors, and we will most likely see these players make their debuts for the Phillies before the end of this season.

Whether it is sending some current players down to the minor leagues, or calling up some players from triple-A, the Phillies need to make some changes soon if they are to avoid becoming the clear worst team in the MLB.

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