Between the two rampant diseases of 2020 -- coronavirus and greed -- there is no guarantee that baseball will be played this year.
At best, it won’t be more than about 38% of a normal season.
And while a 60-game baseball season in the middle of a 100-year pandemic will prove little more than major-league owners are (still) dishonest and major-league players are (still) disorganized, a two-month run could serve to boost the careers of a handful of Phillies, both young and old, who badly need boosting.
The Phillies’ first baseman is 27. He needs to get paid sooner than later, but he’s not arbitration-eligible until after 2020. This didn’t seem like it would be an issue after his first 150 games, when he shredded big-league pitching with 40 home runs, 120 RBI, a .265 average, and an .938 OPS. It has become a big issue, because Hoss can be a big star, but he needs a big year. He’s hit a more modest 41 homers with 109 RBI and a .239 average in his last 213 games. This led him to overhaul his approach. We need to see that overhaul.
We need to see the evolution of his new stance, with his hands lower, his leg kick modified. We need to see his new attitude, fewer pitches taken, more aggressive at-bats, less self-reproach upon failure. We need to see his willingness to use right field and trust his massive, untapped power.
Hoss rakes in April: His OPS is .994, the best of any other month. August is the new April. A hot August would mean millions for Hoskins.
Since landing in Philadelphia two seasons ago, the three most defining moments from Arrieta’s tenure have been: him blaming his 2018 slump on a bad knee; him grinding through bone spurs in his right elbow in 2019; and him sweeping the floor in anticipation of Bryce Harper’s arrival last spring.
Not exactly what you want for the first $55 million of a $75 million contract.
However, in 2018, Arrieta had a 2.16 earned-run average through the Phillies’ first 52 games. In 2019, his ERA was 3.60 through 52 games. Bone-spur surgery is long behind him now. If he can manage an ERA below 4.00 through 52 games in 2020, somebody’s going to give him at least two more years and $20 million.
That wouldn’t be a bad deal for a 35-year-old whose ERA has been 4.00 since his sole All-Star appearance, in 2016.
No player will benefit more from the absence of Gabe Kapler’s analytics-heavy management style than Eflin. Both Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez have more talent and more potential than Eflin, but neither has as good a pitcher’s brain. That’s why Eflin will always be better than them, and why 2020 wouldn’t help either of them, but it would help him.
Eflin was demoted to the bullpen in the middle of last season, but that was less his fault than that of his handlers. When injuries rescued Eflin from the ‘pen and slotted him back into the rotation, he essentially told Kapler and pitching coach Chris Young (who was also fired) to take their chest-high, four-seam fastball philosophy and shove it where the coconut oil doesn’t reach.
Eflin then rediscovered and relied on his sinker. In his last seven starts, he went 3-2 with a 2.83 ERA. He’d begun the season with a 2.83 ERA in his first 14 starts, which included two complete games. He’d begun the season doing it his way.
Doing it his way helped Eflin earn a $2.1 million raise over his 2019 salary in an arbitration settlement. It was his first year of eligibility. If, in an abbreviated season, Elfin, 26, does it his way effectively, his $2.625 million salary for 2020 will look like meal money.
The Phillies gifted Scott Kingery $24 million at spring training in 2018, and he hadn’t spent a minute in the major leagues. The only way it made sense was if they were to install Kingery at second base, where he is a genius, and tell him to show up every day for duration of contract’s 5 years.
Kingery then played second base just eight times in his first 231 starts.
He has been prone to massive slumps in his first two seasons, but then, he seldom knew which of the his five baseball gloves he’d be wearing on any given day. He has played seven of the nine defensive positions, including pitcher.
He played almost exclusively at shortstop as a rookie after playing just three of his 329 minor-league games there. Usually, minor-league shortstops become major-league second basemen, mainly because shortstop is a lot harder. Little wonder then that Kingery hit .226 as a rookie. Last season, Kingery hit .221 over his last 77 games while playing five -- five -- positions.
Scott Kingery was Gabe Kapler’s greatest failure.
Joe Girardi, Kapler’s replacement, seems intent on keeping Kingery at second base and far away from third base, shortstop, and the outfield. Girardi also shares with Kingery an absolute devotion to baseball. They are utter grunts.
Sixty games with Girardi might not be enough to allow Kingery to fully blossom, but 60 games with Girardi would set Kingery on his rightful path to being the best all-around second baseman in Phillies history.
The Phillies’ best athlete, Quinn has been a train wreck -- literally, from head-to-toe: concussion, elbow, finger, groin, quadriceps, hamstring, Achilles tendon, and, yes, even a toe.
Quinn remains, nonetheless, the Phillies’ best athlete. If health, he’s a Gold Glove-level centerfielder with top-level speed, and a terrific arm; a 30-base stealer; and a (possible) switch-hitting leadoff man (he’s shelved the pinch-hitting, for now).
But Quinn is 27, and he’s started just 54 games the past two seasons. If he could start 50 of the 60 games in this abbreviated, bastardized schedule, then his career might be saved.