Yesterday was important is studying what the Phillies and its farm teams need to do to win ball games: Draw more walks! In games on Sunday walks to Ryan Howard and the Clearwater Threshers’ Kelly Dugan were followed directly by three run homers. In both games these two long balls resulted in 3-0 leads and eventual wins for the Phillies and Threshers.
All season long every time we watched or read about a Phillies organization game it seems like the play by play guy or the game story bemoans the fact that the teams are hitting home runs but no one is ever on base. Reading is leading the league in solo long balls but are having trouble in scoring runs and are in last place in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division. Yesterday’s three run home runs by Dominic Brown for the Phillies in the first inning and Maikel Franco for the Threshers in the sixth innings were both preceded by a base on balls. To me a walk is an error on the pitcher and for some reason it seems to rattle a pitcher more than a hit at times.
Yesterday, before Baseball Betsy and I walked down to Dunedin Stadium to watch Maikel Franco drive a long ball off the scoreboard in left, we watched Domonic Brown drop the barrelhead of his bat on an inside pitch to drive it out to right at Citizens Bank Park on MLB-TV. Each resulted in a three run home run. The three run homer can be a game breaker especially when it results in the first runs scored in a game as we saw yesterday in the Phillies 7-5 win and the Threshers 7-0 victory.
The walk is good but one of my favorite statistic is on base plus slugging or OPS. A high OPS shows that not only is a hitter getting on base but he has pop in his swing to generate runs. A no better example of what results when a team has players with high OPS averages batting back to back in the lineup than happened in yesterday’s Threshers game in the top of the sixth inning of a 0-0 game . After one out Aaron Altherr doubled. Dugan worked a full count walk. Then Franco launched his three run dinger to give the Threshers a 3-0 lead. Carlos Zambrano pitch a shutdown inning in the bottom half of the sixth and three shutout innings by the Threshers’ pen followed to give him the win. That’s how a team plays winning baseball especially against the first place team, the Dunedin Blue Jays, in the FSL’s Northern Division.
The Thresher have the top talent in the Phillies minor league system. We have blogged about the pitching of Hoby Milner earlier. Also impressive this season so far have been the performances from the four Thershers who are in the top eight in OPS in the league, Dugan, Altherr, Cameron Perkins and Franco who are second, sixth, seventh and eight respectively in OPS. Dugan missed the first three weeks of the season to injury and is not yet officially qualified. Perkins was hit on his left forearm in Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays and put on the disabled list but was on the bench yesterday, still able to chart the hitters.
Kelly Dugan was named by the Phillies as its Player of the Month for May and well earned. To me though even more impressive than his .314 average for the month has been his .991 OPS for the season so far. Kelly has been on fire and is hitting .421 in his last ten games with a 1.289 OPS. To have such a high OPS he needed to have some home runs. Kelly homered in three straight games prior to Sunday’s game. Check! He needed to hit to all fields so they can’t defense him. In yesterday’s game Kelly had three hits which were hit to all three fields. Check! And he needed to get some walks to also get on base. Over his last ten games he has walked six times to go with his 16 for 38 hitting over his last ten games. Checkmate!
Clearly the Phillies have some great major league prospects at High A Clearwater. The Threshers are one game out of first place in their division and have several guys having career breakout years at baseball ages 22 or under. With the All Star game approaching on June 15th let’s see if the outstanding baseball they are playing, from the walk to the three run homer to pitching, pays offs in recognition as Florida State League All Stars for some of the Threshers.