Pete Mackanin 'not pleased' with Odubel Herrera's base-running blunders

Pete Mackanin 'not pleased' with Odubel Herrera's base-running blunders

Odubel Herrera’s return to the dugout was so slow that home plate umpire Nic Lentz had to clap to speed him along. Herrera obliged, accelerating to an effortless jog until he left Lentz’s sight. Then he went back to a hung head and a crawling pace as he reached the steps. Boos met his ears through it all. 

Herrera was picked off third base by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina for the second out of the fourth inning on Thursday. It didn’t matter much as the Phillies beat the Cardinals, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), guided by Aaron Nola’s the best outing in a long time (see story)

However, Herrera made a base-running blunder at the same spot Wednesday night, when he blew through a Juan Samuel stop sign and was out by a mile at home plate to make the final out in the ninth inning of a tie game. And later on Thursday, while on second during a running count and Maikel Franco behind him at first, Herrera didn’t run on the pitch.

These are mistakes any big-leaguer should avoid. And when he’s the only player a team has signed to a long-term deal, which is supposed to last into a new era that involves winning games, the mistakes sting a bit more. 

“I’m not pleased about it,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. 

Had Wednesday night’s gaffe been avoided, maybe the Phillies could have gone on to win. Thursday’s was more embarrassing than damaging. While displeased, Mackanin, who said he thought about giving Herrera Thursday off, understood what happened this time around.

“He was running contact. And when you’re running contact, you’re susceptible to getting picked off by a catcher, especially with a left-handed hitter up,” Mackanin said. “You have to be aware of that. They’re taught to be aware of that. He just didn’t take that first hard step back. And that deters the catcher from throwing to third base. It happened.” 

The Phillies have been picked off eight times this season. Entering Thursday, only four teams had been picked off more. 

The Phillies own a run scoring percentage (percentage of base runners that eventually score) of 28.0, which puts them in the bottom third of the league. While much of that can be attributed to bad bats, mistakes like Herrera’s are not helping the cause. 

At 25, Herrera is still figuring this whole thing out. But he was the Phillies’ only All-Star last year and is supposed to be a consistent presence in the lineup. 

Andres Blanco, on the opposite end of the spectrum, first saw major-league action in 2004, and should be providing a consistent presence in the Phillies’ clubhouse. Yet on Thursday, starting at second base instead of Howie Kendrick, Blanco made a veteran play on the base paths, which felt like the remedy to Herrera’s mental lapses.

In the bottom of the fifth, with two outs and Blanco on second base, Freddy Galvis grounded a ball up the middle. Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz sent an errant flip to second to get the final out, and Blanco was smart enough to round third and score after the ball got loose in the infield. Mackanin called it a heads-up play. 

“That’s the kind of players you’re looking for, the guys that are going to look for those kinds of things to happen,” Mackanin said, “and they don't assume a play is going to be made and assume they might be able to take an extra base.

“He’s a veteran. I’m glad he paid attention.”

Villanova's Kris Jenkins is ready for whatever road leads to NBA

Villanova's Kris Jenkins is ready for whatever road leads to NBA

CAMDEN, N.J — Kris Jenkins looked like he was just happy to be there. Even after a disappointing end to his iconic career in which the three-point assassin failed to make a triple in an early NCAA Tournament exit, the smile and the swagger he carried with him during four years at Villanova didn't fade.

It's part of why they call him "Big Smoove." 

He's the one who made "the shot" and one-third of the best class in Villanova basketball history. They lost one game on campus. They beat every Big 5 team they faced. They won four Big East regular-season titles, two Big East Tournament titles and one national championship.

Yet all of that means very little now. Jenkins, who worked out for the Sixers at their training complex Tuesday, will have an uphill battle in his upcoming NBA quest. He comes from a Villanova program that, despite its national prominence, does not regularly churn out NBA players. His game is largely dominated by his ability to hit from deep and his weight has always been a concern. He will need to perform at a higher level than he did on the Main Line to make it in the Association.

"If that means forgetting about one shot and bringing it up 12 years from now," Jenkins said, "I can do that."

Jenkins' ability to shoot has never been in question. He made 37 percent of the 708 threes he hoisted up during his career, and it will be the skill that keeps him around on any team in the future. He'll likely need to bump that percentage up a bit to play at the highest level for long.

But he said he's not just a shooter.

If that's true, he'll need to add reliability on the other end. At Villanova, he had Big East co-defensive players of the year in Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges alongside him. In the NBA, he will have less room for mistakes. Jahlil Okafor can give you an example of how people feel about defensive liabilities.

"The question is, for him, is whether he's going to be able to shoot it at an elite level and defend the position," Brandon Williams, the Sixers' vice president of basketball administration and general manager of the Delaware 87ers, said.

That doesn't mean Jenkins, who grew up in Maryland and has known presumed Sixers' first-round pick Markelle Fultz for years, can't find a place. He looked lighter Tuesday than he had recently, and, in his words, "was in the right positions" defensively and "contested every shot." Williams recognized that any lapses in the three-on-three games he participated in don't matter for much. Five-on-five is where they draw judgement. 

Unless a team unexpectedly loves him, Jenkins will go undrafted Thursday night. That's when what Williams called the "third round" will begin. The Sixers will get a chance to sign undrafted free agents, who will then try to prove their worth in the summer league.

On the other end will be three options: the spot on an NBA bench, an opportunity to develop in the G-League or the door. 

The third option leads to more immediate money overseas, but the second extends a chance for the ultimate goal. Should it come to deciding between the two, it sounded like Jenkins' choice is already made.

"I would go wherever the best opportunity is for me to play at the highest level, which is to play in the NBA," Jenkins said. "That's always the dream, that's always been the dream, and it will continue to be the dream no matter what road I have to take."

Last year, Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono failed to make the cut for the Spurs' roster but stayed with the organization's affiliate in Austin. His classmate, Daniel Ochefu, made the Wizards. Class of 2015 product Darrun Hilliard has been up and down with the Pistons. Reggie Redding, a member of Villanova's 2009 Final Four team, has done well in Europe.

The Wildcats' presence is on all levels.

"I've talked to a bunch of those guys and they're all in great situations and they're happy," Jenkins said. "At the end of the day, you want to be somewhere where you're happy."

And for now, with a chance to bring that "smoove" shot and smile to a new team, Jenkins seems to be just that.

The case for Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

The case for Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss as a Sixers' 2nd-round pick

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade ups/downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Nigel Williams-Goss
Position
: PG
School: Gonzaga
Height: 6-4
Weight: 182
Wingspan: 6-7¼ 

Gonzaga University has had some great college players in recent years. Go back over the last decade or so, and guys like Adam Morrison, Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer all spent time in Spokane. But not until this season had future hall of fame coach Mark Few’s team made the Final Four. Much of that breakthrough has to be credited to the Zags’ point guard, Nigel Williams-Goss, who, if he had stayed healthy in the national championship game, might have been able to lead his team to one more win.

Williams-Goss spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career at the University of Washington but left after a sophomore campaign in which he was the team’s best player. He wasn’t happy with the way the program was going, which isn’t hard to believe considering this season the Huskies won just nine games even with Markelle Fultz on their roster this year. 

After sitting out the 2015-2016 season due to transfer rules, Williams-Goss was an immediate difference maker for the Zags. As the West Coast Conference’s player of the year and a second-team AP All-American, he averaged 16.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists. It’s hard to ask anyone to be that consistently productive in multiple facets. After getting his degree, Williams-Goss elected to forego his final year of NCAA eligibility and enter the draft. 

The case for Williams-Goss
His greatest advantage is his size. A 6-7 wingspan is desirable for a point guard, and he can use it to make up for his less than stellar athleticism on both ends of the floor. Often it helped him get to the rack when electing to keep the rock on the pick and roll, which was a big part of the Zags’ offense with the inside presence of Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins. And the extra inches allow him to guard multiple positions. 

Offensively, his game is well-rounded. His shooting numbers are solid, and 48 percent from the field makes up for his 36 percent from three. But the most encouraging stat lies in Williams-Goss’ turnovers, or rather lack thereof. Critics are skeptical of his composure when pressured at high speeds, but with just 2.4 turnovers per 40 attempts, he’s careful with the ball.

The case against Williams-Goss
It’s fair to argue that Williams-Goss’ numbers were puffed up a bit thanks to the circumstances he was in. At Washington, he was a go-to guy, so you’d sure hope he’d score in double-figures. At Gonzaga, he played in the West Coast Conference, which pretty much had no answer to the Zags’ level of play. He played bad teams and stuffed the stat sheet.

Plus, he lacks that one blatantly marketable skill. Out of his athleticism, shooting and defending, none are first-rate. His percentages do take a slight dip when shooting off the dribble, and that’s a tad alarming for a point guard.

Analysis
Williams-Goss isn’t even a lock to get picked. As of now, DraftExpress predicts he’ll go to the Knicks with the 58th selection. Regardless, he’ll get a chance with someone and try to prove himself this summer. Philadelphia is not the most likely destination. 

The point guard position is crowded here. The Sixers want to play Ben Simmons at the one. Jerryd Bayless and T.J. McConnell are under contract for the next two seasons. Another point presence, albeit a scoring one that will act as a combo guard, appears to be coming out of the first round in the form of Fultz. While there is some upside in taking Williams-Goss, it’s hard to see him finding a fit. Should the Sixers’ value his size and see room for improvement, maybe they take him late in the second round and give him some time in the summer league and D-League.