Every Ex-Phillies Outfielder Is Having an Awesome Season

Every Ex-Phillies Outfielder Is Having an Awesome Season

A rotating cast of Cesar Hernandez, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr. and Freddy Galvis (!) certainly isn't what most Phillies fans would have ever pictured the team's outfield looking like a couple years ago--hell, even at the beginning of this season--and though injuries (to Dom Brown and Ben Revere, namely) have much to do with this destabilization, there are days where you have to wonder how it ever came to this for the Fightins.

In the years that were good for this Phillies team, dating back to the days of Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell, the outfield was always a strength. But over the last three years or so, Ruben Amaro Jr. made the decision to cut bait with a number of the outfielders who helped power the team's glory years--due to age, increasing expense, seeming decline, and a number of other reasons, most of which seemed pretty sound at the time.

However, as luck would have it, this season has brought back basically every one of those decisions to haunt Ruben Amaro Jr. (and us by extension). If you're an MLB outfielder in 2013 and you once played for the Phillies, chances are you're having your best season in years, if not ever. To wit:

Jayson Werth. The seven-year, $126-million contract that Raw Power signed with the Nats in the 2010 off-season--one which still gets him booed by a good percentage of the Phillie Phaithful upon return visits to the Bank--looked like a disaster in his first few seasons for Washington, in which Werth missed a combined 92 games and hit a combined 25 homers. This year, however, Jayson might be an MVP candidate if he hadn't missed a month with a hamstring injury and if the Nats were doing a little better. He's batting a career-high .323, with 21 homers and a near-.400 OBP, and when facing the Phillies he's doing even better, batting .400/.466/.640 in 58 PAs against the Phils. Seven years at $18 mil a year is probably still a stretch for Jayson, now 34 years old, but man could we have used that outfield production this season.

Shane Victorino. As part of the Phils' half-hearted teardown at the end of last season, Victorino and his expiring contract was jettisoned to the Dodgers for Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin. After Shane did nothing for the Dodgers in 53 games and LA missed the playoffs, and after he got off to a slow start this year for the Red Sox after signing a three-year, $39 million deal, it seemed like Ruben let go of Vic at just the right time. But the Flying Hawaiian has roared back with a vengeance in Boston, hitting .328 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in the month of August alone. Now he's hitting nearly .300 for the season, with 14 homers and 20 steals, and according to Baseball-Reference WAR, he's been worth a career-high 5.7 wins this season, seventh-highest in the whole AL. What's more, on the Red Sox, Victorino is all but guaranteed to do something no one else on this list (or on the Phillies, natch) will do this season--play well into October.

Hunter Pence. The other casualty of the Phils' partial rebuild at the end of last year was Hunter Pence, who had a sub-par end of season and post-season for the Giants after being dealt for Nate Schierholtz and a couple minor-leaguers at the deadline (though the Giants would win the World Series anyway, and Hunt had that weird three-RBI double where his bat hit the ball three times on one swing). Anyway, Pence is having a much better year in his second season in San Fran--his first real walk year--hitting .287 with 19 homers and a career-high 21 steals (against just two caught, remarkably). His defense has been less unanimously celebrated, but Fangraphs value says he's having the best season of his career anyway, and his googly-eyed enthusiasm is certainly missed on and off the field in Philly.

Nate Schierholtz. The 28-year-old pro throw-in in the Pence deal performed unremarkably in his 37-game stint for the Phils at the end of last year, and was unsurprisingly let walk at the end of the season. For the Cubs, however, Nasty Nate has hit on a career power surge, knocking 20 dingers after never reaching double digits in any season prior. It's hard to get too mad at Ruben for not seeing this one coming, but given some of the scrubs we've had cycle through our outfield this season--all of whom have performed as such--it's especially irritating to see a career fourth or fifth outfielder like Schierholtz hitting at such a high level elsewhere.

Raul Ibanez. Perhaps the most surprising career resuscitation among the Phils' ex-outfield crew is the year Raul Ibanez is having out in Seattle. The 19 homers he had (as well as the two post-season pinch-hit blasts) he had in part-time duty for the Yankees last year was impressive enough after he seemed to be on his last legs as a 39-year-old for the '11 Phils, but this year he's gone yard 27 times in one of the sport's most hitter-oppressive ballparks, and at age 41, has posted the highest OPS+ of his entire career. Most remarkably, he's now hit more homers in his 40s than he did in his entire 20s, officially giving Ibanez one of the weirdest career arcs of any slugger in baseball history.

Marlon Byrd. OK, it's not really fair to count Byrd here--it's been eight years and now six teams since Byrd was a Phillie, and he wasn't a part of any of the division-winning squads of the late '00s and early '10s. But damn...even Marlon friggin' Byrd is having a near-All-Star year? The dude was all but out of baseball last year, posting an OPS under .500 as a 34-year-old, surely reaching the end of the line for his respectable career. But somehow, he not only caught on with the Mets this year, he had the best season of his whole career, hitting .288 with 22 homers for New York before getting shipped in a post-deadline deal to the Pirates, where he's hit .325 with six XBHs and eight RBIs in 11 games so far. It's maybe the most bizarre story of the whole baseball season, and it serves as just one more jab to the gut for the Phillies and their crappy, crappy current outfield.

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

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Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint during a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds in the second period.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 5-foot-10, 184-pounder deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front off a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a real problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more enjoyment is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.