Phillies Need to Reverse First-Timers Curse vs. Cleveland Tonight

Phillies Need to Reverse First-Timers Curse vs. Cleveland Tonight

Guest post by Matt Hammond

Cleveland starter Zach McAllister has been perfectly average so far.

He’s is 1-3 with a 3.52 ERA in four starts. His record’s a product of
his shoddy run support: he’s surrendered no more than two runs in any
of his starts, but the Indians have plated three or fewer for him
in each. (Before you feel sorry for him: McAllister’s 3.50 RS/9 would be
the second-most on the Phillies, ahead of Roy Halladay (3.40), Cliff
Lee (3.20) and John Lannan (3.00), and behind Kyle Kendrick’s 4.40.)
Though his ERA, which ranks 57 of 109 qualifying starters, is mostly on him.

But tonight against the Phillies, McAllister enters with a distinct
edge if you consider the way the Phillies have fared in such situations
so far: he’s never seen them before.

Four times have the Phillies faced a starter who’d never before seen
them in their careers. They’ve worked a composite 2.05 ERA and .195
opponent batting average. In other words: never seeing the Phillies
before apparently makes you Adam Wainwright.

The Phillies are 1-3 in such games.

First-timer’s advantage isn’t only a Phillies problem.

Minor leaguers flooding the majors after September callups, for
instance, thrive off the fact that there’s (a) so many of them and (b)
so little film on them. Same goes for the beginnings of most seasons,
with many fresh off spring training victories for starting rotation
spots. Same for this one, too, the first of expanded interleague play.

The problem for the Phillies is that they should’ve shelled nearly all of these guys.

Wade Davis is basically a glorified reliever, having cracked the
rotation only after leaving Tampa for Kansas City via trade and posting a
4.22 ERA as a starter between 2009-11, which ranked 77th of 126
qualifying starters over the span.

To their credit, the Phillies touched him up for four runs in as many innings.

But he was the only one of the four they got to.

The rest? KC’s Luis Mendoza, Miami’s Jose Fernandez and Pittsburgh’s
Jeff Locke, who’ve allowed a whole one run in 18 combined innings, for a
0.50 ERA. This, despite the fact that they’ve had a combined 3.91 ERA
this year with two individuals north of 4.50.

Two of them, by the way, were righties. The only lefty, Locke,
entered with a .389/.450/.500 line against lefties, for the sixth-worst
lefty batting average in baseball. (Not surprisingly, Locke was behind
five righties in this category.) And yet Locke still tossed six
scoreless innings to effectively outduel Cole Hamels in a 2-0 loss on
Apr. 23.

On the year, Locke has a 4.50 ERA.

McAllister doesn’t seem like a push-over. He has a decent K% (19.8)
and doesn’t walk too many batters (7.9%) and throws five pitches with a
mildly quick 91.5 m.p.h. fastball.

He’s just got no business gassing the Phillies — as his first-timer peers have so far.

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid will have to hope NBA coaches trust the process.

Embiid on Thursday was not named a starter in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler locked in the three Eastern Conference frontcourt spots. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan rounded out the backcourt.

James (25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists) and Antetokounmpo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists) were locks as starters. That left Butler, Kevin Love and Embiid as the next in contention. Butler is a two-time All-Star averaging 24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.8 minutes for the 21-22 Bulls. Love is posting 20.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game on the Eastern Conference-leading, 29-11 Cavaliers.

The Western Conference starting spots went to Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. 

The voting was made up of fan votes (50 percent), player votes (25 percent) and media votes (25 percent). Embiid has a chance to be voted in by the NBA coaches, whose reserve selections will be announced on Jan. 26. 

Embiid would have been named a starter had the results been based on fan voting (50 percent). He finished third ahead of Love and Butler.

Embiid was in the running for a starting role during a breakout rookie season. He is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Even though his playing time is capped at 28 minutes, he ranks seventh among all players in scoring per 48 minutes. He is eighth overall in free throw attempts per game (7.9) and 10th in those made (6.2).

Embiid had obstacles, though, when it came to the voting: rookie status, 28-minute restriction, limited games played (29) because of his allocated workload, and the Sixers’ record.

Even though the All-Star Game highlights individual achievements, team record is often taken into consideration. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine games (see story), but still stand well below .500 at 14-26.

When it came to the players’ vote, it is hard for a rookie who hasn’t even competed against every team in the league to make a strong enough impression for another player to influence their perception of the top talent. Embiid finished outside of the top five in the players' vote, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Sixers' big man finished fifth in the media vote.

Embiid and the Sixers were very active in pushing for the fan votes. Embiid received the social media support of celebrities including Triple H, Kevin Hart and MLB MVP Mike Trout, among others. The Sixers promoted Embiid through a Shirley Temple campaign based on his favorite drink.

Embiid picked up major steam in the last week of voting. He had trailed Love by 16,028 fan votes in the second returns on Jan. 12.

He took to Twitter to express his gratitude.

Chip Kelly still jobless after swinging and missing with Jaguars

Chip Kelly still jobless after swinging and missing with Jaguars

Chip Kelly's job search continues.

The beloved (sarcasm) former Eagles head coach reportedly interviewed for the Jaguars' offensive coordinator opening. However, on Wednesday night, Jacksonville announced it was retaining Nathaniel Hackett as its OC.

“We are excited to announce Nathaniel Hackett as our offensive coordinator and he will immediately be tasked with installing and implementing our offense this offseason,” Jaguars new head coach Doug Marrone said in a statement from the team. “I have had the pleasure of working with Nathaniel for seven consecutive seasons and know firsthand how knowledgeable and passionate he is about winning.”

So, Kelly swung and miss twice on the Jaguars, as he reportedly interviewed for Jacksonville's head coaching job, as well.

"I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said, via CSNBayArea.com, two days after his firing as 49ers head coach. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

Kelly's decline is staggering, even if you saw it coming.

Look at this NFL coaching history ...

With Eagles in 2013: 10-6, wild-card playoff berth
With Eagles in 2014: 10-6, missed playoffs
With Eagles in 2015: 6-9, fired before final regular-season game
With 49ers in 2016: 2-14, fired after regular season

Who knows what's next for the Chipper?