Start 3: Sink or Swim Time For Jonathan Pettibone

Start 3: Sink or Swim Time For Jonathan Pettibone

By Matt Hammond

Two starts in, all was well for Tyler Cloyd. He’d punched back-to-back quality starts in his debut appearances with the Phillies in 2012, for a more-than-reputable 1-1 mark and 2.77 ERA. He’d struck out 14 and walked only 2. By all appearances, Cloyd was, at the very least, serviceable.

Then came start No. 3, what 2013 rookie Jonathan Pettibone will face tonight.

Cloyd was unloaded on by the 98-loss Colorado Rockies for four runs in four innings, taking all his damage in the third. He surrendered four straight hits with two outs. He lasted only 76 pitches.

For the rest of the way, Cloyd’s first-two-start luster was gone. He lasted only three innings his next time out, against the 107-loss Houston Astros, serving as many runs as he tossed frames in that one, too. After seeming bounce-back start against the Mets, Cloyd again buckled, for six runs in five innings to the Washington Nationals. Just like that, Cloyd’s ERA flirted with 5.00.

The same befell then-rookie starter Antonio Bastardo in 2009. Two starts in, he had a 2.45 ERA and struck out nine to two walks. His next time out, the Boston Red Sox smashed him for five runs (four earned) in one inning. After essentially the same unfolded in Tampa two starts later – Bastardo was mauled for six runs in 3 2/3 innings – he was optioned to Triple-A to begin polishing his relief game.

The sample is hardly enough for conclusions. But the fact is, of the four starters to debut for the Phillies since 2007 before Pettibone, two stumbled in their third start after being viable through their first two. The others, Vance Worley and J.A. Happ, were already relegated to the ‘pen by then.

Did they hit a wall? Get figured out? Tough to say.

But Pettibone has hardly fared like they did. His 4.35 ERA ranks 11th of 17 rookie starters this year. His opp BA (.317) is second-worst. Though his BABIP, .379, is also highest, it’s partly because he can’t miss a bat; opponents have the best contact rate on Pettibone (88.9%) than they do any other rookie starter. He’s gotten all but a hardly sustainable 4.5% of his strikes on swings, the lowest among rooks. His first-pitch strike percentage? Worst of the lot. He’s also served the third-most HR/9.

Pettibone’s yet to last more than 5 1/3, despite getting 13 more pitches of leash in start No. 2. The Phillies have won both his starts. Pettibone has also averaged 6.35 runs of support in them. 

Pettibone does get Miami tonight, which has plated three or more runs in only 12 of 29 games so far. But his next scheduled starts are vs. the World Champion Giants and 20 runs in two games Indians.

This is less about circumstantial anecdotes than the fact that, while Pettibone’s been OK, he’s yet to be great. And even early “goodness” can fade fast. So if Pettibone begins to slack tonight, or in 5 or 10 days, and if the alternatives’ arms have been stretched, the organization might be best served turning to Adam Morgan or Ethan Martin – or one and then the other – until John Lannan’s return.

Because as well and nice as it’s been, Pettibone in the rotation could get ugly fast.

Eagles mailbag: Carson Wentz's skill, running backs, center spot

Eagles mailbag: Carson Wentz's skill, running backs, center spot

The NFL found a way to prevent the Eagles from winning this weekend: Don't let them play. 

Yup, the Eagles are riding high at 3-0, but an early Week 4 bye has them waiting to play again until Oct. 9 in Detroit against the Lions. 

Thanks to a hot start from rookie Carson Wentz and the defense, the Eagles have been one of the biggest surprises of the NFL so far and have Philadelphia buzzing. 

As always, thanks for your questions. We'll dive right in: 

Wentz's ability to extend plays doesn't make his receivers better, but it certainly gives them more opportunities, which is really just as good. 

This skill is something Wentz really takes pride in. He wants his receivers to know that no matter how broken the play is, it isn't dead until the whistle. In that regard, the comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers make plenty of sense. And his receivers love the idea of having extra seconds to get open. 

During the Chicago game, Wentz really showed this ability. He showed he can move around and out of the pocket while also keeping his eyes downfield. It was just a matter of time before he hit big on one of those plays. 

Sure enough, he did it in the third quarter against the Steelers. I broke down that play using the tape and it showed a unique skill set out of a quarterback (see story)

https://twitter.com/faux_micahGreg/status/781171954241851392

We had a few questions about running backs, so we'll let this one speak for them all. 

On Monday, Doug Pederson said that once Ryan Mathews ankle is completely healed, Mathews is still the lead back who will get most of the team's carries. I think Pederson means it. 

Still, Mathews has had injury problems for a long time and it looks like this year is no different. It had to be encouraging for the Eagles to see how well Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood played against the Steelers. While Mathews is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, Barner is at 6.1 and Smallwood is at 4.8. 

Sproles, who has 19 carries this year, shouldn't be getting as many carries as he has, but he's still going to get some. He's averaging just 2.7 yards per attempt.

That's a long answer to say this: For now, Mathews is the guy. But if he can't stay healthy, one of the other guys could and should earn more carries. 

https://twitter.com/ATONAMIS317/status/781174071400755200

I thought Stefen Wisniewski looked OK in camp as the primary backup at right guard. 

Sure, Jason Kelce hasn't looked like a Pro Bowler in 2016, but he might not be as bad as you think. Here's Andrew Kulp's film breakdown of Kelce from the Bears game, where to the casual observer, it looked like Kelce got worked (see story). We see Kelce looks bad when he's asked to block a nose tackle 1-on-1. That's never been his strength and never will be his strength. His strength is getting to the next level to block and use his athleticism. 

One more reason to not expect a change at center unless things start to go really bad is that Kelce has been really good for Wentz. Sure, there was a bad snap against the Steelers (something Wisniewski has had his troubles with) but Kelce is a veteran and has helped the rookie out plenty during the first three weeks. 

And besides, with Lane Johnson's suspension looming, the Eagles are likely going to use Wisniewski to fill it at left guard. They could put him at center and Isaac Seumalo at LG, but that would be a pretty big offensive line shakeup for a team that hasn't yet lost a game. 

No. 10 Washington dominates No. 7 Stanford in rout

usa-washington-christian-mccaffrey.jpg
USA Today Images

No. 10 Washington dominates No. 7 Stanford in rout

SEATTLE -- Jake Browning threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns, Myles Gaskin added 100 yards and two scores, and No. 10 Washington was dominant on both sides, overwhelming No. 7 Stanford 44-6 on Friday night.

After months of hype that Washington (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) was on the verge of a breakout, the Huskies showed they were ready for their return to the national stage.

And they did it emphatically, handing Stanford (3-1, 2-1) its worst loss since a 41-3 setback against Arizona State in 2007.

The Huskies raced to a 23-0 halftime lead, scored early in the second half to go up 30-0 and coasted to their biggest victory over an AP Top 10 team since beating No. 5 Southern California 31-0 in 1990. That game 26 years ago announced Washington as a national contender and the Huskies went on to share the national title a year later with Miami -- taking the coaches' version while Miami topped the AP media poll.

Browning was the leader of an efficient offense that scored on six of its eight drives. He threw touchdowns of 3 yards to Dante Pettis, 19 yards to John Ross and capped the night with a 3-yarder to Aaron Fuller with 5:30 remaining. Browning was 15 of 21 and did not commit a turnover.

Equally important was Washington's ability to establish a running game. The Huskies rushed for 214 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

Meanwhile, Stanford star Christian McCaffrey saw his Heisman Trophy aspirations hit a major speed bump. McCaffrey was held to 49 yards rushing on 12 carries, five catches for 30 yards and continued his streak of never scoring an offensive touchdown in a road game.

It was McCaffrey's fewest yards rushing since 2014 at California when he had 19 yards on three carries.

Stanford's only TD came late in the third quarter on a 19-yard pass from Ryan Burns to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

Burns was 15 of 22 for 151 yards, but Washington controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides. Stanford quarterbacks were sacked eight times, six in the first half. Stanford had allowed only four total sacks in the first three games combined.

Stanford was playing short-handed without starting cornerbacks Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder, starting wide receiver Francis Owusu and starting fullback Daniel Marx. Starting right tackle Casey Tucker limped off with an apparent leg injury late in the fourth quarter.

Takeaways
Stanford: The Cardinal were unexpectedly sloppy. Stanford committed 11 penalties after entering the week as the least penalized team in the Pac-12. There were communication issues in part due to the roaring Washington crowd, but also a lack of sharpness not normally seen from David Shaw's team.

Washington: The defense was up to the task of keeping McCaffrey under control and forcing Burns to beat them through the air. McCaffrey had 34 yards on 10 carries in the first half and forced the Cardinal into numerous long third-down situations. That allowed Washington to bring extra pass rushers to get to Burns.

Up Next
Stanford: The Cardinal head home after two straight weeks on the road to host Washington State.

Washington: The Huskies travel to Oregon looking to snap a 12-game losing streak to the Ducks.