Flyers Goalie Watch 2011 Is in Full Swing

Flyers Goalie Watch 2011 Is in Full Swing

You don't have to have been a Flyers fan since the mid-80s to know that hockey off seasons in Philadelphia almost always include waves of speculation and conjecture as to who will be in net the next season. After the team rode three goalies to an early playoff exit that included a sweep, we are in for quite a storm this spring and summer, with even more information to sift through than ever.

Fans and media alike have never been more tapped in than they are now (although not always with correct information). With a multitude of blogs, twitter, and easier access to player information than ever—including international players—we're bound to see the Flyers linked to more than a few trades and signings in the coming months, and people want to know more about that possible next #1 out there.

Making Sense (and Nonsense) of the Unknown
Some of the stories we'll cover, others we won't. Some we'll take seriously, while others we may poke fun at. As we've said in previous off-seasons and trade periods, it's always a time filled with misinformation. Even some of the stuff that means well ends up being off-the-mark, but a lot of it really seems to be written just to get a click or some cheap links. When the team actually does make the big move and/or the FA period ends, if you look back at all the names that were electronically stitched onto the back of a Flyers jersey, you will probably have enough guys to play against the actual team.

This was certainly true last year, when the Flyers reminded us that we won't always know what to expect from them. The other thing we learned (hopefully) is that we can't predict what many goalies will do from one season to the next.

We spent last FA period going through names of guys who ran the gamut of productivity in 2010-2011. Evgeni Nabokov went to Russia, then... the Islanders. Dan Ellis' biggest headlines were that he was a twitter phenomenon-turned-fiasco (and then he got traded). Tim Thomas, as it turns out, is not washed up or "the second best goalie on his team." Antii Niemi is actually alive and trying to make his second Stanley Cup run in as many seasons. I won't keep trotting out all the names that were linked to the Flyers last season, mostly because there are too many to remember and I don't feel like looking them all up.

Point is, I don't remember many (any?) stories that predicted Sergei Bobrovsky would start the majority of the Flyers' games on their way to being a first-place team for most of the season. From the experts to the fans, no one pegged the actual outcome of Goalie Watch 2010 until it was already happening. Part of that was due to the Michael Leighton injury, but "the unknown" is a big part of all of this—for GMs and fans alike.

Goalie Watch will be intense this year. The Bruins are barely into their third round series with the Lightning after dispatching the Flyers, and we've already witnessed a very busy week of The Next Flyers Goalie coverage. It kinda feels like seeing Christmas commercials the day after Halloween or back-to-school savings in early August.

But it's understandable. People want to know where this Flyers team is headed.

And it's not just media, fans, bloggers, and the chatter on Twitter. The Flyers' own Chairman made the rounds and expressed his own displeasure at the current goaltending situation, officially ushering in goalie hunting season. He did say that Bob is still the goalie of the future, but the bell had been rung. Ed Snider obviously wants more success than we saw this season, but he also doesn't want his organization publicly flogged the way it was in the wake of trotting out three goalies in a single series, then getting swept in the next.

Ship 'Em Out!
Dovetailing with the always well-fueled goalie talk is quite a bit of speculation over which players might be traded in order to create space under the salary cap. If the team is to add a new mask to the ranks, he likely won't come cheap, requiring the team to free up some money. How much, we don't yet know. If they are truly after a big name goalie, the market will be high. We'll probably steer clear of this topic for the most part until there is actually something to report.

But with the warmer weather here and shore houses booked for the summer, Goalie Watch 2011 is underway in Philly. As usual.

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

Tonight's lineup: Odubel Herrera leads off for first time in 84 games

A day after going 0 for 5 with five strikeouts, Odubel Herrera is leading off for the Phillies in their series opener Friday night against the Reds (see game notes).

It's the first time Herrera is leading off since last Aug. 19, a span of 84 games.

Cesar Hernandez gets the night off, with Andres Blanco batting second and playing second.

Maikel Franco is back in the six-hole after going 1 for 5 with two strikeouts in the cleanup spot Thursday. Tommy Joseph bats fourth and Michael Saunders fifth.

Cameron Rupp, who walked three times in Thursday's win over the Rockies, catches Aaron Nola and bats seventh.

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Andres Blanco, 2B
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Michael Saunders, RF
6. Maikel Franco, 3B
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Aaron Nola, P

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Aaron Nola looks to build on extremely impressive return from DL

Phillies (16-29) vs. Reds (22-24)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

Following their first win in a week, the Phillies open a new series this weekend against a beatable team in the Cincinnati Reds, who are 3-9 in their last 12 games and 1-7 in their last eight road games.

Let's have ourselves a look-see:

1. Nola's turn
Aaron Nola is on the mound tonight for his second start since a month-long DL stint. He was extremely impressive his last time out, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings in Pittsburgh.

Nola's fastball reached as high as 95.5 mph against the Pirates, which is notable because he threw only two pitches faster than 94 mph all of last season. His velocity was up before the lower back strain and it's a great sign that the elbow injury which ended his 2016 season is truly in the past.

In Pittsburgh, Nola (2-1, 3.52) threw 19 of 27 first-pitch strikes. He got 11 outs on the first three pitches of at-bats. 

He's faced the Reds twice in his career and dominated them both times, allowing two earned runs in 14 innings with one walk and 17 strikeouts.

Current Reds have gone 7 fo 39 (.179) against him with just two extra-base hits. Joey Votto is 0 for 5.

2. What to do with Odubel
Pete Mackanin has an interesting decision to make this weekend with slumping Odubel Herrera, who on Thursday became the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in a game.

Herrera is down to .226 on the season with a .275 on-base percentage. In May, he's hit .194 with one walk and 28 strikeouts.

Mackanin could bench Herrera like he did with Maikel Franco for two games earlier this week. It would send a message to the player that poor at-bats and wild swings have consequences. And, quite frankly, sitting Herrera for a day or two might give the Phillies a better chance to win.

The issue, of course, is that there's a thin line between giving a player a chance to clear his head and ridding him of opportunities to get back on track.

Plus, the Phillies don't have great options in replacing Herrera in the lineup. They have a four-man bench at the moment and the only options would be putting Ty Kelly or Brock Stassi in left field and moving Aaron Altherr to center.

(Update: Mackanin is taking the opposite approach with Herrera, leading him off Friday night.)

Herrera just has not been himself this season and it's troubling. At this point last season, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. He's been an undisciplined hitter in 2017 and when you have two of them in the middle of the lineup in Herrera and Franco, it makes things really easy on pitchers at times.

Herrera started the year hot, hitting in his first eight games. Since then, he's hit .203/.239/.324 in 155 plate appearances with six walks and 42 K's.

3. Tommy time
Tommy Joseph has been one of the very best hitters in baseball this month, batting .329/.400/.671 with six doubles, six homers and 15 RBIs in 22 games.

He's 148 games and 499 plate appearances into his major-league career and has hit .257 with 23 doubles, 28 homers, 69 RBIs and an .804 OPS. That's about 10 points higher than the league average OPS from first basemen over that span.

Had Joseph's April slump continued into May, prospect Rhys Hoskins might have already been called up. But Joseph has done enough so far to hold off Hoskins, who appears to have more upside because of his combination of power and plate selection.

Controlling the strike zone is the next step for Joseph. He has a .311 OBP so far with 33 walks and 112 strikeouts as a Phillie.

But over the last two seasons, he's been one of the few Phils who's taken advantage of this ballpark. Joseph's hit .276 with an .844 OPS at Citizens Bank Park compared to .240 with a .769 OPS on the road.

4. Scouting the Reds
The Phillies face 29-year-old Reds right-hander Tim Adleman (2-2, 6.19).

You look at the ERA and think, OK, maybe the Phillies' bats will wake up tonight. But keep in mind that the Rockies' four starting pitchers this week entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA and the Phillies scored three runs against them in 27 innings.

There's nothing special about the 6-foot-5 Adleman. He throws his fastball and sinker in the 88 to 91 mph range with a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. His opponents have hit .300 against his fastball and have eight extra-base hits with a .290 batting average against his changeup.

In six starts this season, Adleman's yet to go deeper than six innings. The Phils faced him last season and scored three runs in five innings. Cesar Hernandez went 2 for 2 with a walk and Franco went 1 for 3 with a double.

As for Cincinnati's offense, Votto is obviously the hitter you worry about most. He's hit .299/.422/.591 this season with 12 doubles, 12 homers, 38 RBIs, 35 walks and 24 strikeouts. A typical Votto season.

Shortstop Zack Cozart has been surprisingly hot these first two months, hitting .340 with 20 extra-base hits, 22 walks and 29 strikeouts. It's most surprising to see him walking this much because he never has. He's 15 walks away from matching his career high.

Leftfielder Adam Duvall has killed the Phillies over the last two seasons. He went 5 for 11 with two doubles and a homer in the season-opening series in Cincy and went 8 for 18 with four doubles against them last season.

5. This and that
• Over the last seven games, the Phillies' bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 22⅔ innings.

• Howie Kendrick started at third base for Lehigh Valley during his rehab assignment Thursday. He was hit by two pitches and removed from the game.  

• Reds closer Raisel Iglesias is one of the most underrated relievers in baseball. He's 8 for 8 in save chances this season with a 0.73 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He's struck out 28 and allowed just one home run in 24⅔ innings. His ability to go multiple innings is what makes him stand out — he's Andrew Miller-like in that regard. Iglesias has pitched more than one inning in 7 of his 19 appearances.