The Last Straw? A DNP-CD for Arnett Moultrie, A WTF for Coach Collins

The Last Straw? A DNP-CD for Arnett Moultrie, A WTF for Coach Collins

There were a lot of reasons to be depressed by the Sixers' performance
last night in Minnesota—the super-soft defense that let up 56 first half
points, the 1-7 shooting night for Nick Young (and 4-9 at the line,
including three misses in a row after a foul on a trey), the miserable
combined jump-shooting efforts from Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen, the
not-much-better combined jump-shooting efforts from Evan Turner and Jrue
Holiday...the list goes on. But we knew, or could pretty well guess,
that all that was going to be the case last night. It's not like we were
unaware this team was crappy shorthanded and not all that great to
begin with. No big surprise there.


What we didn't know, what we still can't figure out, is Doug Collins slapping rookie Arnett Moultrie with a DNP-CD. Now in my Five Goals for the Second Half of the Season
piece I published here a couple days ago, which I'm sure you all pored
over like the religious text it was, #2 on the list was to continue to
develop Moultrie, to give him consistent minutes, and maybe some more
time playing with Jrue Holiday and the first unit. No doubt Dougie also
read my article with diligence, considered all of my points made, and
decided...nah, I think I'd rather just play Damien Wilkins for 26
minutes. (No, you're not missing a decimal point there—Wilkins actually
played for over half the game.) Not like we couldn't have used him, or
any other big body, either—the Sixers got absolutely brutalized inside
last night, and were forced into a lot of long jumpers on offense
because their big men were super-unhelpful moving off picks.


But that's almost besides the point. Maybe Doug didn't like
something about the matchup, maybe Moultrie had a bad practice recently,
maybe he had a bad horoscope reading this morning, I dunno. But I also
don't really care. You may or may not have noticed that nowhere in my
"Five Goals" article does it say anything about winning games. And
that's because right now, coming up with actual Ws is an incidental
concern, especially as long as the Funny-Looking Kid With the Big Hair
is out. This team isn't going anywhere in the playoffs. Chances are very
good (and always looking better) that they aren't even going to
the playoffs. And in fact, the only real impact of the team making the
playoffs this year would be losing our first-round pick to Miami in the
summer. Winning is not the priority at the moment.


Rather, the priority should be building for next season, where
hopefully we'll have a re-signed and healthy-ish Bynum (and perhaps also
JJ Redick picked up in free agency, and perhaps Wilt Chamberlain
resurrected as a unicorn coming off the bench), as well as a decent
lottery pick to go along with our current core and really try to go
somewhere in the Eastern Conference. As a young, low-cost, high-upside
player, Arnett Moultrie could potentially play a part in that. Damien
Wilkins, for a variety of reasons, can not. So I don't really care if he
had a bad practice or something—unless he was making racist remarks
while farting uncontrollably, I wanna see him out there for 20 minutes a
night, learning the pro game, developing chemistry with Jrue and Evan,
showing us what he's got. I repeat: Winning is NOT the priority at the
moment.


Try telling that to Coach Collins, though—like, ever. As I think one of the Liberty Ballers
guys said, Doug is a great coach for an overachieving team, and an
absolutely terrible one for a rebuilding team. His win-now, win-forever
approach can squeeze 45 wins out of 35 wins' worth of talent, but if the
responsibility is tending over a 25-win team already looking at the
long approach, Collins is still gonna focus on how he can somehow get to
win #26. It's hard to fault the guy a ton for trying to win as many
games as possible—in theory, that's usually what you want your coach to
do, and it paid off decently his first two years in Philly. It's also
hard to envision him being a part of this team's future at this point,
though.


I'm not saying they should fire Doug Collins this season. The deck
was stacked against him from the beginning with the Bynum deal and
injuries, and the team is so bad right now that he probably couldn't
sabotage our tanking efforts even if he was consciously trying to. But
the Moultrie thing is indicative of how, if things stay sour for this
team, Doug's probably not the guy to stay the course and stay patient
with the team as they attempt to build towards the future. And really,
if he was still the Sixers' head coach at this point next year, I'd be
pretty surprised.

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.