This is Less Encouraging: Sixers Buy In for Two More Years of Spencer Hawes

This is Less Encouraging: Sixers Buy In for Two More Years of Spencer Hawes

It didn't seem likely that Spencer Hawes was gonna be part of the
Sixers' future moving forward. The team is badly in need of size, true,
but he isn't the kind of size we want—stiff, relatively immobile,
defensively cringe-worthy, post-play-bereft size, the kind of size that
basically got swallowed alive by Kevin Garnett in last year's playoffs.
If you watched that Celtics series, you were pretty confident it would
be the last time you were watching Spencer Hawes in a Sixers uniform,
and the move to get young and athletic in the draft—one of which Spencer
still is, the other of which he most certainly is not–seemed to signal
the same.

Well, shucks. It looks like the Sixers gone done and pulled a fast one
on us yet again. Not only have we re-upped with our starting big man of
last year, we're paying $13 million over two years for the privilege. No
matter what way you look at it, $13 million is a lot of money to pay
for a guy who was basically unplayable in the most important series the
Sixers have played in nearly a decade. Hell, it's a lot to pay anyone
whose starter potential you're still not confident in (five seasons into
his career!), despite the fact that the Sixers are already paying that
much to seventh man Thaddeus Young, and may very well elect to pay that
much to sixth man Lou Williams as well.

So what's the justification here? Well, Spencer is still young (24 years
old) and a legitimate seven-footer, a pair of commodities which has
certainly gotten players less talented than he more money and patience
in the past. And you might recall that for a stretch there early last
year, before he got hurt (oh yeah, there's an injury history too, but
let's not even worry about that for the moment), where he was playing
like a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate, posting double-digit Game Scores
in each of the team's first six games. He was hitting his jumper with
stunning regularity, he was passing out of the high post and hitting
teammates open under the basket, he was crashing the boards and grabbing
rebounds with authority. He might have even dunked once.
 
He would post only seven more such scores for the remainder of the
season, however. Shortly after returning from injury, the jumper stopped
falling, the passes became riskier and he started getting badly
out-muscled under the net, grabbing double-digit rebounds only once in
his last 18 games. As his numbers and minutes began to plummet, we were
left to wonder whether the early hot streak's cooling off was due to
injury or just inevitable regression to the mean.

(He also had two straight 20-point scoring outings against the Bulls in
the playoffs—most of which came after Joakim Noah go hurt—leading to a
lot of "Spencer Hawes gonna make himself some money this off-season"
type peanut gallery comments. I think we all assumed his ensuing play in
that series and then against the Celtics more than cancelled that
stretch out, but maybe not.)

Is the contract justifiable based on the potential Spencer has shown in
those stretches? No, I don't think it is—you could wait on a player like
Hawes forever waiting for him to grow into the player he occasionally
shows tantalizing glimpses of being, and in fact, the Sixers are already
committed to doing just that for the similarly frustrating Evan Turner
for at least a couple more years. At least Evan is still just a Junior
in the NBA—Hawes has been around for five seasons now, and has never
shown the ability to be a consistent contributor on a good team,
especially not against the top level of competition. It's probably not
gonna happen for Spence—especially on the defensive end, where he has
repeatedly proven to be a horrendous liability—and the Sixers can't
afford to spend $6.5 mil a year betting on the 20% chance that it does.
They have too many holes that, even with Spencer in tow, still badly
need addressing.

The only thing you can really console yourself with about this contract (unless you're Michael Levin)
is that it's only for two years. All of the Sixers' contracts except
for Thaddeus Young could be off the books by that point two years from
now, so maybe the Sixers front office—whoever's running it these days–is
setting the end of the 2013-14 season as a chance to hit "reset" on the
team if it doesn't work out as currently constituted. And frankly, I'd
accept this Hawes deal if it meant that the Sixers were going to let Lou
Williams walk, and still try to do some dealing with Iguodala and
Brand. But if the team does re-sign Lou, for something like five years,
$35 mil, and then doesn't do dick about 'Dre and Elton, and yet again
enters the new season with basically the same roster...well, this is
might be a pretty tough team to root for next year.

Then again, maybe Spence just pretended to be bad for most of the second
half of last year just to drive his value down so the Sixers would be
able to get him for cheap. You never know!

Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Opportunity for a rare 4-game win streak

Phillies-Brewers 5 things: Opportunity for a rare 4-game win streak

Phillies (33-61) vs. Brewers (52-47)
7:05 p.m. on NBC10; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

For the first time since they won four straight from June 3-6, the Phillies have a three-game winning streak going. On Friday night, they were carried by the arm of Aaron Nola, who is on a roll since early June (see story). Going for the Phils' fourth straight win, Jeremy Hellickson toes the rubber Saturday against rookie lefty Brent Suter.

Here are five things to know for the game:

1. Gone streaking?
A winning streak! The Phillies have put together one of their better stretches of the season over the last week, winning four out of five beginning with the final game of their set in Milwaukee. 

While the offense has picked up its play in that span (6.2 runs per game in the last five), the pitching needs to be mentioned first. The staff has come together well and looks much more like what the team expected in the spring. Fitting, the three-game streak began with six quality innings from Vince Velasquez. This season has been a struggle for the righty, who came off the disabled list in the win.

On Wednesday, Nick Pivetta allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings, but the bullpen held the Marlins scoreless. And then there was Nola on Friday. He looked sharp from the get-go and found a second gear when the lineup turned over. The second time through the lineup, he struck out seven batters in the midst of retiring 10 straight batters.

Now to the offense. Going into Friday's win, the Phillies were ninth in team OPS in July. Nick Williams has 10 hits in his last six games, picking up where Aaron Altherr left off. Maikel Franco has a five-game hit streak and has raised his average to .233, the highest it's been since the Phillies' opening series in April.

Meanwhile, the Brewers are ice cold. They've lost six straight and have a tenuous hold on their division with the red-hot Chicago Cubs on their heels. They're only a game up on the Cubs and are one behind in the loss column. They're only 2.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh and 3.5 up on the Cardinals. The clock may have hit midnight on baseball's first-half Cinderella.

2. Hellickson at home
In his last time out, Hellickson had the Brewers off balance for most of his outing. He was cruising into the fifth inning with a 1-0 lead, but the righty made one big mistake, leading to a home run by Brett Phillips that put Milwaukee up.

While the Phillies won the game, it ended Hellickson's day. It was the first time in his last five starts that he had failed to complete at least six innings.

The righty has been on a mini-roll since he was roughed up by the Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park last month. In his last five appearances, he has a 3.26 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. He's allowed only 30 baserunners in that period and held batters to a .227 average. 

Looking at Hellickson's season as a whole, he has similar numbers away from CBP in 2017 compared to last year. However, he's faltered at home. He had a 3.16 ERA in 99 2/3 innings at CBP last year with a 4.55 K/BB ratio. This year, it's a 4.59 ERA with a 1.59 K/BB ratio while his home run rate has ballooned. It's not a great look for a pitcher the Phillies would like to trade.

3. Brewers turn to the rookie
With their division lead evaporating, the Brewers are turning to Suter, a rookie making just his 12th appearance and fifth start of the season after making 14 and two last year. 

And the lefty has looked good in limited action. In 32 innings, he has a 3.09 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 10 walks. He's allowed 32 hits and just one home run.

The 27-year-old lefty has had success despite his four-seam fastball topping out in the upper 80s. He still throws it 70.3 percent of the time working in his mid-70s slider and low-80s changeup with some success. He'll rarely throw his curveball. 

One may wonder how a lefty who doesn't touch 90 mph can handle RHBs. Believe it or not, Suter actually has a reverse split for his career, holding righties to a .680 OPS while LHBs hit .803 off him.

Suter has made three starts in July and has held hitters to a .254/.294/.317 slash line in 17 innings, striking out 15 and walking four.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Speaking of lefties, Odubel Herrera has had better command of the strike zone recently. He's drawn a walk in four consecutive games and has five walks to go with nine hits since the All-Star break.

Brewers: Eric Thames has cooled off considerably since his hot April, but he still leads the Brewers with 23 home runs this season and has a .774 OPS since May. 

5. This and that
• The Phillies haven't won back-to-back series since sweeping Atlanta and Miami April 21-27. They've lost every home series since taking two of three from the Giants on June 2-4.

• In five career starts against the Brewers, Hellickson is 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA over 28 innings. 

• Mark Leiter Jr. took a loss for Triple A Lehigh Valley on Friday, but Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery hit their 21st and fifth home runs for the IronPigs, respectively.

With off-the-charts command, Kyle Young aims to become tallest MLB pitcher ever

With off-the-charts command, Kyle Young aims to become tallest MLB pitcher ever

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Phillies prospect Kyle Young is aiming to become the tallest pitcher in MLB history.
 
The 7-foot left-hander out of Long Island has become the staff ace in Short-Season Class A Williamsport, with a 1.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 34 strikeouts and just seven walks in 28 1/3 innings this season. Those numbers would be impressive for any 19-year-old pitcher, but when you consider his size, Young’s command is off the charts.
 
His coaches attribute that ability to an athleticism rarely seen in taller pitchers.
 
“The amazing thing with him is the coordination he brings to the table,” Crosscutters pitching coach Hector Berrios said. “It’s been off the charts for a guy his size to be able to repeat his delivery and not only do it with one pitch, he does it with all three pitches.”
 
Right now, those three pitches include a fastball that reaches the low 90s, a changeup and an off-speed pitch that Young calls a “slurve.” And he believes that his height gives him an additional weapon.
 
“Not even just because of the intimidation or anything, but also just the downward plane that I can get on the ball with my fastball," Young said. "I think that really helps induce groundballs. I know they’re going to hit it, everybody hits fastballs, but just try to get weak contact. That's the main goal.”
 
“He hides the ball fairly well in addition to the release point being a tad bit closer to the plate, which matters,” said Crosscutters manager Pat Borders, who you might remember as the starting catcher for the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. “If you get a release point that's a foot closer, it's like adding some velocity. He's a kid now physically. In a couple years, you're going to have somebody that's throwing harder and already has the mindset and physical skills to do some damage.”
 
The Phillies selected Young in the 22nd round last year, and a $225,000 bonus swayed him to turn pro rather than accept a scholarship to Hofstra. Early in his professional career, it looks like money well spent by the Phillies.

You can see more on Young, 2017 first-round pick Adam Haseley and 18-year-old power-hitting sensation Jhailyn Ortiz on the next episode of Phillies Clubhouse, which airs Saturday (11 p.m.) and Sunday (12:30 p.m., 6 p.m.) on CSN.