Prime time games for Eagles during 2018 regular season

With 500 career wins and his Wildcats once again in the national title chase, Villanova’s Jay Wright has solidified his reputation as an elite coach. Eric Fisher also examines Saint Joseph’s injury woes, several Palestra events, and Drexel women’s coach Denise Dillon’s coaching milestone.

Eric Fisher’s weekly column about a variety of topics. This week Eric serves up opinions on Villanova’s early exit from the NCAA Tournament, a pair of heartbreaking defeats for the Penn and Temple women’s teams, and the future of Penn State’s wrestling dynasty.

Claude Giroux moves to wing this season in hopes of improving upon the 14 goals he scored last season. The Flyers will be fielding a relatively young lineup, with three centers 24 or younger and most of the defensemen in that range or younger.

Archive for the ‘Phillies’ Category

Phillies Notebook: Early test for Kapler

Posted by Eric Fisher On April - 10 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

Winning is the best deodorant. But winning a series against the lowly Marlins and a series opener over the Reds, who are tied for the fewest wins (2) in the majors during this young season, isn’t enough to erase the scent of dissent emanating from first-year manager Gabe Kapler’s moves during the first week of the season.

Kapler’s unorthodox approach didn’t end with spring training. He moved players, such as Scott Kingery, all over the field. He started Andrew Knapp at catcher the first two games instead of Jorge Alfaro. He removed opening day starter Aaron Nola after 68 pitches. Perhaps worst of all, Kapler made a pitching change, calling for reliever Hoby Milner, even though no reliever had been told to warm up.

Failing to have a reliever warming up drew the ire of an umpire and Major League Baseball. Fans questioned Kapler’s qualifications to be manager and booed him during the home opener last Thursday.

What truly matters, however, is what the players think. In my “5 things that could go right or wrong” lists just before the season started, I cited “Kapler’s energy and infectious attitude can’t hide the fact that the rookie manager’s bold decision-making often leads to unwanted results, leading to a lack of trust and confidence from his players” as one of the things that could go wrong.

It didn’t take long for Kapler to be put to the test. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports quoted an anonymous Phillie of saying “We just need the manager to get out of the way” when talking about the team’s poor first week. And then second-year outfielder Nick Williams, after starting just two of the first six games, said, “I guess the computers are making (the lineup).”

Williams initially said he wasn’t complaining. Laster, he said he was joking and the quote was taken out of context before finally apologizing.

Having to deal with this type of issue one week into his managing career isn’t a good sign. It’s obvious that Kapler has a long way to go to earn the complete trust and confidence of his players.

But Williams’ comments indicate another potential problem. Perhaps the players don’t trust – or perhaps understand – analytics. If players don’t understand why they’re not playing, it could lead to confusion and misunderstandings.

The problem is the Phillies are invested in analytics. They’ve hired people solely to put analytics into practice. Even if Kapler wanted to disregard analytics when making out his lineup, could he do it?

Kapler’s belief in analytics is one reason why he was hired. But, if the manager’s moves don’t make sense to the players, the moved had better work or else their faith will disappear. The fact that Kapler doesn’t have a track record of success – or any kind of track record at all – is yet another hurdle he will have to overcome.


BY THE NUMBERS: The Phillies scored one more run during their 20-1 destruction of the Marlins on Saturday than they had scored in their previous six games combined.


POWER SURGE: Maikel Franco produced 10 RBI during wins over the Marlins on Thursday and Saturday. He had six RBI on Saturday, including a first-inning grand slam. The question with Franco is whether he will sustain his success or revert to the up-and-down performance of the past two seasons.


FAST START: Rhys Hoskins apparently wants to quickly squelch any thoughts that he’s a flash in the pan. Through Monday’s 6-5 victory over the Reds, Hoskins is batting .429 with two home runs, five doubles and nine RBI. Hoskins also has walked eight times.


SLOW START: Shortstop J.P. Crawford had just one hit in 23 at-bats. Maybe trading away Freddy Galvis wasn’t such a great idea.


VELASQUEZ STRUGGLES: Overshadowed by the 20 runs Saturday night was that Vince Velasquez still hasn’t learned how to pitch. Velasquez threw 53 pitches during the first two innings. He went to a full count against 6 of the first 10 batters he faced, including the opposing pitcher, who was trying to execute a sacrifice bunt.

Keep in mind that Velasquez was running up his pitch count even though he had been staked to an early lead by Maikel Franco’s grand slam in the first inning. Sometimes it seems as if Velasquez might never figure out how to pitch well enough to last beyond the fifth inning.


ERROR MESSAGE: Phillies catchers Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro have five errors after eight games. That’s a ridiculous pace. The errors have come on passed balls, throwing errors and catcher’s interference, so there’s not one easy solution to their problems.


HIGH EXPECTATIONS: The expectations for pitcher Jake Arrieta, signed to a three-year, $75 million contract are high. Perhaps they’re too high – at least for the early portion of the season. Because he signed with the Phillies in the middle of spring training, Arrieta hasn’t had time to round into form. April is almost like spring training for him.

In his season debut on Sunday, Arrieta gave up 3 runs in the first inning. He left after four innings. That’s not what anyone wants to see, but fans need to be patient with Arrieta as he tries to regain his old form.


FITTING TRIBUTE: Eagles head coach Doug Pederson made a wonderful tribute to Roy Halladay by wearing his jersey as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch Thursday before the Phillies’ home opener. The Phillies will induct Halladay, who died in a plane crash in November, into their Wall of Fame on Aug. 4.


LOOKAHEAD: After the Phillies finish their series with the visiting Reds on Tuesday (7 p.m.) and Wednesday (7 p.m.), they get a day off Thursday before beginning a six-game road trip Friday (7:10 p.m.) against the Rays. They’ll face the Rays again on Saturday (6:10 p.m.) and Sunday (1:10 p.m.) before making their second visit to Atlanta for games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (all at 7:30 p.m.). Entering Tuesday’s action, the Reds and Rays have combined for four wins (two apiece).

Local teams on the rise

Posted by Eric Fisher On March - 31 - 2018 ADD COMMENTS

This is an exciting time to be a Philadelphia sports fan. As if the Eagles winning their first Super bowl weren’t enough, it appears that all of our major professional teams are on the rise.

It’s difficult to say the Eagles are on the rise when they’ve already reached the mountain top. But the presence of Carson Wentz, with just two seasons under his belt, provides reason to believe that the Eagles can be contenders for the next decade.

The 76ers are overflowing with young talent. After several years of horrific basketball, the Sixers are on the rise. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric are terrific young talents. If Embiid can remain healthy, he might win an MVP Award. That trio is the core of an up-and-coming team that – if Embiid recovers from a concussion and broken left orbital bone – could make some noise during the postseason.

The Flyers also are receiving plenty of contributions from young players as they make their final push for the playoffs. The defense is anchored by the top pairing of Shayne Gostisbehere, in his third NHL season, and Ivan Provorov, in his second NHL season. Throw in rookie defensemen Travis Sanheim and Robert Hagg and it’s easy to see why the Flyers are optimistic about their future. Defenseman Sam Morin could join that group next season.

Meanwhile, second-year forward Travis Konecny is providing an important spark on offense. Forward Oskar Lindblom has also provided plenty of energy since being called up from the Phantoms. Although he seems as if he’s been around forever, leading scorer Sean Couturier is only 25.

The Philllies aren’t quite at the same stage as the Flyers and Sixers – or are they? It’s not out of the question that the Phillies make the playoffs this season. Although they have brought in some veterans during the offseason, the core of the team consists of young players reaching the big leagues. Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams and Scott Kingery provide plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Phillies’ future.

Fans get to watch this youth movement play out across multiple stages. You can watch it in the stadium, on the court, on the ice or in the ballpark.

It’s exciting to watch a club build from the ground up. The Sixers were nearly at historic lows just a few years ago. Today, if Embiid gets healthy in time for the playoffs, they might be favored to win their first-round series and could be considered a threat to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Flyers still need to make the playoffs, but it has been fun to watch the young defensemen take tremendous strides this season. The improvement of Konecny since he was moved to the top line alongside Couturier and Claude Giroux has been remarkable.

We hope to see similar growth this season from the young Phillies. Seeing some young pitchers join the young position players as building blocks for the future would be a welcome sight.

Although it’s cool to watch a team rise up from the bottom, none of our teams is quite on the ground floor any more, but it’s not too late to catch the elevator to the top.

What’s truly exciting is the possibility that the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship between a golden era of Philadelphia sports, much as the Broad Street Bullies winning the Stanley Cup did in 1974.

The Flyers won the Stanley Cup again the following season and reached the finals four more times during the next 14 years. The Phillies became perennial powers in the National League East, finally winning the franchise’s first World Series title in 1980. The Sixers appeared in the finals three times during the next decade before finally winning during the 1982-83 season. The Eagles didn’t win a championship, but they took a giant step forward, by advancing to Super Bowl XV.

There aren’t any guarantees in sports, but, with so many talented young players on our local professional teams, it’s possible that the Eagles’ Super Bowl champion could usher in another golden age of sports for our local teams.

(click on logo above for 2012 season schedule)
Embiid injured in collision with Fultz