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Crawfords first big fly

By Todd Zolecki MLB.com @ToddZolecki

Apr. 11th, 2018

PHILADELPHIA — Maybe J.P. Crawford is figuring out a few things at the plate.

Crawford crushed a two-run home run into the second deck in right field in the second inning in Wednesday night’s 4-3 victory over the Reds in 12 innings at Citizens Bank Park. Crawford turned on a 0-2 fastball from Reds right-hander Luis Castillo, giving the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was the first homer of Crawford’s career.

The ball left Crawford’s bat at 105.2 mph, according to Statcast™.

“I don’t really remember it,” Crawford said, smiling. “I kind of blacked out. But it felt good. I felt short, quick to the ball and put a good barrel on it.”

Crawford, who the got the ball, opened the season in a 1-for-25 slump before ripping a go-ahead single with two outs in the seventh inning in Tuesday night’s 6-1 victory. He has spent the past several days trying to shorten his swing.

“Me and [hitting coach John] Mallee have been putting in a lot of work in the cages before the game to prepare,” Crawford said. “Just to finally see some results, it’s a good feeling.”

Crawford’s sacrifice bunt in the 12th inning also advanced Pedro Florimon to third base, setting up the game-winning run when Scott Kingery hit a sacrifice fly to right field.

Which hitters does Hoskins emulate? Look to Wrigley

By Mike Petriello MLB.com @mike_petriello

Apr. 4th, 2018

“Hitting’s hard. It really is.”

Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins is one of the better young sluggers in the game, having crushed 18 homers in just 50 games in 2017, and he sat down with the Statcast™ Podcast to explain how he approaches life at the plate in the world of launch angle and exit velocity.

For Hoskins, it’s not just about getting the ball in the air. It’s about having an approach that allows you to not have to be absolutely perfect every time in order to be successful.

“I think being ‘on plane’ gives you the best chance to hit all different pitches throughout the strike zone,” Hoskins said, referring, in a way, to the classic Ted Williams approach. “I think it makes your swing stay in the strike zone as long as possible. I think when your barrel is in the zone for a long time, you’re giving more room for error.”

Even stars have hitters they want to be like. For Hoskins, the first names he mentioned were a pair of Cubs, in part because analytically inclined Phillies hitting coach John Mallee held the same job in Chicago for the previous three seasons.

“There’s a couple guys on the Cubs that I watch a lot,” Hoskins noted. “Ian Happ and Anthony Rizzo, two guys that kind of have a similar leg kick to what I employ, also guys that Mallee has worked with, so it’s been really cool to hear him talk about them and their routines and what they go through. Those are two guys off the top of my head.

“Obviously, if you want to talk about approach-wise and maybe similar stature, I’ll go to Paul Goldschmidt, and who doesn’t like watching Mike Trout hit. Obviously those guys are pretty good at what they do, and watching them can only help.”

Also on this week’s show, Mike and Matt dig into the early-season feats of Shohei Ohtani, who is setting Statcast™ marks on both sides of the ball.

In addition, the show looks at early season notable Statcast™ metrics, including record-setting homers from Avisail GarciaMarcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton; elite velocity from St. Louis rookie Jordan Hicks; early looks on expected production from Jose MartinezMiguel Cabrera and Yasiel PuigSeth Lugolooking dominant in relief; Jorge Alfaro‘s cannon of a throwing arm; and the entirely predictable (and effective) move of Gerrit Cole to throw fewer fastballs with Houston.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

Hoskins goes deep, Nola goes 7 solid, Phils beat Pirates

Hoskins goes deep, Nola goes 7 solid, Phils beat Pirates

By Rob Maaddi, The Associated Press

Posted: 04/22/18, 5:17 AM EDT | Updated: 2 days ago

PHILADELPHIA >> Rhys Hoskins let two fastballs down the middle go for strikes and somehow saw another one. He crushed it.

Hoskins hit a go-ahead three-run homer, Aaron Nola tossed seven impressive innings and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2 Saturday.

Nola (2-1) allowed two runs, six hits and struck out nine to help the Phillies win their third straight game and improve to 8-1 at home. The Pirates have lost five of six after an 11-4 start.

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Coach John Mallee, shortens Crawford’s swing

Coach John Mallee, shortens Crawford’s swing

By Matt Breen The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News (TNS)
Apr 14, 2018 Updated 11 hrs ago

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Phillies gave J.P. Crawford a day off last week, telling the struggling shortstop to “work on some things.” Crawford had one hit in his first seven games and looked lost at the plate. Take some time, the Phillies said.

It is too early to say for sure, but that one day may have been enough to right Crawford’s season. He homered and doubled on Saturday in a 9-4 win over the Rays to continue a strong response to his slow start. Crawford has five hits in 13 at-bats since he spent his off day with hitting coach John Mallee, who put the shortstop through a drill to shorten his swing and keep his hands close to his body. Crawford has not looked back.

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Inside the game: Why the Phillies are seeing so many pitches

Inside the game: Why the Phillies are seeing so many pitches

Updated: APRIL 12, 2018 — 3:35 PM EDT

by Matt Breen

 

Gabe Kapler marveled for two seasons as Johnny Damon, then the Red Sox’s bearded leadoff hitter, ground out long at-bats by fouling off pitch after pitch. No one saw more pitches on the 2004 Red Sox — the team that finally brought another World Series title to Boston — than Damon.

And the Phillies, under Kapler’s watch, are trying to copy that approach. The Phillies are averaging the most pitches per plate appearance in baseball, seeing pitches at a rate through 11 games that is nearly a half-pitch higher than the league average. Three Phillies — Cesar Hernandez, Rhys Hoskins, and Carlos Santana — are averaging rates that rank in the top 13 of all batters. The Phillies have built a lineup showing Damon-like patience.

“When you can work deep counts and you have a team approach to hitting like we have, where everybody in the lineup is thinking about grinding the pitcher down, that’s when you have the opportunity to score a lot of runs in an inning,” Kapler said Tuesday. “Big innings lead to wins. That’s how you put teams away. That’s how you deliver a knockout punch.”

Four teams made the playoffs last season after finishing in the top five of pitches per plate appearance. Those four teams — the Yankees, Indians, Twins, and Red Sox — finished in the top 10 of runs per game and walks. The Yankees, Indians, and Twins were in the top 10 in OPS and on-base percentage. These are the categories the Phillies want to focus on. And winning in those areas starts with their approach.

It will take more than 11 games to see how much the Phillies can benefit from seeing pitches. But the early returns offer promise. Take away Saturday’s 20-run game, and the Phillies still averaged 4.8 runs in their recent homestand. The bats, after a slow first week, seemed to come alive.

MLB rank   Team                         Pitches per plate appearance

1                Phillies                        4.33

2               Cardinals                     4.17

3               Indians                        4.10

4               Diamondbacks             4.09

MLB rank    Player                       Pitches per plate appearance

4                Cesar Hernandez          4.70

8                Rhys Hoskins               4.53

13              Carlos Santana             4.47

 

The team’s ability to stretch at-bats is not by accident. Matt Klentak wanted to assemble a lineup of batters who “control the strike zone.” That’s why he signed Santana for $60 million, even if it meant moving Hoskins from first base to left field. The signing guaranteed two hitters at the top of their lineup who work pitchers.

They brought on hitting coach John Mallee, who spent three seasons as the hitting coach of Cubs teams that twice ranked in the top four of pitches per plate appearance. Mallee has stressed his grinding approach since the start of spring training. You don’t see pitches by being passive, he told his pupils, but by being selective. It worked for the Cubs in 2016, as they averaged the fourth-most pitches seen and finished first in walks and third in runs per game and OPS.

“It’s about playing to your strengths and being OK with taking a pitch that might be a strike but it doesn’t play into your strengths, especially early in counts,” Hoskins said. “Guys have really bought into that.”

 

Hoskins, who regularly bats fourth, finds an obvious advantage when the guys in front of him are stretching their at-bats. It’s not that he’s able to get a better feel for what the pitcher is throwing, but that the pitcher will be a bit fatigued by the time Hoskins gets to the plate.

“It’s such an elementary thought, and it’s probably something that’s hard to measure or quantify unless you’re in the box for pitch 20 or 25 of an inning,” Hoskins said. “But, he’s just not as sharp as he might be if he only threw 10 or 12 pitches. The leadoff hitter sees six, and the next guy works seven or eight. It’s passing the baton to the next guy.”

Members of last season’s coaching staff seemed to scoff about the number of pitches a batter saw. There did not appear to be much of an emphasis on a stat such as pitches per plate appearance. The Phillies were near the bottom in that category for two seasons, before finishing last year around the league average. Hernandez fell in line. He saw 4.2 pitches per plate appearance last season. It was slightly above average.

But this year, he has seen on average 4.7 pitches through his 50 plate appearances, nearly a pitch more than he saw two seasons ago. As Hoskins said, Hernandez has bought in.

“I feel more comfortable at the plate,” Hernandez said. “Years before, I would be scared at the plate when I got two strikes, because I didn’t want to strike out. Now, I’m learning that I’m a good hitter with two strikes. You know exactly who you are. I’ve gotten to know myself.”

Kapler did not know whether Damon’s technique was an art or a science. He never asked the outfielder whether he practiced fouling off pitches. Kapler just saw how good Damon’s hand-eye coordination was and knew that foul balls would come once Damon had two strikes. Other hitters would swing and miss, while Damon would foul off a pitch. It is an ability Kapler sees in Hernandez, Santana, and Hoskins. They, too, can battle to stay alive.

“Get to the next pitch,” Hoskins said. “If the guy throws seven or eight pitches in an at-bat, the higher the chances are that you’re going to see a mistake. He makes his pitch, and you foul it off to see another one — that’s kind of demoralizing for him. It gives us new life as hitters.”

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