It’s time for the Phillies to dip their feet back into the interleague pool and, as we all know, this is a place where they often drown during a 162-game season. The Phillies will open a three-game series Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays with an all-time interleague record of 158-207, including a 5-15 mark a year ago, which was tied for the worst in baseball. The Phillies’ .433 winning percentage in interleague games is 38 points less than their overall winning percentage of .471 since the franchise’s inception in 1883. That’s a rather dubious distinction considering the Phillies have lost more games than any other team in baseball history. The Phillies have posted a winning record in interleague play just eight times in 21 seasons and just once in the last six years.
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Kapler happy to have DH
As unsuccessful as the Phillies have been in interleague play over the years, rookie manager Gabe Kapler will welcome the opportunity to use the designated hitter during the three-game series against the Rays. In Kapler’s mind, he has 10 regulars and only eight lineup spots to utilize during National League games. That number climbs to nine with the DH, and it will be interesting to see how he fills out his lineup card against the Rays. It’s possible he lets the versatile Scott Kingery start his first game at second base during the series while keeping the hot bat of Cesar Hernandez in the lineup as the designated hitter. It seems probable that Carlos Santana will also be a DH in at least one of the games while Rhys Hoskins gets a start at first base. Santana was a DH 222 times during his eight seasons with Cleveland.
Speaking of Carlos Santana, his numbers indicate that he is off to a slow start, but manager Gabe Kapler believes his first baseman is hitting into some hard luck and he’s sure his numbers will climb along with the temperature as the season progresses.
The Phillies are seeing more pitches than any other team in baseball and that is exactly what Kapler and general manager Matt Klentak wanted when they put the 2018 roster together. Matt Breen took a deep dive into the subject.
Marc Narducci, the Scott Kingery of our sports department, takes a look at some of the Phillies’ minor-leaguers, including Cole Irvin after his first start with triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Narducci also attended prospect Franklyn Kilome’s first start with double-A Reading. It included a bout with dizziness and battles with the elements and his control. All things considered, Reading manager Greg Legg thought it ended well.
Today: Vince Velasquez vs. Tampa Bay’s Jake Faria, 7:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Jake Arrieta vs. Chris Archer, 6:10 p.m.
Sunday: Ben Lively pitches series finale vs. Rays, 1:10 p.m.
Monday: Phillies open three-game series in Atlanta, 7:35 p.m.
Stat of the day
The Phillies are 9-15 all-time against the Rays, their second-worst record against an American League team — behind only their 1-12 record against the Angels. The Rays’ .625 winning percentage against the Phillies is their second-best mark against another team. They are 12-6 for a .667 winning percentage against the San Diego Padres.
From the mailbag
In my day, .250 was an average batting average, .300 implied a really good hitter, earned run averages under 2.00 were phenomenal and 100 strikeouts (by a batter) per year was an indication of a very real problem. What are the benchmarks for the new game?
Answer: You’ll be happy to know, Thomas, that .250 is still considered an average batting average and .300 still means you’re a good hitter. The difference today is that batting average is considered a much smaller part of the equation when front offices evaluate players. Phillies first baseman Carlos Santana is a classic example of a player whose value goes well beyond his batting average. Last season with Cleveland, he hit .259, only four points higher than the major-league average. Thanks to his combination of power — he had 37 doubles and 23 home runs — and his ability to draw walks — his 88 were ninth in baseball — Santana is still considered well above average when it comes to production. His .363 on-base percentage and .455 slugging percentage gave him an .818 OPS last season. His on-base percentage was 39 points higher than the major-league average, his slugging percentage was 29 points higher than league average, and his OPS was 68 points higher than league average.