A factoid from Buster Olney’s column this morning:
The Phillies had one of the easiest schedules in the majors in their first 30 games, playing only seven games against teams that had records over .500 — and they did a great job taking advantage, starting 21-9. Since their schedule got more difficult, they have struggled, winning four of 11.
That kind of stat, at least this time of year, is potentially misleading, inasmuch as with relatively few games having been played, one of the major reasons those teams have losing records is because they played, in this case, the Phillies, whose victories over them helped make them losing teams.
But it is the case that the schedule is simply brutal for Philly right now. This bad stretch has come against Atlanta, Florida (who they actually beat two of three) and St. Louis, each of whom has taken a turn as “the hottest team in the NL” at some point in the past couple of weeks. They’re coming home today to face a Rockies team that seems to be rebounding from an early-May swoon. And then they host the Reds and the Rangers.
So I guess what I’m saying is that while the current stretch is depressing the heck out of Phillies fans, the combination of the schedule, the injuries and the offensive swoon could very well mean that this is a low point, not some indicator of a new reality.
Pretty soon the Mets and Pirates will be on the schedule. Pretty soon Chase Utley will be back. Pretty soon Domonic Brown — who went 1 for 2 with a couple of RBI last night — will be in the outfield every day. Like every other otherwise strong team that hits the doldrums, it’s just a matter of holding out until the wind picks up again.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.