Trying to get by without their first baseman and second baseman, the Phillies aren’t receiving any help from their third baseman to date: Placido Polanco is hitting .179/.220/.205 in 39 at-bats.
Included in those 39 at-bats for Polanco are six strikeouts. That’s far from an excessive total for most players — Adam Dunn has already racked up three times that many — but it’s sure more than Polanco is used to. One of the game’s top contact hitters, Polanco has struck out once every 13.6 at-bats for his career. His rate this season is twice as high.
Now, 39 at-bats isn’t much of a sample size. But the Phillies were concerned about Polanco going into the season. There were even rumors they tried to ship him to Colorado, but that the Rockies didn’t want him because they weren’t convinced he’d last as a second baseman. Fighting injuries, Polanco lost 50 points of OPS last season, hitting .277/.335/.339 in 469 at-bats. His games played dropped from 153 in 2009 to 132 in 2010 to 122 last year.
The Phillies don’t necessarily need big numbers from Polanco. They like him as a No. 2 hitter, but once they get Chase Utley back, they could just go ahead and drop him to the bottom of the order, with Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Utley occupying the top three spots. They do need Polanco’s defense at third base: the drop off to Ty Wigginton there is huge.
So while replacing Polanco probably isn’t the answer, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if this is it for him as a regular. He’s 36 and increasingly injury prone. Transitioning to a reserve role might be the best thing for him in 2013.
On the other hand, he does have one point in his favor. According to Baseball Reference, his most similar player through age 35 is Julio Franco, suggesting he has another 10-12 years of baseball in front of him.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.