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Phillies GM Matt Klentak doesn’t plan to demote Maikel Franco or Odubel Herrera

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The slumping Phillies get a reprieve on Thursday, but will enter Friday’s series opener against the Giants with a 17-34 record, worst in baseball. The team’s problems are manyfold, but two players whose struggles stick out are Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera.

Franco, who hit 25 home runs last season, has mustered a paltry .216/.273/.352 batting line with six home runs and 28 RBI in 194 plate appearances this season.

Herrera, the Phillies’ lone representative in the All-Star Game last year, hit .286/.361/.420 with 42 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases last season. So far this season, he’s batting a measly .218/.262/.326 with 15 extra-base hits and four stolen bases in 206 PA.

Both Franco and Herrera have options, so they could be sent down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to figure things out. Franco, in particular, has reportedly been in jeopardy of a demotion. However, as CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports, GM Matt Klentak plans to let both players try to right their ships in the big leagues.

Klentak said of Franco, “We are committed to giving Maikel more time to get out of this. We believe in him. We have confidence that he will (break out). There are a lot of indicators, whether you’re looking at his exit velocities and launch angles — again, I don’t want to say he’s been a victim of bad luck by itself; it’s not the only thing, but there are reasons to believe he can get out this.”

The data doesn’t exactly paint a grim picture of Franco. Per FanGraphs, Franco is hitting a few more line drives than he did last year and is making harder contact overall as well.

As for Herrera, Klentak said, “I think he’s gotten himself into an offensive slump largely because he is not taking pitches as well as he has. When you see the productive Odubel Herrera — it’s when he’s taking close pitches, grinding out walks, pumping his fist and clapping his hands after a walk and pointing to the dugout. We haven’t seen that for the last month. We have a lot of reason to believe Odubel will come out of it. And the big thing is even when Odubel’s not hitting, he is impacting the game.”

Herrera’s walk rate has been nearly halved compared to last season, 9.6 to 5.3 percent. His strikeout rate has increased by 4.4 percent. He’s hitting more ground balls at the expense of line drives and he’s offering at significantly more pitches outside the strike zone — 34.1 percent last year, 44.5 percent this year.

How Yu Darvish tipped his pitches during the World Series

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You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.

Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.

Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.

Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.