A leading Phillies blog thinks the 2017 IronPigs could have that kind of year.
Remember that the season is now 142 games instead of 144, and that the league-leading Yankees affiliate located an hour north of us only compiled 91 wins last season–a .636 winning percentage. The best team in Minor League Baseball through the first part of the season was the Reading Fightin Phillies, who ended up with 89 wins for a .631 winning percentage. 100 wins would be tough. It would be a .694 winning percent, almost .700.
Is it possible? Absolutely. There’s certainly a non-zero chance that the IronPigs could win almost 70% of their games.
But, it’s really, really unlikely.
“But Kram, you don’t think the team is talented enough to win 100 games?”
Oh, I do. But let me share a quote from our manager–previously the AA manager–Dusty Wathan (paraphrased): “My job is to win with this group. Get them promoted, and then win with the next group they send me.”
You see, if the talent on this team is playing well enough to win at a .700 pace, some guys will be promoted pretty quickly. Shortstop JP Crawford is Major League-ready in many ways. If he stays healthy and gets some polish on his game–drives the ball a little more–he’ll be in Philadelphia by May 15. The Freddy Galvis/Cesar Hernandez infield in Philly is fine and all, but they won’t hold back J.P. because of them. The outfield is once again a piece-meal of maybes and could-be’s and once-was in Philadelphia. If Nick Williams is ripping the cover off the ball and screaming around the bases, he’ll be in Philadelphia faster than you can say, “Howie Kendrick is 34 years old.”
“But Kram, look at the rotation. We don’t even need to hit to get to .700.”
I didn’t say we couldn’t “get to” .700–just that we won’t end there. Pitchers break. It’s a fact of life. And while you’ll never see me wanting to predict such, just know that it’s unlikely that the Philadelphia staff and the Lehigh Valley staff stay intact very long.
And if they do? And of those position players are so good in Philly too? They’ll get traded. The talent on the IronPigs won’t remain for the full season.
“But Kram, what about the young guys? The bash bros. and the guys in Reading and all that?”
Yeah, I’m excited to see them play again. Last season in Reading was a lot of fun and that should continue in both cities this summer. However, Cozens and Hoskins will need to adjust to the AAA game, the larger park in Allentown, a steady diet of junk pitches, and stay healthy to boot. Any players brought up from Reading this season–Pullin, Kingery or pitchers like Pinto or Garcia–will need to make similar adjustments. They’re all good, and capable of it, I think. But, I’m not ready to hold them to a .700 win pct just yet across the entire season.
Don’t forget our manager is taking charge of a AAA team as well after spending several seasons at AA.
“But Kram, this is the season of optimism. Don’t you usually lead the pack in predicting good things for the IronPigs? What’s going on here?”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to this season as much or more than any in recent years. The ballpark stuff should be tremendous–the new video boards, the new picnic patio, the new field–and the 10th anniversary shenanigans should be fun as well. I’m also looking forward to my second season as a “member” in Reading, as well. I had a lot of fun down there last season and it made me appreciate both parks more as the season went on in 2016.
But I’ve seen this show before. What happens when JP goes up? Who plays shortstop? Featherston? Florimon? Some kid from Reading? I’m sure it will be fine, but not .700 fine. How long until we start converting relievers back into starters (See also: Russell, James) or plucking guys off the Sugar Land Skeeters for depth? See what I mean? It’s a long darn season, and we play a ton of games against other talented squads like those from Scranton and P’tucket.
“But Kram, aren’t you glad that writers and bloggers who cover Philadelphia are excited by our little club here in Allentown? Don’t they usually ignore us, or worse, look down on us?”
Yes, yes I am. I’m just hoping the “IronPigs are going to be great” narrative draws fans to Coca Cola Park from all points south rather than stokes the fires of the “call ’em all up” crowd. I hate that crowd. They “wanna see” the prospects. And they think it couldn’t be any worse.
Trust me, it could be worse. Major League ball is harder than AAA ball. An extended period of adjustment and the associated poor stats and losing will cause that base to grow weary and start the “bust” talk faster than you can say “Dom Brown is the savior.” The Phillies aren’t winning anything this season anyway, so let’s let the “prospects” develop at their own pace. When they’ve earned that promotion, they should be there to stay.
Oh, and if you “wanna see” the prospects you can. Any time. Get in your darn car and drive. It’s an hour–maybe less–and you’ll be in a gorgeous little ball park where everything is much cheaper than South Philly. You can watch those “stars of tomorrow” up close and personal-like–not just their play but also how they carry themselves and how they mind the finer points of the game. If you don’t have a car or the means to get to Allentown, a subscription to MiLB.TV will get you every single IronPigs game home and away as long as you’re not living in the Lehigh Valley (and if you are, you should already be at the park). The home-game feed is provided by the fine team from Service Electric, in glorious HD.
“So Kram, what you’re saying is that there is no scenario where this ‘super team’ of Phillies prospects, set to start the year as IronPigs, will stay together to win 100 games in Allentown in 2017?”
That’s exactly what I’m saying:
Phillies do well and stay healthy: Players get traded, IronPigs get promoted.
IronPigs do well and stay healthy: IronPigs get promoted.
Phillies get injured and play poorly: IronPigs get promoted.
IronPigs get injured and play poorly: Not winning 100 games that way.
“So Kram, how are we supposed to feel about this, then?”
You’re supposed to feel great! It’s going to be fun to watch and there will be plenty of story lines, notable performances good and bad, and things to talk about this season. There are more than 100 reasons you should be at Coca Cola Park this spring and summer. Enjoy the ride, and we’ll be here on this blog to see you through it!
See you at the park,
Featured image of JP Crawford–the image of the year for the 2016 IronPigs–is the property of Cheryl Pursell.