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June 14, 2023

What they're saying about the Phillies: Zack Wheeler loves his McDonald's

Wheeler struck out seven Diamondbacks in the win Tuesday night, so hey, if it works.

Just like last year, June has been a much kinder month to the Phillies. 

They've won seven of their last 11 games entering Wednesday night, won their last three series against the Nationals, Tigers, and Dodgers, and with a victory tonight, can ensure at least a split in a four-game set in Arizona. 

Working in their favor is June Schwarber, a Trea Turner who's steadily looking better, and apparently a No. 1 starter who loves him some junk food. 

Let's get right into it. 

Here's what they're saying about the Phils...

Wheeler's milestone meal

Matt Gelb | The Athletic ($)

Baseball is weird and its players do weird things. 

You'll have the world's most elite athletes doing anything and everything they can to gain every advantage and keep their bodies intact. 

Then you'll have Zack Wheeler over there scarfing down McDonald's then going out and striking out seven Diamondbacks. 

The Phillies' top starter loves fast food, as Matt Gelb learned

So when it came time to celebrate Wheeler reaching 10 years of major league service time, there was only one meal to celebrate with:

Wheeler is not bashful about this — no matter what the team’s nutritionists have advised him over the years. They have encouraged him to think otherwise. Sometimes, he listens. Sometimes, he doesn’t. Everyone understands.

“That’s what I grew up eating,” Wheeler said. “Still enjoy it. I’ve been doing it, and I am where I am.”

In Realmuto’s mind, this was the only proper surprise Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park after the Phillies sealed a series win over the Dodgers.

“He’s one of the only guys in the clubhouse who eats that way,” Realmuto said. “One of the only Major League Baseball players who probably eats that way.”

So, the postgame spread was a feast catered by McDonald’s — Double Cheeseburgers, McNuggets and french fries. The cake followed.

“We had a good meal,” Wheeler said. “My type of meal.” [The Athletic, $]

Baseball is weird.

The clubhouse anchor

Alex Coffey | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Rhys Hoskins is continuing to rehab from a torn ACL, but he rejoined the Phillies in the dugout this month at Citizens Bank Park and just having him around has been a huge boost, even if the players can't exactly quantify it. 

Wrote Alex Coffey of Hoskins' return to the clubhouse:

To see him walking on his own was encouraging. But more encouraging was his attitude. For [Nick Castellanos], it helped put things in perspective.

“He’s just happy whenever he’s there,” Castellanos said. “He’s supportive. And he’s in a good mood. He’s positive. And if he’s in a good mood and is positive, everybody should be in a good mood and positive.”

It would be impossible to measure the impact of having Hoskins around again, but the impact is certainly there — especially for the younger players. Alec Bohm said that Hoskins has always been a resource for him, and has continued to be one since his return.

“He’s another really good baseball mind,” Bohm said. “As far as dugout talk and baseball talk and those things go — Rhys is one of the better teammates I’ve had in my days playing, through college, pro ball, big leagues, all that.

“He’s that guy. He’s that voice. If something needs to be said, he’s saying the right thing.” [The Inquirer]

The diamond in the rough?

Ben Silver | The Good Phight

Kody Clemens was a throw-in bench piece going back to the Phillies in the offseason trade for All-Star reliever Gregory Soto, but right now he's on a surge and is looking like the best thing to come out of that deal. 

Will that even out in time? Probably. 

But the Phillies will take it, that and having his dad throw to them in batting practice on occasion.

Wrote Ben Silver of the surprising infielder:

Since Apr. 23, Clemens sports a .310/.363/.512 slashline. Given his superb defense at first base this year, that line would probably net him an All-Star appearance in a larger sample size. Unfortunately, it’s only across 91 plate appearances and with a .379 BABIP.

Clemens is getting a little lucky, not Bryson Stott or Trea Turner in April-lucky, but the baseball gods have been kind to him. Statcast expects him to regress to an OPS of approximately .690-.700, give or take a few points. That includes his 1-for-16 start to the year, so that number can be expected to rise a little further once regression takes hold.

However, splitting the difference between a .700 expected OPS, a .764 actual OPS and a .875 OPS over his last 91 plate appearances, one would expect Clemens to be a below-average to average hitter overall.

That’s still valuable of course, but the bulk of that value comes from his versatility and defense. Clemens has been utilized almost entirely as a first baseman this year by the Phillies, but that’s not what he’s played most of his career. [The Good Phight]

Pitch Clock Madness

Chris Thompson | Defector

The Athletic discovered that Citizens Bank Park's pitch clock is running faster than others with data to back it up

Aaron Nola found a loophole to buy more time in requesting a new ball from the umpire, which worked until it didn't.

So far, the implementation of the pitch clock has been a success in speeding up the game, but it's also had its inconsistencies, which have caused issues for pitchers and batters alike. 

Those inconsistencies seem to come down to the field clock coordinators (FTCs) at each park and their interpretation of the clock's rules over when to start it. 

This led Chris Thompson to wonder: Is this a new quirk of the modern game?

However successful the implementation of the pitch clock has been at shortening average game length and returning some rhythm to the sport, there's some tightening left to do if MLB wants a uniform application across the sport. But who says MLB wants that? Baseball has always invited a certain amount of arbitrary variety and winking gamesmanship into the various negative spaces of its rule book, and this can be more of that. How much theatrical ball-rubbing must a pitcher perform before an umpire will let him pretend to need a fresh ball? What advantages can the Phillies learn to gain from having a faster clock? If the Astros could have Tal's Hill, if creeping afternoon shadows could make hitting in St. Louis occasionally impossible, if alert teammates can swipe signals and hitters can earn HBPs by dangling their limbs into the actual damn strike zone, maybe MLB just rolls with pitch clock oddities and inconsistencies as features of the modern game. [Defector]

And you do have to wonder too how all that might factor in once things get serious in the postseason.

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