Phillies Mailbag: Kimbrel, Nola's Strange Start, National Media Attention

With the Phillies off again, let's open up the mailbag and try to answer some questions after their 4-1 start. Questions from Twitter:

@pinkrenee16: Will the Phillies do anything with their bullpen? That's been the weakness the past couple games.

David Robertson's issues in his first three games are confounding. They're uncommon for him. He's been an excellent late-inning reliever for most of his career, he's succeeded in high-pressure environments, he's remained effective into his 30s, he has a strong track record in April, and after Wednesday's meltdown he called it "three of the worst outings I've put together."

All that to say, Robertson probably will not continue to struggle. Two months from now, we could be looking at a reliever rattling off zeroes, with the early-season issues just a blip on the radar. Early-season performance is always overrated both ways. When a player starts hot, fans see no ceiling. When a new player starts off poorly, it's assumed it will continue and he wasn't worth the money. If he had these three appearances in mid-June, it would not cause the same stir.

Craig Kimbrel is still out there. But Kimbrel is still going to cost the Phillies something in the $15 million range, which would put them right up against the luxury tax threshold and could impact their ability to add more at midseason. Exceeding the threshold just isn't a consideration this year. It's meaningful because of the repeater tax, which increases the percentage a team pays when it's over the luxury tax multiple years in a row. You don't want to start that process until you absolutely have to.

Kimbrel has been baseball's most effective closer since Mariano Rivera, but he did show some warning signs last season. He struggled with control all year, including the playoffs. The previous version of Kimbrel would help every team in baseball, and so would the 2018 version, but with him out of game action for so long now ... which Kimbrel are you really getting?

@phishflyers: What's up with Aaron Nola?

Two uncharacteristic outings to start Nola's season. He walked a career-high five on opening day and allowed a career-high three home runs Wednesday.

On opening day, Nola was squeezed, and he was able to maneuver around the walks to allow just one run in six innings. 

On Wednesday, his lack of command was not competitive. He wasn't missing by just a hair. He was missing over the plate, and his fastball lacked its trademark bite. 

The guy is allowed a misstep like that. It was the first time in 38 starts that Nola allowed more than four runs. No active pitcher had a longer streak.

If it happens again in his next start, if the fastball looks the same, then it will be time to reassess.

@harrygk83: Will the non-Philly media ever focus on anything but the few people who boo?

It's annoying to me, too. But this is the reality: As long as Philly fans get worked up and respond to stuff like this, national outlets will continue to do it. It generates engagement, the buzz word every news outlet loves.

If an article came out about Philly fans booing and the fanbase collectively decided, "You know what, piss off" and ignored it, then eventually, I do think it would stop.

But it always leads to passionate replies and tons of pageviews for these places. So they continue to do it, while looking at each other in their offices and saying, "You believe these replies?"

@WyldeRhoads: With Roman Quinn coming back soon, who goes down?

wrote about this earlier with Quinn's rehab assignment beginning Thursday, but I think inevitably it will be a trade or DFA of Aaron Altherr. It would leave the Phillies thin in center field if Quinn is injured again, but trading Nick Williams for 30 cents on the dollar doesn't make any sense right now, especially with him being your first bat off the bench.

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