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View from the other side: Phillies questions for Ethan Witte of The Good Phight

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays start a three-game series with the Phillies tonight. The Phillies are 20-18, good for second in the NL East, 1.5 games behind the Mets.

They are ninth in the NL in runs scored per game at 4.13 and ninth in the NL in runs allowed per game at 4.26.

I sent off some questions to Ethan Witte, Supreme Blog Lord of the Good Phight, SB Nation’s Phillies Blog. He was kind enough to answer them.

I see way more tweets complaining about manager Joe Girardi than I would expect. Do Phillies fans dislike the guy, or is it a small vocal minority? What do you think are his strengths and weaknesses?

I’m not sure that it’s a case of “dislike”, but a case of “not as advertised”. The team was coming off of Gabe Kapler’s regime and going to a more established manager felt like a step in the right direction. Last year, people kind of laid off because of his historically bad bullpen and the fact that he didn’t have much to work with as it was. Now, he has talent, but he’s using that talent in strange and weird ways. He loves the double switch to a fault. He adores David Hale for some reason. He’s resting bullpen pitchers so that they can lean on them more in September and October. The issue is that you have to get to September and October first. He’s good with communicating with his players it looks like, but some of his late-game decisions have caused angst in the fanbase.

Can you give me a quick scouting report on the starting pitchers the Jays are likely to see? I’ll let you know the Jays will make at least one of them look like Tom Seaver. If it turns out to be Chase Anderson Jays fans will be jumping off roofs, how have you managed to make him a reasonable starter?

As of now, the Phillies will send out Vince Velasquez-Aaron Nola- Chase Anderson for the series. Velasquez and Anderson have been decent of late, managing to get at least five solid innings in before turning the game over to the bullpen. Currently, the debate about Nola is whether he is an ace or not. Strangely, there is a faction of the fanbase that seems to want him to not be an ace so they can wave the “I told you so” flag loud and proud. However, by most measures, Nola is one of the top 10-15 pitchers in the game. As far as Anderson goes, he was pretty bad early in the season, but he’s mentioned that he’s working on some tweaks with pitching coach Caleb Cotham lately, and the results Tuesday night against the Nationals (5 IP, 2 ER) were good. He needs to keep it up as the team’s top prospect, Spencer Howard is currently being stretched out in the minor leagues.

What is the best and most frustrating part about being a Phillies fan in 2021?

The best part is the top three pitchers in the rotation - Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin - are arguably the top trio in the game right now. They’re all three throwing a ton of innings, innings that are high quality and they’re giving the team a better than average chance to win each time they start. The worst part has been a toss-up between the inconsistent offense and the inconsistent bullpen. Where the offense could go off for a few innings, they’ll completely disappear in the same game. The bullpen, though better than last year, still leaves fans watching games through their fingers as they cover their eyes.

I see you wrote a post asking why Hector Neris doesn’t throw his slider? What does he throw?

Hector Neris’s closing ability can be ably compared to Dick Grayson’s high wire act in “Batman”. There will be collateral damage. His splitter is his go-to pitch, but his average fastball (93-95 mph) doesn’t really cut it. He can get the job done most nights, but when he doesn’t, he really, really doesn’t.

Who is your favorite Philly to watch? Why?

J.T. Realmuto may have overtaken Bryce Harper as the most beloved current Phillie, which says a lot since Harper’s coming to Philadelphia was met with great fanfare. Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball, full stop. His bat is above average (current 156 eRC+), but it’s his defense that has made the Philly fans swoon. No one runs on him and if they do, he more often than not going to gun them down. His game-calling has been a little sketchy of late, but the pitchers trust him inherently. It might be neck and neck with Realmuto and Harper, but right now, I’d lean toward the #BCIB.

A lot of Jays' fans were hoping the team would sign Didi Gregorius, but you guys got him. He hasn’t had a great start to the season, with the bat or the glove. What’s going on with him? Do you expect him to turn things around?

Didi had a minor elbow issue earlier that made him miss a few games and recently had to leave a game with the same issue. Before that, he was having a pretty typical Didi season of good power, low OBP, and ability to knock in runs. His defense though has been suspect, probably as a result of being around the Phillies for too long since they have a very bad defense. I’d expect him to turn it around offensively, but the defense is worrisome.

Bryce Harper is looking very much like Bryce Harper. Do you have a suggestion on how to pitch to him?

If the Blue Jays have left-handed pitchers, they should face Harper a lot. While the batting average and OBP aren’t much different than when he faces a right-hander, the slugging is nearly 300 points lower.

Anything else we should know about the Phillies?

Hope and pray that David Hale enters a game. The Blue Jays’ chances of winning would almost double.

Thank you, Ethan.

Hopefully, nothing like this will happen in this series: