Team Profile – Philadelphia Phillies
In 2011, the Phillies had the best record in baseball by a wide margin. At 102-60, they were easily the best team in baseball, and a definite favorite to win the World Series. Imagine everyone’s surprise when they were downed by the St. Louis Cardinals – a Wild Card team that made the postseason on the very last day of the regular season – in the NLDS. It was a major shock, but the Phillies knew that 95% of that 102-win team would be returning in 2012, putting the team in a prime position to repeat as champions of the N.L. East, and seek redemption in the postseason. But injuries and an amazing first half by the Washington Nationals have put the Phillies 10 games behind the first place team with a 36-43 record. So how does Philadelphia turn things around?
The Philadelphia rotation is as star-studded a lineup as any in baseball. In fact, it may be the most star-studded rotation in baseball. With Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee, there is no lineup that’s better in any given season. Except this season, it would seem. Halladay is injured and Lee doesn’t have a single win in 13 starts. Only Cole is having a season like he should, at 10-3 with a 3.03 ERA. To be fair, though, only Hamels and Joe Blanton have had complete seasons so far. It’s been difficult for the Phillies pitchers to find success so far, which is as much the failing of the offense as it is the starting rotation. There really aren’t any bright spots for them right now, and the starters need to pick up their game if they’re going to find any success.
The one defense of a poor season would, perhaps, be for Cliff Lee. Yes, he’s 0-5 for 13 starts. But that’s only five decisions. That means that for eight starts, Lee is holding the line more often than not. He’s just not getting the support he deserves, and the Phillies are ultimately losing because of it.
Like the rest of the team, the Philadelphia offense has been riddled with injury this season. Right now, Brian Schneider, Ryan Howard, and Laynce Nix are all sidelined. Nix has had a hard time staying healthy over his career, but when he is he’s a nice bat to have in the lineup. The biggest blow is having Ryan Howard out still. Howard has yet to play this season, and would be an unbelievably huge bat to get back. It’s also worth mentioning that the Phillies have been without Chase Utley for most of the season: another key offensive piece they desperately needed.
Those who have stayed healthy have done okay so far, including Carlos Ruiz, Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco, and Hunter Pence. Hunter Pence was the star in in Houston, but now that he’s with a decent team, he was undoubtedly hoping to win. While it may be a bit premature to say he brought some bad luck with him from the Astros, this certainly wasn’t the season he was expecting. Ultimately, the Phillies’ offense has been above average, they’ve just been without some of the key offensive powerhouses that could make up for the lackluster and injured pitching performances.
The Phillies bullpen is extremely beat up right now. As a whole, it’s not performing well. But add to that the fact that Jose Contreras, Justin De Fratus, David Herndon, and Michael Stutes are all injured, and you’re going to struggle. No one has put up numbers worth being proud of this season, except for maybe closer Jonathan Papelbon, who is 18/19 in save opportunities. He’s not getting a lot of saves, but at least he’s getting the job done when he’s in. The biggest problem the bullpen has had, though, is that they’ve already been through 15 different relievers. That means the bullpen has essentially been dumped and restarted completely. Granted, not everyone was dumped at the same time. But still, having been through the equivalent of two bullpens doesn’t exactly build confidence for a team that they’re going to come out of a game with a win.
Keys to Success
The only thing that the Phillies need above all else is to get healthy. If they can get everyone in the offense clicking properly, then they’ll be in much better shape. The starters will see more wins, the energy and morale will increase, and they’ll start to move up in the standings. While the Nationals have been able to maintain their rate of play for half the season, there’s too much talent in Philadelphia to stay at the bottom for too much longer. They just need to heal up, and have some guys step up in the meantime.