At the start of the season, it looked as if the Philadelphia Phillies were the team to beat. MLB odds had them favored to win the World Series, and they were set with a strong pitching rotation and solid bats. To good to be true?
What’s wrong with the
Philadelphia Phillies, who were a team that was the MLB odds favorite to win the World
Series this season based on established lines about six months ago. There is
never an exact science this game called baseball. The ball is round and players
use a rounded piece of wood to strike contact with that sphere. Strange things
will always happen and the Phillies have had a long list of ‘painful’ things
happen to them.
The first, is that the injuries
to all stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have taken far longer to heal and for
them to be both back in the lineup. Utley has batted nearly every game in the
three hole with slugger and former MVP Ryan Howard batting in the cleanup spot.
This chemistry had a lot to do with the success of the Phillies teams past.
Jayson Werth, now a Washington
National, batted fifth for the team in the Phillies glory years. He had
incredible seasons with them because he saw fast balls to hit and could sit on
fastballs against almost any pitcher that would be on the mound. The five hole
at the MLB level is a critical spot for generating RBI’s and for being the
hitter than can blow a game wide open with a big inning and a crooked number on
The Phillies are hitting .262
ranking 10th in team batting average in MLB. What is hurting is that they are
not getting the key hits that they executed in years past and when they do get
the key hit, the late inning bullpen relief will give it right back to the
opponent. Such is baseball. Another key though is the power outage, where they
rank 20th hitting one home run every 36 at-bats. By comparison, the Yankees hit
a homerun every 21.6 at-bats ranking best in baseball.
Yet, their hitting becomes a bit
controversial when you look at batting average on batted balls in play. In
other words, what is the batting average on a ball that it is hit into fair
territory. The Phillies are batting a solid .295 ranking 19th in MLB on balls
batted into play. In 2011, they averaged .282 ranking 27th in MLB.
Moreover, they are not getting
enough extra base hits ranking 28th in MLB with a 30.8% of their hits being
extra base hits. This targets the key hit problem for the Phillies, though, as
the team ranked 19th with 31.8% of their hits being doubles or better. Still,
not a big difference, but is a contributing factor to the lack of wins and
mounting total of losses.
It has been the Phillies pitching
that has been the demise of the team this season. Ryan Madson was the setup man
in years past and he was shipped out without a matching offer to free agency.
He is out for the season, however, so it is hard to say with any certainty that
he would have made a significant contribution to the Phillies had he even stayed
with the club. Still, the late inning blunders centered around Antonio Bastardo
and Charlie Manuel’s continued confidence in his failure that has been the most
obvious and glaring problem for the Phillies.
Runners in Scoring Position
Obviously, a team’s ERA based on
situations with runners in scoring position (second or third, and second and
third base occupied), will be significantly higher than the pure game ERA
measure. The Phillies rank second to last in this category with a 13.00 ERA and
this statistic includes starters and relievers. By comparison, Washington ranks
best with a 8.36 ERA so this is a clear spot of failure for the Phillies this
The Philadelphia bullpen ranks
29th in MLB with a horrifying 4.76 ERA and have pitched the second least amount
of innings of any MLB club. This clearly shows that the starters are gettig the
job done, but when the ball gets handed to the bullpen leads are blown and tie
game situations end up losses.
Let’s note to, while I am at it,
that the closer Jonathan Papelbon, sports a 3.34 ERA with a solid 1.14 WHIP.
Factor him out of those horrid bullpen stats and you have some very frightening
numbers and pitchers, who are barely Double-A quality.
So, the Phillies need to get TWO quality
either from their deep farm system or through trade by July 31. This
must be accomplished not to contend this season, but if they have plans to
contend in any of the next several seasons.