What Has Gone Wrong For The Phillies In The First Half?BREAKING NEWS, News, Phillies Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
The Philadelphia Phillies have limped into the All-Star break with a record of 37-50, and have spent the overwhelming majority of the first half of the season in last place. Very little has gone right for the Phils’ in 2012, and its incredible to look at the overwhelming amount of things that have gone wrong.
1. Two Of The Three Aces Go MIA: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels were supposed to be the anchors of this team. The talents of these three elite pitchers alone was supposed to be enough to at least keep the Phillies within striking distance while they waited for offensive stars Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to return from the disabled list.
Of the three, only Hamels has lived up to expectations. The 28-year old carries a 10-4 record with a 3.27 ERA, and has earned his first career All-Star selection. Though his performance has slipped in his last 10 starts (5-3 with a 3.82 ERA), He’s easily been the teams most reliable pitcher.
Halladay and Lee are both having terribly disappointing seasons. Halladay appears to be physically breaking down, having lost some velocity and spent extensive time on the disabled list. He’s just 3-5 with a 3.98 ERA, and absolutely dreadful in May going 1-3 with a 6.11 ERA.
Lee meanwhile has just one win in 14 starts. He hasn’t been terrible, but he hasn’t been what the team needs him to be. They pay the former Cy-Young winner more than $20 million a season to be an incredible pitcher, not just a good one. While he hasn’t had good offensive or defensive support most of the season, the ace clearly has let the mental strain of not winning a game three months into the season take a toll on him.
2. No Relief From The Bullpen: The Phillies bullpen was once one of the team’s better (and more underrated) assets over the last five seasons. This year, it may be the single largest reason that the team is so far behind in the standings. Jonathan Papelbon has been excellent as the team’s closer, but he rarely gets to pitch because his penmates can’t hold on to any leads for him.
Antonio Bastardo has taken no steps forward and many steps back. After going 6-1 with a 2.64 ERA and eight saves last season, the lefty is just 2-3 with a 5.34 ERA in 2012. He’s struggled with his command, velocity, and confidence. The team has placed a great deal of pressure on him since he’s the only other reliever Charlie Manuel has any reason to trust with the eighth inning, and things have blown up and become a mess for him.
Free agent addition Chad Qualls was a disaster, and was recently designated for assignment and traded to the Yankees.
The team was hoping Jose Contreras would be able to return and give them a reliable veteran presence, but the right-hander lasted just 13 innings before going down for the season with Tommy John Surgery.
Mike Stutes and David Herndon, a pair of young arms the team had high hopes for, have also been lost for the season with their respective injuries.
Ruben Amaro was counting on Bastardo, Qualls, Contreras, Stutes, and Herndon to emerge as a reliable relief crew, but not a single one of them has come through for him. As a result, the Phillies are forced to turn to a pen’ stacked with Triple-A relievers (Raul Valdes, Mike Schwimer, Jake Diekman, B.J. Rosenberg, Brian Sanches, and Jeremy Horst) and predictably the results have been ugly.
As bad as this bullpen as been, it could easily have been so much worse. Imagine if the Phillies had signed Ryan Madson over Papelbon. This team could easily be 25 games out of first place.
3. Disappointments In The Lineup: With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley out of action for the vast majority of the first half, the Phillies were counting on several players to step up and become offensive anchors in their absence. Most notably, Jimmy Rollins, Hunter Pence, John Mayberry Jr, and Shane Victorino.
Rollins has picked up his play since the calender flipped to June, but had a couple of terrible months in April and May, hitting just .231 and .245 with a combined two home runs and 11 RBIs.
Pence has decent numbers (.285, 16 homers, 50 RBIs), but he’s been absolutely brutal with runners in scoring position, hitting just .226. He has no discipline at the plate, and swings at far too many terrible pitches. He’s been so bad that the team had to move him out the cleanup spot, and now he hits sixth in the order. On top of his offensive failures, he’s been a butcher in the outfield.
Many tend to forget that the Phillies were really relying on John Mayberry to be a key figure in their lineup after the excellent job he did in the second half of 2011. They hoped he could be their everyday leftfielder, but instead he’s been nothing but a spare part. He’s hit just .232 with six home runs and 23 RBIs. He doesn’t look like anything close to the player that set the world on fire last season, making him one of the most disappointing players of all.
Shane Victorino has been another veteran on this team that has had a terrible season. He’s hitting just .232, and has very little offensive explosion in his bat. More often than not, he gives very poor at-bats, and has admitted that his lack of a contract has had an impact on his performance. Victorino is a guy I believe the Phillies need to move on from as soon as possible. His attitude isn’t right, and he’s not going to help this team win anymore.
4. The Division Has Substantially Improved: As if their own problems weren’t enough, the Phillies have been overwhelmed by an extremely competitive division. The Nationals, Mets, and Braves are all much better than they were a year ago, and even the Marlins are not a pushover. The Phillies have gone just 11-22 against their division rivals this year.
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