The 2012 Philadelphia Phillies season really hasn’t gotten the way many Phillies fans hoped it would go. Ryan Howard was expected to miss substantial time because of injury, but Chase Utley hasn’t seen the field yet either, and Cliff Lee and Vance Worley have joined him on the disabled list.
Despite the injuries and a slew of subpar performances, there are a select few group of players that have been impressing the most this season, especially over what the team thought they would get from them.
Carlos Ruiz has joined the ranks of the top three to five catchers in the game this season for his phenomenal performance behind the plate. Ruiz is hitting .355, the highest mark of any backstopper in the game, and his .595 slugging percentage is tops as well. Ruiz’s seven home runs are the second most of any catcher in the business, and he’s playing his usual stellar defense behind the plate, where his ability to handle the pitching staff has made him one of the team’s most valuable players.
Juan Pierre wasn’t guaranteed to make the 25-man roster out of spring training, and when he did make it, he was expected to play sparingly behind John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix. Instead, Pierre won the starting job when Mayberry performed so poorly and Nix had to go on the DL. Pierre is hitting .319 with six stolen bases, and with the dismal job Jimmy Rollins has been doing at the plate, Pierre has been hitting leadoff or number two in the lineup on many occasions.
Count me among the many people that thought Worley’s 2011 season was a total fluke. I didn’t expect much from Worley in 2012, and I’ve been dead wrong so far. Worley is 3-2 with a 3.07 ERA in seven starts, and he’s striking out over a batter per inning, a sizeable increase from his 8.3 K/9 rate from last year. Worley is just one in a rotation of great pitchers on the Phillies, but he has the stuff to one day be as high as a number two on an average staff.
I was worried Cliff Lee might experience a drop-off in 2012 from a career-best 2011 season. Instead, Lee is turning in his personal best in many areas: He is just 0-2 through six starts but he has fashioned a 2.66 ERA to go with a stunning 40 strikeouts and just five walks in 44 innings pitched. Lee has allowed just 6.8 hits per nine innings, he’s posting the highest ground ball percentage of his career, and he’s even hitting .308 at the plate.
The Phillies got Nix with the idea that he would be at best a platoon outfielder with John Mayberry, Jr. in left field. Nix has been a pleasant surprised, and even though he’s currently sidelined with what could be a fairly serious injury, his .326/.392/.587 statline in 51 plate appearances is inspiring. Nix can play first base as well and he’s made the loss of Howard a little more manageable.