Expectations were great that the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies would win their sixth straight division title, along the way contending for a National League pennant and even a World Series championship. After all, the team had its big three aces returning along with the heart of the team in Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Hunter Pence, which was supposed to be enough to make up for Ryan Howard’s Achilles tendon injury.
But nearly every player on the team minus Carlos Ruiz and Cole Hamels underachieved this season, and the result is that the Phillies sit at a very disappointing 55-65 record, 10 games under .500 and a ridiculous 19 games back of the Washington Nationals in the NL East race. The Phillies have been defined by mediocrity, inconsistency, and inability to win close games this year, and the following 10 statistics give you the breakdown of the Phillies’ dismal campaign.
24 – Team Rank in Runs Scored
During the heart of the Phillies’ five-year streak of winning NL East titles, the offense was the strength. Howard, Utley, and Rollins combined to give the Phillies the best infield in baseball, and key contributors like Pat Burrell, Victorino, Aaron Rowand, and Jayson Werth helped the Phillies’ offense shine.
The team scored 892 runs in 2007, leading the National League and finishing second to just the Boston Red Sox in all of baseball. The team dropped off to 799 runs in 2008, still finishing second in the NL although that total did drop to the eighth-best total in all of baseball. By 2009, that total went back up to 820 runs, good for best in the league and fourth-best in baseball, and 772 runs in 2010 ranked second in the league and sixth in the game.
Last year, despite winning a major-league best (and franchise-record) 102 games, the Phillies scored just 713 runs, their fewest since 2002. That total of 713 runs ranked just sixth in the league and 12th in the game. This year, the Phillies have scored just 484 runs, which puts them on pace for 659 runs. That’s the fewest the team has scored in a season since the dismal 1996 club that won just 67 games and featured the likes of Kevin Stocker, Mickey Morandini, and Ricky Otero.
The Phillies’ 484 runs thus far this year rank 24th in the game, trailing forgettable teams like the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, and Kansas City Royals.
8 – Combined Wins for $20 and $25 Million Men Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee
Last year, the Phillies won 102 games with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee as the 1-2 aces on a phenomenal team. Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA on the mound and Lee was 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA, giving the Phillies 36 wins from their two best pitchers.
This year, Halladay and Lee have both spent time on the disabled list, Halladay for several months while he recovered from a lat strain. Halladay is just 6-7 with a 3.80 ERA in 17 starts and Lee – despite having a 3.83 ERA, a 5.92 strikeout to walk ratio, and a 1.155 WHIP – is a shocking 2-7 through 21 starts.
That’s eight wins combined for two pitchers that are making a combined $45 million from the club. In the 38 games that these two have started, the Phillies are 15-23. That’s just frightening. The fact that the club is averaging 3.87 runs per game that these two have pitched – and if you take away the 13-run outburst in one of Lee’s starts, that figure is down to 3.62 – certainly doesn’t help their case though.
27 – Team Rank in Bullpen ERA
I’m a big believer in a bullpen in baseball being much like special teams in football – there’s only so much you can do and at times, you just have good or bad luck. And the Phillies have been dealt some unfortunate luck this year. Who would have expected three regular members of the bullpen in Michael Stutes, David Herndon, and Jose Contreras would all miss the majority of the season?
But other than new $50 million closer Jonathan Papelbon, who has been spectacular, the relievers have been atrocious. Antonio Bastardo is by far the most disappointing of the group, as his 5.45 ERA, 5.2 walk rate, and 1.376 WHIP are nowhere near the extraordinary numbers he put up last year. Michael Schwimer has been thrust into a role he’s not ready for (4.59 ERA in 34 games), Chad Qualls was so bad (4.60 ERA, 2.0 home run rate, 1.532 WHIP), he was designated for assignment, and the Phillies seem to lose every game Joe Savery (5.40 ERA) pitches.
The bullpen has a collective WAR of 1.1. Their 4.58 ERA is a full run higher than last year’s mark (3.52), which was helped largely by Ryan Madson, the breakout season of Bastardo, and solid efforts from Contreras, Herndon, Kyle Kendrick, and Brad Lidge. The club shouldn’t be nearly as awful next year – Bastardo can’t possibly be worse, Schwimer should be better, Stutes will be back, and Justin De Fratus will be healthy and ready to make an impact.
0 – Number of Players Likely to Hit 20 Home Runs
It’s astounding to think a team with power hitters like Howard, Utley, Pence, and even Victorino or Rollins won’t have a 20-home run hitter among them.
Howard has missed the majority of the season due to injury, as has Utley, and Pence was traded when he was at 17 home runs, or he assuredly would have reached that mark. Ruiz’s 14 home runs is a phenomenal figure considering he’s never before hit double digits, and Rollins might still reach 20, but this team is a skeleton of the ’08 club.
4 – Home Runs Hit All Season by the Third Basemen
There are few things worse than an aging Placido Polanco at the plate. Polanco is hitting just .255 with a .628 OPS in 314 plate appearances. Among qualifying major league regulars with at least 300 PA, his OPS rates 188th among 204 players – down alongside players like Ryan Theriot, Yunel Escobar, Jamey Carroll, and Brian Dozier.
In fact, Polanco’s OPS ranks behind pretty much every player to have played offense for the Phillies this season – behind Mike Fontenot, Brian Schneider, John Mayberry Jr., Kevin Frandsen, tied with Hector Luna, and just barely ahead of Nate Schierholz and Domonic Brown.
The Phillies’ third basemen since Polanco joined the team in 2010 have the second-fewest home runs (30) of all clubs and they have the lowest OPS (.657) among any National League team.
159 – Combined Games Missed by Ryan Howard and Chase Utley
When Howard tore his Achilles last October, it was bad news for Phillies fans. And when Utley’s knees started acting up again, it was devastating news.
The two combined to miss about half a season’s worth of games each. Utley didn’t show up until a June 27 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Howard didn’t make it back until July 6 against the Atlanta Braves. Utley’s .833 OPS is a pretty solid number given the fact that he’s 33 ½ years old and didn’t have a spring training before he was sprung into action, but Howard’s .776 mark is over 50 points lower than last year’s .835 mark that was 24 points lower than his .859 from 2010 which was 72 points lower than his .931 from 2009.
Howard’s -0.2 WAR is the third-worst of any player on the team, with just Michael Martinez and Ty Wigginton trailing him. Howard is striking out in over a third of his plate appearances, his walk rate of 8.2 is the new lowest of his career, he plays awful defense and runs the bases poorly, and his .776 OPS is just a tad higher than Laynce Nix. That tells you all you need to know about Howard.
Fortunately, we as Phillies fans get to enjoy Howard again in 2013 for $20 million, then again in 2014 for $25 million, again in 2015 for $25 million, again in 2016 for $25 million, and possibly again in ’17 if the team doesn’t feel like paying a ridiculous $10 million buyout to avoid paying him $23 million at the age of 37 ½ when he will probably be hitting .190 with 20 home runs for the course of a season.
.151 – Decline in OPS by Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence
Last year, Victorino had his best year yet, finishing with a quadruple-double (27 doubles, 16 triples, 17 home runs, 19 steals) along with an .847 OPS that earned him some MVP votes. Pence – after he came over from Houston – batted .324 with 11 home runs and a fabulous .954 OPS.
This year, Victorino batted just .261 with a .721 OPS before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Pence put up an equally unattractive .263 batting average and .758 OPS. Both significantly underachieved compared to their performances from last season, and while Howard and Utley’s injuries decimated the offense, these two playing below par hurt just as much.
4 – Number of $15 Million Players To Have Spent Time on the DL
Injuries are just a part of the game but when you seem to have every starter spend extended time on the disabled list, it really adds to the frustration.
Howard and Utley each missed nearly half a season. Halladay missed two months, and he’s been the best pitcher in baseball over the past five years. Lee spent a stint on the DL. That’s four separate players to have spent time on the DL that are all making over $15 million this season.
That doesn’t explain the subpar performances from Victorino or Pence, or the shoddy play from Howard since he’s gotten back, or the all-around pitiful numbers from the bullpen this year. But if you take away the injuries, there’s a good chance the Phillies might still be in it.
6.9 – Walk Percentage By the Offense
As a team, the Phillies average 6.9 walks every 100 trips to the plate for this season, a figure that rates 27th best in the major leagues. Gone are the players like Bobby Abreu and Jayson Werth that would work the count and average nearly five pitches per plate appearance.
These Phillies are full of free-swingers like Juan Pierre, Freddy Galvis, Victorino, Rollins, and even Howard as ridiculous as it is. Last year, the Phillies walked at an average rate of 8.6 percent of the time, a figure that ranked ninth-best in the league. The year before, it was at 8.9 percent. Back in 2009, the Phillies walked 9.3 percent of the time. And in 2007 when the Phillies first won the division, the team walked nearly 10 percent of the time (9.8).
4.59 – ERA of the Best Right-Handed Reliever Not Named Jonathan Papelbon
I know I addressed the bullpen issues, but it’s worth mentioning twice. Papelbon has been lights-out this season (well, in save situations anyway), and that earned him an All-Star appearance in his first year with the Phillies.
But other than Papelbon, Schwimer’s 4.59 ERA is the best mark of any right-handed non-closer. Stutes, Contreras, and Herndon missing extensive time means the Phillies have had to go with players like Brian Sanches (9.95 ERA), Qualls (4.60 ERA), B.J. Rosenberg (12.91 ERA), and Josh Lindblom (10.80 ERA). There’s really no one that has been able to pitch as a righty that has actually done a solid job, and that’s a big problem.