Interleague Is Over, So Is June
That was brutal. Before the first game of the series in Florida on June 10, the Phillies stood at 39-26, 13 games above .500 and 3.5 games ahead of the Florida Marlins. Since then, the Phillies have lost six straight series, including all four inter-league series. After last night’s loss to the Texas Rangers, the Phillies are now 44-39, 5 games above .500 and only one game ahead of the Marlins. Luckily, they’ve gone 5-13 over their last 18 and only lost 2.5 games in the standings and still standing atop the division.
It’s not like the Phillies expected to go on a 15-game winning streak, but everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Ryan Howard went back to flailing at outside breaking pitches, Chase Utley went into a cold streak, and Brett Myers may have started his last game for the Phillies after his 2+ inning, 5-run performance on Friday.
In inter-league play, the Phillies’ offense put up an AVG/OBP/SLG line of .207/.287/.354. In those 12 games, the Phillies only got 30 extra-base hits and only 10 of them were home runs. They scored a total of 39 runs, which averages out to 3.25 runs per game. The Phillies racked up a lot of strikeouts — 94 to be exact — but that is to be expected, as the bulk of those K’s came from Howard (19), Pat Burrell (14), and Chase Utley (10). Conversely, the Phillies didn’t walk too much; just 41 of them in 428 plate appearances — certainly an out-of-character performance.
The one good thing found among all of these statistics is that So Taguchi was only given two plate appearances in which he, expectedly, did not do anything. It’s only a matter of time until he’s traded or designated for assignment.
The starting pitching wasn’t any better. The Phillies’ starters pitched 71 innings, allowed 74 hits, 29 walks, 41 runs, 15 HR, and struck out 60 for a WHIP of 1.45, an ERA of 5.20, and per-nine rates of 7.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, and 1.9 HR/9.
Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer were decent (though the Phillies lost all three of Moyer’s games), while Brett Myers, Kyle Kendrick, and Adam Eaton were awful.
The bullpen was the one bright spot, posting a 2.91 ERA in inter-league play despite a high 1.60 WHIP. Unfortunately, Brad Lidge didn’t get too many opportunities to pitch, notching only one save in three scoreless innings of work. Tom Gordon, who complained about a bad shoulder, only pitched one inning, unsuccessfully. Ryan Madson got the bulk of the work, pitching nearly 30% of the innings given to the bullpen, and put up a 2.70 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in his ten innings.
If you’d like to peruse the Phillies’ inter-league numbers, feel free to download my spreadsheet (an .xlsx file).
Overall, the Phillies gave up 37 runs and allowed 57 in inter-league play, which gives them an expected record of 5-7 over those 12 games. Instead, they went 3-9. It was a tough part of the schedule for the Phillies, as they played two first-place (at some point among those 12 games) teams in the Red Sox (50-34) and Angels (49-33), along with the Athletics (44-37) and Rangers (42-41).
July is a very important month for the Phillies and it may have been a good thing that they’ve underperformed and gotten their bad luck out of the way against the American League (read: teams that don’t matter) because the entire month, aside from a six-game stretch from July 8 to 13 against the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks, features games against divisional opponents: six against the Braves, seven against the Mets, three against the Marlins, and three against the Nationals.
The Phillies were fortunate that, while they posted a 12-14 June record, none of their other divisional opponents did much better. The Marlins went 11-16 (4-8 in inter-league), the Mets went 13-14 (7-6 in IL), and the Braves went 11-16 (6-6 in IL). Their awful play in June didn’t hurt the Phillies as much as it appeared to, and now they have July as a great opportunity to separate themselves from the pack.
More on July…
The Trading Deadline
Despite his nickname, “Stand Pat” Gillick, the Phillies GM probably won’t sit on his hands until August 1. My analysis leads me to believe that the Phillies only need a couple spare parts: a league-average starting pitcher (like Kyle Lohse last season) and a left-handed relief pitcher. Many are speculating that the Phillies want to trade for C.C. Sabathia or Erik Bedard, but they simply don’t have the prospects that would tantalize the Indians or Mariners.
I still remain steadfast on being against trading for Erik Bedard, but I’ve come around on C.C. Sabathia.
Some other big names that could be available are A.J. Burnett (Blue Jays), Aaron Harang (Reds), Bronson Arroyo (Reds), Greg Maddux (Padres), and Jarrod Washburn (Mariners).
Of that list, I personally am only interested in Harang and Maddux; Harang would likely be nearly as expensive as Bedard. As for Maddux, there will probably be a line for his services, with the Cubs at the front.
You may recall that, back on May 15, I suggested that something needed to be done about Myers. I listed a few scenarios in which they could minimize Myers’ damage, but, instead, they have done nothing between then and now. In his eight starts since I wrote that article, Myers has made eight starts, pitching 48 and one-third innings (averaging 6 per start) with a 5.77 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. The Phillies have won only one of those starts (May 30 vs. the Marlins).
At this point, it’s hard to imagine that the Phillies’ organization isn’t thinking long and hard about doing something with Myers. It would be absurd if they weren’t discussing reasons why Myers should not make his next start. The problem with trading Myers, to go along with his poor on-field performances and his off-the-field incidents in the past, is that he’s expensive. He’s owed $8.5 million for this season and $12 million for next season.
If the Phillies want to trade Myers to another team, they’ll either have to eat a good portion of Myers’ remaining contract to get something worthwhile in return, or they’ll have to ask for next-to-nothing while another team takes on the bulk of his contract. Why another team would take an underachieving, expensive head case with off-the-field problems is beyond me, but the Phillies should hope to find one such sucker (what’s the number for Seattle’s front office?).
The best option, in my mind, remains the move-him-to-the-bullpen option. I previously suggested that Myers set up for closer Brad Lidge, but opposing hitters have a 1.255 OPS against Myers in the first inning. Obviously, there’s a difference between the first inning of work for a starting pitcher and the first inning of work for a relief pitcher, but it shows that Myers isn’t getting hit when he loses his stuff later in the game when batters are more familiar with him.
I’d move Myers into the mop-up role, which Clay Condrey currently owns. Condrey gets designated for assignment, while the Phillies either call up a pitcher (preferably J.A. Happ) or trade for one.
Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game
The Phillies have three hitters among the top-eight in the NL in home runs. Chase Utley is tied with Dan Uggla for the league lead with 23; Ryan Howard has 20; Pat Burrell has 19. Utley should be a lock for the Home Run Derby if he agrees to do it and Howard should get an invite as well. Burrell would be a long shot.
As for the All-Star Game, Utley and Brad Lidge are locks. Burrell should be a lock, but given how awful fan voting is (Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Ken Griffey, Jr. inexplicably are the top-three vote-getters), he may be a long shot to make the team. Ryan Ludwick, Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, and Xavier Nady are four nearly as deserving outfielders who may push Burrell out.
Cole Hamels should be a lock to make the All-Star team, but is a fringe candidate. His 1.03 WHIP is second-best among qualified starters and his 103 strikeouts are third-best.
Ryan Howard, despite his very slow start and continuing struggles (and historic strikeout pace), could make the team as well on account of his high HR and RBI totals.