As the Phillies head towards halftime in the regular season, the Crashburn Alley crew (Paul, Jeff, and myself) will dole out some mid-season hardware to the Phillies we feel are most deserving. The categories are Most Valuable Hitter, Most Valuable Pitcher, Biggest Surprise, and Biggest Disappointment.
Most Valuable Hitter
Paul: Shane Victorino
It’s a pretty close race between Shane and Ryan Howard for this one on the positional side, but I’ll side with Shane. He leads the team in slugging and OPS, while playing a better center field than in previous years (BIS currently has him in the top 15 of CFs in runs saved, as opposed to the mid-20s range he had been in). Despite the time he missed due to injury, Shane has 27 extra-base hits and is 12-for-13 in steal attempts. He’s also closing in on his third straight season with double-digit doubles, triples and homers. He’s been a pretty consistent bright spot in a lineup that’s been anything but.
Jeff: Shane Victorino
This one is pretty easy. With the injury to Chase Utley and the recent struggles of Placido Polanco, only two Phillies hitters are even in the running for this award. Ryan Howard is having a good season, posting a .836 OPS through June 27th, but Victorino has been better. The Flyin’ Hawaiian has posted a .857 OPS, and a wOBA of .384. Victorino has already accumulated 3.8 fWAR in only 277 plate appearances (in comparison to 3.7 in all of 2010).While the Phillies offense hasn’t been great in 2010, its scary to think how much worse they could be without the contributions of their center fielder.
Bill: Shane Victorino
As Paul and Jeff rightly point out, and as I wrote recently, Victorino has certainly been the backbone of the Phillies’ offense. If you had told me last year that, at mid-season, Victorino would be the Phillies’ offensive MVP, I’d have laughed at you and tried to figure out which prescription drugs you were abusing. However, the departure of Jayson Werth, the injury to Chase Utley, and offensive tragedy in the outfield corners have left the door wide open for the Flyin’ Hawaiian. While I don’t think he can maintain such a high level of production over the second half of the season, there is no doubt he has been a force to be reckoned with in the first half.
Most Valuable Pitcher
Paul: Roy Halladay
I thought about giving this to Cole Hamels just to be a little different, but really, Doc is the slam-dunk choice here. A 7.7 K:BB ratio, a 2.40 ERA in 127.1 IP, five complete games and the best B-R WAR of any pitcher in baseball. Hamels is close – very close, actually – but Halladay is having a better year in 2011 than his 2010 Cy Young campaign. Believe it: this guy’s becoming more of a Hall of Famer with each passing start.
Jeff: Cole Hamels
This is a two horse race between Doc and King Cole. So let’s compare the numbers. Halladay is 10-3 with a 2.40 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 1.1 BB/9, and a 2.68 SIERA. Hamels is 9-4 with a 2.49 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, and a 2.76 SIERA. You couldn’t go wrong picking either one as MVP, so I’m going off the trail a little. The only real difference I could find between these two aces is with the bat. Hamels has posted a slash line of .229/.250/.286 while Halladay has only managed aline of .073/.095/073. Cole has a higher OBP than Atlanta Braves 2nd baseman DanUggla (.250 vs .244). For that fun fact alone, he wins the tiebreaker over Doc as my pitcher MVP.
Bill: Roy Halladay
As much as I want to give it to my pre-season Cy Young pick, I have to hand the award to Doc Halladay whose 2011 season has been a tiny fraction better than Hamels’. I’ll try not to echo Paul too much, but Doc has an equivalent strikeout rate as Hamels, but a better walk rate and has pitched 15 more innings with a lower ERA. It’s a negligible difference for analytic reasons, but for simply awarding the best pitcher, that’s how Halladay wins it: by the slimmest of margins.
Paul: Antonio Bastardo
Sure, I liked the chances of Bastardo turning into a better reliever than starter, but I foresaw neither the height of his effectiveness nor the speed at which he became so good. Rocking a 0.96 ERA (400 ERA+) through 28 innings this season, Bastardo is doing his own, left-handed Brad Lidge impersonation with a fastball/slider combo that’s produced 33 strikeouts against 13 walks. Considering he isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2013, the Phils seem to have found a great piece for their bullpen at great value.
Jeff: Charlie Manuel
Cholly has taken some grief on this site in the past over his use of the pitching staff, so it’s only fair to point out when out when credit is due. The most surprising thing to me this season has been Charlie correctly handing late innings to young relievers Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes. Given the injuries to the pen, I fully expected Danys Baez and Kyle Kendrick to pick up the high leverage innings. Instead, he has allowed the youngsters to pitch in high leverage situations and they have responded. Stutes has put up a 2.92 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, while Bastardo has a 0.96 ERA in 28 innings. Charlie has finally picked talent over experience, and for that, credit is due.
Bill: Kyle Kendrick
I have been very pessimistic towards Kendrick, but I have to commend him on his great contributions to both the starting rotation and the bullpen. As most pitchers will tell you — including Kendrick’s teammate Vance Worley — it’s hard to be a swingman, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen. However, over the last four years, Kendrick has done that with good results. Saberists like myself expect his success to run out soon, but it hasn’t thus far in 2011. In over 47 innings, Kendrick has a 3.23 ERA and had one outstanding start against the Florida Marlins recently, in which he threw seven innings of one-run baseball. As a reliever, nine of his 14 outings have been scoreless. Going into the season, he was expected to make very few spot starts, especially with Worley ahead of him on the depth charts, and he was only supposed to pitch as a mop-up reliever. Given some unfortunate injuries, Kendrick has made the most of it and helped the Phillies out when they most needed him.
Paul: The corner outfielders
Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco, Raul Ibanez and John Mayberry, Jr. haven’t produced. Between them, they’ve combined for 21 homers and 54 extra-base hits in 760 plate appearances, with a community slash line of .226/.307/.372, which is just unacceptable. Whether they actually can produce at a higher level for the rest of this season remains to be seen.
Jeff: Joe Blanton
In the offseason, I wrote about the value in not trading Big Joe. He outperformed his ERA last year, and it was reasonable to project him to compile a season with a ERA closer to 4 than 5. With numbers like that, he would have been a real asset either pitching for the Phillies, or as a trade chip later in the season. Unfortunately, his elbow injury eliminated this opportunity. Joe has only made 6 starts and has been mostly ineffective. He’s expected back soon, and can hopefully fill the void created by Roy Oswalt’s injury. But to this point of the Phillies season, Joe Blanton’s elbow has been the biggest disappointment.
Bill: Roy Oswalt
Oswalt’s season has been a disappointment on two fronts: his performance and his back problem that forced him onto the disabled list recently. His K/9 dropped precipitously from 8.2 last year to 5.3 in 2011. He lost velocity on all of his pitches, most important of which was his curve, which dropped by more than three MPH. Overall, his ERA was 3.79 before he went on the DL, which isn’t bad by any means, but it isn’t what we have come to expect from the right-hander. His ineffectiveness turned the Phillies’ fearsome foursome in the starting rotation into, simply, a terrorizing threesome (insert joke here).
Who are your MVP’s, surprises, and disappointments? Let us know in the comments.