What We Know: 10 Games In

There are no midseason awards at the 1/16th pole. No 10-game all-star lists or MVP and Cy Young Award frontrunners. No postseason locks or clear title favorites. In truth, 10 games can’t tell you most of what you want to know about any team, but just like every painting needs its first brush strokes, so too do the beginnings of a season’s art work take shape after the first decuple. Now, whether that final work is a flawless Mona Lisa - or a disheveled, chaotic Guernica - remains to be seen for all parties, but some trends, patterns and tendencies for the Phillies certainly seem to be emerging. Here’s a bit of what we know after 10 games.

Hamels has a good case for being the star of the show after two starts, with all due apologies afforded to Roy Halladay for simply being himself in the meantime. Cole’s 19 strikeouts are tied for the league lead (as of this writing) with the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and the Padres’ Aaron Harang; plus, he’s got nine fewer innings pitched than King Felix. Pair that with the lone walk he’s allowed, and Hamels has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of any pitcher with a calculable figure. To say he’s off to a hot start might be putting it lightly.

 

The key ingredient, as it’s always been, is that one-of-a-kind changeup. He’s generated 21 swings-and-misses on changeups alone so far, another league-leading total through games on Sunday. We’ll see more of this through the year – although I doubt he’ll nearly double the K/BB ratio record, but who am I to doubt? – and some may claim Hamels’s contract status as a motivator. Me? I’m just seeing more of the same.
  • The offense is the offense
I long for the days of yore, when dingers filled the air and the team posted a collective walk rate that wasn’t analogous to Jeff Francoeur. But this is how it is now. The Phillies are drawing walks at a five-year low rate, as Bill points out in the preceding post. Their aggression has awarded them a high team average, but a collective OBP and SLG (better ingredients for run scoring, as we know) that leaves the offense in the bottom tier. We all sort of figured it was going to be like this, but the figures still don’t fail to stun: a .258/.296/.343 team line, fewer homers than Matt Kemp and negligible production from four spots in the lineup.

 

In better news, Hunter Pence, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are off to nice starts, while Carlos Ruiz continues to stay inexplicably mired in the lower third of the order with an occasional appearance at six. Look, I get it, he’s not a great runner, but this team needs runs and needs ducks on the pond ahead of the guys who are actually producing. Batting Victorino lead-off is wasteful of his production, and batting Polanco second continues to be a waste of Pence and Jimmy Rollins’s production. Unless something changes big-time with Polanco (there’s little to believe something will), the lineup needs a legitimate shake-up, not just a flip-flopping of Jimmy Rollins between one and three.
Perhaps it’s too early to say that the John Mayberry Jr. honeymoon is over, as no 10-game sample is conclusive. In truth, my feeling that Brown will be back in the Bigs before June is old (or perhaps even born) is based less on Mayberry and more on a prediction of general necessity. I’m not about to suggest Brown will be named the LF starter immediately upon his recall, because I’m not about to dole out that much credit. He’s likely to either be a bench bat or a platoon player, barring injury. That’s just how it’s going to be when he’s up; we’ve got the precedent for that. But while Brown’s defense continues to draw (deserved) ire, the bat he possesses will simply look too appetizing to pass up when this team’s offensive struggles persist. And they will persist.

 

What’s more, John Mayberry Jr. isn’t off to a great start, and we all know how damning it can be to be slow out of the gate as an “unproven” player on this club. What’s interesting about Mayberry is that his approach has deteriorated a bit from 2011. Last year, Mayberry chased 28.1 percent of pitches he saw out of the strike zone (give or take a couple percentage points for Pitch f/x variation), but through the first 10 games and 111 pitches seen, Mayberry’s chased 44.4 percent of those OOZ pitches. Pitchers seem to be playing off his tendency to look for pitches over the outer half, but keeping it far enough away to not be a competitive pitch.

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3 comments

  1. Ben

    April 17, 2012 05:38 PM

    Agreed on Brown. He will be back when it becomes apparent how seriously the lineup lacks of power and patience. I also have privately been hypothesizing that the Phillies have cleverly gamed his service clock without anyone noticing:

    -He’s at 1 year and 13 days of service time, much of which he collected on the DL last year.

    -Since 172 days count as a full season for the MLB’s counting purposes, Brown only needs 159 days this season to get a year closer to free agency and arbitration.

    -The MLB season runs something like 182 days in the MLB calendar (from Opening Night through the end of the regular season), Brown would accrue 159 days if he gets on the roster anytime before April 27th and stays the rest of the year.

    -As there is little chance of Brown getting the call before April is up, he will not break the 2 year barrier this season. The Phillies will own Brown’s rights for another 5 seasons after 2012.

  2. Dan K.

    April 17, 2012 07:56 PM

    @Ben,

    That’s a very generous way of looking at it. Let’s hope that’s the reason.

  3. derekcarstairs

    April 18, 2012 11:42 AM

    Ben – The season is a little longer this season because of the opening series in Japan. The As-Ms opener was March 28. The regular season ends on October 3. That’s 190 days.

    The earlier start date this year doesn’t affect Brown, but would affect those on opening-day 25-man rosters. You’re right that Brown won’t break two years of service if he is not called up by April 27th or 28th.

    Paul – The only negative I would cite about Hamels’ start is that he has given up two HRs in his two starts. Last year, Hamels was doing a good job of keeping the ball in the park until he went on the DL. When he returned from the DL, Hamels started giving up homers, his ERA climbed, and he lost any chance of winning the CY.

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