Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

The end of the regular season is nigh and for the first time since 2006, the Phillies will be scheduling golf outings in October. To the Phillies’ credit, they made it interesting all the way into late September, but a 9-19 June and a constantly-rotating door to the infirmary kept them out of the post-season. That’s not to say there weren’t good things to take from the season — the emergence of Carlos Ruiz, the surprisingly-productive bargain-bin grabs in Juan Pierre and Kevin Frandsen, the progression of Kyle Kendrick, and a great September from the young bullpen give us reasons to look forward to 2013.

There is no question, though, that the 2012 team is a far cry from its predecessor. Half-seasons from Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, trading away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, and bupkis from third base dragged the Phillies down. The following charts show the season-to-season changes among hitters.

Note: All stats that follow were compiled prior to yesterday afternoon’s game.

Thanks to Carlos Ruiz and Erik Kratz, the Phillies got a 172-point boost in OPS from the catching position, representing the biggest change between seasons. On the other side, the Phillies lost 111 points in OPS from first base. Ryan Howard returned to first base in early July after the Phillies had given 200 plate appearances to Ty Wigginton and nearly 150 to the combination of John Mayberry, Laynce Nix, and Hector Luna. The not-so-fearsome foursome couldn’t quite reproduce a healthy Howard’s production.

Smaller changes occurred at second base (+.053), center field (-.057), and right field (-.075). The latter two were affected, of course, by the regression of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence and their replacements following their late July trades.

The Phillies also received significantly worse starting pitching in 2012. Roy Halladay was a far cry from his Cy Young-winning self in 2010 and Cy Young-runner-up self in 2011, finishing with a 4.49 ERA, the first time it had been above 3.00 since 2007 (3.71). Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, while great, weren’t quite as good as in the previous season. Meanwhile, Vance Worley did not repeat his great rookie season while Joe Blanton hovered around replacement level. The most pleasant contributor was Kyle Kendrick, who had two separate scoreless inning streaks of 20 or more innings during the season. Here’s a look at the changes among Phillies starters who made at least 10 starts, ordered from lowest ERA to highest.

If you’re wondering about each pitcher’s specific ERA, enjoy this table:

2011 2012
Halladay 2.35 4.49
Lee 2.40 3.12
Hamels 2.79 3.11
Worley 3.01 4.20
Kendrick 3.22 4.08
Blanton 4.59
Oswalt 3.69

Here is the same exercise done for relievers, minimum 20 games:

And the table:

2011 2012
CL 2.37 Madson 2.23 Papelbon
RP1 1.40 Lidge 1.20 Horst
RP2 2.64 Bastardo 2.90 Valdes
RP3 3.32 Herndon 4.10 Diekman
RP4 3.63 Stutes 4.32 Bastardo
RP5 3.86 Romero 4.46 Schwimer
RP6 6.25 Baez 4.60 Qualls
RP7 6.86 Rosenberg

The Phillies got nearly identical production from their closers (Ryan Madson and Jonathan Papelbon) and their best non-closer reliever (Brad Lidge and Jeremy Horst). Where the Phillies really lost quality was in middle relief. 2011 featured four relievers with an ERA between 2.64 to 3.86; 2012 featured just one: Raul Valdes. After Valdes, the next-best ERA was Jake Diekman‘s 4.10.

What does the overall picture look like?

  • Offense
    • 2011: .717 OPS
    • 2012: .718 OPS (+.001)
  • Starting Pitching
    • 2011: 2.86 ERA
    • 2012: 3.87 ERA (+1.01)
  • Relief Pitching
    • 2011: 3.45 ERA
    • 2012: 3.92 ERA (+0.47)

The precipitous decline in pitching caused the Phillies to go from 102-game winners in 2011 to the low-80’s in 2012. They were the 14th team of the 2000’s to reach triple digit wins. The largest regression among those teams involved the Seattle Mariners, who went from 116 wins in 2001 to 93 the next year, a 23-game swing. The 2011 Phillies won 102 games and currently sit at 80, close to the 23-game freefall. The Phillies’ decline, though, is worse in magnitude as 93 wins is normally good enough for a playoff spot; the Mariners just happened to play in the same division as the 101-win Athletics and 99-win Angels in 2002. The Phillies are just hoping to finish over .500, which typically isn’t nearly good enough to reach the post-season, save the 2006 Cardinals.