Phillies First-Half Report Card
With the conclusion of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies reached the halfway point of the season. They stood 36-45, good for last place in the NL East and on pace for 90 losses. If they continue on their current path, 2014 will be their first 90-loss season since 2000, when they went 65-97.
Obviously, things haven’t been going so well in Philadelphia this season, as expected. But it hasn’t been the older crowd that has left the Phillies lagging behind the competition; it’s been the young guys. Let’s hand out some first-half grades and see where the problems lie.
On Sunday against the Braves, the Phillies banged out 13 hits and drew two walks, but were still only able to push across two runs, both on Marlon Byrd solo home runs off of Aaron Harang. Aside from the homers, Jimmy Rollins had the club’s only other extra-base hit — a one-out, fifth-inning double. It was pointed out that the Phillies are 10 for their last 75 (.133) with runners in scoring position, but as usual, a RISP stat is obscuring the real issue.
The Phillies just don’t hit for any power. Their .368 slugging percentage is tied for the fourth-worst in baseball and their .125 isolated power ranks 25th out of 30 teams. To visualize that, these players have an ISO within one point of .125: Dexter Fowler, David Murphy, Starling Marte, Aaron Hill, Brad Miller, Nick Swisher, Denard Span, Alejandro De Aza. Billy Hamilton is just behind at .123. Not exactly a list of mashers.
The Phillies also don’t hit for average — their .242 team average is 24th-best. They also don’t walk frequently, as their 7.7 percent rate ranks 15th. As a result, it’s no surprise their .305 on-base percentage ranks 26th.
When you don’t hit for any power, you don’t have any special propensity for drawing walks, and you don’t hit for a high average, you simply won’t score a lot of runs. The recipe calls for bunching up singles together. The odds of the Phillies hitting three consecutive singles is 1.4 percent. That’s why they get shut out so often.
Running through the hitters themselves:
- Carlos Ruiz (C-): He’s been the Phillies’ best on-base threat, but he has hit for virtually no power — his on-base percentage is higher than his slugging percentage.
- Ryan Howard: (D): Howard’s .313 weighted on-base average ranks 23rd out of 27 qualified first basemen, and is 26 points below the National League average at the position. He has gaudy home run and RBI totals (14, 51), but he has really not been very good offensively this season. He hit for significantly more power last season, even.
- Chase Utley (A): Utley got off to a terrific start, but has slumped badly in June. His .347 wOBA is seventh-best among qualified second basemen (and third-best among those in the National League) and is 53 points above the league average at the position.
- Jimmy Rollins (B-): Rollins has been about average in every way. Nothing really exciting to write about. The good news is that he has stayed healthy and hasn’t slumped. Now that he has attained the Phillies franchise hits record, he could waive his 10-and-5 rights and the Phillies could trade him to a contender to start the rebuild.
- Cody Asche (C+): Asche has lived up to expectations, hitting at about the league average when he has been healthy. With Maikel Franco struggling at Triple-A, the Phillies’ lack of infield depth was exposed when Asche landed on the disabled list, as they had to use Reid Brignac for a while.
- Domonic Brown (F): Last year’s All-Star is nowhere to be found. Brown’s .261 wOBA is the fourth-worst in baseball among qualified hitters. He’s worse in every conceivable way, but the most notable change from last season to this season is his ground ball rate, which has risen 12 percent. That, obviously, is a result of weak contact and comes at the expense of line drives and fly balls.
- Ben Revere (C-): Revere’s .292 wOBA is the 22nd-worst among qualified hitters. Before the last handful of games, in which Revere has enjoyed four multi-hit games, Revere has hitting only .270. For someone who does not hit for any power whatsoever, Revere has to hit .290 or over .300 to be useful. Thankfully, Sunday’s three-hit outing — his third in his last five games — brought him up to .289, and he is 23-for-26 in stolen bases. If he can keep it up, he can be useful in the second half.
- Marlon Byrd (B+): Byrd hasn’t been quite as good as he was last year, when he posted an .847 OPS between the Mets and Pirates, but he has been productive nonetheless and quieted skeptics who felt his 2013 was a fluke. Byrd has a .349 wOBA and is on pace to surpass his career-high in homers set last year (24). The Phillies don’t have to trade Byrd, but if they do, they may be able to get something of value if they’re lucky.
- John Mayberry, Jr. (C+): Mayberry has been utilized against left-handed pitchers more often than he has been over the past two seasons, which is why his numbers aren’t so bad. When he has faced right-handers, though, Mayberry hasn’t just been bad; he’s been abysmal. He has a .590 OPS against RHP. Mayberry could still draw some interest at the trade deadline, however.
- Tony Gwynn, Jr. (F): The standing ovation he was given by Phillies fans, in his first game back in front of the home crowd since his father passed away, will likely be the highlight of his time in Philadelphia. Gwynn hasn’t done anything offensively off of the bench and in spot starts, mustering a .488 OPS.
- The rest of the bench (F): Detritus.
Starting Pitchers: B
- Cole Hamels (A): Hard to argue with his 2.84 ERA, 91/28 K/BB ratio, and 3.14 xFIP in 88 2/3 innings.
- Cliff Lee (A-): It’s not his fault he got injured. He has a 3.18 ERA, 61/9 K/BB ratio, and a 2.89 xFIP in 68 innings. If he comes back and pitches well, the Phillies may be able to move him by the August 31 waiver deadline.
- A.J. Burnett (C+): He’s pretty much been Jekyll and Hyde this season, pitching with an inguinal hernia. Nine out of his 17 starts have registered as “quality starts” (6+ IP, 3 or fewer ER allowed).
- Kyle Kendrick (C-): If we could just get rid of his first-inning struggles, he would be a great pitcher. Kendrick has allowed 16 earned runs (33 percent of his total ER allowed) in 16 first innings this season. He has a 4.22 ERA overall, and a 4.30 xFIP.
- Roberto Hernandez (D): The Phillies’ analytics department was right that Hernandez would see a regression toward the mean with his HR/FB rate. They were also right that his improved strikeout rate would last. What they didn’t see was Hernandez’s control going back to haywire. Hernandez’s 11.5 percent walk rate is his highest since 2009 with the Cleveland Indians.
- David Buchanan (D): It’s hard to fill Cliff Lee‘s shoes. Buchanan hasn’t been great by any means, but he has been a live arm who has occasionally pitched well. The Phillies just don’t have a whole lot of starting pitching depth.
- Jonathan Papelbon (A): There was a lot of hand-wringing, particularly here, about his decline in velocity. It’s still worrisome, as his 91.4 MPH average on his fastball is a 0.6 MPH decline even from last season, but thus far, Papelbon has gotten the job done. He has saved 18 games out of 20 chances while posting a 1.39 ERA in 32 1/3 innings. He has a 4.15 xFIP, however, and hopefully a contending team comes calling for his services before the Phillies have him blow up in their faces.
- Jake Diekman (B): As is the case with relievers and small sample sizes, Diekman’s 4.03 ERA can mostly be attributed by two awful games. Otherwise, Diekman has been dominant. In his last 11 appearances spanning 9 1/3 innings, Diekman has a 0.96 ERA with a 13/2 K/BB ratio. If the Phillies are able to trade Papelbon, Diekman would likely slide in as the everyday closer.
- Antonio Bastardo (C): Bastardo has mostly been good. In fact, until his poor performance in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Bastardo hadn’t walked a batter in nine June appearances spanning 11 1/3 innings. Still, the lefty has battled control issues as his 13.8 percent walk rate is a career-high and ranks 13th-highest out of 157 qualified relievers. He’ll be an elite reliever if he can ever harness his control problems.
- Justin De Fratus (A-): De Fratus struggled in his first four outings of the season and was promptly demoted back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Since he came back up on May 26, however, he has been lights out. In his last 16 appearances spanning 17 innings, De Fratus has a spotless 0.00 ERA with an 18/4 K/BB ratio. He’s been a big part of the bullpen’s turnaround in the month of June.
- Mario Hollands (A)
- Ken Giles (A)
- Mike Adams (B+)
- Everyone else: Detritus
Ryne Sandberg has utilized his bullpen about as poorly as Charlie Manuel used to, and he’s overworked Hamels more than he should have, but he hasn’t made too many egregious mistakes. Bonus points for utilizing Mayberry more often against lefties and for at least experimenting with different lineups. The team’s overall poor performance is more a reflection on the front office’s decision-making than anything having to do with Sandberg.
If you agree or disagree with my grading, or just want to hand out some grades yourself, feel free to do so in the comments.