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.

Offense: D

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.

Bullpen: C

  • 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

Manager: C

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.

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19 comments

  1. Alex Riley - Hitter's Count

    June 30, 2014 08:17 AM

    Spot on :(

  2. Carmine

    June 30, 2014 08:58 AM

    No argument here on any of the grades you assigned. On the poll on philly.com, I gave Sandberg a C. He still has a learning curve, but he is working with some pretty severe limitations, thanks to the GM.

  3. Francisco (FC)

    June 30, 2014 09:02 AM

    The Phillies should be willing to eat whatever salary is necessary to move trade pieces to get useful talent. It’s not like they’re going to spend the money in Free Agency.

    • Tom

      June 30, 2014 02:41 PM

      100% right…all the talk now is how “untradeable” a lot of the contracts are. Of course they are unless you eat em. That’s what it’s all about now. Do the phils have the balls to eat salary…a humongous amount of salary. You’re paying them right now and the team in going nowhere. These are the decisions that can set a team up for a long long time. The TV contract is signed, so lets start the process.

    • Pete

      July 01, 2014 12:14 AM

      “Useful talent”. Aye, there’s the rub. Unless you’re talking about Hamels or Lee (assuming he can prove himself healthy), I’m afraid the Phillies would be eating salary to move players solely for the purpose of moving players. They’re not likely to get any real “useful talent” in return for anyone else (especially with Amaro making the trades). Now, if you’re moving these players in order to weaken the team and chase 100 losses in order to find “useful talent” via the draft, that’s another matter.

  4. Francisco (FC)

    June 30, 2014 09:06 AM

    As for Kyle Kendrick’s struggles starting a game… maybe we should have a reliever start the first inning and THEN bring in Kendrick to pitch the rest of the way

  5. Jonathan

    June 30, 2014 09:36 AM

    You forgot to grade the front office.

    • Bill

      June 30, 2014 04:43 PM

      F- (Detritus)

  6. tom b

    June 30, 2014 09:58 AM

    ruiz c asche c mayberry d burnett c- papelbon a hollands b
    howard d brown f gwynn f kendrick c- diekman c adams inc
    rollins c- revere c+ hamels a- hernandez d bastardo b giles inc
    utley b byrd b lee b buchanan c- defratus b sandberg d

    • Richard

      June 30, 2014 11:28 AM

      How is it that Rollins is a C- and Revere a C+?

      • tom b

        June 30, 2014 02:26 PM

        just my opinion but if you factor in salaries i’d rather have what revere gives you than rollins. revere more speed,rollins more pop, both near bottom of defensive ratings. so for me it’s a couple of million vs 11 million

      • Bob

        June 30, 2014 06:09 PM

        Rollins’ .320 wOBA is 10th best in baseball among SS w/ qualifying PA. He’s at a 102 wRC+ and 1.7 WAR. Defensively, he’s a 4.6 UZR/150, which is about his average over the course of his career and 9th in MLB this year.

        With a .292 wOBA, Revere ranks as 19/22 in CFs with qualifying PA. He’s at a 0.9 WAR with a 82 wRC+. His CF UZR/150 is -1.3, which is actually an improvement. But still not good as he’s 11th in MLB.

        Rollins gives you much more than Revere in all categories except baserunning where Revere is far, far superior. I also don’t think you can say Rollins is near the bottom in defensive ratings. He’s not elite, but he’s better than average.

  7. amarosucks

    June 30, 2014 09:58 AM

    Montgomery – F
    Amaro – F minus

  8. SteveH

    June 30, 2014 10:43 AM

    Let’s not forget BJ Rosenberg and his F too. I know we need a mop up guy but he is just awful.

  9. Bob

    June 30, 2014 12:31 PM

    TBF, Chooch has not really been a power hitter throughout his career. His ISO the last five years: .146, .100, .215, .100, .100. The .215 looks to be an aberration in a career year at the age of 33. The reason Chooch deserves a C minus , despite being in the Top 30 in all of baseball in OBP, is his poor pitch framing. Is it any wonder that Hernandez is walking more people since coming here? AJ Burnett’s walk rate is up a little too.

  10. Sunny D

    June 30, 2014 02:25 PM

    I imagine we can pretty much sum up our OF with a big F
    Ben Revere – Defense F -
    Dom Brown – Defense F-
    Byrd – Defense D+

    Infield Defense – Catchers B, 1B – F, 2B -C+, 3B – C+, SS – B
    Basically, the range is no longer there for 2b/SS Good but not Great, 1B is hideous, 3B – Asche is doing OK but nothing special
    Can’t watch this team

    • tom b

      June 30, 2014 02:28 PM

      look up the defensive stats,rollins is no B. he catches what he gets to but is turning into a statue

  11. GB

    June 30, 2014 11:57 PM

    I disagree it has been the young guys who has sunk this team….believe it or not, but since the end of the 2011 season the Phillies have had a record above .500 for a grand total of 5 DAYS….5 days. The core’s run is over and has been over for a while…Utley has been terrible for over a month, Howard as you noted is being paid $25M to produce a .720ish OPS, Rollins has posted a .643 OPS in June, Ruiz has zero power and will continue to get injured and Hernandez/Kendrick/Burnett have mostly been meh if not worse…its easy to blame the young guys (especially when the Phils cannot use the injury excuses again this year), but there are tons of holes on this team with the vets too….hopefully soon the Phils will realize what everyone else did over a year and a half ago…its time to rebuild while you can still control the situation…the rebuild will happen whether they like it or not….its all about if you want to control events or have them control you…

    • dang

      July 01, 2014 11:28 AM

      I actually don’t believe that the team has been above .500 for only 5 days since the end of 2011.

      In fact I went through the 2012 season and counted the number of days they were above .500 (including off days). In 2012 alone they were above .500 for 28 days.

      And if you look at 2013 and 2014 together, here are the days the phillies have been above .500 -
      Jun 6, 2013
      Jul 19, 2013
      Mar 31, 2014
      Apr 5, 2014
      Apr 27, 2014
      May 4, 2014

      Yes, 6 days over the past season and a half is still very sad. But it’s not 5 days over the past two and a half seasons sad.

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