Could Domonic Brown soon be signing autographs in Citizens Bank Park? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
I think this is pretty self-explanatory—six hitting stats, six pitching stats, chosen to measure a range of important qualities on both sides of the ball, with all rankings for the National League only—so (for once) I’ll spare you the throat-clearing and jump right in:
HR: 91, 5th (1st: Reds, 108) (2009: 1st)
BB: 276, 11th (1st: Braves, 361) (2009: 7th)
News flash: the 2010 Phillies aren’t hitting as well as their recent predecessors. With significantly fewer home runs and walks to their credit, the team has scored three runs or fewer in about half their games, and while the injuries to most of the infield certainly have played a part, at least as big a deal is the dropoff from the guys who have been healthy. Outfielders Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth all went to the 2009 all-star game; none of them are there this year, and for cause. In the first half of ’09, Victorino hit .309/.375/.464; this year, .250/.317/.449. Ibanez is slugging more than 250 points below the .649 he put up in the first half a year ago, not surprising given that his homers have plummeted from 22 to 7. Werth’s overall numbers are actually very close to those of his ’09 first half: this year he has a few more singles and doubles, and--like pretty much everyone else on the club--a few less walks and homers.
Then there’s Ryan Howard, who will be going to the Midsummer Classic; he’s projecting for full-season career lows in homers, RBI, walks, strikeouts, and pitches per plate appearance and a career high in hits (also: triples), while flirting with a .300 average. That’s still a fine player, though not the Big Piece the Phils need to anchor their lineup. (Looking for a hopeful sign? Howard’s second-half numbers in ’09 were tremendous, and he’s consistently hit better after the break through his career.) The evidently pending return of Placido Polanco, a .300 hitter who does a bit of everything, should help—but counting on some combination of Greg Dobbs, Cody Ransom, Wilson Valdez and Juan Castro to replace Chase Utley’s production for the next six or seven weeks seems really foolish. Little help here, Ruben?
OOBP: .313, 2nd (1st: Padres, .303) (NB: 9th in OOPS) (2009: 7th)
K/BB: 1st, 2.65 (2nd: Padres, 2.53) (2009: 1st)
Starter IP: 1st, 555.2 (2nd: Reds, 551.1) (2009: 6th)
Reliever ERA: 3.86 (9th) (1st: Padres, 2.91) (2009: 9th)
WHIP: 1.28, 2nd (1st: Padres, 1.22) (2009: 6th)
The Phillies haven’t turned into a pitching-and-defense team, though games like the consecutive 1-0 wins over the Reds (an even more impressive feat, by the way, when you look at all the offensive categories in which Cincy leads the league) could give you that idea. But while Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel claim to be looking for a pitcher on the trade market, the guys now in place have really done just fine. Roy Halladay has more complete games (7) than any other team in the league (Rockies, 5), which largely explains why the Phils starters have racked up so many innings as well as the sterling strikeout-to-walk ratio. The solid performances of Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer and (for a #5 starter) Kyle Kendrick have kept the team competitive on most of the days Doc doesn’t go. Joe Blanton has been awful, but he’s another second-half guy. If the team does add a starter, it’ll be interesting to see how Manuel carves out innings from Moyer, Blanton and Kendrick.
I’ve long believed that there’s a positive relationship between starter IP and reliever ERA (in that the more the starters work, the better the relievers perform), so it’s a bit of a bummer to see the bullpen squarely in the middle in the pack on that stat… though the imminence of a full return to health among that unit augurs well for second-half performance. Indeed, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Charlie Manuel go to a bullpen pattern on days Halladay isn’t in like the one he used down the stretch in 2007, when Brett Myers, Tom Gordon and J.C. Romero seemed to pitch every night; if they get hot, Romero, Jose Contreras, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge can replicate that kind of game-shortening effect.
The great philosopher Bill Parcells once said that ultimately, "you are what your record says you are." The Phils’ record through 87 games says that they are a slightly above average ballclub that’s not quite playoff-caliber. Of course, we’re not at "ultimately" yet; and this is a team with some track record to suggest they save their best for the back half. But they’re going to need a lot more from the bats, whether through returns to health and form from the guys who started the year or reinforcements via trade or call-up. (If Ibanez has an OPS under .750 in mid-August, the veteran might sit for Domonic Brown, who will play right while Werth shifts to left. While it's not a perfect comparison, Manuel has benched big-money guys before, as Geoff Jenkins can attest.) Moyer and Kendrick are likely to regress; Blanton is likely to improve; hopefully Halladay keeps on keeping on, and Hamels continues to resemble the solid #2 he needs to be. The health and effectiveness of J.A. Happ is one x-factor; the possible addition of a Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt or Ted Lilly through trade is another.
In a sense, the Phillies already have accomplished something significant: thanks largely to the concluding four-game sweep of the Reds, they exit the first half squarely in the race, having survived a rash of injuries far worse than anything they’ve seen in at least five years. What we’ll see over the next two and a half months is whether this veteran team, having endured, can conquer again.