Have you heard this before? Early in the season when a team is struggling or playing just mediocre ball, some commentator says "the team can't just flip the switch in the middle of the season and start doing well. They need to get their act together now."
If you're a Phillies fan, you've probably heard this just about every June for the last six years, usually right around when interleague play ends. However, if you've followed this team closely over the past six years, you should respond to this claim by saying "well, actually, they obviously can!"
The Phillies under Charlie Manuel have thrived by being able to "flip the switch" midseason. They've done it every single year Manuel has managed the team. This chart shows the year-by-year midseason "flip" for each season Manuel has managed the Phillies:
As the chart makes clear, in no season did the Phillies perform anywhere near the same after the All-Star break. Their "worst" improvement came last year when they went from a .558 team before the break to a .592 team after the break. In every other season under Manuel, their improvement was much more drastic, ranging from an improvement of .064 in 2008 to this year's incredible improvement of .142 (almost matched in 2006 after the team's dreadful first half, the only half season under Manuel in which the Phillies played worse than .500 ball).
The aggregate numbers are even more shocking than the year-by-year numbers. This chart shows the Phillies aggregate pre- and post-break numbers under Manuel:
This chart is astounding. Under Manuel, the Phillies have been a .612 team in the second half of the season. That's almost an improvement of .100, as the team plays slightly better than .500 baseball in the first half. The team improves this dramatically by outscoring the opposition by a run per game in the second half while doing so only by 0.2 runs per game in the first half.
I don't have the answers as to how this happens. There's certainly speculation - the hitters are warm weather hitters, the front office has been in the habit of making high profile additions in July and August, Charlie's form of motivation takes a while to kick in, etc.
Whatever it is, the fact of the improvement is undeniable. Under Charlie Manuel, the Phillies absolutely know how to "flip the switch."