The second half of Phillies baseball starts tomorrow, and I have to say that I'm pretty happy that the All-Star Break is over, and I can stop pretending like I give a crap about the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game. I'm also thankful that there aren't as many position players to talk about as there were pitchers.
Carlos Ruiz (.255/.360/.359, 4HR): Chooch had a career year in 2010, and while some may be disappointed at his performance thus far in 2011, I'm not. He had a BABIP of .335 last year, which is hard to maintain. His OBP is still good, and there's no other catcher I'd rather have behind the plate.
Ryan Howard (.257/.353/.475, 18HR, 1SB): Beyond any player listed here, there is the most debate about Ryan Howard -- regarding this year and his future production. My TGP colleague dajafi said it best: "Rumors of his sucking have been greatly exaggerated." Howard has great career numbers in the second half, and while that's no guarantee of performance, it gives me a hope that he'll heat up soon and start hitting the way he was when the season began.
Chase Utley (.280/.370/.439, 4HR, 8SB): Chase's down 2010 season had everyone talking about his decline. He seems to have shut them all up. Since returning from his knee issues, he's looking like his old self. His power numbers are down, and have been decreasing since 2008, but I don't see that as an issue. He's getting on base and putting the ball in play. In 2011, he has the same number of walks as strikeouts -- 17. The only other thing I could possibly want from him...is a smile.
Placido Polanco (.274/.331/.346, 4HR, 3SB): Polly had an otherworldly April (.398/.447/.524) and folllowed that up with a miserable May (.248/.289/.294) and a dismal June (.213/.279./.266). His back issues are the would-be culprit, so hopefully everyone's favorite bobble-headed third baseman will be back and healthy soon.
Jimmy Rollins (.268/.340/.383, 8HR, 19SB): My personal goal for Jimmy this season was simple: do better than last year. And thus far, he has. He's stayed healthy, he's stealing bases, and he's putting the ball in play. Additionally, he's been pretty consistent. He's gone hitless in three straight games just once this year, and gone hitless in two straight games five times. I'd like to see him show a bit more power, but I'm also happy for him to keep doing what he's been doing.
Raul Ibanez (.241/.287/.416, 12HR, 2SB): Watching Raul Ibanez helplessly flail at the plate has been my least favorite part of the season. His historic streakiness seems to be taking a new form this year: he'll struggle mightily for weeks at a time, heat up for a few games, become mediocre for a few more games, and then go back to sucking. It's tough to watch. My desperate hope is that he heats up in the second half. Or gets swallowed by a whale.
Shane Victorino (.303/.376/.524, 9HR, 13SB): My one complaint about Shane last year was that he hit 18 home runs (nearly double his 2009 total), but ended with a 2010 slash line (.259/.327/.429) that was overall weaker than his 2009 totals (.292/.358/.445). At the figurative halfway point in the 2011 season, I have nothing to complain about. He's married the best parts of his 2009 and 2010 seasons to give the Phillies an incredibly productive player...at the plate. His defense is another story entirely, evidenced by his meandering, nonsensical routes to balls coming his way. He's been on the DL twice this year, his most current stint the result of a Three Stooges-esque fall while running in center field.
Domonic Brown (.252/.327/.408, 5HR, 3SB): My biggest fear with Dom this year didn't have anything to do with his broken hamate. I was mostly concerned that the Phillies would platoon him in right field with Ben Francisco or John Mayberry, robbing him of consistent at-bats. When he was called up in May, they sat him against lefties, so he played most days. Now, he faces pitchers of both persuasions, left and right, and is the everyday right fielder. Some rookies are great immediately, but some grow into it. Brown has a ton of potential, and the Phillies are giving him the time to grow into his new role.
Ben Francisco (.230/.339/.370, 6HR, 3SB): Ben is no longer playing every day, which is something I'm happy about. He started off playing well (.308 through the first ten games of the season) but shockingly wasn't able to sustain that pace. He's been doing well off the bench lately, and that's really where I'd like him to stay.
Ross Gload (.279/.290/.311, 0HR, 0SB): There was a period of time that Ross Gload was a literal fixture on the bench, due to a problem with his hip. It's a mystery to me why he wasn't sent to the DL so the Phillies could, I don't know, put someone in that roster spot that could use both legs.
Michael Martinez (.229/.270/.289, 0HR, 0SB): Does one insanely good game wipe away 3 1/2 months of wondering why he's on the team? Probably not. I do have to admit that his ability to play numerous positions is important. I just hope he has more multi-hit games in front of him.
John Mayberry (.244/.326/.439, 5HR, 5SB): I really don't know what to think about Mayberry. He's 27 years old and has a .258 career average in the minors. He's spent more time in the majors this year than he ever has. He had a fantastic game against the Braves right before the All-Star Break, and notched his first multi-homer game in the majors a few days prior. He was the hero of opening day. But I really don't think he's anything more than a career minor leaguer, and a good call-up option in the postseason, or when one of the starters gets hurt.
Pete Orr (.230/.326/.279, 0HR, 1SB): Pete Orr is from Canada! He's a fast runner! I'm not sure there's much else.
Dane Sardinha (.219/.299/.250, 0HR, 0SB): There is a reason Dane is in AAA. There is a glimmer of hope, though! His average is up .014 from last year in roughly the same number of plate appearances!
Brian Schneider (.164/.215/.295, 2HR, 0SB): Injured for over a month, Schneider hasn't really found his stroke yet this year. But he's a great sub behind the plate for Chooch, and I'd always rather see Schneider than Sardinha.
Wilson Valdez (.234/.274/.291, 0HR, 2SB): Everyone's favorite fill-in, and the hero of the epic 19 inning game in May. His playing time is down this year due to healthier infielders, so his overall numbers are down. But he has an arm like a cannon, and I love watching him play in the infield. And hey, he's game for anything! I say the next time there's a ridiculously long game, we try him at catcher.
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