2012 is over. What started as a season with much excitement (though with some concerns) ended with a .500 record and no playoff baseball for the first time since 2006. There's no two ways about it - this was a thoroughly disappointing year of Phillies baseball.
And it ended in a way that perfectly captured the season. Let's start with the pitching. Could today have been more emblematic? Cliff Lee started the game and pitched pretty well, though with one major flaw. He struck out 7 batters, walked none, and gave up only 8 hits in 6 innings. He worked more slowly than usual and didn't have his A game, but it certainly was a very strong B game.
The one major flaw for Lee today was that of the 8 hits he gave up, 5 were extra base hits, including 2 home runs and 2 doubles that just missed going out of the park. Cliff Lee 2012 is going to be remembered for a lot of things (more on that in a bit), but one important part of it is that in giving up so few walks, he left the ball around the plate too much and had his highest slugging percentage against since 2007.
That was also a problem for the Phillies in relief, and particularly in the eighth inning. I haven't crunched the numbers yet (though I plan to look into it in the off-season), but it sure seemed like the eighth inning was the inning of death for the Phillies this year. It was no different today. The Phillies were down 3-1 in the eighth, a deficit that was surmountable. After the eighth, they were down 5-1, a deficit much more difficult to overcome. In the eighth inning, Jonathan Papelbon walked the first batter he faced and gave up a 2 run home run to the second. With even a modicum of better pitching in the eighth inning this year, the Phillies might be playing post-season baseball.
But it really didn't matter whether the score was 3-1, 5-1, or 1,000,000-1 going into the 9th inning because the Phillies' bats were silent today. They managed just 6 hits. They left 7 men on base. Darin Ruf had the only RBI on a sac fly (the only RBIs in the entire series, for that matter). The offense was, once again, offensive.
If the increased slugging percentage against isn't the main story about Cliff Lee 2012, the lack of run support he got will be. He finishes with a 6-9 record, but could have easily had a much better record with just a bit more run support. According to the radio broadcast, in Lee's 30 starts, the Phillies have scored 3 or fewer runs in 20 of them. I know, and I'm sure Lee knows, that run support is not related to the starting pitcher at all, but it sure must have felt that the team wasn't trying very hard when Lee was on the mound this year. Today just felt like more of the same in that regard. I have no doubt Lee is going to be very happy to see the number 2013 on his calendar the next time he pitches in a game that counts.
Well, maybe not exactly. We all would be happy to see another game in 2012, even if being a Phillies fan has been painful for much of the year this year. But, that's not the way this season ended. We've had an amazing run as Phillies fans, getting to see our team excel and reach the playoffs 5 years in a row. Widening the lens even more, it's been 10 years since we've had a losing baseball team (and even the 2002 team was 80-81, so you have to go back to 2000 to find a truly losing team).
Missing the playoffs this year hurts. But, it's hard to complain in the big picture. We'll have tons of coverage for you in the coming days, weeks, and months about this season - what went right, what went wrong, what needs to change. In the meantime, enjoy October and don't forget that this franchise, despite disappointing this year, has been on quite a roll that has provided incredible entertainment. It hasn't always been this way.
Here's to a return to glory in 2013!
Fangraph of Finalcy: