Have the Phils hit rock bottom? No, we're not there yet, but we're pretty close.
With all the hype leading into the season, the Phils find themselves with the worst record in the majors, worse than the lowly Royals and Nationals. And this is from a team that has a recent history of slow starts, so it specifically targeted the problem in spring training. Obviously, to no avail.
Pretty much, as the saying goes, everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong. The only thing left is for Ryan Howard's MRI today to come back showing major structural damage to his knee. Then, we've hit rock bottom.
So what's happened? As predicted, the Phils bullpen has been awful. It has 4 losses, no wins, and only 2 saves. Ryan Madson, the eighth inning set-up man, has a 5+ ERA, and started the bullpen's freefall. The team has been trolling the waiver wire to fill spots, brining in rejects Francisco Rosario and J.D. Durbin to try to plug holes. Rosario throws hard and has promise, but lost yesterday's game to the Nationals. The only thing Durbin does well is collect major league uniforms, now with his fourth team in a month. Desperate, the team pulled its most accomplished young starter after two awful starts and stuck him in the bullpen so he can pitch 80 innings this season instead of 220. According to this morning's paper, that's a permanent move for the entire season.
Coming into the season, the starting pitching was viewed as the strong point (especially compared to the bullpen), but it's been worse. Scratch that, it's been downright horrible. The starters' 5.93 ERA is worst in the NL, second worst only to the Devil Rays in the majors. Freddy Garcia, the savior who was supposed to give the team five quality starting pitchers, started the season hurt and came back throwing under 90mph and giving up 10 base runners in less than 5 innings. Bret Myers struggled so much he's been demoted to the bullpen; Cole Hamels shined, but couldn't win a game until he threw poorly; the twenty-four-million-dollar man has a 6.62 ERA; and Jon Lieber's 11.57 relief ERA is now back in the starting rotation.
On the other side of the plate, the team with the most runs in the NL last year is only 10th in scoring, despite leading the majors in on-base percentage. The team is getting on base, but the two hitting stars, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, have done almost nothing with men in scoring position. Howard has a pedestrian .807 OPS with men in scoring position; Utley has a Nunez-esque .365 OPS with men in scoring position. (Yes, that .365 is his OPS, not OBP.) On the other hand, the fans' favorite whipping boy, Pat Burrell, has a 1.113 OPS with men in scoring position. (Take that WIP!) But the manager regularly removes him from games so that a guy with 16 career at-bats and no power gets the important late-game plate appearances.
The manager-lite guys brought in have added nothing (witness Shane Victorino's baserunning gaffes - what is Davey Lopes here for again?). The manager is trying to brawl with the media. The Braves (10-4) and the Mets (9-4) are playing great. And now the star first baseman is possibly hurt. (After all, for the Phils to actually get an MRI rather than just letting the player go without one must mean something is wrong.)
So, no, this isn't rock bottom, but it's damn close.