clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Phillies hope to hit the reset button in the second half

New, comments

The first half was a disaster, but another half-season of baseball remains.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re halfway home, gang. Man, it feels like it’s been longer than that.

Coming into their 4th of July tilt with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Phillies had played 81 games, exactly half of the games they were scheduled to play by the good people at Major League Baseball.

I know 162 games seems like a lot but...

...well...

...OK, 162 games is a lot. Nevertheless, the Phillies are going to play all of them, and it’s going to last into the first day of October. If it’s anything like what we saw in the first half, a good portion of the fanbase may not survive.

The Phillies enter the second half at 28-53. They are 20 games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East. They are 3 12 games worse than the San Francisco Giants, the team with the second-worst record in baseball.

At the very least, they’re in the lead for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s MLB Draft. If only having the top overall pick in baseball mattered in the same way it does for the NFL and NBA Drafts.

But the team’s brutal first half is now in the past. No really, it is. You can look up all the statistics and their record and see it chronicled on the intergoogle for the rest of time.

The first half is over. And now, as we wonder whether the Phillies’ timeline has been pushed back, and if so, by how much, it’s time to hit the reset button as the team begins the second half of its season.

Forget about what you saw in the first 81 games. Our thoughts and feelings regarding 2018 and the future are going to be influenced more by what we see over the next 81.

Are we going to see Aaron Nola continue to ease concerns about his elbow and his disappointing finish to the 2016 season? On Monday, he pitched eight shutout innings against the Pirates, and in his last six starts, he has a 2.68 ERA with 43 strikeouts and 12 walks in 40 13 innings.

Nola’s return to dominance is perhaps the most positive development of this lost season. If he can become the No. 2 starter that we all envisioned he would be, one who flashes ace-type stuff, it means wonders for the rebuild. How he does from now through September will go a long way to making everyone feel better about the future.

Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez have had terrible first halves, much of which they’ve missed due to injury. But both are in the midst of rehabbing their injuries and both should be ready just after the All-Star break. If Eickhoff returns to form, and if Velasquez can start to put it together, it will wipe away all the negative stuff that happened to them in the first half.

The next 81 games will allow the bullpen to shake out, too. Can Edubray Ramos come back from AAA and perform like he did last year? Can Hector Neris find some consistency in the ninth inning? Can Ricardo Pinto and some other young relievers make their mark?

Odubel Herrera may be one of the most disappointing players in baseball this season. His Jekyl and Hyde routine has given Phillies fans whiplash as everyone tries to figure out what is going on with him. Last year’s lone All-Star representative was dropped to seventh in the lineup on Tuesday after posting a .167/.219/.167 slash line over his last 32 plate appearances, with a 31.3% strikeout rate.

But with the second half here, Game No. 82 provides him an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. At the end of the season, if his second-half splits are more in line with his career numbers, his first half struggles will be forgotten.

Maikel Franco batted .221/.282/.381 in the first half with a wRC+ of 71 and an fWAR of -0.5. He has just 11 homers at the midway point. This follows a season in which he posted a disappointing wRC+ of 92 and hit a meager .255/.306/.427, albeit with 25 dingers.

But with a strikeout rate that is at a career low and a walk rate that has improved slightly, a second half turnaround from Franco, who is still just 24, could certainly buy him some more time with the fanbase and the organization as a decision on 2018 free agent Manny Machado looms in the background.

And let’s not forget about the prospects. Nick Williams is here and is playing as well as one could hope. Rhys Hoskins is ready to step in if and when Matt Klentak can find a taker for Tommy Joseph. Dylan Cozens and Jorge Alfaro will continue their development in Lehigh Valley. Scott Kingery’s performance in AAA will go a long way into the Phils’ thinking regarding second base in 2018. And down in Lakewood, Sixto Sanchez is causing Phillies fans to have all sorts of Pedro Martinez-y feelings.

Perhaps most importantly, a good second half by J.P. Crawford could throw dirt on what has been a disastrous start to his Iron Pigs career. In 14 games since returning from a groin injury, Crawford is batting .283/.377/.509 with a 13.1% walk-rate and a 11.5% strikeout-rate, looking more like the organization’s presumed top prospect when the 2017 season began.

The Phillies don’t need to play 10 games over .500 in the second half. They need individual players, both in the big leagues and in the minors, to show they are a part of this team moving forward. Of course, that will likely lead to the team winning more games.

Should that happen, the future of the Phillies will seem a whole lot brighter than it does right now.