Phillies not just bad, but borderline unwatchable

From the start, this Phillies season was no fairy tale.  No Ryan Howard, no Chase Utley and an offense full of old, replacement-level players is not the way a 102-win team looked to come back from a disappointing NLDS loss.  But few people could have predicted the painful, train-wreck of a season the Phillies have had thus far.

After 63 games, the Phillies find themselves, miraculously, just five games under .500, but 9.5 games out of first place in the NL East.  But that’s not the worst part.  Roy Halladay injured himself in mid-May and Cliff Lee is win-less through 10 starts despite a 3.18 ERA.  But that’s not the worst part.  The Phillies are 5-11 in one-run games, 2-6 in extra inning games and the largest deficit they have climbed out of is two runs.  Throw in the fact that there is not a single exciting player on the offensive side of the ball and only one position player that is even close to deserving of being an all-star and you have nearly unwatchable baseball.

There are some bad teams that are decent or even fun to watch.  Take the Oakland A’s for example.  Are they nine games under .500?  Sure, but at least they have international import Yoenis Cespedes, a fun to watch centerfielder and Josh Reddick, who is having an all-star worthy year in right field.  On top of that, the A’s have one of the most promising minor-league systems in baseball, so at least there is hope for the future.

Unlike Oakland, however, the have no great minor-league system.  They have two truly all-star worthy players, but one is Cole Hamels, someone whose success relies on other players.  The other is Carlos Ruiz and neither he nor Hamels plays everyday.  To make matters worse, the Phillies just don’t have any exciting players that instill confidence at the plate.  Sure, Victorino and Pence are good players, but Pence has had major troubles both in the field and at bat, having already hit into nine double plays.  Victorino is not having a good year either, batting just .253 with an unimpressive OPS of .744.    But the most important difference between the Phillies and the A’s?  The A’s weren’t favorites to win their division and possibly compete for a World Series title.

That’s what makes this season the worst.  The Phillies had very high standards, rightfully so with some of the best starting pitchers in baseball.  But as the Phillies pitching has gotten better, so has the pitching from the rest of the league and at this point, a team of wash-ups and constantly injured players just won’t cut it.

There is no point in giving up hope in the Phillies; there is no place to go but up from last place.  But this team is tough to watch, never keeping leads, rarely coming back from deficits and finding themselves down in close games.  On top of all of this though, when watching a Phillies game, you have to put up with the unintelligible blabber of Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler.

While watching the Phillies will always be a priority, the Phillies losses and the way they have suffered these losses just makes the team worse and worse to watch.

Even with bats working, Phillies can’t close out games

Nobody was surprised when the Phillies were losing games early in the year.  If you can’t score you can’t win and the Phillies were 27th in the MLB in scoring.  But things have changed, and the Phillies picked up their play, averaging over five runs in their first seven games of May.  Now, the Phillies are just 18th in the MLB in runs scored for the entire year.  Yet, in their first seven games of May, the Phillies went just three and four.  The problem?  Two losses in extra innings and a game in which the Mets broke a tie game in the ninth inning with three runs.  The problem is no longer offense, the problem is closing out games.  Tonight was no exception. Continue reading

Halladay, bullpen lose game despite 13 runs from offense

Three runs per game is usually not enough to win consistently.  Yet the Phillies have won just less than half of their games this year averaging about three runs per game.  Roy Halladay’s starts should not end up being losses, but now the Phillies have just a .500 record when he starts games.  But even more importantly, when a team scores 13 runs in a game, there is absolutely no reason that they should lose.  Unfortunately for the Phillies, after 11 innings, the Braves had 15 runs and as much as 13 shouldn’t lose you a game, 15 should make a win even easier.  So despite their 13-run, 17-hit performance, the Phillies came away from the game empty-handed, unable to get a third straight win. Continue reading

Two games down and the Phillies have played just as expected

Nobody was concerned about the Phillies pitching and everybody was concerned about the Phillies hitting.  If games were played on paper, nobody would have been shocked if the Phillies won 130 games on pitching alone, winning games 1-0.  Without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, the line-up would be even more anemic they said.

Well, as sad as it is, if these two games are any indication of things to come, the nay-sayers and skeptics may be right, as the Phillies have shown nothing but dominant pitching and dormant bats.  In their first two games, a win and a loss, the Phillies have scored one run, giving up two runs, neither of which are surprising.  Game two even took extra innings to complete, both teams only able to score one run in nine innings (whether it was because of the Phillies’ pitching brilliance or the Pirates’ hitting incompetence, the world may never know). Continue reading

Season Preview: Starting Pitching

In 2007 the Phillies had one of the most dominant offenses in baseball, coming in second place in the MLB, as a team, in total runs, home runs, slugging percentage and on-base-plus-slugging (OPS).  In addition, the Phillies had the 2007 MVP in Jimmy Rollins, as well as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, both of whom finished in the top ten in MVP voting.  However, the Phillies pitching was far different from their hitting, finishing 23rd in ERA, and batting average against, as well as 20th in quality starts, 18th in strikeouts, and a pitiful 27th in shutouts.  All of this was even with Cole Hamels, who was an All-Star and finished sixth in Cy Young voting with 15 wins, a 3.39 ERA and 1.12 WHIP that was sixth best in the MLB.  It did not take long for the Phillies pitching to catch up to them, as they were bounced from the playoffs in just four games by the eventual World Series runner-up Colorado Rockies.

The next year, the Phillies made major improvements to their pitching staff, adding key pieces like 2008 hero Brad Lidge and Jamie Moyer to help fill the team’s major holes.  The additions certainly helped, turning the Phillies into a top ten team in most pitching categories and leading the Phillies to their first World Series victory in 28 years.  Since then, pitching has come first in Philadelphia and this year’s group of starting pitchers is no exception. Continue reading