Phillies Report Card #4

Time may be running out for Francisco to claim the RF spot

Record since last Report Card: 4-5

Overall Record:  25-14 (1st in division)

Throughout the season (roughly every 10 games) we’ll review how the Phils have been performing over the past week or two and hand out some grades.  These grades reflect the team’s performance since the previous Report Card.

The Phils are roughly halfway through their first tough stretch of the schedule, and the results so far are underwhelming.  They dropped 5 of 9 games to their chief divison rivals, Atlanta and Florida.  On to the grades:

Position Players:
As the team continues to wait for Chase Utley to come to the rescue, the offense continues to sputter along.  Over these last 9 games, they averaged just 3 runs, with the team batting average hovering around the Mendoza line.

Placido Polanco’s move from 2nd to 3rd in the line-up seems to coincide with a lengthy slump, as he hit .182 (6-33).  Polanco is a questionable #3 hitter at the best of times, but when he’s not even hitting many singles, he’s a black hole in the middle of the order.  Meanwhile, despite a couple big hits, J-Roll’s resurgence was stalled.  He produced just a .260 OBP and had no stolen bases out of the leadoff spot.

The Ben Francisco-as-right-fielder experiment will come to a decision point in the near future, so he needs to get it together.  He hit just 2 for 22 in this stretch, while John Mayberry delivered a 2-run homer in Atlanta on Sunday when he got a start in Francisco’s place.  With the team needing every little bit of production it can find right now, Charlie may have to make the move to Mayberry.

Not that they were that good, but Howard and Victorino were the best of the bunch.  Howard hit three homers with six RBI, even though his average was just .207.  Victorino had a 15-game hit streak end on Saturday, though he was mostly just getting one hit every game.  He did have five extra-base hits though, including homer.  But he left that game Saturday with a sore hamstring and is day-to-day for now.

Carlos Ruiz came back from the DL just as Schneider went on the DL.  Chooch ended a 26 at-bat hitless streak (stretching back to before his injury) with a single on Sunday in Atlanta. 

The team’s stellar defense wasn’t evident over the past week.  Most notably, they made three mistakes (though just one error) in the 8th inning on Tuesday that led to the Marlins’ game-winning run in a 2-1 loss.

Grade:  D

Starting Pitchers:
The team got a sense of “how the other half lives” when the starting pitchers turned in just a solid effort over these nine games, rather than spectacular.  The poor offense doesn’t seem like such a problem when the starters are giving up 1 or 2 runs every time out, but we saw what happens when that luxury disappears.

Cliff Lee struck out a ridiculous 16 Braves, but gave up three runs and lost.  He also surrendered three in a no-decision to the Marlins.  Blanton gave up just five runs combined in two starts, but he only made it through 5 innings each time.  In Hamels’s two starts, he struck out 16 with just 2 walks, but he gave up 7 runs and, like Lee, took a loss and a no-decision.

The Start of the Week goes to Halladay but, tellingly, he took the loss despite allowing one earned run in 8 innings of work against the Marlins.  He was a victim of those 8th inning defensive breakdowns (error by Rollins, passed ball by Sardinha, poor play by Polanco) that led to an unearned run and a 2-1 Marlin win.

Kyle Kendrick made his first start of the year, in place of the injured Oswalt, and gave up no runs on two hits in 5 innings in a win over the Braves.  Oswalt is expected to return on Tuesday in St. Louis.

Grade:  B

I don’t want to jinx anything, but for the first time in his career, Ryan Madson is finding success in the closer role.  He saved all four wins over this stretch, giving up just two hits, one walk, and no runs.

Getting the ball to Madson, though, has been interesting, as Charlie has had to patch together a group of inexperienced and/or unreliable arms in the 7th and 8th innings.  Charlie has said that he views Bastardo as his 8th inning man at the moment, and Bastardo did nothing to lose that spot, with three scoreless outings.

J.C. Romero and Danys Baez would seem to be leading candidates to fill key roles in this depleted pen, but they don’t seem up to the task.  Both men, unfortunately, have looked similar to the largely ineffective relievers they were a year ago.  Romero’s wildness has returned, with 4 walks in 3.2 innings, including two runs allowed in Saturday’s loss in Atlanta.  Baez was also touched for two runs by the Braves in the late-innings of a loss.

When you have two backend relievers hurt, you hope that’s an opportunity for others to emerge and prove themselves.  The man that may have taken advantage of that (as well as injuries to starters) is Vance Worley.  He had two great starts but, of course, spots in the this starting rotation are pretty hard to come by.  Worley may make himself into a valuable relief pitcher for this team, very possibly filling the Chad Durbin role once the ‘pen is at full strength.  Worley bridged three innings from Blanton to Madson against the Marlins, giving up one run.  He also got the ball in the 8th inning of a one-run game in Atlanta on Friday, and got the job done.

Scott Mathieson was called up and had one appearance, giving up 2 hits and 2 walks, but managing to give up no runs in his one inning.  It could’ve been nice to see him get a quick shot at redemption, but he hasn’t appeared in any of the six games since that outing, and it seems very possible that he’ll be headed back to AAA when Oswalt returns tomorrow.

Grade:  B-

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