Phillies Mid-Season Report Card

With the baseball season heading into the All-Star Break, it’s time to handout the mid-season grades for the Phillies as they make the turn and look to defend their title in the months ahead.  After a major rough patch in June, the Phils have turned it around in July, winning 8 of 9 after Saturday night’s miraculous 9th inning comeback against the Pirates.  Their division lead has been pushed to four games over Florida, with the rival Mets floundering back in 4th place, 6.5 games off the Phillie pace.

Note:  The grades take into account what was expected out of that position (i.e. it doesn’t take as much production for Pedro Feliz to produce a good grade as for Ryan Howard).

ruizCatcher:  C

Carlos Ruiz has been splitting time with Paul Bako lately, but his numbers are actually a good bit better than they were last year.  There’s been some debate over the past two seasons about what type of player Ruiz is, but I think it’s pretty clear: he’s a very good defensive player that can’t hit.  As long as the Phillies are as strong elsewhere in the line-up as they have been, he’s fine as your starting catcher, but he’s not making Lou Marson completely expendable.

First Base:  B

This grade could arguably be lower, as Ryan Howard’s numbers are not up to par with his career averages, but there are a few things to factor in.  First, even though he’s below his career averages, he’s still among the league leaders in home runs (22) and is third in the NL in RBI (66).  Second, his defense has been improved this season.  And the main reason he gets a B, is because his career numbers are WAY better after the All-Star break, so the fact that he’s basically treaded water through the first-half means that he may very well be about to explode and end up with 50 bombs.  That deep homer he hit hit to tie the game on Saturday may be a sign of things to come.

Second Base:  A

Mr. Chase Utley is on pace for career highs in a bunch of offensive categories and is a leading candidate for the MVP-NNP (Most Valuable Player Not Named Pujols) Award.  That reminds me: it’s been noted how amazing it is that the Phillies won back-to-back MVP awards and neither of them was by their best player.  It’s even more amazing that the Phillies  won back-to-back MVP’s while Pujols was in his prime.

Shortstop:  Drollins

The nightmare-ish season of Jimmy Rollins has been well-documented, but his Gold Glove defense keeps him above an F, and he’s been hot for the past week, so maybe he’s finally figured it out.

Third Base:  B

Pedro Feliz still hasn’t shown the power that the Phils thought they would get when they signed him before last season, but his .289 BA this year is well above his career average and he still has the sure-hands at the hot corner.

Left Field:  A-

The only reason Raul Ibanez doesn’t pick up an A here is because he missed 20 games with an injury.  He returned Saturday night and will look to continue his career-year and remain a candidate for that MVP-NNP.

Center Field:  B+

Shane Victorino has steadily improved offensively throughout his time as a Phillie, and that’s continued this year, as he’s currently hitting .314, ranking 2nd in the NL in hits, and will play in his first All-Star Game next week.  His abilities as a table-setter have been especially important with the struggles of Rollins.

werth victorinoRight Field:  B+

Much like Victorino, Jayson Werth has somewhat unexpectedly established himself as a very solid everyday outfielder in the big leagues.  Werth got off to a ho-hum start in the first couple months of this seasson, but he’s picked it up since then, especially over the past 10 days, and he’s also earned his first All-Star Game appearance.  Werth had career highs of 24 HR and 67 RBI last season, and he’s on pace to crush those numbers in ’09, with 20 HR and 56 RBI here in mid-July.  With the entire Phillie outfield heading to St. Louis for the All-Star Game, the unit collectively gets a solid “A”.  Pretty amazing for a team who’s power-house offense supposedly revolves around the infielders.

Bench:  B-

Greg Dobbs, who’s been hot for a while now after a horrid start, and Matt Stairs, who hit his 4th pinch-hit homer of the season on Saturday, are two guys that any team would love to have on their bench.  Beyond them, though, it gets a little dicey.  I’ve never been a fan of Eric Bruntlett, and his .139 BA in 72 AB this season isn’t making me change my mind.  The main issue for the bench is the continuing lack of a right-handed bat.  John Mayberry, Jr. has shown some raw power, but the operative word there is “raw”, as his .188 BA suggests.  If Mayberry doesn’t show something in the next 2-3 weeks, Ruben Amaro will be very tempted to add a veteran right-hander in his place at the trade deadline.

Starting Pitching:  D+

It’s mostly been a disaster for Phillies starters in ’09.  Besides losing Brett Myers for the season, Jamie Moyer has been awful and Cole Hamels has not really resembled the guy he was in October.  In case you forgot, those were the top 3 starters on the championship team last year.  But it hasn’t been a total loss.  J.A. Happ has been excellent all season, with an ERA hovering around 3.00, Joe Blanton has quietly rebounded from an abysmal start (7 quality starts in his last 9 games), and you can’t count out Hamels, even though he gave up 5 runs to the Pirates on Saturday, leaving his ERA at a somewhat shocking 4.87.  With Amaro exploring all options to add arms to the rotation, this D+ grade could look a lot different by the end of the season.

Bullpen:  B-lidge

It’s been mostly good news coming out of the Phillie bullpen, with one huge, glaring exception:  Brad Lidge.  After his perfect 2008,  Lidge has already blown 6 saves this season, despite a stint on the DL.  His ERA is still over 7, and he just hasn’t been the same pitcher.  If Lidge is not right, then the whole bullpen is a bit scary, but Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero still look like excellent set-up men, and Scott Eyre, Clay Condrey, and Chad Durbin have also been solid.

Overall Team Grade:  C+

Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite content to look at the standings right now and see the Phils with a 4-game lead in the division.  But they’ve been lucky that the division has been so (unexpectedly) bad, and they’re on pace for less wins than they had last year.  Five players will represent the team at the All-Star Game, but it’s telling that not one of them is a pitcher.  With the terrible performance of the starting pitchers, and Lidge at the back of the ‘pen, the dominant offense is only enough to pull the first-half grade up to a passing but unspectacular C+.

6 Replies to “Phillies Mid-Season Report Card”

  1. Well done, Doogan. I think you are right on with most of these grades. Let me see if I can disagree, slightly, with a couple–for argument’s sake.

    Now maybe it’s no fun to give high grades, maybe you are grading on a bit of a curve, or maybe I am just overly positive (one of my many flaws), but I think you were a bit low on a couple.

    First of all, regardless of expectations or comparisons to last year, I think that a first-place team that is probably the second most likely team in all of baseball to make the postseason (behind the Dodgers who I think just clinched the West) deserves at the very least a B-. I hear your arguments and agree with them, but I think that the worst is behind them (which you said).

    Thinking of my other positional disagreements, I think there is a common thread–DEFENSE. I honestly believe that this Phillies team is in first place and going to remain there predominantly because of their defense up the middle. Carlos Ruiz is phenomenal at calling a game (as you can CLEARLY tell whenever he doesn’t catch–especially for long stretches, like the beginning of the season). Chase Utley is very underrated. And, Rollins and Victorino are clearly the class of their respective positions, defensively. So, here would be adjustments to your grading:

    -I think you’re right about Chooch at a C because the guy clearly is a liability with the bat (highlighted by his 1 extra-base hit in the month of June).
    -Centerfield has to be at least an A-, as compared to what we expected. Victorino has saved GAMES with his glove, and is hitting over .300 and on pace to score about a thousand runs. And, let us remember, this is a guy who was taken in the Rule V draft TWICE because two separate teams never thought he’d be a productive major leaguer.
    -Now, maybe this is just because I was a light-hitting, defensive shortstop, but I think that anyone that gives you Gold Glove defense at SS is incredibly valuable. Look at what Adam Everett’s glove has done to the entire Tigers team. Now, granted Rollins has be abysmal at the plate and is a former MVP which we expected to continue his prime, but all that and the harassment aside, I think that Jimmy going out there and playing the best defense of his illustrious career is something for which he deserves more than a D grade. I would say C-, but would settle for a D+ because he’s hitting like the aforementioned Everett as well (not a good thing).
    -I think you undersold Jayson Werth a little bit, as well. The guy is on pace for something like 40 HRs, 120 RBIs, 100 runs, 20 SBs. And, this from a guy who we never really knew if he would ever hit right-handers.

    The only one I think might be a tad too high is the bench, but this sort of is more of a question of the way you are judging. Is it the bench’s fault that Amaro has not addressed the one thing that this team clearly lacks? There is clearly NO reliable right-handed bat anywhere to be found. I have always defended Bruntlett, but only because he’s a versatile fielder. He should CLEARLY not be getting important at-bats in late-game situations. And, you all know how I feel about Chris Coste (which is why you haven’t seen an emotional farewell to his departure to the Astros.).

    All in all, I am very excited for the second half of the year. I think this team still has to be the favorite to return to the World Series, so GO N-L tomorrow night!

  2. I definitely see your argument on Victorino and Werth. I think since I gave Ibanez an A-, I figured that the other two needed to be a notch below him, but maybe all 3 should just be bumped up. Victorino’s been very slightly below his average in homers and steals, so that keeps him from an A. And Werth has had a couple extended slumps.

    I can definitely see B- for the overall grade, but no higher than that. Like I said, this is based on expectations, and when you win the World Series, expectations go WAY up. The fact that they’re the 2nd-most likely to make the playoffs comes down to how bad the division has been.

    I think Rollins has to take that D. He has murdered them at the top of the order, and I’d bet Jimmy would probably give himself an F.

  3. Short and sweet. If you told me April 1 we’d have this lead in the East by the All-star break, I’d be pumped. B-/B. We almost have to have a better 2nd half of the year and I can see us winning the division by 6-7.

  4. Bry, I’d agree with Jimmy on giving him an F. As of about a week ago the 9 spot in the Phillies lineup had a better had a better on base percentage than the 1 spot that Jimmy has filled all season. That is embarassing. I agree that fielding doesn’t slump, but when our team captain is relegated to a poor man’s Rey Ordonez, he gets an F from me.

  5. Bravo Doogs…I always enjoy a thorough Phils post. To boot I agree with most of your sentiments. I am a defense-minded person so I love what Ryan Howard has done to start this season, so I would have to give him an A for his defense, timely hitting, and showing up to camp at a healthy weight. Part of the reason why he has been a great down-the-stretch hitter in the past is because he lost weight progressively over the course of the season to get to his “fighting weight.” He started the season in the best shape of his career, and I can’t wait to see what numbers he puts up in the second half.

    Bench production – I think Matt Stairs earns the A; the rest of the bench gets an F. I hope Dobbs gets back on pace while Chicken Bruntlett continues to be a reliable pinch hitter. I’m not yet sold on Bako or Mayberry.

    This team is in good standing if they improve the starting pitching and the right-handed pinch hitter. They should be miles ahead of a sad NL East but are really only in first because they are the worst at being the worst.

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