A record breaking road trip, another amazing month for Cliff Lee, a brawl, an earthquake, and a hurricane highlighted an amazing August for the Phillies. Despite injuries to Hamels and Rollins, the Phillies still posted an 18-7 record in August. The Phils maintained their huge lead in the NL East and are well on their way to the best record in Phillies history.
August was not supposed to be a particularly successful month for the Phillies since they began with a 10 game west coast road trip amid 20 straight games. They stormed through Colorado, San Francisco, and Los Angeles with just one loss. The Phillies 9-1 record was the best road trip in Phillies team history.
That road trip included one of the better brawls I’ve seen in a while. After getting plunked by a fastball by the Giants, Shane Victorino showed his displeasure and nearly charged the mound as the benches cleared. Out of all the mahem, somehow Shane was the only one suspended (for two games).
Cliff Lee was a storyline all on his own. Lee’s August record was 5-0 and his ERA was a microscopic 0.45. It was the second month in which he finished with a 5-0 record and a sub 1.00 ERA.
August was also a coming out party for John Mayberry. Big John played so well in August that he earned himself a platoon situation with Raul Ibanez. He finished the month with a .296 average, 6 homers, 15 RBIs, a .685 slugging percentage, and a 1.041 OPS.
But August wasn’t all good news. The Phils placed Hamels on the DL with a “dead arm” and Rollins with a groin pull. The Phils also endured an earthquake and a hurricane in the span of one week. The hurricane dumped huge amounts of rain and resulted in postponing a doubleheader on Saturday and another game on Sunday.
Batting Average: 6th (.265)
Runs: 3rd (132)
HR: 5th (33)
SB: 14th (9)
ERA: 1st (2.64)
BB: 1st (52)
SO: 9th (210)
WHIP: 3rd (1.14)
Complete Games : 1st (3)
Shutouts: 1st (6)
Top win streak: 6
Top losing streak: 2
Home record: 5-4
Road record: 13-3
Series record: 6-3-1
Began month: 68-39 - 1st place - 6 game lead over Braves
Finished month: 86-46 - 1st place - 7.5 game lead over Braves
I’ve solemnly watched as the chances of a 2011 Cy Young award for Cole Hamels have all but vanished. Hamels’ ERA, innings, and strikeouts, are all well within range of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. But his 13-7 record does not compete with Halladay’s 16-5 record or Lee’s 16-7 mark. Heck, Hamels is closer to Worley’s 11 wins than he is to Lee and Halladay.
Sure, some of it can be attributed to competitiveness and ability to win close games, but more often it is simply a matter of luck. Did your team score runs for you or not? They have a statistic for this type of luck and it is called run support. I don’t care if your name is Roy Halladay, Nolan Ryan, or Cy Young; if your team scores 1 run per game you are not going to win.
How else can you explain why Lincecum has a better ERA than Vance Worley, yet Lincecum’s record is 13-13 and Worley's is 11-1? The answer is simply run support.
Here is where the Phillies big three starters rank in run support in the National League:
|Pitcher||Run Support||NL Rank|
**Vance Worley averages 8.65 runs of support per game
According to these numbers, Hamels actually has slightly higher run support than Cliff Lee. But run support is a misleading number because it counts all runs scored in the entire game, whether the starter is in there or not. If the Phillies score 10 runs in the 1st inning or 10 runs in the 21st inning, it all counts the same.
What really matters is what the offense does with the hurler on the mound. The story changes a bit when you only include runs scored when the starter is still the pitcher of record:
|Starter||Runs||IP||Runs per 9|
If you take those run support figures over 28 starts at this point, it gives Lee 9.24 more runs than Hamels and gives Halladay 18.48 runs than Hamels. Flip those numbers around and we might have a different Cy Young conversation.
Regardless, none of the Phillies starters has a right to whine since 4 runs should be plenty on most days. In reality, it's only the difference of a few games anyways. And the only win total they care about now is 11 wins in October.
The Phillies have all but wrapped up and put a bow on the NL East crown and the race for the best record in the NL. I have a better chance of waking up between Megan Fox AND Olivia Wilde than the Phillies do of NOT finishing with the best record.
Really all that’s left is to watch the Phillies pursue 100 wins and set a new franchise record with 102 wins. The Phillies have a record of 92-48 and are a franchise high 44 games over .500.
The Phils still have a few milestone wins ahead of them worth following. The Phillies need the following records in order to…
…reach 97 wins (last year’s total): 5-17
…reach 100 wins: 8-14
…tie the franchise high of 101 wins: 9-13
…set a new franchise record with 102 wins: 10-12
The Phillies current .657 winning percentage puts them on a pace to win over 106 games. To put that in perspective, 106 wins would be 2 games shy of winning two-thirds of their games.
After vanquishing all credible National League threats, the popular topic around the water cooler (do those even exist anymore?) surrounds the Phillies number 4 postseason starter. Will it be Oswalt or Worley?
Vance Worley has quickly risen from minor league mediocrity to MLB stardom in the span of a few months. One or two dominant postseason starts from Worley would surely transform his story from casual folklore into legend. Children 50 years from now will be asking their fathers to read to them “The Legend of Vance Worley.” It is fun to imagine, isn’t it?
But it aint gonna happen. Maybe it should happen. But it aint gonna.
The simple fact is that when it comes to the playoffs, Charlie Manuel is overly enamored with veterans and has little faith in his young hurlers. A few examples from Charlie’s four postseason runs with the Phillies removes most doubt that the winner is Roy Oswalt and not Vance Worley.
Game 2, 2007 NLDS: Kyle Kendrick started Game 2 and had a 3-2 lead in the 4th inning. After loading the bases with 2 outs and only 68 pitches, Charlie called for Kyle Lohse out of the bullpen. Though Lohse was unquestionably the better pitcher, it was a peculiar time to trot a starting pitcher into a tense situation. But Charlie trusted the veteran over the rookie. Result: Lohse gave up a grand slam, but that is besides the point.
2009 Playoffs: J.A. Happ had a terrific 2009 season in which he posted a 2.93 ERA and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. Despite Happ’s success, Charlie only gave him one start in the playoffs. In that one start (Game 3 NLDS), Charlie pulled Happ after 3 innings with a 3-1 lead. Again, little trust in the rookie.
2009 World Series: Charlie had so much faith in a 37-year-old Pedro Martinez that he started him not once, but twice. Charlie even handed the ball to Pedro in an elimination game six against the Yankees. In Game 6, Pedro had clearly lost all velocity on his fastball and had already given up 2 runs, loaded the bases, and faced Matsui who had already taken him deep. Yet Charlie felt compelled to let his entire season ride on a tired, old Pedro Martinez over a rested Happ and Durbin in the bullpen.
Putting Charlie’s gross mishandling of his pitching staff aside, he has provided enough examples of his philosophy to stick with the veteran no matter what. As well as "Vanimal" has pitched, he stands no chance with Roy Oswalt on the roster.
If you need more evidence, let’s hear it straight from Charlie’s mouth. Manuel was asked about the possibility of moving Worley to the bullpen soon to prepare him for that role in October. "Yeah, if that's what we're going to do, it would be nice if we could get him down there and pitch him two or three times," Manuel said.
Peculiar. That seems to be an appropriate way to describe the current Antonio Bastardo situation. "I need a rest right now," Bastardo said on Saturday. "My arm's not hurt. It's just tired."
That doesn’t sound peculiar at all.
What's peculiar is that Bastardo is apparently the only one who feels that way. “He’s throwing 92-93,” Dubee said Saturday. “He’s not tired.”
Well, no gray area there.
“It’s a long season and you go through ruts. He needs to get back to pitching with edge and confidence and attacking the strike zone,” Dubee said. “He’s not throwing enough strikes and commanding.”
Dubee might be right, but Bastardo seems to have a legitimate point considering his 59 appearances are by far the most in his career. He pitched more innings in the minors while he was still a starter, but as a full time reliever last year he only appeared in 48 games.
But Charlie Manuel also won't say that Bastardo is tired. “He just needs to go out and have a good inning, come off the mound feeling good about himself and he’ll be fine,” Charlie said. In Charlie’s mind it is a confidence issue. “I haven’t really seen him turn it loose,” Manuel said.
Charlie predicted this moment all along. When Michael Stutes was going through a rough patch in August, he claimed it was no different than what he dealt with in the minors. But Charlie felt otherwise. “I'm concerned. I've said that all year long,” Manuel said. “He's never been here. This is the big leagues, and it takes its toll on you.”
It appears to now be taking its toll on Bastardo in the form of mental fatigue. Bastardo’s case it had him feeling his arm was tired when really it wasn’t.
“The season is long, and it can get mental on you,” Charlie said, again referring to Stutes. “He's in that zone where I thought Atlanta's pitchers might get to, and they haven't gotten there yet. Stutes is going to be OK, but this is a test for him."
Bastardo said he was tired. Charlie and Dubee said he wasn’t. Maybe they were both right.
It’s hard to believe the Phillies are celebrating an NL East title for the fifth straight year. It feels like just yesterday that Brett Myers tossed his glove in the air to clinch the Phillies' first NL East crown.
In case they are all starting to blend together, let’s take a walk down memory lane for each of the Phillies 4 previous NL East clinchers.
Trailing the Mets by 7 games on September 12, the Phillies became part of one of the greatest comebacks (and worst collapses) in baseball history. The Phillies found themselves tied with the Mets entering the final day and faced three possibilities: celebrate an NL East title, force a 1 game playoff with the Mets, or lose the division outright and go home.
When the Phillies finally took the field on that Sunday afternoon, the Mets were already down 7-0 as Tom Glavine experienced a complete meltdown.
Now it was the Phillies' turn. Jimmy Rollins wasted no time as he led off with a single, stole second base, moved to third on a Victorino groundout, and scored on a sac fly by Chase Utley. Jamie Moyer, who admitted later he spent the previous night battling a stomach virus, was given the crucial start. Moyer was terrific, giving up just one run in 5 1/3 innings.
Rollins was at it again with a 4-1 lead in the sixth. His two-run triple blew the game open and made Rollins the fourth player in MLB history with 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs, and 20 stolen bases in the same season.
Brett Myers pitched the ninth inning and struck out the final batter to clinch the NL East title. What a day!
The Phillies may never surpass the excitement of the 2007 clincher, but 2008 was darn close. Up by just 1 game in the second-to-last game of the season, the Phillies needed a win to seal the division title. Jamie Moyer was again given the ball, and once again did his job, surrendering just one run in six innings of work.
With a 4-2 lead entering the ninth inning, Brad Lidge took the mound, looking to win the division and pitch an entire season with no blown saves. But the Nationals made it 4-3 with runners at first and third and franchise player Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. A sac fly and the game would be tied, Lidge’s perfect season would be finished, and possibly no world championship.
But Zimmerman helped make all of those scenarios meaningless, hitting a hard grounder up the middle. Cheating that way, Rollins made a diving stop, tossed it to Utley, who threw it to Howard to clinch the game and the division.
As one reporter described it, the play went "from Rollins, to Utley, to history."
The Phillies 2009 NL East clincher lacked the drama of the prior two seasons, as they clinched much earlier in game 158. But the 2009 clincher had its share of intrigue, as the winning pitcher on the final day was Pedro Martinez. And the Phillies once again clinched at home and this time had a chance to rest their players.
The Phillies finished with the best record in baseball in 2010 and clinched the division with 5 games to go. Roy Halladay took the mound as he eyed his first postseason action in his career. Halladay made sure this was Clinch Day and pitched a complete game shutout. Who knew his next start would be better, pitching a no-hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS.
And here we are in 2011 with the division wrapped up with twelve games to go. This one was just a formality, but hopefully it is the first of 4 celebrations.
The Phillies clinched the division with 12 games left and should still (we hope) have the most wins ever for the franchise.
Now imagine where they would be without Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley.
Kendrick and Worley's contributions to this Phillies team aren't just nice stories; they changed the entire complexion of the Phillies season. Worley and Kendrick combined for a 16-6 record and a 3.01 ERA as starters. Think about that for a second. That is a 3.07 ERA for the FOURTH AND FIFTH STARTERS. Most teams would kill to get that ERA for their TOP starter.
The numbers are drastically different from the 2010 campaign where the Phils’ fours and fives went 22-19 with a 4.56 ERA, a difference of 1.55 points. Just taking the winning percentage alone, the Phillies would have 4 less wins. To put that in perspective, 4 less games at the all-star break would have put the Phillies 1 game back of the Braves.
The impact of Vance Worley runs much deeper than just four games when you consider the timing of his arrival. When Worley made his first start for the Phillies on April 29th, Oswalt had just gone to the DL and Chase Utley was still nearly a month away from joining the squad. Having now lost one of their aces, the Phillies were not hitting, had no idea if and when Utley would ever return, and had a mess on their hands in right field. The Phillies needed a morale booster desperately. Enter Vance Worley and the story begins.
After getting shipped to Lehigh Valley upon Oswalt's return on May 17th, Worley was brought back again on June 18th when Oswalt returned to the DL. Once again, Vance Worley to the rescue.
And don't lose sight of Kendrick's contribution. As a starter in 2011, Kendrick is 5-4 with a 3.21 ERA. After his Jekyl and Hyde performance in 2010, Kendrick has been rock solid this season, giving his team a chance each time he takes the mound. He bounces around from starter to reliever on a daily basis and never complains. Kyle simply takes the ball and does his job. Even the danger of living with a pregnant wife didn’t effect him.
There’s no doubt the Phillies would have made the playoffs with or without Kendrick and Worley. But the Phils would certainly have had way less rest without them. And rest might be the most important thing for an old Philadelphia Phillies team entering the playoffs…
I’ve had enough and you should, too.
Yes, the Phillies have clinched the division and locked up home field throughout the entire playoffs. Yes, they can lose every single game the rest of the season and it won’t affect them one single bit. Yes, we’ve seen guys named Bowker, Moss, Francisco, Kratz, Orr, Schwimer, and De Fratus in key spots over the past week. The Phillies earned the right to tank a couple games by clinching so early and it’s understandable to have a bit of a letdown.
Understood. Now start playing some stinkin baseball.
This is supposed to be by far the best team in Phillies history. When the Phillies clinched nearly a week ago, they were on pace for 106 wins, which would have shattered the team record of 101 wins. Now they need to go 4-2 in order to beat the ream record. They may not reach 100 wins. And the Yankees are only 3 back for the best record in baseball.
Obviously all of these numbers add up to Jack Squat in the October. The Phillies have been here before and know what they need to do. But this just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right to me and shouldn’t feel right to them. These last few games were supposed to be a “lovefest” as John Smallwood put it. We should be experiencing “kumbaya” and “love thy neighbor” moments as we prepare to reach heights the Philadelphia Phillies have never reached before.
Instead, the Phillies have robbed us of that enjoyment. Rather than sitting back and enjoying the end of a magical season, the Phillies have put doubt in our heads. If they continue losing ballgames and DON’T win the World Series, the fans and myself will be cursing this team for not giving any effort in the last few games.
It would have been nice to beat the team record, but that probably won’t happen. All I ask now is for the Phillies to win two of their next six to reach 100 wins. Maybe even that is too much to ask.
The Phillies are in a position to decide if they want to play the Cardinals in the first round. Sweep the Braves and the Phillies probably play the Cardinals in the first round. Get swept and the Cardinals are eliminated no matter what and the Phillies will play Milwaukee or Arizona in the NLDS.
It’s not a hard decision. The Phillies DO NOT want to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. The Cards are 14-4 in their last 18 games with momentum on their side versus a Phillies team with 1 win in their last 9 tries. The Braves lost two of their starters and are in a “Metsian” collapse.
And the Phillies have performed better across the board against the Braves. Here’s how the Phillies matchup against the two teams.
|vs. Braves||vs. Cardinals|
The obvious choice is to tank all three games and avoid St. Louis altogether. Baseball has seen the hot team beat the better team often enough, and the Phillies are staler than month old Amoroso rolls right now. But losing games is a dangerous game to play.
The fact is, the Phillies need their swagger back and the best way to find it is by winning. The Phils are by far the best team in the league and it shouldn’t matter who they play. Besides, the Brewers and D-Backs are good teams and it’s not like they are ice cold.
Win three, get the best record in team history, stomp on the Cardinals, and move on to the next round.
It’s playoff time, and if the past is any indication the Phillies are ready.
Since 2007 (we can forget getting swept in 2007, right?), the Phillies are 25-13 in the postseason, have reached the NLCS in three straight seasons, and have only lost two series in three years. We can learn much more about the Phillies playoff character by digging a little deeper into their postseason record. With 38 games to choose from, we can get a good idea of how the Phillies handle just about any situation. Let’s take a closer look at what they’ve done in the playoffs:
|Phillies Playoff Scenario||
|With Series Tied||
The Phillies have been solid in just about any playoff situation. We can see that the Phillies start out hot (7-1 in game 1’s), are great frontrunners (13-4 with the lead), and they know how to close it out (6-1 in clinchers). The Phillies also have a 15-5 record at home and an 11-2 record in the NLDS. In a nutshell, the Phillies are excellent when they are in the driver’s seat and they know how to kick a guy when he’s down (hope you like cliches).
And the Phillies have given themselves the advantage a whole lot. They had not trailed in a series until the Yankees in 2009, have only trailed at any point in 2 out of 8 series, and only played behind in a series in 8 of 38 games.
That said, the Phillies are no slouches when dealing with pressure situations. They have an even 5-5 record when tied or trailing in a series, have extended the two series in which they faced elimination, and they have a 6-1 record closing out series. Their only smudge is an 0-2 record in game 6’s.
Those are all very exciting numbers, but the only numbers that really matter now are 2 World Championship, 11 more wins, and 1 more parade.