And now we turn to the predictions for the thing Phillies fans fear most in 2012. Well, fear not, my friends. If the Phillies play as I predict they will (as I admittedly wear red colored glasses) the Phillies will walk away with another NL East title. Let's have at it:
2011 totals: 132 G, .283 avg, 6 HR, 40 RBI
2012 Prediction: .276 avg., 7 HR, 45 RBI
Overall Prediction: SAME
Just like the old Goldilocks story, Ruiz was too cold in 2008 when he hit .219, too hot in 2010 when he hit .302, but last year he was just right with a .283 average. I think what we saw last season was a good gauge of the true Carlos Ruiz: he is simply a solid hitter. Expect Chooch to follow suit in 2012 with another decent year.
2011 totals: 152 G, .253 avg, 33 HR, 116 RBI
2012 Prediction: N/A
I'm no doctor and I won't pretend to be one, so I won't even venture to guess what we can expect from Ryan Howard. Just get the big guy back in the lineup.
2011 totals: 103 G, .259 avg, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 54 R
2012 Prediction: N/A
Ditto for Chase Utley. You'd have better luck discovering Big Foot or the Bermuda Triangle than figuring out Utley's story.
2011 totals: 142 G, .268 avg, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 87 R, 30/38 steals
2012 Prediction: .284 avg., 12 HR, 72 RBI, 105 R, 32 steals
Overall Prediction: SLIGHTLY BETTER
Jimmy could be one of the few players with better numbers after signing a big contract. I think Jimmy’s contract got in his head last season. With his last big contract on the horizon, I think Jimmy was a bit tentative and more concerned with staying healthy than anything else. With all the contract talk behind him, Rollins can be aggressive again. He won't be his former MVP self, but I think Rollins might surprise some people with his best season since 2007.
With the addition of Juan Pierre and more of a small ball approach as a team, maybe, just maybe, Jimmy will finally work counts? Try to bunt? Shoot for a .300 average rather than 30 homers? You never know, but I'll stick with my conservative pick.
2011 totals: 122 G, .277 avg, 5 HR, 50 RBI
2012 Prediction: .292 avg., 3 HR, 60 RBI
Overall Prediction: SAME
After two (hopefully) successful surgeries, Polanco says he feels better than a few years ago. If Polanco can avoid any major injuries, he can have a huge impact on this team. Polanco is only two years removed from hitting .298 with the Phillies, which followed averages of .331, .295, .341, .307, and .285 in his preceding 5 years. Polanco may be a little older and banged up, but contact hitters like Polanco don't regress as quickly as most players. Polanco will remind fans that he is still a big piece to the puzzle.
2011 totals: 104 G, .273 avg, 15 HR, 49 RBI
2012 Prediction: .292 avg., 27 HR, 89 RBI
Overall Prediction: SAME
I'm going on a limb to say that John Mayberry, Jr. is on a similar path to Jayson Werth and will make a major impact on the Phillies. Mayberry is a tremendous athlete, and one little tweak with a new batting stance allowed him to put all those tools together last year and I think he can maintain his success in 2012. You can read all about it in my projections for John Mayberry. Hopefully I'm singing the same tune in June and July...
2011 totals: 132 G, .279 avg, 17 HR, 61 RBI, 95 R, 19/22 steals
2012 Prediction: .272 avg., 14 HR, 74 RBI, 94 R, 35 SB
Overall Prediction: SAME
Shane Victorino has been remarkably consistent and solid in his 6+ years with the Phillies and he continued that trend last season. Victorino has a lot of talent, a lot of heart, and a lot of desire, but he had a hard time putting it all together…until last year. Victorino hit .281 last season despite an awful September in which he hit .186. Victorino set career highs in slugging (.491) and OPS (.847). Especially with a new contract looming, Shane will set new career highs in 2012.
2011 totals: 154 G, .314 avg, 22 HR, 97 RBI
2012 Prediction: .317 avg., 29 HR, 102 RBI
Overall Prediction: SAME
What would this Phillies team look like without Hunter Pence? The addition of Pence to the lineup last season catapulted the Phillies offense to score the most runs in the National League after June. I think Philadelphia has also energized Pence, as he hit as many homers with the Phillies (11) as he did with the Astros in nearly half the at-bats. The Phillies need his big bat in the lineup and Hunter is up for the challenge. An average of well over .300, nearly 30 homers, and over 100 RBIs will be great medicine for the Phillies ailing lineup.
Wins and losses generally come down to run differential: how many more/less runs did you score than you gave up? Last year, the Phillies had a differential of +184, which was 101 runs more than the second best team. I like to start with a guesstimate of how many runs they will gain/lose at each position and go from there.
I expect roughly the same output in 2012 from Ruiz, Rollins, Polanco, and Victorino. Let’s say the Phillies lose 30 runs without Howard and 20 without Utley. Remember, these are just rough numbers. I expect Mayberry/Nix/Pierre to essentially equal Ibanez in runs (you heard me right - see John Mayberry projections) and gain 25 runs with a full year of Pence in right field. That’s a drop of 25 total runs as a team. That would give the Phillies 688 runs and would leave their NL ranking unchanged from last year at 7th place.
As far as the pitching is concerned, let’s assume no change with Halladay, Lee, and Hamels. In Worley’s spot, let’s say he gives up 10 more runs than last year's combo of Worley and Oswalt. In the number 5 spot, Blanton will give up roughly the same runs as Blanton/Kendrick last year. I have my concerns about the bullpen, so I’m gonna say the Phils give up 15 more runs in the bullpen. That’s a difference of 25 runs for a total of 554 runs given up, still leaving them with the best pitching in baseball.
With 25 less runs scored than last year (688 total) and 25 more given up (554 total), the Phillies would have a difference of +134 runs in 2012. That still puts them way above everyone else in the National League. Consider this: the Phils were +132 in 2010 and won 97 games. I won't go quite that far this year.
The offense is a bit scary right now, but the situation is not as bleak as you might think. Yes, the 2012 Phillies are missing Howard, Utley, and Oswalt, but they also gained Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton, and replaced Madson with an equally effective closer in Papelbon. The Phillies have a great leader in Charlie Manuel and team of hungry players anxious to prove they are still the best team in Major League Baseball. And, oh yeah, we still have three guys named Halladay, Hamels, and Lee.
The Phillies definitely took a step back, but considering the huge differential between the Phillies and the rest of the entire league, I don’t think the Phillies dropped far enough and the NL East improved by enough to knock the Phillies off their perch.
Starting Pitching: SAME
NL East Divisional finish : 1st
Phillies final result: WORLD CHAMPS
Cy Young winner: Cole Hamels
Opening Day evoked Phillies fans' worst fears. Opening Day also stimulated Phillies fans' greatest dreams. The Phillies, in one Opening Day performance, shrink wrapped all of the discussion points of the entire offseason in a few hours in Pittsburgh. From the great pitching to the inept offense to the glimmer of hope from Mayberry, here are some of the hints the Phillies provided as to what we can expect this season.
It's no secret that the success of the Phillies is based on their starting pitching. It's the reason they won 102 games last season and it's the reason they have a great chance in 2012. Roy Halladay reminded us of that fact on Opening Day with 8 shutout innings and just two hits against the Pirates. The Phillies offensive woes may not matter if Halladay, Lee, and Hamels can hold up their end of the bargain.
It didn't take Jonathan Papelbon long to show why the Phillies were willing to spend $50 million on a guy who will pitch 70 innings at best this season. With no margin for error, Papelbon made it look easy on Thursday. He threw nothing but fastballs in a quick one-two-three ninth inning.
John Mayberry is a huge question mark for the Phillies this season. Will he be the player who hit .231 as of June 1st last year and spent most of his time travelling between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley? Or will he be the player who hit .315 with 10 HR, 25 RBI, a .621 slugging percentage, and a .998 OPS after July 22? Mayberry helped answer that question on Thursday, as he went 2-for-4 and made two nice plays in left field in his first Opening Day start. If Opening Day was any indication, the Phillies found another Jayson Werth.
Freddy Galvis showed why the Phillies wanted him on the roster to fill Chase Utley's shoes: defense. Galvis looked smooth and comfortable at second base and helped turn a nifty double play in the first inning to help Halladay out of a jam. But it was ugly at home plate. He went hitless, struck out once, and earned the distinction of being the 11th player in Major League History to hit into two double plays in his Major League debut. It's a truly meaningless piece of trivia, but it's a reminder that Galvis is no Chase Utley with the bat.
BORING. If this is what the Phillies offense will be like, it's going to be a looong season. All of the offensive worries we could imagine were thrown in our face. One run, eight hits, no home runs, only one extra base hit, and two double-plays. Not exactly the start Charlie Manuel wanted.
These are not your older brother's 2008 Phillies. They are not as bad as they looked on Opening Day, but we can expect the Phillies will have to fight for every last run. Home runs have been replaced with bloop hits, infield singles, and sacrifice RBIs. Get used to it.
I'm reading WAY too much into one game out of 162, but that's the fun of Opening Day. The Phillies gave us a glimpse of nearly everything we were thinking about at night and discussing at shady local bars in the winter. Should be an interesting season...
14th in the National League with two runs per game. One home run and just 4 extra-base hits in four games. A .190 average with runners in scoring position. It doesn't take a math genius to see that this is not a winning formula.
Why is the offense this bad?
Has Ryan Howard's achilles injury created an offensive coronary? Do the Phillies lack the power to score runs? Are they not a small ball team? Or do the Phillies hitters just plain stink?
The answer is none of the above. As horrifying as it may be to watch, the Phillies are not as frightening an offense as they appear. The answer is as simple as this: the Phillies are in a hitting slump.
Through the first four games, most of the offense is hitting well below their career averages. Polanco is hitting 147 points below at .154, Pence is hitting 25 points below at .267, Rollins is hitting 12 points below at .250, and Pierre is hitting 74 points below at .222. In addition, Mayberry is hitting 23 points less than last season at .250, and Galvis is hitting .077 (he can't possibly be that bad).
My point here is that the Phillies just aren't hitting as a team right now. It can and will happen throughout the season, and it just so happens the time is now for the Phillies. Maybe we are witnessing a dead offense, but it's too early to make that diagnosis just yet.
One thing is clear, though. The Phillies need to hit much better and very quickly. The Phillies don't need home runs to win ball games with this pitching staff, but they have to improve dramatically in other areas. If the Phillies can work a few more walks and hit .280 with runners in scoring position, this terrible start will turn around in a week. The question is, are they capable doing that?
With the Phillies offense providing plenty of reasons to worry, you may not have noticed another glaring issue lurking in the Phillies bullpen. The Phillies have a bullpen ERA of 4.35 in the first four games, and if we were to add the 2 unearned runs Stutes allowed, that number balloons to 6.09. The relief crew coughed up a one run lead on Saturday, blew a 4-1 lead on Sunday, and lost both games in extra innings.
The bullpen offers plenty of reasons to feel queasy. First, just look at the names:
Outside of the $50 million man at the back end, none of the remaining 6 bullpen arms evokes feelings of any real confidence, or at least enough to safely vacate the couch to grab another beer from the fridge. Let's take a closer at why each Phillies reliever not named Papelbon should drive up your blood pressure slightly.
Stutes had a good rookie season, but I can’t help but notice the 3 runs in 1/3 of an inning in the playoffs, the 5.79 ERA in Spring Training, and the two runs (not earned) he yielded in his first outing. Stutes could easily be at least as effective as Chad Durbin was a few years ago, but he doesn’t keep me nausea free just yet.
After Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo has the best natural talent of all the relievers. However, Bastardo had an 11.05 ERA last September and his conflicting comments with Rich Dubee are what caught my attention. At the time, Bastardo admitted, "I need a rest right now" and "my arm's not hurt, it's just tired," while Dubee's response was plainly, “He’s not tired.” Bastardo's curious lack of velocity in spring training is also a bit concerning. Bastardo has a live arm and probably all of this means zilch, but let's see him prove it.
Kendrick was impressive last season and worth the $3 million he’ll make for each of the next two years. I have no real beefs with Kyle, but it takes more than one decent season to erase the memories of his Jekyll and Hyde performances over the years.
Qualls came in as the calming, veteran presence in the bullpen. Sounds nice in theory, but it’s not like we’re talking about Mariano Rivera here. I like his durability, as Qualls has appeared in at least 51 games in 7 full seasons, averages 73 games per year, and appeared in 77 games in 2011. But Qualls owns a mediocre 3.77 career ERA, his 3.51 ERA last year is not earth shattering, and he is one year removed from a 7.32 ERA. If you ask me, Qualls will be the biggest free agent bust (behind Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton).
We have to just wait and see with Joe Savery, but he probably won’t be around anyway once (wait…if) Contreras returns.
David Herndon is a nice kid with great sinking movement, but he has absolutely no idea where any single pitch will land. No offense to Herndon, but I would take nearly any of the minor league arms over him because he is simply not reliable. In fact, I would venture to say that Herndon is not on the roster at the end of the season.
It’s rare that you’ll find a team loaded with talent in their bullpen. I mean, let’s face it, these guys are probably relievers for a reason. That said, I just don't get a good feeling from this group. Lidge, Madson, Romero, and Durbin from 2008 sound a little better than Papelbon, Bastardo, Stutes, and Qualls, don't you think?
The silver lining to this doomsday scenario is that Jose Contreras might return soon and the Phillies have a stock of several nice arms in the minors. Hopefully they aren't all pitching by May...
It’s been a tough go so far for Ben Francisco…uh…I mean John Mayberry. Mayberry is hitting .219, has zero walks, one extra base hit, one RBI, and is still waiting for his first dinger. Maybe the overwhelming weight on his shoulders is getting to the young Phillies slugger. But there is a solution for that: move Mayberry to the middle of the lineup. Yes, you heard me right, moving Mayberry to the middle of lineup might just be just what he needs to get going.
This is Mayberry’s last chance to prove he is a big league starter. Mayberry knows it, Charlie Manuel knows it, Greg Gross knows it, even the guy in front of you in line at Wawa knows it. With little real major league experience, Mayberry is being asked to become the next Jayson Werth. It was obviously not a problem for Werth, so why not Mayberry?
There are two major differences between Werth’s situation and that of Mayberry's. First, Werth had a great opportunity to succeed while Mayberry has great pressure. Werth was a small piece of an offense that scored 892 runs in the previous year (2007). The Phillies counted on Utley, Howard, and Burrell to score runs and few of the eyes were on Werth. Mayberry’s team may struggle to score 600 runs and the Phillies are counting on Mayberry as a main piece to drive in runs. The spotlight is on Mayberry because he is essential to the success of the Phillies.
Secondly, Jayson Werth had Utley, Howard, and Burrell for protection. Granted, Werth generally batted directly after those players and didn’t have the advantage of, say, the lucky guy batting before Barry Bonds. But, following three power hitters isn’t exactly the worst place to live. Pitchers were willing to pitch around the big guys and take their chances with Werth, meaning Werth saw a lot of fastballs and predictable counts.
Pitchers have no reason to challenge John Mayberry in this lineup. As the only power threat in the bottom of the lineup, pitchers don’t want to get beat by Mayberry. They are quite content giving him slop and risking a walk rather than challenging him with a fastball. A walk is much better than a homer, and who’s gonna knock him in from first anyway?
That’s why Charlie needs to bat him third or fourth in the lineup in front of Hunter Pence. Putting Pence behind him is the only protection he can offer Mayberry. The Phillies have plenty of decent hitters, but none that cause fear in the opponent like Pence. Pitchers don’t want to nibble with Mayberry and risk facing Pence with an extra base runner, so they are more likely to give in with fastballs. Let's now examine each lineup scenario.
Bat Mayberry third: Mayberry is perfectly suited to bat third with his speed and the ability to hitter for average and power. It also allows Pence to remain in the cleanup spot. Rollins is not the ideal #3 hitter anyway and it gives Manuel more flexibility with the rest of the lineup.
Bat Mayberry fourth: Mayberry has shown enough power to hit fourth and Pence fits in just fine batting fifth. It allows Charlie to keep the top of the order intact and he has little juggling to do with the bottom of the lineup.
Moving Mayberry makes a lot of sense for the protection it offers, but it places even more pressure on him. It's possible he starts pressing even more and the plan totally backfires, but I think it's more important for Mayberry to see more fastballs and predictable counts. Once he knocks the ball around a few times, it might give him more confidence and allow him to adjust easier.
It's not going to happen, but it's an interesting thought.
A bulk of the Phillies offensive woes can be placed squarely upon the broad shoulders of John Mayberry. My hopes of a big year from Mayberry are quickly fading. The stats are not pretty: a .175 batting average with no homers and just two RBIs through the first 16 games. Stats like those will hurt any lineup. What destroys the Phillies lineup is his inability to even make productive outs.
Mayberry has been at the plate six times with a runner at third base and less than two outs. All he needs to do in that situation is hit a lazy fly ball or a weak grounder up the middle and a run scores. That should be a free run, and it is a free run 62 percent of the time on average in MLB. Yet out of those six opportunities, Mayberry has knocked in exactly zero runs. Over one run wasted per series is particularly painful for a Phillies offense that ranks 15 out of 16 in the National League.
Another troubling number is that Mayberry has not worked one walk all season. It’s an indication that the baseball looks like a marble to big John right now and it also blasts a gaping hole in the Phillies lineup.
A .175 average and 2 RBIs hurts the team no matter how you look at it, but if Mayberry could have just taken advantage of the easy scoring situations and worked a few walks, his slump would be far less impactful. If Mayberry was just near the MLB average success rate of 62% with a runner on third and less than two outs, he would have four more RBIs. And if he was right around the MLB average walk percentage of 8.9% he would have reached base three more times. So just by accepting free passes and hitting routine fly balls, Mayberry would have seven less at-bats (since neither counts as an AB) and he would improve his average 37 points to .212. Not a dazzling figure, but less repulsive.
The greater impact is on the team as a whole. The Phillies as an offense have scored three less runs than their opponents, but four easy RBIs from Mayberry would give the Phils one more run than their opponents. Three more walks is harder to quantify, but it is three less outs, three more base runners, and more stress on opposing pitchers.
That said, John Mayberry has been frighteningly inadequate through the first 15 games. We've seen pitchers routinely bust him inside, which is an expected adjustment for a young hitter to make and one that requires a bit of a long leash and a lot of patience from Charlie Manuel. But Major League hitters must be able to hit fastballs down the middle in predictable counts. Mayberry has not hit those pitches on countless occasions, and that is something Charlie cannot withstand much longer. If John Mayberry continues failing to perform the simplest of offensive tasks, he may find himself spending the rest of his career in minor league purgatory.
The pain of Phillies viewing has reached an all-time high. While suffering through six grueling innings last night (any longer and I would have tried out the noose in the garage for size), I was reminded of the latest South Park episode in which the boys nearly died of boredom while zip lining. Not realizing the danger they faced, thousands of Phillies fans across the Delaware Valley nearly faced the same death by boredom.
I’m hesitant to flip on the news for fear of countless stories of folks who attempted to watch the entire Phillies game and lost their lives in the process. Had the Phils not eventually scored 5 late runs, we might be looking at catastrophic death totals.
Let’s face it, the Phillies are a horrifically boring baseball team right now. When Victorino leads the team in homers and Freddy Galvis is tied for the team lead in doubles, your baseball team is as much fun as watching paint dry or flipping on X Factor. The Phillies can single a team to death, but they are third from the bottom in the league in homers and second to last in extra base hits and walks.
It’s enough to make you stare at the wall for fun, rip off your fingernails just to discover what it feels like, or listen to Bob Dylan for his beautiful voice.
There is a silver lining: at least we aren’t Pirates fans. Not only did Pittsburgh’s wimpy, whiny, hockey team get knocked around by the Flyers, but the Pirates are dead last in average, runs, hits, doubles, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. The Buccos have five more RBIs as a team than Matt Kemp, eleven players have at least equaled the Pirates in home runs, and they have been out homered by four players.
The Washington Nationals are 14-4 and the Phillies are 9-10. Calm down, now. Quit eyeing the Ben Franklin bridge for a good jumping point just yet.
There’s really no need to keep a watchful eye on the Nationals at this point, because statistically speaking their record is irrelevant. The Nationals are on pace for a 126 win season, which would be the best record in the history of Major League Baseball. 126 wins is ten more than any other team in MLB history (116 by Seattle in 2001) and their .778 winning percentage is 16 points higher than (and roughly 3 games ahead of) the next best (.762) recorded by the Cubs in 1906.
Trust me, the Nats will not finish with 126 wins or anything close to that number. So, the question to ask is: how many games do you think the Nationals will win this season? 90? 95? 100?
Let’s assume the Nationals are the real deal and are on their way to 100 wins. That’s a .617 winning percentage. If they had a .617 winning percentage right now over their first 18 games they would be 11-7.
Rather than chasing their actual record of 14-4, chase 11-7 because that will eventually be their true pace. The Phillies at 9-10 would only be 2.5 games back of the 100-win Nats.
You could also look at it another way. If the Nats dropped down to that .617 winning percentage through the next 18 games they would have a total record of 22-14, meaning in their next 18 they would go 8-10. Now that's a manageable number. The Phillies would still have to go 13-4 to tie them, but again that’s assuming the Nationals win 100 games.
On a 95 win pace, the Nats would have a 21-15 record through their next 18 games and the Phillies would need to go 12-5 to catch them.
If the Nats are a 90 win team they would have a 20-16 record through their next 18 and the Phils would need to go 11-6 to tie them.
We hear it again, and again, and again, but it is only April and there are still over 140 games left this season. The Phillies obviously need to play better to even have a sniff of the postseason, so leave your focus there.
Last night was an offensive explosion for the Phillies as they managed a whopping three doubles and one home run. OK, maybe explosion isn't the right word, but four extra base hits is something we haven't seen much in the early going for the Phils.
It doesn't take a genius to recognize that lack of power is a main contributing factor to the Phillies weak hitting, but it is a topic worthy of a deeper examination. The Phillies' lineup is under performing their career power totals across the board. Of the Phillies somewhat regulars, only three are performing at or above their career totals.
Here is a look at the Phillies 2012 vs. career slugging percentage and OPS (ranked by 2012 slugging).
Phillies 2012 vs. career slugging and OPS
|Player||2012 Slugging %||2012 OPS||Career Slugging %||Career OPS|
You can see that two of the new guys (Nix and Wigginton) are providing some power, but Carlos Ruiz is the only other regular who can stake that claim. Victorino and Pence aren't too far off their career totals, but Polanco and Rollins are quite a bit below what we should expect and Mayberry and Thome aren't in the same hemisphere.
As strange as it might sound, absent power from Rollins and Polanco might have the biggest impact on the offense. Obviously the Phillies aren't counting on many home runs from either player, but we do expect power in the form of doubles and triples which neither has provided. In a lineup assembled with no true power hitters, the need for extra base hits becomes that much more apparent.
It goes without saying that John Mayberry and Jim Thome have been huge disappointments. The Phillies hoped Mayberry could play the role of a pseudo Ryan Howard. If Maybuggles (as I like to call him) was able to provide anywhere near his .513 slugging percentage of last season, it would allow the entire rest of the lineup to fit in more natural roles and play with less pressure. Jim Thome, well, I think his stats speak for themselves.
Nix and Wigginton, on the other hand, have been just what the doctor ordered. Their contributions have helped keep the Phillies' heads above water, or technically just below water, but you get the point. Their thirteen RBIs comprise nineteen percent of the entire team total.
Nix and Wigginton are great examples of what it takes to win as a team. When some guys are struggling, other guys need to step up. Ruben Amaro brought them in as role players; so far they are playing the roles of heavy lifters.
Despite the Phils' weak hitting, their dominant starting pitching has kept them hovering around .500. With hitting season right around the corner, we just might see more extra base hits and a lot more Phillies wins.