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Phillies Blog Articles - August 2012

Phillies review: July 2012
by Scott Butler 8/2/12

Phillies July Storyline

July was the month when the Phillies would begin their playoff push with an historic final three months.  Ryan Howard rejoined the Phillies on July 6th and the Phillies finally had all three pieces (Utley, Howard, Halladay) in place.  Well, uh, let’s just say things did not go exactly as planned.  Since that point, all three players struggled and the Phillies went 10-17.  After getting swept by the Braves at the end of the month, Ruben Amaro determined he had seen enough and traded Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.  The trades unofficially marked the end of an era.

Phillies July Event Recap

July began just as dreadfully as June ended for the Phillies.  After losing four straight and six of eight to finish June, the Phillies lost another two straight games and six of their next seven prior to the all-star break, including a sweep by the Braves in the final series.  All told, the Phillies went 3-12 before the all-star break and dropped to 13 games below .500.

After starting the second half with a loss to the lowly Rockies, the Phillies began to play good baseball and won their next four games, but a blown save in the final game of the Dodgers series sparked a three-game losing streak.  The Phils quickly bounced back with an amazing four game winning streak in which the Phillies won all four in their last at-bat:
July 22: Walk-off single by Rollins in tenth over Giants.
July 23: Down by 4 in eighth and 3 in ninth, Phils tied with Ruiz RBI single and won on Wigginton’s sac fly.
July 24: Down 6-1 in ninth, Phils tied with Ruiz’s 3-run double and won on Pence’s go-ahead single, scoring six runs total in the ninth.
July 25: Down 6-5, the Phils scored twice in the 10th inning after falling behind in the top half, capped by Jimmy Rollins' walk-off RBI single to complete a three-game sweep. The final game of the streak was especially gratifying considering the Phillies signed Cole Hamels to a six-year, $144 million dollar extension earlier in the day.

The streak set up an important series against the Braves.  "These three games are important, yeah," Ruben Amaro said. "If we get swept here, it's going to make things very daunting for us."  When the Phillies were swept by the Braves in that series, it sparked a fire-sale and Victorino and Pence suddenly vanished.

Despite the bad news with the trades, the Phillies ended the month on a high note with an 8-0 shutout of the Nationals which included an inside-the-park home run by Jimmy Rollins.

Phillies July Win/Loss Totals

Record: 10-13
Home record: 4-5
Road record: 6-8
Top winning streak: 4 (twice)
Top losing streak: 5
Series record: 3-4
Began month: 36-44 - last place - 10 games behind 1st place Nationals & 2.5 games behind 4th place Nationals
Finished month: 45-57 - last place – 16.5 games behind 1st place Nationals & 2.5 games behind 4th place Marlins

Phillies July Highlights

-Phillies activate Howard on July 6
-Phillies sign Hamels on July 25
-Halladay notches 2000th career strikeout on July 29
Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and Carlos Ruiz all make the all-star team.

Interesting Phillies notes

- Erik Kratz plays major role in all three comebacks against Brewers.
- Phillies trade Hunter Pence one year after acquiring him.
- Carlos Ruiz becomes seventh home grown Phillies player from the 2008 World Series team to become an all-star.

Phillies Injuries

- Placido Polanco placed on disabled list on July 27

Phillies Season Totals and NL Ranks through July

Phillies Hitting Totals through July
Average: .258 (6th)
Runs: 436 (9th)
Runs/game: 4.31 (7th)
HR: 101 (9th)
BB: 265 (14th)
SO: 676 (1st)
OBP: .314 (11th)
SLG: .402 (10th)

Phillies Pitching Totals and NL Ranks through July

Phillies Team Pitching through July
ERA: 4.16 (10th)
ER: 428
IP: 925.1

Phillies Starting Pitching through July
ERA: 4.03 (8th)
ER: 298
IP: 665.1

Phillies Relief Pitching through July
ERA: 4.50 (13th)
ER: 130
IP: 260.0

Phillies July Totals and NL Ranks

Phillies July Team Hitting
Average: .234 (15th)
Runs: 91 (6th)
Runs/game: 4.43 (8th)
HR: 22 (12th)
BB: 61 (14th)
SO: 161 (1st)
OBP: .294 (15th)
SLG: .380 (12th)

Phillies July Team Pitching
ERA: 4.24 (12th)
ER: 98
IP: 208.0
BB/9: 2.64 (4th)
SO/9: 8.78 (2nd)

Phillies July Starting Pitching
ERA: 4.17 (11th)
ER: 70
IP: 151.0
BB/9: 2.09 (1st)
SO/9: 8.11 (3rd)

Phillies July Relief Pitching
ERA: 4.42 (12th)
ER: 28
IP: 57
BB/9: 4.11 (11th)
SO/9: 10.58 (1st)

Phillies July Win/Loss Chart

Phillies July 2012 Win/Loss Chart

What does it mean to place Cliff Lee on waiver wire?
by Scott Butler 8/3/12

We received word today that Joe Blanton cleared waivers and Cliff Lee did not clear waivers for the Phillies. Fans are rightfully confused, so I wanted to take the chance to explain the waiver wire process and what it means for a player to placed on waivers, especially as it pertains to Cliff Lee.

First of all, almost every player is placed on waivers and it does not mean the Phillies are trying to trade Cliff Lee.  It just gives them the opportunity to trade him if the right deal presents itself.  The news sounded so shocking because the waiver process is intended to be a secret, unless someone leaks the information as in this case. 

Waiver Wire Process

Here’s how it works: when Lee is placed on waivers, every Major League team has the opportunity to claim him. Teams basically get in line with the worst team from the previous season first (Astros) and the best team last (Phillies).  If a team claims him, the Phillies can do one of three things:
-negotiate a trade with the claiming team
-do nothing and allow the claiming team to assume Lee’s full contract
-rescind the request and keep Lee on the Phillies roster, effectively canceling the waiver

If the Phillies choose the last option and rescind their request, they can’t use that option again for Lee for the rest of the season.  If a team claims Lee in a future waiver, he would automatically go to whichever team claimed him.

If no team claims Lee off waivers after three business days, he has cleared waivers and may be sent to the minors, traded to any team, or released outright.

Blocking waiver wire trades

The reason why the non-waiver trading deadline is so important is that teams may claim a player just to block him from going to another team.  Let’s say the Nationals want to ensure the Braves don’t get their hands on Lee.  Even if they didn’t want him, the Nats could claim Lee just so that the Braves couldn’t claim him (although they run the risk that the Phillies would make the Nats assume the entire contract). That scenario is probably exactly what happened because few teams would want to inherit the massive commitment for Cliff Lee.

With Joe Blanton, the Dodgers claimed him off waivers and the Phillies worked out a deal and Blanton went to the Dodgers. Since Cliff Lee did not clear waivers, it is unlikely for him to be traded until the off season.

Luxury tax and Phillies 2013 payroll
by Scott Butler 8/5/12

Come out to Citizens Bank Park and purchase tickets to watch Nate Schierholtz, Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen, and John Mayberry in action! Not exactly the type of advertising campaign to encourage parents to jam the kids in the car and head out to the ballpark now, is it? But the fact that Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, and Joe Blanton are no longer part of the mix might be the best news all season.

See, parting ways with those three players means the Phillies should finish the season under the $178 million luxury tax threshold. That is terrific news because it gives the Phillies much more flexibility with next year's payroll given the structure of MLB's collective bargaining agreement. In the current agreement, the luxury tax is set at $178 million in 2012 & 2013 before increasing to $189 million in 2014.

The luxury of no tax

Knowing the Phillies won't reach the luxury tax this year is nice, but the real advantage comes in 2013. The system is structured so that repeat offenders pay continually higher taxes: beginning next season, the rates are 17.5 percent for first offenders, 30 percent for second-time offenders, 40 percent for third-time offenders, and 50 percent for four-times or more offenders.

With the Phillies avoiding the penalty this season, if they exceed it next year they will be slapped with a 17.5 percent tax rather than the 30 percent fee they would have incurred if they went over in 2012. Anything less than winning the World Series could have been catastrophic for a team with serious needs in many areas.

It explains Ruben Amaro's recent comments regarding the trades: "That’s why we moved Hunter Pence and Victorino," said Ruben. "It creates a lot of salary flexibility for us." Normally the translation for the word flexibility is more money in the owners' pockets, but in this case flexibility may actually mean flexibility.

With the luxury tax threshold increasing to $189 million in 2014, the Phillies would be much more amenable to getting close to that number next season now that they will only be taxed at 17.5 percent. If the Phillies extended their payroll to nearly $189 million over the next two seasons, they would only pay around $1.75 million in 2012 and nothing in 2014. Twelve games under .500 doesn't look quite as bad now, does it?

The luxury tax and the Phillies 2013 payroll

Now on to the specifics in regards to the 2013 payroll. The Phillies already have $138.35 million guaranteed to 10 player next season. Nate Schierholtz projects to make around a $3 million in arbitration salary and Antonio Bastardo should make around $1.5 million in arbitration. That leaves Domonic Brown, John Mayberry Jr., Vance Worley, Josh Lindblom and Jake Diekman who should earn close to the 2013 minimum of $490,000, plus a backup catcher (possibly Kratz) and a utility player who should also earn close to the minimum, bringing the total payroll to around $147 million for 19 players.

Which brings us back to the luxury tax. If the Phillies are willing to stretch their payroll to close to $189 million next year, they have over $40 million dollars to spend. That's flexibility. It means the Phils will have $40 million to pay for third base, center field, right field, and up to three relief pitchers.

Here is how the 2013 payroll looks when we break it down using a projected lineup, starting rotation, and bullpen:

Phillies 2013 projected Starting Lineup:

1. Jimmy Rollins SS - $11 million ($9.5 million counts towards luxury tax)
2. CF (to be determined)
3. Chase Utley 2B - $15 million ($12.1 million counts towards luxury tax)
4. Ryan Howard 1B - $20 million ($25 million counts towards luxury tax)
5. Carlos Ruiz C - $5 million ($3.375 million counts towards luxury tax)
6. RF (to be determined)
7. Domonic Brown LF - $480,000
8. 3B (to be determined)

Bench

Nate Schierholtz (LF/RF) - $2.75 million
Laynce Nix (LF/1B) - $1.35 million ($1.25 million counts towards luxury tax)
John Mayberry Jr. (OF) - $515,000
Utility player - close to $490,000 minimum
Backup catcher - close to $490,000 minimum

Starting Rotation

Roy Halladay RHP - $20 million
Cliff Lee LHP - $25 million ($24 million counts towards luxury tax)
Cole Hamels LHP - $24 million
Vance Worley RHP - $515,000
Kyle Kendrick RHP - $4.5 million ($3.75 million counts towards luxury tax)

Bullpen

Jonathan Papelbon - $13 million ($12.5 million counts towards luxury tax)
Antonio Bastardo - $1.5 million
Josh Lindblom - $515,000
Jake Diekman - $495,000
3 open bullpen positions

Now that the initial shock of the fire sale and likely missing the playoffs for the first time in six years has worn off, the silver lining is beginning to emerge. The Phillies were not going to win the World Series this season, but at least they have a fighting chance of winning it next year. So we put up with commercials for the Philadelphia Iron Pigs for one season in hopes of World Championship ads in 2013.

Not the time to fire Charlie Manuel
by Scott Butler 8/7/12

Theory of Relativity.  Skinny jeans on guys.  Nicholas Cage getting paid to do movies. Here’s another thing that makes no sense: fire Charlie Manuel. 

The Phillies' number 3 and 4 hitters were injured for the first three months, Roy Halladay joined the DL for over a month, they have a minor league bullpen, and you want to blame…Charlie Manuel?

The manager needs some scrutiny on a team that is eleven games under .500, but one clunker season for a team decimated by injuries following seven straight winning seasons and five straight division titles is not the time to fire the manager. 

Even if Charlie Manuel has been a bad manager this season (which I don’t feel he has), the manager is far down the list of 2012 problems.  Now that you mention it, here is a list of eleven areas (in no particular order) to place blame before blaming the manager.

Reasons for Phillies terrible 2012 season

1. Ryan Howard's injury
2. Chase Utley's injury
3. Roy Halladay's injury
4. Placido Polanco's injury
5. A bullpen that featured as many as five minor leaguers
6. John Mayberry
7. Shane Victorino’s struggles
8. Cliff Lee
9. Chad Qualls
10. Antonio Bastardo
11. Ruben Amaro

Is Charlie Manuel to blame for any of those eleven problems?  Do you think Ryne Sandberg could have done any better?

Ryne Sandberg is not the solution

Which brings us to the more baffling part of the whole let’s fire Charlie thing.  Truly puzzling is all the Ryne Sandberg love.  Sandberg is like the backup quarterback who everyone loves until he actually plays.  Sometimes change is a good thing, but if you are starting Mike Kafka you are probably in big trouble.  It’s the typical fan response (which I’m guilty of all the time) to want any kind of change when things go bad.

Try to answer the question, “Why should Ryne Sandberg be the Phillies manager in 2013?” The answers probably have more to do with why Charlie Manuel should not be the manager and not an endorsement of Sandberg himself.  All we really know about Ryne Sandberg is that the Cubs didn’t want him, he has only managed for four years, and he has no major league managing experience.  That doesn’t mean he can’t be a terrific manager. Maybe he is the second coming, but there is not enough evidence to suggest he is a better option than Charlie Manuel.

Possibly most important is that Ryne Sandberg is considered to be a “player’s manager” just like Charlie.  If they both are player’s managers and Charlie Manuel, with a World Championship, thirty years of coaching experience, and twelve years of managing experience under his belt can’t get it done, I certainly don’t like my chances with the unproven guy.

It’s only a small minority who wants the hook for big Chuck and hopefully it stays that way.  Charlie has done a terrific job of negotiating 25 personalities throughout his managerial career and it is because of his faith in his players that the Phillies teams have posted a .603 winning percentage (353-232) since the all-star break under Manuel.

There's one more reason to keep Charlie Manuel as the skipper. We watched all but five members of the 2008 World Series team leave, including Pat Burrell, Brett Myers, Brad Lidge, Jamie Moyer, Jayson Werth, JC Romero, and most recently Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton.  With the string of NL East titles finished and the same with the sellout streak, the last thing the Phillies need is for the manager of the 2008 team to walk away?

The Bourn disaster: why the Phillies must not sign Michael Bourn
by Scott Butler 8/12/12

With the Phillies' recent trades of Victorino, Pence, and Blanton, Ruben Amaro now has roughly $40 million to spend during the off season. That's about as dangerous as handing over your money to Bernie Madolf. Given Amaro's propensity for overspending on players (Ibanez, Papelbon, and Lee just to name a few) and an empty bag of money at his disposal, I just get the feeling that he can't wait to waste his money once again on another big name.

That big name hopefully is not Michael Bourn, who is a likely free agent target for Ruben Amaro to fill center field. There's a lot to like about Michael Bourn. He is a terrific defensive center fielder, stole 54 bases per year in his first four full seasons, and has a .283 batting average over the last three seasons. But there are plenty of holes in Bourn's game. He struck out an average of 125 times in his first four seasons and 111 times already in 2012, with an on-base percentage of just .337 over his career.

And as Bourn enters his 30-year-old season, look at how he compares to Jimmy Rollins in his previous four seasons.

Rollins vs. Bourn age 26-29
  AVG OBP SLG SB HR SO BB PA
Jimmy Rollins .285 .341 .472 165 78 291 211 2,893
Michael Bourn .283 .347 .382 203 15 498 216 2,513

His average, OBP, and walks are almost exactly the same, but Jimmy hit 63 more home runs and struck out 207 less times. Bourn is Jimmy Rollins with drastically less homers and immensely more strike outs.

If the recent trades and salary dumping in 2012 means anything, the Phillies simply cannot pay $15 million a year for the next several years on a player with no power, a high strikeout rate, and a low on-base percentage. That is especially the case for a player entering his thirties in a career predicated on speed. The Phillies have enough expensive 30 something players. They don't need another one.

Michael Bourn five years ago was a terrific addition for the price. But Michael Bourn in 2013 and beyond would be a disastrous financial decision for the Phillies.

I'll leave you with the following description a scout provided to Bob Brookover. "He strikes out a lot and doesn't have a great on-base percentage," the scout said. "He's going to be 30 years old, and guys his age do not get faster. I'd be careful."

Take a ride on the Kyle Kendrick roller coaster
by Scott Butler 8/15/12

If Kyle Kendrick's baseball career was a movie, it would be the second remake of Total Recall where up is down and down is up.

The Kyle Kendrick story begins with a young, seemingly talentless pitcher who bursts onto the scene with stones of steel and without whom the Phillies do not win their first division title in fourteen years.  After a 10-4 record and a 3.84 ERA in a miraculous 2007 campaign, Kendrick was equally as horrific the following season with a 5.49 ERA and one foot out the door.  

Rich Dubee had seen enough at that point.  Dubee was like the angry father who, after learning his high school son knocked up his girlfriend, tells him, “Don't expect to come home without a ring on her finger.”  Similarly, he told Kendrick not to bother knocking on his door without adding another pitch.      

Outside of a couple spot starts, Kendrick didn’t come knocking until the following season.  The ups and downs continued ever since.  Down in 2010 with a 4.73 ERA.  Up in 2011 with a 3.22 ERA.

Then the mother of all ups and downs in 2012.  A 6.59 ERA in April, a 2.89 ERA in May, a 6.96 ERA in June, a 0.00 ERA in July, and a 9.82 ERA in August entering his last start.  In his five worst starts, Kendrick has a 6.93 ERA and an average of 4.5 innings per start.  In his four best starts, he has a 0.32 ERA (just one run allowed in 28 innings) and an average of 7 innings per start.

And who exactly is Kyle Kendrick?  He is Jekyll and he is Hyde; he is Cy Young and he is Adam Eaton; he is Steve Carlton and he is Steve…Searcy.  In other words, Kyle Kendrick is the measure of inconsistency.

In his 16 starts in 2012, Kendrick has allowed two earned runs or fewer 10 times, 5+ earned runs six times, and nothing in between.  

Over his last three full seasons, Kendrick has allowed two or fewer ER in 34 of 62 starts, five or more in 19 starts, and only 9 starts in between.  During that time he had six starts in which he allowed over six runs or more and 21 starts with one earned run or less (including two complete game shutouts).

Kyle Kendrick Inconsistency
  2 or less ER 5 or more ER
2012 (16 GS) 10 6
2011 (15 GS) 10 3
2010 (31 GS) 14 10
Total 34 19

 

Maybe his last debacle against the Braves in which he surrendered four runs and threw 50 pitches in a 23-minute second inning was the turning point in Kendrick's career.

"He slowed the game," Manuel said after the game. "At times, it takes the starch out of your team. When you slow the game down like that, it kills the momentum of the game."  Charlie added, "He's had that kind of game before."

Manuel did not guarantee another start for Kendrick.  "I don't know," the manager said. "We'll talk about that. We don't have too many options."  Charlie did give KK one more start, but only after sending him to the principal's office for a closed door meeting.  

Maybe, just maybe, the intervention paid off. For a pitcher who can give up a total of one run in four starts, there's no reason to believe it did not.

Pete Rose never-before-heard interview

Maury Z. Levy sent us over his never-before-heard interview with Pete Rose that you might find interesting. It is the first interview Rose did when he came to Philly in 1979 for for a story in Philly Mag. The audio is broken down into small slices. The first one ("Who's the Best? I'm the Best") is up now . You can also read his controversial Playboy Interview with Pete Rose later that year.

Keep your focus on the starting pitching
by Scott Butler 8/19/12

What should Phillies fans be looking for with a little over six weeks remaining in the season? Domonic Brown, Kevin Frandsen, Josh Lindblom, Nate Schierholtz, and Antonio Bastardo are all excellent choices. But for me, starting pitching ranks at the top of the list.

Phillies starting pitching in 2012

The Phillies were an average offensive team last season, but they managed 102 wins based on ridiculous starting pitching. Last season, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels combined to throw 682 1/3 innings with a 2.50 ERA. With Howard and Utley out for the first few months, the Phils needed a similar effort in 2012. Instead, those same three have combined for a 3.46 ERA this season.

I had to laugh when Nationals Manager Davey Johnson stated prior to the season, "I'd take my five guys over anybody, any staff in the league, based on potential. Our top three stacks up pretty well with [the Phillies'] top three." But it turned out that he was right, as his top three (Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Zimmerman) have a 2.86 ERA compared to the 3.46 by the Phillies.

Good starting pitching in 2012 when they needed great starting pitching, and that will not change next year. The Phillies have plenty of changes to make at third base, two outfield positions, and the bullpen, but what matters the most will be the top of the rotation.

For that reason, my interest lies with the three big guns until the final game of the season on October first.

Questions Hamels, Lee, and Halladay must answer over the last 42 games

Can Cole Hamels improve from a very good starting pitcher to a potential ace?

Cole Hamels has received a lot of praise (and money) this year, but his performance has not been all that special. Prior to his last four starts Hamels had a 3.31 ERA, which is over a half a run per game higher than last season in which he posted a 2.79 ERA. Hamels finally showed us what we had been expecting all along in his last four starts in which he pitched 32 2/3 innings (an average of 8.2 innings per ball game) with only 5 earned runs allowed, for a 1.38 ERA. Hamels is now closer to where we imagined, as he leads the league in innings pitched (1711/3), ranks ninth in ERA (2.94), third in strikeouts (168), and is tied for first with two shutouts.

Next year needs to be his best yet.

Are Cliff Lee's best years behind him?

2012 has been a major disappointment for Cliff Lee. The former Cy Young Award winner tossed 232 2/3 innings last year on his way to 17 wins and a 2.40 ERA. This year? A 2-7 record with a 3.83 ERA. Maybe it is just a bad season, but it could also be a sign that Lee is getting older, lost his stuff, or the league finally caught up with him.

No matter what caused his struggles this season, Cliff Lee needs to be much, much, better in 2013. Lee has been a streaky pitcher throughout his career, but we are still awaiting this season's first great streak. Last season, he allowed just 1 earned run in the entire month of June over five starts. If Lee goes on the same run in his next five starts, it would drop his ERA to a much more reasonable 3.06. Lee must prove that he is capable of such a streak once again.

Will we ever see the old Roy Halladay again?

Superman is not indestructible. You had to wonder when the first signs of aging would finally appear for Roy Halladay. His first season in six years with an ERA north of three might be the first indication that Doc is not getting any younger. Another red flag is that he went on the disabled list, which has not been common for Halladay in his career.

It is clear now that most of Halladay's early struggles were due to an injury, but the difficulties he encountered after his return to the team in July make that distinction a bit cloudier. Halladay has returned to form over his last three starts in which he has given up just 4 earned runs in 22 innings (a 1.64 ERA). He seems to have regained most of his movement, control, and velocity, but he just doesn't seem to resemble the same Roy Halladay.

A solid final month and a half would do a lot to restore confidence in Doc. Can he dominate like he did in the past? Can he remain healthy? Give me positive answers to those two questions and I will feel much better about next season.

Things are looking up

So far, so good for Halladay, Lee, and Hamels. In their last 12 starts combined, they have thrown an average of 7.03 innings per start and a 2.13 ERA. It would be great if Brown, Lindblom, and the rest of the new additions succeed, but the Phillies best chance at success next season still rides with the three horses at the top.

Cliff Lee the big red dud
by Scott Butler 8/27/12

Cliff Lee finally won a game at home.  It took him 11 months and 21 days since his last victory at Citizens Bank Park, but he finally earned that first home win.  It has been a miserable season for Clifton Phifer Lee to say the least.  The former Cy Young Award winner collected just his third win of the season on Sunday. While the Phillies were expecting a repeat of last season’s success, they instead received the 31st best ERA among NL Starters.

Cliff Lee epitomizes the 2012 Phillies season: he finds different ways to lose every game. Had Cliff Lee been winning at the same rate as last season, he would be 12-6 versus 3-7 and things would be a hint sunnier in Philadelphia. It would also flip the Phillies record from 61-67 to 70-66; from 6  games under .500 to 4 games above .500; from 9.5 games out in the Wild Card to 3.5 games back.

Or imagine this: what if Cliff Lee replicated his 2008 Cy Young season in which he went 22-3…

He would have a 16-2 record right now and the Phillies would be 74-62, 12 games over .500, and just a half game out of the Wild Card.

But Cliff Lee is not 16-2 right now, he is 3-7.  Why?

Last week Jayson Stark weighed in on Cliff Lee and offered, “Part of it is he’s pitched the whole season with no margin for error and I think that’s weighing on him and I don’t blame him for that.  But it’s still not good enough.”

There’s no way around the fact that Cliff Lee has run into some pretty bad luck this season, but he’s not blameless, either. So, what can we attribute his lack of success this season?

Lee's 3.67 ERA in 2012 is certainly not compatible with his .300 win percentage, especially considering he owns a career .616 winning percentage with a nearly identical 3.65 career ERA. Heck, Kyle Kendrick has not suffered a losing season thus far despite a 4.36 career ERA.

Lack of offensive support undoubtedly offers part of the answer, as Lee has the 27th worst run support (3.96 runs per game) among the 95 qualified starters. That figure drops to 3.06 runs per game while Lee was still the pitcher of record. Lee was particularly victimized by his offense in April and May, when the Phillies scored just 12 runs for him in eight starts, including a game in which he pitched 10 scoreless innings without a single run of support.

Defense and the bullpen also played a role in Lee's demise, which clearly frustrated him. As Jayson Stark explained, "When a fielder makes an error, as upsetting as that may be to any pitcher…they’re allowed to get the next guy out. They’re allowed to pitch over that stuff. The sad story of Cliff Lee’s year is, he just hasn’t done a good enough job of doing that consistently.”

I went through each of Cliff's games to determine how much of the responsibility was his and how much belonged to the rest of the team. Using no scientific approach, I subjectively assigned blame in each of his games. In some cases (like in the 10 scoreless innings game in which the hitting was entirely to blame) I faulted only one area, while in others I blamed more than one.

Through this most unscientific of studies, here is the breakdown of how many times different areas deserved blame:

Lack of offense: 10
Lee blew the lead: 9
Lee's poor performance: 6
Bullpen: 3
Lee not good enough in winnable game: 2
Defense: 1
Lee created early deficit: 1

In total, Lee was to blame in 18 cases while the team was to blame in 14 cases. So, what does that mean? Well, for the most part it just tells us what we already really knew, that Lee ran into his fair share of bad luck, but he created many of his own problems.

Rather than unnecessarily dive into a deeper analysis, let's finish with one more quote from Jayson Stark. "The reason he’s got two wins (now three) has a lot to do with supporting cast, but it has a lot to do with him, too.”

Bet on Phillies reaching the postseason
by Scott Butler 8/28/12

Sam Donnellon posted an article today proclaiming the Phillies postseason dreams finished.  In the article, Sam references the website coolstandings.com, who gives the Phillies a 1 in 1,000 chance of making the playoffs.  If that’s what Vegas is offering, TAKE THE DEAL.  Sure, that dollar you spend is probably worth less than Monopoly money.  But, throw down just 100 bucks and you just might be staring down a full year’s salary just by backing your team…

Sam provides a compelling argument.  The likelihood of hurdling six teams and 9.5 games in the Wild Card standings, taking into consideration the multitude of misfortunes which must befall upon the teams ahead of them are, well, probably 1 in 1,000. 

But calculating the odds of each playoff possibility is too much for this infantile mind to handle.  Ultimately what matters is the number of Phillies wins at the end of the season.  Can they get to 88 wins?  90 wins?  Unless the Phillies play not just great, but incredible baseball down the stretch, what the Cardinals, Pirates, and Braves do over the next month is about as useless as an old VCR. 

88 wins is a good baseline to use for the mandatory number of victories the Phillies need for even a sniff of postseason baseball, so we will begin there.  To reach such a win total will require a 27-7 record and a .794 winning percentage. Accomplishing such a feat seems a gargantuan task, but it would not be the first time the Phillies did so in Charlie Manuel's tenure. In 2009, the Phillies went 23-4 (.852) down the stretch on their way to a 27-7 finish prior to the final game. So, it's not like the Phillies are being asked to do something they had not done before.

Given the change in personnel from even three years ago, a better comparison might be what the Phillies were able to accomplish last year.  The Phillies best stretch last season was 27-10 (a .730 winning percentage).  That would equate to a 25-9 record this season, putting the Phillies at 86-76.  That means the Phillies need to play two games better in 2012 than any 34 game stretch from the 102 win Phillies last season.

Now let’s look at this another way.  The Phillies can only lose 7 games the entire rest of the season if they are to reach 88 wins.  Last season, the Phillies best record when reaching seven losses was 19-7 (.731).  If the Phillies replicate that mark, they will reach 74 losses and be eliminated on September 25th against Washington.

I will admit even the 27-7 figure is a bit misleading. If we were to include the four game winning streak entering tonight's game, it means in reality the Phillies would finish the season with 31-7 (.816) to grasp 88 wins.   

All of that BEFORE calculating the odds of the other Wild Card contenders falling flat enough to even allow this discussion.  But that’s alright.  Just keep your eyes on 88 wins.  As long as that mark is still in sight, the Phillies have a chance.  If not, I hope you enjoy watching the development of Brown, Frandsen, and Kratz

Phillies Win/Loss ChartIf you are a Phillies fan, I think you will enjoy this. Available now!