The Phillies had a good September of baseball. A 17-10 September record in recent years would normally cruise the Phils into the postseason, but not this season. 17-10 was not enough in 2012 to continue the Phillies streak of five consecutive NL East titles, tied for the third longest streak since division play began in 1969. The Phillies gave a valiant attempt, but in the end September was more about watching newcomers than winning baseball games.
The Phillies began the month of September six games beneath .500 and eight games back of the second Wild Card spot. They needed to play better and fast with the Braves and Reds, two of the best teams in league, staring them down. After winning the first two games of the Braves series, the Phillies were primed for a series sweep before suffering a devastating loss when they blew a four-run ninth inning lead in the ninth inning of the final game, capped by a three-run walk-off homer by Chipper Jones.
The Phillies did not allow that heartbreaker to bring them down as they won two of three from the Reds. They next faced the Rockies and came back from a 2-0 deficit in the first game with a game tying double from Laynce Nix and a walk-off single in the 10th from Nate Schierholtz. After rain postponed the second game of the series, the Phillies swept the doubleheader the following day and swept the Marlins in the subsequent series. It finished off a perfect 6-0 homestand, gave the Phillies seven straight wins, and put them one game above .500.
Things looked pretty good as the Phillies faced the worst team in baseball in the Houston Astros. Instead of feasting on the hapless team, the Phils went home hungry and lost three of four to Houston. The Astros series put the Phillies a game below .500 and four games back of the second Wild Card spot. But the Phillies once again rebounded by sweeping the Mets and winning the first game against the Braves to bring them within 3 games of the last Wild Card spot.
Unfortunately, that was as close as the Phillies would get to the playoffs. The proceeded to lose the next two games against the Braves and two of three to the Nationals. A loss the following night to the Miami Marlins officially eliminated the Phils from postseason play. The Phillies came back to win the final two games of the series, giving them a winning record to conclude September and a chance to finish at or above .500 entering the final series of the season against the Nationals.
Home record: 8-4
Road record: 9-6
Top winning streak: 7
Top losing streak: 3
Series record: 6-3
Began month: 63-69 - 3rd place – 17.5 games behind 1st place Nationals & 11 games behind 2nd place Braves Finished month: 80-79 – 3rd place - 16 games behind 1st place Nationals, 13 games behind 2nd place Braves, 6 games behind second Wild Card
- Phils blow 4 run lead in ninth topped by Chipper Jones 3-run homer on Sep 2.
- Cloyd with first MLB win and Aumont with first MLB save on Sep 3.
- Rollins gets 2000th hit on Sep 4.
- Down 2-0, Nix tied game with double and Schierholtz hit walk-off single in 10th on Sep 7.
- Phillies win on Sep 11 and reach .500 for first time since June 4.
- With bases empty and 2 outs in ninth, Utley walks and Howard hit game winning homer on Sep 19.
- Phils score 8 in first and win 16-1 on Sep 20.
- Ryan Howard hits 300th career homer on Sep 22.
- Darin Ruf hits first MLB homer on Sep 25.
- Jimmy Rollins gets 2,000th hit on September 4.
- Ryan Howard becomes second fastest to 300 career home runs in Phillies history (Ralph Kiner).
- Darin Ruf makes his major league debut on September 14.
- Phils finish with 40-41 home record, 1st losing record in 12 years.
- Cole Hamels gains a career best 17th win in his final start.
- Hamels finishes September 8th in the NL in ERA (3.05) and Lee finishes 9th (3.12).
- 9/7 Phillies shut down Placido Polanco for the season due to recurring back issues.
- 9/8 - Raul Valdes placed on 15-day DL to undergo arthroscopic surgery on the meniscus in his right knee.
- 9/30 - Ryan Howard broke his toe.
Phillies Team Hitting Totals through September
Average: .256 (8th)
Runs: 679 (8th)
Runs/game: 4.27 (8th)
HR: 156 (8th)
BB: 446 (13th)
SO: 1,069 (best)
OBP: .317 (9th)
SLG: .400 (7th)
Phillies Team Pitching through September
ERA: 3.87 (7th)
Phillies Starting Pitching through September
ERA: 3.85 (7th)
Phillies Relief Pitching through September
ERA: 3.90 (9th)
Phillies September Team Hitting
Average: .254 (8th)
Runs: 131 (5th)
Runs/game: 4.85 (5th)
HR: 25 (T-4th)
BB: 95 (5th)
SO: 191 (2nd best)
OBP: .331 (T-7th)
SLG: .400 (T-7th)
Phillies September Team Pitching
ERA: 3.18 (4th)
BB/9: 2.69 (5th)
SO/9: 9.91 (1st)
Phillies September Starting Pitching
ERA: 3.74 (6th)
BB/9: 1.90 (1st)
SO/9: 9.09 (1st)
Phillies September Relief Pitching
ERA: 2.00 (2nd)
BB/9: 4.34 (15th)
SO/9: 11.62 (1st)
How good did Kyle Kendrick look last night?
His Jekyll and Hyde act over the years has caused me to consistently find excuses to avoid the TV during most Kyle Kendrick innings, but on Monday night I was locked in. Pitching in front of a full house in Washington (it only took them an NL East clincher to finally show up) in a crucial game for the Nats, Kendrick was downright dominant. It’s one thing to beat a team like the hapless Marlins with nothing to play for, but it is quite another to defeat a team on clinch night with the possibility (albeit a slim one) of their division title slipping away.
Make no mistake, the Washington Nationals wanted this game. Jayson Werth, Mr. ESPN Bryce Harper, and Michael Morse knew what was on the line and knew the pressure was on them to seal the deal, but KK nixed those plans. In a meaningful game amidst a playoff atmosphere, Kendrick limited those three to three hits and the Nationals as a team were unable to plate a single run and mustered a total of 4 hits in seven innings.
Kendrick’s October 1 start was his signature performance of the second half of the season. He was ahead of the hitters, mixed four pitches, and had terrific movement. We have seen games like these in the past, including the 2008 season in which he had a 5.49 ERA. But 2012 is the first time he did so consistently.
As much as you might try to suppress it, there is a thought lingering in the back of your mind that wonders if Kyle Kendrick has turned the corner. His 2.87 ERA since the all-star break is nothing to sneeze at. Had he done that over an entire season it would rank 7th in the league. Kyle Kendrick spent his career as an adolescent and left 2012 as a man. Evidence for that was his final pitch of the sixth inning to Michael Morse. His 3-2 delivery with a runner on second and two outs ran over the outside edge and was as good a pitch I have seen from any pitcher on any team this season.
And it has not come easy for Kyle throughout his career. Kendrick jumped onto the scene in 2007 and surprised everyone with his toughness en route to a 10-4 record and a 3.87 ERA, but his 5.49 ERA the following season earned him a roster spot at Lehigh Valley in 2009. At the time, Rich Dubee essentially told Kendrick to get another pitch or go home.
Kendrick added a cutter that season and found himself back with the Phillies in 2010. In a highly erratic season, he finished with a 4.73 ERA and found himself mostly in the bullpen over the next two seasons. His 4.89 ERA in the first half of 2012 suggested that might be all she wrote for KK, but he surprised us once again with a tremendous second half surge. Mixed in was a prank at Kendrick’s expense that exposed Brett Myers for the weak-willed bully he proved to be.
Giving Kendrick a two-year, $7 million contract prior to the season seemed almost laughably ludicrous even for Ruben Amaro, but now it appears that Ruben might have swiped millions of dollars from Kyle’s pocket.
Kendrick’s performance has undoubtedly earned him a spot in the Phillies rotation as the fourth or fifth starter in 2013. Kendrick has been way too inconsistent over the years to expect him to be anything more than a 4 or a 5, but a sub-three ERA over a half season has to raise at least one eyebrow. In the sea of uncertainty that surrounds the Phillies over the offseason, Kendrick sure is an intriguing "what if?"
The day after the conclusion of a disappointing 2012 season, all eyes focused in on two chairs in the press room at Citizens Bank Park.
On the right sat a man who won the most managerial games in Phillies history, earned Philadelphia a desperately needed championship, and turned a hapless 2012 team into a .500 ballclub. On the left sat a man who inherited a World Champion team and the highest payrolls in Phillies history, then proceeded to lose earlier and earlier each season until his mistakes finally resulted in a Phillies season without postseason baseball.
The man on the right managed the best era in the Phillies 129 year history and exceeded expectations each year.
The man on the left allowed a team to crumble under his watch and consistently fell short of expectations.
It was Ruben Amaro, Jr., the man on the left, who was most to blame for the failure of the 2012 Phillies. Not injuries, not coaches, not underperformance. Ruben Amaro. Yet Ruben Amaro had the audacity and was unrightly given the authority to fire and hire coaches.
Amaro has proven over the last four seasons that he is incapable of making important decisions for this Phillies ballclub. He biggest gaffs came with the 2012 Phillies, including a failure to secure adequate backups for Howard and Utley, a gross misevaluation of the bullpen, trading high prized prospects for Hunter Pence, and providing a starting job for John Mayberry, just to name a few.
That is why the theme for this end of year press conference should have been addressing Ruben's miscalculations and offering praise for Charlie Manuel's terrific job of covering up for Amaro's inadequacies.
Instead, the focus of this press conference was unnecessarily placed on Charlie Manuel and whether or not this will be his last season. Charlie Manuel is now a lame duck manager and nobody knows whether or not that was his decision. Sure, a manager possibly in his final season is an issue that must be addressed and it is the responsibility of the GM to ensure an adequate transition plan is put in place, but it does not need to take place one day after the season ends.
Ruben Amaro unjustly put pressure, and in an indirect way, blame on Charlie Manuel for the 2012 season by firing coaches and hiring Manuel's heir apparent in Ryne Sandberg as the third base coach. The decision of hiring and firing coaches can be made by the GM or the manager. The fact that it was the GM making all of the decisions and putting Charlie's replacement on his staff directly beneath him is troubling.
Most troubling was that David Montgomery allowed these development to transpire. David Montgomery should have given these coaching decisions to Charlie Manuel. Allowing Ruben Amaro to make these moves is borderline disrespectful to Charlie Manuel and places an unnecessary amount of faith in Ruben.
Given the timing of the announcements, the nature of the decisions, and the ambiguity of Charlie's future, the talk around town for the next few months will be focused on Charlie Manuel. It was a masterful job of redirection from Amaro of which Obama and Romney would be proud. Rather than Ruben facing scrutiny on his failed "roster policies," Charlie will be answering the tough questions through much of the offseason and possibly throughout the entire 2013 campaign.
David Montgomery had the opportunity to avoid this situation. Montgomery's handling, or lack thereof, of the coaching decisions was a huge disservice to Charlie Manuel. Montgomery needed to show respect to his manager by allowing Charlie to make the personnel decisions, not Ruben. And if Montgomery wanted Sandberg on the staff, that needed to be his decision.
In reality, discussion should surround Ruben Amaro's ambiguous future. David Montgomery needed to take charge, set the tone, and deliver a clear message that Ruben Amaro's job is on the line.
That message was not delivered. The message on Thursday was one of Amaro deflecting scrutiny. He deflected it towards his managers and coaches as I already pointed out, and he also deflected it towards some of his high priced players, which I will get into later.
Well played, Rub. You seem to have everyone fooled. Well, as Dr. Klopek said in The Burbs, "You don't fool me."
Bob Brookover offered good advice on his Monday article analyzing Ruben Amaro's 2012 performance, stating, "Looking forward is always preferable to looking back after a disappointing season."
Good point, Bob. I'm just not ready yet.
Ruben Amaro's press conference with Charlie Manuel last Thursday made it hard to close the book on the 2012 season. As I mentioned earlier, he made several coaching changes, but Ruben Amaro has not earned the privilege to hire and fire coaches. Charlie Manuel has earned that right, not Ruben.
Another troubling development in the press conference was how easily Amaro absolved himself of essentially any wrongdoing.
"I'm kind of one of those guys who tries to look forward. I try not to look back unless I think I can learn something from it," Amaro said. "There are moves that we make when they work out well and ones that don't work out well that you can learn from."
Good advice, Rub. Seems to me like you have a lot to learn from. So, any regrets?
"Obviously, you can't cover for all the things that happen as far as injuries and stuff are concerned, but I guess we probably could have done a little bit better job in the bullpen," Amaro said. "We were kind of relying on some guys that had some success last year, and after having lost four of those guys during the early part of the year, it was a little tough for us to recover. That was something that I think I regret a little bit."
That's it!? You regret your work with the bullpen A LITTLE BIT!? I have to pull a quick Gary Dornhoefer and "stop it right there."
Here are the guys who he relied on entering last season.
Mike Stutes, who had a decent season but struggled down the stretch.
Antonio Bastardo, who had one good season, a history of control problems, and was a basket case at the end of 2011.
David Herndon. You are in some big time trouble if you are relying on David Herndon.
Jose Conteras, a 40-year-old pitcher coming off surgery.
Joe Savery, a converted hitter called up from the minors.
Chad Qualls. Well, his 2012 season speaks for itself.
There is no fan on earth who would be comfortable with those names. And then he throws in the injury card. It would be one thing if the 2008 Phillies lost Madson, Romero, and Durbin, proven relievers with a track record of success. The 2012 Phillies lost Stutes, Contreras, and Herndon, players with questionable at best reliability.
"As far as the rest of this stuff is concerned, you can't really cover for everything," Amaro said. "It is hard to cover for two guys in the middle of the lineup that aren't going to be back for a significant period of time. I wish we could have covered a little bit better from that."
Losing Howard and Utley is a valid and easy excuse. But Amaro cannot use that excused because he deserved plenty of blame even for those injuries.
Let's start with Utley. Ruben could not have expected him to miss three months after having almost six months of rest. But he was irresponsible to just assume Utley would be healthy. A responsible GM would have looked at Utley's history of injuries and his chronic knee problems and assumed just the opposite, ensuring a solid backup plan if and when Utley would be injured again. Amaro was so blind to the truth that he traded away his super utility man in Wilson Valdez, trusting a light hitting rookie (Galvis) and the non-hitting Martinez (who hit .174) to fill in for Utley.
In the case of Ryan Howard, Amaro did not have the luxury or the financial flexibility to replace his bat with a high priced free agent, so his only option was to replace him with bench pieces. The names Amaro chose were Nix, Wigginton, and Thome.
Hitting on second rate players is no easy task, but that is the responsibility of a general manager. We won't know if Nix could have made a difference since he missed most of the season due to injury, but we do know that Wigginton and Thome did not help.
Wigginton hit a dreadful .235. Thome could not play first base and was unsuccessful off the bench. But Amaro chose them and passed on several outfielders who could have covered immensely better for Howard's offense. Josh Willingham hit .260 with 35 HR and 110 RBI, Cody Ross hit .267 with 22 HR and 81 RBI, Raul Ibanez hit 19 HR, and Brandon Moss (who was in the Phillies system last season) hit 21 HR in 265 at-bats. Ruben chose none of them.
Looking towards 2013, Ruben Amaro already removed himself from responsibility and placed it instead onto his superstars.
"There is urgency - our core guys are not getting any younger," Amaro said. "The bottom line is this: If our players that we paid a great deal of money to do not perform next year, we're going to be in trouble. We need them to perform. Ryan Howard has to perform. Chase Utley has to perform. Roy Halladay has to come back and perform. And we have to get that performance out of guys like Chooch [Carlos Ruiz] and [Cole] Hamels and [Cliff] Lee."
"If we don't get their performance, it's going to be troublesome for us. We're relying on those guys to perform. We think they will, and we're hopeful that they're healthier. But we need to support them better, and that's kind of my job to be able to try to do that."
The Phillies need their stars to perform. That is obvious. But what is the point of putting more pressure on them than they already have? It is yet another example of Ruben Amaro escaping responsibility.
Ruben Amaro has too many items occupying his attention to waste time dwelling on the past, but as he himself mentioned, moves that do not work out provide something to learn from. The frightening thought is that Ruben does not appear to feel he did a poor job.
Pat Gillick proved that minor tweaks are crucial to building a championship. Ruben thus far has failed with those minor tweaks throughout his tenure and does not seem to realize it. With few marquis free agents available and little financial flexibility, he better realize quickly or next season could be worse than last
At the close of each season, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has been handing out awards for the best players in the game. Every year, the BBA polls the entirety of it's roster to determine the winners of awards for the season.
There are five awards for each league and they will be announced on the following dates:
October 15: Connie Mack Award (manager of the year)
October 16: Willie Mays Award (rookie of the year)
October 17: Goose Gossage Award (top reliever)
October 18: Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)
October 19: Stan Musial Award (MVP)
Before BBA announces the winners of these awards in the coming days and weeks, here is my ballot for the BBA's end of season awards:
Davey Johnson (Washington Nationals)
Wilin Rosario (Colorado Rockies)
Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)
RA Dickey (New York Mets)
Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
I spent the last couple weeks discussing how Ruben Amaro disrespected his manager and how Amaro evaded blame for the 2012 season. Time now for one last parting shot and an evaluation of 2012 before we look ahead to 2013. Sorry Rub.
Just going by his words, Ruben Amaro feels the 2012 season boils down to little more than injuries. In his mind, 2012 was just a dose of bad luck. Reality provides a different story. There is no question injuries crushed the Phillies, but they are not the main reason the Phillies did not make the playoffs. Injuries hurt, but Amaro’s mistakes with the bullpen, bench, outfield, and injury management were devastating. Let's get to the good, the bad, and the ugly from Ruben Amaro.
It’s difficult to find any admissions of guilt from Ruben Amaro, but here is the best you will get: "Obviously, you can't cover for all the things that happen as far as injuries and stuff are concerned, but I guess we probably could have done a little bit better job in the bullpen."
Way to step out on a ledge there, Rub. I can think of a few harsher words to use which might not be quite kosher, but let’s use his words and go with “probably” and “a little better.”
Amaro’s primary objective entering 2012 was to secure a closer. He opted not to go with Madson and instead made a four year, $50 million offer to Jonathan Papelbon, giving him the largest reliever contract ever. Although he may have overpaid for him, Papelbon had a good season, converting 38 of 42 saves and finishing with a 2.44 ERA. His 38 saves were tied for seventh in baseball and tied for third in the National League. His 90.5 save percentage ranked seventh among closers with at least 25 saves.
But Papelbon's success came at the expense of the rest of the bullpen. With so much dough tied up in Papelbon, Amaro had little left to improve the remainder of the 'pen. In fact, Papelbon accounted for the biggest percentage of bullpen salary in all of baseball with 67% of the Phillies bullpen spending being used on the closer.
With little money left to spend elsewhere, the only "upgrades" to the Phillies' bullpen were Chad Qualls, who did not even last the entire season, and Dontrelle Willis, who never made the regular season roster. As a result, the Phillies were forced to rely on young, mostly unproven relievers with disastrous results. Relievers not named Papelbon posted a 5.04 ERA in the first half of the season. Even with one of the best closers in baseball, the ERA for the entire bullpen was 4.45 through July.
The end result was that Papelbon was rendered essentially useless. Even if Amaro still spent big and signed Ryan Madson to the reported 4 years/$44 million, he would have had an extra $2 million to spend on the rest of the bullpen.
The Phillies also suffered several injuries in the bullpen, which Ruben Amaro was quick to point out. "We were kind of relying on some guys that had some success last year, and after having lost four of those guys during the early part of the year, it was a little tough for us to recover. That was something that I think I regret a little bit."
The fact is, the players who were injured (Contreras, Stutes, and Herndon) were nearly as unproven as the pitchers who eventually replaced them. Here is the bullpen roster Amaro took with him to start the season before a single injury took place.
Antonio Bastardo - Bastardo only had one decent season (2.64 ERA in 2011) and a history of control problems.
Jose Contreras - Contreras entered the season at age 40 and was coming off surgery.
Chad Qualls - Qualls had a 7.32 ERA in 2010 and a 3.51 in 2011 in pitcher friendly San Diego. And that was the guy Amaro counted on for a veteran presence. Qualls finished with a 5.33 ERA.
Mike Stutes - Stutes had a mediocre rookie season (3.63 ERA) and struggled down the stretch.
David Herndon - Herndon was average at best with a career 3.85 ERA.
Kyle Kendrick - Kendrick was a decent choice as a long man, but still an erratic pitcher.
Jonathan Papelbon - Pappy was the only truly reliable pitcher on the bullpen staff.
To allow such a group of shaky relievers was irresponsible for a general manager who expects to contend for a championship. Ruben Amaro made a choice to put all his eggs in one basket, which left the Phillies extremely vulnerable and eventually cost them dearly in the standings.
Ruben Amaro is quick to mention the effect of losing Howard and Utley. "It is hard to cover for two guys in the middle of the lineup that aren't going to be back for a significant period of time. I wish we could have covered a little bit better from that."
In reality, Amaro grossly mishandled the situations with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. He knew heading into the offseason that Ryan Howard would miss significant time due to his Achilles injury. Although it would be impossible to replace Howard's bat, it was Amaro's job to find complementary pieces as a stopgap. As I will get into later, his choices of Thome, Wigginton, and Nix were ineffective.
He fumbled equally as badly with Chase Utley. The Phillies were aware entering the offseason that Chase Utley had a chronic knee condition. Chronic meant his condition would not go away and the best he could do was manage the pain. That is in addition to his overall propensity for injury. Amaro had an obligation to plan for the eventuality and almost inevitability that Utley would return to the disabled list again in 2012.
Amaro not only did not add a backup second baseman or upgrade the position, but he traded utility player Wilson Valdez. Without Valdez, the Phillies were left with Michael Martinez, who hit .196 the year before, and Freddy Galvis, who had never played second base and had a lifetime minor league average of .246. Valdez hit just .206 with the Reds, but Martinez was still worse at .174.
To help shoulder some of the offensive burden of losing Ryan Howard, Ruben Amaro added Laynce Nix, Jim Thome, and Ty Wigginton. While we will not know Laynce Nix's possible impact since he missed most of the season with a calf injury, we do know that Wigginton and Thome did not work out.
Jim Thome proved he was unable to play first base anymore and was ineffective in his role on the bench and needed to be shipped to Baltimore.
Ty Wigginton was another failed experiment. Wigginton proved to be versatile, as he played 125 games at three positions, but he was a defensive liability and committed a total of 12 errors. He also failed at the plate, hitting just .235 with 11 home runs.
Amaro passed on several free agents who would have done a much better job covering for the losses of Howard and Utley. Two of the more expensive options would have been Yoenis Cespedes or Josh Willingham.
The 26-year-old Cespedes signed as an outfielder with Oakland for four years and $36 million. All he did was hit .292 with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs in a pitcher's park in Oakland. The Minnesota Twins signed Josh Willingham for three years and $21 million. He hit 30 doubles, 35 home runs, and drove in 110 runs.
Amaro would have needed to shed some salary elsewhere to acquire either player, but passing on Nix ($1.15 million) and Wigginton ($2 million) would have saved $3.15 million, while replacing Papelbon with Madson would saved another $2 million. The $5.15 million they would have saved along with possibly dealing Victorino or Pence would have more than covered for Willingham or Cespedes.
Several more reasonable options were also available to the Phillies.
Cody Ross signed for one year/$3 million and hit .267 with 22 HR and 81 RBI.
Raul Ibanez at $1.1 million hit .240 with 19 HR. Not great, but still better than Wigginton.
Brandon Moss hit .291 with 21 HR and 52 RBI. He would have cost practically nothing and Ruben did not need to look far since he was with the Phillies and Lehigh Valley just last year.
John Mayberry, Jr. was another bust for Ruben Amaro. I will admit I was a big fan of giving the left fielder's job to John Mayberry prior to the season. After hitting .315 with 10 HR, 25 RBI, and a .621 slugging percentage after July 22 last season, Mayberry had us both fooled. In 2012, he hit .245 with a .301 OBS, 14 HR, and 46 RBI. Worse than that were his numerous mental mistakes at the plate, on the base paths, and in the field. John Mayberry will not be a starter in 2013.
Ruben Amaro gets the blame for Placido Polanco, as well. Polanco has been a terrific hitter throughout his career, but he was a bad signing three years ago. How can I blame Amaro for Polanco getting injured? I'll tell you why. Amaro decided to bring in a 34-year-old free agent onto an already aging team. Polanco would have been a steal at $6 million per season had he been healthy, but he was only healthy for one of the three seasons.
Although it looked good at the time, a general manager must have the ability to see further than just in front of his face. A young team like the Nationals or the Marlins can afford to gamble on an aging player, but an old Phillies team could not. It was an especially costly gamble in 2012, as Polanco played only 90 games and hit .257 with 2 HR and 19 RBI.
Hunter Pence might be the single worst decision in Ruben Amaro's tenure. Pence hit fine for the Phillies this season (.271 avg., 17 HR, 59 RBI), but his undisciplined approach, inability to move runners, and awful outfield play was maddening at times and absolutely not worth the top prospects it took to get him on a terrific 2011 Phillies team.
To acquire Pence, the Phillies gave up three of their best prospects and four players total, exhausting nearly all of the Phillies' remaining quality minor league pieces. Included in the deal was outfielder Jonathan Singleton, who was one of two highly ranked outfielders the Phillies had available. Singleton hit .284 with 21 HR and 79 RBI in AA last season while Domonic Brown hit just .235 with the Phillies this season.
And for what? The Phillies held a 5 game lead over the Braves at the time of the trade. It was nice to add some offense at mid-season, but it was not worth emptying the farm system.
Amaro made a good decision in re-signing Jimmy Rollins. It is hard to overlook his continual failure to run hard, propensity for pop-ups, and unwillingness to take pitches, but he still ranks as one of the best shortstops.
Rollins' .746 OPS ranked sixth among the 16 major-league shortstops with at least 500 plate appearances. His 23 home runs were second only to Washington's Desmond, who had 25, and his 33 doubles were second only to Miami's Jose Reyes, who had 37. His .978 fielding percentage was the best in the National League.
For $800,000, Juan Pierre hit .307, scored 59 runs, stole 37 bases, outworked everyone, hustled every play, mentored any young player who would listen, and had one of the best overall attitudes you will ever encounter. However...
"He obviously had a great year for us," Amaro said. "I think where we're going to go, however, may affect his chances of being with our club. You can look at our club and see how lefthanded we are, and that righthanded bats are something we have to consider. That may not necessarily preclude him from coming back, but I think we have some other fish to fry and that may not be the first one." Along with Pierre goes one of Ruben's few good moves.
Amaro was smart to retain veterans Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz as minor-league insurance. Not sure how much work was involved in keeping them both, but Frandsen and Kratz were welcome surprises.
Remember when you laughed to yourself when the Phils signed Kendrick to a two-year, $7 million contract? Who would have thought that would be a bargain. After a fairly disastrous first half, Kendrick posted a 2.87 ERA in the second half. Kendrick was so dominant that he is a lock for the fourth or fifth starter position in 2013.
Ruben Amaro, Jr., has lived a charmed life as Phillies general manager, inheriting a World Champion and enjoying the National League's highest payroll. Yet since his arrival, he has bought one free agent after another and continually depleted the farm system while his teams have ended their seasons sooner and sooner.
The Phillies general manager completely failed in 2012. It is hard to state it any other way. Largely because of his failings, the Phillies face roadblocks in many areas. He is now short at third base and all three outfield positions. His staff ace is no longer an ace. His team is getting older. Contracts expire next season for three of his superstars. And he doesn't have the Nationals to kick around any longer.
The party is over, Rub. Your inheritance is largely gone and you can't buy your way out of this one. Time to start acting like a real general manager because this might be your last chance.
I just got finished ripping Ruben Amaro for hacking up the 2012 Phillies, but I left out two of his best moves: trading Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. Looks like he timed the trades well, because it hasn't been much of a vacation on the west coast for Pence and Victorino since leaving the Phillies.
It is hard not to notice that Hunter Pence is hitting .105 in the NLCS and I just had to take a look at how Hunter and Shane have done with their new teams.
In 59 games with the San Francisco Giants, Hunter Pence hit .219 with a .287 OBP, .384 SLG, .671 OPS, and 7 home runs.
But get this: despite the awful numbers I mentioned, he knocked in 45 runs in 59 games. That is a ridiculous total which works out to 124 RBI over a full season. What is more amazing is that his home run pace with the Giants (19 HR over 162 games) is significantly less than that with the Phillies (27 HR over 162 games).
Here are Pence's numbers with the Giants as they compare to those with the Phillies and over his career.
Hunter Pence 2012 & Career Stats
Victorino's drop was far less severe than Pence's, but it was still a struggle for Victorino in Los Angeles. In 53 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Shane Victorino hit .245 with a .316 OBP, .351 SLG, .667 OPS, 2 HR, and 15 RBI. Each of those stats mark a decrease over those with the Phillies. The good news for Phillies fans is that it means Victorino will be much cheaper if the Phillies choose to bring him back (although reports say they probably will not).
Here are Victorino's numbers with the Giants as they compare to those with the Phillies and over his career.
Shane Victorino 2012 & Career Stats
Maybe Philadelphia isn't such a bad place after all.
Expect the Phillies roster to look quite a bit different in 2013. With open roster spots in several areas, plenty of Phillies players will say their goodbyes over the offseason. We'll take a look at all of the roster slots and forecasting which players will remain with the Phils and which ones will not.
We will analyze the Phillies roster in two parts starting with the pitching. First, here is a list of pitchers who, barring any major trades, are near locks to make the Phillies roster next season.
The Phillies starting rotation is pretty much set with Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Kendrick, and Worley. Unless something unforeseen happens between now and April 1, those names will remain unchanged. The bullpen is a different story altogether. Jonathan Papelbon is the only reliever we can confidently say right now will sit in the bullpen on Opening Day.
Let's take a look at the comings and goings with the Phillies bullpen.
Phillippe Aumont showed signs of being a closer in the making during his short time with the Phillies. The 6-foot-7, 23-year-old has a fastball that reaches the upper nineties and has devastating movement on his pitches, evidenced by his 11.98 strikeouts per nine innings at Lehigh Valley and 8.59 K's/9 with the Phillies. Aumont had a 3.68 ERA overall, with all but one of those appearances coming in the eighth inning or later.
but it is not likely he will begin the season on the Phillies roster.
Aumont had a 1.08 ERA over his first nine outings and a 1.59 ERA in his final seven, sandwiched around two games in which he gave up 2 runs. The problem with Aumont, and what might keep him off the big club in the early going, has been his control. He walked 6.9 batters per game at AAA and 9 batters in 14.1 innings with the big club.
Aumont is not a polished product just yet and therefore probably will likely begin the season at AAA. The Phillies definitely have Aumont in their long-term plans, so it would be not be the least bit surprising if we see Aumont in a Phillies uniform by mid-season or possibly even sooner.
After posting a 2.64 ERA and dominating hitters in 2011, last season was frustrating to say the least for Antonio Bastardo, who lost 5 games and finished with a 4.33 ERA in 2012.
His walk rate was actually similar to 2011 and his strikeouts per nine innings actually increased from 10.9 in 2011 to 14.0 in 2012, but he allowed 2.6 more hits per game. Part of the reason was that his fastball velocity was noticeably down, which is a problem for a pitcher who only features two pitches.
As nauseating as Bastardo was to watch at times, he will pitch for the Phillies next season. He made $505,000 in 2012 and is worth keeping at the roughly $1 million he will make in his first year of arbitration eligibility. If the Phillies use him in less pressurized situations, hopefully he will pitch more like he did in 2011.
Tyler Cloyd had a remarkable minor league season in 2012. He went 15-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 26 starts at Double A and Triple A. Despite having mediocre stuff, he held his own in the big leagues and showed that he does have some value. Cloyd will probably not be a starter for the Phillies, but he could win a roster spot as a long reliever/spot starter. With a plethora of talented starters in the minors, Cloyd may also be a tradeable piece.
The 40-year-old Contreras did well in his time with the Phillies, but he is coming off elbow surgery and made a total of only 34 appearances in 2011 and 2012. The Phillies will almost certainly not take their $2.5 million club option and will buy him out for $500,000.
Justin De Fratus has a great shot at making the team in 2013. The Phillies always loved his potential, and had it not been for an elbow injury that kept him out for most of last season, he might have seen significant time with the Phils already.
The 24-year-old De Fratus has a career 3.11 minor league ERA and is a much more polished pitcher than most of his fellow young relievers. De Fratus had decent control with 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.95 walks in the minors.
Expect Justin De Fratus to find a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Rich Dubee famously said that Jake Diekman has such potential that he would consider quitting as a pitching coach to become Diekman's agent. Diekman showed that he has big time major league stuff by striking out 35 batters in 27 1/3 innings. But Diekman had serious command issues that make Antonio Bastardo look like the master of control, walking 20 batters.
Diekman might make his agent a ton of money down the road, but he is not ready yet and should spend part, if not all of the 2013 season at Lehigh Valley.
Jeremy Horst certainly turned some heads after he was traded from Cincinnati for Wilson Valdez. At age 26, Horst struck out 40 batters in 31 1/3 innings and had a 1.15 ERA overall. Although his career 3.00 minor league ERA suggests he might not be as good as that sparkling ERA, lefties hit just .170 off him and you could argue that he is a better option than Bastardo.
If he pitches well in Spring Training, Horst may have the inside edge on earning a spot as a lefty reliever in the Phillies bullpen.
At the time the Phillies grabbed the 25-year-old Lindblom from the Dodgers in the Shane Victorino trade, it seemed as if they might have received a gracious gift. Lindblom was young, cheap, and his 3.02 ERA seemed to offer the stability the Phillies needed in the bullpen.
Those thoughts quickly faded after he posted a 4.63 ERA in 26 appearances with the Phillies. The 6-foot-4 righty has a fastball in the mid 90's, but he surrendered 13 home runs, which does not bode well with the short porches at Citizens Bank Park.
Although Lindblom did not prove to be the late inning security blanket they had originally hoped, he is still young and has the potential to change minds once again. He should make the team.
The odds of BJ Rosenberg making the Phillies Opening Day roster are not promising. Rosenberg throws hard, but he has average stuff, a flat fastball, and posted a 6.12 ERA with the Phillies. Unless another team takes him, Rosenberg with begin the season at Lehigh Valley.
I'm sure you heard the Joe Savery story in which he was drafted as a starter, switched to first base, then switched back to pitching as a left-handed reliever. It is a nice story that unfortunately did not translate into much success. In 19 appearances, most of which were as a long reliever, Savery posted a 5.40 ERA.
It would seem at first glance that Savery has no chance at making the team, but he was effective against lefties, who hit .243 off him with one homer, no walks, and seven strikeouts in 42 plate appearances. It is doubtful that will win Savery a roster spot, but if some of the younger lefty relievers struggle, we might see him from time to time during the season.
Michael Schwimer pitched well in the minors in 2010 and 2011, but his minor league success has not translated to the major league level. Schwimer had a 4.46 ERA in 35 appearances with the Phillies in 2012, but he needs to show more than just a big arm to earn a roster spot with the Phillies in 2013.
He didn't exactly help his own cause when he came just short of filing a grievance against the Phillies for not placing him on the disabled list last season. Schwimer does not seem to work into the Phillies plans next season.
Mike Stutes surprised many with a solid rookie season in 2011, but made just six appearances last season before being shut down and undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Stutes should make the team at some point next season, but he needs to prove that he is healthy first.