June was yet another successful month for the Phillies. They finished 17-10 and extended their lead to 4 games in the NL East.
June did not start out well for the Phils. The Phillies began with four straight losses to the Nationals and Pirates and lost 5 of their final six games of the road trip. But they returned home to win 2 of 3 vs. the Dodgers and 3 of 4 against the Cubs. They then faced a lowly Marlins team in the midst of an historic slump, sweeping the four game series and extending their lead over the fish from 7.5 to 11.5 games.
After winning 6 of the next ten games against Seattle, St. Louis, and Oakland, the Phillies faced the Boston Red Sox in a possible World Series preview. The Phillies won two of three from the Sox and watched Cliff Lee's third straight shutout that extended his scoreless streak to 32 innings.
June was another example of why "pitching and defense" wins championships. Despite finishing 11th in the league in runs, the Phillies rode their league best 3.01 ERA to not only maintain, but extend their division lead.
And the injuries continued to mount for the Phillies. They lost Roy Oswalt again to injury, likely for more than just 15 days. The Phillies also placed Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras on the DL, making Antonio Bastardo their fourth closer of the year.
The Phillies began the month as the best team in baseball and finished as the best team in baseball. Not bad.
Batting Average: 14th (.229)
Runs: 11th (888)
HR: 9th (21)
(Least) Strikeouts: 1st (153)
SB: 9th (16)
ERA: 1st (3.01)
BB: 1st (212)
SO: 4th (327)
WHIP: 1st (118)
Top win streak: 7
Top losing streak: 3
Home record: 13-4
Road record: 4-6
Series record: 7-2
Began month: 34-21 - 1st place - 2 game lead over Marlins
Finished month: 51-31 - 1st place - 4 game lead over Braves
If Charlie Manuel was a pitcher for the Phillies, he would undoubtedly be a closer. Charlie Manuel teams have a reputation for sluggish starts and tremendous finishes. Now the Phillies finally provided Charlie with the strong start he's been looking for.
Since Charlie arrived in 2005, Phillies fans have watched the home team improve their record in 5 of his 7 years as skipper. This is the Phillies 5th winning first half under Charlie and the third time his Phillies team took a lead entering the second half. And as a club, it is the first time since 1993 the Phillies reached the all-star break on pace for 100 wins.
Just as the Phillies payroll spiked this year, the same is true with their first half record. Under Manuel, the Phillies 2011 winning percentage of .626 is 68 points higher than their second best winning percentage of .558 in 2009. Over a full season that equates to 11 more wins.
Check out the Phillies first-half records under Charlie Manuel:
|Season||W||L||Win Pct.||NL East Rank||GB|
The bottom line is this: Charlie Manuel continually succeeds despite poor starts. Just imagine what he can do now that he finally has an elite team at the all-star break?
There is no question that Cole Hamels has reached the pinnacle of his career so far with the Phillies. Featuring the best ERA and WHIP on the Phillies starting staff, it is not a stretch at all to say that Cole Hamels is the best Phillies starter this season. Yes, even better than Roy Halladay.
I've been taking a little extra personal interest in him since picking Hamels to win the Cy Young this year, so I wanted to see how his first half in 2011 compares to his other seasons. Take a look:
See all the yellow highlighting. Those are categories in which Hamels set career best totals (remember these are just 1st half stats). 2011 was Hamels' best first half in Wins, Winning Percentage, ERA, Innings, BB/SO ratio, and WHIP. Ridiculous.
Cole Hamels is so much better than he used to be that he wouldn't even recognize his old self in the mirror. Hamels even admits it himself. “I don’t even know how I did so well back then,” Hamels said on June 9. “Seriously. Being able to throw four pitches is a lot easier than two.”
Yet with guys named Halladay and Lee pitching ahead of him, Hamels still flies under the radar. Not that he needs to worry. One year away from free agency, Hamels will take that anonymity to the bank very soon.
Attention Ruben Amaro and anyone of the Phillies top brass:
DO NOT BRING CARLOS BELTRAN TO THE PHILLIES
I beg you, please don't bring Carlos Beltran to the Phillies
Trading for Carlos Beltran would be an awful idea for the Phillies. Would adding him to the roster help the Phillies this year? Probably. Is he worth the trade? Absolutely not.
First of all, the Phillies need a replacement for Jayson Werth who can disrupt the lefty-lefty matchups against Utley and Howard. Beltran does not really serve that need. Yes, he is hitting .291 this year and .339 in July, but he is hitting just .232 against lefties. If he can't hit lefties, what purpose does he serve?
I understand the "win it now" philosophy, but at what cost? The Mets will likely ask for Domonic Brown, Vance Worley, or several highly ranked prospects from an already depleted Phillies farm system. Ruben Amaro gave away quite a bit already to grab Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt. Trading away even more takes away nearly all bargaining chips for future free agents. By trading for Beltran now, the Phillies run the risk of falling off the cliff in a few years and "defaulting" on the future.
With the best record in baseball and with Lidge, Oswalt, and Polanco returning, the Phillies may not need to risk the future. Despite how bad it seems, the Phillies' offense ranks right in the middle in the National League. Matched with the best pitching staff in the NL, there is no need for any drastic moves. And if Howard, Utley, Ruiz, and Ibanez play like they are capable, we could have one of the best offenses in no time.
Let me finish with another plea to Ruben Amaro:
Fans somehow got the idea that the Phillies would again make a big splash at the trading deadline. Of course they want Beltran; he gives the Phils a better chance to win now! But we already have a tremendous chance to win now and Beltran doesn't guarantee anything. Don't make a stupid move. Go for Hunter Pence who makes us better now and in the future if you want, but don't waste it on Beltran.
Did you realize the 2011 Phillies might be the BEST PHILLIES TEAM EVER?
The Phillies have a .640 winning percentage and are on pace to finish with 103.68 wins, which would be the best in team history. That win total would be higher than the Phillies current high mark of 101 wins twice in 1976 and 1976. It would also outrank the Phils best winning percentage of .623 accomplished three times (1886, 1976, and 1977).
Of course this year's Phillies still need to go a minimum of 38-24 (.613) to reach club immortality, which on its own ranks fifth best in team history....
If Vance Worley wasn't a household name before, tonight's complete game may have officially put the Phillies right-hander on the map. But is Vance Worley for real?
The numbers sure say he is. In 13 games, Worley is 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA (would be best in the league if he had enough innings to qualify). He now has a complete game to his credit, his 1.09 WHIP is fourth on the team, and he is third on the Phillies with 6.43 hits per 9 innings. Vance Worley has done nothing but put up zeros for the Phillies, yet has few true believers.
It is easy to see why baseball experts aren't jumping on the Vance Worley bandwagon. He throws a slightly below average fastball in the 88-92 range and features very bland secondary pitches (cutter, curve, slider, change). The fact is, Worley won't WOW you with anything.
What Worley lacks in power and pizzazz he makes up for in command. He has excellent control of all his pitches, changes speeds well, and moves the ball up, down, left, and right. By throwing strikes, he routinely finds himself ahead in the count. Vance also has three variations of his fastball and doesn't throw anything straight (and Greg Maddux made a career doing just that).
What Worley has not developed yet is a "put away pitch" like a sharp changeup or a nasty slider. Without that one devastating pitch, Worley has difficulty striking out hitters which therefore runs up his pitch count.
The question we have to ask ourselves is this: is Worley one pitch away from being a legit top of the line starter or he just putting on a good magic show and we just haven't found the rabbit yet?
To hopefully answer that question, I analyzed every single pitch from 6 of his starts myself - by the way, if anyone knows a database that does this for me, please let me know! My hope was that it would tell a story to explain the Vance Worley phenomenon. Well, I didn't get much, but I did find one interesting pattern:
Worley throws a lot of fastballs. 65% of Worley's pitches are a combination of four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastballs. That is a very high and dangerous percentage. Consider this, if Worley threw one pitch per batter with this percentage he would throw 6 fastballs and just 3 off-speed pitches. Cole Hamels is proof that the cutter is quite different from the two and four seam fastballs, but 65% is still a lot of pitches at essentially the same speed.
With such a high reliance on fastballs, Worley walks a fine line between domination and ineptitude because he must locate perfectly to survive. Hitters love fastballs. The more you give them, the greater the chance they will "get you." If Worley continues to live on the corners like he has and avoids the middle of the plate he can continue to put up zeros. But if he is just a smidgen off he might be in for a long day.
If Worley pitches exactly like he has, it is just a matter of time before the dream is over. Look at Kyle Kendrick. He pitched well in his first two seasons, but two years later the Phillies told him to get another pitch or stop calling. Worley is in the same boat where he either needs to find a new pitch or develop his slider or changeup into a strikeout pitch. If he does, it gives him much more flexibility to mix and match his other pitches and maybe even expand the zone.
For now, we may have to continue playing wait-and-see. If you want to decide for yourself, Worley's pitching log is below. Enjoy!
7/26/11 SFG - Total Pitches - 114
Win (Complete Game), 9.0 innings, 2 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K
Fast - 73
Cut - 1
Curve - 5
Slide - 28
Change - 7
7/20/11 at Chc - Total Pitches - 110
Win, 8.0 innings, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 K
Fast - 56
Cut - 5
Curve - 3
Slide - 38
Change - 8
Fastball percentage - 51%
Fastball + Cutter percentage - 55%
7/4/11 at Fla - Total Pitches - 100
Win, 7.0 innings, 0 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K
Fast - 37
Cut - 26
Curve - 12
Slide - 19
Change - 6
Fastball percentage - 37%
Fastball + Cutter percentage - 63%
6/29/11 BOS Total Pitches - 118
Win, 7.0 innings, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K
Fast - 85
Cut - 0
Curve - 2
Slide - 16
Change - 15
Fastball percentage - 72%
Fastball + Cutter percentage - 72%
6/24 at Oak Total Pitches - 105
ND, 6.0 innings, 0 ER, 1 H, 4 BB, 4 K
Fast - 75
Cut - 3
Curve - 4
Slide - 12
Change - 11
Fastball percentage - 71%
Fastball + Cutter percentage - 74%
5/29 at Nym Total Pitches - 72
Lost 3.0 innings, 5 ER, 12 H, 0 BB, 1 K
Fast - 37
Cut - 9
Curve - 9
Slide - 9
Change - 8
Fastball percentage - 51%
Fastball + Cutter percentage - 64%
WORLEY'S OVERALL 6 GAME TOTALS
Total Pitches - 620
Fast - 363 - 58.5%
Cut - 44 - 7.1%
Curve - 35 - 5.6%
Slide - 123 - 19.8%
Change - 55 - 8.9%
Fast + Cut 65.6%