- Updated: September 28, 2013
One can sum up the 2013 Phillies in one single word…
They will finish this season with a losing record for the first time since 2002. The last time they were at least 16 games below .500 was the year 2000. Yet another season that began with promise, but went south in a hurry.
Back in February I wrote down five things to keep an eye on in spring training. The first was how the starting rotation would shake out. From the start it was clear that Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee would be a solid one-two punch.
By far the biggest question going into this year was the health and well being of Roy Halladay. Doc came off a rough 2012 that saw a drop in velocity and a stint on the disabled list. The constant workhorse for so many years finally began to show some wear and tear. Well, it would not be long before it became evident that Doc had lost a step or two. He was hit hard in multiple spring outings, and it would carry into the season.
He would find some smooth spots here and there, but was routinely roughed up for first inning runs and very high pitch counts. It was revealed in late April that rotator cuff damage was partially to blame for his struggles, and would require surgery. To his credit, he would work his way back to a late August return and has made most every start since. That trouble is, he is a shell of himself.
The team signed free agent lefty John Lannan to round out the rotation, but the inexpensive move did not pay much dividend. Lannan landed on the disabled list himself at one point, but when he was pitching no one was scared. Lannan’s 2013 record is 3-6 with a 5.33 earned run average. He allowed 86 hits and 44 earned runs in 74 1/3 innings pitched this season. Talk about a space filler.
Kyle Kendrick was given the fourth starter’s job, and while he managed to stay healthy, his record is 10-13 with an ERA of 4.70.
Hamels & Lee provided the most consistency, but when they did they were often left hanging by the offense.
The outfield was another spot on the field to watch in spring training. Newcomer Ben Revere, acquired last winter in a trade, was called upon to provide speed between the gaps and on the base paths. After struggling early on, he wound up hitting above .300 at one point and did provide some speed at the top of the lineup. His drawbacks are his lack of power at the plate (no career home runs) and his arm in the field.
Still, Revere infused some youth, speed and top shelf fielding that his team sorely needed. Unfortunately for him and the club, he fouled a ball off of his ankle midsummer, breaking it and ending his season right as he was hitting his stride. Losing his bat at that point was big blow.
Elsewhere, the team signed free agent Delmon Young in the hopes that he could provide power and offense while filling a corner outfield spot. Suffice it to say, the Delmon Young experiment failed. As fast as Revere was in the field, Young was that slow and then some. His contributions at the plate were not much better. He hit .261 for the team, with 31 runs batted in and 69 strikeouts. He was designated for assignment in early August.
Perhaps the biggest bright spot in 2013 was left fielder Domonic Brown. Given multiple opportunities to make this team and make an impact, Brown was on thin ice going into 2013. Lofty expectations and injuries played a factor in his progression these last three years, but he made the club out of spring training and never looked back.
Though his fielding still needs some work, he was the sole provided of power for a while. He clubbed his way to 27 home runs, 82 RBI and 132 hits. He made his first career all-star game in the process. The off-season addition of assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner helped spark Brown’s development this year. Joyner helped him adjust his stance at the plate, including moving his hands down for a more level swing. The proof is in the pudding.
Laynce Nix & John Mayberry, Jr. also made the squad out of Clearwater, but did no provide much pop off the bench. Mayberry in particular is guy that has shown flashes, but ultimately is not an everyday player. An outfield power bat from the right side would have been huge for this team, but Mayberry just has not been able to hit consistently. He might just be a guy that benefits from being a mediocre bat in a potent lineup to see more pitches.
The bullpen was next on the list, and from top to bottom, it was a mess.
Start with closer Jonathan Papelbon, the one lock going into 2013 right? Not really.
Papelbon was inconsistent in the ninth inning, blowing five consecutive save opportunities at one point. He also saw a drop in velocity this season, making him less intimidating to hitters.
By far the biggest disappointment in the ‘pen this year was free agent Mike Adams. Signed last winter from the Texas Rangers, he was hoped to be an extraordinary setup man and make the bridge to Papelbon a steady one. That did not happen.
Adams has a history of injuries, and that history reared it’s ugly head on the Phils. After going 1-4 in 28 games with an ERA of almost four, it was discovered that Adams had three tears in his throwing shoulder, effectively ending his season. He is signed through next season, and the team is unlikely to find any takers for a damaged 35 year old pitcher.
With their setup man gone, the team looked to young south paw Antonio Bastardo, who to his credit performed admirably. He was 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 48 games, that is, before he tested positive for steroids. Bastardo was suspended for 50 games, and the bullpen took yet another hit.
The team also signed former Phillie and Brave Chad Durbin to a one year deal to help “bolster” the pen. It was a disaster. Durbin allowed exactly one run per inning pitched, 16 ER in 16 innings. His ERA was an even 9.00 in 16 games before being released.
This area of the squad just could not stay on course at all in 2013.
The fourth thing to watch for in spring training was how the bench would round out. Because of injuries and inconsistency, the bench was in a constant state of flux, much like the bullpen.
The two biggest contributor off the bench this year, and the most consistent, was utility man Kevin Frandsen. While provided versatility in the field (he can play third, second, first base and the outfield), he came through with some big hits to win some games late for the Phillies. He was basically the only source of power off the bench. He is hitting .236 as a pinch hitter this year with a home run and eight runs batted in. The numbers don’t jump out, but Frandsen has earned a spot on this roster heading into 2014.
With this team bitten by the injury bug, prospects like Darin Ruf, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp have all had at-bats this year and all of have made contributions in some way. Ruf leads the way with 14 home runs and 30 RBI in the 72 games since his callup.
The bench was seen many players in 2013…MANY players.
Finally, perhaps the biggest question mark going into 2013 was whether or not this team could remain even relatively healthy. Franchise players Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard are all on the wrong side of 30 now. Utley and Howard in particular missed significant periods of time in 2012.
Though he landed on the disabled list for a time this season, Utley will play 130 games in 2013. With all the knee problems and rehabilitation the he has been through the last three years, that is an amazing statistic. Make no mistake, he is not your grandfather’s Chase Utley. His range at second is not what it was, and the power is not either. But, the instincts and the scrapper mentality are unchanged.
Utley his hitting .283 this season with 18 round trippers and 68 RBI. Management can ask no more from the 34 year old second baseman who has made a home in the hears of Phillie fans everywhere.
The same cannot be said for Ryan Howard, unfortunately. He played in just 80 games this year before being sidelined with a torn meniscus in his knee. Don’t forget he tore his achilles at the very end of 2011 which has affected his power tremendously. Leading up to the injury, Howard struck out 95 times in 286 at-bats and was an easy out for left handed pitchers. He simply could not hit breaking pitches and was easily thrown off balance.
He has not played since the injury was announced, paving the way for Darin Ruf to play his natural position of first base. The team was counting on him to not only remain healthy, but provide power in the lineup as he did in the past. A lot to ask from a guy still not 100 percent after his achilles injury. The torque of his swing has not been the same since the achilles injury, and his plate discipline has not been good either.
The Phillies suffered three big blows with the losses of Howard, Adams and Revere, though all at different times. Those injuries, coupled with inconsistency at the plate and a weak back end of the rotation equated to losses and frustration.
So much so, that even with an uncertain future ahead of him, manager Charlie Manuel was dismissed in August after winning his 1000th career game. Ryne Sandberg was named interim manager and has since been named the full time skipper. Though it was easy to see that coming, Manuel deserved better than that.
All told, this team had flaws that were quite visible after 2012. General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. did very little to fix those flaws. He took cheap risks on players such as Delmon Young, Adams and Lannan as band aids over a gaping wound. Like it or not, he is the reason that this team finds itself old, beaten up and inconsistent, not Charlie Manuel.
But Sandberg knows the task at hand, and also the young players available to him. He managed them at Triple-A Lehigh and coached them well. He has had nothing but success in his career managing at the minor league levels. It is reasonable to think that he can have similar success with the big league club, given his familiarity with the players. They love playing for him and he knows how to get the best out of them.
The question is, will Amaro be able to support his manager with the resources needed to field a complete team?
This much is certain; if he can’t, it will not be the manager who loses his job at mid season in 2014.
Stats Coutesy of Baseball-Reference.com
Photo Courtesy of Eldiariony.com