The proverbial first half of the season is over as we enter the All-Star break. The Phillies, regardless of how the Marlins or Mets fair this evening, will go into the break in first place. It’s report card time. Let’s see how have the individual players done?
Jimmy Rollins (SS): After an improbable MVP award in 2007, Rollins has not picked up where he left off in October. Rollins missed a lot of time early in the season after being injured at Shea Stadium in April. Since his return, he has been wildly inconsistent. He shows flashes of brilliance, yet he has had a pedestrian first half of the ’08 campaign. What happened to his power numbers? Rollins is on pace for 12 homers this year. Rollins hit 25 long balls in 2006 and a career high 30 homers last season. (.274 average, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 24 SB)
Shane Victorino (CF): In his first year as a starter in the big leagues, Victorino has showed that he can play and contribute on a full time basis. His average and on base percentage are above his career averages this year. Since the return of Davey Lopes from cancer treatments, he has become a menace on the base paths again with 22 stolen bases. What should not be overlooked is his defense. He single has been terrific in center field with his speed and arm. Think back to the game in Atlanta where he threw the ball on a rope from center field to throw the game tying run out at home. Additionally, he has had some clutch hits to win games. He tied the game this week with an eighth inning triple as the Phillies beat the Diamondbacks. He also won the game on July 4 with a walk off single. (.279, 5HR, 29 RBI)
Chase Utley (2B): Despite a recent slump, Chase Utley is still the best second baseman in Major League Baseball. He received the most votes in the National League for the All-Star game and will start the game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday after competing in the Home Run Derby tonight. Utley has also played Gold Glove defense for the Phillies which may help his case in September to be the Phillies’ third straight MVP(.291, 25 HR, 69 RBI)
Ryan Howard (1B): Howard’s early season struggles have been well documented. His achievements lately, however, should get top billing when deciding his first half grade. Howard leads Major League Baseball with 28 home runs and is second in RBI with 84 only to Josh Hamilton who is playing out of this universe this year. Since June 16, Howard has raised his much maligned batting average by 21 points. Howard was certainly the biggest All-Star snub, but it might just put a chip on his massive shoulders which could serve as motivation in the second half of the year. Remember last season’s MVP? Jimmy Rollins didn’t make the All-Star game en route to his MVP. (.234 average, 28 HR, 84 RBI)
Grade: B+ (His average can’t be given a complete free pass. We know he can do better, thus he doesn’t deserve an A… yet.)
Pat Burrell (LF): After a torrid April where he hit .326, 8 HR, and 24 RBI, Pat Burrell has been one of the most consistent bats in the Phillies’ lineup. Burrell, another All-Star snub, finished third in the fan’s ‘Final Vote’. Regardless of his snub, Burrell has had a great first half. He leads all National League outfielders in OPS. (.275, 23 HR, 57 RBI)
Right Field Platoon (Geoff Jenkins and Jayson Werth): Geoff Jenkins has been a disappointment since trading his Brewers gear for red pinstripes. He is hitting a paltry .237 with little power (7HR – 24 RBI). Jayson Werth has fared much better in right field. Werth has delivered clutch hits (most recently a 2 out 2 strike homer off of Billy Wagner to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th inning). Werth even managed a three home run game. He is hitting .271 with 12 homers and 36 RBI.
Grade: Jenkins (D) Werth (B)
Pedro Feliz: For Feliz, it is important to consider offense and defense. He has been inconsistent at the plate posting a .270 average. However, his defense has been remarkable. Remember when Charlie Manuel had to actually allow Abe Nunez into the game to get some solid defense at the hot corner? This is quite an improvement. (.270 average, 12 HR, 45 RBI) Offense: C+ Defense: A+
Catching Platoon (Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste): Carlos Ruiz has been absolutely awful at the plate. There is no way around this one. Ruiz is hitting .202 with 2 homers and 20 RBI. He has played average defense. Chris Coste began the year as the backup and has quickly become the every other day catcher. Coste has cooled lately, but maintains a .279 average and good power for a 35 year old backup career minor league catcher.
Grade: Ruiz (D) Coste (B)
Starting Pitching: Cole Hamels has been nothing short of outstanding. Although his record doesn’t reflect it, Hamels has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. If the lineup could score when he toes the rubber, Hamels could have 13 wins at the break. Poor run production can’t take away from his 3.15 ERA, 126 K, and 2 complete game shutouts. Hamels continues to improve as his ERA has dropped 24 points from last year where he was an All-Star.
Kyle Kendrick is on pace to win 14 games in his sophomore season. Kendrick’s most impressive stat is his ability to keep the Phillies in games. The Phillies are 14-5 when Kendrick starts. Nobody is still sure where he came from (he wasn’t even in big league camp last spring before his rise to the bigs), but the 23 year old righty is here to stay. Kendrick is now 18-7 for his big league career.
Jamie Moyer has found the fountain of youth in 2008. At 45 years old, Moyer has lowered his ERA 1.06 runs per game from last year. Moyer, 8-6, has a 3.95 ERA and has won some of the most important games for the Phillies dating back to his September 30 start last year. The Phillies are 3 games over .500 when the ageless wonder takes the hill.
Brett Myers has been a complete disappointment. Myers is 3-9 with a 5.84 ERA. Myers, as it has been well documented, took the mature approach to accepting a demotion to AAA Lehigh Valley to work on mechanics and his mental approach to the game. Myers, who has been solid against lesser competition, should be ready to rejoin the rotation after one AAA start following the All-Star break.
Adam Eaton. Adam Eaton. Well, what can you say about Adam Eaton. He may be the worst signing in recent Philadelphia sports history. After signing a 3 year $24 million contract before last season, Eaton has been a number 5 starter on a good day. This year, Eaton is 3-8 with a 5.71 ERA. Eaton struggled so mightily last year he was left off of the playoff roster.
J.A. Happ has made two starts this year while Myers finds himself in the Lehigh Valley. The Phillies are 2-0 when Happ takes the mound. Happ has pitched 11 innings while surrendering 4 earned runs. Happ’s 3.27 ERA is a much welcomed change from the inconsistent ways of Myers and Eaton.
Hamels: A Kendrick: B+ Moyer: B+ Myers: F Eaton: F Happ: A-
Bullpen: The Phillies bullpen has been remarkable. Remember last year when we had Jose Mesa, Antonio Alfonseca, and Geoff Geary making late inning appearances? Now, if the starter can give the bullpen a lead it is almost a done deal. Now, the Phillies have the best bullpen in the National League. It begins at the back end with Brad ‘Lights Out’ Lidge who boasts a 2-0 record, 1.13 ERA, and 20 saves in 20 opportunities. I’m still not sure how Chad Durbin is this good, but, numbers don’t lie. Durbin is 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA. JC Romero is 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA and Ryan Madson is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA. That is quite a back end of the bullpen.
Team Grade: The Phillies got off to a mediocre start and began to pick it up to take over first place in the NL East in early June. After getting to a season high 13 games over .500, the Phillies have scuffled. However, at the break, the Phillies are 0.5 games ahead of the Mets for first place in the division.
There is still a lot of work to be done (and a starter or two to be added) to see these pictures again.