Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Even When They're Good, They're Bad

Cole Hamels is 15-8 with a 3.34 ERA in his career against the Braves

Today the Phillies’ completed a no-hitter using four different pitchers, their first combined no-hitter in their 130 year history and the 12th in team history. It will surely go down as the most memorable moment of this abysmal 2014 season. But as I was planning on writing even before this somewhat historic feat, even when these Phillies are good, they are bad.

Take today as a case in point. Sure, Cole Hamels tossed 6 innings of no-hit ball but Cole would certainly tell you he’s pitched better in a plenty of games this season. Hell, he only made it through six innings despite not giving up any hits. Hamels was less than sharp walking 5 and hitting a batter en route to 108 pitches after 18 outs.  His turn came up to hit in the bottom of the 6th and Sandy wasted no time sending Grady Sizemore out to pinch-hit for Hamels. His afternoon was done even with the chance at immortality still in his grasp.

Sandy turned to a bullpen combination that has been somewhat dominant (the somewhat is Jake Diekman) in Jake Diekman, Ken Giles, and Jonathan Papelbon to try and persevere the no-hitter. Those three combined for three perfect innings and the Phils were able to squeeze out a bright spot on Labor Day against their division rival Atlanta Braves, who flat out can’t hit.

So this is a nice accomplishment and a “neat feat” but having Cole Hamels only be able to finish six innings while walking five is just another prime example of the Phillies being bad, even when they’re good.

More cases in point – Has any one taken a look at the NL batting title race lately? I have a pretty good chuckle to myself every time I see Justin Morneau slip down a few points and still manage to hold on to his grasp of the league lead. Little Ben Revere has been making a push the past few months to try and claim this title for the Phillies for the first time since Richie Ashburn did it more than 50 years ago.

What a pathetic race this is though! Currently, Morneau is tied with Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates at .311. 311?!? Are you kidding me? Under .315 has a good chance to walk away with a batting title this year? Pete Rose could probably still do that. Benny sits about one hit behind the leaders at .310. Last year, Michael Cuddyer won the batting title hitting .331 and that was the lowest mark in over 20 years! The last guy to win a batting title in the NL under .320 was Terry Pendleton (.319) for the Braves in 1991.

More to the point of Benny being bad even though he is good, of the top 10 hitters in the NL right now Benny has the lowest on base percentage (.328), the lowest slugging percentage (obviously, .364) and even after a 5 RBI day yesterday the lowest amount of RBI (20).  He’s also the only hitter in the top 10 with less than 2.1 WAR, coming in at a whopping .6 WAR despite the 3rd highest batting average in the league.

When you take a look at the rest of the Phillies roster almost every player on here is good for something, but just not good overall. Not good enough to help the team win.

A few weeks back while discussing Ryan Howard during his Sunday broadcast gig, Mike Schmidt insisted that “you couldn’t have a bad season if you got to 100 RBI.”  Well, Mike my friend, what about old Ryan Howard? If he continues at his current pace he’s going to prove you wrong on that statement. Miraculously, Howard and his 87 RBI sit at 4th in the NL despite hitting .225 and slugging just .383. Of the other men in the top 10 in RBI in the NL, Howard’s slugging percentage is .41 points lower than anybody else. Of those same 10 men Ryan Braun has the least amount of WAR at 1.3, except for Howard who has compiled a -1.0 WAR for the season. Eeeessshhh.

Meanwhile, Marlon Byrd, perhaps the Phillies most productive hitter, has been swinging for the fences all season. It has worked, to an extent. He’s 5th in the NL in home runs with 25 (a career high) but he also leads the Majors in strikeouts with 164. If you’re teammates with Ryan Howard and you hold your team lead in strikeouts something is off there, I don’t care what your other production is. Byrd is hitting .268 and leads the team in slugging so it’s certainly not all bad.

Jimmy Rollins has been a bit hot of late so I don’t have to throw up every time I check his box score. Is it sad that I’m fairly excited to see he’s up to .249? The answer to that question is yes. Rollins does have a career high in walks (62) this year and has a decent shot to have a 20 homer 20 steal season as a 35 year old shortstop. That batting average though, it’s tough to take, especially when he’s come in at .250 and .252 the prior two years.

Lastly, Saint Chase. Nobody likes to rag on Chase Utley in Philadelphia, but come on Chase, where has all the power gone? I don’t know if it’s his knees or what, but Utley just flat out does not drive the ball for power at anything more than a normal-ass second baseman clip. Nobody has ever referred to Utley’s power as “normal-ass” for a second baseman I guarantee you that. After racking up 21 doubles and hitting .320 through May this year Utley has not done much of anything at the plate. He hit .240 in June, .268 in July, and .243 in August. During those three months he only produced 16 extra base hits and is in line for a career low slugging percentage of .418. Despite all this he’s the best position player on the team by most accounts.

So even when the Phillies are good, they are bad. Here’s to watching Rollins, Howard, and Utley start on opening day next year. Cheers!