Evaluating the ‘big-budget disaster’
There are few silver linings in the most frustrating Phillies season in many years. Sure, the Phillies fielded some bad teams during the Terry Francona era but none of those squads were a big-budget disaster like the 2013 model. Almost everything that could have gone wrong did fall apart for Ruben Amaro. Let’s start with what went awry for the Phillies.
The lack of offense: The Phillies only averaged 3.7 runs a game, which is worse than anemic. Even the moribund Houston Astros scored more runs than the Phillies ,who were 27th in the league in scoring. That’s why Cole Hamels appeared well on his way to losing 20 games for the season back in June. Ryan Howard missed the second half of the season and played injured most of the first half. Delmon Young started the season on the disabled list and was unproductive. Jimmy Rollins never hit the DL but the dependable shortstop fell off an offensive cliff. Rollins only scored 65 runs and drove in just 39. J-Roll only had six homers. For the first three-quarters of the season, the Phillies received virtually no offense out of the catcher’s spot.
The bullpen: It was hard to believe, but the Phillies’ pen was actually worse in 2013 than in the Chad Qualls-led 2012 campaign. Mike Adams was ineffective and ultimately shut down for the season. None of the kiddie relievers from Triple-A Lehigh Valley made an impact in the first half of the season. Jonathan Papelbon, who blew seven saves, lost several miles an hour off of his fastball.
The starting rotation: MLB analyst Mitch Williams said for the Phillies to be competitive they needed at least 15 wins from Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. That obviously didn’t happen. Lee somehow won 14 games. Hamels received the least offensive support for a NL pitcher and Halladay was a disaster. John Lannan was primarily hurt and ineffective. Kyle Kendrick was on a mid-season roll, but pitched terribly down the stretch.
The silver linings: Domonic Brown had a tremendous first half and was justifiably the lone Phillies position player invited to the All-Star Game. Brown, who has immense physical talent, appears to be finally putting it together. Chase Utley missed a month due to a strained oblique, but his creaky knees held up the entire season. When Utley played, it smacked of 2009. No wonder the Phillies re-signed the aging Utley, who led the team with a .284 average. Utley also slammed 18 homers and legged out six triples. Prior to breaking his ankle Ben Revere was coming into his own as a pesky, speedy singles hitter. Revere was on fire for five weeks before his mid-July injury ended his season. Darin Ruf looks like he could be a solid fourth outfielder/back-up first baseman. The Phillies finished with the seventh-worst record in baseball. That’s not just good for draft positioning. That allows the Phillies to select a Type A free agent without losing a first pick in the draft.
Leadership: It was a given even before Charlie Manuel was fired that Ryne Sandberg would take over the club. The Phillies responded to Sandberg immediately. If Amaro makes the right moves in the offseason and adds talent, it’ll be interesting to see what Sandberg can do with a decent lineup.
The offseason: Amaro has a lot of work to do. The GM must make a number of right moves. The Phillies aren’t just a piece or two from returning to contention even though they have a pair of aces, the toughest commodity to come by in baseball. Much has to go right in terms of free-agent acquisitions and trades, and the Phillies must hope that Howard and Utley are healthy and productive and Rollins rebounds. Stay tuned.