MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 19: Domonic Brown #9 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a bases clearing double in the top of the 3rd inning against the Milwaukee Brewers putting the Phillies up 5-0 over the Brewers at Miller Park on August 19, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
The Phillies wrapped up the first half of their season on Sunday in the same fashion that they finished the 2012 season: with a .500 record, and a whole bunch of questions about what's next.
After finishing up a ten game homestand with a 7-3 record, including a pair of extra-inning wins against the Chicago White Sox to wrap up the first half, the Phillies find themselves 6.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the National League east at 48-48. It's an unenviable position for General Manager Ruben Amaro, who has to decide over the next few weeks whether or not the team is in a position to make a run for the division, or if they are better off selling and looking forward to next season.
All told, the first half of the season was more-or-less what we have come to expect from this team. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't great. There were some highs, some lows, and a handful of surprises.
First, the highs.
The starting rotation, which was delivered a tough blow early on with Roy Halladay's injury, has been solid through the first half of the season. In total, they have a 3.90 ERA in 596 innings of work, which is good enough for ninth in the National League. It's not the rotation from 2011, but it's been good enough, considering. Cliff Lee (10-3, 2.86) has been as good as ever, and Cole Hamels (4-11, 4.17), after a rough start, has been good, despite his record. Kyle Kendrick (8-6, 3.68) has continued his run of success dating back to last season, and has pitched the second most innings (124.2) of any Phillies starter in the first half. Rounding out the rotation is rookie right-hander Jonathan Pettibone (5-3, 3.89) and veteran John Lannan (2-3, 3.76) have been solid, but unspectacular.
Domonic Brown, who earned a starting job after a great spring, caught fire in May, and has been the team's best offensive weapon, with a team-high .855 OPS and 23 homers. His performance has earned the 25-year-old a trip to the All Star game.
Not to be overlooked is Chase Utley, who has bounced back nicely from a pair of injury-ridden seasons to hit .272/.332/.492 in 66 games. Despite missing time due to an oblique injury, Utley has 11 homers and 15 doubles, and trails only St. Louis' Matt Carpenter in OPS among National League second basemen.
The team's newest outfielder, Ben Revere, has had quite a first half, despite ending the month of April with a .200 batting average. He rebounded nicely, with a .347 average over the next 65 games. Unfortunately, a broken foot on the next-to-last day of the first half will shelve the speedy Revere for 6-8 weeks, but he's proven to be a very nice addition to the offense.
Unfortunately, that's are about the only high points from the offense, which has been otherwise miserable. In total, the Phillies are scoring 3.86 runs per game, which is 12th in the National League. Although they haven't had any trouble hitting home runs, they are getting on-base at a .311 clip, which is slightly under league average.
Thanks to Ryan Howard's injury, which will keep him out of commission for the next two months, as well as a drop off in power from Jimmy Rollins (4 HR), and Carlos Ruiz (0 HR in 34 games), the Philllies have getting very little from their key contributors over the last few seasons.
As bad as the offense has been, it doesn't compare to the bullpen, which has been an absolute let-down this season. Their 4.39 ERA is dead-last in the National League, and despite the relative success of Jonathan Papelbon (even in light of his fifth blown save on Sunday), the young arms have been worse than advertised, and newcomer Mike Adams' season-ending injury has all but made him completely ineffective. While there have been some bright spots – JC Ramirez and Antonio Bastardo have been good – it's been a crap-shoot when Charlie Manuel has to go the 'pen in the late innings.
Like I said, it's been a very up-and-down season for the Phillies. At times, they look great, but at other times, they look completely miserable. Considering the losses that they've suffered in the first half, they could consider themselves lucky to be a .500 team heading into the break. The question, now, is .whether or not they can keep this momentum going into the second half.