With a loss – and a sweep – at the hands of the Atlanta Braves on Sunday afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies put a cap on what was a disappointing first half, where they went 37-50, bad enough to put them more than ten games out of first place at the break.
It was their most disappointing first half finish since 1997, when they went 24-61 heading into the All Star Game. While much has changed between then and now, one thing is certain: 2012 has not been kind to the Phillies.
You can't pinpoint one reason as to why they have performed the way they have, because darn near everyone has struggled. The bats have been so-so, the rotation has been so-so, and the bullpen has been horrific. It's a mix that resulted in a really nasty cocktail.
So, with half of the season in the bag, I thought I'd take a look at which Phillies were good, which were bad, and which were...well, just blah.
There wasn't a lot of good to be had in the first half of the season, save for a few players, who gave us hope every time they stood on the mound or in the batter's box.
Cole Hamels (10-4, 3.20) is having a fine season, as he earned his third All Star selection as he heads towards free agency in the fall.
Jonathan Papelbon (18 saves in 20 chances, 10.9 K/9) earned just about every penny of his contract. Although he hasn't been used too much – thanks to the fact that the Phillies aren't often in a position to win – he has been about as steady as they come.
Juan Pierre has, shockingly, been a nice edition to the Phillies, all things considered. While you expect more power from your left fielder (.384 SLG), Pierre has been able to carry his weight with a .312 batting average and a decent enough on-base percentage (.349). While he isn't going to bring much more than good speed and the ability to drag bunt, Pierre has been – for the most part – a fine performer in the first half.
Carlos Ruiz, however, has been far and away the best part about the Phillies in the first three plus months of the season. The 32-year-old catcher, who was never really an offense-first kind of player, came out of nowhere and absolutely crushed the ball, ending with a first half line of .348/.411/.585, with 13 homers (four more than his previous career high) and 46 RBIs. His .996 OPS is fourth in the National League, and he is – far and away – outhitting every other catcher in the game. For his performance, he has earned his first ever All Star appearance.
Shane Victorino was an MVP candidate in 2011, but in 2012? Anything but. He's struggled mightily in the final year of this contract, with a .245/.311/.369 line – all well below his career averages. With Howard and Utley out to begin the season, Shane was to be one of the offensive pillars, but so far, he has not led up to expectations as he heads to free agency after the season.
John Mayberry was a revelation last season, when he came out of nowhere to hit 15 homers and have an OPS of .854 in 104 games. He set career highs across the board, and appeared as if though he had finally figured it all out at the age of 27. And because of that, he was going to be a big part of the 2012 Phillies, splitting time between first base and left field. But so far, he's not lived up to the hype, with a .377 SLG and only six home runs. Maybe it's not his fault that everyone expected him to pick it up where he left off last season, but Mayberry has been one of the bigger disappointments so far this year.
Joe Blanton, for better or for worse, is having a very Joe Blantony season. Sometimes he's good, sometimes he's bad. He started off well enough, with a 2.81 ERA in his first seven starts, as he became the first Phillie to throw a shutout this season. But, things quickly went south for the right-hander, as he's had a 6.03 ERA in 11 starts since, where he allowed more than five earned runs on seven different occasions. Seven! The real tragedy here, I think, is that his poor performance sapped any trade value he would have had for teams needing another starter.
Chad Qualls was brought into the team as a cheap, potentially solid addition to the bullpen. Having been a successful reliever in previous years, Ruben Amaro took a chance and brought him in to stabilize the 'pen in the late innings. At first, he proved to be a solid setup man for Jonathan Papelbon, but it wasn't long before the wheels fell off and he found himself off of the team.
I don't know...pretty much everyone else?
Freddy Galvis, who was one of the bright stories in the first half (until he injured his back), tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, and is currently serving a 50-game suspension. While it doesn't necessarily dampen what he did (provide great defense and some decent offense), it is a perfect example of just how off-the-rails this season has gone.
Roy Halladay probably doesn't deserve to be here, but whatever. He's been fine, but a mid-season injury (which probably was lingering since spring training) sent him to the DL. While he is progressing nicely in his rehab, this season has been the exact opposite of what we expected from Doc.
Finally, the bullpen. It's been an absolute mess, and probably the biggest reason why the Phillies are buried in the division. While it was a strength last year, thanks to Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Antonio Bastardo, and Michael Stutes, it has been anything but in 2012. Aside from Papelbon, who has been great, everyone else has struggled. Bastardo, Qualls, Michael Scwhimmer, whoever.
In reality, the entire team can really be lumped into this list. While some have performed well individually, they have lost as a team. Sometimes it was the offense, sometimes it was the defense, and sometimes it was the bullpen. And at the end of the day, they lost more than they won. And that is all that matters.