The Mayor of Sports Town
Is the Phillies Reign Over?
By Joe Tully
The autumn of 2008 for Philadelphia Phillies fans was spectacular. It was the pinnacle of what fans thought was only the beginning. They have been the NL East Champions since 2007. They have been to the World Series twice since 2007. They have added Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, then Cliff Lee…… again. Along with Cole Hamels, the Phillies have one of the best pitching staff’s of all time.
So why is it that in 2012, people think the end is near, the window is closing? Was it the way they lost to St. Louis last year? Was it having Ryan Howard blow out his achilees on the last out of the playoffs last year? As if being eliminated in the first round wasn’t bad enough, watching Ryan Howard fall helplessly to the ground was an analogy for how all Phillies fans felt.
As 2012 started, we thought with the Phillies pitching staff, even without Howard and Chase Utley, we’d be able to still retain the East title. But as the season started, we are seeing a team that is so offensively anemic, that they are only averaging 2.69 runs per game through the first 16 games. Their leading hitter is Juan Pierre at .326, a guy who wasn’t even supposed to make the roster. Second on the team? Ty Wiggington…. really? Yes, really, with a .286 average.
Even if the Phillies have the best rotation in the history of baseball, this offense is really, well, offensive (pronouncing the “O” in offense with a long “O”)!!! Through their first 16 games, they have scored 2 or less runs 10 times. That means they are scoring 3 or more runs only 37% of time. They could have 5 Roy Halladays and still would have the same 7-9 record. Could Chase Utley or Ryan Howard help this team? I think they could help but how much is the question. Ryan’s injury currently can’t heal and Chase has been rehabbing since spring training.
In 2008, the Phillies started the season 8-8. We know how that year ended.
In 2009, the year after the World Series, the Phllies started 6-8. But after a World Series win there was never a sense of panic. And even in that year, the Phillies went to the World Series again (only to lose to the Yankees). But when you get bounced in the first round the previous season, there is reason to panic this season (especially without Utley AND Howard). You’re going to hear people say, “It’s early! No reason to panic!” Cliff Lee is on now the 15 day DL, still no reason to panic? The one thing we relied on this year was the pitching staff. What if that staff can’t stay healthy? Still no reason to panic?
If we can’t panic now, then when can we? Do we have to wait for the All Star break when the Phillies are 10-12 games out of first place? 10-12 games behind the Washington Nationals? That’s right, the Washington Nationals.
Ryan Howard won’t be the savior. Even when he does return (the team is hoping by all star break), how good of shape will he be in? How much power will he have? Same should be applied to Utley, how effective will he be when he returns?
Last year Ruben Amaro challenged Charlie Manuel to play small ball and manufacture runs. Manufacturing 2.69 runs a game will not give us hope that this team will continue to win the NL East. In the final two games on a weekend set against the San Diego Padres (the team most picked to finish last in the National League), the Phillies only managed 1 run per game.
As of April 22nd, the Phils ranked 29th out 30 teams for runs scored and have only hit 7 home runs thus far. If Ryan Howard was healthy, how many more would they have? How about a Ryan Howard coming off an achillees tendon tear? Panic? Uh… yeah!
The one positive for the Phillies is their pitching staff. They are currently ranked 2nd in ERA (2.46) in the majors behind the Washington Nationals. That was before Cliff Lee hit the DL. In the game where Lee got hurt, he pitched 10 scoreless innings…. and LOST THE GAME! The one positive the Phillies have going for them has now turned into another negative.
Is the reign over? Could it be that this core team only bring home one World Series? It is certainly looking like it. So it is time to panic? There is a lot of baseball left and I am trying to find some positives. Maybe the only positive is the fact that there are a lot of games left! We have that going for us…. for now!