The bad news is that the Philadelphia Phillies will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season and they are currently sitting alone in the National League East basement at ten games under .500 (66-76).
The GOOD news (surprisingly, there is alot) is that they are in a better position than they were on August 19th, when they lost 5-2 to the Seattle Mariners, which dropped their record to 55-71.
While they have not exactly set the world on fire lately, they have won 11 of their last 16 games, including series wins against the NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals and their two rivals, the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals. They actually took two separate series from the Nats, and that includes a three-game sweep in D.C.
Let’s focus on the positives of the season, because believe it or not, there have been some — especially lately. There have been some things about these 2014 Phillies that they hope will carry over into 2015.
For instance, center fielder Ben Revere gets alot of flack for hitting only singles and having a weak arm for a major league outfielder, but he has put together a solid season in the midst of all of the talk about using him as a platoon player or batting him lower down in the lineup. Batting leadoff for most of the season, he is only a tick behind Justin Morneau (.316) of the Colorado Rockies for the batting title, sitting with a .315 average currently.
Revere has even shown a little power this season.
Notice I said a “little” power. While his 2 home runs in 517 at-bats this season is not enough to scare opponents, it is two more than the zero that he had coming into this season with 1,304 AB’s to his name. One of those HR’s was on Friday — a game-tying two-out shot off of Nats closer Rafael Soriano that temporarily sent Soriano out of that role.
The Phils used to be loaded with starting pitching, and their rotation seemed to be in pretty good shape with aces Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee heading the staff. The pickup of A.J. Burnett gave them three solid starters.
At least it LOOKED like they had three solid starters.
Hamels missed the beginning of April because of arm fatique and Lee has been out since early August because of elbow problems. Burnett looked good for the first couple of months, but I would not be surprised if he hung it up for good after this season.
Hamels has been money since June, posting a 1.92 ERA since then while using the first month and a half to get back into the swing of things.
More good news : Although he has only a .248 average with runners in scoring position, 2005 NL Rookie of the Year and 06′ MVP Ryan Howard (91 RBI’s) is quietly approaching his first 100-RBI season since 2011 and Marlon Byrd has also been one of the best free agent acquisitions of the offseason with a career high 25 homers on the year.
Mainstay Chase Utley (135 games) is on pace to play in the most games since the 09′ season — when he appeared in 156. He has also showed he can still be productive, with 72 RBI’s, also his highest total since 09′.
Their other mainstay, Jimmy Rollins, has also enjoyed a bounce back season after a very forgettable 13′ campaign — his 17 homers rank third on the team.
Speaking of homers, the Phillies thought they would get more than the 9 that they got from Dominic Brown this season. Everything was down statistically for Brown this season, and if he wants to get paid — he is arbritation eligible next season and under the team’s control until 2018, he better have a rebound season. I’m thinking something similar to that 27-HR performance in 2013.
If Brown doesn’t get it together, power hitter Darin Ruf could be a candidate to take over that left job.
Ruf spent a brief period with the Phillies before being demoted to Triple-A. He broke his wrist during a minor league game, got healthy and has since been called up to the big leagues again. He has batted .313 (14 starts) since returning. With only 3 homers this season, he is still looking for that power stroke (14 HR’s) he displayed in 73 games last year.
Cody Asche has had a solid season, and the fact that the team called up one of their top prospects, third baseman Maikel Franco, is pretty alarming. Does this mean Asche’s job is in jeopardy? Not likely, they could just be getting a free look at the guy — wanting to get him some major league AB’s.
Good news from the pitching side comes from a rookie who can top 100 MPH, a whacky closer and a rookie who only got a shot because of Lee’s health problems this season.
I’m talking about flamethrower Ken Giles (1.16 ERA), Closer Jonathan Papelbon (35 saves) and David Buchanan (3.95 ERA).
The Phils needed a spark out of that bullpen and Giles has been that guy, with his lights out stuff and his 13 K’s per nine innings.
Buchanan has been a serviceable and reliable #4 starter when he has been in the big leagues and hopefully he can occupy that spot that Kyle Kendrick takes up some day.
Even Jerome Williams has been great since coming over. The 12-year journeyman has been great in his five starts, compiling a 3-0 record and a 2.84 ERA since signing with the Phils. They might want to consider re-signing him as their #5 starter.
The end of this year reminds me of the end of the 2012 season, when the Phils were 46-57 headed into August and 63-69 headed into September and they managed to pull themselves back to .500 for the season with a 81-81 record.
While it is probably a long shot to expect that they will reach .500 — after all, they would have to win 15 of their last 20 games, it is fair to expect these guys having good seasons to build on it heading into 2015. After all, at this point, 2015 is the next time they will have a chance to redeem themselves for not making the postseason yet again.
– Khristian Peel