Right now, the Phillies are in a tough position. They have lost five of their last six games, including a series in which they were swept by the rival New York Mets. They are sitting at 14-18, and the frustration by the fans, and surely everyone within the Phillies organization, grows more and more each day.
The season hasn’t gone as expected and it is understandable that we all feel these things. But it’s okay. It really is. I think that when it’s all said and done, the Phillies will be just fine and all of the early struggles will simply be a thing of the past.
There are a few reasons why I feel this way. First, the Phillies are still playing shorthanded. Also, the recent struggles of the bullpen are unordinary, and finally, not to beat a dead horse, but it’s still early.
Ryan Howard and Chase Utley–or lack thereof–are two of the main reasons that the Phillies are struggling so much at the plate. Sure, having them in the lineup should immediately improve the offense on the surface, but their mere presence in the lineup should help the other Phillies hitters to not stress so much. Take John Mayberry Jr. for example. He had a great year last year and looked like he was ready to be the full time left fielder for this Phils team. However, he has struggled immensely this year. He is incredibly impatient at the plate, as his on base percentage is nearly the same as his batting average (.233 to .225). He’s drawn just one walk this year, and has struck out twenty-one times in 73 plate appearances. His extreme lack of discipline could possibly be attributed to him pressing too much due to the absence of Utley and Howard. And it’s not jut Mayberry who’s pressing–almost all of the starters are putting up numbers lower than their career average. Once those two guys get back, the Phils should see an improvement on offense throughout the entire lineup, even if Howard and Utley start out cold.
We know that the offense has been pretty bad this year, but you could argue that the bullpen has been even worse. As a team, the Phillies bullpen is dead last in innings pitched, ERA, strikeout rate, and the rate at which they strand runners. The good news is the ‘pen is getting a small shake up. Just today, according to Michael Schwimer they called up the red-hot Jake Diekman, along with Raul Valdes. Joe Savery was demoted last night and Brian Sanches speculated to be demoted today. If Schwimer is correct and Diekman is indeed on his way to the big league club, Diekman could possibly have the same effect on the Phillies as Michael Stutes did at the beginning of last year, and that is a very good thing. The demotions of Sanches and Savery mean that the two players with the highest FIP among the relievers are now gone, which is an immediate improvement unless Diekman and Valdes completely blow it.
On top of that, there may be some options outside of the organization that the Phillies could acquire. If Ruben Amaro Jr. really wanted to, he could go out and get a guy like Brian Fuentes or someone similar at the deadline. What I would like to see the Phillies go after would be a good 8th inning guy that could alternate with Chad Qualls as the setup man. Guys like Mike Adams, Grant Balfour, or even Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. No one knows who will be available at that time, but there will surely be someone that would help them out.
Now, you’re probably tired of hearing this, but it really is still early. All of the Phillies problems are real and our concerns are legitimate, but the Phils have a ton of time left to turn it around. They usually really pick it up after the All Star Break, and while it isn’t ideal to rely on a great second half to save the season, there is a decent chance that they can do it. I’m confident that they can turn it around and make us forget about the early season woes, and you should be too.