As we enter Memorial Day Weekend and the unofficial start of Summer, baseball may be an afterthought for many Phillies fans as they head down the Jersey shore. Who can blame them? The Phillies sit four games under .500 and in last place in the National League East.
Many fans anticipate a long summer, but a short Phillies season, without any hope in it. That belief is understandable, after all the Phillies are only 20-24 while being relatively healthy this season, and have put together one of the worst bullpens in recent memory. The veteran players such as Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have been playing well, while the younger players who were expected to step their game up this season such as Ben Revere and Domonic Brown have played poorly up to this point. The future is not looking so bright.
However, there is reason to believe that as the days get hotter so will the Phillies. The three members of the Phillies core (Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley) all perform better as the season progresses. In fact, all three begin peaking around July, and all three perform especially well in September/October when it matters the most. For instance, in 207 career games in the month of May, Howard has a merger .244 batting average and a .326 OBP. As opposed to the month of July where Howard has a career .283 batting average with a .378 OBP. Howard’s heat up continues all the way into the final month of the season where he has a career batting average of .291 with 67 home runs and 199 RBIs. It is also the only month of the season where Howard averages an OBP over .400.
J-Roll’s career numbers in July, August, and September/October are all better than his May and June numbers. Like Howard, Rollins normally finishes his season on a high note in September/October where he averages 47 home runs, 11 home runs more than any other month, and an OBP of .482 with the next closest month being 53 points lower. Utley’s best month of the season always seems to be July where he holds a .314 batting average and a SLG percentage over .550. The best is yet to come for the Phillies veteran core players in 2014.
Those numbers don’t just extend to the core players either. Statistically, Domonic Brown’s best baseball is played in July. Carlos Ruiz, a notorious slow starter, seems to always finish his seasons strong as his career averages point to August and September/October being his two best months of the year. Even ace Cole Hamels has a 3.65 career ERA in the first half of the season compared to a 3.07 ERA in the second half of the season.
Even with their “mediocre” start, as General Manager Ruben Amaro put it, the Phillies woke up Friday morning only 5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in a tight division. To put that into perspective, the Phillies were 6.5 games back on this exact same date seven years ago in 2007. Of course, the Phillies would go on to win their first of five consecutive NL East titles that year. The division is still very much within reach for any of the five teams competing in it.
Here’s the point, a baseball season is a marathon not a sprint. As frustrating as the Spring has been for the Phillies, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful for the Summer. Not only has the team remained generally healthy, but veteran players that many people had begin to write off (myself included) such as Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Marlon Byrd are all currently having all-star caliber seasons. More importantly, none of those three players or Ryan Howard have seen the disabled list yet. If the Phillies core group of players can remain on the field, then they should revert to their career averages as most baseball players do. If that is the case, then Phillies fans are only about a month away from seeing some exciting baseball at Citizens Bank Park this summer. This 2014 season is far from being a goner. So, relax on the beach this weekend, enjoy your burgers and hot dogs, crack open an ice cold beer, and get ready for the start of summer, filled with Phillies baseball. It promises to get hotter.