Analysis

Top 5 Blemishes for the Phillies at the All-Star Break

Yesterday, I took the optimist route and wrote about the top five bright spots for the Phillies at the All-Star Break. Today, I’m taking the pessimist angle with their top five blemishes. While there have been positives and things to be optimistic, or even excited, about this season–whether it’s Ken Giles, Maikel Franco, or even the impending moves that will (hopefully) be made by the July 31 deadline—there has been a lot more bad than good.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at the top five blemishes for the Phillies so far.

5. Harang’s fall from grace: When it was reported that the Phillies would be without Cliff Lee for the majority (if not all of) 2015, the club was left with Cole Hamels and Aaron Harang atop the starting rotation. Hamels was the clear ace with Harang being more of a wait-and-see-type of deal. The Phillies sure loved what they saw from Harang early on, as the right-hander held a 2.02 ERA through 11 starts to begin the season. He looked great. He was pitching like an ace. It was understood, however, that the likelihood of the 37-year-old sustaining that pace wasn’t great. When it got bad for Harang, it got bad fast. Once the calendar turned to June, Harang began his abrupt fall from grace. It started with a start against his former team, the Reds, where he allowed five earned runs in 5.2 innings-pitched. His next start wasn’t any better, as he, against the Reds again, allowed seven earned runs over six innings-pitched. The trend for Harang continued, and before he knew it, he finished June with an 0-5 record and a 7.28 ERA. He made one start in July—his worst start of the season (8 ER in 5 IP)—before being placed on the DL with a foot injury.

4. Hamels’ worst career start coming at a bad time: Cole Hamels represents the future of the Phillies franchise not because he’s an ace in his prime, but because he’s a valuable asset heading into one of the most vital trade deadlines in the franchise’s history. Hamels’ value was soaring before his last start, which resulted in him surrendering nine earned runs on 12 hits in 3.1 innings-pitched. While it’s debatable whether or not the start diminished his trade value much if at all, the timing could not have been worse. With the All-Star Break this week, once interested GMs could have that last start festering in their heads until teams resume play on Friday. Maybe seeing that start resulted in GMs doubting the 31-year-old’s ability, or maybe they will take a wait-and-see approach and watch what the left-hander has to offer in his first start after the All-Star Break. Either way you slice it, the start came at a bad time for the Phillies, and whatever leverage they had prior could potentially be lost.

3. Utley’s sharp decline: Chase Utley is and always will be an iconic player in Philadelphia sports. He will go down as one of the greatest players to ever don a Phillies uniform, and is the model of player that Philadelphia fans gravitate towards. That is what makes his decline so despondent for fans. For Utley, the decline could be just as much of a surprise to him as it is to us, especially after batting .412 in spring training. It cannot be easy for him—a player who has always played the game hard and the right way—to come to the realization that at age 36, his baseball skills are deteriorating. His slash line of .179/.257/.275 speaks for itself. Perhaps his ankle injury, which landed him on the DL last month, played a part in his poor production, but the reality is that Utley’s days as the Phillies’ everyday second baseman are likely over.

2. Amaro’s comments regarding Hernandez and Utley: Ruben Amaro Jr. has had a shaky season so far to say the least in what is probably his final season as the Phillies’ GM. After saying that Phillies fans “don’t understand the game” of baseball, Amaro publicly belittled Utley by saying that Cesar Hernandez is the team’s “best second baseman.” At the time the comments were made, Hernandez was on an 11-game hitting streak and had just raised his average to a team-high .302. He was playing very well in Utley’s absence—anybody watching could see that. Anybody watching could also see that Utley hadn’t looked like the same player through 65 games this season. For the GM of a franchise to come out and publicly state that a third year player on a three-week hot streak is a better player than a guy who has been an integral piece to that franchise for his entire career is unacceptable. Oh, and it’s not the first time he’s done this. Maybe Hernandez is a better player right now, but Amaro should’ve shown more respect towards a player who has always left it all on the field for his ball club.

1. Sandberg’s resignation: The losing got to a guy who hates to lose. That was the main reason ex-manager Ryne Sandberg gave regarding his decision to resign as the Phillies’ manager. While Sandberg’s decision can be respected because he made the tough decision to leave on his own terms (instead of sitting and waiting for his inevitable firing), the perception that he quit on the organization, the team, and more importantly, his players is completely warranted. The man who was the “leader” of a last place team abandoned ship instead of going down with it. His decision can merit respect, but it can also merit cowardice. Sandberg may have been in over his head in regards to managing ability, but the situation doesn’t reflect well for a club like the Phillies that already has plenty of problems on and off the field.

The Phillies have been coated in blemishes so far this season. The most obvious is their record, which currently sits at 29-62. They are the only team that has yet to hit 30 wins, and are on pace to finish with one of the worst records in the franchise’s history. Their pitching and offensive numbers ranking towards the bottom in all of baseball, and things could get even worse if certain players are dealt. The blemishes listed above just add to what has been an ugly season for the Phillies through 91 games.

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