I think it’s fair to say the Phils 2013 season is a complete washout after losing 21 of their last 26 games since the All-Star break. They went into Sunday’s game with a 53-69 record and that’s three games better than the pythagorean winning percentage says they should be. I don’t like being pessimistic but next year looks to be more of the same, with a few exceptions.
The Phils will rely heavily on not suffering injuries, and even if healthy how good are they? Forget that Howard will never hit 45 HR’s with 140+ RBI’s again…can he hit 30/100? McCann is an unlikely FA pickup with 5 position players already batting from the left side, and with Boston likely to resign Saltalamacchia it’s likely the Phils will bring back Ruiz and go with him and Kratz another year at catcher. No one on the farm is ready to step up to start the 2014 season behind the plate. Without any major trades or big free agent acquisitions it appears the following will be next year’s starting eight:
C – Ruiz/Kratz, 1B – Howard, 2B – Utley, SS – Rollins, 3B – Asche, LF – Ruf, CF – Revere, RF – Brown
Since we covered catching I’d say Ruf is the only player not guaranteed a spot on the above list. However, when you look at the free agent outfielders is there anyone who stands out? The Reds Sin-Soo Choo is another lefty hitter. Nelson Cruz will be 34 next year and coming off a PED suspension. Will they bring back Hunter Pence at big dollars? Where is the hope the offense can be turned around next season?
The starting pitching looks to be good, but not great in 2014. Hamels should bounce back and have a big season, but what about Cliff Lee? Is he starting to show his age? Lee’s ERA has gone up in 7 straight starts from 2.51 to 3.19 and he turns 35 on August 30th. Kyle Kendrick is inconsistent. On some nights earlier this year he pitched like a # 2 starter. Other nights he’s looked more like a #4 or #5 starter. Miguel Gonzalez is still unsigned and there’s been nothing reported since we first heard that negotiations hit a snag on August 6th. There’s speculation the “snag” has to do with bone spurs removed from Gonzalez pitching elbow, but that’s all it is at this point, speculation. Pettibone is a #4 starter at best. Lannan was signed to be the teams 5th starter and that’s how he pitched. It’s doubtful he’ll be back. Phillie fans would love to see Halladay bounce back, but who knows if he will and if he’d resign with the Phils if he does. He’s repeatedly stated his ultimate goal is winning a World Series. Does Doc think pitching for the Phils will give him that opportunity?
The pen is in shambles. We know Papelbon and Adams are signed for next year but we have no idea if Adams will play, and if he does how effective will he be? He hasn’t had a good season since 2011. Papelbon is a fastball pitcher who’s losing a tick or two off his fastball each year since Amaro signed him to a 4/5-year deal after the 2011 season. The other 5 bullpen jobs are anybody’s guess right now.
As a lifelong Phillie fan I’d like to be excited about next year, but I just don’t see how this team turns it around in one year considering the contracts they can’t or won’t move. The Phils can only cross their fingers and hope the veteran core will resemble something of their former selves (along with being healthy all year) and that the young players produce better than expected. Since 2009 the offense has scored less runs in each successive season.
2009 – 820 runs scored
2010 – 772 runs scored
2011 – 713 runs cored
2012 – 684 runs scored
2013 – 605 runs scored (on pace after 122 games)
We don’t know yet if Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg will be the manager next year, but if he is, will he play a major role in how well the 2014 Phillies perform? There’s no substitute for talent. Take a look at Joe Torre’s managing career as the perfect example. From 1977 through 1995 he spent the better part of 14 seasons managing the NY Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. His record over that period was 894-1003, good for a .471 winning percentage. He had 5 winning seasons and 9 losing seasons, making the playoffs once and never capturing a pennant.
Then in 1996 Torre was hired to manage the high-payroll, multi-talented NY Yankees. In 12 seasons as Yankees skipper the team won 10 AL East flags and didn’t have a single losing season. Torre’s record was 1173-767, a .605 winning percentage. In his first season as Yankees manager Torre’s team won the World Series. The Yankees won 4 World Series in Torre’s first 5 seasons. Did he just happen to find the magic formula for success in 96 or did having the talent to win make the difference?
The Phils GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., the architect of this Phillies team looks to be the GM for at least another year. He says the Phillies are re-tooling, not rebuilding, and he expects to contend for a world championship every year. Is there a rabbit to be pulled out of the proverbial hat that will make the 2014 Phillies contenders? If there is I don’t see it.
To be fair we should wait until the winter meetings are over, trades are made and the free agents who are available are all signed. Maybe I’m being a little harsh in my assessment today. That’s what watching a team lose 21 of their last 26 will do to you.