Wait ‘Til Next Year: Philadelphia Phillies
While so much of our day-to-day attention in this space is devoted to the teams still battling for playoff spots, we feel as though it’s only fitting to acknowledge the teams that have been mathematically eliminated from contention, giving them a brief sendoff that should suffice until Hot Stove season. Thus, the Wait ‘Til Next Year series.
Current record: 70-80 (.467, third place in NL East)
Mathematically eliminated: Sept. 14
What went right in 2013:
After two years of frustration caused by injury and the organization’s apparent lack of faith in his abilities, former top prospect Domonic Brown was finally able to take advantage of the opportunity created by an opening in the Phillies outfield in this, his age-25 season. Brown went on an absurd run in late May into early June, hitting 12 home runs in 19 games, and though he has been slowed by a tender Achilles tendon down the stretch, he has still hit .272/.318/.509 with 27 homers and 81 RBIs on the season.
After missing more than half of the 2012 season due to a degenerative condition in his knees, Chase Utley has experienced no significant health issues, hit for more power than he had in any of the previous three seasons and signed a team-friendly extension in August. Cliff Lee has once again been one of the most valuable starting pitchers in the National League. Rookies Darin Ruff and Cody Asche have emerged as productive everyday major leaguers, with Asche firmly establishing himself as the team’s third baseman until minor league prospect Maikel Franco is ready. Sophomore lefty reliever Jake Diekman got his walks under control and dominated lefthanded hitters (.155/.219/.155). The team also got typically strong work from closer Jonathan Papelbon and a nice bounceback season from lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo.
What went wrong in 2013:
Roy Halladay put up an 8.65 ERA in seven starts before requiring shoulder surgery that cost him most of fourth months. Ryan Howard played in just 80 games, at well below his established level of production, before having season-ending knee surgery. Jimmy Rollins’ power has vanished, dropping his overall value to replacement level. Due largely to their brutal play in the field, new additions Michael Young and Delmon Young combined to be nearly two wins below replacement per Baseball-Reference.com’s WAR before being discarded in August. New centerfielder Ben Revere suffered a season-ending fracture when he fouled a ball off his foot on July 14. Cole Hamels had an off year.
The Phillies are old and showing their age. That was true in 2012 as well, and it’s unlikely to change in 2014.
Roy Halladay, currently the team’s oldest player, will leave as a free agent, but Utley, Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Lee will all be 35 next year. Howard will be 34. Papelbon will be 33. Of those six, only the two pitchers are aging gracefully.
Given that, the emergence of young hitters Brown, Asche and Ruf this season was welcome, but Ruf is 27 and even Brown has a limited upside given his poor walk rate and subpar fielding. There are no blue-chippers on the way, either. Franco was not among Baseball America‘s top 100 prospects coming into the season and has just 69 games above High-A. Lefty starter Jesse Biddle walked 5.4 men per nine innings in Double-A this year.
The Phillies effectively acknowledged the end of their recent run of success by replacing Charlie Manuel as manager in mid-August. Ryne Sandberg, hired as an interim but likely to retain the manager’s job next year, could get lucky and have all of his aging stars have healthy, productive seasons and sneak into a wild card spot, but the chances of that happening are slim.