What The Heck Just Happened?
That frustration is understandable. The Phillies have been in the National League since 1883, and fans just watched one of the seven worst homestands in franchise history. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.
Raul Ibanez and Scott Eyre went on the DL.
Ryan Howard checked into the hospital. Twice. (The Phillies said today that Howard has acute sinusitis. He will not fly with the team to Tampa tonight, but could fly there tomorrow and play tomorrow night in the series opener against the Rays.)
The continued to play without Brad Lidge and Brett Myers.
The bullpen continues to be overworked because the rotation can’t pitch into the sixth inning. The Phillies couldn’t come up with big hits. They had physical errors and mental errors.
Let’s break down the numbers from the first 58 games, when the Phillies were 35-23 and had a four-game lead over the Mets in the National League East, and the last nine, when they went 1-8 to fall to 36-31 with a two-game lead over the Mets.
First 58 games: They hit .263 with a .342 OBP and a .462 SLG. They scored 318 runs (5.48 per game). They hit 85 home runs (1.5 per game), walked 226 times and struck out 380 times (18.8 percent of their at-bats).
Last 9 games: The Phillies hit .235 with a .309 OBP and a .402 SLG during the homestand. They scored 38 runs (4.22 per game). They hit 13 home runs (1.4 per game), walked 30 times and struck out 83 times (25.7 percent of their at-bats).
First 58 games: They had a 4.60 ERA, striking out 7.1 batters per nine innings and opponents hitting .267 against them. Starters had a 5.28 ERA in that span. The bullpen had a 3.45 ERA.
Last 9 games: They had a 5.97 ERA, striking out 8.2 batters per nine innings and opponents hitting .314 against them. Starters had a 5.37 ERA in that span. The bullpen had a 6.88 ERA.
First 58 games: They had 19 errors and a .991 fielding percentage.
Last 9 games: They had eight errors and a .977 fielding percentage.
The one thing that jumps out is the bullpen ERA. The bullpen held the pitching staff together through its first 58 games, but the relievers look tired. They probably are. And if the starters can’t start pitching deeper into games and the front office can’t find a starter before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Phillies might need to find bullpen reinforcements instead.
Yes, the offense struggled. Yes, the Phillies looked sloppy in the field. But I expect both of those things to correct themselves. This team will hit. This team will catch the ball. But will it pitch well enough to win?
A reason not to panic: the American League is better than the National League, just like last season (the World Series notwithstanding). The Phillies remain one of the best teams in the National League and that should show up once Interleague Play ends, just like last season. Since the Phillies went 1-8 against the AL, the Mets and Braves are 3-6. The Nationals are 4-5. Only the Marlins have a winning record in their division at 6-3 since the Phillies started to play against the AL.
Ibanez and Chase Utley still lead voting amongst outfielders and second basemen for the NL All-Star Team. Jimmy Rollins has fallen to second behind Florida’s Hanley Ramirez.
I have not bought into the hype that the Phillies are less intense at home or try too hard at home. I just think for whatever reason they have played poorly at home. That said, I’m sure they are happy to begin a nine-game road trip tomorrow night in Tampa Bay.
The seven worst homestands in Phillies history:
- 0-7 – Sept. 21-27, 1964 vs. Reds and Braves
- 0-6 – May 1-7, 1883 vs. Grays and Braves
- 1-9-1 – July 6-20, 1941 vs. Giants, Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs and Reds
- 1-9 – Aug. 9-19, 2004 vs. Rockies, Giants and Astros
- 1-8 – May 4-13, 1937 vs. Cubs, Pirates, Reds and Cardinals
- 1-8 – Aug. 20-29, 1979 vs. Braves, Astros and Reds
- 1-8 – June 12 -21, 2009 vs. Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles