From 2008 to 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies towered above the National League. They won two NL pennants (including destroying the Reds in the 2010 NLDS) and a World Series title. The Phillies won 102 games in the 2011 regular season. It’s worth noting that through those seasons, their payroll grew from $97 million to $172 million. They remain one of baseball’s big money stacks.
But the Phillies haven’t been quite the same since Ryan Howard ruptured his left Achilles tendon on the final play of the surprising 2011 NLCS. Last year they struggled to reach .500. At the quarter way point this season, they sit uncomfortably in third place (19-22) in a division with Bryce Harper and Justin Upton. Injuries and age have taken their toll on the Phillies. From just the last few days, you can find calls to trade Howard, Chase Utley and Cliff Lee.
And there’s this: Two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Phillies lost a series — at home — to the Miami Marlins.
That doesn’t mean Philadelphia isn’t a dangerous team. Wounded animal clichés and all. But as the Reds (25-16) head into the unfriendly confines of Citizens Bank Park for a three-game weekend series, there’s legitimate concern for both teams that the Phillies’ old selves will show up.
THE PHILLIES thirtysomething LINE-UP
The 2013 Phillies offense has been dismal. They rank 12th in the National League in runs scored (Reds are second), 11th in on-base-percentage (Reds are first) and tenth in slugging (Reds are ninth). While both teams strike out at about the same rate, the Reds lead the league in walks while the Phillies are 12th. As Greg detailed in his preview of the April series, the Phillies off-season strategy relied on underwhelming moves and hopes for a bunch of bounce-back seasons. So far, they’ve been disappointed on both counts.
The Phillies scored four runs over three games against the Reds in April (and two of those were off someone named Justin Freeman).
At Redsfest last December, Reds GM Walt Jocketty revealed that a deal had “fallen through” that would have cemented Ben Revere in centerfield and the lead-off spot for the Reds. Talk about dodging a bullet. A speeding, team-obliterating bullet. And I told ya so.
To date, Revere has no home runs and five RBI. He’s batting .237 and because of a pathetic walk rate, his OBP sags lifelessly below .290. While Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel continues to fantasize about Revere’s infield hits and stealing 60 bases, teams have routinely been tagging up from first base on Revere’s weak arm. On the other hand, Revere did do this to Super Todd Frazier.
The next time someone tries to convince you of the virtue of having a leadoff hitter whose main attribute is speed, please point out the immense value Shin-Soo Choo has offered the Reds with his home runs, doubles and on-base skills. More Choo, less Taveras, please
Ryan Howard bats clean-up. My guess is the Phillies are expecting more than heartwarming home runs for the $105 million they will pay Howard over the next four seasons. From 2006 through 2009, Howard hit 198 home runs and drove in 572 runs, but he’s not that guy any more. He was 1 for 11 with three strikeouts in the April series with the Reds.
PROBABLE PITCHING MATCH-UPS
Roy Halladay was first lost to ineffectiveness then to the disabled list for most of, if not all of, the 2013 season. Cole Hamels is 1-6 with a 4.80 FIP. Their rotation is now comprised of guys named Pettibone and Cloyd. Desperation, thy name is spelled Zambrano.
[Survey: Which post-season memory is worse for you personally, Roy Halladay or Buster Posey?]
The Phillies’ starters rank 8th in the NL in FIP (Reds are third) and 9th in strikeout rate (Reds are fifth).
Cliff Lee (LHP, 34) brings a 6-2 career record against the Reds into Friday night’s game. Lee’s strikeout rate has dropped sharply this season. After averaging 9 strikeouts per 9 innings the past two years, his K/9 stands at 6.8 for 2013. Lee pitched seven innings against the Reds in April, surrendering two runs and one walk.
Kyle Kendrick (RHP, 28) has been outstanding for the Phillies in 2013. He has a 3-2 career record against the Reds, including throwing seven shutout innings in GABP a few weeks ago. Kendrick has recorded seven consecutive starts giving up two earned runs or fewer. He’s throwing his fastball more often in place of his cutter.
Jonathan Pettibone (LHP, 22) has never started against the Reds. Pettibone pitches against Homer Bailey. Bailey shut out the Phillies over 8 innings in April, giving up just two hits and no walks while striking out ten, throwing 89 pitches. The Reds won that game on Jay Bruce’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth.
THE PHILLIES BULLPEN
The Phillies’ closer is 32-year-old Jonathan Papelbon. While he’s converted all seven of his save opportunities and his ERA is a sparkling 1.08, his strikeout rate (6.5 K/9) has fallen dramatically this season. His career K/9 is 10.7 and was 11.8 in 2012.
Top set-up reliever, Mike Adams, remains on the active roster but recently has dealt with back issues. Their current 25-man roster shows three left handed relief pitchers, Antonio Bastardo, Jeremy Horst (the Reds traded him for Wilson Valdez), and Raul Valdez. Bastardo is the best of the three.
**Special shout out to Greg Dafler who put together the two excellent tables for this post.