No, the Phillies weren’t expected to win 100 games, but they weren’t supposed to be nearly as bad as they have been.
The Phillies finished the month of April at 11-12, including a six-game win streak, a respectable record for a club deep in the midst of a rebuild with a less-than-menacing starting nine. Turn the page to May and it’s a complete 180 degrees.
To say that the Phillies are not playing well in May would an understatement; the wheels have fallen off the wagon. The Phils have gone from tied for second in the NL East to the worst record in baseball in a span of 22 games, all thanks to the current slump.
The Phillies are 5-17 in May. That is not a typo, five is the number of wins this month. Marred by three lengthy losing streaks consisting of four games or more, skipper Pete Mackanin’s club is in a rut they cannot seem to get out of, despite the changes made.
Everything that was going right is going wrong and everything that was struggling is struggling even more. Something has to change.
The struggles start with the Phillies lead-off man Cesar Hernandez who was smoldering hot to start the season. His average was nearly .340 and looked like a perennial all star out of nowhere, hitting all four of his home runs in the opening month. Hernandez led the Phillies to countless victories, including the first win, producing from the top of the order. He’s earned the nickname Hail Cesar after his early success.
As of this writing, he’s still the lead-off batter, but is down almost 50 points to .290/.350/.407 leaving the lineup barren of that consistent hitter. It’s not that he’s not hitting, just not nearly as well as early on (granted he wasn’t expected to be this good, so we’ll take it).
He, just like the rest of the team, is in a slump, hitting just eight for his last 49. If Hernandez is able to get back to producing like his first month, the Phillies shall be much better off. Cesar doesn’t have to be a .340 hitter, rather the man to get on base to start rallies and drive in runs when given the opportunity.
For Thursday’s game against Colorado, one starter was hitting above .300- the pitcher. Vince Velasquez was the lone man hitting safely in 30 percent of at-bats, albeit through 18 trips to the plate.
Phillies hurlers aren’t off the hook yet, though. The starting rotation was fine in April before falling apart once the calendar flipped. From the start, the young rotation looked to be improved from 2016 which was riddled by injuries and inconsistencies. A Jeremy Hellickson-led staff threw to a respectable 4.29 team ERA; however, the most glaring stat line is the 68 home runs the pitching staff has allowed, tied for the most with the Cincinnati Reds.
Homers have been problematic for the club. The bullpen can be to blame for the inflated 5.58 ERA in the second month of the season. Not only are some not pleased, but it really is the root of the issue as been said time and time again.
From Adam Morgan to Joaquin Benoit, every member of the bullpen has had a blip outing they’d like to forget. Benoit gave up five earned in one-third of an inning to Seattle, more than doubling his ERA and WHIP. Morgan’s been up and down from AAA Lehigh Valley faster than you can count to ten since his disastrous April. He has since been demoted (again) to the Iron Pigs in favor of Jeanmar Gomez’s return, but not before he could pitch three scoreless innings.
Then there’s Odubel Herrera. The man who was once the lead-off guy, who was the lone all star game representative last year, and who was heralded as the potential face of the franchise a few weeks ago has fallen to (almost) obscurity amongst his season-long slump.
There’s a lot to be said about someone who is slashing .233/.283/.631 in a critical year. To keep it short, let’s remind you that Herrera struck out five times Thursday. Yes, he wore the platinum sombrero. Five.
The only thing to be said about the month of May is that it’s almost over. For the Phillies, they’d like to never revisit again, until maybe next year when they can avenge this year’s disaster. Here’s to a glorious June and summer months of baseball.
Mackanin said at his press conference following Thursday’s win, “were going to start playing better.” Well, it really can’t get any worse… can it?
Photo by Ian D’Andrea via Flickr