The 2017 Phillies are having a tough time winning ball games. There’s no doubt about that. Currently sitting at a MLB-worst 24-48 at the time of this writing, not much has gone right for the Phillies this season. After a month of April in which they went 11-12 and showed some signs of life, they followed that with a historically bad month of May, putting up 6-22 record. The month of June came around, and so far this month they find themselves with a 7-14 record. If you didn’t look up their record for the month, you probably wouldn’t realize that they actually have won one more game in June than they did for all of May. That’s because anyone who has been watching this team throughout this stretch knows that it has been extremely hard to watch.
This team hasn’t been losing games in which they fight until the end. It seems like every night they are either getting blown out, or they are losing a game in which they had a lead that gets demolished out of nowhere.
To find a positive for a club that has had so much go wrong for them on the year is a tough thing to do, but if you look closer, there has been a positive over the last 2 weeks or so of games. Their starting rotation has thrown solid performance after solid performance, and if it weren’t for their sorry offensive numbers and their awful bullpen, we would be seeing a lot of wins thanks to their young crop of starting pitchers.
Right now, their rotation consists of Jeremy Hellickson, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, and most recently, Mark Leiter Jr.
A noticeably different rotation from Opening Day, thanks to the injuries to Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez, this group of guys have done their part over the better part of this month. As we pointed out, though, it hasn’t been reflected in the win column.
Let’s take a quick look at the statistics of this starting rotation over the last 11 games played, starting with their 6-1 win against the D’Backs last night (June 23rd) in Arizona, and ranging back to their June 12th matchup with the Red Sox in Boston, which they ended up losing 6-5.
Phillies Starters: 6/12-6/23
Team overall record: 3-8
Leiter Jr. 6/23 vs D-Backs (WIN 6-1)
6 IP 0 R 3 H 1 BB 5 K 81 pitches
Nola 6/22 vs Cardinals (WIN 5-1)
7.1 IP 1 R 4 H 2 BB 8 K 107 pitches
Pivetta 6/21 vs Cardinals (LOSS 7-6)
6 IP 3 R 4 H 1 BB 10 K 103 pitches
Hellickson 6/20 vs Cardinals (LOSS 8-1)
7 IP 1 R 6 H 2 BB 4 K 97 pitches
Lively 6/18 vs D’Backs (LOSS 5-4)
6 IP 3 R 8 H 1 BB 6 K 107 pitches
Eickhoff 6/17 vs D’Backs (LOSS 5-1)
6 IP 1 R 5 H 3 BB 2 K 105 pitches
Nola 6/16 vs D’Backs (LOSS 5-4)
6 IP 5 R 9 H 2 BB 6 K 106 pitches
Pivetta 6/15 vs Red Sox (WIN 1-0)
7 IP 0 R 4 H 2 BB 9 K 107 pitches
Hellickson 6/14 vs Red Sox (LOSS 7-3)
5 IP 6 R 9 H 3 BB 1 K 93 pitches
Lively 6/13 vs Red Sox (LOSS 4-3)
7 IP 3 R 8 H 2 BB 2 K 108 pitches
Eickhoff 6/12 vs Red Sox (LOSS 6-5)
6 IP 4 R 8 H 2 BB 6 K 98 pitches
As you can see by the results of each of these games, almost every time, the rotation would have kept this team in ball games and set them up for wins had it not been for the lack of offense and/or the bullpen ruining their good outings. Of the 8 losses over this 11 game span, 5 of those losses are by 1 run. Also, in 4 of those 8 losses, the bullpen surrendered at least 2 runs after the starter departed from the game. Hellickson’s start on June 14th was the only start during this period in which the Phillies starter failed to get through 6 innings. This same start, as well as Aaron Nola’s June 16th outing vs. the D’Backs, were the only times the starters gave up more than 4 runs. To put things into perspective, if you take those two outlier starts away, this rotation has pitched a total of 58.1 innings, surrendering just 16 runs over that span.
One name from this group who has unexpectedly shined slightly more than the others would be Nick Pivetta, striking out a total of 19 hitters over his 2 starts here. He struck out 10 Cardinals hitters on June 21st through 6 innings, and he shut down the Red Sox through 7 shutout innings on June 15th, striking out 9 batters.
Aaron Nola’s success during this time period has been a huge boost for this team as well. Since coming off the DL on May 21st, he has enjoyed success for the most part, as his 3.42 ERA in June is an improvement on his 5.63 ERA in May and 4.50 ERA in April. Despite the small hiccup in the June 16th loss, where he surrendered 5 runs on 9 hits, he was still able to get through 6 innings in that start. In his 4 June starts, he has pitched into or through the 8th inning twice.
The return of Mr. Consistency, Jerad Eickhoff, also seems to be on the horizon. In his 2 starts through these 11 games, Eickhoff surrendered a total of 5 runs through 12 innings pitched while striking out 8 hitters. Although he’s seen a personal improvement in most statistical categories, he still remains winless on the year.
The rest of the stats here speak for themselves. The rotation has been doing their part for the better part of June. In the month of May, the rotation was the main problem for this club, while the bullpen was holding it down and doing a nice job after they relieved the starters. Now, the roles have reversed. The starters have put the team in a good position to win, but the likes of Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, and the recently DFA’d Jeanmar Gomez have come in and blown lead after lead.
The lone bright spot right now in the Phillies bullpen is their most likely lone All-Star game representative, Pat Neshek. In 29.2 innings, Neshek has given up a total of 2 earned runs, putting his ERA at 0.61. Neshek, a probable trade candidate come July 31st, has seemingly been the only reliable arm out of the bullpen up to this point for the Phils.
The offense isn’t exactly helping matters either right now. In 21 games this month, the offense has scored more than 3 runs only 10 times. In 7 of those 10 games, the team has failed to score more than 1 run, including 2 shutouts. Yeah, that’s not good.
As much of a bright spot as the likes of Aaron Altherr, Tommy Joseph, and the resurgent Odubel Herrera have been over the last few weeks, it takes more than 3 hitters to win ball games.
It is clear that this team has the potential to put everything together to make a club capable of winning some games. It’s just that they haven’t put a good offense, good starting pitching, and good a bullpen all together at one time. If the offense performs well, the pitching ruins it. If the starter throws a quality start, the offense doesn’t help them out, or the bullpen collapses and blows the lead. If the bullpen shuts down the opposition, it’s seemingly after the game is already out of reach every time.
If this team can put all aspects of their game together on a consistent basis, then we might finally see some quality baseball being played over at CBP.
Sometimes change is a good thing, and it seems as though Matt Klentak is finally realizing that switching things up isn’t a bad idea at this point. With the call-ups of Cameron Perkins and Hoby Milner, with the subsequent DFA’s of Jeanmar Gomez and Michael Saunders, this could be the beginning of a number of changes for this club.
One thing is for sure, though. The starting rotation isn’t to blame for the current putrid record of this ball club. Now it’s time to improve all aspects of this team and put everything together to make this team a winner.
Photo: Jared Polin (Via: Flickr)
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