The Phillies were not supposed to be contenders this year. Nor were they expected to be the team in position for the number one draft pick next summer. As it stands now, it looks to be the case after a first half of very poorly played baseball.
Having the first overall selection in the draft is one way to build a contender, having resulted in Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and the like, but it’s surely not what any GM strives for. Whether Matt Klentak wants to admit it or not, the Phillies look to be on track for another year of prospect evaluating.
On pace for a 56-106 final record, it would be the franchise’s first time over the century mark in losses and worst finish since the 1961 season when they finished at an abysmal 47-107. Since then, the game of baseball changed, the world changed, and the Philadelphia ball club have (certainly) changed.
At the time, Major League Baseball had 154 regular season games, eight less than the modern day schedule. There were also only 18 teams, far less than the 30 that currently vie for the World Series crown; of course the New York Yankees would take the title as the Phils scraped the bottom 46 games behind the Cincinnati Reds.
During this 1961 campaign, the Phillies were led by manager Gene Mauch. Today, it’s Pete Mackanin. Both former players took hold of the Phils as their first long term managerial role, struggling to right the ship early on. Mauch’s leadership failed to bring any postseason appearance mired by a 23-game losing streak, the third longest in the majors. If the comparison is any indication for the future, it’s grim for fans hoping to celebrate a long-awaited return to October baseball. The first half alone includes five losing streaks of five games or more, topped by the entirety of May in which Mackanin’s team compiled a 6-22 finish.
June came and went. Not a much better result. The third month of the season was marked by a stretch of 15 games where they could only squeak out two wins. Many times, the games were not close, but blowouts of five plus runs. If anyone would have told me to start the year that the Phillies bullpen would be as awful as it has been, I’d have doubted it. Numbers have proven otherwise; the overall ERA of the pitching staff in 4.70, heavily inflated by 11 of 22 pitchers who made an appearance on the mound having a sky-high average.
The starting staff has been a bright spot to highlight among the horrid statistics put on by this ball club. The young rotation, whether injury replacements or not, have proven valuable for the rebuild. Aaron Nola is rounding back into form, turning in three consecutive quality starts totaling 21.1 innings, three runs, 25 strikeouts, and seven walks. From relief to spot starter, Mark Leiter Jr. has been a surprise in three starts. Whether a long-term roster stay or injury replacement, each pitcher is fighting for a spot as the team looks towards finding a core that can win.
Truth be told, the 2017 year has put the Philadelphia Phillies at a new low which could cost managers, coaches, and players their jobs. There’s already been some turnover with veterans Michael Saunders and Jeanmar Gomez being designated for assignment and released after failing to succeed in their given role. It is a rebuilding year once again, yes, and sooner than later they’ll need to find a formula that works.
It’s been 56 years since the franchise put up a 100-plus losing record. When reading through then and now, there’s a common thread: inconsistency.
Sure, the team may have more talent now than before, but they’ve been unable to put it all together. Cesar Hernandez was the most valuable man in the lineup, and has since hit the DL. Odubel Herrera is making everyone question his role with the organization. Pitching and outfield depth is there, seasoning for their inevitable call-up. The pieces are there, now it’s time to piece it together.
Just one year made such a huge difference for the roster; no question 56 years has, too.
Photo by golfnride via Flickr