29 June 2006

DPD: Brett Myers' Absence Punishes Struggling Phils, Not Him

Three months ago, I predicted that the 2006 Phillies would choke. I know, I know: That's almost as gutsy a pick as when I predicted that the sky would be blue, but stick with me here. I spent a whole column, over 4,000 words, analyzing exactly how the Phillies would do, but as is their wont, The Phillies' ineptitude has surprised even my cynical sensibilities this year, and things look to be going only downhill from here.

In the purest sense, the Phillies have already choked. On the field, the team has performed below the levels of mediocrity I predicted for them, with a 35-42 record right now that would require them to win almost 57% of their remaining games just to get to the sub-par 83-79 record I anticipated.

The offense, which did so well last season, scoring more runs than all but four major league teams in 2005, has dropped even farther, all the way down to 18th. After seemingly making strides the last two seasons, averaging about .290/.340/.440 in 2004 and 2005, leadoff hitter Jimmy Rollins has taken another step back. Only a "hot" June (.291/.342/.515) has brought his numbers back to within striking distance of his career averages. Now 27, Rollins should be having his best season at the plate, but seems instead to have plateaued, and is clearly mis-cast in the leadoff position, despite his speed. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have cooled down since April, but are still among the best in the NL at their positions, and Bobby Abreu, even though he's on a pace for his lowest home run total since 1998, is doing what he always does. Pat Burrell's hitting only .252, but at a 40-homer/116 RBI pace, it's hard to complain about that. But they've gotten nothing out of the catcher or third base positions, which are both ranked 28th in the majors in OPS. The team as a whole has hit only .239 with runners in scoring position, after hitting .278 in that situation last year, and that's probably the biggest reason their decline.

The pitching, too, has been much worse than expected. After finishing right in the middle of the pack last year, with a 4.21 team ERA that ranked 16th in MLB, the 2006 Phillies have phought their way down to 23rd in that department. Jon Lieber, while not a star, was being counted upon for about 180-200 LAIM innings, but he hasn't pitched in a month, will miss at least another week or two, and wasn't very good when he did pitch. Cory Lidle has been healthy (91 innings), but has not been good (5.11 ERA). Ryan Madson (6.40 ERA in 72 innings) and Gavin Floyd (7.29 ERA in 54 innings) have both been unmitigated disasters, and nobody has stepped up to fill their cleats. Cole Hamels, a promising, young lefty, has managed a 4.41 ERA in 31 innings so far, but is still pretty rough around the edges.

And now the lone bright spot in the rotation, Brett Myers, is about to go dark.

Read the rest at Double Play Depth...

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