Results from the first two months of the season have been a mixed bag for the Philadelphia Phillies.
It is easy to focus on the bad, the most obvious of which is the disabled list. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have not played a single inning this season. Roy Halladay is on the shelf. So is Jim Thome, Laynce Nix, Jose Contreras, Mike Stutes, David Herndon, and Michael Martinez.
Ouch. They would be shoo-ins for the Disabled List All-Star Game, if such a thing existed.
It is not so easy to focus on the positives, but believe it or not, there were plenty of them. How about the hot starts of Carlos Ruiz and Jonathan Papelbon? The Phillies may have finished the first couple of months in last place, but on the first day of June, they sit just 2.5 games out of first.
There is a lot to look forward for this ball club in the month of June. There is a light at the end of tunnel for a lot of these injured players and the club is firing on all cylinders right now.
A quick look at the schedule shows that this could be a big month for the Phillies. Here are some predictions that should help determine what needs to go right, and as always, what to watch out for.
Prediction: Cliff Lee finally gets his first win of the season.
This would not have been much of a bold prediction on Opening Day, but Cliff Lee just cannot catch a break this season. It is almost ridiculous to be sitting here at the beginning of June and predicting that Lee will finally capture his first win of the season.
The saddest part is that he has not even pitched bad this season. In fact, he has pitched quite well. The Phillies need to show their new de facto ace some run support and push him into the win column.
Prediction: Cole Hamels strikes out at least 40 batters and finishes June with double-digit wins.
To say that Hamels has been "as advertised" this season would be an understatement.
The lefty came into the season as one of the most highly sought after, perspective free agents this winter and certainly has not done anything to hurt his chances of signing a mega-deal after the season.
After finishing the month of May with 42 strikeouts and five wins, you can expect much of the same out of Hamels in the month of June.
Prediction: Vance Worley returns to give the Phillies' rotation a boost.
Last month was a rough one for the Phillies' starting rotation. Not long after Worley hit the shelf with elbow soreness, eventually diagnosed as a bone chip, the club's ace, Roy Halladay, went on the disabled list with a strain latissimus dorsi.
While the Phillies will be without "Doc" for quite some time, the good news is that Worley is ready to come off of the disabled list. He is scheduled to pitch for the Phillies on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Worley's return will provide the banged up Phillies' starting rotation with a boost, something they could certainly use heading into the month of June.
Prediction: Joe Blanton's poor performance continues June.
It has been a tale of two months for Blanton. After looking like a pleasant surprise during the month of April, Blanton's May performance was more like a bad nightmare. He was lit up for a record of 2-2 and an ERA of 5.94.
The worst part is that it does not seem as though Blanton is set to improve.
His fly-ball rate (and subsequently, his home run rate) climbed during the month of May, his strikeout numbers went down, and the pitcher that surprised during the month of April was nowhere to be seen.
Expect more of the same in the month of June.
Prediction: In the absence of Roy Halladay, Kyle Kendrick fills in admirably.
It is not easy being Kyle Kendrick.
When things are going wrong for the Phillies, Kendrick often winds up as the club's whipping boy for the fans, members of the media, and others. It is not always fair, but sometimes it is deserved.
Recently, Kendrick has made strides to leave the whipping boy behind. A slight adjustment to his pitch repertoire has turned him into a solid, back of the rotation starting pitcher, and now that he is settling into that role, I see no reason that Kendrick cannot be an effective starter.
Prediction: Jonathan Papelbon converts all of his save opportunities in June.
The Phillies came under fire for the contract they gave Papelbon over the winter, but he has been everything the club could have asked for and then some so far this season.
With the rest of the bullpen in a state of flux, Papelbon has been a rock at the back of the bullpen, converting each of his 15 save opportunities into saves.
He is pitching lights out right now, and I just do not see much of a reason that he cannot convert each of his save opportunities in the month of June as well.
Prediction: Antonio Bastardo becomes the team's primary set-up man once again.
Bastardo surrendered a couple of runs against the Miami Marlins on Friday night, but there is no doubt that he has been pitching more like the powerhouse lefty that excited people last season.
He has been using his fastball/slider repertoire effectively as of late and manager Charlie Manuel is using him more frequently as a response.
Expect Bastardo to be pitching the eighth inning for the foreseeable future.
Prediction: Chad Qualls continues to slide down Phillies' bullpen depth chart.
During the first month of the season, Qualls looked like a bargain for the Phillies. He was using his power sinker effectively and mixing in his off-speed pitches with ease.
The month of May? Well, not so much.
Qualls was shelled last month, surrendering seven earned runs (four home runs,) issuing five walks, and tagged with an opponent's batting average of .348.
He fell out of favor as the club's set-up man, and you can expect that to continue unless he turns it around somehow.
Prediction: Jake Diekman continues his rise to Phillies' set-up man.
Prior to the season, the future of the Phillies' bullpen was Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont. Right now, the future of the Phillies' bullpen is Jake Diekman.
With De Fratus dealing with an injury and Aumont just activated from the minor league disabled list, it was Diekman that got the call when the Phillies needed some bullpen help, and boy, has he been impressive.
Diekman is posting a strikeout rate of better than 15 K/9 right now and a walk rate of less than three. That's impressive for a power lefty who has not faced a comfortable batter yet.
Prediction: The Phillies get some help from some unlikely sources.
If the Phillies are going to have any type of success this month, they are going to need some help from unlikely sources in the bullpen.
In the month of May, that man was Raul Valdes, a crafty lefty that surrendered just three earned runs in a mop-up game against the New York Mets. They will need him to pitch well in June as well.
With Jose Contreras hitting the disabled list again, the Phillies will need some positive contribution from his replacement, Mike Schwimer, as well.
These guys have the tools to succeed. Now, they just need to do it.
Prediction: Ryan Howard's rehabilitation progresses, but he does not return to the lineup in June.
There is no doubt that the Phillies could use Howard's bat in the lineup as soon as possible, but it does not look as though that is going to happen in the month of June.
The first baseman is currently rehabbing in Clearwater, Florida, but there is no timetable for his return. The reason for that is simple: The Phillies want him to be 100 percent when he returns.
As long as they are hanging in the race without him, there is no need to rush him back to he field and risk injury.
Prediction: Chase Utley does not return in the month of June.
The Phillies' veil of secrecy regarding the injuries to Utley and Ryan Howard has been well documented, so it is tough getting a read on just how far along either is in their respective rehabs.
Utley has been revving up his work on the infield in recent weeks, remaining with the club to field ground balls and do other baseball activities.
The next step is likely a trip to Clearwater, Florida to intensify his rehab even further. Some speculate that once in Florida, it will not be long before Utley begins a rehab assignment.
But as is the case with Howard, the Phillies have no need to rush Utley right now. They are holding their heads above water with the group they have right now, and as long as they are close, they will not rush either of their big boppers back to the diamond.
Prediction: Placido Polanco and Jimmy Rollins struggle in June.
Coming into the season, this is a pair of players the Phillies were really counting on to have strong showings, and neither has stepped up to the plate.
Rollins has been a nightmare, struggling to get anything going and posting an OPS of right around .600 for most of the season. He has seen a drastic drop in his power numbers and certainly has not produced like a top of the order hitter.
Polanco has been a bit better as of late, pushing his batting average up to around .290, but that's a deceptive number. He has been much "luckier" in recent weeks and has not created enough runs (83 wRC+) to be effective.
I predict that both of these players struggle at the plate during the month of June.
Prediction: Freddy Galvis continues to improve at the plate in June.
The months of April and May were like night and day for Galvis, and that was to be expected.
The Phillies threw the rookie infielder right into the flames, plugging him into the lineup on Opening Day despite questions about whether or not his bat was ready for the MLB. Through the month of April, it certainly looked as though it was not. He struggled mightily.
As the calendar turned into the month of May, however, Galvis looked more comfortable. He settled in to have better at-bats and the results improved drastically.
Now with two months in the MLB under his belt, I think you can expect to see the best of Galvis in June.
Prediction: The Phillies' role players continue to play well.
With some of their big names on the disabled list, the main reason the Phillies have been able to stay afloat in the NL East is the play of their bench and role players.
Ty Wigginton has stepped up and provided the Phillies with a powerful right-handed bat, while guys like Hector Luna, Mike Fontenot, and Pete Orr have been able to rise to the occasion when called upon.
With the month of June still uncertain for most of their injured players, the Phillies' bench players will need to step up once again this month, and I predict they will be able to do it.
Prediction: John Mayberry Jr. has an incredible month of June.
All season long, it seems like the Phillies have been waiting for Mayberry to catch fire. There is reason to believe that he will be able to do so. His 2011 season was too good for him to sink this low in 2012. For a lot of people, the question has been "when" he will turn it around. Not "if."
Mayberry improved at the plate in the month of May, and although it was not a great month, it was certainly better than April.
As the weather heats up and the Phillies get some of their injured players back, I think you can expect Mayberry to settle into the lineup, become more comfortable, and most importantly, produce.
Prediction: Juan Pierre remains a consistent hitter against right-handed pitching, but inevitably cools down regardless.
There is no doubt that Pierre was one of the biggest bargains of the offseason. The Phillies landed him on a minor league deal and he worked hard to land on the 25-man roster. Heading into the month of June, he had become the Phillies' primary left fielder.
Pierre's average has been consistently around the .330 mark in recent weeks and his on-base percentage is currently hovering around .370.
Those are some lofty numbers for Pierre, and given his BABip of .353, it would be impossible for him to sustain those numbers.
However, Pierre has played well, so although I believe he will inevitably cool off, he will still be a productive player for the Phillies.
Prediction: Shane Victorino has his best month of the season to date at the plate in June.
It is no secret. Victorino has not been as good as the Phillies would like him to be this season at the plate. They have experimented with him at several different spots in the lineup and he hasn't been able to get it going, especially as a left-handed batter, any where in the order.
Victorino has made improvements in recent weeks, however, and his low batting average on balls in play suggests that he has been a bit unlucky.
If I were a betting man, I would bet that Victorino turns things around at the plate in June.
Prediction: Hunter Pence's power surge continues through the month of June.
Before the season began, I predicted that Pence would hit at least 30 home runs this season and I'm feeling pretty confident about that prediction right now.
Pence, who hit just 11 home runs before the All-Star break as a member of the Houston Astros last season, has already slugged 13 home runs this season with more than a month to go before this year's festivities in Kansas City.
His isolated power mark of .240 is the highest of his career by a considerable margin and there is little reason to believe that Pence's power is a fluke. Expect June to be equally as explosive for the Phillies' right fielder.
Prediction: Jim Thome returns to the Phillies in June as Laynce Nix progresses.
The Phillies have been riddled with injuries this season, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Thome will return to the Phillies' bench after completing his minor league rehab assignment, likely in time to rejoin the club as it heads to some American League ball parks where he can serve in a more familiar role: Designated hitter.
He will also give the Phillies' lineup something it's lacking right now: A left-handed power hitter.
Meanwhile, Nix continues to progress after straining his calf. It's an injury that forced Jimmy Rollins to miss more than 50 games a couple of seasons ago, so it is certainly no laughing matter or minor injury.
The Phillies' bench is much better when these two left-handed sluggers are on it and healthy.
Prediction: The Phillies begin an aggressive pursuit of Boston Red Sox's first/third baseman Kevin Youkilis in June.
There is no doubt that the Phillies could use some help offensively, and Youkilis would slot into the lineup nicely.
The Red Sox intend to move Youkilis after the emergence of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks for the simple reason that, with Adrian Gonzalez entrenched at first base, they do not have anywhere to play their veteran third baseman.
Plenty of teams are scouting Youkilis, but the Phillies, who have no legitimate first baseman in Ryan Howard's absence or a legitimate offensive third baseman, make a lot of sense.
Prediction: Phillies' offense only scores enough runs to rank them in the middle of the pack come the end of June.
Even if a bunch of players in the Phillies' lineup have a better month of June than they have during any other month of the season, they are still going to struggle to score runs.
It is time to admit that without their big name players on the field, this is what the Phillies are capable of.
They will certainly score enough runs to compete, but do not expect them to throw some staggering amount of runs on the board for the month of June. They are just not built that way.
Prediction: The Phillies continue to show a lack of extra-base power.
One of the biggest reasons that the Phillies continue to struggle scoring runs this season is a complete lack of extra-base power in the lineup.
Consider for a moment that four of the Phillies' leaders in extra base hits include Carlos Ruiz, Freddy Galvis, Jimmy Rollins, and Placido Polanco. The other two are Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino.
If the Phillies are going to score more runs, they are going to have to drive the ball better, and that is just something I do not think they will be able to do without the likes of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Prediction: The Phillies' pitching staff has the best WHIP for the month of June.
At a glance, this seems like a random statistic to single out, but for the Phillies, WHIP is something that they tend to excel at.
This club's pitching staff is filled with pitchers with above average control and guys with a tendency to pitch to contact. The fact of the matter is that they just do not allow many hits or walk guys.
I'm predicting that, for the month of June, the Phillies will post the best WHIP in the MLB.
Prediction: The Phillies post a winning record for the month of June.
A simple prediction here to close out the slide show.
The Phillies are going to post a winning record this month, but it certainly is not going to be easy. In order to do so, they will have to go through a few teams that boast the best record in the game, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles, not to mention, Interleague play.
With that being said, I think that June will be a good month for this ball club.