Philadelphia Phillies: Reviewing My 5 Bold Predictions at the Midway Point
Well, now that the halfway point of the MLB season has arrived, I find it appropriate to go back and review those predictions to see how well my career as a fortune teller will go.
For those of you who don't follow the team religiously, the team has been nothing short of a disappointment. Not only are they last in the NL East, but they're 12 games back and falling quickly out of the second Wild Card race.
Part of the problem has been the pitching staff, one plagued by injuries and underwhelming performances.
From Cliff Lee's 0-5 start to Roy Halladay's DL stint to Joe Blanton's mediocrity, the only bright spot on the staff has been Cole Hamels—and he could be gone with the blink of an eye.
The bullpen, unfortunately, hasn't been much better (with the exception of closer Jonathan Papelbon)(more on that later).
The offense, while still below the standards of the 2008 World Series club, has re-bounded as of late fueled by the resurgence of Hunter Pence and the consistent bat of Carlos Ruiz.
Without further ado, here are my five bold predictions and their results at the halfway point of the 2012 season!
Jonathan Papelbon Blows 15 Saves: INCORRECT
At the end of spring training, all I saw was an overpaid, inconsistent closer who would infuriate Phillies fans more than Billy Wagner.
I honestly couldn't have been more wrong.
Even with his struggles in non-save situations, Paps is 18-for-19 in save situations—he didn't record a blown save until June 23—while posting a respectable 3.03 ERA and 2-2 record.
He has been a rock in an otherwise poor bullpen, and the Phillies now see why not having an excellent right-handed setup man is such a problem; this should help Charlie Manuel appreciate the Ryan Madson of 2008 even more.
Antonio Bastardo Makes All-Star Game: INCORRECT
I know, I was shooting a little high with this one, but I thought if any surprise reliever would make it, Bastardo would be the man.
Now, Bastardo hasn't been terrible, but he hasn't been excellent. He does have 15 holds and a 2-2 record, but he's 0-for-2 in save situations while posting an okay 4.00 ERA.
However, some of those stats are skewed by his recent outings. Up until the June 24 game against Tampa Bay, Bastardo was having an excellent season with a 2-1 record and 2.66 ERA.
Then things fell apart when he gave up three runs in one-third of an inning, so fans should take the above statistics with a grain of salt.
Bastardo didn't make the All-Star team, but I'd still take him over the other junk—as in the demoted Chad Qualls—in Charlie's bullpen.
Chooch Wins Gold Glove: TBD
If the prediction read "Silver Slugger" instead of Gold Glove, I'd be right already. As it is, offensive production doesn't translate into defensive awards.
There is no doubt Chooch has been the best NL hitter at the catcher position—the only person who's even close is Buster Posey—but on defense the race is much closer.
I'm not the only person who thinks Ruiz is the best catcher in baseball; his numbers speak on offense but on defense he is one of the more unheralded players in the game. Not only does he call the best game in the league, but his reliable blocking and improved throwing arm have made him a candidate for the Gold Glove every year he's healthy.
If I had to choose, my money would be on Ruiz to win both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in 2012.
Polanco Has Incredible Bounce-Back Year: Mostly Incorrect
There was a point in the season where I would've said "To be announced at a later date" because Placido Polanco had raised his average all the way to over .285, but, as it is, the third baseman is having an okay season.
Polanco is definitely back on track after starting out the year hitting in the low .200s, but he still isn't where I hoped he'd be at this time. I thought that he'd be hitting .305 with a healthy amount of doubles, but so far he's only done the latter—14 doubles through 69 games.
Defensively, he's still one of the better corner infielders in the game, but offensively, he'll need to pick up the consistency to have 2012 be labeled as a "good bounce-back year."
Phillies Don't Win NL East: CORRECT
Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
For the first time I can say, "I told you so" in this article. At the beginning of the season, I foresaw the pitching problems that would surface in middle relief as well as the struggles to maintain a balanced lineup from Jimmy Rollins all the way down to Ty Wigginton.
Not only are the Phils losing the division, but they are last.
They will not and can not come back to win the division outright; their only chance at a playoff spot is to snag one of the two Wild Card spots which is looking bleaker by the moment.
The Phillies can use free agency, the farm system, trades or good managing to get out of this rut in 2013, but for now, they are not the NL East's best team.