It hasn't been a word used to describe the Philadelphia Phillies season. This is a club entering unfamiliar territory, at least compared to the last five seasons or so. Entering play on July 4, the Phillies are 36-46. They're 10 games under the .500 mark, 12 games out of first place in the National League East, and nine games out of a Wild Card spot.
If you're looking for a word to describe the Phillies through the first half, "dominated" is more like it.
But there's hope for this club. They played the first half without the help of three All-Star players: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Roy Halladay. All three will be on the field for the second half of the season. It may be too little, too late to make a real difference, but at least there's hope.
So as the Phillies teeter on the periphery of being sellers or being buyers, we'll take a look at the chances of each roster player having a dominant second half. Will the odds be high enough to keep this team in the postseason race?
The first half of the regular season has been a struggle for Jimmy Rollins and it doesn't look as though things are going to get much better.
Rollins has struggled in just about every department of his game this season, including his ability to hit for contact and power as well as his ability to run the bases.
I think you can expect a decent second half, but don't expect anything dominant.
A dominant half from Juan Pierre would consist of hitting the ball with frequency and stealing bases. Anything other than that is just outside of his comfort zone. So if you define a "dominant second half" from Pierre by doing those things well, I like those odds.
He's one of the only players Charlie Manuel has managed well this season by having him take far more at-bats against right-handed pitchers than lefties, and Pierre has reaped the rewards.
He's among the team's leaders in both batting average and stolen bases, despite having fewer at-bats than both of those team leaders.
Sure, it's a small sample size, but Chase Utley really does look healthier this season than he has in the past.
You can see it through the way he's playing the game right now, showing good power and running the bases with some spunk. Both of those are indicators of the health of his knees.
If he's feeling healthy, who's to say that the club's second baseman can't have a dominant second half? He's certainly one of the most likely candidates this offense can offer.
I'm pegging Ryan Howard's chances at slightly more than half right now, and that's only because we haven't really seen him play in earnest.
Sure, Howard's rehab assignments have been promising. He launched a home run for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs the other night and has played first base several times.
No one really knows what Howard can provide, however, if he comes back fully healthy, I think you can expect him to really help this club out.
But he's not fully healthy. He won't be this season.
With that in mind, it's hard to figure out what Howard can provide. He'll help, but how much? Can he still be that dominant, middle of the order bat?
This one is more of a "wait and see."
I like the chances of Hunter Pence having a great second half.
The second half of the season signals the return of Ryan Howard, and with Chase Utley already back in the lineup, Pence can go black to playing the complementary role that he's clearly more comfortable in.
The power numbers are way up this season and he's been swinging the bat well heading into the All-Star break. Expect him to pick up right where he left off when the unofficial second half of the season resumes after the All-Star Game.
This is a tough one, but I'm not sold on the fact that Carlos Ruiz can keep up this scorching pace throughout the regular season.
Though the Phillies' catcher has been one of the best hitters in baseball through most of the regular season, he's also posted one of baseball's most unsustainable BABip marks—.366.
Given his career norms and the likelihood of that BABip mark coming way down in the second half of the season, I'm not expecting too much out of Ruiz in the second half, and that should be fine with the return of the Phillies' big offensive names.
With that being said, he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, so I'm working off more of a hunch than anything.
With the way the Phillies are going right now, if Shane Victorino has a dominant second half, it might be for a different club.
A free agent at the end of the season, Victorino would be one of the Phillies' most valuable trade chips if they were to commit to selling by the end of July. Even though he's marred in a terrible slump right now, he'd definitely help a contender with issues in the outfield.
But what are his chances of a dominant second half?
I think you can expect more out of Victorino than what he's producing right now, but I wouldn't get carried away. His power numbers are down and he hasn't shown any signs of turning things around at the plate.
I wouldn't be surprised if he posted an OPS in the .790 - .800 range though.
It may seem a bit harsh, but I'm pretty convinced that Placido Polanco is done.
The Phillies' third baseman certainly hasn't been terrible through the first half of the season, but the days of Polanco being an everyday player should be a thing of the past. Unfortunately for the Phillies, their current situation prevents that from happening.
This is a club that needs to maximize offensive output if they want to climb back into the race, and I just don't see how you can do that with a third baseman that has posted a slash line of .270 / .316 / .349 entering play on July 4.
Baseball is a funny game, so I wouldn't peg Polanco's chances at zero, but 10 certainly seems about right.
The second half of the regular season was very kind to John Mayberry Jr. in 2011, but I don't see that being the case in 2012.
First and foremost, you have to look at the circumstances. With Ryan Howard returning to play first base, Mayberry's playing time will be reduced. He'll play much more of a reserved role, offering a breather for Howard at first base and facing some left-handed pitching in left field.
He's just not going to get enough at-bats to get on any kind of streak, and that drastically reduces his chances of having a dominant second half.
When Laynce Nix returns, he'll have a much different role than the one he played early in the season.
The return of Ryan Howard and the emergence of Juan Pierre will greatly limit his at-bats against right-handed pitching. Both he and John Mayberry Jr. will play first base to give Howard a rest. Given the calf strain, he probably won't play much in the outfield, especially not against lefties.
So if Nix were to have a dominant second half, it would be primarily as a pinch-hitter. Can he dominate in that role—the one the Phillies really signed him to do?
History answers that question with a resounding "no" for Nix, who owns a career line of .188 / .276 / .268 as a pinch-hitter.
But Nix was also playing great baseball before the injury, so it remains to be seen what he can actually do.
Ty Wigginton isn't going to playing much in the second half of the season.
The return of Ryan Howard really clouds his playing time. If we assume that John Mayberry Jr. and Laynce Nix spend time at first base while Mike Fontenot gets some reps at third base to give Placido Polanco a breather, that doesn't leave many at-bats for Wigginton.
Wigginton played a big role for this club early in the season but has cooled off substantially since, and I don't think you can expect him to get much better in significantly less playing time.
First of all, what would be a "dominant" second half for Mike Fontenot?
For argument's sake, we'll consider a dominant second half one where Fontenot gets some at-bats against right-handed pitching late in ball games and finds some starts at both second and third base to give Chase Utley and Placido Polanco a breather.
Can Fontenot be "dominant" in those roles? Well, probably not, but that's not a terrible thing.
The Phillies don't expect him to be dominant. The Phillies expect Fontenot to step into the lineup and not be a black hole at the plate, and that's something he can do.
I'd like to be creative enough to think of something that Brian Schneider can be "dominant" in, but I'm struggling big time.
The Phillies will be happy with Schneider's second half as long as he recovers nicely from that sprained ankle and plays solid defense, but neither of those things are really areas of "domination."
Roy Halladay is going to come back with a roaring vengeance. It's just a gut feeling, but it is based in some fact.
Throughout spring training and the first few months of the season, it was clear that Halladay wasn't feeling himself. Though he shrugged off the thought of an injury, it was clear that something was bothering him, and sure enough, a little problem in the back of his arm turned into a latissimus dorsi strain.
The Phillies nipped it in the bud.
Halladay has spent the last few weeks recovering from the strain and will return shortly after the All-Star break.
Why such a high percentage?
Like I said, it's just a gut feeling, but I think that nobody wants to pitch this team back into the postseason race more than Halladay. If he's fully healthy, he's one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. You can't make a better transaction.
Most of what I just said about Roy Halladay applies to Cliff Lee as well, minus all of the injury related information.
Lee has been an MLB starter since 2002. He's won a Cy Young Award. He's won 22 games in a single season. He's a three-time All-Star. Now you tell me: What's missing?
Lee has been to the World Series twice, once with the Phillies and once with the Texas Rangers, and has come up empty both times.
You could look at his win-loss record and assume that he hasn't pitched well, but when you get down to the business, Lee is still one of baseball's elite pitchers. He has the drive and the motivation to capture that elusive World Series title, and few pitchers have the same ability to rattle off the kind of dominant half that Lee can.
On that last slide, I mentioned that few pitchers have the ability to rattle off a dominant half like Cliff Lee. Well, you can count his teammate Cole Hamels amongst those who can.
When you look at the complete package, no Phillies' pitcher has been better than Hamels this season. Having already reached double digits in wins and keeping his ERA right around 3.00 throughout the first half, Hamels is a guy who could realistically win 20 games and help pitch the Phillies back into the postseason conversation.
Vance Worley's last start against the New York Mets was a solemn reminder of why people worried that he'd regress into a sophomore slump coming into the regular season. He's an excellent right-handed starter, but his "stuff" is hittable, and when he's not locating, it's very hittable.
That's why he has a tendency to have a rough start or two. It's not unusual for this kind of pitcher. He'll just have games where he can't find the corner and run a few sinkers over the plate. It happens. It's understandable.
He's also pitching with bone chips in his right elbow, so given the entire situation, it's unrealistic to think that Worley could have a dominant half. I'll peg his chances at just over half.
Joe Blanton can be a "quality pitcher," but he can't be "dominant."
Very rarely do I like to peg someone's chances this close to zero, just because baseball is a funny game. But one in 10 sure sounds like a long shot, and I think that's the term that best describes Blanton's chances of having a dominant second half.
With that being said, if by nothing short of a miracle, Blanton can find out what was working for him early in the season and execute a game plan built around that in the second half, we could see an entirely different pitcher.
Seems unlikely, but possible.
Kyle Kendrick's best shot at being "dominant" is out of the bullpen, and I don't even like those odds, not even a little bit.
His repertoire revolves around a sinker that catches far too much of the plate, far too often, and until he's able to keep his pitches out of the middle of the strike zone on a consistent basis, don't expect to see that ERA come much further south of 5.00.
Raul Valdes' Chances: (10%) If the Phillies would use Valdes in his natural role—situational lefty—the odds would be much, much higher.
Jeremy Horst's Chances: (5%) Ditto for Jeremy Horst, minus one "much."
Brian Sanches' Chances: (5%) It just seems like Brian Sanches gets shelled every time he comes to the MLB.
Joe Savery's Chances: (3%) The Phillies could eventually recall Savery, but I doubt it.
I'm throwing Justin De Fratus a bone here because he's a real wild card for the second half of the season.
There's no doubt that he's MLB-ready. Given the current state of their bullpen, had he not suffered an injury coming into spring training, he'd probably be pitching out of the Phillies bullpen right now.
So as he heals up, I expect him to get every shot at making the MLB roster as quickly as possible. Given Phillippe Aumont's struggles in Triple-A, no in-house reliever can step in during the second half of the season and have more potential impact than De Fratus.
With that being said, how long it takes him to get to the MLB is still a mystery. Martin Frank of the Wilmington News Journal reports that De Fratus could begin a rehab assignment "about a week" from now.
That means he could potentially return in late July or early August, but the Phillies would probably like to build up his innings in Triple-A.
If Jake Diekman's odds of being dominant were entirely in his own hands, I'd put his odds a little higher, but they're not.
Charlie Manuel will play a huge role in how dominant Diekman can be in the second half of the season. There's no doubt that the left-handed powerhouse is at his best against left-handed hitters, but the amount of important innings he'll see and the batters he'll face is entirely up to Manuel.
If used correctly, Diekman could help save this bullpen in 2012.
After a rocky start to his big league career over parts of the last couple of seasons, Mike Schwimer is finally showing what made him a top prospect in the Phillies' system over the last several seasons.
He's shown much better control of his fastball and that has helped him use his secondary offerings more effectively.
I'm not positive the changes are permanent, but he's certainly pitching much better. Given the lack of options, it wouldn't be surprising to see him emerge as the Phillies' top right-handed reliever, excluding Jonathan Papelbon, if they don't add another arm in the second half.
I feel like I'm being a little generous here, but so be it.
The Phillies needed Antonio Bastardo to come into the season as the dominant left-handed set-up man that opened eyes in 2011. Through the first couple months of the season, he seemed to be doing just that, albeit much more quietly than last season.
The biggest concern was a walk rate that had ballooned out of control, and it finally caught up to him. With little relief help available on the trade market, the Phillies need him to improve his control, and fast.
Without a reliable Bastardo, this bullpen is in serious trouble.
Seems really high, but what proof is there that Jonathan Papelbon won't be one of the most dominant pitchers on this club in the second half? Absolutely none.
Papelbon has torched the competition through the first half, striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings and walking just more than two. Opponents are hitting .217 against him.
Yes, pitching is much more complicated than that, but when you're striking guys out at a rate nearly five times faster than you're walking them and they're barely batting over the Mendoza Line against you, well, that's a recipe for success.