One Way for Each Philadelphia Phillies' Player to Salvage His 2012 Season
To make an incredibly long story short: The Philadelphia Phillies have been an interesting team this season.
After the heart of their order and their ace, amongst a slew of other injured players, spent time on the disabled list this season, the Phillies all but fell out of postseason contention.
They traded Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence and gave a paltry look on the rest of the 2012 season. For all intents and purposes, this year was over. Two All-Stars were heading west and none were coming back to the City of Brotherly Love.
Well, not through a trade, anyway.
The Phillies would eventually activate Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Roy Halladay from the disabled list and even more reinforcements would soon follow.
They battled through the month of August and suddenly found themselves in a position that felt somewhat familiar. It was the same spot that the St. Louis Cardinals were in last season before they vanquished the Phillies from the postseason.
All of a sudden, there was hope. Hope at a miraculous run towards the postseason.
But in fitting fashion for the Phillies this season, an incredibly bad loss with contributions from guys like Jonathan Papelbon and Kevin Frandsen seemed to dash that measly ounce of hope rather quickly.
Now, the Phillies find themselves trying to make a comeback that would make the Cardinals' run in 2011 look insignificant.
Here's what they need to do to salvage the season.
How to Salvage 2012: Improve command/control.
Of course, that's something easier said than done for Phillippe Aumont.
Those struggles forced the club to move him into the bullpen where he found a home as a dominant, late innings kind of guy.
Now, the Phillies need him to step up. The state of the bullpen right now would allow for a guy like Aumont to step up and take a big role, and the Phillies could certainly use that power arm in, say, the eighth inning.
How to Salvage 2012: Show some consistency!
That's a purposefully broad way for Antonio Bastardo to salvage his season.
It will be inherently important for Bastardo to get a handle on his command moving forward. He's a two-pitch pitcher that needs to establish his fastball to maximize the effectiveness of his slider, and that all comes down to how well he's locating.
Bastardo also needs to replicate his delivery a bit more and make sure that his mechanics are in perfect working order.
If he's able to do those things, we should see the dominant lefty again.
How to Salvage 2012: Hit for more power.
Given some of the hitters that have been penciled into the lineup over the last couple of seasons, the Phillies will learn to love a patient hitter like Domonic Brown, but they need him to be more than that.
One of the aspects of Brown's game that made him a top prospect was his ability to hit for power as well as average. He hasn't shown much of that power potential since returning to the MLB.
Of course, he has also had surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone already in his career—and that's an injury that's known to sap a hitter's power.
Still, it would be nice to get more extra base hits out of Brown.
How to Salvage 2012: Pitch to strengths.
Tyler Cloyd's last start against the Cincinnati Reds was excellent, don't get me wrong. Anytime a starting pitcher can throw seven innings, strike out nine, and walk zero, you'll take it.
But Cloyd isn't a strikeout pitcher. It would be wise for him to pitch to his strengths moving forward.
What does that mean? In Cloyd's case, it means pounding the strike zone. If that results in strikeouts, then so be it. But Cloyd should focus on strengthening his ground ball rate and developing an out pitch against left-handed hitters.
Justin De Fratus
How to Salvage 2012: Prove that he's capable of being a significant bullpen piece next season.
Justin De Fratus caught a tough break last spring when he suffered an injury that forced him to miss most of the regular season.
Of course, he caught a good break as well. It's an injury that normally requires surgery and he got off with rest and rehab. That allowed him to rejoin the Lehigh Valley IronPigs earlier than he would have had he needed surgery, which by proxy, allowed him to rejoin the Phillies as a September call-up.
Now De Fratus needs to show that the Phillies can rely on him in important situations in 2013. That means he can't afford a mistake. He'll need to pitch well in each and every opportunity he receives.
How to Salvage 2012: Improve control.
Coming into the regular season, the future of the Phillies' bullpen was bright, but it really didn't even include Jake Diekman.
The lefty had taken a backseat to guys like Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, and Michael Schwimer—guys that impressed the scouting community.
But Diekman was impressive when he got his shot. He has a funky delivery from the left side and an explosive fastball that gets on hitters in a hurry. He's also made significant strides with his secondary offerings.
It isn't hard to see why he can be tough against lefties. The Phillies are going to need him to throw more strikes to be an effective weapon, however.
How to Salvage 2012: Stay the course.
Kevin Frandsen has drawn some venom over the last couple of days for missing a rather routine hop in that ninth inning meltdown against the Atlanta Braves, but other than that, he's been doing everything right for the Phillies.
He's played solid defense at a position that he hasn't played much at the MLB level and has proven to be one of the best contact hitters on the club.
At this point in time, you have to wonder if there's a role for him on next year's squad, but he's doing his best to win a bench spot, at the least.
How to Salvage 2012: Prove he's healthy—and stay that way.
It's been a year to forget for Roy Halladay.
Though he's been pitching better of late outside of that start against the Atlanta Braves where he'd eventually leave with a stomach issue, there have been questions surrounding Halladay all season long.
It started in spring training with a velocity issue and would only be confirmed when he hit the disabled list with a strained right latissimus dorsi.
Upon his return from the DL, Halladay didn't have the velocity that some were expecting from him when he's completely healthy, raising concerns about how "healthy" he actually was.
The goal for Halladay now is just to stay healthy. There's no reason for him to be pitching if he's not at 100 percent.
How to Salvage 2012: Stay the course.
A lot of people, myself included, had Cole Hamels third on the Phillies' starting pitching depth chart coming into the season.
Now, I'm not so sure—in a good way, of course.
While both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee have dealt with both injuries and inconsistent outings this season, Hamels has been as good as ever. The lefty has posted a record of 14-6 with an ERA of 3.04.
If it's not broken, don't fix it. Hamels is pitching well right now.
How to Salvage 2012: Improve command.
Jeremy Horst has realistically been one of the Phillies' best relievers this season and if you're inclined to hit him with a "stay the course" for this slideshow, I'd have no qualms about that.
Horst was tagged with two earned runs in his last outing against the Atlanta Braves, but that didn't even push his earned run average north of two. It currently sits at just 1.99.
Horst is walking 4.37 batters per every nine innings this season, however, and if he wants to be in the 2013 bullpen picture, there is always room for improvement.
How to Salvage 2012: Stay healthy, improve plate discipline, and hit for more power.
You have to give Ryan Howard the benefit of the doubt.
The Phillies' first baseman is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. It's an injury that could take up to a full year to heal and Howard clearly hasn't recovered enough to be considered anything close to 100 percent.
With that being said, there are definitely improvements to be made for Howard.
He needs to cut back on his strikeouts in a big way. Howard's K percentage currently sits at 35.4 percent—not acceptable for a cleanup hitter (or any hitter, for that matter).
And while he has hit for more power recently, I still think there is quite a bit of power left in Howard's bat that hasn't been tapped into this season. The more he plays, the better the chance his power returns in full.
How to Salvage 2012: Stay the course.
Right now, Kyle Kendrick is the best he's ever been in his career.
He's throwing some filthy changeups—a pitch that has improved greatly over the course of the season—and isn't running his sinker and cutter right over the heart of the plate.
That's a good start.
What's been the difference for Kendrick? Well, that isn't as easy to figure out.
The changeup is definitely a huge factor. He thew 103 of them in the month of August and hitters whiffed on it more than 19 percent of the time.
One of the interesting things that Kendrick did last month was basically become a three-pitch pitcher. He threw 165 sinkers, 103 changeups, and 64 cutters, along with six curveballs, according to Brooks Baseball.
Whatever he's doing, it's working.
How to Salvage 2012: Stay the course.
Erik Kratz is playing like an All-Star catcher right now.
He's been an above average defender, is hitting .288, has posted an OPS of .932, and slugged nine home runs.
What else do you want him to do?
How to Salvage 2012: Start a winning streak.
Cliff Lee hasn't had a bad year in 2012. Some will look at his win-loss record with disdain, but I'm more likely to laugh in the face of wins and losses. Even still, I'm sure that Lee is not where he'd like to be at this point in the season.
He needs to go on a winning streak. Two in a row is a nice start.
After a year that he'd like to put in the past, it is important for Lee to finish off 2012 on a good note. He'll have a shot to win his third straight start at home against the Colorado Rockies.
How to Salvage 2012: Better "pitching essentials"—fewer walks, home runs, and flyballs; more off-speed pitches.
It should be pretty obvious, but Josh Lindblom is not going to have much success in a Phillies' uniform with the way he's been pitching.
Loading the bases up with free passes and then unloading them by surrendering a long ball is not a way to pitch at this level.
So if Lindblom wants to salvage the 2012 season, he'll need to correct some obvious flaws. His 6.91 BB/9 rate needs to come way down, along with his his HR/9 rate of 1.88.
He needs to induce more ground balls (just 25% with the Phillies) and could do so by throwing a pair of pitches he's had some success with—the slider and curveball.
It's easy in theory, but much more difficult to execute.
How to Salvage 2012: Pray for a miracle.
To put this as nicely as possible—Michael Martinez has not been good for the Phillies this season.
In fact, his .115/.169/.192 slash line is historically bad.
By now, everyone knows that I'm an optimist. Even I've given up hope for this guy.
John Mayberry Jr.
How to Salvage 2012: Consistency!
At this point in time, it's probably safe to say that John Mayberry Jr. is never going to be an everyday player, which is a shame because we all know that there is a good deal of potential in that bat.
The problem throughout his career, however, has been that no one has been able to consistently draw out that potential from Mayberry.
He has good stretches and bad stretches. All baseball players do. But it is impossible for a guy to play everyday when he goes through stretches that make him look like a borderline All-Star followed by stretches that make him look like he should retire.
Mayberry's a solid option for any club's bench. He just needs to show some consistency in his approach.
How to Salvage 2012: Reverse the power outage.
It's been a season chocked full of surprises for the Phillies, but one of the things that still sneaks up on me every now and then is the fact that it is September and Laynce Nix only has three home runs.
Sure, that comes with a caveat—Nix missed more than 50 games with a calf injury this season.
Even then, however, he should still have more home runs than that. The Phillies gave him the opportunity to play a lot early in the season and sheltered him from left-handed pitching.
They expected more power out of his bat when they signed him. With Nate Schierholtz in the picture now, Nix' job for 2013 could be in trouble.
How to Salvage 2012: Be more reliable in non-save situations.
It's hard to sit here and say that Jonathan Papelbon hasn't done his job this season when he holds 31 saves and has been the most dominant reliever in the Phillies' bullpen by quite a wide margin.
In fact, I won't say that.
But one of the things that the Phillies really need Papelbon to do is channel some of that adrenaline into success during outings in non-save situations.
Papelbon is 2-4 with an ERA of 4.03 in non-save situations this season, and the opposition is hitting .250 with a .797 OPS against him.
That's not going to cut it. There are times when a team needs its closer to come into a non-save situation and keep the score where it is. Papelbon hasn't been able to do that.
How to Salvage 2012: Produce in a bench role.
Juan Pierre was everything the Phillies could have hoped for in a starting role this season. Of course, he wasn't signed to be a starter at all, however.
The Phillies inked the veteran to a non-guaranteed deal that included an invite to spring training last winter and many thought that he would compete for a bench role with the similarly skilled Scott Podsednik while guys like John Mayberry Jr., Laynce Nix, and Domonic Brown battled it out in left field.
Low and behold, Pierre eventually won that left field job.
Now, he has to give way to different players as the Phillies evaluate their options. It will be interesting to see if he can squeeze his way into their plans for 2013 by excelling in a role on the bench.
How to Salvage 2012: Get healthy.
It may not be fair to say it, but I will anyway: I've all but given up on Placido Polanco.
That's not to say that he hasn't had a fantastic career—he has. But every time he gets back on the diamond, it seems as though Polanco aggravates some kind of injury.
He's barely played for the Phillies over the last two months of the season and would probably be on the disabled list yet again if rosters did not expand in September.
There is a long list of ways for Polanco to salvage 2012, but most of them seem unrealistic and none are possible unless he is healthy.
How to Salvage 2012: Show more patience at the plate; take better swings.
Jimmy Rollins hasn't had the best offensive year of his career by any means, but there is definitely room to improve. He's not just a declining player slipping into obscurity. Right now, there is still some life in that bat.
It's just hard to see when every at-bat ends in a pop-up.
A lot of that centers around Rollins' impatient approach. His walk rate fell for the second consecutive season and he is striking out at his highest rate since 2003.
If Rollins is going to salvage this season, he needs to approach each at-bat like the club's lead-off hitter. He needs to take pitches, gauge what a pitcher is bringing into each at-bat, and find ways to get on base.
It isn't a glamorous job, but someone has to do it.
How to Salvage 2012: Better command; more ground balls.
There have been times this season when B.J. Rosenberg looked like he was completely lost on the mound. A good bit of that comes from inexperience. An even greater bit comes from having a poor approach.
Rosenberg's best pitch is his fastball, but he doesn't throw enough of his secondary offerings for it to be truly effective, nor does he locate it enough to actually throw those secondary offerings.
It's your classic Catch 22.
What Rosenberg needs to do is locate his fastball. A BB/9 rate of 6.94 isn't going to cut it at this level (or any level, for that matter).
Then, off of his fastball, he can throw more sliders and changeups—both of which he uses to generate a fair amount of swings and misses.
How to Salvage 2012: Find consistent at-bats.
Nate Schierholtz literally suffered a tough break when he fractured the big toe on his right foot during the month of August, but it was also a metaphorically tough break as well.
To borrow an old wrestling term, the Phillies had planned to "push" Schierholtz (or give him more of an everyday job) through the remainder of the season, but that plan had to be put on hold as he recovered.
Now in the month of September, Schierholtz finds himself in a situation where his job could possibly be on the line (he's a non-tender candidate this offseason) and he needs to find as many at-bats as possible to make sure he stays.
I don't think the Phillies will cut him this winter, but they've done crazier things.
How to Salvage 2012: A tough decision: Stay the course or set sights on an entirely different journey?
You can look at the remainder of Chase Utley's season from a pair of perspectives.
If you see him as a second baseman this season, you'll want him to stay the course. Sure, you can nitpick over an unusually low batting average, but his approach at the plate is the best it has been in a long time and the average will come later.
More importantly, the power has returned and Utley has posted a strong OBP of .343.
Then again, if you have an eye on the future, you'll want to see what Utley can do at third base. That means he'll need to spend some time there in 2012 so that we can finally see whether or not he "has the arm" to stick there.
For what it's worth, I think he does. I think he'll be your starting third baseman in 2013.
How to Salvage 2012: Stay the course.
The Phillies haven't used Raul Valdes much as of late, so it's hard to see him being in the bullpen picture for 2013.
With that being said though, he did a nice job of stepping up for the club when several relievers hit the disabled list this season.
If he sticks to his current game plan, he'll find an MLB job next season—be it with the Phillies or elsewhere.
How to Salvage 2012: Be a good part-time player.
It's what the Phillies wanted when they traded for Ty Wigginton—for him to be a good bench player.
Wigginton really hasn't shown that he's capable of that this season. He was at his best when he was getting a significant amount of playing time earlier this year when Ryan Howard was on the disabled list, but getting a lot of at-bats to stay sharp is not a luxury that a good bench player can afford.
As a pinch-hitter this season, Wigginton is hitting .192/.290/.231 with zero home runs. Unless there is a dramatic improvement from him in that regard this month, he'll have a new address in 2013.