Did We Overestimate the Philadelphia Phillies Heading into 2012?
The Philadelphia Phillies have gone 33-21 in the second half of the season. It's only four wins fewer than their total prior to the All-Star break, but well off the pace of 94 wins by this time last season.
All things considered, does the Phillies’ recent string of success match what we should have expected this season?
Was a season like last year's actually a possibility?
Back-to-back 102-win seasons may have been a best-case scenario, and a 37-50 record at the All-Star break might have seemed laughable.
Since the latter has taken place, however, the Phillies have been winning with more consistency.
Are they also winning at a pace on par with where expectations should have been, heading into this season?
The Phillies’ historic season last year didn’t end the way they had hoped, and few signs pointed towards improvement at the start of this season, especially considering the injuries to two key players.
The 2011 Phillies finished the regular season batting .248 as a team from September until the start of the postseason. The team then batted .226 in five postseason games to conclude the season. That’s a .237 team average combined from September until their final playoff game.
Shouldn’t expectations have been tempered, then, when the Phillies began the season with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on the disabled list?
The Phillies decided against adding any major offensive pieces to their lineup last offseason, with Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix being their biggest acquisitions.
With a healthy team only able to bat .237 to close out the prior season and two stars missing at the start of the next season—not to mention the players Wigginton, Freddy Galvis and an unproven John Mayberry, Jr. now in the starting lineup—the chances of improving on offense were slim for the Phillies at the start of the season.
However, now that Utley and Howard have been back for nearly two months, the Phillies have begun winning with more consistency.
A winning percentage over .600 during the past two months doesn’t give the Phillies the same win total as last season, but it is likely closer to how the team should have played this season (considering all of their injuries).
And considering how they played prior to the All-Star break, the Phillies’ recent ways have also brought back a feeling that has been familiar around this time each of the past five seasons.
As for the pitching, should we have expected that a bullpen featuring young, inexperienced pitchers wouldn’t experience their share of growing pains as the season progressed?
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Phillies’ relievers had a 4.42 combined ERA for the month of July. In the last 30 days, however, only two relievers currently on the roster have an ERA over 3.55.
As for the starters, what were the chances of the rotation matching the 2.86 ERA that they posted last season?
Few could have expected Cliff Lee to go so long in between wins, or that Kyle Kendrick and Tyler Cloyd would be cemented in the rotation by September. But an increase in team ERA combined with an injury to one of the starters was not out of the question prior to the start of the season.
Yes, it’s easy to look back and analyze, and hindsight is 20/20. The team’s performances in recent seasons gave observers every reason to have high expectations.
However, the rest of the NL East couldn’t have been expected to wait around and allow the Phillies to remain in contention until Utley, Howard and even Roy Halladay returned from injuries.
Even if the Phillies had started the season with a healthy roster, the chances of them running away with the NL East again were slim. However, having a lead at the top of the division would still have been within reach.
If the Phillies had played the entire season the way they are playing now, they likely would be competing with the Atlanta Braves for second place in the NL East and first place in the NL Wild Card standing.
Not quite the same level of dominance that the past seasons have produced, but still competitive in a tough division.
The Phillies have created high expectations for themselves during each of the past few seasons, and this season was no different.
Few teams, however, could have remained dominant while missing key pieces and also while counting on an inexperienced bullpen.
The original expectations for this season were not met. If, however, the expectations were to be met even through the injuries suffered during the first half of the season, and the team were to have a respectable finish following a much stronger second half, then those expectations would have been right on the mark.
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