5 Things We Learned About the Phillies Through the 1st Quarter of the Season
The Philadelphia Phillies have had an interesting season thus far in 2013. The season has been riddled with ups and downs, from offensive resurgence of some players to injuries and depth issues concerning others.
As the season has now officially reached the one-quarter mark, it may be safe to say that certain trends are here to stay for the Phillies. Certain performances by certain players have been stellar, while others have been terrible.
I'm being intentionally ambiguous here. The point is, even after a quarter of the 2013 MLB season, there is enough information to gauge the Phillies so far. Here are five things that we've learned about the Phillies after the first quarter of the season.
Hope Remains for Roy Halladay
I don't know about you, but I still believe in Roy Halladay.
Entering the 2013 season, Halladay was an unknown commodity. With a rough spring fresh in everyone's memory, the hope was that Halladay would turn things around with the start of the regular season.
In his first few outings, Halladay was terrible. But then he surprised everyone by pitching three straight quality starts, some of which were tainted only by home runs.
However, things quickly fell apart once again, culminating in not only a 2-4 record and 8.65 ERA, but a spot on the DL with a new shoulder injury—this time a partially torn rotator cuff, frayed labrum and bone spur.
Fortunately, Halladay's surgery was successful, according to John Finger of CSNPhilly.com, and I see every reason to believe that he can come back from it and pitch well. Even at 36 years old, Halladay has the work ethic to rehabilitate well from this injury. While he may not be the ace he once was, he still has the potential to be an adequate starter in the majors.
Nothing is a given in Halladay's situation, especially after surgery. But there's hope now that the problem has been corrected. Perhaps we'll see later this summer if surgery did the trick.
Cole Hamels of 2009 and 2010 Has Resurfaced
In 2009 and 2010, Cole Hamels had a plethora of issues. After a stellar breakout 2008 season that saw him win NLCS and World Series MVP honors, Hamels dropped off the face of the Earth and bottomed out, pitching to a 10-11 record with a 4.32 ERA.
As 2010 rolled around, Hamels looked much better, but he lacked the run support he needed to win games. Despite a sterling 3.06 ERA, Hamels posted a win-loss record barely above .500 at 12-11.
Now, in 2013, Hamels is seeing a combination of both of those dreadful years. In games he has pitched well, Hamels has lacked any sort of competitive edge on his side, and close games have resulted in losses.
Having said that, he's also blown up in other games, such as in his 10-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, when he gave up five runs and three home runs.
Hamels now leads the National League in two categories: walks (24) and losses (six). He has also surrendered nine home runs, averaging one per start. And with a 4.61 ERA, is Hamels' control really under control?
Which Hamels will last the season? At this point, it's too early to predict. But it's clear that Cliff Lee's spell of no run support has been lifted and rests once more on Hamels' shoulders. That plus a few more bad outings could jeopardize Hamels' ace status, at least in 2013.
Chase Utley Is Back
After playing in his first spring training and making his first Opening Day roster since 2010, Chase Utley started off the 2013 season with a bang. Since then, he's barely cooled off.
Utley has played in almost all of the Phillies' games in 2013, and his offensive lines have been superb. He is hitting .281 with an .835 OPS, 24 RBI, seven home runs, seven doubles, two triples and four steals. While his OBP isn't fantastic at .335, he's hit enough to justify the slight deficiency.
The only question concerning Utley has been his defense, and even that is a question stemming from extensive nitpicking. Utley has had five errors at second base already in 2013, although in recent weeks he has settled down on defensive miscues.
The good news is that there isn't much to report on Utley. He's been healthy and productive. He's back. And hopefully he can warrant a one or two-year contract after the season that would lead him to retire in Philadelphia.
Jonathan Pettibone Could Be Good, Kyle Kendrick Could Be Great
The Phillies haven't been saddled with injuries like they have in previous years, especially in 2012. However, two key injuries in their rotation to John Lannan and Roy Halladay have forced the Phillies to depend on other pitchers for support. In this case, it's been Jonathan Pettibone and Kyle Kendrick.
Pettibone came into the season ranked as the Phillies' fourth-best prospect, according to Baseball America. He also was considered to have the best changeup and control in the Phillies farm system. In light of a nice finish to 2012 and a solid start to 2013 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Pettibone was called up to the majors after Lannan landed on the DL in mid-April.
Since his major league debut on April 22 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pettibone has impressed. He now sits at 3-0 with a 3.41 ERA and 17 strikeouts. He has exceeded expectations, and it wouldn't be a surprise for Pettibone to remain a mainstay in the Phillies' rotation through 2013.
Kendrick obviously wasn't called up, as he's been with the team for a few years now. Coming off a good 2012 season, the biggest questions surrounding Kendrick had been whether or not he could consistently pitch the Phillies into games. And he's answered that question with absolute success.
At one point it was arguable, but now it's clear that Kendrick is the Phillies' best pitcher in 2013. He's 4-1 with a 2.47 ERA and has a solid 39 strikeouts to date. The question had always been if Kendrick could keep his sinker down, and he clearly has, except for a handful of mistakes that have led to five home runs.
Both of these pitchers have been pleasant surprises, and it shouldn't be surprising to see them pitch well down the stretch. We've learned that both Pettibone and Kendrick are good pitchers, and their dominance thus far has no reason to end.
The Phillies Can Contend, Even with Odds Stacked Against Them
On May 17, the Phillies sit at 19-22. They're 3.5 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves and half a game behind the Washington Nationals, which were expected to run away with the NL East division title. It's been a year of surprises in the NL East, but the Phillies could post the biggest surprise of them all.
Yes, the Phillies are under .500. Yes, the Phillies have struggled to provide run support. Yes, their collective offense has been anemic, and yes, their pitching has been mediocre at best.
But you know what other question has an answer of "yes"? The Phillies can contend in 2013.
The odds have been and will be stacked against the Phillies throughout the 2013 season. There are too many question marks to guarantee them anything. But with a little spark and a stretch of dominant play, they could find themselves sitting near or at the top of the division.
The 2013 Phillies are not an overpowering team. But if they find their stroke and catch lightning in a bottle, the Phillies could reach the playoffs. We know that the Phillies aren't the dominant force they once were, but we also know that the potential is there.
The Phillies just have to unlock it.
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