Philadelphia Phillies: Not-So-Fab Five Are Notoriously Slow Starters

Ray TannockSenior Analyst IApril 4, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: Not-So-Fab Five Are Notoriously Slow Starters

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    The 2011 MLB season is back and so are ‘Dem Phightin Phils’. Philadelphia’s finest are ready to make yet another push toward—what will be—their fifth straight appearance in the postseason. But along the way there will be some inevitable bumps in the road that the Phillies will have to endure, and it begins with five players who are notoriously slow starters.

    Dealing with slow starting players is as synonymous with baseball as hot dogs and peanuts, and for the Phillies, it always seems to be the same players year in and year out.

    Let’s take a look at Philly’s sluggish sluggers, and plodding pitchers and maybe even try to shed some light, on this ever annoying plight.

    Caveat: This slide was completed prior to the Phillies 7-3 win Sunday led by Ryan Howard and Ben Francisco. As you read further you'll see why I am writing this.

Cole Hamels, SP:

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    If you look at Cole Hamels, and his career stat line, one could argue that April is actually not that bad of a month for him.

    His totals are pretty respectable, straight across the board, accept for three key areas: strikeouts (124), ERA (4.11) and WHIP (1.307). All three of those statistical categories are the worst totals in any month for Hamels, helping to contribute to his worst monthly cumulative record of 7-8.

    April is usually a bit friendly to pitchers thanks to the swirling winds and colder temperatures; aspects that tend to suppress home runs, which makes Hamels slow start sort of a mystery. But not all of Hamels’ wins and losses have been by his own attrition, leading way to my second notoriously slow starter…

Ryan Howard, 1B:

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    …Mr. Ryan Howard.

    It kinda helps when your power bat is…well, hitting for power. But in the curious case of Ryan Howard, April is not a typical month of production from the hot corner guard.

    Every single hitting category for Howard is at its lowest in the month of April, including strikeouts—what an ironic twist, eh?—making April the most dreaded month for Howard.

    Once again, the ball tends to carry less in April especially for power hitters, and prior to the 2009 season, Howard was striking out at an alarming rate (30 SO per month from 2006 to 2008 compared to20 SO per month in ’09 and ’10) which are all contributors to his April totals.

    Now over the last two years, Howard has really picked things up (.288 average in 2009 and .274 average in 2010 which is compared to his dismal .174 average in 2008) so if this trend continues, perhaps Howard will rid himself of this monkey once and for all.

Shane Victorino, CF:

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    Believe it or not, it takes the ‘Flyin Hawaiian’ a good month or so to get those wings fully spread and in take off form.

    In the month of April, Victorino is a career .245 hitter. But fast forward to the month of May, and his BA jumps a whopping 47 points (.292 career).

    In fact, Victorino’s overall totals in stolen bases and home runs nearly double from April to May with his doubles count jumping from 13 to 36.

    Whether you’re a die-hard Phillies fan, or just the casual fantasy baseball type, watching Victorino struggle through April isn’t exactly a pleasurable experience.

Ben Francisco, OF:

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    Over his career, Ben Francisco has been another notoriously slow starter from his days in Cleveland to his current time here as a Phillie.

    Cumulatively, Francisco is a .255 hitter with a dismal .337 OBP in the month of April. In addition to that, Francisco has just 36 total bases in the month of April (career).

    But Francisco caught a glimmer of possible light at the end of the tunnel this spring when Francisco hit .385 with four homers.

    Hopefully Francisco can capture some lightning in a bottle this year, and end his miserable April streak.

Joe Blanton, SP:

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    There is nobody—and I mean nobody—worse than “Joey B” when it comes to the month of April.

    At least on the Phillies, that is.

    During his stint in Oakland, Joe Blanton went 5-5 with a 4.12 ERA in the month of April, but while here in the City of Brotherly Love, Blanton has gone just 2-6 with a 6.24 ERA.

    And those kinda numbers won’t furnish any love in Philly, I can guarantee you that.

    That’s why Blanton’s 2-1 record, 3.21 ERA and superb 15:4 K/BB ratio in 28 innings this spring was a nice surprise to Phillies fans; a surprise they hope will be a growing trend in the regular season.

    If not, the Phillies are more than likely to throw Joe in the pen or possibly try and deal him, and his hefty $18 million dollar price tag.

    Obviously a move to the pen makes more sense, and is more attainable.

    I hope you guys enjoyed, and for you fantasy baseball fans, come check out Monday's Fantasy Baseball Round Up.