Phillies Phighting to the Phinish
While they will never catch the Washington Nationals in the National League East, who lead them by 17 games, the Philadelphia Phillies are fighting their way back into relevance in the 2012 season. Having traded outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the MLB trade deadline, it looked like a lost season. They were, after all 46-57 at that point, 15.5 games behind the Nationals.
Today, the Phillies are 71-71, 25-14 since the All-Star break and just four games back from St. Louis for the second NL Wild Card. They have won six in a row and 14 of their last 18 games. While the Phils were dangerous heading into this season, they seem even more dangerous now.
Certainly, they are without Pence and Victorino, but the Phillies have been getting production elsewhere since the All-Star break:
* Ryan Howard is back and he is still hitting a lot of home runs (10 in 56 games) and striking out way too much (78 K’s in 203 AB).
* Jimmy Rollins has 10 home runs since the All-Star break, but he is only hitting .234/.299/.440 out of the leadoff spot. While the OBP is weak, his surprising power, 12 steals, and 36 runs are solid.
* Erik Kratz has filled the shoes of Carlos Ruiz, who has missed significant time due to injury after an amazing breakout to start the season, posting a second half line of .261/.315/.523 with seven home runs and 21 RBI in 36 games.
* John Mayberry has provided power with his eight home runs, Juan Pierre has been fantastic (.313/.364/.357) after nearly being traded at the deadline, and Domonic Brown has been productive in his first real shot in the majors while forming the revamped outfield.
* The pitching has been fantastic, as it should have been, with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Kyle Kendrick have combined for a 20-8 record and a 3.03 ERA in 279 innings in the second half, with a 239:54 K:BB.
Needless to say, it is the pitching that is frightening for potential opponents in the playoffs. If the Philadelphia Phillies win a Wild Card spot, they can start Halladay, Lee, or Hamels in the one game playoff. Their rotation has the potential to dominate in the playoffs like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, but they have a third ace that Arizona did not have.
The postseason is the reason why the Phillies loaded up their rotation. Ruben Amaro, Jr. and ownership may have thought they were cleaning house to ease payroll in hopes of rebuilding through free agency this coming offseason. Now, by riding that same rotation and a few surprisingly productive bats, the Philadelphia Phillies have created a legitimate claim for one of the National League Wild Cards.
With three games at home against Atlanta, six games (three at home and three on the road) against Washington, and some winnable games against Miami, Houston, and the New York Mets, the Phillies do seem to have a legitimate shot. Not many people would have thought that was the case a month ago.