Who's right about Phils' personnel: Manuel or Amaro?
Charlie Manuel said it was wearing on him – having to repeatedly talk about a team that, as he put it, “doesn’t play good enough to win.” It was right before everyone decamped for the All-Star Break. The Phillies had just lost (again). Manuel was sitting by himself, per usual, and addressing the media. There should have been two chairs at the table that day – one for the manager and one for his full-grown frustration.
Manuel looked tired as he described how “something happens” and then the Phillies “don’t execute” and so they “don’t beat people.” What he said next was blunt.
“When I sit there and watch us play, we need some things,” Manuel said. “There are three phases to the game: pitching, defense and offense. We get hurt somewhere along the line every night because we’re not consistent in those areas and the way we play the game.”
It was not the first time that Manuel suggested, not so subtly, that these Phillies are simply not good enough as currently constructed. “We need some things” is a manager’s version of sending out a mayday distress call.
The Phils are 14 games behind the first-place Washington Nationals and 10 games out of the wild card race. While Manuel looks at a team that needs to replace malfunctioning parts, Ruben Amaro has talked about the Phillies as though this bunch is able perform the way everyone hoped and anticipated.
“We have to figure out some way to play more consistent baseball,” Amaro said about a week ago (see story)
. “This is not acceptable.
“The players have to figure out a way to play better.”
The declaration about it not being acceptable was true and obvious enough. It was the bit about how the players “have to figure out a way to play better” that was tougher to understand. It sounded hopeful, as though voicing the idea will suddenly make them hit and catch and pitch better, thereby swapping their number of wins with their number of losses and course-correcting a team that has been wandering around the baseball wilderness all season.
Amaro said something similar
to the Inquirer and other reporters during the Phillies last road-trip, declaring that “you have a team that's not playing very well, and we have very good players.”
Again, the first part was hard to argue. It was the back half of the statement that made me pause.
Do they have “very good players"? Or, as Manuel has repeated, do they “need some things.”
It certainly hasn’t helped that the right side of the infield started playing together again only last week. Even so, Amaro’s statements seemed to suggest that the players who have been around this season are capable of something greater. Is that the case, or is it merely wishful?
Eight position players have appeared in at least 70 games for the Phillies this season. A quick review of their numbers this year compared to what they’ve done in the recent past:John Mayberry
This year: .232 batting average/.269 on-base percentage /.377 slugging percentage
Previous three seasons (154 games): .265/.328/.518Hunter Pence
This year: .285/.352/.482
Previous two seasons: .298/.348/.481Juan Pierre
This year: .307/.344/.378
Previous two seasons: .277/.335/.322Placido Polanco
This year: .266/.311/.342
Previous two seasons: .288/.337/.365Jimmy Rollins
This year: .256/.310/.402
Previous two seasons: .258/.331/.389Carlos Ruiz
This year: .350/.412/.584
Previous two seasons: .292/.385/.414Shane Victorino
This year: .245/.311/.369
Previous two seasons: .269/.340/.458Ty Wigginton
This year: .245/.318/.398
Previous two seasons: .245/.313/.415
Mayberry is having a down year, but he didn’t have a huge sample size to reference coming into this season, which makes it all the more curious why the organization didn’t try to upgrade in left field during the winter. Ruiz is performing well above what people expected, while Victorino, as everyone knows, has fallen off. Pierre is hitting and slugging better than he has previously, while Polanco’s stats have dipped a bit. But, for the most part, the main contributors are producing right around what they have in recent years. They are generally who we expected them to be at this point in their careers.
As for the pitchers, the injuries to Roy Halladay, Jose Contreras, Mike Stutes, David Herndon, Justin DeFratus, etc. have also caused immeasurable damage. A brief look at some of the others who have taken the mound:Antonio Bastardo
This year: 5.34 ERA, 1.46 WHIP
Previous two seasons (89 games): 3.05, 1.07Joe Blanton
This year: 4.98, 1.26
Previous two seasons: 4.85, 1.42Cole Hamels
This year: 3.20, 1.10
Previous two seasons: 2.92, 1.08Kyle Kendrick
This year: 4.89, 1.48
Previous two seasons: 4.14, 1.31Cliff Lee
This year: 3.98, 1.19
Previous two seasons: 2.77, 1.01Jonathan Papelbon
This year: 3.34, 1.14
Previous two seasons: 3.43, 1.10Vance Worley
This year: 3.54, 1.36
Last season: 3.01, 1.23
Bastardo has struggled this season, but like Mayberry he didn’t have a huge body of recent work to indicate how he might do. Which – just like with Mayberry – makes you wonder why the Phillies didn’t work harder to improve that part of the team as a safety measure. Despite the franchise’s plan, Chad Qualls and the rest of the bullpen misfits have not been the answer to many relief pitching questions this season.
As for the rest of the main pitchers, Lee has had a difficult season, but the others mostly have numbers similar to what they’ve put up in the past. The point is that, with the exception of some unexpected anomalies (Ruiz, Victorino and Lee), as well as some players the team probably shouldn’t have had so much faith in (Mayberry, Bastardo), these Phillies are generally doing this year what they’ve done in recent seasons.
Blaming the season on injuries makes sense, but it's tough to believe that some of the healthier Phils can suddenly “figure out a way to play better,” as Amaro suggested.E-mail John Gonzalez at email@example.com