April 22, 2012

Ten Things That Might Cheer You Up About the Phillies

If you're like me, the Phillies have been making you sad lately, what with the lack of runs and such, so I'm going to look for some positives in this young season. Hopefully I can come up with a few.

1. The Phillies' pitching is still the Phillies' pitching
Entering Sunday's game, the Phillies were second in the NL in ERA and FIP to the Washington Nationals. However, one might notice the Nationals' very low HR/FB% and lower BABIP and conclude that the two NL East rivals have been just about equal. So far, the good guys are the main reason why the Phillies are still near .500 despite the offense's very well-documented struggles.

2. Shane Victorino's Bat
While it seems like the everyone on the offense has struggled, Shane Victorino has actually been hitting quite well. Picking up where he left off last season, Victorino is hitting .293/.349/.414, good for a 134 wRC+ entering Sunday. He's also hit two home runs and has 8 runs scored and six steals. Not too shabby, if you ask me.

3. Freddy Galvis' Defense
22-year-old second baseman Freddy Galvis, who I've written about a few different times, has been nothing short of spectacular in the field. Here are a few of his plays, which for some reason I can't embed anymore, from Sunday, especially Saturday, and Thursday. He has recorded a +4.3 UZR so far this season and while I sincerely doubt he'll have a +36.7 UZR over the course of a full season as UZR/150 would suggest, he has looked quite spectacular out there this season.

4. Vanimal's two-seamer
Vance Worley, a prime candidate for a sophomore slump following his impressive rookie season, has avoided the regression monster thus far this season. Because he thrived on striking out hitters looking with his two-seamer, it was thought that he could not keep up his solid strikeout rate (not by me, of course). He is averaging almost 9.95 K/9, 3.79 BB/9 and 2.63 K/BB, and his 2.72 xFIP is in the top ten in the game. While I showed before that those statistics do not stabilize until about 5 starts, his K/BB ratio is right in line with last season, which is incredibly encouraging.

5. The Phillies can't possibly disappoint anymore
Now depending on how you view a 12-ounce glass with 6 ounces of liquid in it, this could be a positive or a negative, but frankly the offense has been so bad that we're used to routinely getting shutout. Especially following that gutsy 10 inning shutout performance by Cliff Lee that resulted in (a) a loss and (b) a DL stint for Lee, the Phillies offense can't possibly avoid living up to our insanely low expectations.

6. Help is on the way
The Phillies are struggling on offense, and it's partly because they are without two players who have formed the heart of their order for several years now. But help is on the horizon, as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have reportedly been progressing in their rehabilitation. While it remains to be seen exactly when they will return and how effective they will be, they have to be an improvement over what's been happening lately. Howard will be stepping into first base, where hitters have a .722 OPS, having recorded an .834 OPS in 2011. Second basemen have a .613 OPS this season, compared to Utley's .769 OPS in 2011.

7. More help could possibly be on the way, too
If the lack of production in LF continues, at some point it will force Ruben Amaro's hand and Dom Brown will be back up in the Majors. Left Fielders have a .576 OPS so far this year, compared with Dom Brown's .724 2011 OPS. I may be a little optimistic with this prediction, but Amaro cannot seriously leave him in the minors if this absolute mediocrity continues in left.

8. It's still early
The season is exactly 9.3% over. That's it, less than 1/10th. The Phillies have plenty of time to get themselves together and string together some wins. While I know the circumstances and I don't pretend to act like this has any predictive power, but the Phillies had equally bad records through 15 games in 2008 and 2009, and we made the World Series both years and won one. Again, I'm not saying you should put down money for World Series tickets, it just goes to show how early it is in the season.

9. Enjoy the talking heads
One thing that my complete immersion in baseball has afforded me is a feeling that my opinion is more valuable than the people who are paid to talk about the Phillies. While this may or may not be true, some of the absurd things that radio hosts, pre- and post-game show hosts, and especially people who call into radio shows often make hilariously bad suggestions. Laugh at them.

10. This team is lovable
If you are a very serious person and don't enjoy jokes and the like, then this probably will come off as a negative. But I am enjoying myself watching these games more so than last year. I wrote about this yesterday, then Michael Baumann of Crashburn Alley one-upped me with this post. Sports exist to be enjoyed, and even if the Phils don't make the playoffs this year, I know it'll still be a fun ride.

Well there you go, ten things to make you feel better about the Phillies this year. I never thought I'd wind up writing a list such as this, but it sure made me feel better. I hope it did the same for you.

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