5 Things We Take Away from the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies
The end has arrived for the Philadelphia Phillies as they finish the 2012 season with a 5-1 loss to their division rivals and this season's winners - the Washington Nationals. The Phillies end note is a perfect way to end 2012 - in mediocrity at 81-81 this year.
This year's Phillies team was just average because of injuries to key players like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, one of the worst relief pitching group in the majors this season, plus decisions by manager Charlie Manuel that left most fans scratching their heads much of this season.
2012 will be remembered as the end of a 5-year streak that had the Phillies in the post-season, and the worst season the team has had since 2002 (ending a streak of 9 straight winning seasons).
This will be an empty feeling for baseball fans in South Jersey not having the Phillies playing any more this year. As we look toward 2013, here are 5 things we take away from this past season:
1) The team could have been worse than being a .500 team
Between June 2nd and July 14th, the Phillies lost 26 out of 36 games and lost their season right there, yet the team after the All-Star Break went 44-30 to actually stay in the playoff until the final weeks of the season. Most teams suffering a streak like they did would have seen their season implode. Good example was the 2012 New York Mets - they were 46-39 on July 7th, then lost 30 of their next 43 games and never recovered (finishing with 74 wins and 7 games behind Philly).
2) The starting pitching was the one of the positives
Cole Hamels won 17 games, led the team in strikeouts (216), Earned Run Average (3.05), and has was resigned during the 2012 season making many women very happy (and the men too!) Cliff Lee pitched like an ace (3.16 ERA with 206 strikeouts) but had no support offensively all year - end result was only 6 wins for the former Cy Young Award winner. Kyle Kendrick quietly matched his career high for wins in a season (11). The team was 2nd in the majors in "Quality Starts" (6 or more innings pitched with 3 or less runs given up).
3) Career years from unlikely sources
Did you know you Kevin Frandsen before this year? A career .243 hitter over the last four season in very limited play in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the 30-yr-old journeyman hit .335 in just over 200 plate appearances plus provided a spark for the Phillies late in the season. Carlos Ruiz was a career .265 hitter over his last 5 season as the team's catcher, then this year come's career highs for hits in a season (120), Home Runs (16), Runs Batted In (68) and batting average (.326). Juan Pierre posted his highest batting average since 2004 (hitting .310), and led the Phillies in stolen bases (37).
4) The future looks bright with Darin Ruf
In his 3rd minor league season, this 26-yr-old belted 38 Home Runs for the Reading Phillies (AA level) and hit .317, earning Ruf a September call-up that impress many. Ruf belted 3 Home Runs in 11 games for Philly, and got 11 hits in 31 at-bats (hitting .355). Could there a spot for him in the outfield in 2013? Could the Phillies see if Howard could be traded? That may be blasphemy but his return from injury was far from his career .271 batting average (.219 over 71 games and 99 strikeouts in 260 at-bats).
5) Charlie Manuel is on the hot seat in 2013
The man has won over 56% of the games Philly has played since 2005 (including post season). This year was where Manuel was questioned more than ever with in-game decisions. Charlie was a little surly at times, but you would be too if you had the injuries he was dealing with. Manuel never quit on his team, and that could be a huge reason the Phillies fought to the end, but this season cost 3 of Charile's coaches their jobs - Pete Mackanin, Greg Gross, and Sam Perlozzo. There is a level of excellence now that is expected in Philadelphia, plus Ryne Sandberg is waiting in the Lehigh Valley for a chance to manage (he has won 55% of games he's managed at the AAA level).