June, while on the surface appearing to be an average month by an average ball club, was not especially kind to the Philadelphia Phillies and may well be the beginning of the end of this baseball season.
Starting pitching, seen as the strength of the team coming into the season, now appears to be a bigger weakness than their already shockingly weak bullpen with the season ending injuries of Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber. The Phillies and Garcia are pretending as if he'll be back, but I wouldn't bet on it when it comes to shoulder and rotator cuff problems. Lieber broke his foot and had season ending surgery the other day. Both will be free agents at season's end and neither will be back with the team next year. More on this later, but onto the numbers for June.....
The number of wins the Phillies pulled down in June. It's also the exact number they won last month. As of June 30th, the Phils were in 3rd place; 6 games behind the division leading Mets in the NL East and 2 games behind 2nd place Atlanta. If this number means anything, it signifies the mediocrity of this team. They were 3 games above .500 for the month (15 wins, 12 losses), but they couldn't seem to gain any ground on the Mets (they went 3 - 2 with the Mets in June) and they could only hold serve in Inter league play (6 - 6 vs. their AL counterparts).
This is the ERA of the Phillies' starting pitchers for the month of June. All of them. In the beginning of the year, I stated that the success and failure of this team would be dictated by the starting pitching and June has borne out that prediction. You cannot win in this league when your starters have an ERA this bad for any length of time. With holes in left field and third base (again with the hole at 3rd base this year) and no real protection for Ryan Howard in the lineup, the Phils cannot out slug teams on a regular basis, so they definitely need better work from their starting rotation. For the year, the Phillies' team ERA is 4.91, good for DEAD LAST in the National League.
The number of home runs 1B Ryan Howard hit in the month of June. The Big Man appears to be back. While his average is not above .300 yet (he's at .251 for the year), Howard did hit .280 for the month of June. The quad injury is probably still bothering him, and even though he has no protection for him in the lineup, Howard is beginning to produce as a clean up hitter should as he is in the top 5 in both HRs and RBIs in the National League as of this writing.
The batting average that 2B Chase Utley hit for in the month of June. He was definitely the MVP of the team in June, and added 6 HRs and 23 RBI in addition to hitting for a high average. Utley, far and away the best 2B in baseball, was also selected to start his second All-Star game. Since starting somewhat slowly in April, Utley has clearly picked up the mantle of offensive leader on this team.
The batting average that LF Pat Burrell hit for in the month of June. The Phillies can no longer give this guy regular at-bats. I thought he was killing this team with his miserable May (.179 in May 2007), but Burrell actually managed to be much worse during June. For the good of the ball club, Pat Gillick needs to bite the bullet and get rid of this guy by any means necessary. Burrell has not listened to the various suggestions he has received over the years with respect to his looping swing and strange idea of the strike zone (he was actually deemed to need contacts to see properly, yet refuses to wear them). His lack of pride and weak will continually undermine this team until he is gone. The best power hitter the team has in AAA or AA ball, or even playing Michael Bourn more often, cannot be worse than Burrell at this point.
The number of losses sustained by SP Jon Lieber before his injury. Lieber's ineffectiveness aside, his injury hurts this ball club on a couple of levels. On one level, they are now down another starting pitcher after already losing Freddy Garcia, who is also likely done for the year. On another level, the whole move of Brett Myers to the bullpen was orchestrated to get this fat loser some starts so the Phillies could ship his fat free agent ass out of town at the trade deadline in exchange for some bullpen help. That will now not happen and coupling the Lieber injury with the Myers injury (from which, Myers has not yet returned) and the whole move of keeping 6 starters and stashing Brett Myers in the bullpen has been an unmitigated disaster. Some believe that Myers will be returned to the rotation after the all-star break, but Myers himself has disputed that in the press.
I predict Myers will return the rotation, as I believe the plan was to be all along, but Myers will not be happy about it. The Phillies brass wasted a whole year of his career because of Jon Lieber. I'm speechless as I write that.......
The ERA of RP Geoff Geary for the month of June. Congratulations Geoff! You've won an all expenses paid trip to beautiful Ottawa, Ontario, in lovely Canada! See you in September!
Other notable events in June:
- Wes Helms finally registered a couple of home runs in limited duty. He has all but lost his starting job and is platooning with Abraham Nunez and, occasionally, Gregg Dobbs. Don't be shocked to see him moved at the trade deadline. He is a veteran bat off of the bench that would be coveted on a good team.
- In addition to Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Aaron Rowand will both be going to the All-star game. It is the first all-star game for each player. Don't be surprised to see free agent to be Aaron Rowand moved at the deadline if the Phillies can get a competent starter for him. I'd like to see the Phils sign Rowand long term, however, as his attitude and hustle fit right in with Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
- Jayson Werth went on the DL on June 29th with a sprained wrist, bringing back fan-favorite Chris Coste.
- Rookie Kyle Kendrick went 2 - 0 with a 5.06 ERA taking Freddy Garcia's spot in the rotation during the month of June. Kendrick is not heralded as a hot prospect, but has not looked terribly out of place either. Too early to get too excited yet, but not bad so far.
High Point of June 2007:
The 3-game sweep of the Mets, at Shea Stadium, from June 6th to June 8th. The homer hit by Rollins during the June 7th game was a classic.
Low Point of June 2007:
A tie between getting swept in a day-night doubleheader by the Mets on June 30th and losing Jon Lieber for the season with a foot injury. Losing Lieber led directly to the Phillies desperately reaching out to talented, but troubled J. D. Durbin to start the first game of the DH against the Mets. After striking out the side in the first, Durbin got roughed up and the Phils lost game one of the DH. The likes of J. D. Durbin and J. A. Happ (who also got roughed up by the Mets in his first ML start) are who the Phillies will be depending on the rest of the season because of Lieber's injury.
Chew on this one:
Three of the top four Phillies in terms of salary are either ineffective (Pat Burrell at $13.25 million) or were ineffective before they were injured for the year (Fred Garcia at $10 million and Lieber at $7.8 million). That is a lot of money to have tied up in injury and incompetence.