The month of April for the Phils wrapped up a week ago, but in the spirit of turning away from my NBA basketball mistress and finding my MLB baseball girlfriend, I feel like this review can help you catch up if you have been caught up in the relative success of the Winter sports teams.
Even though the Phils started off slow last year and were able to come back to win the division, conventional wisdom was such that it was not a good idea to start off slow again. After all, slow starts killed the Phillies in previous years, and it was probably unreasonable to count on the Mets choking every year (although, it would be a whole lot cooler if they did).
With that said, let's take a look at the Phils by the numbers for April 2008....
The number of wins accumulated by the Phils in the month of April. This is 4 wins over what they did in April of last year, but more importantly, the Phils avoided digging a big hole early for themselves as they've done in the past few years. They finished the month 2 games over .500 and a mere 1/2 game out of first place behind the upstart Marlins and the hated Mets.
What is even more remarkable about their position in the standings is the fact they have accomplished it without the help of MVP SS Jimmy Rollins. Rollins injured his ankle on April 9th and has been on the DL since April 21st with an ankle sprain that probably should have landed him on the DL sooner than it actually did. No one will probably ever know who screwed the diagnosis up, but I can't help but wonder if Rollins undersold the injury to trainers to get back on the field quicker.
The number of RBI by Pat Burrell in the month of April. This eclipsed the previous high for RBI in the month of April by a Phillie set previously by Von "The Stick" Hayes in 1989. Overall, Burrell started off incredibly fast, hitting .326 for the month, with an OPS of 1.136 (.450 OBP, .685 slugging pct.). For the month of April, Burrell was 3rd in MLB in RBI and 2nd in MLB in HR with 8.
Clearly, Burrell, the early "bird", is doing everything he can to get his worm (read: next contract).
The batting average of one Ryan James Howard. I have never seen Howard look more lost at the plate than he does right now. He led all of MLB in strikeouts for the month with 37 and I have to say, I'm not sure there is an end in sight. Manager Charlie Manual sat Howard for a few games so that maybe he could get his head together, but I'm not sure how much it's helped. You have to wonder when Manual will start tinkering with his batting order in order to enable Howard to see some better pitches to get his confidence back, because it can only be confidence that is holding Howard back right now as he does not appear to be injured.
The number of home runs hit by Chase Utley in the month of April. Pat Burrell has definitely been the offensive motor, but the driver of the offensive car since JRoll has been out has definitely been Chase Utley. Utley led all major leaguers in April with 10 homers to go with his 21 RBI and an otherworldly 1.168 OPS (.427 OBP, .741 SP) and shows no sign of letting up through the first week of May. It's been a lot of fun to watch Utley and Burrell step up and take control, offensively, with Jimmy Rollins on the shelf.
The ERA for "staff ace" Brett Myers. Look, I'm a huge Brett Myers fan. I was never happy with the decision for him to go to the bullpen because I looked at him as a young Curt Schilling that just needed time to develop.
But I have no answers for what is currently up with Brett Myers and his flagging ERA. He has definitely lost some velocity on his fastball, but according to reports, it's because Myers is not diligent in his "long tossing".
I've always felt that Myers had the ability to be the best starting pitcher on this staff (that includes Hamels); I'm just waiting for him to finally show everyone.
The April ERA for one Juan Carlos "JC" Romero. In 13 appearances, he gave up zero runs and opponents are hitting only .233 off of Romero. So far, his new contract looks like money well spent.
Some stories to watch out for:
- Will Shane Victorino see less time in the lineup after starting off slow (.239/0/2) and being hurt for most of the month of April? Jayson Werth did a great job in his stead hitting .276 with 5 homers for the month of April. Werth is athletic and did not look out of place in CF at all.
- How long before we have to bring someone up or make a trade before Adam Eaton (5.08 ERA in April) implodes?
- Will Jimmy Rollins' running game suffer when he returns from his ankle sprain?
- Can Shane Victorino be a top of the lineup hitter?