As for the home team, as May gave way to June, they were challenging for (and eventually got to) first place in NL East. In years past, this news would have been a much bigger deal. Now, it's sort of expected, with the offensive talent the Phils have on the roster. It is that offensive talent that carried the day in the month of May, as the Phils slugged their way through their schedule, dropping only two series during the month (@SF and Toronto at home).
Onto the numbers.....
The number of wins for the month of May. This is two games better than last May, and as the calender month was winding down, the Phils entered a 3 game set against the Marlins, with first place on the line.
The biggest culprit? Starting pitching sunk the Phillies on several occasions (5/8 vs. Ariz, 5/10 vs. SF, and 5/14 vs. Atl). There is not one guy in the rotation that can look themselves in the mirror and say they pitched their best in May. There are a couple of guys that should feel worse than others. We'll get to them momentarily.
The number of runs scored by the Phils in the month of May, which led all of Major League Baseball. The Phils scored runs in bunches during May; especially towards the end of the month. The Phils scored double-digit runs 6 times during the month, including hanging a 20 spot on the Rockies and 15 runs on the Astros.
As you would expect when your team puts up 175 runs in a month, the Phils also slugged to the tune of .468. That was good enough to tie them for first in MLB with the Texas Rangers. As you'd further expect, the Phils hit 42 homers for the month. That was good for 2nd in MLB behind the Florida Marlins.
The May 2008 batting average of embattled outfielder Shane Victorino.
It had appeared that, earlier in the month, Shane Victorino had all but lost the starting CF position to Jayson Werth. Werth punctuated the gains he had made during the beginning part of this season, by going off for 3 homers against Toronto on May 16th. Everyone, including Charlie Manual, seemed to be questioning Victorino's ability to be an everyday player.
Apparently, Manual's machinations got Victorino's attention. By the time Werth was put on the DL on May 24th, Victorino was well on his way to rescusitating his season. Victorino's batting average had risen from .235 on May 1st to a season high of .293 in the month ending loss to the Marlins on the 31st of May. He also continued to make things happen with his legs, stealing 11 bases on the month.
Amazingly, with all of the offense the Phillies produced during May, it was Victorino who had the best batting average amongst the Phillies regulars for the month of May.
The combined number of home runs hit by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the month of May. Ryan Howard, the subject of much conjecture earlier in the month because of the brutal slump he has endured so far this year, has definitely found his power stroke. He hit 10 homers in the month of May, tying him for 3rd for the month in all of MLB. Howard's 30 RBI was tied for first in the month of May in all of MLB. Though his average has not shot up like you would like to see (still only around .210), he is still knocking in runs.
The same could be said of 2B Chase Utley. While Utley saw his overall batting average dip in the month of May, his power stroke is intact. Utley slammed 8 homers on the month and ended the month of May riding a 6 game hitting streak (.360, 5 HR, 16 RBI). There is nothing more that needs to be said of Utley, of whom, I have run out of superlatives.
The number of wins logged by Phillies' starters Adam Eaton and Brett Myers. When you combine their ERAs for the month, the combined figure approaches 11. You don't need a degree in fake baseball math to know that you can't go far with two starters performing this poorly.
Other than the early season slump of Ryan Howard, the issue of what to do with these two guys is the most vexing. Eaton, were he not so well paid, would either have been cut or in the bullpen by now. He is in the rotation strictly because the Phillies do not believe they have a better or more cost effective option at this time. Unfortunately, help from Kris Benson does not appear to be forthcoming as he has had another setback in his attempted comeback. Either Eaton needs to figure things out or the Phillies need another Kyle Kendrick to come out of nowhere in the minors and save the day.
Brett Myers, on the other hand, is a good pitcher who can still get better. Since May 14th, when he went only a 4 1/3 innings in a 4 - 2 loss to Atlanta, Myers has gone further and further into games. On May 30th, he went 8 innings, in giving up 3 runs to Florida in a 12 - 3 win. Maybe that is the game we look back on later in the year, and say that was the game Myers turned his season around on.
The ERA of Cole Hamels in the two starts following the two starts in which he gave up zero runs. He gave up 6 ER vs. Houston on 5/25 and 7 ER against the Fish on 5/31. I don't think this is the start of anything sinister, but I think it warrants mentioning that sometimes we treat young Hamels like he is already Steve Carlton, when in fact, Hamels still goes through occasional growing pains as he grows into his role as an ace.
It was great to see the Phillies remain somewhat consistent with respect to their win total relative to what they did in April, but they cannot withstand going through another month like May, with such anemic starting pitching. You cannot rely on Jamie Moyer winning 4 games per month like he did in May. Both Hamels and Myers need to take the bull by the horns and act like the leaders of the pitching staff both player purport themselves to be. It would behoove GM Pat Gillick to begin formulating a plan B with respect to Adam Eaton. Is Kris Benson the answer? Or is it someone in the minors like Carlos Carrasco (4 -4, 3.46 ERA in AA Reading) ready to make the jump to the Big Leagues?