With the Phillies 2-1 loss to the Marlins on Friday night, the team stepped into unfamiliar territory as they were eliminated from making the playoffs for the first time since 2006. With the elimination comes enough questions of “what if” and “what next” to fill a few posts. While I will try to answer those questions in upcoming posts, I want everyone to step back and look at some of the positives from what was a dismal and disappointing season.
Yes, believe it or not, there were positives.
J-Roll proves his worth: Yes, Jimmy Rollins doesn’t always hustle and it irks us all. Yes, he pops up to the infield more then any other player in the Majors. Yes, he isn’t the typical leadoff hitter. All of those things said, Rollins has also been our most productive offensive player and one of the top defensive Shortstops in the league. You have to feel pretty good when you compare his production with a much more expensive Jose Reyes. Rollins owns a better OPS then Reyes and just 6 less steals. Reyes is better at getting on base, but Rollins produces runs with his power. Another common thing you hear mentioned with Rollins is that he is getting old. It’s true, he’s past his prime. What’s also true is his defense does not look as if it has suffered in the slightest. At the end of the day, you have to look at Rollins as a positive because his production is sound, though, relatively short-term bargain. 11 million for three years with a vesting option is a steal for the what he provides this team.
CHOOCH! The team loves Carlos Ruiz. The pitchers loves him. The fans love him. That’s not new. Through his career he has been solid defensively, a clutch at bat and a peerless post season hitter. The 2012 season came and he played like a man possessed. We all knew the Phillies needed a player to take the reigns of the batting order until Howard and Utley returned. The team and its fans assumed it would be Hunter Pence who played that role. It wasn’t. The man who donned the hero garb was the amicable fireplug shaped backstop. It may have been a career year or it might have been an emergence. Aberration or not, Carlos Ruiz put this team on his back and treaded water for them through out the first half of this sinking ship of a season. Consider this: Ruiz is one hit away from a career high in hits with 115, and has bettered his totals for Home Runs (16) and Batting average (.324). His OPS was a gaudy .935! On top of that he played his normally stellar defense, placing in the top five of almost every defensive metric amongst catchers. Without a doubt he was one of the best, if not the best, catchers in the league this season with a WAR of 4.2, all while missing a month of playing time.
Hamels Signs: On July 25th, Cole Hamels signed a 6 year/144 million dollar contract that will keep him here through 2018 with an option for 2019, avoiding a bidding war this off season. Since the Phillies can’t win anything this fall, at least they won what could have been the battle of the winter by signing him before anyone else could even fire off a shot. The success of a long-term contract is hard to prognosticate. But, judging by his age and performance the last few seasons, he should only get better as he is just coming into his prime. Realize this fact, by the end of his guaranteed contract Hamels will be just 34. Hamels is and will be the Phillies, ace for the next 6 years. That should be something that makes you breathe easier during the coming Hot Stove season.
Stay calm and Papelbon?: Though shaky at times the Phillies have a closer. For the first time since Brad Lidge, there was no uncertainties when it came to who would get the call with a lead in the 9th. Yes, the Phillies anointed Ryan Madson closer in 2011, but his role was anything but a sure thing. Jonathan Papelbon (though well over paid) makes Charlie Manuel’s job much easier, at least decision wise. Papelbon is a closer and a top-tier one. He is 2nd in saves with 37 and has only 4 blown saves. His ERA is a minuscule 2.26 and a .99 WHIP. If only Charlie could comprehend that, he could have effectively been an inning and 1/3 closer and the Phillies might have a few more games on the right side of .500. Now, if only they had a set up man to get him the ball with the lead.
“Babe” Ruf: We are only getting a glimpse of Darin Ruf‘s ability and his potential capabilities. If the small sample size isn’t an illusion, Ruf gives us a viable option in the Left in coming seasons. Fans and the front office both know what Darin Ruf did in the minor leagues. It was doubtful those numbers would translate in the majors, but from what we have seen so far, we should be hopeful for the future. I’m not saying he is going to be the .375 hitter with the .978 OPS that he is right now, but he has so much upside that he will contribute. Besides, he has made the past week a lot of fun.
Utley and Howard return: This one is easy. The Phillies are 41-30 in games Ryan Howard has started and 40-36 in games Chase Utley has started. Before Utley’s return on June 27th the Phillies were 36-41 and 9 games back. When Howard returned on July 6th the team was in the midst of a losing streak and had hit a dismal 37-48 and had fallen 13 games behind pace. Now I will warn you, I am not a Ryan Howard fan. To me he is too one-dimensional, but I won’t deny that this team is a better team with him at First base. The same applies to Utley when he takes the field. You cannot help but wonder what might’ve happened had they played the whole year.
So here we are, at the cusp of the off season and we are reduced to saying “what if” and “look on the bright side’. But, as Phillies fans we should be used to that. The good thing is there is a brightside and the sun will come up on another season in the spring. That’s what is great about baseball. If that doesn’t make you feel better maybe this will: at least we aren’t the Mets.Tags: Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard