2014 Philadelphia Phillies first half review: What went wrong?


Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, I went over some of the things that went right for the Phillies. Based on the team’s record, it’s apparent that much more has gone wrong for the team in 2014.

Here are some of the more prominent problems from the first half:

Ryan Howard

Here’s the good news: Ryan Howard is on pace to play an entire season for the first time since 2011 and will likely hit 30 home runs.

Ryan Howard. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the bad news: Howard is still counted on as the Phillies primary power source and clean up hitter.

Here’s the REALLY bad news: Howard appears to be as healthy as he’s going to be, and by most reports, he has been working hard to get into better shape and make adjustments at the plate. And yet he’s still struggling.

When Howard has been hot, he has indeed carried the offense. That series against the Braves in Turner Field brought back memories of 2007 when he would singlehandedly power the Phillies to a sweep over an opponent.

Unfortunately, those hot streaks have become shorter and less frequent. And when he’s not on one of those streaks, he often looks absolutely brutal at the plate.

Yes, Howard is traditionally a better hitter in the second half of the season, so there is some chance that he’ll pick things up a bit. But it certainly appears that Howard’s days of being a truly feared power hitter are gone.

The “prime guys”

It is no secret that Howard is in decline. While Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins have had solid seasons, neither one is the player he was in his prime. It stands to reason that an offense that depends on them to be the main guys isn’t going to be as successful as it once was.

The easiest way to counter this decline is to get improved production from the younger members of the team. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

Ben Revere. Image Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies have two regulars who should be at or around their primes: Domonic Brown and Ben Revere. Both have had disappointing seasons.

It’s tough to blame too much on Revere. Yes, he got off to a slow start; no, he doesn’t walk much; and he doesn’t have any power (his one home run notwithstanding).

But he does bring some skills to the table. He’ll likely end the season with a batting average over .300. He also adds speed to a lineup that doesn’t have much of it. Most successful lineups have guys like Revere in it. They shouldn’t be counted on to be the primary offense-generators, but they are good supplemental pieces.

The real problem has been Brown. After last year’s All-Star appearance, it looked like he was finally living up to the massive hype that once surrounded him. The hope was that he was developing into a bona-fide power hitter; the type who could help compensate for the power declines of Howard and Utley.

That hasn’t happened. Instead, he’s taken a MASSIVE step backwards, and has actually been one of the worst outfielders in baseball, both offensively and defensively.

The youth

Sometimes, when a team is struggling, an infusion of youth can help turn things around. But it seems that most of the young players the Phillies have called up have just made things worse.

Cody Asche has had some positive moments, but overall, he’s been a below average third baseman. Yet compared to the rest of the young players, he’s been a bright spot.

Freddy Galvis. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Some people thought that Freddy Galvis should be the team’s shortstop instead of Jimmy Rollins. It’s too bad that Galvis hasn’t proven that he can hit major league pitching or even stay healthy for an entire season.

The Phillies have attempted to play Cesar Hernandez at multiple positions this season. The only constant is that he hasn’t hit well at any of them.

And while it’s a stretch to call Darin Ruf “young,” he also hasn’t helped the team much this season, mostly because he’s been unable to stay off the disabled list.

On the bright side, the Phillies have had better luck on the pitching side. David Buchanan, Ken Giles, and Mario Hollands have all made positive contributions.

The rotation

The starting pitching hasn’t been awful. Unfortunately, for the Phillies to have had any chance this season, they would have needed the rotation to be far better than “not awful.”

Cole Hamels. Image Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season, the team’s strength appeared to be the front of the rotation. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee still projected to be two of the best pitchers in the National League, and A.J. Burnett looked like a solid option at the third spot.

Unfortunately, Hamels missed a few weeks at the start of the season, and then needed a few starts to find his groove. Just as he was rounding into form, Cliff Lee went on the disabled list.

As a result, more pressure has been placed on Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez. Both men have shown that they can pitch well at times, but if a team is counting on them to be major contributors, then that team probably isn’t making the playoffs.

The injuries have also forced them to endure three combined starts by Jonathan Pettibone (who wasn’t healthy and shouldn’t have been pitching) and Sean O’Sullivan (who doesn’t appear to be a major league quality starter). The combined line of those three starts: 14.2 innings pitched, 13 earned runs allowed.

As you have probably noticed, it hasn’t been pretty for the Phillies so far in 2014. Is there any hope that things will get better in the second half? Later on, I’ll take a look at what we can reasonably expect from the team going forward.