The Phillies Nation Midterm Grades

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Sun, June 29, 2008 12:04 PM | Comments: 20

We’re halfway finished the 2008 season. At the half mark the Phils were 43-38 (they’ve since won one), definitely not a great record. The good news is the Phils are in first place, and have spent 33 days in that position, with a largest lead of four games. So we have to be happy with the result but not at all satisfied, considering recent play.

Here’s the bottom line, at the top: The Phillies are good enough to make the playoffs, but there are visible holes, and those holes will not let the Phils win a pennant, let alone the World Series.

Still, looking at the first half as a whole it’s been better than worse. Not much better, but there’s reason to be optimistic. Here’s a report card so far, and my thoughts on what the Phils need to do in the second half to succeed:


Cole Hamels: A-
The ace of the Phils staff is having another strong season, matching up with other aces and going deep into games. He has had a couple shaky outings, but nothing to scream about.

Brett Myers: F
An absolute turnaround. His velocity is down, he has lost faith in his fastball placement and his composure is seemingly out the window. Whether the Phils put him back in the bullpen, trade him, DL him or demote him, there’s no good solution.

Jamie Moyer: B
With Moyer everything is face value. He’s always good for five innings, maybe six, sometimes seven and very rarely more than that. He’s dominated young teams and has had trouble with experienced teams. He gets fantastic run support, but a 4.09 ERA is nothing to sneeze at.

Kyle Kendrick: C+
It’s been an up and down season for Kendrick, but it looks as if he’s pushing forward. Some teams have figured him out, but he’s starting to use that changeup successfully. Basically some downsides, then some buts …

Adam Eaton: C-
Definitely better than last season, Eaton still hasn’t lived up to the $24M hype. While he hasn’t received run support, his 4.86 ERA means he can go six innings, but give up 3-4 runs each time out. Not great, but for a fifth starter it ain’t terrible.

STARTING ROTATION: We’re charmed to have five guys who haven’t missed a start, but they’re not the best collective five out there: one ace, a couple No. 4s and an incredible failure who was supposed to be a No. 2. They usually do enough to lead to wins, but it’s painfully obvious they need another shutdown starter if they want to contend for the brass ring.

Clay Condrey: C
As a long man he’s not bad, but that’s really all he is. There have been moments where I’ve been impressed by his fastball and breaking pitch; still, you can’t think of plugging Clay into the late innings.

Rudy Seanez: B
It’s been nice to have middle relief that can get outs, so Seanez has been a nice chip to have in the cabinet. He’s not much more than middle relief, however, as he can have some poor outings. But when you compare Seanez to Jose Mesa and Matt Smith, there’s no question who you’d rather have.

Ryan Madson: B
Madson had an auspicious start to the season, giving up a bunch of runs. But in time he’s proved to be an integral piece of the bullpen, as his ERA has dropped to 2.90 and his role has increased into the swing man role. He could be much more by the end of this season.

Chad Durbin: A-
The one major key to the bullpen’s success, Durbin has been a saving grace. He’s worked long innings and middle relief. Now he’s been moved to a setup role, though that may not last for too long. Still, middle relief had always been an Achilles heel for this team — not anymore.

JC Romero: B+
The Savior continued his strong play from last season with a scoreless streak that ran until May. Early on he let a few inherited runners score, but lately he’s been huge. Yes he may walk his share (21 in 31 innings), but when he needs that big strikeout he usually gets it. And that’s the point.

Tom Gordon: C+
Flash started the season horribly and we immediately jumped on the “get him outta’ here” wagon. He settled in from there, pitching terrific as the prime setup man. Lately, though, his shoulder has become an issue, affecting his play, and it’s evident he’ll be hitting the DL soon. The Phils will need to fix this problem quickly.

Brad Lidge: A+
The Phils took a gamble trading for Lidge, but boy has it paid off. Lights Out has been exactly that, converting all 18 of his save opportunities while holding a ridiculous 0.84 ERA. Possibly the Phils first-half MVP.

BULLPEN: A great season so far for the ‘pen, thanks to new additions Lidge, Durbin and Seanez. There’s trouble ahead, however, with Gordon likely to sit and nobody primed to be the setup man. They’ll likely need to make a move for a setup man and keep reinforcements close.


Carlos Ruiz: D+
Horrible hitter, good catcher. With a .219 AVG and .601 OPS Ruiz hasn’t done anything offensively. Seeing him in the lineup normally elicits groans. But he does catch his pitchers pretty well. While you can’t discern anything from his performance with Hamels (who’s just good), he does a much better job than Chris Coste with Jamie Moyer and Adam Eaton. A tough catch-22.

Chris Coste: B+
Very good hitter, mediocre catcher. To be fair Coste isn’t a bad catcher, but his pitchers fare considerably worse than Ruiz’s. Still, Coste is a solid, professional bat, hitting .314 with 7 HR and 20 RBI. He might be the best backup catcher in the game.

CATCHERS: We’ve been so down on Ruiz’s hitting that we’ve been calling for Lou Marson or Jason Jaramillo to head south immediately. Yes, Ruiz probably isn’t a Major League starting catcher, so at some point soon they’ll need to address it. For now it’s good to have the balance of slick-hitting Coste and pitcher’s-catcher Ruiz.

Ryan Howard: C+
Hop on the roller coaster. Okay, he’s the league leader in RBI (67), is fifth in home runs (20) and gets it done with runners on base (1.040 OPS). Yet he carries that ugly .215 AVG and has 113 strikeouts. When he hits the ball he makes things happen, and that is the bottom line with Howard. As much as we can rail on his average and fielding abilities (still not good), he gets the job done. For now it’s a C+, but I do expect that to go up.

Chase Utley: A+
Aside from an ugly 0-for-28 slide, Utley has been the league’s top player. He’s on pace for a record season and has literally carried the team offensively for most of the season. What I like most — his 3 triples and 7 steals. He’s the world’s top All-Star game votegetter, a wildly popular guy and so far, the best thing to happen to this team offensively in 2008.

Pedro Feliz: C
Critics point to his .743 OPS and say he’s not a consistent hitter. No, he’s not. And he makes a lot of bad outs. But he is productive enough to be your No. 7 hitter, and that’s what he’s been this season. He’ll nail his career averages, and we knew he would. The difference is his defense: He makes tough plays look easy and nothing impresses me more than his rifle arm. I love watching him unleash one from deep third to first.

Jimmy Rollins: C-
Badly injured for the first time ever, Rollins has been an enigma in 2008. The MVP has struggled to get into a groove, and it doesn’t help swinging at first and second pitches. He has to improve, and should (unless there’s more to that injury), but right now he’s not been the player he needs to be to help lead this team back to the playoffs.

Greg Dobbs: A-
Best pinch hitter in baseball? Likely. Hitting .330 with 2 HR and 18 RBI, Dobbs has made a killing out of being a name call. He’s one of the keys to this team’s success so far, and there’s no reason to think he can keep it going.

Eric Bruntlett: C+
He had one poor game (the first as a starter after the Rollins injury), but for the most part has been a solid defensive player and nice light-hitter. But I won’t let you think he’s been all good (.239 AVG, .636 OPS). For the amount of time he’s used he’s not a bad option.

INFIELDERS: To me the key is Rollins. No matter how poorly Howard hits he’ll get ribbies. And Utley should be all-world all season. Feliz is Feliz. But Rollins has had a poor 2008 (actually it’s quite close to his career averages), and if he can play a little better this team should be fine.

Pat Burrell: B+
Luckily for the Phils, The Bat has stepped it up in the first half (pretty much being a substitute for Rollins). The .270 average isn’t bad for Burrell, but the best stuff is his production (19 HR, 49 RBI). He’s close to having another 30 HR, 100 RBI season. Steady as she goes, really.

Shane Victorino: B
Also injured for a bit, Vic has started to come alive. His .347 OBP isn’t terrible and when he gets on, he makes things happen, stealing 20 bases and scoring 50 runs despite playing 68 of the 81 games. And yeah, he plays great defense. More production would be nice, but so far there’s not much to complain about.

Geoff Jenkins: D-
One of two absolute busts of Phillies acquisitions, Jenkins hasn’t been consistent at all. A .239 hitter so far, we’d like to think he’ll get better (as he works on his swing). But I’m not holding out too much hope.

Jayson Werth: B
Take out the three-homer game and Werth has been just a little above average. Truth is he’s a good hitter who has had a small slump or two. While I don’t expect him to be the No. 4 production option, he’s done well enough to be considered as such for a stretch this season.

So Taguchi: F
The other bust so far has been Taguchi, who is nowhere near the league-best pinch hitter he was in 2007. A .206 average? Come on, So. Even his defense has been incredibly poor. He doesn’t have it anymore, and the Phils should consider a replacement for him (a contact-hitting utility guy would be fantastic). The Phils have been looking into Ryan Freel (everything but contact-hitting).

OUTFIELDERS: If the Phils want to grab CC Sabathia or something close they may need to part with an outfielder (Victorino or Werth). I wouldn’t want to. They’re the glues of this unit. We know Burrell will probably hit his averages, and we’re not expecting much more from Jenkins. It’s essential Vic and Werth remain with the Phils and keep hitting.

The Others: Chris Snelling, TJ Bohn and Brad Harman I won’t grade, as they really didn’t get enough time to justify a grade.

SO FAR: We know the holes (one starting pitcher, one healthy setup man, one slick hitting utility man) and we know who has to improve (Brett Myers, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Geoff Jenkins). I have faith the Phils will remain in first or close to it as the season progresses, and I do feel this team will win the NL East as it stands today. The Marlins are inexperienced and have too many obvious holes. The Mets are tired, dramatic and paper thin. The Braves have health issues and can’t get consistent anything. The division is the Phils for the taking.

But once you get past the division the holes become problems. If the Phils want to compete with the Cubs, and ultimately Red Sox and Angels, they’ll need that shutdown pitcher. And they’ll need some reinforcements. Can they do it? Absolutely. Should they bet the farm? Go deep (without ridding Vic or Werth) to get a Sabathia, Rich Harden or Erik Bedard. Let Pat Gillick work his magic to find that diamond-in-the-rough reliever and hitter. Then re-sign Lidge, try to re-sign Burrell, extend Hamels and go year-by-year with Howard (or trade him for a king’s ransom).

Really, despite the slightly above average record, this is the Phils year to win it all. There will be no better year. They need to push, make the moves that require that push, then push some more. We know what they can do, and we know how they need to do it. Now they need to put it together.

Avatar of Tim Malcolm

About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1948 articles on Phillies Nation.

  • Posts: 0 scot

    Love the analysis, Tim.

    I might rate Eaton a little higher. I don’t know. I guess I rate him against the expectations coming into this season, as opposed to the expectations of his contract.

    I mean if in April we were told that Eaton would go through a strech of 7 starts, and 6 would be quality starts, I think we’d all be very pleased.

  • Posts: 0 Jeremy

    I like what Cholly did last night, batting Burrell between Utlet and Howard. Not only does it force Burrell to face a lefty reliever late in games, but with Howard an all or nothing hitter at this point, Burrell’s walks will give Howard more opportunities for 3-run homers

  • Posts: 0 NC Jason

    Tim nice job. And mostly I am in agreement. However, I think we need to factor in some of the players’ defense. Howard is the worst 1b as far as defense is concerned and he has cost other players’ errors and runs. But all of that aside, they are still in first place and I agree that the chasing teams have bigger and more concerning holes then the Phils.

    Go Phils!

  • Posts: 0 chris m

    i like the work tim but im surprised about kendricks grade. C+ is above average… maybe your doing it bc hes commming off a good start but hes been about avervage not above it…and eaton has been a little better then him so i think he should have a better grade

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    yeah i think kendrick is a b. hes 8-3. if moyer is a b then kendricks a b at least.

    the rest of it i dont have a problem with really

  • Posts: 0 Butchy

    Eaton should be a “D” and Feliz should be a “B-”. Oh yeah, and Myers also should get an “F” for his personality.

  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

    Avatar of Tim Malcolm

    So we got one guy saying Eaton is better than C- and one saying he’s a D. And one guy saying Kendrick is better than his C+ and one saying he’s worse. Good.

    And I did factor in defense.

  • Posts: 0 Bruce

    Another excellent and thorough analysis, Tim. Obviously, you put in much heart, time and effort into your blog. Have you ever thought about pursuing a career as a baseball editor for a major newspaper? Although writing for a newspaper column would have space restriction and editing becomes a challenge.

    As the trade deadline approaches, I am nervous about the potential pricetag in a possible trade for a frontline starter. Especially, if it includes Victorino, a critical and underrated (by a few here) player in the line-up, both on offense and defense. The Phillies might seriously regret trading Victorino. What would happen if you took Victorino out of the everyday line-up? He’s such a vital offensive cog in the no 2 hole; more so since Rollins has been a disappointment so far this season.

    Some here have suggested calling up Greg Golson from AA. That would not be the right move at the moment. He is on the DL with an wrist injury and hasn’t played in over two weeks.His strikeout-to-walk ratio remains poor (77-14). It was reported in the past, he has struggled with off speed stuff and that’s in double A. No… bringing him up simply to be a fourth outfielder isn’t the way to go.

    A smarter move is to keep Victorino because of the many things he can do, beginning with the offense. Victorino at this moment has a .347 OBP which is far better than Jenkins’ .289, who would receive the biggest playing time spike should Victorino be traded. Victorino, with 66 runs produced (50 runs scored+18 RBIs-2 HRs) in 262 ABs equates to one run produced every 3.9 at-bats. Again far better than Jenkins’ one every 5.6 at-bats. Defensively in the OF, Werth, Jenkins and Burrell is much weaker than one that would include Werth and Victorino simultaneously.

    Please, Gillick, don’t even think of trading Victorino.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    The problem is they have one of the shallowest teams of any “contender”. there is no depth at all in this lineup. none. i agree they cant afford to trade victorino WITHOUT getting an everyday player in return who is a more patient hitter than shane. i still think theyre going to need to replace one of the everyday players in this lineup with soemone who works long at bats and sees pitches and waits for the pitch to hit.

    theyd get a lot for howard but theyre in the middle of a run and its really not the time to do something like that. thats an offseason issue. geoff jenkins is complete garbage and shouldnt even be on our team, nor should so taguchi. theyre just horrible. thats killing us because you need to rotate in your 4th and 5th outfielders and the 4th guy shoulld be good enough to be an everyday player. they simply dont have that. outside of the core guys in teh lineup who play everyday, they basically suck. carlos ruiz, eric bruntlett, jenkins, taguchi all totally suck.

    dobbs is fine for what he does. but the other 4 guys give you nothing off the bench. they have no chacne in the playoffs at all with that bench. thats a shit bench.

    the pitching? weve already been through that. myers out. eaton on probation. even if eaton is pitching well, theyre simply not winning when he is out there either. out. get something for him and get him out of here.

    bring in your coveted number two, bring up a callup to be the 5th starter. one of thsoe guys will be better than myers and you replace the non-winning quality starts of eaton with the sure thing solid guy you get in here.

    eaton is 30/31, he isnt going to give you more than he already has without reconditioning in the offseason.

  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

    Avatar of Tim Malcolm

    Bruce, thanks for the good words. In fact I am an editor at a newspaper, just in features and not sports. I’ve thought about sports, for sure.

    The reason to keep Vic, mainly, is that he brings what many of the Phils hitters don’t. He hits for contact and moves runners (and moves himself). You can’t count on Howard, Burrell, Jenkins to do that.

  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

    Avatar of Tim Malcolm

    Also, one name to think about — and Geoff this runs with your issue with team depth — is Brandon Watson. Currently in AAA, he’s a nice hitter whose main strength is speed and defense. He’s not Michael Bourn, but he’s capable of filling in nicely for Burrell and as a standard 25th man.

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    thats a good call tim. someone who isnt a stiff. someone who can get on base and run. watson is a nice option. how much longer do they leave taguchi and jenkins out there? theyre killing us when theyre given chances.

  • Posts: 0 Phil

    Geoff, I wouldn’t say Bruntlett totally sucks. He can adequately play any position in the field other than catcher and pitcher. His bat isn’t HORRIBLE. To say Dobbs is what he is is a little ridiculous too. Dobbs is probably the best bench player in baseball.

  • Posts: 0 Justin

    Rollins in his career is a .343 hitter when he swings on the first pitch.

    He’s terrible in 0-1, 0-2, 2-2, 3-2 counts.

    This year he is .310 on the first pitch. Maybe he needs to swing first pitch more often.

  • Posts: 0 Phil

    If Rollins is a 1st pitch hitter than he shouldn’t be the lead off man. He should bat in the 2 hole in that case.

  • Posts: 0 Groty

    So what is your grade for Charlie?

    Can you speculate on a call-up to help out this season, rather than focusing on a trade to phil the holes?

  • Posts: 0 Geoff

    against good competition in interleague play dobbs hasnt done anything of note. hes notmally good though, yes. he can stay. bruntlett is ONLY there because he can play a lot of positions, but cant young players do the same or better?

    i feel like wade was begging us to take him in the deal.

  • Posts: 1650 Tim Malcolm

    Avatar of Tim Malcolm

    I’d give Charlie a solid B-. He’s made some great moves (especially during the run to first place), but he’s also been stubborn with changing his team composition in the face of big problems. I can’t blame him for the recent slide, as the entire team has been really bad offensively. Still, one can say the team is forcing it more than ever, and that can be attributed to him. He’s better than average, but not a lot better. B- with a C+ possibility.

    As for a call-up who can help, I wrote Brandon Watson before and I’ll mention him again. He can be a little sparkplug for an offense that really needs a kick in the pants. Pitching wise there’s not a lot that’ll instantly do damage, but I do think if anyone can make a big contribution, it would either be Carlos Carrasco as a starter, or Josh Outman in a bullpen role.

  • Posts: 0 metsos

    Who are you going to trade for one of these big shutdown pitchers? do you think they want to pitch in your tiny park. If you think the Mets are thin, you should look at your starting pitching. The phillies have played there best baseball with one minor injury, and the mets pretty much the worst baseball we ever seen ever, with tons of injuries, and they are only 3 games out. Hitting homeruns in a tiny park wins games. pitching wins championships. 4 of your starters would be in the minors if they where with the mets, and I would still take pelf over hamels. I don’t know how your thinking about the winning the NL east you should be more worried about who is in first next week after the mets swing through your park. The mets are waking up , slowly. But we all seen last year that its not how you start its how you finish.

  • Posts: 0 Ryhohoho

    C+??? Gimme a break — RyHo is a freakin’ machine. Sure, he may be striking out like crazy but let me also remind you he’s hit more homers than should be legal. Just check him out take on Home Run Derby defending champ Vlad Guerrero in a head-to-head:


    Now, if he’d only take that raw power and put into some RBI action…

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