PhilsMonth! – While the Major League Team Burns, Hope Emerges for the Philadelphia Phillies


Welcome to PhilsMonth! A fun* look back at the past month for everyone’s favorite baseball team – the Philadelphia Phillies!

* Amount of fun experienced may vary

Super Important Storyline of June: Hope Emerges

On the field, June wasn’t a good month for the Philadelphia Phillies. By my calculation, they lost 95% of their games, and often looked really bad in doing so.

Despite that chronic losing, there was a newfound sense of optimism for Phillies fans. Those of us who try to pay attention to the team’s minor league system have noticed that there is some good news emanating from the lower levels of the system.

After years of the system producing few star players, suddenly players like Franklin Kilome and Jose Pujols are starting to make their names known. While it’s way too premature to declare these guys as “can’t miss” stars, at least they have the potential to eventually succeed in the majors.

Perhaps the most optimism came from the team’s press conference introducing new president Andy MacPhail. Minority owner John Middleton used the press conference to make his presence known and show the fans that the team’s ownership – largely thought of as a mysterious group of unknowns not always keen on spending a lot of money – might have a new face and a new willingness to spend money.

Phillie of the Month: Maikel Franco

Jun 26, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco (7) unsuccessfully throws to first on a bunt single by Washington Nationals center fielder Michael Taylor (not pictured) during the fifth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Another reason for optimism is that the major league team’s best player in June happened to be its youngest. Maikel Franco wasn’t just one of the best rookies in baseball in June, he was one of the best players period.

Franco’s .352 batting average and eight home runs were a welcome boost for a Phillies lineup that is often deprived of strong offensive performances. In addition, he added a few sparkling defensive plays that made people think that the team might have a star on its hand.

Phlashback of Phutility – Rick Schu

There was a time when the Phillies thought so highly of young third baseman Rick Schu that they actually moved Mike Schmidt to first base. Yes, the team moved their Hall of Fame third baseman – often heralded as the best third baseman of all time – off of the position to make room for Schu.

Schu did not justify their faith. In 1985, he batted only .252 with eight home runs. By the end of the season, Schmidt was once again spending the majority of his time at third base, with Schu relegated to a part-time role.

He bounced around the league for a few years, and even made a return to Philadelphia in 1991, but he never received another full-time job.

Secondary Storyline: All Hail Cesar

Over the past decade, the Phillies have been able to count on strong offensive numbers from the second base position. If recent results are to be trusted, it seems that may continue into the future.

Jun 29, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez (16) hits a bunt single during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

While Chase Utley‘s production has fallen off a cliff, Cesar Hernandez has asserted himself. It may be too early to declare him the team’s long-term answer at second, but there’s at least reason to believe that the position won’t be a black hole for the near future.

A healthy .324 batting average combined with a walk rate that has been strong all season has allowed Hernandez to get on base with regularity in June. Once he was on base, he forced opposing pitchers to stay on edge as he stole eight bases as well.

It will be very interesting to see what happens when Chase Utley returns from the disabled list. If Hernandez is continuing to play well, does he continue to receive the majority of playing time?

The Good News

Chad Billingsley and David Buchanan will likely be joining the rotation soon, and they can’t possibly pitch worse than most of the guys the Phillies threw out there in June, right?

The Bad News

Remember when Aaron Harang seemed like he might fetch a good return at the trade deadline? His numbers in June dampened much of that enthusiasm: 0-5 W-L, 7.28 ERA, -0.4 WAR

Statistical Oddity

What’s Ahead

Depending on how the trade deadline goes, the Phillies roster may look very different at the end of July than it does at the start of the month.

Next: Sixers Acquire Nik Stauskas

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