PhilsMonth! – The Phillies’ Rise from Rock Bottom Begins


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 July: The Ascent from Rock Bottom Begins

Having four days off for the All Star Game seemed almost merciful for the Phillies. They had lost twelve of fourteen games before the break, including the last five. The team seemed destined for a historically bad season in which they would lose more than 110 games.

Was that rock bottom for the Phillies? It appears that way.

Domonic Brown and the Phillies’ offense has been hot lately. Image credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Note: In terms of overall organizational health, rock bottom probably came in 2013. In the last two years, the farm system has made an impressive turnaround, but these things tend to take time to manifest at the major league level.

Most Phillies fans were not feeling especially optimistic about the second half, but a funny thing happened when the games resumed: The Phillies began to win. Including Friday night’s victory over the Braves, the Phillies have started the second half with an 11-2 record.

The turnaround has been largely a team effort. None of the hitters have gone on a team-carrying hot streak, but none are performing especially poorly either. That’s a big change from the first half when at any given day, it seemed that at least two players were in the midst of horrific slumps.

The pitching has also been better. For the most part, the starters have avoided getting knocked out of the game early. That’s taken some pressure off the lineup, and has helped prevent an overworked bullpen from getting exposed too much.

In the end, the improvement might just be due to some good old-fashioned regression. The Phillies might not have the most talented roster, but they probably aren’t truly as awful as the first half record would indicate. This second half surge is likely just a bit of balancing out.

Featured Phillie of the Month: Cole Hamels

No Phillie had a stranger month than Cole Hamels. He got knocked around in his two starts bordering the All-Star Game, and it appeared that either the losing or the constant trade rumors had gotten to him. It also appeared that any potential trade value he possessed was vanishing.

Jul 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) is doused with water after throwing a no hitter against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Naturally, he threw a no-hitter in his next start. It was a wonderful moment, and a wonderful farewell present to Phillies fans, since – if you hadn’t heard – he was traded this week.

There have been plenty of other tributes to Hamels and his amazing career here. So I’ll just say thanks for the memories, Cole, and may you do well in Texas.

Phlashback of Phutility: Carlton Loewer

Cole Hamels lived up to his status as a first round pick. The Phillies haven’t always had such good results when selecting pitchers in the first round.

Thanks to their surprising World Series appearance the year before, the Phillies were making a rare appearance in the later part of the first round of the 1994 amateur draft. Still, they were optimistic that they found a future star in Mississippi State pitcher Carlton Loewer.

Loewer reached the major leagues in 1998, and made instant believers out of Phillies fans. In his debut appearance, he pitched a complete game, limiting the Cubs to just two runs. Unfortunately, the good times did not continue as he gave up 20 combined runs over his next three starts.

That inconsistency summed up Loewer’s career. He’d provide a strong start that made you think he’d start living up to his promise, and follow that up with two clunkers.

After the 1999 season, the Phillies gave up on Loewer, trading him to the Padres as part of a package for Andy Ashby. Although Ashby was a disappointment, Loewer never made the Phillies regret sending him away. He only appeared in seven more games over his career.

Secondary Storyline: Trades!

In terms of the franchise’s long-term health, the various trades made in July are actually much more important than

Jonathan Papelbon is now the Nationals’ problem. Image Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

this inexplicable hot streak. In dealing away Hamels, Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, and Ben Revere, the Phillies received a slew of minor leaguers who may one day become the foundation for the next great Phillies team.

Obviously, not all of these prospects are going to become stars. Most likely, none of them will become stars, and some won’t even reach the major leagues. But for the first time in a while, the Phillies have genuine depth in the minor leagues, and a farm system that matches up well with any other team in baseball.

The Good News

Even without Cole Hamels, the Phillies’ starting rotation looks better than it did in the first half. Yes, they might not have an ace leading the rotation, but they also seem to have fewer guys who are huge liabilities. Aaron Nola, David Buchanan, and Adam Morgan are all young pitchers with varying degree of promise. That’s a huge improvement over cannon fodder like Sean O’Sullivan and Kevin Correia.

The Bad News

According to WAR, the Phillies’ best pitcher and position player this season were Hamels and Revere. Both are now ex-Phillies. Over the past calendar year, the Phillies have traded away a lot of players from their major league roster, leaving the talent level rather low.

In other words, don’t expect this current hot streak to last for the rest of the season.

Statistical Oddity

Tweet of Importance

What’s Ahead

There are now a lot of unfamiliar faces on the Phillies’ roster. The rest of the year should largely be spent evaluating if any of them will have a role on this team going forward. As mentioned, I imagine that the hot streak will come to an end soon. But considered how rare wins have been this season, let’s enjoy it while we can!

Next: Mychal Kendricks Gets Mistaken for Drake

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