The Philadelphia Phillies stink.
It was in the bottom of the third inning against a hapless Miami Marlins team when I decided, for the time being, to give up on this putrid Philadelphia Phillies season.
The Marlins had the bases loaded with no outs. Five runs had already crossed the plate. The Phillies were calling in their third pitcher of the game. The scene has become depressingly familiar for any Phillies fan who has had the stomach to watch this poor excuse for a professional baseball team throughout May.
I almost made it to the end of the month myself, but I need to throw in the towel. I’ve seen Tommy Joseph hit into enough double plays to last a lifetime. I’ve had my fill of watching Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco come to the plate without a discernible approach or plan, and then flail away like little leaguers who could have used another season of tee ball before graduating to fast pitch.
Michael Saunders refuses to lay down a bunt or loft a pitch along the third base line despite the absurd shift that defenses deploy against him. He’s not alone. The Phillies must maintain an organizational philosophy of continuing to pull the baseball right into the vacuum of a defensive alignment designed to stifle such an approach.
The starting rotation is a veritable dumpster fire. Zack Eflin was recently sent down to Lehigh Valley, but it was unfair to single him out for demotion. In all honesty, the Phillies should have rented a minivan and sent all five starters up the turnpike. Not one of them has distinguished himself in the month of May, hastening the team’s descent to the bottom of the MLB standings.
An insight buried in a recent article from the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Marc Narducci gets to the root of the problem plaguing the Philadelphia Phillies. In the course of profiling prospect Mark Appel’s recent Triple A outing, Narducci notes:
[Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs manager Dusty] Wathan feels that Appel has the ability to succeed at the next level. As with any pitcher in the minors, it is all about consistency.
Definitely, the stuff is good enough, we have to get him to be a little more consistent with his stuff,” Wathan said. “…You can say that for all these guys, it is kind of why they are here and not in the big leagues.”
Consistency is certainly a major part of the formula for sustained success in the big leagues. It’s been absent in the Phillies’ dugout since late April. Eflin and Vince Velasquez in particular have not been able to spot their fastballs, on which they both rely to get batters out.
Another missing ingredient is situational awareness. Case in point: during his forgettable outing on Friday night, Aaron Nola faced Cincinnati Reds speedster Billy Hamilton to lead off the game. Nola had Hamilton buried in the count. He had blown a mid-90s fastball past Hamilton, and then followed it up with another fastball that was fouled straight back.
The ideal pitch to throw at this point would have been a changeup. The arm action resembles a fastball, which makes the pitch very deceptive. Hamilton, who had keyed on the fastball, likely would have swung through the pitch or grounded out.
Instead, Nola threw a curve ball that missed the zone completely. Hamilton walked a few pitches afterward. Soon, he had stolen second base and third base. He crossed the plate on a Joey Votto RBI groundout.
During his second plate appearance, Nola fed Hamilton a steady diet of fastballs and changeups. Hamilton struck out. Too late.
So it goes in a forgettable season that seems destined to get only worse. It has become increasingly clear that the once promising young foundation which was going to drive the Philadelphia Phillies back into contention has been built on sand.