Juan Pierre, John Mayberry Jr. and Hunter Pence could all be playing elsewhere by 2013. (Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso)
The Phillies are 45-57 this season. They lost 60 games all of last season.
After winning five straight division titles, the run appears to be over for good. The Phillies are 16 1/2 games back in the NL East. They are 12 1/2 back in the wild card. Sometimes miracles do happen, but this is ridiculous.
Charlie Manuel is right when he says that this is not the same team. The players lack heart. The players are losing ability. The injuries and replacement roles have taken its toll on the team. It's over for 2012.
But, with a day and a half remaining until the trade deadline, should the Phillies be completely focused on selling? Can they get deals that benefit the club without sacrificing the players they say are not on the block? Can they get good return for the players they are willing to trade by selling?
For players like Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Juan Pierre, all with expiring contracts after the 2012 season, absolutely. Get what you can for them now instead of letting them walk for free later.
But for other players like Jimmy Rollins, Hunter Pence and Cliff Lee, is that the best idea? I don't see it that way.
There are three simple indications to why the Phillies aren't what they were last year this season. They are injuries, starting pitching and relief pitching.
Injuries to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay have held the Phillies back. There was quite a bit of juggling in terms of lineups, defensive alignments and more. It's a lot for any manager to deal with, especially a manager who's not that skilled in situation managing like Charlie Manuel. This isn't necessarily his fault. He's had the easiest job in the world since 2007 - roll out the same lineup, a five-man rotation, get quality starts, turn to two or three bullpen guys that are reliable, get a win.
That formula wasn't going to work this year from the beginning because of Utley and Howard's absence.
That being said, what if Howard and Utley still played a full season? What if they were both healthy for Opening Day, something that hasn't happened since 2010? If Howard provided 30 home runs and 100 RBIs and Utley provided 15 home runs and 75 RBIs, would they be worth it? I think so.
That's not so much a question of whether or not they'll be here. Both will be Phillies in 2013. But will both be healthy for Opening Day? That remains to be seen.
Then there is the starting pitching. Cole Hamels earned his new contract extension signed last week. He pitched well for most of the first half - hold for games against the Marlins - and was the guy winning ballgames himself.
Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have been sub-par this season at no fault of their own really. Cliff Lee simply throws strikes. It's not a matter of deception or dominance. It's something hitters take into account whenever they face him. Swing early, swing often. Hits will come.
Halladay has been injured already this season, and the six-to-eight weeks off doesn't appear to have changed much. Halladay's velocity is down. His command is still there, but it makes him all the more hittable.
Combined, the two aces at the top of the rotation are 5-12. Hamels has double the wins and then some, with an 11-5 record. Wins and losses aren't a way to measure a pitcher's ability. A lot of times, wins and losses are based on things a pitcher can't even control.
But the alarming struggles in the starting pitching starts with a stat that was very prevalent last season, and a regular occurrence: shutouts.
The Phillies have four shutouts this season. One was started by Halladay. The others were started by Vance Worley, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick. Blanton and Kendrick completed both of theirs. (Note: Lee did pitch 10 shutout innings in April against the Giants, but it does not get recorded as a shutout since the Phillies lost 1-0 in 11 innings)
Lee had six shutouts in 2011. Halladay had only one last season, but had four in 2010.
Both were given big contracts for a reason. It's not just to win upwards of 20 games a season, it's to win a good majority of those games themselves, by putting up zeroes for seven, eight and nine innings.
Bottom line: perhaps if the Phillies shut down Halladay based on his lack of velocity and possible health and let Lee work out his struggles, both will be better in 2013. There is such a thing as a bad, unlucky year.
Neither pitcher had ever won fewer than five games in a season in their career when completely healthy or regularly in the rotation. Halladay's last season with fewer than 10 wins was 2004. He only made 21 starts and went 8-8. Lee's last season with fewer than 10 wins was 2007. He made 16 starts and appeared in 20 games, posting a 5-8 record.
Additionally, the Phillies know where they have holes to fill. One is third base. Another is the outfield.
And then there is the bullpen. The thing about bullpens is that you either get lucky or you don't. The Phillies took chances on guys like Chad Qualls and Jose Contreras. They relied heavily on guys who did well last season like Antonio Bastardo and Mike Stutes. Stutes got hurt in spring training, played in a small part of April and now is out for the season. Bastardo has had his moments, but never come close to the pitcher that looked like a future closer last season.
Additionally, how do you fault rookies like Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Joe Savery or Michael Schwimer in what little experience they have being thrown into big roles? Things are certainly different for the Braves, who have veterans Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Kris Medlen or the Nationals with vets Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Craig Stammen.
With a lot of familiar faces sticking around, this could be the Phillies' defensive alignment on Opening Day 2013:
Carlos Ruiz (C), Howard (1B), Utley (2B), Rollins (SS), Freddy Galvis (3B), TBD (LF), Domonic Brown (CF), Pence (RF)
This could be the rotation: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Worley, Kendrick
There are some questions with that defense. After grooming Galvis as a middle infielder, is a move to third the best option? I liked what I saw from Galvis early this season. I don't think this suspension does too much to tarnish his reputation because he doesn't have much of a reputation yet. Still, it's just as easily a place that could be filled from outside with free agency or a decent prospect picked up via trade this season.
As for the outfield, I think Domonic Brown's time is now. Center field might even be good for him. And with Pence still in right field, the Phillies would only be looking for a left fielder. The John Mayberry Jr. experiment is more than over at this point. Mayberry had a great season in 2011. In 2012, he's proven to be a one-year wonder. The Phillies again could try to get a near-major-league ready player through a trade or fill the spot via free agency.
The bullpen will not be solved this season. What this really comes down to is how some of this year's relievers perform in spring training next season and what is available in the off-season via free agency that is cheap and has recent results to make it worthwhile. Either way, luck comes into that somehow. Perhaps Bastardo, like Lee and Halladay, is having an unlucky year. Maybe next year is different.
Maybe Stutes returns to form. Maybe Diekman, Savery, Schwimer and Horst grow in the offseason. It's way too unpredictable to figure out.
Overall, the Phillies biggest problem this season may have been a lot of bad luck and a feeling of immortality. After winning 102 games in 2012 and a record of 473-337 from 2007 to 2011, the Phillies had to think that a lot of their misfortune in terms of injuries would just pan out like it did in years past.
They got a harsh wake-up call to reality in 2012. Winning games takes hard work. There have been a lot of games this season where the Phillies look like they don't care or have stopped trying. It may be too late for this season, and some of these players won't be able to make things right again in 2013 as members of the Phillies, but perhaps the ones that do stick around can.
If trying to make it right means selling, then so be it. But if only a handful of players go between now and Tuesday afternoon, would it be the worst thing for the guys left to suffer through the last 60 games of the season before being given a clean slate?
That might just be what it takes to motivate a team that has taken a lot for granted this season.