Coming into 2015, the Philadelphia Phillies were expected to be awful. They were the one team that everyone agreed had no shot to be competitive: they're simultaneously too old, too young, too overpaid and too cheap. Their three highest paid hitters -- Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz -- are a combined 108 years old and are basically done as everyday players. Indeed, the Phillies are encased in last place in the National League East, though their 16-23 record may actually be better than they could have expected. It's better than the Rockies at any rate.
Utley is actually coming off a 4.5 WAR campaign in 2014, one of the better seasons by a second baseman last year. But good lord, the wheels fell off quickly this year. Utley is hitting .138/.214/.241, which makes Charlie Culberson's 2014 look positively Ruthian. Corresponding to that atrocious line is an almost brain-meltingly terrible .135 BABIP. Basically every ball Utley puts in play is turned into an out, which is probably a combination of horrible luck and horrible contact. His 17.3 percent line drive rate is low, but not that low. Whatever the problem is, he now has 21 hitless games in 2015 and two multi-hit games. So anyway, the guy has problems.
Utley's horrible start has maybe taken some of the heat off Ryan Howard, but that's probably cold comfort for the former slugger. I say "former" because since he signed a five-year, $138 million extension in before 2012 he has been worth negative WAR. Generally, to be called a "slugger" you have to be capable of actually helping your team. Howard has seven dingers and a 111 wRC+, so he hasn't been all that bad this year, but paying $25 million for that kind of production from a bad defense first baseman isn't much of a deal for the Phillies. The extension was ill-advised from the start, but then it played out even worse than the most pessimistic pundits expected.
It hasn't been all doom this year (just mostly). Shortstop Freddy Galvis has decided to hit everything in sight and has piled up a .347/.413/.403 line and 1.8 WAR. It's not often that you see an OBP higher than a SLG in May; even less common when they are both above .400. Galvis never really did anything before going nuclear this year; maybe he stole Utley's mojo somehow. He's probably going to come down to earth, but it still could be a breakout season for the 25-year-old.
The Phillies have given 182 plate appearances to Jeff Francoeur and Grady Sizemore this year. Rick Ankiel sits by his phone, waiting expectantly.
Philadelphia Phillies Hitting Stats
Aaron Harang somehow has a 2.03 ERA for the Phillies despite being 37 years old and looking like a maple syrup salesman. He has limited walks and home runs and has a probably unsustainably low .255 BABIP against, but still. The Rockies will face him Tuesday.
A major storyline for the Phils has been whether they are going to trade Cole Hamels to a contender. Phillies fans are likely as tired of that chatter as Rockies fans are with Tulo. He's making $24 million per year through 2018, which might be fair market value, but essentially kills his trade value, and the Phillies front office has obstinately refused to either pick up a big part of the contract or accept a lower talent return. He is having another strong season with a 3.53 ERA and better than a K per inning. Jordan Lyles will try to beat him tonight, assuming his hand isn't too sore.
On Wednesday Chad Billingsley will start, which brings the "wait, he's still playing?!" counter up to about six for me while researching this article. His ERA is 6.75, so you just know he'll throw a CG SO against Eddie Butler. Or maybe the Rockies will kick his butt, who knows. This series will be a clash of titans, if you define "titans" as "two really cruddy teams."
Philadelphia Phillies Pitching Stats
|Justin De Fratus||0||0||0||20||8.55||4.05||0.45||0.286||67.70%||53.60%||7.10%||3.15||3.55||3.88||0.1|