One month of the 2011 Major League Baseball season has passed and there are a number of certainties and a number of uncertainties surrounding the Philadelphia Phillies.
There has been some superb pitching and there has been some disappointing pitching. There has been some streaky hitting and there has been a whole lot of untimely offensive slumping. But one thing is for sure – after the final day of the of the opening month of the baseball season, despite all the offensive woes and team injuries – the Phillies held the best record in the National League, as well as a share as the best record in MLB.
When grading a team, you must look at every aspect of that respective team’s offense, defense, fielding and pitching. But any and all problems aside, when your team finishes the opening month of the season with its best record in the history of the franchise – to go along with the league’s best mark – it’s hard to grade that team with anything less than perfection.
Some would give the Phillies an ‘A+’ grade for the month of April while others – especially those who have grown tired and frustrated of the inconsistency at the plate – would say the Phillies aren’t deserving of that mark. But in the end, as long as you’re putting wins on the board more often than not, there is little to be upset about. And the Phillies, in the opening 30 days of the 2011 MLB season, did just that better than any other team in the National League and just as good as one other team in the American League.
Give whatever grade to the Phillies that you would like. Think that an ‘A+’ is being too generous and realize that a 69-plus percent winning percentage won’t continue whatsoever if the offense can’t stay consistent for more than two or three games at a time, but the Phillies, battling through injuries and a depleted offense, not to mention a slightly depleted bullpen, have done better than anyone could have hoped for or expected.
For that, the Phillies deserve an ‘A+’ mark for the month of April. Before May, they were at the top of the Majors in terms of wins and most rankings lists. And while Philadelphia can be dead-last in batting average by the end of the season, if the wins come, then that’s all that matters. And in April, the Phillies were second to none in that department.
In April of 1993, the Phillies set a franchise record with 17 wins in the opening 30 days. This past April, the Phillies set a new franchise record with 18 wins. Hopefully, the season ends with a brighter note than that of the ’93 season.
Shane Victorino: A-
I’d like to see Victorino bat a little higher and be a .300 hitter, but a .288 average at this point in the season is the difference in several at-bats. He’s also stealing bases, putting up good numbers and even hitting home runs, all while doing so as the leadoff batter. And best of all, he’s remained completely healthy. Victorino, who hasn’t generally been a lead-off hitter in his career, has been doing a solid job in the top spot of the lineup thus far.
Placido Polanco: A+
A .398 batting average, good enough for the Major League Baseball lead at the time (for eligible players). A new franchise record of 41 hits. 19 RBIs and some excellent play in the field. Team MVP thus far. Nothing more to add here.
Ryan Howard: A
Howard led Major League Baseball in RBIs after the month of April with 27, good for yet another Phillies franchise record, which was previously held by Pat Burrell, who drove in 24 runs in April of 2008. He started off on fire, slowed down with his power hitting, but came back around and finished the month with six home runs. A .290 batting average for Ryan Howard is nothing to complain about and the 29 strikeouts for the month has become an expectation. Better than grounding into double plays, right?
Raul Ibanez: F
Ibanez finished the season on an 0-for-30 slump. If he wasn’t getting paid such a large amount of money and if Domonic Brown was healthy, it would be hard to consider not benching him or sending him down. He is as useless of a player as you can get right now and it may be time for the Phillies to cut their ties with the leftfielder, as long as they can sign or trade for another outfielder or replace him in the depth chart.
Ben Francisco: B-/C+
Francisco isn’t a guy you really should be expecting to put up starting outfielder numbers consistently, but even with that week-and-a-half or so when he couldn’t hit anything, four home runs, 18 RBIs, a couple of stolen bases and a .266 batting average isn’t too much to complain about. The way I’m grading Francisco is not just based on his offensive output, but his output compared to what should be expected of him. I’d just like to see a bit more consistency.
Wilson Valdez: C-/D+
Valdez’ grade is questionable, in my opinion, but really, what do we expect him to do at the plate? He’s doing just fine in the field (one error, .988 fielding percentage). As long as he’s not batting below .200 and he’s making the plays he’s supposed to in the field, I’m fine with that until Utley gets back (especially considering the other option is Martinez….).
Carlos Ruiz: C-
I really don’t know what to say here regarding Ruiz. A catcher’s ability to call a game and his incredible defense behind the plate is as important as you can get, but that doesn’t take away from his futility at the plate. Since hitting his pinch-hit grand slam and hitting the ball well for the few games following his big hit, he’s been almost as poor at the plate as Ibanez has been.
Pete Orr: B-
Do we really expect Pete Orr of all players to bat above .276? No errors in the field is nice to see. If Orr is in the lineup, we should be happy to see him get on base once a game and in the field, just make the plays he is supposed to make. Thus far, he’s been doing that. If the first four hitters in the lineup are doing their jobs, then until Utley gets back, this is what you’re going to see from Orr and there shouldn’t be too much to be upset about.
Roy Halladay: A
Halladay, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winning, is one terrible start away from being the early leader for a repeat award after only one month of the 2011 season. In his other five starts, he has been nothing short of, well, Roy Halladay.
Cliff Lee: B-
Out of Lee’s five April starts, one was superb, two were good, one was sub-par and was abysmal. His strikeouts-to-walks ration has been tremendous and for the most part, he’s been fine on the mound and should become more consistent moving forward. Many people would give him a lower grade due to how he’s expected to perform, but a ‘B-’ is fitting, considering how he’s pitched outside of one start.
Roy Oswalt: B+/A-
Oswalt has been near-perfect since joining the Phillies in 2010. If you take little stock in his poor start last week and believe that his “personal issues” were to blame and affected his focus, it’s hard to be tough on Oswalt or give him anything less than an ‘A-’ for the month of April.
Cole Hamels: A-
Since an awful first start of the season, Hamels is pitching like it’s the final four months of the 2010 season again and has been pretty great on the mound. It’s nice seeing Hamels on the mound as your team’s No. 4 starter, isn’t it?
Joe Blanton: C-
Blanton has had a nice rebound from his first two starts, which were both terrible. He’s come back with two good starts (before getting hurt) and in the end, if your No. 5 pitcher is giving your team a .500 record, who can complain?
Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras: A+ (x3)
Madson has been near-perfect. Bastardo had an almost perfect month and is striking out batters more than he is allowing batters to reach base and Contreras, who stepped in for Brad Lidge in the closer’s role while Lidge is on the DL, is five-for-five in save opportunities with nine strikeouts in eight innings, a WHIP of 1.00 and an ERA of 0.00. The three Phillies relievers have been superb thus far.
Danys Baez: B+
Baez may make fans nervous on the mound, but outside of a blown save, he was just fine in April. His numbers were great, especially compared to last year and to what you’d expect from him.
David Herndon: F
If the Phillies ever send Raul Ibanez packing, please tell Herndon to pack his bags also and never come back.
Kyle Kendrick: B
An ERA of 1.80 over 10 innings, with one game against Milwaukee really being his only poor outing makes it hard to give Kendrick anything less than a ‘B’ grade for the month of April. He may be every Phillies’ fans last or second-to-last choice on the mound, but as for the first 30 days of the season, Kendrick’s numbers look pretty good.
Michael Stutes and Vance Worley: A (x2)
Stutes and Worley, both in minimal action after being called up from the minors, each pitched very well in the little time they each saw with the Phillies. Both pitchers look very promising moving forward, but we should let them throw a few more innings before touting them as full-time pitchers.
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