5 reasons the Phillies failed in the 1st half

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5 reasons the Phillies failed in the 1st half

For a large chunk of the first half of the season, it was difficult to reconcile the Phillies' poor record despite relatively impressive individual contributions from many regulars.

The theory all offseason was that if Jimmy Rollins regained some power, if Chase Utley stayed on the field, if Ryan Howard could come close to 30 and 100, if the bullpen was improved, and if free-agent signings Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett repeated their 2013 seasons, the Phillies would be a winning team.

Most of that happened, and yet here we are at the All-Star break with the Phils again playing mostly meaningless summer baseball.

How did it get this bad? Let's take a look at the key stats which explain the Phillies' 42-53 record:

1. Ryan Howard
Howard is on pace for 26 home runs and 95 RBIs, and that's after he homered just once in his final 101 plate appearances before the All-Star break.

But it's an empty 26 and 95. Howard has hit .220 with a .300 on-base percentage. He also has just 10 doubles.

Out of 157 major-leaguers with at least 300 plate appearances, Howard ranks 148th in batting average, 137th in on-base percentage and 89th with 26 extra-base hits. The first two ranks you can live with because it's just the player Howard is nowadays. But if he's also not driving the ball, he's completely useless.

Platoon him in the second half? Howard actually has a higher OPS vs. lefties (.711) than against righties (.671). But his plate discipline has been significantly worse against same-handed pitching.

Against righties, Howard has walked 10 percent of the time and struck out 26 percent of the time.

Against lefties, he's walked in nine percent of his plate appearances and struck out in 39 percent.

There is no difference between Howard and Mark Reynolds at this point. Reynolds has one fewer homer and OBP three points higher than Howard's. The difference is that Reynolds signed a minor-league deal worth $2 million at the major-league level, and Howard makes $25 million.

2. Domonic Brown
Brown was literally the least valuable everyday player in the first half, according to Fangraphs. Brown was worth minus-1.2 WAR thanks to an atrocious 91 games offensively and defensively.

You can't quite say enough about how little Brown has given the Phillies this season. In that same aforementioned group of 157 players, Brown ranks 146th in batting average, 151st in on-base percentage and 139th in extra-base hits.

Throw in all the runs he's cost the Phillies defensively -- at a position regarded as the second-easiest on the diamond to play -- and you can see why Phillies fans are ready to run a once-highly touted 26-year-old out of town already.

The Phillies' OPS from first base is .685, 23rd in baseball. That's 76 points below the league average. Their OPS from left field is .572, second-worst in baseball and 144 points below the league average.

3. No timely hitting
The Phillies have had more plate appearances with runners in scoring position than 16 teams. But they rank fourth-worst in baseball with a .229 batting average with RISP.

The last time the Phils finished with a worse batting average with runners in scoring position was 1971.

Even in the down years of 2012 and 2013, they hit a combined .259 with RISP.

Hitting .259 would have meant 24 more hits with runners in scoring position in those first 95 games. How many wins do 24 more hits with RISP equal? Three? Five? Ten?

4. Pitching on different pages
The best month for the Phillies' starting rotation was April, when the rotation had a 3.70 ERA.

The worst month for the Phillies' relievers was April, when the bullpen had a 4.89 ERA.

In May, the starters had a 3.92 ERA and the bullpen had a 3.42 ERA.

In June, the starters had a 3.89 ERA and the bullpen posted a 2.63.

So in those two months combined, the bullpen rebounded for a 3.04 ERA in 157 innings, but the starters had just a mediocre 3.90 ERA.

Ten years ago, a 3.90 ERA would have been nice. But in today's declining offensive climate, the National League average is a 3.69 ERA.

The Phillies just haven't been able to get both components of their pitching staff going concurrently for a prolonged period of time.

And really, that was the main theme of the Phils' first half. When the offense showed up, the pitching didn't. When the pitching did, the offense didn't. The fielding was mediocre and the baserunning wasn't spectacular like it was from 2007-11.

5. The last word
This final stat should sum up exactly what kind of team the 2014 Phillies are:

Against teams over .500, the Phils are 20-32.

Against teams under .500, the Phils are 22-21.

When you can't beat the good teams and you're just .500 against the bad teams, what does that say about your club?

Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava make Phillies' roster; Jesmuel Valentin to AAA

Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava make Phillies' roster; Jesmuel Valentin to AAA

Brock Stassi and Daniel Nava have earned the Phillies' final two bench spots, according to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury.

Infielder Jesmuel Valentin will head to Triple A.

Stassi, a left-handed hitting first baseman who can play some left field and right field, has hit .339 this spring with a team-leading six home runs and 17 RBIs.

Nava, the former Red Sox outfielder, hit .386 this spring and hit a three-run home run off Justin Verlander Wednesday to help solidify his spot on the Phillies' opening-day roster.

More coming ...

End could be near for Jimmy Rollins, who's unlikely to make Giants' roster

End could be near for Jimmy Rollins, who's unlikely to make Giants' roster

The long-expected homecoming for Jimmy Rollins didn't go as planned.

Rollins, now 38, is unlikely to make the San Francisco Giants' opening-day roster.

"We've talked to Jimmy and he knows the scenario and the situation," manager Bruce Bochy told reporters earlier this week. "We're just waiting to hear back from him."

J-Roll was hoping to catch on with the Giants as a utility infielder. San Francisco already has an everyday shortstop in Brandon Crawford, so Rollins' role would have been to back him up, play a little second base and perhaps some third base. 

But Rollins hit just .125 this spring and fell clearly behind fellow veteran Aaron Hill, who is three years younger and at this point simply a better hitter.

Is this the end for J-Roll? If it is, he'll finish with a .264/.324/.418 batting line in over 10,000 plate appearances, 2,455 hits, 511 doubles, 231 homers and 470 steals.

Rollins is one of just four players ever with that many career doubles and steals. The others are Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb and Paul Molitor.

While some players have precipitous drop-offs that lead to retirement -- forced or unforced -- Rollins' decline has been more gradual. His batting average has dipped in each of the last four seasons, from .252 in 2013 to .243 to .224 to .221 last season. 

Rollins latched on with the White Sox last spring and was their opening-day shortstop, but he was released on June 15 as Chicago made room for top prospect Tim Anderson.

Rollins, who played 15 seasons with the Phillies, is the franchise leader in at-bats, hits and doubles. He's second in steals, third in triples and runs scored, ninth in homers and eighth in RBIs.

He also won an MVP, a World Series, four Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams.

Enough to make the Hall of Fame? That's obviously subjective, but for as much as he did for the Phillies and for how much he impacted the game for more than a decade, Rollins' rate stats -- namely the .251/.317/.395 batting line he posted from 2008-16 -- could keep him out of Cooperstown, even though some of his counting stats are more impressive than Barry Larkin's.