On April 27, after Jeremy Hellickson bested Edinson Volquez with a 3-2 win at home, the Phillies were 11-9 on the season, two games over .500, riding a seven-game win streak.
Monday, after Volquez bested the Phillies back — his first win of the 2017 season — saddling Hellickson with the third loss in his last six starts, the Phillies’ record through 49 games stands at 17-32.
You don’t need to be an analytics guru to see how bad things are. The Phillies are 6-23 in the last month, a stretch that included two separate three-game losing streaks, two separate five-game skids and a four-game stretch without a win in between. The longest winning streak since their seven-game run? One.
May started with a 10-2 Phils win over the Cubs. Their next win came on May 7th in a walkoff win over the Nationals. (The place was electric.) Another win over the Nats came next, but it was a full week later, in Washington on May 14th. Despite no decisions, both of those wins were Hellickson starts.
The next Phillies’ win was another Hellickson start — a 7-2 beating of the Pirates on May 19 in which he got credited with the win — before wins on May 25th against the Rockies and May 27th against the Reds. (Another walkoff win, though the crowd was noticeably less electric.)
The last time the Phillies won a series was the last time they won two-consecutive games, more than a month ago — March 26th and 27th — against the Marlins. How are they this bad?
Are they really this bad? Sadly, they are.
The Phillies are 27th in the majors in runs scored heading into games Tuesday, and are 25th in OPS. Their batting average through 49 games is .243. And their pitching is worse.
The Phillies rank 28th — out of 30 teams — in team ERA, with a woeful 4.82 through 434.2 innings. Only the Reds and, hilariously, the Mets have a worse ERA at 4.85 after Monday’s games. The Phils’ batting average against is .269, tied with Pittsburgh and just .001 better than Baltimore for the worst in all of baseball. And what’s odd is they’ve done all this while throwing, to date, 7,210 pitches, which ranks as the fifth-fewest in baseball. There is not a lot of swinging and missing going on, that’s for sure. The Phils ranked 28th in strikeouts.
Oh, but it gets worse. So much worse. The Phillies have a 7.45 ERA after 75 pitches, the worst in the majors by nearly a run and a half. Phillies pitchers have a batting average against of .308 after 75 pitches in the game; only the Pirates have a worse rate, with Pennsylvania’s two woeful clubs the only to crack .300 BAA.
Is there a silver lining to the Phillies’ woes? Maybe. From the seventh inning on, the bats are actually better. The Phillies lead the majors in home runs (28) from the seventh inning on, and are third in the majors in OPS at .800, behind only the Yankees and Astros. The Phils have scored 80 runs after the sixth inning this season, but just 121 from the first through the sixth, the third-worst in baseball.
Those 28 late-game homers are mitigated by just 24 in the first six innings of games. And the .800 OPS from the seventh on is a paltry .666 in the first six innings, the worst in the league.
It doesn’t take a genius to see an alarming trend through nearly 50 games: The Phillies are terrible against starting pitching and their starting pitching is terrible. Their starters, even with Hellickson’s strong April, is the second worst in baseball with a 5.25 ERA thought Monday.
Zach Eflin was so bad on Sunday — seven runs on nine hits including four homers in just five innings — the Phillies optioned him to the minors, without even knowing who the would replace him with in the rotation. Literally nobody pitching would be more effective than the bottom of the Phillies’ rotation.
This is not to suggest Hellickson has a game changer this year. In fact, he’s been roundly poor in May and his ERA has ballooned to 4.45 through 11 starts. But without him, the Phillies starters have given up 127 earned runs in 208.1 innings, just shy of a 5.50 ERA.
Slow starts on offense and bad starting pitching has meant a lot of early deficits, and a lot of bad losses. The Phillies have 18 losses this season in which they’ve allowed six or more runs. The team has only scored six or more runs 10 times, winning seven.
The bullpen hasn’t actually been that bad, nine blown saves notwithstanding, with six relievers boasting a 3.86 ERA or lower, led by Pat Neshek’s 0.98 through 18.1 IP. And yet, Joely Rodriguez has been used 22 times out of necessity and has a 6.38 ERA, while Jeanmar Gomez — the one-time closer — has a 6.91 ERA, and has been limited to just 14.1 innings because he’s almost unusable in any high-stress situations at this point.
The Phillies do have three position players batting over .300 this season, it’s just that two of them are on the DL. Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava, both listed as left fielders on the roster, are hitting .326 and .305, respectively, in limited action. Their replacement in left field, Aaron Altherr, is having what could be an All-Star first half, hitting .304 with a .968 OPS in 42 games.
The other outfielders have been horrible. Michael Saunders is hitting .226 and slugging .402 while Odubel Herrera, last year’s All-Star, is hitting .217 and has an on-base percentage of .270.
The left side of the infield is inexplicably worse. Maikel Franco is hitting .209 this season, with a .349 slugging percentage and .617 OPS. Freddy Galvis (.234 batting average) has as many hits as Atherr, 41, in 40 more plate appearances. Without Cesar Hernandez at second base (.286/.346/.768 OPS), the Phillies’ best hitting infielder would be Tommy Joseph with a .252 batting average. Where have you gone, Chase, Jimmy and Ryan? Heck, we’d probably take two of you now.
This year’s team is far from the glory days. They are, in a word, horrible. The only hope is that there are two more games against the Marlins, then three with the Giants, then four against the Braves. When will the Phillies next win a series? If none of those, it could be a while.