Zoo With Roy: Nearing midpoint, Phillies right where management expected
Each week, our penguin friend Zoo with Roy writes a guest column on Philly.com. This week, he discusses the state of the Phillies as they near the midpoint of the season.
The 2012 Phillies finished 81-81, setting expectations sky high for another mediocre campaign in 2013. It’s not easy to finish with a perfect .500 record though, and Ruben Amaro, Jr. knew that in order to do so he’d have to target - and acquire - a select group of “back of the baseball card” veterans that would complement his aging, injured, arguably overpaid core.
Let’s take a look back at his offseason moves and see how they’re driving outstanding results this season:
Veteran reliever. Are there two sweeter words in the English language? Mike Adams has been the epitome of steady: he came into the season unable to feel his arm and he still can’t! Like an old oak tree shading the yard on a sunny summer day, Adams is just what you expected to see as you drew the shades and sipped your morning coffee. Despite his recent trip to the DL, there’s still room for optimism, despite the reliever’s three (!) shoulder tears: Adams is signed through the 2014 season!
Delmon Young, amazingly somehow still only 27 years old at press time, was the crown jewel of Amaro’s offseason non-five-year-plan. A former number one overall draft pick, with secondary tools so sharp he had been a designated hitter in the American League the previous three seasons, Young was motivated to return quickly from his mysterious ankle injury and help the big club achieve sustainable mediocrity in 2013. Undeterred by “the right fielder’s” hate-filled and explosive past, Ruben pulled the right lever at the right time - when no one other team in baseball was even considering this quartz in the rough - to strike a player-friendly, health-and-weight-based, incentive-laden contract to bring the hefty fireplug into the fold. And things have paid off!
Michael Young - arguably the worst “regular” player in baseball last season - is one of those players that every team in baseball would have KILLED to have in their clubhouse five seasons ago, when he was still in his early 30s. With his combination of stoic leadership, faded defensive skills, and a born ability to hit hard ground balls right at middle infielders, Young was a cinch to be just the type of .500 caliber ballplayer the Fightins needed to irritate the fans just enough, but not so much that they stopped coming to the ballpark. Not to mention, he plays the game the right way. Worried he’s doing too well of late to keep this team at .500 all season? Don’t be. That’s not how math works, silly!
Ben Revere is just the type of hitter that thrilled little kids in the 1980s. He’s very fast! Remember Juan Samuel in his prime? Now that was exciting baseball. Only Revere has slightly less power than… well, you. But I tell you what, you don’t get to be 25th in the league in runs scored without a few guys who can post six extra base hits in three months. Get on over here and gimme a fist bump, Rube!
Chad Durbin. Like Dad’s well-worn slippers with the holes worn in the side from his hammer pinky toes, Amaro’s bold offseason acquisition of Chad “2008 World Series Champion” Durbin just felt right. When you have a history with a guy like this, sometimes you just have to make the move, even if you could have gotten similar production from a minimum wage minor leaguer, or paper mache dinosaur sculpture. I said this to friends at the time of the acquisition: “The good news is that Chad seems to oscillate between a good and bad ERA every other season. The bad news is that last year he had an ERA in the 3.00s!” And wow was I right! The Hindendurb ignited 2013 in a big way, and even though he’s gone now, we’re all still marveling at the bonfire.
John Lannan might as well open an ice cream shop, because all that man does is sprinkle sprinkle sprinkle. Just the other day he sprinkled five doubles over five innings against the Mets. A veteran presence through and through, the crafty left-hander has only allowed 16 earned runs in 24.2 innings. $2.5M well spent, if you ask me. You just can’t get that type of production from the league-minimum scrap heap.
As David Montgomery pointed out recently, Ruben Amaro is batting .300 so far this season. Combine that with Delmon Young’s .222 clip, throw in Ben Revere’s .617 OPS, and we’re looking pretty average-at-best from here on out. So from that perspective, it’s hard to see how things could have gone better last offseason. I know we’re a few games below the .500 mark at the moment, but hey, it’s still June! Give it time, and your patience will be rewarded with more mediocrity - trading season is rapidly approaching, and veteran relievers are in full bloom.