Baseball never ends. Each month, we'll be giving you the Phillies' CliffNotes.
The Phillies faced a series of contenders (Rangers, Dodgers, Braves, the 20-7 Brewers) in April, a frantic test of their teetering club that barely gave them time to blink. So they didn't, and actually managed to come out of the month still on the edge, rather than plummeting from it.
April record: 13-13
Overall record: 13-13, 4th in NL East, 4.5 GB
April MVP: Chase Utley, .355/.408/.570, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 1.6 WAR
Carlos Ruiz, .297/.416/.473, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 0.9 WAR
Ryan Howard, .255/.333/.469, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 11 BB, 1 3B (!!!)
Ben Revere, .299/.313/.320, 10 SB, 1 3B, 0.3 WAR
They said if those core player were healthy, they'd produce, and they have. Some of them.
Utley is picking NL pitchers out of his teeth and Ruiz is the defending NL Player of the Week after hitting .500 from April 20-27.
Howard still leads the team in strikeouts - he'll always lead the team in strikeouts - and his average is in Jimmy Rollins, .250-territory. But he is getting on base, his OPS is third on the team behind Utley and Ruiz, and he is second in walks - walks! On top of that, he legged out a triple, like some sort of smaller, healthier player would do. You can't say he's not contributing. Although you probably will.
April pitching MVP: Cliff Lee, 3.29 ERA, 1.366 WHIP, 40 SO, 4 BB, 41.0 IP
A.J. Burnett, 2.15 ERA, 1.274 WHIP, 28 SO, 17 BB, 37.2 IP
Mario Hollands, 3.27 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 7 SO, 3 BB, 11 IP
Jonathan Papelbon, 2.38 ERA, 1.147 WHIP, 9 SO, 4 BB, 11.1 IP
The sad part about Hollands is that if he's been used enough to warrant some consistent stats, it means the Phillies have witnessed a starter or two unravel in the fourth or fifth inning. Lee's SO/BB ratio (10.00) is second in the NL, and Burnett capped off an oppressive April with only nine earned runs and part of his insides hanging out of his stomach.
Papelbon has sealed shut eight games in a row without incident, and with tonight's game rained out, he won't even have the chance to ruin that streak until May.
Cody Asche, .200/.284/.300, -0.1 WAR
Domonic Brown, .253/.314/.316, 1 HR, -0.1 WAR
Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, whereabouts unknown
Brown was hitting even worse than this last year when suddenly something clicked in May. Maybe he was excited about Cowboys minicamp opening. Asche has disappointed those optimists who'd hoped for even ancillary contributions, and I honestly forgot about Gonzalez. Hope he's still on the planet.
Cole Hamels - Cole Hamels is back, and boy is he ever up to his old tricks: Beating the Dodgers, losing to the Mets, and never, ever receiving run support.
Darin Ruf - Ruf is almost ready to begin thinking about starting to rehab that strained oblique. Any few weeks now, and he could be back, as unsure of his role with the team as the team is.
Bobby Abreu - Cut after training camp, the Phillies bench is in dire need of somebody who can do anything consistently at the plate other than squint in confusion. Abreu could at least draw a walk. Now he's in the Mets outfield.
Cody Asche - The Phillies' starting third baseman was a ghost even before being benched from April 24-27. It was an attempt to get him restarted after a lack of production. In the end, it just made him look better by comparison, because...
Freddy Galvis - ...his replacement went 1-for-30 with a .124 OPS. Yaaaaaay.
League leaders: Chase Utley, doubles (11) (three-way tie)
New Manager Report Card: B
Pros: Batting Chooch high in the order, understanding that just because the same players are here doesn't mean it's 2008, seeing criticism as a good thing, use of new replay rule, refusing to give up on Galvis.
Cons: Bullpen management, that weird thing with Jimmy Rollins, not using Chase Utley as a pinch hitter in Dodger Stadium, refusing to give up on Galvis.
April 14: Dan Uggla Makes Everybody Sit Down
April 12: Jimmy Rollins Offers Fan Solid Advice During Walk-off Home Run