The Phillies were supposed to win yet another National League East title. Instead they finished in third place, and far behind the surprising Nationals. Which Phillie best symbolizes his club's 81-81 season?
A lot of things didn't go well for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012, which perhaps is evident when we recall that they were generally considered favorites to win a sixth straight National League East title, but instead nearly suffered a losing season. There were injuries and disappointments and somehow Cliff Lee won only six games despite a 3.16 ERA in 30 starts. Carlos Ruiz played really well, though. He was the Phillies' most valuable player. The player who best symbolizes the 2012 Phillies, though? Read on ...
It's natural to wonder what the Phillies might have done with a typical Roy Halladay, and to wonder if the atypical version of Roy Halladay says more about their season than anything else. But after wondering those things, it seems apparent that Halladay could not, all by himself, have saved the Phillies. He missed seven or eight starts, and wound up winning only 11 games, with a somewhat-shocking 4.49 ERA.
But what if Halladay had won 20 games? Would that have been enough for them to win their sixth straight division title? No. The Phillies finished 17 games behind the Nationals. But it might have been enough for them to reach the playoffs, considering the Cardinals took the second Wild Card slot with only 88 wins. So, yes: When writing the Phillies' epitaph, Roy Halladay's injury and ineffectiveness deserve a mention.
In the end, though, this was a perfectly average team: 81 wins, 81 losses, and run differential that was almost exactly even: 684 scored, 680 allowed.
And nobody typifies that averageness more than shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
Unlike many of his teammates, Rollins was essentially healthy (as far as we know) throughout the season, and played in 156 games. He finished with a 98 OPS+, essentially the National League average. And as a fielder, he was roughly replacement-level. A better hitter than most major-league shortstops but a worse fielder, Rollins was merely adequate as an every-day shortstop. Just as the Phillies were merely adequate as a team.
We can take Rollins' typicality a bit farther, though. There has been, for some time, an opinion that the Phillies, for all their success, would eventually get old in a hurry. They have relied for many years on veterans, while at the same time trading their best prospects for more veterans. And Rollins is a great example. While he's not old, at 33 he's certainly not young, either.
Among the 10 Phillies who finished the season with at least 250 plate appearances, six were between the ages of 32 and 34. The two youngest were John Mayberry, who didn't play well, and Hunter Pence, who got traded to the Giants.
For next year, the Phillies must be hoping that Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and Roy Halladay are healthier than they were in 2012. But they must also be hoping that those players, along with Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz, have drunk from the Fountain of Youth. I hear it's somewhere near Harleysville.
In case you missed any previous entries in this EXCITING SERIES, here's the archive.