Here we are, folks: the End of Season Post-Mortem series. If you're new here (which about 50% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from playoff contention, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated. Also, for the first ten teams eliminated, we're going to post a series called "Hope for the Hopeless", which is going to be an expanded version of the "What Went Right" portion of the Post-Mortem series pieces.
After a 2012 season that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Phillies pushed ahead for 2013, electing to reload instead of rebuild. It didn't work, as the team performed much worse than they did last year. As of this writing, they have the worst run differential in the National League, and second-worst in baseball to just the Astros (who started the year with a payroll less than 20% that of Philadelphia's.
Preseason prediction: The Phillies are probably going to battle for a playoff spot. That doesn't necessarily mean that they'll grab one. The addition of that wild card spot does help their chances, but you have to figure at least one of those spots is already reserved for the Braves or Nats, whichever doesn't win the division. Which will leave the Phils to likely battle it out with someone from the NL West as the other wild card. They should be in the thick of things, if they can maintain their health throughout the lineup, but they're not the surefire World Series pick that they were just a couple of years ago.
What Went Right: I guess you could argue, "well, Citizens Bank Park didn't burn to the ground!" as a positive for the 2013 Phillies. But honestly, there wasn't much that went right. Chase Utley had his healthiest year since 2009, and while he's not the elite player he once was, he's still an upper tier second baseman in MLB. Left fielder Domonic Brown finally had his big breakout year, hitting 27 home runs and earning an All-Star nod, but the club has handled him gently in September as he's dealt with an Achilles injury and memories of Ryan Howard collapsing in pain are still fresh in everyone's minds. Carlos Ruiz has had a really good second half after being a disaster in the first half and looking like his final days in Philadelphia were approaching. Ben Revere got better and better as the season went along before breaking his foot in July, sidelining him for the rest of the year. Cody Asche and Darin Ruf have performed reasonably well in their second half call-ups. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels have been awesome, despite Hamels' early season issues with earning wins. Kyle Kendrick had a good start to the year before falling off the rails. Reliever Jake Diekman has come into his own in the second half and blossomed into a legitimate late inning option. Howard had a good June and a good July before landing on the shelf.
What Went Wrong: Roy Halladay has made just 11 starts, and been pretty awful when he's been on the mound., posting his highest walk rate since 2000. The bullpen has largely been a never ending carousel of below replacement level relievers, with players like Michael Stutes, Joe Savery, Raul Valdes, Justin De Fratus, Jeremy Horst, Chad Durbin, Luis Garcia, JC Ramirez, and the very well-paid Mike Adams all pitching double digit innings and doing poorly for the club. John Lannan and Ethan Martin have been very different pitchers with similar results. Revere and Ruiz both got off to awful starts to immediately put the offense behind the eight-ball. Veteran acquisitions Michael Young and Delmon Young were absolute disasters. Bench players Laynce Nix and John Mayberry Jr have gotten too much playing time for how mediocre they were in 2013. Howard suffered yet another lower body injury, and to complicate matters, his platoon splits are getting really out of hand. Jimmy Rollins is having far and away the worst year of his career.
Most Surprising Player: I'm not sure if you can call Brown's 2013 a surprise. After all, he was one of the top prospects in baseball a couple of years ago. But Brown had fallen flat on his face during his MLB auditions and had, unfairly or not, received the tag of "injury-prone". Well, in 2013, Brown made his impact in the majors for the Phillies, hitting .272/.318/.511 with 27 homers on the season. In the first half, Brown was an absolute beast before injuries slowed him in the second half. On the positive side, he's finally shown what he can do in the majors. On the negative side, that injury-prone tag is still stuck firmly on Brown, and he's going to need to play 140 games in a major league season to shed it.
Most Disappointing Player: Halladay wasn't *great* last year, but he was still a competent member of the rotation. This year, he's been an absolute disaster. Halladay's fastball and cutter velocity has dropped yet again, and he's not getting ground balls at all. When a pitcher can't locate and he's not getting ground balls, the sirens should be going off everywhere. Halladay has made just 11 starts this year, missing a nice chunk of time following shoulder surgery. Since his return, he's been even worse, striking out as many hitters as he's walked with a ground ball rate that's somehow been even lower, yet better luck has resulted in a lower ERA. It's depressing seeing an elite player like this fall off so quickly, but here we are.
The Future: Phillies GM Ruben Amaro (if he's even still the GM this offseason) has two paths to go down this winter. This team has an aging core, and they've already got nearly $120 million dedicated to salaries for 2014. The team can either supplement that core with young players from within, or they can continue to throw money at aging veterans. Amaro's MO in the past has been the latter route, but the promotions and relative success of Asche and Ruf in 2013 might dissuade him from doing that. Quite frankly, that's the smart move thanks to an improving farm system led by players like pitcher Jesse Biddle and third baseman Maikel Franco. Both have holes in their games, but could be in the majors sometime in 2014. Now, if only the Phillies had all those prospects that Amaro traded for players like Halladay and Hunter Pence…I'm sure they'd love being able to throw Travis d'Arnaud behind the plate to replace Ruiz or Jonathan Villar at shortstop to replace Jimmy Rollins. The youth movement needs to begin in Philadelphia, because supplementing this team with even more veterans isn't a recipe for success going forward.