Spring Training results are meaningless. The statistics mean nothing. There is nothing to see here. At least those are the things we are told. But what if miserable Spring Training results follow a miserable season and do not even look up to snuff to reach the miserable win projections the computers have in store for them in 2014? Maybe they are not so meaningless.
The Phillies of 2013 lost 89 games. The pitching, which just a couple of years ago looked dominant for years, finished fourteenth out of fifteen teams in earned run average. The offense, which was considered worse than the pitching, finished twelfth in OPS. That is hardly a recipe for good things to happen.
And what has the team done to bolster its 2014 chances? They brought in A.J. Burnett, Roberto Hernandez, Marlon Byrd and Bobby Abreu. I don’t know about you, but that wouldn’t make me slap my knee and say, “Hot dang!” if I was a fan.
Burnett had better years for the Pirates, but he is just a few years from being run out of New York. Roberto Hernandez could not be fixed by the always fixing Tampa Bay Rays last season and was awful. Abreu is old and a wing and a prayer and Marlon Byrd rose from the dead last year for a very good season. Can he repeat it?
Top it off with Cole Hamels still being out of action all spring and shut down again recently and things are not looking good. So when I see a Spring Training record of 2-9-2, I do not see meaningless.
Cliff Lee is still slinging them from the left side and has been very good, but as usual, he has gotten no run support. Roberto Hernandez has looked okay but Burnett and hold-over, Kyle Kendrick have gotten cuffed around. Yes, it is early. It is always early. But it sure is troubling. Without Hamels, there is no fifth starter.
And then you get to the infield. So far this spring, the second basemen, shortstops and third basemen are a combined 25 for 176, a .142 batting average. Chase Utley has three singles and a walk in twenty plate appearances. Jimmy Rollins has two hits so far, one of them a homer. Cody Asche has three extra-base hits. But those are his only hits and he has struck out over 30% of the time. Freddy Galvis is batting .136. Kevin Frandsen is batting .158 and on and on it goes.
And then everyone is looking at the big guy at first base. Will he be platooned this season since he has lost the ability to hit lefties? Ryan Howard is batting .182 with two doubles and no homers and has struck out 37.4% of the time this spring. Meanwhile Darin Ruf is killing the ball. Good luck with that situation, Mr. Ryne Sandberg.
The outfield has been a slightly better story. Well…at least for two thirds of the outfield. Marlon Byrd and John Mayberry, Jr. are hitting well. But Domonic Brown is batting .091 with just two singles and a 30% strikeout rate.
Bobby Abreu was a nice story when first heard, but he is not hitting and looks old. And old describes many parts of the team. Rollins and Utley can still play up the middle, but their best years are behind them. Ryan Howard has not earned his keep in years with injuries and a bat that swings and misses way too often. Byrd will have to prove that despite his age, last year was not a fluke.
The bullpen should be okay, though Jonathan Papelbon has the bad habit of opening his mouth too often. But the overall pitching staff does not look promising at this point.
The projections have the Phillies finishing the same as a year ago with 73 wins and 89 losses. This is now Ryne Sandberg’s team, but how much will that make a difference? He doesn’t pitch and he doesn’t bat. And the team did not get a significant boost when he took over last season.
Spring Training doesn’t mean anything. That is what everyone says. And so I often have to caution myself from making too much of what I see. But what I see currently is a team that will be very fortunate to win 73 games. The 2014 Philadelphia Phillies look dreadful and it might be a very long season.