The rebuilding program continued for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2016 season. The club moved up to fourth place in the NL East Division with a 71-91 record.
That left the Fightin’ Phils a distant 24 games behind the division-leading Washington Nationals. They were also 16 in back of an NL Wildcard berth. But it also marked an eight game improvement over their worst in baseball finish of a year earlier.
The overall record and standings finish wasn’t so much a problem for manager Pete Mackanin‘s troops. Perhaps a more worrisome issue was the 11-21 mark over the final five weeks.
As that rebuild continues, the 2017 campaign will be especially important. For a couple of the young position players it will be time to step up and show that they can be legitimate impact bats.
For the pitching, there are a couple of young arms that have physical questions to answer. A few others will be looking to step forward and begin to show that they can be long-term pieces.
THE NOLA QUESTION
One of the biggest blows to the Phillies season was the loss of 23-year old Aaron Nola to injury. Nola got off to a fast start. But by the middle of June there was obviously something wrong.
He wasn’t finally shut down for good until the end of July with what was eventually described as “low-grade damage” to his UCL. There were understandable fears of Tommy John surgery, and the loss of the talented right-hander for all of the 2017 season as well.
For now anyway, Nola has dodged that procedure. It is hoped he will be healthy for spring training. Nola completed a throwing program in October after more than two months of rest. He finished 2016 with a 6-9 record, allowing 116 hits over 111 innings in 20 starts with a 121/29 K:BB ratio.
PHILLIES 2016 PITCHING LEADERS
Vince Velasquez forced his way into the rotation in spring training and was dominant at times. He finished 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA, allowing 129 hits over 131 innings in 24 starts with a 152/45 K:BB ratio. Velasquez was shut down by the club in early September.
Jeremy Hellickson was signed for one year to prop up the youngsters by pitching quality innings. The 29-year old veteran did just that, going 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA and 1.153 WHIP. He allowed 173 hits over 189 innings with a 154/45 K:BB ratio.
The surprising leader of the staff was 25-year old righty Jerad Eickhoff, who tossed a rotation-high 33 starts. He allowed 187 hits over 197.1 innings with a 167/42 K:BB ratio. Eickhoff also produced a 3.65 ERA and 1.160 WHIP.
Jeanmar Gomez registered 37 Saves while pitching in 70 games. He was excellent for five months until falling apart in September. Hector Neris was the best overall reliever, allowing just 59 hits over 80.1 innings with a 102/30 K:BB ratio.
PHILLIES 2016 OFFENSIVE STATS LEADERS
The Phillies offense was once again one of the least productive in the game. This is an issue that will have to be addressed before any real progress can be claimed.
As his championship career in Philly came to an end, Ryan Howard tied for the team lead with 25 home runs in just 362 plate appearances. For ‘The Big Piece’, that power aspect was all that remained of his former MVP glory.
Tommy Joseph stepped up in May from the minors. He became a surprising righty half of a first base platoon with Howard. Joseph banged 21 homers in just 347 plate appearances.
Third baseman Maikel Franco tied for the club lead with 25 homers and led the team with 88 RBI. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez paced the team with a .294 average and .371 on-base percentage, also stealing 27 bases.
Catcher Cameron Rupp had a solid season as well, clubbing 16 homers with 54 RBI. Freddy Galvis provided 20 homers, 67 RBI, and 17 stolen bases. Galvis was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove Award at shortstop as well.
EL TORITO TAKES TOP PHILS PLAYER
The Phillies top player this season was center fielder Odubel Herrera. Herrera was also the club’s lone NL All-Star representative and a Gold Glove Awards finalist, with Fangraphs ranking him 5th defensively among all center fielders in baseball.
‘El Torito’ (little bull) followed up his strong rookie season by hitting for a .286/.361/.420 slash line with 15 homers and team-highs of 87 runs scored and 25 steals.
Herrera was selected by the Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft back in December of 2014 from the Texas Rangers organization.
“The Rangers did me a big favor by not including me on the 40-man roster,” Herrera said during the All-Star Game festivities per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury. “Thank God Philadelphia was able to find a spot for me.”
There has been some chatter among fans that it might behoove the team to try Herrera back at his original position of second base. And with the debut of Roman Quinn for a September cup of coffee, there was also talk of moving Herrera to left field.
When spring training opens in February, Odubel Herrera will be back in center field for the Philadelphia Phillies. If someone else wants it, they will have try to take that position away from the 2016 Phillies Player of the Year.