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Big Problems for the Philadelphia Phillies

The DL Monster is feasting on the Phillies right now. Injuries have stacked piles of bodies in front of head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and friends just one year after the group earned the Dick Martin Award. Jimmy Rollins has been lost twice to calf strains. Joe Blanton’s oblique got angry at him. A confrontation between Ryan Madson and a clubhouse chair ended with Madson cooling his jets for two months. Carlos Ruiz has done his usual dance with the DL. Brad Lidge’s knee and elbow are ongoing concerns. JA Happ has been sidelined since the start. Lesser players like Chad Durbin, Brian Schneider, J.C. Romero, and Juan Castro have all struggled with health.

The latest two pronged blow came yesterday when the club placed Chase Utley (thumb) and Placido Polanco (elbow) on the disabled list. The injury to Polanco has been lingering for some time now but was most recently reaggravated last Friday while diving. Utley’s thumb injury was the result of a bad slide. As of this writing, it wasn’t entirely clear how long each player is expected to be out, but it will probably be more than the minimum in both cases. Early rumors from beat writer Jim Salisbury suggest Utley will be out two months.

The injuries have put the defending NL Champions in a bit of a pickle. Already 2.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies now have to rely on some combination of Juan Castro, Wilson Valdez, Brian Bocock, and Greg Dobbs. They also need Jimmy Rollins to avoid a third DL trip.

Let’s check what the Phillies lose from the lineup. Chase Utley was having a down season with a .378 wOBA. Following an offhand Davey Lopes comment, there was rampant speculation that Utley had a nagging knee problem. The second baseman was characteristically stoic when asked for comment. UZR indicates that Utley was having another stellar season afield with 7.2 runs saved. The combined product is a 3.2 WAR player in 72 games. Polanco has been Utley-lite over at third base providing quality defense (4.9 UZR) and a solid bat (.346 wOBA). That’s good for a cool 2 WAR according to Fangraphs.

The replacements leave much to be desired. Juan Castro and Wilson Valdez have already seen extended time due to Rollins’ injury woes. Castro has authored a pitiful .220 wOBA and a slightly negative UZR at short stop over 43 games. Things don’t figure to get much better with Oliver and ZiPS projecting a .255 and .260 wOBA respectively. Wilson Valdez only looks good in comparison, posting a meager .278 wOBA with slightly positive glove work in 43 games. Oliver thinks a .270 wOBA is to be expected. Both players should feature slightly positive defense at second or third base.

The injuries buy Greg Dobbs a new life and new playing time. A .219 wOBA and poor fielding got him outrighted to the International League, but the injuries will force him back into action. ZiPS thinks he’s the Phillies' best option calling for a .323 wOBA over the rest of the season. Oliver expects a bounce back to .301 making Dobbs the best of the fly swatters (at least by projection).

Brian Bocock also finds his way onto the roster. Quite frankly, I don’t understand the point of rostering him. Yes, it’s nice to have options defensively, but Bocock’s .179/.239/.231 triple slash with the Iron Pigs makes him a body not an option. Nor is the Iron Pig some kind of defensive god. He was already on the 40 man roster and that’s about the only thing that can be said here. If a glovely alternative is what’s desired, Freddy Galvis might prove to be a better short term patch. I'd rather see a bat that can be used to pinch hit for this bat-less quadumvirate.

Ultimately the four replacements aren’t adequate to patch one roster spot, let alone two. With Dobbs, Valdez, and Ruiz (currently on the DL) batting in the 6, 7, and 8 slots, the Phillies offense will struggle. I expect the Phillies to aggressively pursue whatever help they can find via waiver, trade, or pact with the devil.

Read more great baseball stuff at The Hardball Times.


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