Who Has Been the Phillies Biggest Surprise?
The Phillies hit the 55-game mark Monday as they were beaten handily by the Mets 11-2. The Phils find themselves at 24-31 and now sit six games back in the National League east race despite significant injuries to some of the teams who sit above them. They have also managed to be the only NL east club that has a negative run-differential:
The Phillies are lucky to still be even some-what relevant at this stage of the season, and part of their reason they are is they have been bolstered by several early-season surprises, but who has been the biggest?
Is it Chase Utley?
Utley is a five-time All-Star for the Phillies from 2006-2010, but hasn't been back to the mid-summer classic since he was 31. Now at 35, Utley is having one of his best seasons in recent memory. His .319 batting average was sixth best in the National League and it appears he is finally fully healthy since suffering from knee issues that caused him to miss a ton of playing time. His 23 doubles are best in the national league. Unfortunately for Utley, steady stays on the disabled list became commonplace starting in 2010. He was limited to just 432 games from the 2010 out of a possible 648, but finally seems to be fully healed and is playing everyday for the Phillies.
Utley played 131 games last season and hit .284 with 18 home runs and 69 RBI. His 131 games were the most for Utley since playing in 156 games back in 2009.
Utley has give the Phillies one legitimate bat in the middle-of-the-order that has struggled for the most part this season. He has four home runs and 27 RBI, playing in 51 of 55 games this season. He is on pace to finish the season with 11 home runs and 79 RBI while playing in 150 games.
Is it Jonathan Papelbon?
It seemed Phillies fans were ready to get rid of Papelbon during the offseason. However, 55 games into the 2014 season he has produced like an All-Star, tossing 22.1 innings in 23 games. He fanned 19 and has posted a sparkling 1.61 ERA and 1.075 WHIP. His 13 saves have kept the Phillies season at least on life support and the five-time all-star might just make his way back to the mid-summer classic this season.
Is it Marlon Byrd?
Byrd has been a solid bat for the Phillies in the middle-of-the-line-up since his arrival from Pittsburgh this offseason. He is hitting .274, has driven in 32 runs in 55 games. He has also managed to hit eight home runs and played a steady right field.
Byrd spent 117 with the Mets and 30 with the Pirates a year ago and hit .291 in 147 total games. He hit 24 home runs and drove in 88 runs, but Phillies fans didn't seem to enthusiastic about the Byrd signing.
He is currently on pace to hit 24 home runs and drive in 94 runs, something Phillies fans probably wouldn't have predicted when they signed him to a two-year, $16 million contract.