From 2001 through 2006, the Phillies finished with less than 85 wins only once; going 80-81 in 2002. They had become a team that was consistently good enough to stay in contention, but not good enough to take that next step into post-season baseball.
The 2006 Phillies finished at 85-77 a whooping 12 games behind the NL East winning New York Mets, as well as 3 games behind the NL Wild Card winning Los Angeles Dodgers. While missing the playoffs for the 13th straight season, the Phillies underwent some significant changes in 2006. They said goodbye to franchise stalwart Bobby Abreu. They also witnessed the emergence of two young stars. One of which was the 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard who put together possibly the greatest offensive season in team history. Howard slashed .313/.425/1.084 to go with 58 HR and 149 RBI. The other, prized left handed pitching prospect Cole Hamels who debuted in early May.
“The Team to Beat”
The Phils entered the season oozing with offensive potential. An absolutely stacked lineup anchored by Rollins, Howard, and 2007 All Star Chase Utley. The supporting pieces in the lineup were deadly as well. This included Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Shane Victorino, and a combination of Jayson Werth and Geoff Jenkins.
The 07 Phil’s put up historic numbers as a team. They led the NL in RBIS (850), Runs Scored (892), fWAR (34.9), and OPS+ (105). They also led the NL in OBP (.354), SLG (.458), OPS (.812), and Triples (41). The Phil’s also finished top 5 in the NL in HR (213), Doubles (326), Batting Average (.274), and Stolen Bases (138).
As good as the ’07 Phillies were offensively, they left a lot to be desired on the mound. The rotation was led by second year pro Cole Hamels who had a rather strong showing going 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA. Aside from Cole, the rest of the rotation was an enigma.
44 year old fan favorite Jamie Moyer led the way making 33 starts, 14 of which he was on the winning side. This is more a testament to the offensive though, as Moyer would finish the season with an ERA north of 5.
The rest of the rotation was filled out by rookie Kyle Kendrick, along with veterans Adam Eaton, Jon Lieber, and trade deadline acquisition Kyle Lohse. To put into perspective a bit more of how good the Phillies were on offensive in 2007; Adam Eaton made 30 starts finishing with a 10-10 record while having an ERA of 6.29. Think about that for a second. The offense was able to carry this guy to a .500 record with an ERA north of 6!
In terms of the bullpen for the 07 Phils, things did not get any better. It’s amazing to think of how the 2008 Phillies were so dominant in the bullpen, but yet just a year prior they were one of the leagues worst.
The 2007 bullpen was mostly just a mish-mash of veteran arms who were either has beens or never was. Hell, even the closer was Brett Myers was so bad as a starter in 2007 that he had to be converted to the bullpen. Granted, Myers performed rather well in this role (21 saves in 24 chances) which included some huge outs in late September.
Aside from Myers, the two bright spots in the bullpen were Ryan Madson (3.05 ERA) who a year later became known as the Bridge to Lidge, and mid season free agent signee J.C Romero who was outstanding (1.24 ERA in 51 Games).
All together, the Phillies pitching staff finished in the bottom 5 in the NL in ERA (4.73), Hits Allowed (1555), Runs Allowed (821), HR Allowed (198), and K’s (1050).
Following a 12-0 drubbing from the Colorado Rockies on September 12th, the Phillies dropped to 76-69 on the season and 7 games behind the division leading Mets with 17 to play. The rest is history.
The Phil’s went 12-4 over their next 16 games which included a 3 game sweep of the Mets. This set up a dramatic final day of the season where both the Phillies and Mets entered tied atop the NL East at 88-73.
Before the Phillies even began their final game with the Nationals, the Mets had fallen behind the Marlins 7-0 in the first inning. They would never recover, losing 8-1. The Phillies on the other hand put the cherry on top of their September push defeating the Nationals 6-1. Thus ending their 14 year playoff drought and capturing the first of 5 straight division crowns.
The Phillies were led on that day by Jimmy Rollins who went 2 for 3 with 2 runs scored and an RBI. Of course, one of those hits was his 20th triple of the season which put him in the 20-20-20-20 club. Rollins became the 4th player of all time to finish a season with 20 HRS, 20 Doubles, 20 Triples, and 20 Stolen Bases. This led J-Roll to securing the 2007 NL MVP award, the second Phillie in a row to win the MVP.
Dawning of the Phillies Golden Era
While the Phillies would ultimately be swept by eventual the eventual NL Champion Colorado Rockies, this sparked the dawn of the best stretch in franchise history.
The sting of this quick playoff exit was quickly healed. As the story goes, the Phillies would use the momentum gained off the 2007 division title, and go on to win the clubs second World Series in Franchise history in 2008.
With the team winning the World Series the next year and embarking on a great run of success through 2011, the 2007 season gets overlooked when we look back. But 2007 was a magical ride. It is one that I remember vividly and one I am so blessed to say I got to enjoy. Not only did it spark an amazing stretch of Phillies baseball, but it sparked diehard fandom from many kids in the Philadelphia area; myself included.
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