Another Annual Late Season Skid, or Something More?

howard upset.jpg

It looks grim, but you wonder if this is one of those tease-me moments the Phillies have had in the past.

The Astros, who booked their October golfing and fishing trips in June, just swept the Phillies in a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies have lost six of their last eight to enter tonight’s series against the Padres at Petco Park (the Padres have the best record in the league, by the way) three games behind the Braves in the NL East and a half-game behind the Giants in the NL wild card.

Time to panic?

“You’re going to go through lulls,” Jayson Werth said. “But in the back of our minds I think we know that, especially after what we’ve accomplished the last three years in September, there is ultimate confidence. And that’s not an illusion because we’ve proven that. We know what we’ve done. We know what we can do.”

Before the Phillies overcame a seven-game deficit with 17 games to play to win the 2007 NL East, the Phillies had lost seven of their previous 11 games. Before they overcame a 3 game deficit with 16 games to play to win the 2008 NL East, they had lost eight of their previous 14. Before they cruised to their second consecutive NL pennant last season, they lost seven of 12 to finish the season.

Is this current eight-game stretch their annual hiccup before they go on a tear? Or is this one different?

“The one thing about our team that has been really impressive to watch is the ability to turn it on when we have to,” Brad Lidge said. “I think that’s obviously what’s put us where we’ve gone the last two years and hopefully it’ll get us there this year. When our backs have been against the wall and when we have to do something we will do it.”

Before the Astros took it to the Phillies, the Phillies and Twins were the hottest teams in baseball. They both went 22-7 (.759) from July 22 – Aug. 22. The Phillies still would be hot if the offense had not flat lined. The offense, which cost Milt Thompson his job in July, has hit just .206 and averaged just 2.1 runs per game in their last eight games. The pitching staff has done its job. It has a 3.19 ERA in that stretch.

Petco Park is a great place to pitch, so you would expect Phillies pitchers to continue to throw well. But will the offense come around? The lineup has a great reputation, but reputations only go so far. In fact, just three players in the lineup are above their career OPS averages (on-base-plus-slugging percentage). The rest are quite a bit below:

  • Jimmy Rollins: -.063 from career OPS (.765 career/.702 this season)
  • Placido Polanco: +.002 from career OPS (.762 career/.764 this season)
  • Chase Utley: -.069 (.896 career/.827 this season)
  • Ryan Howard: -.096 (.946 career/.850 this season)
  • Jayson Werth: +.068 (.842 career/.910 this season)
  • Shane Victorino: -.021 (.770 career/.749 this season)
  • Raul Ibanez: -.037 (.823 career/.786 this season)
  • Carlos Ruiz: +.080 (.736 career/.816 this season)

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The Phillies placed Danys Baez on the DL with back spasms. Antonio Bastardo has been recalled to take his place.

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The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. My Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

12 Comments

Sorry, had a blog malfunction (double posted this blog and I erased the one with comments instead of the one without comments) so comments got erased. Not sure why it happened, but carry on, folks.

Todd, we forgive you ;o)

It’s sick that Jayson’s OPS has gone up but his AVG with RISP is in the toilet…..

No one will accuse Werth of being “Mr. Clutch”.

Werth probably has a vision of a plum contract dancing in his head. Good luck with that, Jayson. But then again look what Jason Bay got, $16 million per year?

The really troubling thing here is the stupid way these guys are playing, like their heads are somewhere else. How else to explain Jayson Werth’s bumble at second base (his head absolutely seems to be elsewhere–mental errors galore), and Ben Francisco’s at third the other day. These guys think they can just turn it on in September and run away from some pretty good teams. Whatever happened to “playing the game the right way?”

The “we can turn it on when we have to” attitude bothers me. It’s the baseball equivalent of last-minute Christmas shopping. Lay about for a while until you realize you have to get something done. Sometimes you wind up with a lump of coal.

The reason we’re so frustrated with this team is, as Werth said, “we know what we can do.” We know how good they can be, but when we see them playing like T-ballers (you too, Jayson) wandering around the bases, Try sliding, Jayson. It’s worked for 100 years. Yesterday, you looked like you were auditioning for “Dancing With the Stars.”

I hate to break it to them, but part of the reason they won in 2008 is because the Mets had a horrible September. 2007′s division title was won on Fan Appreciation Day. Last year they won the division on September 30. Will it happen again? The last 3 games of the season are against the Braves, on the road.

Don’t forget though that Utley, Rollins, Howard, Ibanez and Victorino have all been hampered by injuries. I think Ibanez, though he has not been on the DL all year, took a while to recover from the injury last year. Also, the Phils have played with a fragmented lineup basically all season and I think this has hurt them. I think losing a core player forces guys to come out of their gameplan and themselves. Also, pitchers probably pitch them differently, being less afraid to walk guys with offspeed pitches. The recent struggles come I think from a need to find a new way to score runs with the reintegration of Utley and Howard. I think it will click. Also, don’t forget that Polanco is playing with discomfort.

dandal How does the fact that the Phillies were playing so well before Victorino, Utley, and Howard returned fit into your assessment? It does not make any sense.

pherrisphain: I think this is because before these guys came back they had managed to find a makeshift offensive gameplan with the guys they had. Ibanez and Werth were hitting, Gload and Chooch were hitting. Now Utley and Howard and Victorino are back and they are quite rusty. As a result, the continued production of Ibanez and Werth, whom I think did hit during the Astros series, is hidden because they are coming up with 2 outs and nobody on. All it takes though is for Utley, Howard and Victorino to get their strokes back and and things will start going our way.

Here we go with, ‘we know what we can do, we did it before.’
Enough with the talk.

phan: Agreed.

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