It Can Only Go Up From Here
Cole Hamels, who pitches tonight, is praying the offense saved him a run or two.
Since the Phillies opened the season without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, they have hoped to keep their heads above water in the National League East so they have something to play for once they return (although there is no guarantee they are productive hitters once they are back, particularly Utley, who had the worst year of his career last year). The Phillies are 6-7 and last in the division, the latest they have been in sole possession of last place since April 20, 2007. But being early in the season they are only 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals.
Obviously, it would help if the offense improved.
The good news is it is highly likely they do. Why?
The Phillies rank 14th in the league in on-base percentage (.280), 15th in slugging percentage (.325) and 15th in runs per game average (2.85). If those averages look horrendous, they are. No National League team has finished a season with a worse on-base percentage since the 1965 Mets (.277); a worse slugging percentage since the 1968 Dodgers (.319), 1968 Astros (.317) and 1968 Mets (.315); or a worse runs per game average than the 1942 Phillies (2.61).
(If 1968 means anything to you, you have a good sense of baseball history. MLB lowered the pitcher’s mound following that season.)
So unless you believe the 2012 Phillies are one of the worst offenses in baseball history they will start scoring more runs consistently at some point. Last season, the average National League team had a .319 on-base percentage, a .391 slugging percentage and averaged 4.13 runs per game. If the Phillies can be average they should be fine with a pitching staff that has a 2.29 ERA, which is the best in baseball.
And it shouldn’t be impossible for the offense to creep closer to the mean. The 2012 Phillies still have Hunter Pence, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino. (The 1942 Phillies could only look to Danny Litwhiler, Al Glossop and Pinky May.)
Of course there are two tricks here:
- They can’t wait forever.
- It can’t be a slight improvement. The hitters have to move closer to their career averages. It goes without saying the Phillies won’t get very far if they improve, but still finish at the bottom of the league in scoring.
Hamels hopes the turnaround starts tonight.
Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here! Here are our upcoming book signings:
- April 26: Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ, 7 p.m.
- April 29: Citizens Bank Park, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
- May 10: Tredyfrrin Public Library in Stafford, PA, 7:30 p.m.
- June 2: Citizens Bank Park, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.