It Can Only Go Up From Here

The Phillies scored a whopping two runs in last night’s victory over San Diego.

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.

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17 Comments

Man, that Al Glossop could play.

Unfortunately Todd I rate the current Phils offense as the worst in their division. Even the Mets who take a lot more pitches and have overall better contact hitters and slighly more power have a better offense. I don’t think you can counton much from Utley and Howard. They were already declining before their injuries. With no production from Mayberry, and he is the one who has to step up., the Phils have no power and you can pitch around Pence every game. This is why the Phils will make a blockbuster deal again at the trade deadline for a big power bat. Oh, and Polanco is done as a productive offensive player. He has always been a singles hitter who never walks so he has to hit 300 to be porductive at third(a power position).

They really can’t get much lower. According to the NY Times stat page, the Phils are below MLB average in all batting stats and way below in some. In runs and run support they are 29th of 30 teams; 28th in HR, total bases, and slugging; and 27th in OBP. On the pitching side they are 1st in ERA and 2nd in runs allowed. Great stat page at http://nytimes.stats.com/mlb/teamreports.asp?tm=22&report=teamhome

On the POSITIVE SIDE, which everyone seems to be overlooking, they are 2nd in NL in batting average. That means their atrocious OBP is a function of poor plate discipline; their lack of run production is due to strikeouts. These things are team strategy issues and coaching issues that can be fixed.

The question, on a player by player level, is where is the improvement coming from? Who is that far off their career numbers that we can expect a major rebound? Maybe Polanco, but I wouldn’t hold my breath there. As it has since the last out of 2011, this year’s team hinges on the timely return of Howard and Utley as reasonable proximities of their former selves.

Unrelated to topic, Mayberry needs time. The team needs to know we got there back.

their back.

Mayberry looks completely different at the plate than he did last season. He was standing tall and closed, and was able to wait on a pitch. Now, he’s all scrunched up and crouching with an open stance, and it takes a while for his bat to get in the hitting zone. Anything above his waist is an automatic popup. I’m not a hitting coach and I can see this. What’s up with the guys who are getting paid to see this and help him out? Sarge talks about it every night.
Who knows, maybe they are trying to work with him and he’s not listening.

It all comes back to Charlie Manuel. He’s suppose to be this great hitting coach… yet this offense has gone through long painful droughts for the past couple of years now… most notably in the playoffs. Yes, I know he can’t swing a bat for them… but how much accountability should be thrown Charlie’s way?? If guys don’t change their approach at the plate (take pitches, work the pitcher, make contact, move the runners, foul off pitches) then he should bench them. I read something recently about a MLB manager who made everyone contribute $1 everytime they stranded runners in scoring position. Sounds silly… but guess what…it worked. Bottom line — they gotta try a new approach and it starts with Charlie doing whatever it takes to drill it in their heads. And if he’s not the right guy for that… time to part ways. He’s been out-managed in the playoffs 3 straight years now from craftier managers like Girardi, Bochy, and LaRussa.

Todd if you will recall I told you I’d take 81-81 this year. This offense is horrendous and second to last in runs scored and only 2.8 per game. Granted Pirates at 2.1 are worse, but practically are a AAA team. Phillies are an ancient team and desperately need to get rid of Utley and Placido and get younger.

81-81? With Halladay, Hamels and Lee? You’re a negadelphian nut.

How about the Padres trying that Little League nonsense; stealing in a first and third situation and trying to take the plate. Jimmy and Chooch made them look foolish!

Oh yea, and we can’t hit!

Carlos Ruiz should bat 2nd. To bat Thome behind Pence makes no sense. Pat Gillick era is over. Amaro Jr reign begins. Higher Bill James to tutor Manuel on what value is. This team is bad.

This team is going nowhere. Regardless of how great the the starting three of Halladay, Lee, and Hammels are. You have to score more than 1 run a game to compete. You can’t expect a shut out every time one of the big three pitch. And speaking of hitting I was wondering if they lead the majors hitting into double plays. To not be able to score with men on base and less than two outs is just plain embarrassing. They should give some of the salaries back for being so inept.

Anyone who looks at the Phils lineup and says they see RBIs coming from more than Pence is delusional…. Their great starting pitchinf will help them be about 7 games over .500 by the AllStar break. Hopefully, they’ll have Chase and Ryan back and being productive for the team; otherwise, there won’t be a postseason

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