Going the Wrong Way
A few thoughts/facts on one of baseball’s worst offenses through 16 games:
- The Phillies have a .283 on-base percentage, .317 slugging percentage and 2.69 runs per game average. No team (in either league) has finished a season with a lower OBP since the 1968 Mets (.281), a lower SLG since the 1972 Rangers (.290) or a lower runs per game average since the 1942 Phillies (2.61). So unless you think the 2012 Phillies are one of the worst offenses in baseball history, they will improve. But how much? And will it happen in enough time to make a difference?
- The Phillies have scored two or fewer runs in 10 games, and in 5 of their last 6.
- We could see Chase Utley at the ballpark today, while Ryan Howard is scheduled to see a wound specialist in Philadelphia. Is there any shot the Phillies get good news from both?
- I’m an Utley skeptic at this point because he proved to be no better than an average big-league hitter last season. It’s just difficult to believe he will return to All-Star form when he is still battling the same knee problems. (His .769 OPS last year would have ranked 77th out of 146 hitters had he qualified for the statistic.) But here’s something interesting: From April 1 through May 22 last season without Utley in the lineup, the Phillies averaged 3.83 runs per game with a .312 OBP and .364 SLG. From May 23 through July 29 with Utley in the lineup, the Phillies averaged 4.71 runs per game with a .329 OBP and .407 SLG. And from July 30 through the end of the regular season with Utley and Hunter Pence in the lineup, the Phillies averaged 4.54 runs per game with a .324 OBP and a .406 SLG. It is possible even an average Utley can make that much of a difference in the lineup’s performance? It’s something worth thinking about.
- Jim Thome has 2 hits and 9 strikeouts in 16 at-bats. I’ve had fans ask me if they think he is finished. But I’ve got a crazy idea: Play Thome more. If Charlie Manuel believes Thome needs more at-bats, which he said yesterday, then give them to him. What does Manuel have to lose? There had been talk in spring training that Thome might be able to play as many as two games in the field every week. Maybe even three. What happened to that? Thome has started just three times this season. If Thome plays more and his back flares up, it’s not like his absence is going to kill the offense, as little as he has played and as little as he has contributed as a pinch-hitter. (He’s 0-for-7 with 5 strikeouts as a pinch-hitter.) And as much as Thome has struck out, he also has given the Phillies some of their most “professional” at-bats. He is averaging 4.50 pitches per plate appearance. The next closest Phillies players with 16 or more at-bats are Juan Pierre (4.02) and Placido Polanco (3.94). So turn Thome loose. Let’s see how much he has left in the tank. If he produces, great. If he can’t handle the job physically or he continues to struggle, well, then you know.
- Oh, and when Thome starts hit him fourth and Pence third. Maybe Pence would be more comfortable hitting somewhere other than cleanup. He has never hit more than 25 homers or had more than 97 RBIs in a season. Cleanup isn’t his spot, at least when Thome is playing.
- I’ve gotten lots of e-mails and tweets about Domonic Brown, but he is hitting just .263 (15-for-57) with four doubles, one triple and eight RBIs in 15 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He has a .311 on-base percentage and a .368 slugging percentage. As much as John Mayberry Jr. has struggled, I can’t see the Phillies considering Brown as the solution in left field with a .680 OPS in Triple-A.
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.