Results tagged ‘ offense ’

Will May Be Any Better?

Cliff Lee, Carlos RuizThe Phillies turned the calendar to May yesterday, but found the same uninspired play as they showed most of April.

The Indians beat them last night, 6-0, to outscore them 20-2 in the two-game series. The Phillies spoke of the Indians, who are fifth in baseball in scoring (5.04 runs per game) and third in OPS (.799), like they were the ’27 Yankees. Hot. Unstoppable. They hit seven homers Tuesday, but scattered seven infield hits to help them win last night. They took advantage of their opportunities, while most Phillies fans felt like they could turn the channel after the fourth inning both nights because they knew the Phillies weren’t going to make a game of it.

Those feelings weren’t misplaced.

“We have to have a little more pride than that and figure out a way to at least get back into games and make it somewhat competitive,” Cliff Lee said. “Both games, it was never close.”

Phillies fans are frustrated, and understandably so. These games have been tough to watch. The Phillies are 26th in scoring (3.57 runs per game) and 26th in OPS (.679). This is not what the Phillies said would happen with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard healthy. But they have been no magic cure because other players need to hit, too. Phillies outfielders have a .601 OPS, which is the worst mark in baseball. They have grounded into 25 double plays. That ranks only ninth in baseball, but they rank fifth in GIDP percentage (14.2 percent). They are 5-13 in games started by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Lee.

The good news? It is early, technically. We’ve seen the Phillies play poorly at the beginning of the season in the past. It might be tough, but give them another couple months. If they’re playing like this in late June, it likely means they will be way behind in the standings. And if that is the case, I suspect Ruben Amaro Jr. will hold another fire sale. And if you thought last year’s was big with Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton, this one could (re: should) dwarf that. I mean, why hold onto a bunch of players with value or entering the final years of their contracts. That means Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz, Delmon Young, Halladay, Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams could be trade candidates. In the meantime, there simply is little to be done other than hope they finally start playing well.

The Phillies will have a chance to get healthy with a four-game series against the Marlins beginning tonight at Citizens Bank Park. Anything less than three wins is a disappointment. The Marlins (8-20) are a terrible team, regardless of the fact that “any team wearing big-league uniforms has a chance to win,” as the cliche goes. The Phillies are at home, playing against a very, very bad team without their only star player, slugger Giancarlo Stanton. They should roll.

If they show a little more pride maybe they will.

Pettibone Shows Control; Offense Shoots Blanks

Jonathan PettiboneFrom Elias Sports Bureau: Jonathan Pettibone allowed two runs, no walks and struck out six in a 3-2 victory last night over the Pirates. Only two other Phillies pitchers have registered at least six strikeouts without a walk in their big-league debut: Charles Hudson on May 31, 1983 (eight strikeouts against the Dodgers) and Carlton Loewer on June 14, 1998 (eight strikeouts against the Cubs).

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I’d say Pettibone earned another start.

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The game never should have been so close, but the offense continues to putter along in the clutch. They were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position last night. They are hitting .250 (22-for-88) with RISP since April 10, which ranks 17th in baseball and ninth in the National League. Remove a 6-for-11 effort against the Cardinals on Friday and they’re hitting just .208 (16-for-77) with RISP. The Phillies also are hitting .133 (2-for-15) with the bases loaded this season. That ranks 25th in baseball and 14th in the National League.

Walk Watch: Day 5

Jimmy RollinsThe Phillies have not walked in a game since the eighth inning Sunday in Miami, when Chad Qualls intentionally walked Domonic Brown.

They have not earned a true walk since the sixth inning Sunday, when John Mayberry Jr. got a free pass.

The Phillies have played four consecutive games without a walk, which is a truly remarkable feat. It is the longest streak in baseball since the Chicago White Sox played four consecutive games without a walk in Aug. 2011. It is the longest streak in the National League since the Arizona Diamondbacks played four consecutive games without a walk in Aug. 2009.

The Phillies are just the fourth NL team to hit that mark since 1935. The 2009 Diamondbacks, 1976 Montreal Expos and 1952 New York Giants are the others.

Can they get a walk tonight? They are just one game from tying the single-season modern baseball record, according to Baseball Reference. The Phillies opened the 1920 season with five consecutive games without a walk. (They finished the 1919 season with two games without a walk, bringing the overall record to seven games.) The Phillies face Jamie Garcia tonight. He has walked nine batters in 19 1/3 innings.

Oh, how times have changed. Here are the Phillies’ walks totals since Charlie Manuel became manager in 2005, where they ranked in the National League in walks and where they finished in the league in scoring :

  • 2005: 639, first in walks (2nd in scoring).
  • 2006: 626, first (1st).
  • 2007: 641, first (1st).
  • 2008: 586, fifth (tied 2nd).
  • 2009: 589, seventh (1st).
  • 2010: 560, fourth (2nd).
  • 2011: 539, fifth (7th).
  • 2012: 454, thirteenth (8th).
  • 2013: 34, fourteenth (11th).

Time to Score

Charlie ManuelThe last six games could not have been more painful to watch, if you like any semblance of offense.

I’m not even talking about a lot of offense. I’m talking about a little bit of offense. You know, like a four or five-run game every once in a while. But the Phillies hit their high-water mark on their just completed six-game road trip through Miami and Cincinnati on Friday, when they scored three runs against the Marlins. And they needed 10 innings to do that.

Let’s take a look at some of the wretched numbers:

  • The Phillies did not score a single run before the sixth inning in any game during the road trip.
  • They hit just .205 and scored a mere 10 runs overall.
  • They failed to walk once in the entire series against the Reds. It is the first time since Aug. 13-15, 1995, they had no walks over a three-game span. It is just the second time it has happened to them in the past 50 years. It is the first time it has happened in baseball since Aug. 2011, when the White Sox failed to walk in four consecutive games. Walks matter. On-base percentage matters. You can’t score if you don’t get anybody on base. Ever.
  • The Phillies are averaging 3.47 runs per game this season, which ranks 12th in the National League. They are 12th with a .667 OPS. They have walked just 34 times, which is tied for the second-lowest mark in the league. They have struck out 120 times, which is third. Remember how people said, “The Braves are going to hit home runs, but they are going to strike out too much?” Well, the Braves have struck out a whopping 121 times, just one more than the Phillies. But they also have walked 10 more times, and have scored 16 more runs. Of course, the biggest difference is the Braves lead the National League with a 1.77 ERA, while the Phillies are 15th with a 4.90 ERA. But pitching wasn’t the problem during this trip, other than John Lannan‘s performance last night. It was the toothless offense.

I got a ton of tweets last night during the game basically saying everybody must go. Ruben Amaro Jr. to Charlie Manuel to the lineup. Basically the entire team. Let me say right now: if you really believe this on April 18 don’t hold your breath. If you can find another team in baseball that made wholesale changes 15 games into a 162-game season, please let me know. The Phillies are going to see what happens when Carlos Ruiz and Delmon Young join the team. They are going to give themselves time. It might be fruitless. It might be a gigantic waste of time, but this is what they are going to do. So if you are breathing fire today you should relax. It will get you nowhere.

I’ve also gotten more than a few tweets and e-mails about the Phillies changing their lineup. The folks that absolutely demanded Manuel hit Ben Revere leadoff suddenly have changed their tune as he is hitless in his last 14 at-bats to drop his batting average and slugging percentage to .194. But the alternative is Jimmy Rollins, who went 1-for-18 on the trip.

The only real option to improve the lineup? Keep playing and hope things get better. Yes, that’s it. It’s not much of a plan, but it’s the only plan they’ve got. Ryne Sandberg can’t make these guys hit. Screaming at them won’t make them hit. Punishing them won’t make them hit. (Some fans seem to think treating professional baseball players like they’re freshmen on a JV team is the way to go. Not sure the Mike Rice method would be effective in the Phillies’ clubhouse.) Either they’re going to hit or they’re not. But massive changes 15 games into the season? Not going to happen. But Amaro won’t wait forever, either. He showed last July 31 he will make changes if needed. But it’s April 18. We’re a long way from there.

Your best option? If you’re of legal age, crack open a beer or have a scotch. It’ll help calm the nerves.

Nine Up, Nine Down

Chase UtleyHere are some things we’ve learned through the first nine games of the season:

  • You should be worried about Roy Halladay. Despite protests from Halladay and everybody else in the Phillies clubhouse and front office, Halladay has not looked good since 2011. So this isn’t a four or five start slump. This is a slump that has extended beyond one full calendar year. It started in Spring Training 2012 and has lasted through his first two starts in 2013. Besides a drop in velocity, Halladay’s ERA from 2010-11 to 2012-13 has jumped from 2.40 to 4.95, while his strikeout-to-walk ratio has plummeted from 6.75 to 3.43. He is going the wrong direction in every relevant statistic. Maybe he can figure out things and be productive, but right now there is no evidence to suggest he is close. He faces the wretched Marlins on Sunday. They’ve had Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs hitting cleanup. It is a good opportunity to have some success on the mound. Maybe it gets him going.
  • Don’t be worried about Cole Hamels. If we’re at Defcon 2 with Halladay, we’re at Defcon 5 with Hamels. There is nothing to see here. Please, disperse.
  • It’s more the rotation than the bullpen. Phillies starters have a 6.24 ERA, which ranks 28th in baseball. That is the biggest issue right now, not middle relievers like Chad Durbin, Jeremy Horst and Raul Valdes. Certainly they need to do a better job. They have allowed 12-of-15 inherited runners to score. That 80 percent mark is the worst in baseball. (Technically, the Reds have allowed 100 percent of their inherited runners to score, but they’re only 1-for-1.) But the middle relievers have been pitching too much and have put into too many tough situations. That blame falls on the starters. They are the ones that need to do better. They are supposed to pitch deep into games and they have not done that nearly enough.
  • The Phillies rank seventh in the National League, averaging 4.67 runs per game. They have looked better recently, and they show some potential. Chase Utley, Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins are swinging well right now. Domonic Brown has been OK. I believe Ryan Howard will be better than he has been. The only drag right now is Ben Revere. He has struck out seven times in 38 at-bats. That’s 5.86 plate appearances per strikeout. He struck out 54 times last season, or once every 10.24 plate appearances. John Mayberry Jr. has been productive, but even if he continues to swing well the Phillies are going with Delmon Young in right field when he is ready. Add Young and Carlos Ruiz to the lineup before the end of the month and this lineup has a chance to score some runs.
  • Utley looks like the guy that earned the “Best Second Baseman in Baseball” tag from 2005-09.
  • Cliff Lee can be streaky. The Phillies should be thankful he started on a good streak, otherwise they’d be in deep doo-doo.

Bad Weekend, Bad Signs

That couldn’t have gone much worse, huh?

The Phillies entered this weekend’s series against the Astros as the hottest team in baseball, but lost three of four to the worst team in baseball. They’re back under .500 and four behind the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race with 15 games to play. I’m not going to say it’s impossible to make the postseason, but …

  • Even if the Cardinals finish just 7-8 they will be 84-78.
  • The Phillies would need to finish 11-4 just to tie. That means they would have to win two of three in four of their remaining five series, and sweep the fifth.
  • And that only works if the Cardinals stumble and the Dodgers, Brewers or Pirates (unlikely) don’t outplay them.

The Cardinals play their next nine games against the Astros and Cubs, while the Phillies have nine of their final 12 games against the Braves and Nationals. And again, don’t forget the Dodgers, Brewers and Pirates are between the Cardinals and Phillies in the standings.

Maybe a bad weekend against the Astros shouldn’t have been a huge surprise. The Phillies had been on a great run, but we saw many of the holes this team had showed the first four months of the season:

  • An inconsistent offense. The Phillies were 5-for-31 (.161) with runners in scoring position in their three losses against the Astros. Three of the top four hitters in their lineup are hitting no better than .254: Chase Utley (.254), Jimmy Rollins (.252) and Ryan Howard (.229). The Phillies have some offensive holes to fill in the offseason, but I’m sure they’ll be expecting Rollins, Utley and Howard to sit atop their lineup in 2013. That is not entirely comforting. The Phillies can talk about injuries and bounce back seasons for Utley and Howard, but it is far from a lock they will completely rebound. The numbers for those three players have been in decline the last few years anyway. Howard’s OPS has dropped every year since his MVP year in 2006, except 2009. Utley’s OPS this season (.815) is up from last year, but it’s still his second lowest since he became an everyday player in 2005. Rollins’ OPS (.740) is up four points from last season, but overall he hasn’t approached his numbers from 2004-07. Now, taking these players individually it doesn’t look that bad. Rollins ranks 7th out of 21 qualifying shortstops in baseball in OPS. Utley would rank third among qualifying second baseman. Howard has 46 RBIs in 61 games. That is 122 RBIs over a 162-game season, although his .715 OPS  would rank 16th out of 21 first basemen. But the Phillies are averaging just 4.11 runs per game since Howard rejoined the team July 6, which ranks 12th in the National League. Just because those three compare favorably with other players at their positions doesn’t mean this offense is in great shape. That’s because they don’t have a player to truly anchor the middle of the lineup, like Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, etc. Carlos Ruiz has a .949 OPS this season, but it would be dangerous to expect him to replicate those numbers next season and beyond. Plus, he has never had more than 410 at-bats in a season. If Utley had enough plate appearances to qualify, he’d have the second-best OPS on the team behind Ruiz, but it would rank just 64th out of 202 big-league players. It’s tough to score consistently when the three highest paid hitters in the lineup aren’t hitting .260.
  • A leaky bullpen. Phillies relievers had a 5.25 ERA against the Astros, allowing 12 hits, 10 runs (seven earned runs), seven walks and one hit batter in 12 innings. The Phillies struck out 13 batters in those innings, showing they have good “stuff,” but they still don’t have the consistency they need to be relied upon.
  • Starters. Roy Halladay is 4-0 in his last six starts, but also has a 4.70 ERA. That’s just not the quality one expects from Halladay. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said weeks ago it would take Halladay a long time to lose the bad habits he picked up while pitching with a strained right back muscle earlier this season. But considering the mileage on Halladay’s arm and his age, it is not unfair to wonder what kind of pitcher the Phillies will be getting next season. I would never bet against Halladay, but it also is tough to just say, “He’ll absolutely be the old Doc next year.”

Chooch Is Great, But …

Roy Halladay said something interesting last night when we asked about Carlos Ruiz‘s ejection in the top of the third inning.

“It’s unfortunate because he’s our best player,” he said.

He said it very matter-of-factly, like the Rangers were talking about Josh Hamilton or the Mets were talking about David Wright. Ruiz is tied for fourth in the National League in batting (.344), 10th in on-base percentage (.397) and seventh in slugging percentage (.576). His .973 OPS is 209 points higher than his career average. He is having an unbelievable season. He should be a National League All-Star for the first time. But even on a team without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, it is too much to ask Ruiz to carry the offense when he has never had more than nine homers or 54 RBIs in a season.

Catching is a grind over six months. Ruiz has had hot starts before. He had a .945 OPS through June 7, 2009, but had a .710 OPS the rest of the way. He had a .969 OPS through May 10, 2010, but an .810 OPS the rest of the way.

Maybe Ruiz keeps up his torrid hitting through the end of the season, but the Phillies should not expect it. They need more than him.

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Turning Things Around?

This has been a welcomed change of pace.

The Phillies had two late-inning rallies the last two nights, which means I finally had something interesting to write about. As boring as most of April was for you, it was just as boring for me. It’s not fun writing different versions of the same story over and over. And it’s certainly not fun having to ask Charlie Manuel and the players different versions of the same questions over and over.  They get tired of the questions. We get tired of asking them. But we know you want to know what’s on their minds, so we ask away.

The Phillies have won five of their last seven games. They are hitting .266/.312/.384 and averaging 4.6 runs per game in that stretch.

They might as well be the ’27 Yankees compared to the start of their season. The Phillies hit .243/.286/.334 and averaged 2.8 runs per game through their 7-10 start. The only stretch I recall that was more painful was that 12-game stretch May 22 – June 4, 2010, when they hit .197/.277/.274 and averaged 1.4 runs per game, getting shutout five times and never scoring more than three runs in any game.

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Phillies Won’t Miss April

The Phillies can finish April no better than 11-12 with a victory tonight against the Cubs.

They will finish April with a losing record for the first time since 2007, when they finished 11-14.

Honestly, the more I think about it, the more surprised (impressed?) I am they can finish April only one game under .500, considering how bad the offense has been. The Phillies are 14th in the National League in on-base percentage (.288), 12th in slugging percentage (.346) and 14th in runs per game average (3.18). Those are some historically awful numbers. No team has finished a complete season with a lower on-base percentage since the 1972 Padres (.283), a lower slugging percentage since the 1992 Dodgers (.339) and 1992 Mets (.342) and a lower runs per game average since the 1971 Padres (3.02).

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Following tonight’s game, the Phillies will have played eight of their last 11 games against the two worst teams in the National League: the Padres and Cubs. Even if the Phillies win tonight they will be just 6-5 in that stretch. That’s not good, especially because they hit the road this week to play two teams tied for the second-best record in the league: the Braves and Nationals.

At this point fans would be thrilled with a 3-3 road trip.

But that means the Phillies will have to hit. They stand their best chance against the Braves, whose starters rank 12th in the league with a 4.09 ERA. Of course, the Braves counter that with the best offense in the league, averaging 5.19 runs per game. (Can you imagine the Phillies with that type of offensive production?) Nationals starters are just crushing the opposition. They lead the league with a 1.78 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .178 against them. They have a 0.89 WHIP.

Anybody care to give an over/under on runs scored in that series? The Nationals aren’t scoring much more than the Phillies. They’re 12th in the league, averaging 3.36 runs per game.

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Hardball Times evaluates Charlie Manuel.

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Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here! Here are our upcoming book signings:

  • May 10: Tredyfrrin Public Library in Stafford, PA, 7:30 p.m.
  • June 2: Citizens Bank Park, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Check out my Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter.

Ah, There’s the Offense

The Phillies scored 20 runs in 19 innings to win their first road series of the season and finish 5-5 on a road trip through San Francisco, San Diego and Arizona.

Honestly, after watching the way this trip started, 5-5 seems like quite an accomplishment.

The Phillies hit just .239/.283/.317 with just 27 extra-base hits in their first 16 games. They averaged just 2.7 runs per game in that stretch. But in the three-game series against the Diamondbacks, they hit .327/.351/545 with 13 extra-base hits. They averaged 6.7 runs per game in the series.

Now the trick is keeping it up …

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Jim Salisbury and I are signing copies of The Rotation at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Barnes & Noble in Marlton, N.J.

Father’s Day is coming up! Stop by!

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