Results tagged ‘ offense ’

Going the Wrong Way

Good morning from Arizona.

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.

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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:

  • 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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Pick up or Shake Up?

“Sometimes, there’s just no answers. We’re in that area right now where I don’t have any answers.” – Jimmy Rollins.

The Phillies came within one out from suffering their second shutout loss in four games (and their third shutout loss in eight games) in last night’s 5-1 loss to the Padres. After today’s series finale against the Padres, the Phillies play three games against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix and four games against the Cubs at home before hitting the road for six games against Atlanta and Washington.

The Phillies are in the middle of a stretch of 20 games in 21 days with 16 of those games on the road.

They are 7-8 this season, while the first-place Nationals are 12-4 and the second-place Braves are 10-5.

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The Law of Averages

Chase Utley doesn’t say much, but when he talks he can make a lot of sense.

During those seasons when the Phillies had the best offense in the National League, they had slumps like every team. And during those slumps reporters would ask Utley about all the runners they left on base. He normally would say something like, “Yeah, we’d love to score every runner we put on base, but the important thing is we’re getting runners on. If we keep doing that eventually we’re going to score.”

Like, Guys, it’s the law of averages. Relax. Seriously.

(I remember people wanted the Phillies to play small ball during those seasons because they relied too much on the home run. That sounds so ridiculous right now, doesn’t it?)

The Phillies left lots of runners on base during those seasons because they put lots of runners on base.

That’s not happening early this season.

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The Hottest Hitter Is …

The Phillies had opportunities to score last night, but couldn’t come through in a 5-2 loss to the Mets.

The Phillies have scored two or fewer runs in four of their seven games.

You can make the argument right now that Freddy Galvis is the team’s hottest hitter. Since he started his career 0-for-12, he is hitting .416 (5-for-12) with two doubles, one home run and five RBIs. Hunter Pence is hitting .421 (8-for-19) with two doubles, one home run and three RBIs in his last five games. Jimmy Rollins is hitting .471 (8-for-17) with one double and one RBI. Galvis has more RBIs than Pence and more extra-base hits than Rollins.

The Phillies’ 2.86 runs per game average is 28th in baseball. Their 13 extra-base hits are 29th. Their .633 OPS is 24th.

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Jonathan Papelbon said he is going to choose a different song every time he enters the game at Citizens Bank Park. He entered to Alice in Chains’ “Man in the Box” in a non-save situation Monday. He entered to Marilyn Manson’s “Antichrist Superstar” in a save situation Thursday. Papelbon is trending toward scarier and scarier music. Hide your children!

Galvis, Jim Thome and Ty Wigginton still have not requested any walk-up music, but a couple players already have changed their tunes. John Mayberry Jr. chose “Cashin’ Out” by Cash Out. Laynce Nix dropped Avicii for “Gotta Have It” by Jay-Z and Kanye West. Brian Schneider has “Bangarang” by Skrillex and “Knock Knock” by Mac Miller.

I’m entering the press box these days to Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.” It’s the hardest rocking song any of the beat writers have chosen.

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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:

  • 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.

Check out my Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter.

The Others …

It’s ugly, folks.

The Phillies have scored just eight runs in four games. Their 2.0 runs per game average and .492 OPS each rank 29th in baseball. (Only the Twins are worse in both categories.) The Phillies also have just four extra-base hits, which is last.

Charlie Manuel sounds more than a little concerned about his team’s inability to hit the ball hard, and it’s easy to see why after watching these last four games.

But it got me wondering how many other hitters would sell their first-born child for a multi-hit game right about now?

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Magic Number: 1

It doesn’t take a genius to know Charlie Manuel is worried about the offense.

The Phillies could have clinched the NL East last night, but failed to take advantage in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals in 11 innings. Asked how frustrated he was about that, he said, “We didn’t do enough hitting tonight to get there.” That’s what we call reading between the lines. Manuel was asked how frustrated he was to have to wait another night, and he answered a question about the offense.

The Phillies have averaged 2.0 runs per game in their last eight games (Sept. 10-16), which ranks last in the National League. They’re hitting .205 (last) with a .261 on-base percentage (last) and a .324 slugging percentage (14th). This is not the best time to get into a team-wide slump, considering a lack of offense cost them in last year’s NLCS. But the Phillies have not had their projected everyday lineup together since Aug. 6 in San Francisco. And lately, they have been without Jimmy Rollins, who has missed time with a strained groin; Chase Utley, who missed time with a concussion; and Ryan Howard, who has not started four of the last 10 games because of bursitis in his left Achilles.

Maybe that has something to do with it. I’m sure Manuel hopes that’s the case.

The offense has been a tale of two halves:

  • April – June: 4.01 runs per game (eighth in the league), .244 average (10th), .318 OBP (seventh) and .374 slugging (11th).
  • July – Sept. 9: 5.41 runs per game (first), .269 average (second), .337 OBP (second) and .439 slugging (first).

Are they turning back the clock at the wrong time?

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Keep an eye on Justin De Fratus and Joe Savery, who were called up last night. The Phillies’ bullpen has been a little rocky lately, so maybe they could pitch themselves onto the postseason roster. Savery is especially interesting because of Antonio Bastardo‘s recent struggles. Bastardo is the only left-hander in the bullpen, so if he is scuffling the Phillies might have to consider Savery as a second option.

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Sad news: KYW’s Jack O’Rourke died last night after covering the Phillies game. A very, very nice man. He covered every spring training since I’ve been on the beat, which is how I will remember him — getting interviews from players in Clearwater and returning to one of the radio booths in the press box to send sound back to Philadephia. He always had a smile on his face and always greeted me the same way:

“What’s up, Jack?”

“Hi, Toddy.”

He was the only person to call me that. Thoughts and prayers with his family. He will be missed.

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Smoother Road Ahead?

I wrote earlier this month about a tough 20-game stretch for the Phillies against teams with winning records:

  • 3 vs. Atlanta
  • 3 at Florida
  • 3 at Atlanta
  • 2 at St. Louis
  • 2 vs. Colorado
  • 3 vs. Texas
  • 4 vs. Cincinnati

So how’d they do? They survived. They went 10-10. The Phillies scored three or fewer runs in 14 of those games, including a stretch of nine consecutive games of three or fewer runs and a season-high four-game losing streak. They hit just .222 with a .286 on-base percentage and a .351 slugging percentage in that 20-game span. They averaged just 3.3 runs per game. They had a 3.06 ERA as a team, including a 3.37 ERA in the rotation and a 2.37 ERA in the bullpen.

I suppose there are two ways to look at it. The offense played about as poorly as it can play and the Phillies still broke even. Or the offense played poorly against good competition, which should give it flashbacks to the 2010 NLCS against San Francisco.

Whatever you think, the Phillies have an opportunity to really distance themselves in the next few weeks. They play 16 consecutive games against teams with losing records: three at New York, three at Washington, three at Pittsburgh, three vs. Los Angeles and four vs. Chicago.

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Relax for a Second

The Phillies have played seven consecutive games with six or fewer hits and three or fewer runs.

Gotta get a bat, right?

Hold on just a second. Actually, hold on for a month. I’m not ready to start trading prospects or key players on the 25-man roster for a few reasons:

  • Chase Utley hasn’t played yet.
  • Domonic Brown hasn’t played yet.
  • Shane Victorino is on the DL.
  • A couple key hitters are slumping.

The Phillies have not played one game this year, including Spring Training, with their everyday lineup. I want to see what happens when everybody is back. I want to see how Utley plays. I want to see how Brown handles right-handed pitching on a regular basis. If they play like the Phillies expect, their lineup just got a whole lot better. The Phillies are in the perfect storm of slumps right now. They’re missing two of their everyday players, and their other everyday players are in a deep funk. Ryan Howard is in the worst slump of his career (0-for-23). Placido Polanco is hitting .231 this month. Jimmy Rollins is hitting .233. Carlos Ruiz is hitting .211. We know about Ben Francisco‘s struggles, which is a big reason why Brown is here. We know Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr have not been productive offensively at second base. The .567 OPS for Phillies second basemen is 15th in the National League.

Raul Ibanez is the only hitter in the lineup hitting right now. He is hitting .344 this month.

You have to assume Howard, Polanco, Rollins and Ruiz turn things around, although Ruiz has struggled offensively the entire season. If Utley and Brown do their things they should be OK. But if things don’t work out like the Phillies hope, realistically, they don’t seem to have a lot of options. They basically only can improve in the corner outfield spots or second base, if Utley gets hurt again.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’s May 21. Tell me the last time a team made a blockbuster trade before June 1? If the Phillies make a move it’s much more likely to happen closer to July 31. That is more than two months away. A lot can happen in two months.

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Offensive Struggles Weighing On Phillies

I thought Jimmy Rollins had a telling comment following last night’s 7-1 loss to the Rockies.

“Everybody knows what’s going on,” he said. “We’re struggling to score runs. We’re not getting a lot of hits. It’s kind of weighing on everybody.”

The Phillies have lost five of six games. They have not scored more than three runs in a game since last Friday. They have not had more than six hits in a game since last Friday. Charlie Manuel is beyond frustrated. He has four spots in his lineup that rank in the bottom half of baseball in production: catcher (26th in baseball with a .578 OPS), second base (25th with a .574 OPS), left field (17th with a .674 OPS) and right field (25th with a .693 OPS). Those are the 5, 6, 7 and 8 spots in the lineup. Combine them with Phillies pitchers and it has been nearly impossible to get rallies going once Ryan Howard hits.

But now figure in Shane Victorino‘s trip to the DL, Placido Polanco cooling off (he’s hitting .230 in May), Rollins cooling off (he’s hitting .184 in his last nine games) and Howard’s 0-for-20 slump and it’s even worse. Nobody is hitting, and there is no immediate solution. They simply have to hope the top of the order gets back on track, Chase Utley returns next week, Domonic Brown continues to hit to force a promotion and the 5, 6, 7, 8 hitters improve just enough to allow the Phillies some chances at extended rallies.

“We are still in first place, and that’s the mentality you have to have,” Rollins said. “That after all this, this bad stretch of injuries, we still have a chance to hold on and push some games up.”

The Phillies have the best record in the National League, but to stay there they have to start hitting. No pressure.

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Four Is the Magic Number

The Phillies have scored three or fewer runs in 21 of their 40 games this season, but what does that mean exactly?

Consider this:

  • National League teams that score four or more runs in a game are 260-99 (.724).
  • The Phillies are 17-2 (.895) when they score four or more runs, which is the best record in the league.
  • National League teams that score three or fewer runs are 66-225 (.227).
  • The Phillies, Pirates, Padres and Dodgers are the only four teams in the league to score three or fewer runs in the majority of their games. The Pirates (18-23), Padres (18-23) and Dodgers (19-23) have losing records.

The Phillies should thank their lucky stars for their pitching. They are 8-13 (.381) when they score three or fewer runs. An 8-13 record actually is pretty impressive, considering the league has a .227 winning percentage in those games. Only two teams have better records when the offense doesn’t show up. The Giants are 9-13 (.409) and the Cardinals are 6-9 (.400).

The Phillies have the best record in the National League, but this is not a way to live. This is putting a lot of strain on the pitching staff, and it could spell disaster (i.e. a repeat of the 2010 NLCS) in the postseason. The Phillies need the offense to step up. They are counting on Chase Utley to help. He certainly should help, if he is healthy and can stay healthy, but that remains to be seen. If the Phillies do not get more production from their corner outfielders I think Domonic Brown has to come up sooner rather than later, if he continues to hit Triple-A pitching. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt Charlie Manuel to play John Mayberry Jr. a little more, even against right-handed pitchers. I’m not saying Mayberry is a savior. He hasn’t proven he can hit right-handed pitching consistently, but with Ben Francisco struggling (his RBI last night was his first since April 29) it wouldn’t hurt to throw him in there once a week, would it?

Four runs.

Four runs and the Phillies are pratically unbeatable. They’ve got to find a way to make it happen.

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