Results tagged ‘ offense ’

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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Cover Your Eyes

Freddy Galvis has no reason to hang his head. He has played brilliant defense, and is hitting .214 with four doubles, one home run and five RBIs through 17 games. Those five extra-base hits are tied with Carlos Ruiz for the team lead. Not bad for a guy that had just 121 at-bats above Double-A Reading before this season.

It’s the rest of the offense that has played terribly.

That is why the Phillies clung to the five runs they scored in the ninth inning in last night’s 9-5 loss to the Diamondbacks.

Charlie Manuel called it a morale booster.

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Chase Utley would not offer a timetable for his return, but I would not be surprised if he is back before June 1. He returned to action on May 23 last season, and Utley sure seemed pleased with his progress when we talked to him yesterday. We asked Charlie Manuel if Utley could play some first base upon his return, especially if Ryan Howard is still on the DL. Manuel would not rule out the possibility, but he did not say it was something he was considering, either.

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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.

Check out my Facebook page. Follow me on Twitter.

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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