Results tagged ‘ offense ’

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?


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?


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.


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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Scoring Is Down, But Manuel Doesn’t Want to Hear It

The Phillies need Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz back in their lineup soon.

Ruiz is expected to be back this weekend in Atlanta. Utley could be back next week.

Entering tonight’s game against the Marlins, Phillies second basemen ranked last in the National League with a .557 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Phillies catchers ranked last with a .574 OPS. (Ruiz was hitless in 21 at-bats before he landed on the DL, but he hit .302 with a .400 on-base percentage last season.)

To put that in perspective, Houston Astros pitchers entered the night with a .593 OPS.

“We need our lineup to get better,” Charlie Manuel said.

The Phillies rank fifth or better in OPS at first base (fifth at .864), third base (second at .826), shortstop (fourth at .749) and center field (third at .837). Pitchers rank eighth (.358), rightfielders rank ninth (.744) and leftfielders rank 13th (.694).

The Phillies have had very little happening offensively once Ryan Howard hits, although Raul Ibanez is picking up. He is hitting .467 (14-for-30) with four doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in his last eight games.

“We don’t have the offense we used to have,” Manuel said. “We don’t have the depth in our offense right now. We get Utley back that’s definitely going to help us some. But we do not have the offense we had. I’ve told you about the guys with the high on-base percentages. We used to lead the league in base runners, but we also used to lead the league in runs scored.”

Manuel has heard in meetings and elsewhere that scoring is down everywhere.

Yeah, so?

“That don’t mean we have to have that damn problem,” Manuel said. “I say that in meetings all the time. That’s like saying if somebody jumps off a bridge you’re going to jump off with them. The hell with that. Really. That’s kind of how I look at that. I want us to be the best team in baseball. I want to put the best players on the field. I want the best hitting, the best pitching, the best defense.”


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Cold Bats Are Everywhere

It sure felt like the Phillies struggled offensively in April.

At least they weren’t alone. Elias Sports Bureau said overall batting average (.251) and average runs per game (8.6) were the lowest in Major League Baseball through the end of April in 19 seasons. Offense hasn’t been this bad since 1992, when teams hit a combined .249 and averaged 8.2 runs per game.

The Phillies finished April hitting .261 and averaging 4.62 runs per game. It’s the lowest they’ve hit in April since 2008, when they hit .258. (Yes, that’s not that long ago.) It’s their fewest runs per game through April since 2006, when they averaged 4.50 runs per game. The Phillies’ .718 OPS through April is their lowest since 2005, when it was .698.

You would think those numbers put them at the bottom of the National League, but they don’t. The Phillies rank seventh in batting average, fifth in runs per game and sixth in OPS. The Phillies need to be much better than they have been, but it’s worse elsewhere. Of course, that’s no consolation for Charlie Manuel. He wants more consistency from his offense. I’m not sure he wants to stomach another 14-game streak of scoring four or fewer runs, which he suffered through last month.

It would help if Chase Utley returns before the end of the month, but we’ll see.


Elias also notes Roy Halladay has won each of his last seven starts against the Mets. Only four active pitchers have won their last seven (or more) starts against one team: Halladay also has an eight-game streak against Washington; Derek Lowe has won 10-straight starts against Pittsburgh; Livan Hernandez has won eight-straight games against Washington; and Bronson Arroyo has won seven-straight games against Houston.

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“You don’t want to send a negative message when you’re winning, but at the same time I think our guys know what they’re capable of hitting. I have an old saying that if you’re not hitting .300, you need help.” – Charlie Manuel

The Phillies need a lot of help.

They were shut out for the second time this season in last night’s 4-0 loss to the Diamondbacks. Arizona took an early lead and I thought to myself, “I just don’t see them coming back to win this game.”

It was the third inning. Against Arizona. With Cliff Lee on the mound.

The Phillies have not scored five runs in a game since April 9, when they scored 10 against the Braves at Turner Field. That is 14 consecutive games scoring four or fewer runs.

No team in baseball has scored fewer runs since April 9. The Phillies are averaging 2.79 runs per game, which ranks 28th in baseball. Only the Padres (2.69 runs per game) and White Sox (2.67 runs per game) have averaged fewer, which is hardly comforting. The Padres might have the worst lineup I’ve seen since I started covering baseball. Nobody in the Padres lineup scares you. The Phillies’ lineup has five former All-Stars, even without Chase Utley.

Only the White Sox (.197/.263) have a worse batting average than the Phillies (.200/.269) since April 9.

Nobody has a worse slugging percentage (.292) or OPS (.561).

But here’s the thing: there are no quick fixes, no obvious solutions. The Phillies could play John Mayberry Jr. more in left field while Raul Ibanez struggles. Manuel said in Spring Training he could play Ross Gload more. Gload has started once. Manuel has defensive concerns about Gload, but maybe it’s time to sacrifice defense for offense. Pete Orr has had some good at-bats at second base. Manuel could try playing him more, but Mayberry, Gload and Orr are not a magic pill for the offense. 

What about changing the lineup? Fans have said Manuel needs to move Jimmy Rollins from the third spot because he has just two RBIs. OK, who hits third? Placido Polanco? OK, now what? Not a lot of options, is there? I’m not saying a lineup change is a bad idea. In fact, I’d give it a shot. But there are no moves smacking you in the face. If Ibanez weren’t in a 0-for-21 slump I would say he should hit third. He hit very well there last season, but he’s not hitting well now. Can’t do that. Does Rollins hit leadoff if he’s not hitting third? Second? Fifth? Seems like shuffling deck chairs.

What about a trade? The Phillies are over budget and close to the luxury tax threshold. They would have to shed salary to take on salary, and what team trades a stud bat in April? Nobody. If anything would happen it would happen much closer to the trade deadline. And even then I’m not sure a trade would happen.

The best solution seems to be the most obvious one, and the one that might take the longest time: Utley returns before the end of May and the rest of the offense figures out things on their own. In the meantime, they better hope the pitching continues to dominate.


Manuel is fired up about suggestions he overused Jose Contreras.


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The Funk 2011

The Phillies have won 7 of their last 11 games, despite not scoring more than four runs in any of those games.

Thank goodness for the rotation.

The offense has scored just 32 runs (2.9 runs per game) since they scored 10 runs in Atlanta on April 9. They have hit just .203 with a .278 on-base percentage and a .296 slugging percentage in that span. They have eight doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 29 RBIs. They have walked 37 times and struck out 66 times.

It could be worse. The Phillies went 12 consecutive games last season without scoring more than three runs in a game. Remember that one? It is impossible to forget. In a horrific stretch May 22 – June 4, the Phillies got shut out five times and scored just 17 runs (1.4 runs per game). They hit just .197 with a .277 on-base percentage and a .274 slugging percentage. They walked 38 times and struck out 88 times.

They went 3-9.


Here are some more numbers from this 11-game stretch and the 12-game stretch last season.


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