Results tagged ‘ offense ’

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.

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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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Offensive

“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.

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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.

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

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It’s Lee or Losing Streak

The Phillies put their “Four Aces” theory to the test this afternoon — the theory being they won’t have many losing streaks — when Cliff Lee pitches against the Brewers. The Phillies must beat the Brewers today to avoid a sweep and a three-game losing streak.

Of course, it would make life easier on Lee with a little run support.

A few notes:

  • The Phillies have scored 23 runs from April 10-19, which ranks last in the National League. They have hit .204 with a .269 on-base percentage and a .270 slugging percentage. Each of those marks ranks last in the league.
  • They also have just 10 extra-base hits, which are the fewest in the league.
  • Elias Sports Bureau says: The 9-0 loss tied the largest margin of defeat in a Roy Halladay start in 11 seasons. The Blue Jays lost to the Rangers, 11-2, on July 16, 2004. The only larger margin of defeat came April 15, 2000, when the Mariners beat the Blue Jays, 17-6.
  • Paging Michael Stutes
  • The Phanatic has been named the best sports mascot in the country. You don’t realize how good the Phanatic is until you travel the country and see how bad other mascots are.
  • Did you know Shane Victorino has a book? It’s called Shane Victorino: The Flyin’ Hawaiian by Alan Maimon. Victorino said he will be signing books at the ballpark sometime in May. If I come across the date I’ll let you know.

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Cooler Weather, Cooler Bats

Charlie Manuel likes the summer because the summer is hot and hot weather is hitting weather.

The Phillies have played in mostly cool temperatures in the past week. Maybe that explains why they have hit just .226/.285/.313 in their past six games, averaging 3.3 runs per game. They hit .344/.392/.497 in their first eight games, averaging 7.0 runs per game. You knew the Phillies’ offense wouldn’t keep up the pace it set the first week of the season, but Manuel certainly hopes the last six games aren’t more indicative of the way it will play this season.

But just like the offense has leveled off, so has the pitching staff. Phillies starters were 4-2 with a 5.53 ERA in their first eight games, but are 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA in their last six. The relievers were 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA in their first eight games, but are 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in their last six.

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Chase Utley continued his running drills before the game. Not that I’m counting, but when he ran last week in DC, he ran twice around the outside of the infield. He took three trips around the infield today. I guess that’s progress?

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The 700 Level has a good interview with Mike Schmidt. Check it out.

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Week One A Good One

It’s only one week, but …

- The Phillies are second in the National League in scoring with 43 runs. The Reds lead with 45. Third place? The Mets with 31.

- The Phillies lead the league in batting (.353) and on-base percentage (.407).

- They are second in slugging percentage (.498).

- Ryan Howard, Placido Polanco, Scott Rolen and Neil Walker are tied for the league lead with eight RBIs.

- Howard (.480) is second, Polanco (.440) is fourth, Wilson Valdez (.429) is sixth and Jimmy Rollins (.375) is 12th in batting.

Is this a sign of things to come or just a hot week? We’ll find out, but I think Phillies fans would agree this is better than the alternative (the Cardinals have scored just 15 runs in their first six games).

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Roy Halladay looks like he’s in midseason form … Should be a good test for the Phillies this weekend in Atlanta … More from Atlanta later …

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Hit the Ball Hard, Good Things Will Happen

Ben Francisco hit a rocket to left field in the first inning last night at Citizens Bank Park.

Caught.

Francisco spiked his bat into the ground and tossed his helmet to the side.

“Seriously?” he had to be thinking. “Really?”

He had hit three bullets to left field in three consecutive at-bats, and all three had been caught. Strong winds killed two balls that would have been home runs in his final two at-bats in Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to the Mets. But Francisco finally caught a break last night, when he crushed another ball to left field for a solo home run — the final run — in the Phillies’ 10-7 victory. Francisco is hitting .333 (7 for 21) with one double, two home runs and five RBIs in his first five games.

Ryan Howard continues to swing a hot bat. He went 4 for 4 with two doubles, one home run, two RBIs and one walk. He is hitting .524 (11 for 21) with three doubles, two homers and eight RBIs. Much of the rest of the lineup is hitting well, too: Raul Ibanez (.300), Placido Polanco (.450), Jimmy Rollins (.368) and Wilson Valdez (.294). The only guys really struggling are Carlos Ruiz (.154) and Shane Victorino (.222), although Victorino had a couple big hits last night.

It’s just five games, but it’s encouraging for Charlie Manuel nonetheless. If the Phillies can win today’s series finale against the Mets, they will be 5-1 entering a weekend series against Atlanta. That will be a great early test for them.

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A Few Offseason Questions

Thumbnail image for werth 1012.jpgI’ve been away for a few days, so I haven’t blogged since last week. My apologies.

I’ve gotten plenty of questions about the Phillies’ offseason since their season ended. I’ll try to answer some of those questions the best I can.

Question: Are the Phillies going to resign Jayson Werth?
Answer: No, I don’t think they will. Somebody is going to give Werth a big contract. I don’t think he’ll get the seven-year, $120 million contract Matt Holliday got from the Cardinals, but he’ll get paid. The only way I see Werth returning is if the market simply isn’t there for him and he surpisingly accepts salary arbitration from the Phillies (Kevin Millwood surprised the Phillies when he accepted salary arbitration in 2003) or the Phillies get him at a team-friendly price. I don’t see either scenario happening.

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Can the Phillies Hit This Guy?

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Lots of nervous Phillies fans out there.

Lots of people wondering why the Phillies would not start Roy Halladay over Joe Blanton in Game 4. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with it. Not even a little bit. Because if the Phillies can’t hit Madison Bumgarner tonight to even the series, does it really matter who they pitch? I’d rather take my chances with Blanton, assume a dormant Phillies offense hits a rookie left-hander and have Halladay ready to go on normal rest in Game 5.

If the Phillies win tonight, I like the idea of having Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels on normal rest the rest of the series. If the Phillis lose tonight, I’d much rather have Halladay on normal rest with something to prove (don’t think his Game 1 performance isn’t a motivator) than Oswalt on short rest in an elimination game.

But they’ve got to hit. Simple as that.

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The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. My Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

Offense Shows A Flash

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The Phillies showed they still have some life in their bats last night in Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Marlins.

They have averaged 4.59 runs per game this season, which surprisingly ranks fifth in the National League. They led the league in runs per game in 2009, averaging 5.06. They ranked second in 2008, averaging 4.93. They ranked first in 2007 (5.51) and 2006 (5.34) and second in 2005 (4.98). You have to go back to 2002 to find a Phillies offense that averaged fewer runs than the 2010 Phillies. The 2002 Phillies ranked seventh in the league, averaging 4.41 runs per game.

This is what the Phillies offense is — it’s the first week of September, not the first week of June — so nights when they score one or two runs should no longer be a surprise. In the past the offense carried the Phillies into the postseason. But unless something dramatic happens the final month of the season, pitching is going to have to carry them into the postseason this year. 

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Charlie Manuel dropped Jimmy Rollins to fifth in the lineup in Game 2. Rollins has been struggling lately, and for much of the season. According to Fangraphs.com, Rollins has hit line drives only 16.8 percent of the time this season, the lowest level of his career. He has hit infield pop flys 10.5 percent of the time. That is lower than 2008 (11.8 percent) and 2009 (13.7 percent), but higher than his 2007 MVP season (7.5 percent).

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Vance Worley pitched OK in Game 1, but did he pitch good enough to bump Kyle Kendrick from the rotation? Manuel and Rich Dubee are down on Kendrick after the way he pitched Prince Fielder on Sunday, so it will be very interesting to see what they do.

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The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. My Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

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