No Need to Panic: The Phillies Do Not Need Offensive Help!
Sunday April 15, 2012
Bryan Sheehan: It may only be the middle of April, but already there are masses of Phillies fans ready to jump off a bridge because of the team’s 4-5 record. This is also spurred by the fact that the team has not hit at all on a regular basis, and the lineup seems devoid of any power. The club only has 16 extra base hits, with three of their 11 doubles coming today against the Mets, and a .345 slugging percentage pushes them towards the basement of the MLB. So, with a lineup that features the lanky Hunter Pence as a cleanup hitter and a catcher hitting sixth, is it time to worry about the Phillies 2012 season?
Not yet. That’s the simple answer, anyway. The Phillies have an amazing pitching staff, from the three aces (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels) to a solid bullpen that features Jonathan Papelbon and workhorse Chad Qualls, there aren’t going to be many games in 2012 where the Phils will have to hit their way into a win. Last season, when their offense was only slightly better in terms of power, the team had an ERA of 3.02, the best in the league. Some may argue that they have lost an edge through Roy Oswalt’s departure, but his 3.69 ERA is actually higher than that of his replacement, Vance Worley, who held down a 3.01 ERA. Plus a healthy Joe Blanton will be more effective than his 2011 ERA shows. If everyone performs to expectation, or even close to the high bar set by fans and the media, they should have no problems on the mound.
But solid pitching doesn’t explain the elephant in the room that is Philadelphia’s seemingly non-existent offense. As mentioned earlier, the team only has 16 extra base hits (five homers), and their 2.5 runs per game average is the second worst in the league. They haven’t faced great pitching in their first nine games, either; with three of the nine starters they have faced having 2011 ERAs over average, and not one superstar in the bunch. Both Ryan Howard, who had 116 RBI last year, and Chase Utley, who contributed 44 of his own, are injured with no return date in sight, and Placido Polanco may never be the same player again. Don’t jump yet.
Still with me? Good, because this next part is positive. When the Phillies can string together hits, they score (radical concept, I know). Especially considering today’s game against the Mets, when they scored 8 runs, hitting singles and stealing bases has worked for them. But please, please don’t call it small ball: the absence of power is not the evidence of small ball. Of the eight players that have had at least 20 at bats, only old-man Polanco and prospect Freddy Galvis have hit under .250, while four others have hit over .300 (Carlos Ruiz, Jimmy Rollins, Juan Pierre and Hunter Pence). Are they the same team that won 102 games last year? No, but they don’t need to be.
It’s nice to think that your team has the best offense in the league, or the most superstars, but that is unrealistic. In Philadelphia, there is an expectation that the team is the best at the plate and on the rubber, but being below average on one end doesn’t mean a losing team. The Phils have the absolute best pitching in the game of baseball right now, and this mastery will carry them to another division title. There is no need to bring in another hitter, no matter how tantalizing another top-slugging player may look. The Phillies have in effect cleared out their farm system in the past few years chasing after Oswalt, Lee, Halladay, Lee (again) and Pence, and with an aging roster it would be foolish to continue doing so. For now, fans and the management of the team need to accept that they may not win the most games in the regular season, or hit the most home runs, and calm down to enjoy some quality baseball. There has never been a team that has won the World Series nine games into the season!
Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Bryan Sheehan. You can follow Bryan on Twitter (@BaseballHipster), read his interviews with Phillies’ minor league prospects at PhightingOn.com, and catch him writing the occasional article for ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com. Tweet him about this article and give him a follow and he will follow you back!
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Posted on April 15, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged baseball, chase utley, cliff lee, hunter pence, jimmy rollins, jonathan papelbon, mlb, philadelphia phillies, phillies, roy halladay, roy oswalt, ryan howard. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.