The Phillies knew going into the season that their offense was going to suffer without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
They just did not know how much.
The Phillies have scored just 20 runs in their six games this season, giving them more runs then just one other team in the entire MLB. That team is the Pirates, who took two of three from the Phillies in the opening series.
It is not as if the Phillies are not getting hits, they are in the middle of the pack in the MLB in hits and they have four guys (Ruiz, Rollins, Pence, Victorino) who are all hitting .290 or higher.
The problem is, they are not getting the hits when they need them. So far the Phillies have had 32 at bats with runners in scoring position. In those 32 at bats, they have just six hits. That is good enough for a .187 batting average.
The fact of the matter is, the Phillies need to play small ball. They do not have a thirty home run threat in the lineup, and they only have one twenty home run threat. This is a team that lived by the longball for the past few years. It did not used to matter when two players failed to get a run home in a row, because they had a lineup that would compensate for bad at bats with power.
Of course, the Phillies know they cannot live by the home run this year, but they still need to do a little bit more to spark offensive production.
First of all, they need to have better at bats. Too many times already the Phillies have not made struggling pitchers work to throw strikes. By having a long at bat, you gain a number of advantages. You see more of what the pitcher has to offer, you make the pitcher tire and force him to make a pitch in the strike zone and you draw more walks.
The Phillies have only 13 walks this year. That is 29 fewer walks than the league leading San Diego Padres. The Padres are hitting just .187 as a team, but have scored 10 more runs then the Phillies. Why? Because they are getting on base and getting hits when they need them.
Another tactic that Philadelphia needs to utilize more is the hit and run. Victorin, Rollins, Pieree, or whoever is leading off are fast runners. Placido Polanco is one of the best in the league at making contact. If the leadoff man gets on base to start an inning, and they play hit and run with Polanco there is almost no downside. If Polanco gets a base hit they have first and third no out. If he grounds out they still have a runner on second with one out. If he gets an extra base hit they score a run. If he makes no contact more often than not the runner will be safe at second and he has an RBI opportunity.
Altering the lineup (and keeping it consistent) might provide an offensive spark as well. Jimmy Rollins, though an untraditional leadoff hitter, has been the number one guy for the Phillies for the last decade. When he is getting on base and scoring, the Phillies have a tremendous record. Pence is the best hitter on this team, so he could be hitting third, which would still leave decent power in the cleanup spot with Mayberry or Thome. Victorino in the five hole or even six provides some speed on the bases for the bottom third before getting to the pitcher’s spot. With the way Ruiz is swinging, having Victorino on base in front of him could boost his RBI numbers.
But they have to keep it consistent. Of course with two key players missing sometimes different guys are going to play on a day-to-day basis. But the batting order needs to be fairly constant. Baseball is about getting in a rhythm and that is hard to do when you are bouncing all over the batting order. If they keep a consistent lineup and stick with it the production will be better. It may take some time, but it will be quicker than if the lineup is jumbled every game.
The point is, the Phillies need to learn how to score without Utley and Howard because it could be a while. If they work the pitchers, get on base, and stay aggressive, they will improve offensively.
That paired with the starting pitching will keep them in most of the games.
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.