Jimmy Rollins is known for making bold statements during spring training, but a few days ago, he may have made the boldest one yet.
He called the Phillies offense the “B Squad”.
It took some dealing by Ruben Amaro Jr., injuries, and age to make it happen, but there is no question now that the Phillies are a pitching team. The offense is now second fiddle to the starting rotation full of aces.
The Phillies offense has dropped in run production the last 3 seasons, from 892 runs three seasons ago to only 772 last year. Not only did the teams total runs scored go down, but they also did not have as many “big games” fans here have gotten used to. In 51 games, which is just under a third of the games the Phillies played, the offense managed only 2 runs or less. 75 times, the Phillies offense scored only 3 runs, which is over half of the season.
Recently, Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote an article highlighting the Phillies offensive struggles and the reason behinds it.
Starks writes that the opposing teams have begun to figure out the Phillies, and are starting to pitch them different. It is no secret that the Phillies are a home run hitting team, and struggle to score when they have to do it by moving runners. This has resulted in a lack of fastballs the team has been seeing. Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard have all seen the amount of fastballs they see drop dramatically over the last 3 seasons.
The problem is in the Phillies inability to adjust. Multiple scouts that Starks talked to said that the Phillies “get themselves out” and “hack at breaking balls.” Another scout says that Ryan Howard is clearly pressing since he signed his big contract, and refuses to take more walks. Bad at bats like the ones mentioned by the scouts are the main reason Milt Thompson lost his job as Phillies batting coach last season.
While the picture Stark paints of the Phillies offense is bleak, I don’t think it’s as bad as he puts it. While the Phillies offense has scored less runs over the entire season, they still scored 6 runs of more 60 times last season. That is nearly 40 percent of the season. That number goes up to 53 percent if you do 5 runs or more. Five runs should be enough to win a ball game. By that logic, the Phillies offense played well enough to win roughly half of the games they played last season. With the upgraded Phillies rotation this season, it’s hard to imagine the Phillies will lose many of the games when they score 5 or more runs.
The Phillies offense also managed to score when they needed it during the regular season. The Phillies trailed the Braves in the division standings by 3 or less games for 55 games last season. In those 55 games, the Phillies offense scored an average of 4.5 runs. This shows that when the Phillies needed their offense most while they were chasing the Braves, it came through.
Of course, that changed in the post season. After averaging 4.7 runs per game in the regular season, that number dropped to 2.8 in their loss to the Giants in the NLCS. Remember, the Phillies had the best pitching rotation in the post season last year, as well. It was the offense that cost them the series.
The offense’s mission to prove it can still be the “A squad” is off to a rough start this spring. The situation revolving Chase Utley’s knee seems to get worse by the day. While Ben Francisco has played great during the spring, he still has yet to do it for a whole season. Any dreams the Phillies had of platooning Francisco with Dominic Brown took a hit when Brown struggled then broke a bone in his hand. The only Phillies batting over .280 who figure to be an every day player are Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz and Francisco.
The cloud around the Phillies offense is not as dark as Stark paints it, but it’s also not as clear as the organization would like it, but there’s no question that despite not being as bad as people think last year, the offense will need to bounce back if it hopes to have another parade down Broad Street.