The rules of binary code dictate that a switch is either on or off. Something is either a 0 or 1 and cannot be both nor neither nor some combinative derivation thereof. In the Phillies case… these are showing up in box scores as number of runs scored per game. It is also what the Phillies offense (or black hole sucking chest wound void where the offense used to be) dictates to Phillies pitching. Even with Four Aces it is unreasonable and foolhardy to expect shutouts from your pitching every game. We get it. Chase Utley has been out since Spring Training and both Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco have struggled. Jayson Werth (.238, 6 HR, 14 RBI in 2011) is long gone and the injured list has resembled one from the Civil War. Now the vaunted superhero pitching is starting to show its wear and tear because Roy “Cy Young” Halladay and “Holy Crap” Cole Hamels are tossing complete game no-decision which turn into 2-1 or 1-0 Phillies losses. Cliff Lee strikes out 16 batters but permits 3 runs which seems an insurmountable lead to this anemic offense. Not even the best pitchers can win with zero run support.
We’ve all been screaming that they need to make a move or Manuel needs to shake up the lineup. Moving Polanco to third and Rollins back to leadoff worked for a while but so did shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic! Doing something feels better because we are distracted by the act of doing something – until we realize that all we are doing is distracting ourselves from the problem at hand. This is a form of denial, which is what I think has befallen the Phillies. Being 25-16 and atop the NL East (2nd best record in majors) is all well and good – especially considering the adversity of 2011. However, the Phillies have the same record they did at this point last year – a year in which the whole lineup was decimated by injuries and played together less than 20 times prior to September 1. This is not a new development as one might easily count the number of productive Phillies hitters on one hand – wait… make that one finger!
Placido Polanco is cold after a torrid April and Shane Victorino has been shelved this week – leaving Rollins and Howard as the only real threats in what was previously a very top-heavy lineup. Now they lose four straight to Atlanta and St. Louis – even with the Four Moundsmen of the Apocalypse – with most of the games going 2-1 or worse. When you send out a lineup featuring Raul Ibanez hitting third, John Mayberry hitting fifth and boasting a bottom third of Wilson Valdez, Dane Sardinha and Roy Oswalt (and you’re checking the scouting report on Oswalt) it is not unlike raising the white flag of surrender. Injuries have not helped this team and several players have been slumping in the torque department too but my original contention from back in January was that – the Phillies offense needs some serious help in the way of a true number 5 hitter and RBI threat. Ben Francisco and Raul Ibanez or John Mayberry are complimentary players much like Ross Gload and complimentary players should remain in that role. Batting that trio (shall we refer to them as “Maycisez” or “Ibacisberry”?) in that spot in the lineup does not make them true number five hitters. Much in the same way that batting Rollins third doesn’t suddenly mean that he will be an RBI machine (grand total=2). 4.09 RPG sounds really good – until you account for the blowout offensive explosions (11-0 over Mets on 4/7, 10-2 over ATL 4/9, 10-3 over NYM 4/29) or 31 runs basically wasted on games that could have been won with a total of six. Now the average runs per game is more like 3.3 RPG, which is modest even with the arms of Hamels, Halladay, Lee and Oswalt. Phillies are 19th overall in runs scored, 16th in hits, 17th in RBI and 24th in Extra Base Hits. Why is it so difficult to understand? Two stats. Total Bases (21st overall) and Left On Base (15.34 avg which ranks 27th in MLB). Need more? Phillies team ERA is 3.11 – third best in the majors (Oakland and Atlanta are better) not to mention 6 SHO (tied for tops in MLB), 29 Quality Starts (tied for best in MLB) and 337 Strikeouts (3rd overall). How’s a collective .241 Batting Average Against (7th) combined with 370 IP (12th) and only 128 Earned Runs (bested only by Oakland)? Fewest blown saves is another stat which applies but 12 saves in 13 opportunities places them 10th overall.
What can actually be done? Wait for Chase Utley to tear it up in Clearwater and hope that Domonic Brown (.353, 2 HR, 7 RBI in 40 AB since returning from a broken hand injury this spring) suddenly lights himself on fire in AAA? Wait for the return of Brian Schneider? Hope that the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals suddenly schedule 50 games per season against the Phillies? Ask Jayson Werth for a “do-over”? As May draws to a close, the Trading Deadline will become the topic of discussion. Historically over their run, Ruben “The Gambler” Amaro has brashly been part of groups putting together deals for Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer, Cliff Lee, Matt Stairs, Mike Sweeney, Tad Iguchi and Roy Oswalt at the trading deadline. Because of those deals plus others for Roy Halladay and to again re-acquire Lee, the Phillies payroll has skyrocketed while their prospect pool has become all but drained. Now Werth is gone as are Geoff Jenkins, Matt Stairs, Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Pedro Feliz. No help is waiting in the minors (aside from Brown and a rehabbing Utley) and there is no guarantee that either of them will be effective at the major league level by July. Phillies trade fodder is scraping the bottom of the barrel as they boast either overpriced veterans (Ibanez, Blanton, Kendrick) or not-ready for primetime prospects who are likely two years away from the majors.
The first question to ask is Who would even be targeted? Cabrera? Hamilton? Torii Hunter? Ichiro Suzuki? Grady Sizemore? Michael Young? Nick Swisher? Not likely but no name is too silly to consider. Next question would be What can we put together as a package that would appeal to teams looking to trade? Would a package of Kyle Kendrick and Raul Ibanez have value for a contender? What about John Mayberry and Joe Blanton? Would Brad Lidge or Jose Contreras be dealt after they return from the DL? Not likely because of their bloated contracts, age and the uncertainty regarding their respective injuries. Teams are desperate to add pitching or a useful bat but usually the teams looking to unload veteran talent like Matt Holliday or Jake Peavy would be out of the running by July 4 – and they would want prospects in return. Are Michael Stutes and Scott Mathieson auditioning along with Vance Worley for future roles with the Phillies or possibly becoming trade bait? What about the likes of Pete Orr, Delwyn Young, Brandon Moss or Kevin Franzden? Think back to your elementary school days when you were swapping lunch items in order to wheedle the best snacks from the Swedish exchange student… Were you the one offering value for value or did you put together a package of tuna fish, stale matzo crackers, pebbles and pocket lint so you could get the sweetest of the sweetmeats? What might the Phillies have to deal in order to find an infusion of offense into their attack?
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org