The Phillies find themselves in a curious position, an identity crisis of sorts. That may be a stretch given their stout starting pitching which could be very easily labeled their identity. However there is no denying that throughout their recent run of dominance they have also had a powerful and intimidating offense to go along with their pitching, something that made them the popular pick in the N.L. for the past 5 years. Things have changed in South Philly this spring though, the once powerful Philly offense has been diminished to one of the most putrid in baseball and now one of their ace’s, Cliff Lee is on the 15 day DL.
The Phillies find themselves in the basement of the N.L. East at 7-10, after they avoided a sweep at home at the hands of the lowly Mets they went on the road to face rival San Francisco where they lost 2 out of 3, the third of which was a heart breaker where Cliff Lee threw 10 scoreless innings but still couldn’t get a decision since Matt Cain matched his brilliance. While there’s no denying that Cain is an ace now with the contract to match his reputation the loss is a microcosm of what has been plaguing the Phillies all season long, an almost nonexistent offense. After losing their last game in the Giants series where they failed to score a run they followed that up by putting up a goose egg in their next game and then scored 1 run in their next three games. The currently rank 29th in runs, 20th in Batting Average, 27th in On Base Percentage and 27th in Slugging Percentage. Perhaps the issue is statewide, there are 5 teams in the Major League’s that have scored more runs then the Phillies and Pirates combined. More likely the issue revolves around Ryan Howard and Chase Utley’s injuries and absence in the lineup, the troubling part of that explanation for Phillies fans is that it’s questionable that either will return this season and if they do how effective will they be? Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence were carrying the offense in the opening week but now those two have experienced a slide of late, Pence’s average has slipped to .258 and his on base percentage has dropped to .313. Slumps are a natural part of baseball and not necessarily a cause for concern, but with the team’s offense in its current state any further fall off is scary.
The Phillies have just finished a four game set with the Padres, splitting the series and not surprisingly the two games they lost they scored a combined two runs. The bats woke up in their series opener against the Diamondbacks, where they scored five runs; the only problem was the Diamondbacks scored nine. They’ll be leaning on Vance Worley who pitched a brilliant game his last outing, and will most likely need to replicate that performance if the Phillies hitting woes are going to continue.
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Written by Tom Bopp