Chase Utley watches HR in Game 1 of 2009 World Series (Source: AP)
As the Phillies' offensive woes continue, even after getting Utley and Howard back from the DL, I think it's probably time to consider this is just who the 2010 Phillies are. We keep waiting for that switch to be flipped and for them to start hitting like 2008 and 2009 again. It's the end of August now. If you had told me prior to the season that Hamels and Lidge would be better than they were in 2009 (much better in the case of Hamels), you'd get a half of season of good pitching from the likes of Jamie Moyer, and then add Roy Oswalt at the trade deadline, I'd have figured this team would win around 100 games and easily win the division. But their bats have let them down.
Injuries have been a factor, but even when healthy they just aren't hitting home runs at the same pace they did previous years.
For a half decade they have been a team who frankly isn't that great at playing small ball and manufacturing runs. And they haven't been great knocking in runs with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. But the long ball has helped them make up for that….until this season.
Here are the numbers:
- In 2008, they averaged 4.9 runs per game and 4.2 runs allowed per game.
- In 2009, they averaged 5.1 runs per game, and 4.4 runs allowed per game.
- Through 125 games in 2010, they are averaging 4.7 runs per game and 4.1 runs allowed per game.
The pitching has been better and they have even been a little better at manufacturing runs this season, by necessity. So the drop in runs scored per game can be completely attributed to the big drop in home runs. It's not a huge difference but apparently is enough to cause them to end up on the short end in a lot of close low-scoring games.
- In 2008 their team batting average was .255 with 214 home runs
- In 2009 their team batting average was .258 with 224 home runs
- Thus far in 2010 their team batting average is nearly identical again at .258, but they have only hit 123 home runs, on a pace to finish with about 162.
Werth, Howard, Polanco, and Ruiz are also hitting for much higher batting averages than they or their positions did in years past. And Ruiz and Victorino are actually on pace to tie or better their HR production from the previous 2 seasons. But when you look at the other individual positions, the drop off is startling:
- Howard – 48 home runs in 2008, 45 home runs in 2009, on pace for 31 in 2010
- Utley – 33 home runs in 2008, 31 home runs in 2009, on pace for 16 in 2010
- Rollins – 11 home runs in 2008, 21 home runs in 2009, on pace for 10 in 2010
- 3B (Polanco/Feliz) – 14 home runs in 2008, 12 home runs in 2009, on pace for 8 in 2010
- LF (Ibanez/Burrell) – 33 home runs in 2008, 34 home runs in 2009, on pace for 16 in 2010
- RF (Werth/Jenkins) – 33 home runs in 2008, 36 home runs in 2009, on pace for 22 in 2010
In years past guys like Dobbs, Stairs, and Coste have also provided more HR pop off the bench that has been lacking this season.
The question is why is there such a huge drop off in HRs from these key positions? Better league-wide pitching? Slightly different approaches to hitting trying to minimize strikeouts and increase batting average by taking short swings? All or some of the above?
If this team is going to make the post-season and go far again, they must hit for more power. They aren't really built to win another way, especially in this park. I'm just not sure a problem like that is fixable. A lot of times it probably just comes down to a batters just not getting all of a pitch or not hitting it perfectly on the sweet part of the bat.