Pretty much everyone knows the Philadelphia Phillies have an excellent offense. Last year, they scored the most runs in the NL, 820; second-place Colorado scored 804 playing half their games in Coors Field and no other NL team scored above 785 runs. The NL’s average slash line in 2009 was .259/.330/.409/.739; the Phillies put up a .258 batting average and a .338 OBP, but made up the difference in their .447 SLG, first in the NL and third in baseball behind only the Yankees and Boston.
The Phillies started off the 2010 season by pounding the Nationals 11-1, which seemed pretty much like a repeat of what happened throughout 2009. They continued on a roll through most of April and May. On May 21, the Phillies beat Boston in the first of three interleague games, 5-1. They were eleven games over .500 and held a 4.5 game lead in the NL East.
Over the next five games, this is how many runs the Phillies would score in each, as they lost all five: 0, 3, 0, 0, 0. Oh, and the three runs they scored over that five-game period were in one inning against one of the mop-up guys in Boston’s bullpen while Boston held an 8-0 lead, so they went scoreless for 44 out of 45 innings. As for those last three zeros? The Phillies were swept by the Mets, scoring no runs in any of the series’ three games.
The Phillies moved on to take a series from Florida by winning games 3-2 and 1-0, the latter on a fairly decent pitching performance by Roy Halladay, but the day after that, they lost a game 1-0. They were swept by Atlanta, 9-3, 7-3, and 2-1. They won the first game of a series against the Padres 3-2, then won the next game 6-2 on June 5. Why is it important to mention June 5? That’s the first time the Phillies had scored more than three runs since May 21.
Now, the Phillies have had some injuries that don’t help. Jimmy Rollins has played in twelve games all year, and the backup replacement-level shortstops the Phils are using can’t match his production, especially considering that Rollins had been off to a ridiculous .341/.462/.634/1.096, 187 OPS+ start, albeit in 52 PA. Polanco missed the series against the Marlins and Braves. Carlos Ruiz had a heel injury, if I remember correctly, and can’t play every day anyway.
But the injuries aren’t the only reason, or even probably the main reason, why the Phillies are struggling to score runs lately. It’s that the regulars have been in horrendous slumps. From May 21 through yesterday’s game, here are the stats of the Phillies’ regulars:
Ryan Howard .208/.288/.283/.571
His OPS was .862 on May 21; it’s now .792.
Raul Ibanez .171/.271/.268/.539
His OPS was .749 on May 21; it’s now .700.
Chase Utley .151/.250/.208/.458
His OPS was 1.016 on May 21; it’s now .870.
Shane Victorino .245/.322/.396/.718
His OPS was .806 on May 21; it’s now .786.
Jayson Werth .136/.240/.250/.490
His OPS was 1.063 on May 21; it’s now .931.
If OPS is like Greek to you, well, you should go read about it and such, but just know this: good God, they are all slumping terribly at once.
As I said earlier, after that May 21 game, the Phillies were eleven games over .500 and held a 4.5 game lead in the NL East. Now, they’re five games over .500 and are two games behind Atlanta. When the skid started, they had scored the second-highest number of runs in the NL; now, they’re behind the Braves, Mets, Marlins, Cardinals, Reds, Brewers, Dodgers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks in that category.
So, it’s a terrible slump. There is really no reason to explain it other than that most of the guys who you can usually count on for very strong production simply aren’t producing right now. That’s baseball, and while slumps are normal, the best players on any given team normally don’t slump so noticeably all at once.
I doubt anyone saw this kind of slump coming from the Phillies offense, but hey, you can’t – well, you know. I’m going to bet that it doesn’t continue all year. I know it feels like we’ve been watching this season of baseball forever, but it’s still quite early, and there’s a good chance that guys like Utley and Werth go on absolute tears later in the season, like the hot streaks they were on prior to their slumps. Heck, it’s unlikely that Werth, with a .474 career SLG (and .494 SLG over the past three years), keeps up his current .563 SLG, even with the awful slump.
Slumps in baseball are predictable. You know they’re coming at some point in the year. All the best players on a team slumping at once? Not so predictable. I’m not a Phillies fan – if I was, I expect I’d be tearing my hair out right now – so it was kind of fascinating to watch such a good team struggle so amazingly badly for so long. On the other hand, if you’re a fan who makes it through a slump like this for your team, it only makes the ridiculous tears basically every team goes on all that much sweeter. Chin up, Phillies fans. This won’t continue forever.