At 10-4, the Phillies must feel pretty good about themselves. They haven’t lost a series yet after splitting a rain-shortened two-game set with the Marlins over the weekend. Nats, Braves, Astros, no problem. Cliff Lee is dealing, as is Roy Halladay. Cole Hamels shook off the rust from an ugly first start putting together excellent outings in his last two.
Really, the problem has not been the pitching staff. Forget about the blown game against the Marlins on Friday night in which JC Romero and Danys Baez gave up runs after Roy Oswalt departed with an injury. Look to the offensive issues as a reason more pressure is being put on the arms.
Through the first eight games of the season, the Phillies offense averaged seven runs per game. Everything clicked during the 6-2 jump off as they put up a 10 spot followed by an 11 spot against the Mets.
Since, the Phillies have gone 4-2, but have done so on the back of outstanding starting pitching. In those six games, their runs per game sunk to just 3.3.
Many of the bats have cooled considerably, which was to be expected after such a torrid start to the year. However, a major problem is the Phillies lack of patience at the plate. Having drawn a walk just 33 times this year – good enough for dead last in the National League – the offense is swinging a little too freely. To be fair, they’ve also struck out the fewest amount of times in the league (77, or 13 less than the Marlins, go figure).
Countless times, Victorino and Rollins – the two usual suspects – will swing at the first or second pitch and roll it over to second base. It’s maddening to witness an exceptional lineup play with a disregard for situational hitting. A guy like Placido Polanco, who has never taken many walks or pitches during a long, yet productive career as a slap hitter, is exempt from the guilt here. Polly’s game is to hit the ball the other way, it’s what he gets paid to do. The others? Not so much.
In the absence of Jayson Werth, an 80-plug walk player in back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009, other players need to at least try to take over that role. In the three-hole, J-Roll must be more selective.
I know I often get on Victorino and Rollins for their inability to draw walks, but now is the time for them to stoke the lineup by getting on base by any means. If they do, that could be the elixir to cure what ails them. You’re probably thinking, well, it’s not that bad. They are 10-4.
But if last year taught us and the Phillies anything, it’s not to rest on your laurels. Prolonged slumps ravaged this team in the past and they will again in the future. Unless they’re smart about it.