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Searching for a Spark

Posted by Pat Gallen, Wed, April 20, 2011 03:17 PM | Comments: 36
2011 Game Recaps, Analysis, News, Opinion, Posts

Richie Ashburn Award: Shane Victorino

—Citizens Bank Park

Two hits. Two times a ball found a place where an opposing player was not. Two hits will not win you many games.

Two hits was all the Phillies could muster for 11 1/3 innings between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

There’s only so much pressure you can put on the shoulders of giants. The burden of that weight can be overbearing for some; others can deal with it and work out around it, but eventually it’ll become too much to handle.

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels are all nice names. They’re all exceptional pitchers who excel when the chips are down. But none of them are Superman. “Our guys are not gonna go out there everyday and throw shutouts,” said Charlie Manuel.

None of them can hit 40 home runs, steal 30 bases, or knock in 100 runs, either. None of these exceptional arms can morph their pitching DNA into a helix of hitting.

If they could, they would. Because the people who are paid to hit are not. For a week-plus, the Phillies offense could do no wrong. And then…nothing.

It’s been a trying time over the last nine games, but during Wednesday’s come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Brewers, they snapped out of their funk somewhat, although it took some time.

Placido Polanco homered in the sixth inning, the first long-ball since Sunday and their first run scored in 17 innings. Who hit the last home run? You guessed it, the Hank Aaron-like Polanco. The second home run today was provided by Phillies leadoff hitter Shane Victorino. Not exactly Macho Row.

It’s easy to remember watching the Phillies struggle in 2010 because the changes were so pronounced. Bad swings, lack of power, balls rolled over to infielders for easy outs: they did it all. It appears the virus that plagued them a year ago right around this time, has gone airborne in the clubhouse once again.

  • Ben Francisco: 3 for his last 21
  • Ryan Howard: No home runs in seven straight games
  • Raul Ibanez: 4 for his last 25
  • Jimmy Rollins: 2 for his last 20

When the Phillies hit, they hit together. When the Phillies slump, they certainly slump as a unit, too.

“Lately, we’ve probably been a little bit flat all around,” said Rollins on Tuesday night, following a 1-for-3 performance. He finished Wednesday’s game a flat 0-for-4.

Are drastic measures needed before an implosion occurs? Manager Charlie Manuel thinks they can turn it around, but right now it’s not pretty.

“Were kinda hurting right now,” said the skipper. “We got some guys we’re depending on to come through and we got some guys who’s had down years in the past couple years and gotta have those guys bounce back.”

Is this four-run explosion enough to keep the team from falling into the same type of lull they struggled through a year ago? “Baseball is a game of momentum, without a doubt,” said Manuel. “That’s why you stay with it, that’s why you grind it out.”

A cross-country road trip to pitching-friendly Petco Park now looms. “Grinding it out” and “staying with it” will be of great importance once they get there, or else another deep offensive slumber could take full form. Polly and Vic provided a spark today. It’s time to reignite the flame.

———–

Thursday: Roy Oswalt vs. Mat Latos

Avatar of Pat Gallen

About Pat Gallen

Pat Gallen has written 1677 articles on Phillies Nation.

Pat is Editor-in-Chief of Phillies Nation. He also covers the Phils for 97.5 FM in Philly.

 
 
  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    Howard is fourth in the NL in RBI and he’s hitting .283- I wouldn’t lump him in with the other guys. He hit a rough patch a week ago where he couldn’t buy a hit but he’s hit in 3 out of the past 4 games. It is too early to get worried about the power not being there. All it takes is one hot streak and he’s right on top of that leaderboard.

     
  • Posts: 222 tavian

    Avatar of tavian

    I am hoping for a huge year from Howard. Also, we do need Chase Utley back and Dom Brown will be an asset, as well. I am convinced that Ben Francisco, while a nice player, is not the full-time answer in right field. I hope he starts to do better. A hot spring training is not the same as the SHOW. And Raul Ibanez is losing the race with Father Time.

     
  • Posts: 0 Thedipsy

    We don’t have a good offense, Pat. So, the pitchers better do it all because thats what they’re getting paid for. Not quality starts, either, but 8 innings of 2 run ball every time out. Unfair? No. Thats why the get paid a king’s ransom. With Werth gone, Utley out til who knows, and a downtrending Rollins and Ibanez, why would anyone think this O was going to be any different. Settle in for more of the same.

    The Dipsy

     
    • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

      Avatar of Pat Gallen

      Dispy, They can be better. I know Ibanez is on his last leg and we don’t know what to expect from Rollins. However, Howard is in his prime, Ben Fran is a decent hitter (clearly not Werth) and Ruiz can hit well for a catcher. Polanco is still doing what Polanco does and when Utley comes back he’ll provide an On base guy.

      Not many teams out there can do what they do. And by that I mean be absolutely putrid and then explode innings at a time. It’s not always the recipe for success but they still have an some explosive components.

      I don’t love them as a whole,either, but I think they’re decent. But they are certainly better than they’ve been over the last few games.

       
  • Posts: 5085 Lefty

    Avatar of Lefty

    Hey folks, great win today. This is a repost from an earlier thread that I think got lost due to the early game today. If I was crazy enough to suggest it once, I guess twice won’t hurt-

    I have been trying to think of a possible “out of the box” solution for our lack of power. Most of the time, out of the box answers appear crazy at first, but sometimes every now and then, they work. So here’s my idea to help the offense. When we get into a multiple RISP situation in the mid to late innings of a close game, when we absolutely must score, we should try this.

    “Pinch Hitting for (whoever) #26 Chase Utley! ”

    Yes, send someone down immediately, and activate him. Why not? If he hits it hard enough to drive in the runs, he won’t have to run hard, just has get to first. Then send in someone to run for him. As long as he drives in the runs, that’s all that matters. Is it possible in his present condition? I don’t know, but he is and has been taking BP throughout most of this, and if that doesn’t seem to worsen the injury, why not?. Who would you rather have with a bat in his hands in that situation? I know it’s more than a little crazy, maybe watching this offense has pushed my brain over the edge- Thoughts anyone?

     
    • Posts: 2980 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      Lefty, you are one of my favorite posters on here. Good, keen baseball sense. Great way of writing. Generally nice to everyone. But pardon me if I just say….”YOU’RE NUTS!”

       
      • Posts: 5085 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        Yeah, I could feel that coming from a mile away, pardon accepted sir.

        Okay, I’m nuts.

        But I’m not backing off-
        This team needs a shot in the arm, and IF he is capable of pinch hitting without causing harm that would delay his return in any way, I say Why not?

         
    • Posts: 523 Bruce

      Avatar of Bruce

      Lefty..that is way..y..y out of the box thinking. :-) Nevertheless, that is a intriguing thought. The problem with it though is Utley has not face LIVE pitching and the possibility is there for reinjuring his tender knee with a violent swing. Plus the idea of using him as a pinchhitter and substituted for a pinchrunner if he gets on, take two players out of the game once the inning is over.

      What will happen is once Utley feels comfortable and confident of playing, he will be rehabbing with a minor league team and face LIVE pitching in their games. That way hopefully, he rids of any rust in both fielding and hitting.

       
      • Posts: 5085 Lefty

        Avatar of Lefty

        I have only one problem with the live bullet pitching argument Bruce. He is facing 80mph meatballs right now. I don’t want him to come in and face Aroldis Chapman or Brian Wilson. I want him to face Livan Hernandez and RA Dickey and Shawn Marcum-None of these guys throw over 85. These are the guys we can’t hit, and need help with. We can hit the flamethrowers.

        One last thing and I’ll end this dumb idea, I think they realize that Chase is never going to heal properly this way. That he is either looking at surgery and time off the length of Grady Sizemore, or if he comes back this season, chronic pain that will never go away. That’s why I don’t think he has anything to lose in doing this. Like Chuck said- maybe I’m NUTS! or maybe, just maybe- we may see this happen in a few weeks or months.

         
  • Posts: 0 Thedipsy

    Pat – We don’t when, if, or how long Chase will be back for. We just don’t. You cite that Ben Fran is a “decent” hitter. OK, he is. And Chooch can hit well “for a catcher”. I agree. Howard is Howard. A big problem that when the team doesn’t hit, Victorino and Rollins (our “tablesetters”) can’t get on any other way. They don’t walk and they don’t bunt. It just stops the offense cold and always has. Of course the O can be better but lets not confuse them for a good offense. Its a dysfunctional lineup. Shane and Jimmy are the same players with the same problems. Try this:

    Dom Brown
    Jimmy Rollins
    Placido Polanco
    Ryan Howard
    Carlos Ruiz
    Raul Ibanez
    Shane Victorino
    Wilson Valdez

    I’m only half kidding. Dom Brown can get on base.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    I think the Vic experiment at the top of the order should be over. He’s not utilizing his speed because he cant get on base. So whats he doing up there?

    How about:

    Polanco
    Rollins
    Ibanez
    Howard
    Francisco
    Victorino
    Ruiz
    Valdez

     
  • Posts: 2 TonyF

    Avatar of TonyF

    What does it say about the offense when you have a 35 year old #2 hitter tied on the team for first in RBI, tied for second in HR and leading the starting lineup in BA.

    Oh and for what it’s “Werth” if he was in our lineup doing what he is doing in DC we would be killing him. He is batting .220 with 2HR and 3RBI, kind of makes Polly’s stats look like Ruth in comparison.

     
  • Posts: 0 bacardipr05

    I remember just 10 days ago everyone was excited all the runs where coming. I said wait until the (opposing) pitchers have a few games under their belt. Once the pitchers starting getting their feet under the them i expected something like this to happen. I say they should make a trade an get another outfielder. For various reason they will need one anyone once Ibanez is gone. Number two Ibanez is aging quickly. Three Brown is still unproven an will likely need a year or two under his belt. Something has to be done soon.

     
    • Posts: 959 betasigmadeltashag

      Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

      wow really make a trade, three weeks in, I bet you want to get rid of an ace to get a over priced outfielder, how about we let it play out until the all star break, for one the East is not that tough, two we have 4 great and one good pitcher, so if we need something by the dead line maybe talk about a trade or something, but can we PLEASE give guys like Ben Fran, Raul, Mayberry a little more time to see if they can come around or snap out of it. Really and you wonder why the world thinks Philly fans are band wagoners, you are not even waiting for them to be in second place. It has been 17 games 11-6 I am not big on projections but that is 96-99 wins, that is why they play 162 3especially in Philly they have ups and they have downs weeks were they can not hit, and I am sure they may even have a week were all four aces have bad outings. you know it is still April right?

       
  • Posts: 959 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    Poly is a #2 hole hitter period any changing of the line up should not and will not change him. Why is he leading in RBI on this team because the bottom of the order is getting on base. I know a lot of you Dipsy do not like Ben Fran. And yes he has struggled for a week or so, but he also has been one of the most unlucky guys on the team, he has had a good stroke and hit balls hard for the most part, and I still say he will be a .275 18 HR 80 RBI guy at the end of the year, Dom Brown is not the answer he is going to spend significant time in AAA, and would ;not be on this team even if he did not get hurt. Mayberry may need to get some more starts against lefties, but he also has proven to be a solid bench bat, which I think Ben Fran can be also if he plays 3-4 times a week. Most of you do this every year and abandon ship on the offense, it will be back 10 runs a game back maybe not, but they are not a 2 run offense either. The One CHange you make is move Jimmy back to lead off Raul to 3rd and Vic to sixth

     
  • Posts: 959 betasigmadeltashag

    Avatar of betasigmadeltashag

    you can jump off the Ben Fran band wagon all you want, he had two good weeks and a bad week, the avg was not there the first two weeks because all his hard hit balls were into tornado winds and they were outs, just like the last two games against the Brew Crew there were 4 or 5 hits that if not for outstanding defense by the out field they would have been doubles or triples and those fall in more often then not and both games change dramaticly

     
  • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

    Avatar of Pat Gallen

    I’m still on the Ben FranWagon. New T-shirt maybe!

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew from waldorf

    Howard while grossly overpaid is a legit 1b and clean up hitter.
    Polly is legit at the 2 spot.
    Ruiz is the team MVP every year like Johnny Bench was every year for the Reds.
    Not happy with much else of the every day line up.

    The line up is very bad. But if they hit in oct who cares?

    The team has enough SP and guts to make the playoffs.

    You go from there.

    A trade that improves the team is always a good thing. If your favorite sacred cow (player) is the one moved get over it. Ruiz is my all time favorite Phillie. If he is moved and it means winning games and a world series. Bye bye.

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew from waldorf

    Ibanez is possibly the worst every day outfielder in the majors.
    Instead of moving him up in the lineup Id be looking for ways to get him out of the lineup.
    Great guy etc etc. Had a good 66 games at first but it is what it is.

     
    • Posts: 1435 Pat Gallen

      Avatar of Pat Gallen

      You’re probably right. At this point, how much longer can they afford to keep Ibanez around. And I say that with a sad face knowing what kind of guy Raul is. Do they give him the season? I’m pretty sure the Phillies will stick with him throughout unless he just absolutely tanks.

       
  • Posts: 0 Thedipsy

    Why does everyone think I hate BenFran? I don’t. One thing that Dom Brown has shown the propensity to do is take pitches. I actually believe that it is a worthwhile experiment, when Brown’s focus is to look at pitches, have good ABs and make contact (he’s a young player and thats what the’ll stress with him), to throw him in the leadoff position and see how he fares. He’ll have a higher OBP that Rollins or Vic, thats for sure. Ibanez is ready for the glue factory and I don’t know what else to say about him. Move Ben Fran to left? Hey, the Phils will make the right moves with trades if the lineup doesn’t pan out. They have plenty of bullets. I’m not worried.

    The Dipsy

     
  • Posts: 2980 Chuck A.

    Avatar of Chuck A.

    I think Raul still has a hot streak in him. I really do. 17 games in with an 11-6 record and mostly all I’m reading is panic. Relax everyone. The pitchers….as good as they are…. can’t do everything. And the O will be fine. Ben Fran will do his thing with enough ABs. The lineup is all effed up right now because of Chase and they are just going to have to deal with it until he returns actually shows that he can play effectively.

     
  • Posts: 0 Lewisauce

    I like Raul but I agree that he should be put out to pasture. he just looks old and slow at the plate. He is battling the mendoza line right now, and he just looks overmatched.

    I’d like to see Mayberry play every time we face a lefty, and I think BenFran should get as many starts as possible, all of which adds up to reduced PT for Raul. Give BenFran until at least Memorial Day as a regular, and then re-evaluate to see if that experiment is going to work.

     
  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    You guys are all nuts… off of your rockers.

    We’re in first place. The concensus top contender in the NL East (the team that everyone said would be ahead of us in September), the Braves, are 8-11. We had two bad games prior to yesterdays game, a win. We’re going to go through funks and drop series. Our four aces have been good… they’re a combined 7-3. We’re 1/10 of the way through the season – if they go 70-30, we will be in good shape to make the playoffs and that’s all I care about. Just get into the playoffs. They’re not going to win every game… they get paid big bucks but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Could they be better? Yes and we all expect them to be… they expect themselves to be. We will be there in September and that’s where our focus should do. Let’s not put too much pressure on ourselves; that’s when guys start trying to hard. That’s when guys like Utley try to come back before they’re ready. Be patient – they’ve earned our trust. Chill out and enjoy the best era in Phillies baseball history.

     
    • Posts: 1190 Manny

      Avatar of Manny

      Absolutely right there with you!

       
    • Posts: 0 Franny Murt

      I wish there was a like button so I could “like” this comment. One thing I have learned is to never, ever count this team out of anything.

       
  • Posts: 0 Dave

    On the 93 Phillies team, Dykstra had 129 walks, Daulton had 117, Kruk 111, and Hollins 85. That’s 442 walks from 4 players. That team did not have a big time power hitter among them, but they worked counts like crazy and got on base until the pitcher made a mistake and then they capitalized. I wish this team would incorporate it into their game. Charlie should be demanding this from his players. He’s the manager. And why isn’t Valdez bunting for a hit? He’s obviously shown that he’s a good bunter. If nothing else, it turns the lineup over.

     
    • Posts: 0 Brett

      It’s not really fair to compare the 93 team to, well, any other team ever. Precisely because that team had no great power hitters (and other than Kruk, no very good hitters for average) that Fregosi developed an offensive philosophy built almost entirely around plate discipline, running up pitch counts with obsessive glee, and getting to other teams’ bullpens early, when they could start tagging teams. I loved that team, from top to bottom, but this team is not, and should not try to be, the ’93 Phils.

      The core of this incarnation of the team has always failed to draw enough walks at the top of the order, and it would be nice to see that change. But this has also been an incredibly streaky offense for years now. And in a lot of those years, the good streaks have tended toward the end of the season. In particular, Howard generally has a miserable April and May.

      But we’re in first place, with a pitching staff that undoubtable keep us in the running (or, I think, a few games out in front) through the dog days of summer, until the O catches its usual spark.

      That ’93 team was a bunch of gritty over-acheivers, largely pieced together from other teams. These guys are home grown pros, and there are more natural leaders — more character guys –on this team than I think I have ever seen on any one Phillies team. Everyone praises Utley’s work ethic. Howard has clearly put in yeoman’s work to improve on defense (and is having a better early season hitting than usual). Pitchers rave about Chooch’s game calling, and he is undeniably one of the best clutch hitters we’ve ever had (um, if you believe in “clutch”). And with all that, everyone on the team points to Rollins as the heart and soul of the bunch.

      Y’all worry too much. I get it that impending doom is the natural state for a fan of any Philly team, but jesus, try to enjoy being the favorites for a time. Cause that’s what we still are.

       
  • Avatar of The Original Chuck P

    Sorry my previous post was a grammatical abortion… too, not too. Be, not do.

    How about some love for the back end of bullpen? How about a post on that… Bastardo, Madson, Baez and Contreras have been awesome. They have a combined ERA of .103… pretty good.

     
  • Posts: 122 Jay aka Phillyboy

    Avatar of Jay aka Phillyboy

    OK GUYS,First i think vic is doing a good job at the leadoff spot,hitting 320,polly really good start so far,jimmy not so good,needs to move down in the batting order.Ryan is fine so far,ben started hot but has cooled off,RAUL IS STRUGGLING IN ALL PHASES,he can’t even throw the ball to home without it 3 hopping it…..just sad!!Carlos is doing just fine and wilson is too…..Really with no chase and no brown,this is how it will be most nights.The good thing is,we have the pitching that will make it easier on these guys to win some games!

     
  • Posts: 87 loupossehl

    Avatar of loupossehl

    Back when the Phillies were 4 and 1, I posted that if they went 4 and 2, followed by 4 and 3 … and repeated this pattern throughout the season, then by Game 161 they would be 100 and 61. At today’s 11 and 6, a repeat of this performance throughout would result in 103-55 by Game 158.

    Sure we’ll lose games where we’ll score 2, 1 or zip, and one of our Four Aces will have an occasional lousy outing. But the very next day, our opponent will be facing an ace capable of winning if we only score 3, 2 or even one. Given the extraordinary quality of our starting pitching – and not even allowing for the fact that the bullpen so far has been all that we could ask for (including “asking for” the sidelining of a closer Not To Be Named), winning 100 or so games is actually very doable … doable because, regardless of an offense that will sputter along, we’ll relentlessly win more than we lose and it’s hard to see this 2011 team incurring a losing streak of any consequence.

     
  • Posts: 0 Josh

    The Phils will come around…they were streaky offensively last year, and that will probably continue this year (especially with Utley out). So it’s obviously going to be up to the rotation…but how are they doing compared to the rest of MLB? http://bit.ly/fCMooN

     
  • Posts: 0 Andrew from waldorf

    At some point someone will tell me why pointing out what doesnt make this the greatest team ever is so blasphemous,
    I get it you love your players. I like Raul and Utley and Howard myself.

    You know the line up is atrocious. Hey I am still a Phillies fan.

    Hopefully in the playoffs they wont face a team like SF.
    Because that lineup simply cannot beat a pitching team.

    Add Cy Young and Walter Johnson and they still cant

     
    • Posts: 2980 Chuck A.

      Avatar of Chuck A.

      I agree…this isn’t the “greatest team ever”. Anyone that thinks it is is delusional.
      Is the lineup “atrocious”?? I don’t think so. It’s just not a power team like we have been used to in the past few seasons. We will be fine. Raul will get hot. Jimmy will drive in some runs. Howard will hit some long balls. Etc, etc, etc…

       
    • Posts: 5085 Lefty

      Avatar of Lefty

      Andrew did someone tell you here that your assessment is wrong? I don’t recall reading it. It seems to me that you are just backing up what Pat wrote in this article. I don’t find you ( or Pat) blasphemous for it.

      In fact, I find your comments to be interesting and insightful and wish you would post more often. I don’t always agree with what you write, but highly respect your opinion as a baseball man and enjoy engaging in debate.

      I don’t agree that the offense is atrocious at all. The Padres, Pirates, and Mariners are examples of teams with atrocious offense.I think it’s an above average offense with some holes, mostly I think it’s just a streaky offense. But I think this offense is capable of scoring enough to win 90-100 games. I think they need to score 4 runs a game in 85 games to accomplish that. BTW, not average 4 runs a game, actually score them. In the 60 or so games they lose they’ll probably score less. Can they accomplish that?, time will tell. They need to move runners up, take more walks, and be more aggressive on the base paths than Sammy is allowing, because it doesn’t look like power will be their strength. (I’m hoping Sammy is just getting used to these guys and will be more liberal as the season winds on) But they are capable of scoring 4 runs in 10 out of every 16 games, and that’s the magic number.

       
  • Posts: 0 Thedipsy

    All, or Nothing At All. The Chairman of the Board might as well have been describing the Phils offense. Say what you want about records, but as we progress through the season and it remains clear that our offense stinks, we’ll end up in the post season but will lose to a team with very good pitching and a very good offense.

    The Dipsy

     
 
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