Shocked by the Phillies’ Lack of Offense?
So this is what it's going to be like?
Three games into the baseball season and the Phillies are unrecognizable. Three games, three different line-ups, same results.
It shouldn't be that surprising, but in some ways it is. It is, in fact, shocking.
In three games, the much-maligned offense has 20 hits and six runs. They have three extra base hits, two of which have come from Hunter Pence. The only reason they scored four runs in the rubber-match against the Pirates on Sunday is because the lowly Pirates gave them two runs on a fielding error that should have been caught.
Blown away? Don't worry about it. You aren't alone.
But if you are. then you haven't been paying attention.
I've been telling you this team would struggle to hit. I've been saying it the whole spring and have been told by listeners that they are sick of me repeating it!
This team can't hit.
How can this be, you say. This team is a five-time NL East champion!
Look again. This isn't the same lineup you came to know and love. These aren't the same players. the mix of age, youth and middle-of-the-road veterans have this offense left without an identity.
Freddy Galvis is in his first major league season. John Mayberry Jr. has never been asked to play everyday. Laynce Nix, Juan Pierre, Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton are all on the downside of their careers. Placido Polanco is healthy for the first time in recent memory, but is now 35-years old.
These are all players that have been asked to fill-in for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley while they recover from injury. they are not the same guys you've been watching in produce runs at a record setting pace year-after-year.
The Phillies have to change their game plan from a three-run home run team to a small ball team that manufactures runs. They ditched the three-run home run in favor of small ball.
So far it doesn't appear to be working.
In three games the Phillies are 15th our of 16 teams in the National League, trailing only the Pirates who had to face the Phillies pitching staff, yet still took two-out-of-three in the series.
Of course, they've gotten some bonus hitting from an unexpected source: Carlos Ruiz. After watching him hit .479 in the spring he has been the one Phillies player who has carried his bat to the regular season.
The other Phillie who has brought his bat to the regular season is Pence. In three games, Pence is 3-11 with three RBI, two extra base hits, a run scored and a stolen base. He saw lots of pitches. He put together good at bats. Pence has filled the four-hole well so far without a lot of protection around him. The hope is that he doesn't try to do to much hitting fourth, but so far he seems relaxed at the plate and could be in line for a big season.
Will it continue? No one could know. But confidence has a way of producing results and both Ruiz and Pence certainly seem confident right now.
The Phillies offense is not likely to score just two runs every night all season long, it will have some nights where resembles the 2008 team and the others we all watched for the past five seasons. But it will also have weekends like this one in Pittsburgh where they struggle to score against very average pitching.
It is still incredibly early and there are plenty of question marks. We have only seen three starters and they have only faced the Pirates. The bullpen looks shaky getting to the ninth. But there is good reason to be positive.
This Phillies team can hit. However, will they be able to mix-and-match the right line-up night after, night. This is something new for Charlie Manuel, going with the hot-hand, finding the right guy everyday.
Manuel needs to get production from guys like Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Pence, these are the three most established player they have. If they don't get production from them, expect a lot of games like you saw this weekend in Pittsburgh
The National League East will be a very competitive division, is the Phillies line-up up for the challenge?
So far, the early answer is no.