From my season preview of the Phillies earlier today…
Is the Phillies offense going to be as disappointing as it was last season, or will they rebound and be above average again?
To call the Phillies offense last year anything but a disappointment would be an injustice. The team had a .718 OPS, down from .745 the year before and .781 in 2009. That’s a pretty severe overall drop. Of course, the league’s average OPS has dropped from .751 in 2009, to .728 last season to just .720 last season, but the fact remains that Philadelphia’s offense has been on the downswing.
The reasons for Philadelphia’s offensive struggles can be generally described in two terms: age, and injury. Most of the Phillies key stars are older. The only regulars under the age of 30 are Hunter Pence (29 in April) and John Mayberry Jr (28). Offensive catalyst Shane Victorino is 31, newly extended shortstop Jimmy Rollins is 33, third baseman Placido Polando is 36 (and looks every minute of it), second baseman Chase Utley is 33, catcher Carlos Ruiz is 33, and injured first baseman Ryan Howard is 31. This isn’t a team full of players entering their primes that is poised for another five or ten years at the top of the NL East.
As for the injuries, chew on this. The only Phillies regular to miss less than 20 games last season was Howard, who will probably miss at least two months of the 2012 season. Utley missed 59, Victorino missed 30, Rollins missed 20, and Polanco missed 40. Hunter Pence however, did play in 154 games between the Phillies and Astros. This isn’t a team loaded with guys who will play in every game and thus, can get by with a weaker bench.
The only Phillies players to slug over .500 with the team last season were Pence (in his 54 games with the club) and Mayberry (in a 296 plate appearance season that was mostly spent as a platoon player). As for elite on base machines, only Pence and Ruiz had OBPs above .370.
What I’m essentially saying is this: the Phillies are a damn good team, and no one is arguing that. But if they get another subpar effort out of their offense this season, the Phillies pitching staff is going to need to be as good as it was last year, or there’s a very good chance that the team is going to be struggling to make the playoffs. The veterans on this team need to stay healthy and improve their performances, because there really isn’t any immediate help on the farm aside from Domonic Brown.