Phillies outfielder Ben Revere

Do the 2015 Phillies have the worst outfield in MLB history?

In 2009 the Phillies outfield hit 88 homers, knocked in 279 runs, and combined for a .851 OPS.  The Phils won their their third straight division crown and lost to the Yankees in the World Series.  That outfield included Shane Victorino who only hit ten round-trippers, while Raul Ibanez (34) and Jayson Werth (36) led the charge.

No the outfield was not historically great, they are well-down on the list of most explosive outfields in MLB history. The reason that team is significant is the 2015 edition of the Phillies outfield has the potential to be one of the worst of all-time and it’s striking to see how quickly things went south for the boys in South Philly.

Phillies OF Production 2008-2014

2008 77 244 .815
2009 88 279 .851
2010 70 274 .821
2011 69 264 .774
2012 52 216 .744
2013 57 205 .720
2014 41 193 .684

As it stands now the Phillies outfield is all set with the exception of right field.  Domonic Brown was sent to the disabled list to start the year, so right field will likely be by committee. Veteran Grady Sizemore, who in a prior life supplied a classic Sports Illustrated cover, will likely begin the season as the starter.

Sizemore was drafted by the Expos in 2000 and was traded to the Indians, along with Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens in exchange for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew (12 All-Star games and two Cy Young Awards combined for the participants of that deal).  Sizemore was a great player for about five seasons, his career year coming in 2008 when he hit 30 homers, knocked in 90 runs, was tenth in MVP voting, and won a Silver Slugger.

However, pesky knee injuries have hampered Sizemore’s career and have prevented him from continuing to be one of the premier players in the league.  Along with health, his power has left him. He hit 5 home runs in 381 plate appearances last season, his first season since 2011. Maybe his two year absence played a part in his lack of power, but deteriorating skills is the more likely culprit. 

Another guy who could get some playing time in right who will be looking to recapture his glory days is Jeff Francoeur.  Francoeur took the baseball world by storm when he made his major league debut with the Braves in 2005.  In his first 30 games he hit .373 with 10 homers, 28 RBI, and a 1.144 OPS.  His arm was fantastic, recording 13 outfield assists in 65 games.  But he was traded to the Mets in July of 2009 to make room for Jason Heyward and he sort of went off the radar for awhile. He bounced around a bit with the Rangers, Royals, Giants, and Padres with a couple stints in the minors, including El Paso where he was the victim of one of the best pranks of all-time (see video).

The Phillies signed him as free agent in November and while he hasn’t performed well, the injury of Brown will likely keep him on the squad at least until he gets back.  Darin Ruf could also make the team, but it’s been clear in his short career that the Phillies’ brass do not believe in Ruf so Francoeur might win out on experience alone.

Ben Revere is viewed by many in Philadelphia circles as the weakest player (in all facets, not just hitting) on the team.  He is consistently an adventure defensively and while he makes some spectacular catches, they usually stem from him being out of position in the first place.  He is the epitome of having “singles power.” Twitter nearly blew up last season when he hit his first home run in his career, it was his 1,466th at-bat. Nicest guy you’ll ever meet, however, not a great baseball player. He will man left field this year for the Phillies to make room for Rule 5 draft pick, Odubel Herrera.

Herrera, the 23-year old Venezuelan, has hit .328 this spring, but has been…wait for it…reliant on singles.  With his speed and offensive reputation, he’s basically a younger version of Revere.  His emergence could however convince the Phillies front office to get rid of Revere since they have had an apparent obsession with him since he first came to Philly.  Herrera is a nice pick up if you consider his Rule 5 status, but he has a lot to live up to if he wants to be compared to the Phillies last Rule 5 jackpot, Shane Victorino.

So all that being said, how bad could the Phillies outfield be?  When you really think about it this could be a historically bad outfield and if it weren’t for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup, it could be one of the worst offenses ever.  Strictly looking at the outfield though, the Phillies could legitimately put together one of the most anemic outfields in recent memory.

 Worst Offensive OF in MLB History (since 1914)

Team Year G HR RBI SLG OPS Standings
MIN 1981 110 13 129 .347 .635 41-68, last place*
CLE 1981 103 15 113 .356 .665 52-51, 6th place*
SDP 1981 110 16 129 .379 .710 41-69, last place*
CIN 1945 154 17 180 .353 .675 61-93, 7th place
CHW 1976 161 17 147 .336 .642 64-97, last place
STL 1972 156 18 136 .358 .692 75-81, 4th place
HOU 1989 162 18 186 .333 .649 86-76, 3rd place

The stike-shortened season of 1981 obviously obscures the numbers, but they are startling nonetheless.  These obviously aren’t numbers for just three guys. Teams usually carry around 5 to 7 outfielders on their 25-man roster so the totality of their efforts resulted in 13 homers for the Twins in ’81. You’ll notice that the end-of-the-year standings for most of these teams does mirror the putrid nature of  their outfield.  As recently as 1989, with such names as Billy Hatcher, Terry Puhl, and Kevin Bass, the Astros’ outfield in a full 162 game season managed to hit 18 home runs and the team somehow still finished ten games above .500!  All this raises the question: will the Phillies really be that bad? Lets prognosticate a little shall we?

Brown will return sometime in April and will likely get the majority of playing time in right field as long as he performs sufficiently well.  He has the ability to hit 20 homers, but nothing suggests his power stroke is consistent enough to reach that number. Conservatively let’s project him to hit 10-15 homers.

As far as Revere goes, if this was Vegas, his over/under would be .5 homer in order to get play on either side.  Herrera might accidentally hit five homers by the time the season is over.

Ruf, Sizemore, Francoeur, and any other players that will inevitably make an appearance this year could combine for 10-15 homers. So right there is 35 homers. Part of me thinks that it is a stretch that they will even reach that mark.

Verdict: the Phillies outfield is going to be terrible. But as far as home run totals go, I do not see them making our list of worst of all time. But the Phillies place in the standings will probably look the same.

About Cordell Oberholtzer

Cordell has been a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies since Joe Carter happened and is gearing up for another decade of losing baseball. He has an appreciation for the history of the game, but tries not be totally closed to innovation and change. He works at a software company and resides in Pottstown, PA.