22 games into the season, the Phils (15-7) have already hit their first offensive slump.
This leaves the fans wondering: is this just an early season funk or is this going to be something to worry about all season.
In the team’s last 14 games, they have failed to score more than four runs despite holding a 9-5 record in that span – thanks to their great starting pitching and playing terrible teams.
The struggling offense is all over the place right now. Outside of a scorching hot Placido Polanco, who is hitting .372 while driving in 15 runs (2nd on the team), the Phillies bats have gone silent.
Let’s attack the bottom of the order first. In the past week of games, the combination of Raul Ibanez, Carlos Ruiz and Wilson Valdez are a combined 2-for-63 with both hits coming from Valdez on infield singles. Those slumps have them hitting .179, .230 and .254 respectively.
Charlie Manuel tried benching Ibanez for Mayberry, who is 3-for-8 in his last three games played, and it’s brought slightly better results. But Manuel stubbornly went back to Ibanez in last night’s 4-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks and he went 0-for-3, expanding his hitless streak to 21 at-bats, the longest in his 16-year career.
Ruiz is too good of a hitter to slump for this long and many wondered how long Valdez would have kept up his hot start. With rumors of a Chase Utley return at the end of May, many are looking forward to seeing Valdez back in a reserve role.
Now let’s attack the top of the order. With Polanco excused from these talks, let’s look at his teammates in the top three. Shane Victorino is not a good lead-off guy. But neither is the three-hitter Jimmy Rollins.
Victorino only has seven hits in the last 10 games (7-for-39, .179 average) and has seen his OBP drop .045 in that span (down to .337).
Rollins has been more frustrating. As a three-hitter, his two RBIs on the season is pretty much inexcusable. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that Polanco had taken most of his RBI opportunities in the two-hole. But Rollins’ 3-for-36 (.167) run in the last 10 games is also an indication that the former MVP and three-time All-Star is not performing in a run-producing spot.
This brings us to the 4/5 guys. Ryan Howard is Ryan Howard. He’s a slow starter in April yet is still batting a solid (for him) .274 with a team-high 19 RBIs (4th in the majors) but only three home runs.
But the problem lies with Ben Francisco. Folks, we miss the bat of Jayson Werth, though not for the price Washington paid. I will five Benny the benefit of the doubt. Werth is batting a laughable .218 with three homers and five RBIs.
Francisco, another career bench player, saw his torrid Spring and hot start to the season quickly fizzle. He only has nine hits (9-for-51) in his last 15 games, which has brought his average from .357 to .253. He has only hit one extra-base hit – a home run – and driven in six RBIs in that span as well.
Overall the team’s offense is now 13th in the league with a team average of .255, 16th in the league with 95 runs and 22nd with 16 home runs.
The solution to this is a complete line up overhaul. Mayberry needs to get a lot more at-bats, especially until Ibanez starts to hit better. And a rotation of Pete Orr, Michael Martinez and Valdez needs to be put into place. Orr is 7-for-22 (.318) so far this season, making only a handful of starts.
With that said, the line up should (which we won’t as Manuel can be stubborn): Victorino, Polanco, Francisco, Howard, Mayberry, Rollins, Ruiz, 2B platoon.