Game 32: Lee Returns… But Will the Offense?

Phillies SP Cliff Lee (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Phillies will have Cliff Lee on the hill tonight, hoping the left-hander can prevent the Phillies from a sweep at the hands of the Mets and to fall to four games under .500 for the first time since May 2007.

In order to make room for Lee on the roster, the Phillies sent reliever Michael Schwimer back to Lehigh Valley. The move came a day after Schwimer allowed two runs in the 2/3 of a 9th inning he pitched against the Mets in the Phillies 7-4 loss.

In five games, Schwimer has allowed six runs in 6 1/3 innings of work on seven hits and two walks, giving him a brutal WHIP of 1.89.

Lee should provide a spark to the Phillies starting pitching, which has been exceptional to start this season. How late into the game Lee will go is a mystery but if he can at least manage seven innings, it should allow the bull pen to hopefully hold down a lead. (Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon are the only relievers with an ERA at 3.00 or lower.)

Putrid Numbers; Phillies Talk About Offense — The Phillies scored four runs in the first two innings of last night’s game and zero runs in the remaining seven, losing 7-4 to the Mets.

Matt Gelb blogged this morning on the Inquirer’s “The Phillies Zone” with some awful numbers the Phillies offense has produced:

When ahead in the count, Phillies hitters have an .845 OPS. That is the worst in baseball; the league average is .960. Incredibly, in the 395 plate appearances in which a Phillies batter is ahead in the count, he has drawn a walk only 69 times. Those 395 plate appearances are more than 11 other teams. But their 69 walks are the second-fewest in baseball. Only the Pirates (66) have fewer.

With a three-ball count, the Phillies have an OPS of .780. That is the worst in baseball; the league average is .975.

With a full count, the Phillies have an OPS of .552. That is the worst in baseball; the league average is .815.

What we’re talking about is a systematic failure to succeed even when the situation favors the hitter. The Phillies actually rank 18th in the majors with a .476 OPS when the pitcher is ahead in the count.

Juan Pierre still found a silver lining in the Phillies offense.

“Better than before when we weren’t scoring any runs at all,” Pierre said. “Pick your poison. Once you score, you want to keep scoring. But we’re starting to move the ball better. A couple days got out of hand late and we couldn’t bounce back. We’re starting to move the ball throughout the lineup. That’s a good sign.”

But Charlie Manuel isn’t too pleased with the lack of smart at-bats, which are proven by Gelb’s numbers posted above.

“I think we’re tight,” Manuel said. “I think we try too hard. That’s why we chase bad balls out of the strike zone when we’re ahead in the count. I think that’s why we swing at first-pitch bad balls and so on. I think when we have to do something, that’s how they feel – we have to do something, and we have to do it right now.”

Even without Gelb’s numbers — though they add a beautiful visual to how ugly the Phillies offense has been — it is obvious to see the poor at-bats the Phillies have taken this season so far.

Low pitch-counts for opposing pitchers, the fact the Phillies are in the bottom half of pitches faced and the high LOB numbers after every game are more than enough evidence that this team is not smart at the plate.

Only Shane Victorino has at least 10 walks and only Pierre and Laynce Nix have an OBP of at least .380. It’s been a rally killer and has caused many fans to bang their heads against the walls.

Tonight’s Lineup
Rollins 6
Pierre 7
Victorino 8
Pence 9
Polanco 5
Mayberry 3
Schneider 2
Galvis 4
Lee 1


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