What word comes to mind when you think of the 2011 Phillies? First? Streaky? Best? Dominate? Unsure? Panic? What will come to mind after the fact when we talk about the 2011 Phillies? All my hopes and dreams tell me that we will be talking about once again the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The bats will have to do a better job of backing up that title talk if my dreams are going to become reality.
Tuesday nights game in St. Louis kind of summed up the Phillies offense as of late and gives us, the phans, optimism that if we wait long enough the good will eventually come out. As they say the cream always rises to the top. With a team of All-stars, future Hall of Famers, Cy-Young award winners, and future stars it is only a matter of time until everything all comes together.
Tuesday night the Phillies scored one run off five hits over a seven inning span versus Cardinals starter Kyle McClellan. Followed by the crazy 8th inning where the Phillies scored more runs, nine, than they did their previous three games combined. The Phillies had five hits and four walks in the inning.
"We kind of waited a long time, but anytime we put together some runs, it's encouraging," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
It is encouraging to see runs scored no matter what the scenario and a win is always a win. After a frustrating series loss in Seattle where the Phillies bats seemed completely baffled it was everything the offense needed to bring them back to live in St. Louis. During the first seven innings it seemed as if the bats were still sleeping in Seattle.
It's hard to ignore an offense that has hardly lived up to its full potential. The truth remains that the Phillies have been and still are in 1st place. In fact we have the largest division lead in baseball by three games with a four game cushion over the second place Atlanta Braves. We have more wins in all of baseball at 46 with Boston a close second at 44 wins.
Phans can't help but want more. When you go out and assemble one of the greatest rotations in the history of the game it sends a statement to the rest of the league and to the phans that we want to win and we want to win now. There's no time for a wait and see approach, at least not in Philadelphia. We get restless, we come ammo-ed up to the ballpark everyday with D batteries, snowballs, and plenty of boos just waiting to unleash. We want production, especially from a lineup that is fully capable of producing.
This is not to say that people haven't been overreacting because quite frankly I believe they have. I have had countless arguments with other phans, my dad, and my brother (Scoot) about whether or not we need more bats and whether or not this offense will produce as it should.
To say the offense has struggled mightily against left handed pitching would be an understatement. The Phillies on base percentage plus slugging ranks them 12th in the National League vs. left handed pitching. Charlie has attempted to find any production out of the all too important five hole reluctantly inserting slap-hitting Placido Polanco into the spot. The Phillies five-hole hitter have combined to produce the third lowest average in the National League at .210 with a slugging percentage of .322. It is a crucial spot in the lineup that is the catalyst to producing runs.
The Phillies can clearly use a right handed bat who can produce power against righties or lefties
While the addition of a right handed bat may add a spark is it really what this offense ultimately needs? Will a Ryan Ludwick or Josh Willingham will take an inadequate offense and suddenly transform them into the hottest offense in all of baseball? That is highly unlikely. While it could definitely provide a much needed lift it is still up to the bats currently filling (or not filling) the Phillies box score to start hitting at a championship level we all know they are capable of.
This offense still goes as Jimmy Rollins goes. The offense needs J-Roll to hit, they need him to get on base, and they need him to score runs. The Phillies are 24-9 this year when Rollins scores a run. As the season progresses it seems as if Jimmy has continued to get better. Health is obviously a key ingredient to Rollins producing at the top of the order. With #11 providing the spark this offense clicks on all cylinders.
“The key for him, No. 1, is to stay healthy,” Manuel said. “He brings energy when he’s playing good and feeling good. He definitely gets in the flow of things.”
While it is easy to get frustrated and impatient with the Phillies offense we have to look at the positives. The Phillies pitching has lived up to the hype with #4 starter Cole Hamels easily topping anyone's expectations. Chase Utley continues to look healthier and his contribution at the plate and on the field have proven that. Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Placido Polanco have been the Phillies most productive hitters and will be counted on to continue to produce.
Whether or not Ruben Amaro adds another bat before the July trade deadline the Phillies offense will have to start finding more consistency if they want to win another World Series title.