With 16 games (and a couple innings of standard Kyle Kendrick ball as I write this), the optimist in me wants to say that they really aren't that far off the pace of the two 8-8 starts that wound up in World Series appearances in 2008 and 2009. But the realist in me points to the fact that those Phillies teams scored 74 and 85 runs through 16 games (4.6 and 5.3 per game) in their respective years, not 43 (2.7/game) as they have in 2012. And just think... we used to call 74 runs a slow start!
While previous springs starts have been disappointing, the Phillies always gave you the feeling that as the weather picked up, so would the bats. A few 80 degree days and a few Jimmy Rollins pop ups might start to clear the fence, a few Placido Polanco line drives would find a gap and roll to the wall, and Ryan Howard would once again mash taters. But there's no reason to believe any of that will happen as the weather changes this year. The Phillies aren't losing close games, or making tough outs. They're getting a 2 spot put up on them in the first inning and then proceeding to flail away at the ball for 8 more innings. No one is innocent:
- Jimmy Rollins - Mr. Catalyst just earned just his 2nd extra base hit of the season last night. He's being out-slugged (just .286) by every starter not named Placido AND three of the 5 starting pitchers. He has 13 strikeouts which puts him on pace to nearly double his career average. The ridiculous number of infield fly balls he produces is probably right in line with his career average. Plus, his range to his right already seems to be slipping.
- Placido Polanco - has only reached base 12 times this season and one of them was a HBP. His ground ball rate is nearly double his fly ball rate. His modest power has disappeared seemingly over night and there's nothing to point at other than his large head and his age.
- John Mayberry Jr. - has been replaced as a starter by a 34 year old with zero power. He's struck out in a third of his at bats, has zero walks, and zero homeruns. He's not a major league baseball player. You can only pull a Jason Werth out of your hat once every decade or so. The Phils are wasting their time by not letting Domonic Brown flail in the majors like Mayberry does.
- Hunter Pence - is pressing at the plate. If anyone on this team should be familiar with playing on a team that can't hit, you'd think it would be Pence having come from the Astros. After a decent start, he's been subpar defensively in right field and is dropping to his knees during his swing. And now he's day to day with a shoulder injury. Yippee!
- Juan Pierre - he has 3 SBs, 1 CS, 1 pick off, and at least one other obvious out that was called safe. He's a two trick pony (singles, and steals) and he's really not that good at one of them.
- Carlos Ruiz - looks about 35 pounds overweight. Seriously, look at him... I can't be the only one who sees this!
- Cliff Lee - suffering his almost yearly "abdominal thing." I think it's stupid to blame this on innings or pitch counts as it's only 3 more balls than he threw in his first start of the year, but Lee still owes me for choking away a lead in the playoffs last year so I'm including him on this list just for the hell of it.
- Kyle Kendrick - he's Kyle Kendrick.
- Joe Blanton - has already burnt his one dominant start of the season. He's got maybe 3 or 4 quality starts left in him, the rest are just innings to be eaten.
- Michael Stutes - fell apart down the stretch last season, is back to doing more of the same.
- Laynce Nix - is all bicep and no baseball power. He could be the best Citizens Bank Park Security Guard in history, but he's not much of a ball player.
- Ty Wigginton - If you play 3 or 4 defensive positions poorly, does that really make you capable of playing those positions? He's really just a notch above a trash can laying on it's side at 3rd base.
- Jim Thome - He's worked more 3 ball counts than almost anyone on the team. Unfortunately, almost all of them have ended in a K. His bat looks slow and his judgement is failing him. He's 101 strikouts away from passing Reggie Jackson's career record so maybe they should just let him play every day and give the fans a record to look forward to.
- Charlie Manuel - loyal to a fault. He marches his guys out there in positions we know they're going to fail partially because that's how he plays the game and partially as a way to stick it to Ruben. "Find me a better hitter, and I'll plug him in instead!"
- Bonus: Both Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton have more homeruns than the entire Phillies team. Andre Ethier and Kemp combined have driven in more runs than the Phillies have scored.