Watching the Phillies so far this season has brought up one major question that may loom throughout the season; where have the homeruns gone? The Phillies used to be built as a slugging team; just three years ago they had four guys hit 30 + homeruns. It’s understood that players with some pop have left the team, Pat Burrell now has a second world series ring with the Giants, Jason Werth left for 126 million greener pastures and Chase Utley is still on the DL. The latter of the three is the sole reason for the low homerun totals this season.
The one thing the Phillies have learned to do so far in 2011 is manufacture runs. When they were hitting homeruns everyday, they lacked the ability to play small ball, but now due to the lack of power, small ball is the only answer. I know it’s a little early but comparing past seasons with the current one shows a staggering drop off in power. The month isn’t over yet, but the Phillies will not catch up to the numbers posted in past April’s.
In 2008 the Phillies had a combined 39 homeruns and 123 RBI’s through the month of April. Those numbers included a healthy Chase Utley hitting 10 homeruns with 21 RBI’s. Pat Burrell in his final year with the team hit 8 homeruns and 24 RBI’s. Ryan Howard contributed 5 homeruns and 12 RBI’s almost identical numbers to Jason Werth who had 5 homeruns and 13 RBI’s. Scattered contributions rounded out the numbers, but the core of the middle of the lineup were the ones producing.
Through April of 2009 the Phillies had dropped off from their 2008 numbers. They hit 10 fewer homeruns with 29 and 8 fewer RBI’s at 115. Pat Burrell was gone being replaced by Raul Ibanez. Ibanez stepped into Burrell’s shoes and hit 7 homeruns and 17 RBI’s being matched by Chase Utley’s 7 homeruns and 20 RBI’s. Ryan Howard added 4 homeruns and 15 RBI’s, similar numbers to this season. Jason Werth was off to a slower start with only 2 homeruns and 10 RBI’s.
In April of 2010 the Phillies power dropped off again with only 21 combined homeruns and 108 RBI’s. Having practically the same lineup as in 2009 it is difficult to explain why the power dropped off. Chase Utley led the team with 6 homeruns and was second on the team with 15 RBI’s to Ryan Howard’s 17. Raul Ibanez fell off dramatically from his early season production of 2009 to hit only 1 homerun and 9 RBI’s.
Through yesterdays loss in extra innings to the Brewers the Phillies have a combined 11 home runs and 76 RBI’s. They are averaging 5.26 runs a game, their 79 total is good for 8th in baseball and they have a .287 batting average, good for 2nd. Their on base percentage is .340 which is 5th overall, but their slugging percentage is only at .403 ranking 12th. The homeruns are down but the batting average is up and the scoring is there.
The one overall factor for power that is missing in the Phillies lineup is Chase Utley. From 2008-2010 Utley hit a combined 23 homeruns and 56 RBI’s in March & April’s. That’s an average of 7.67 homeruns and 18.67 RBI’s. As of right now the Phillies have no one close to those numbers, their leader in homeruns and RBI’s is Ryan Howard at 3 and 15 respectively. If there was ever a question the impact Chase Utley had on the Phillies lineup, the answer would be power and RBI’s.
With Utley not due back for sometime the Phillies have had to fill the void by moving Jimmy Rollins to Utley’s spot in the lineup and adding Wilson Valdez in the 8th spot. Rollins isn’t a power guy, he had one season of 30 + homeruns, he is more of a number 2 hitter in a lineup then a number 3. The offseason loss of Jason Werth isn’t the reason for the Phillies power issues; it’s the injury to Chase Utley that has taken its toll.
The Phillies have the pitching and the bats to win it all. The fact that they are manufacturing runs in lieu of hitting homeruns is a good sing. If Chase Utley comes back healthy for even the second half of the season the homeruns will go up. Like the weather the Phillies bats tend to heat up for the summer and if they can keep playing small ball with combined pop, the Phillies should have no problem achieving there playoff and world series goals.