Analysis

Can the Phillies Change their Approach in 2014?

Can J-Roll change? (MLB)

Can J-Roll change? (MLB)

It’s not hard to see a direct correlation between getting on base, scoring runs, and winning games.

Phillies Runs Scored:

2007: 892
2008: 799
2009: 820
2010: 772
2011: 713
2012: 684
2013: 464 (on pace – 606)

Phillies On-Base Percentage:

2007: .354
2008: .332
2009: .334
2010: .332
2011: .323
2012: .317
2013: .303 (as of 8/20)

Phillies Record:

2007: 89-73
2008: 92-70
2009: 93-69
2010: 97-65
2011: 102-60
2012: 81-81
2013: 55-69 (as of 8/20)

We know how each Phillies team, year-by year beginning in 2007, was constructed. From 2007 to 2009, they scored between 5 and 5.5 runs per game, while getting just enough pitching to go with the monster lineup. In 2010, the offense was still productive, but their pitching was stronger than in previous years.

In 2011, the pitching staff put up ludicrous numbers, allowing just 3.27 runs per game, while leading the club to 102 wins. It overshadowed a declining, yet just-about-good-enough offense. In 2012, it all began to fall apart. And here we stand, in 2013, with a team that has totally imploded.

On the offensive side of things, it’s plain to see what ails the Phillies. They can’t get on base, therefore they cannot score enough runs to keep up with the rest of the league.

Their .303 OBP currently ranks 27th in baseball, just ahead of the Cubs, Astros, and Marlins. With 464 runs, only the White Sox and Marlins are deeper into the abyss.

The question now becomes: what will change in 2014? Or, more importantly, can they change?

We’re done beating into the ground the fact that 2013 is over. With sights set on next season, the Phillies need a major philosophical change in how they approach the game.

The “what” is the need to draw more walks and deeper counts.

Of players with at least 200 plate appearances, only one Phillie ranks in the Top 50 in the NL in pitches per plate appearance. That would be Ryan Howard. John Mayberry Jr. ranks 60th in the NL, Domonic Brown 61.

Among qualified batters, only Michael Young and Jimmy Rollins rank in the top 40 of the NL in walks; Young has 39, Rollins 38.

“Can they change” is where the water gets murky.

Ryne Sandberg has set the wheels in motion by opening up dialogue with Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies leadoff hitter for the better part of a decade. Rollins – he of the .260 on-base percentage since the all-star break – is at the top of the list of players who need to retune their approach. Adapt or die, as they say.

Sandberg was candid when talking about his discussions with Rollins, and you can read them all here as Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News goes word-for-word.

What I think for Jimmy at the top of the lineup with his speed and his baserunning and as good as he is as a baserunner, he’s got to get on base. I don’t think him focusing on hitting 15 to 20 home runs in the right approach for him. If he wants to score 100 runs per year, I think that’s the proper approach — not hitting solo home runs. That’s any guy at the top of the order- that’s making the pitcher come to him and if you get your walks, battle in your at-bats and try to get on base. He has enough pop to hit the ball in the gaps and get his doubles, so I think for me and keeping a line drive stroke and improving the on-base percentage. That’s what the team needs.

The gist is this: we’ll see. Sandberg says he sees a willingness in Rollins to change. We’ll see about some others.

A healthy Ryan Howard will hopefully bring better plate discipline to a team sorely lacking in that department. But the Big Piece is still a Big If. Domonic Brown continues to go through the developmental process as a hitter. Darin Ruf has a keen eye, but what about Cody Asche?

Here’s what next year’s lineup could look like:

Revere CF
Utley 2B
Ruf LF
Brown RF
Howard 1B
Rollins SS
Asche 3B
Ruiz C

It’s possible that four of the top six in the order could reach .330-plus OBP (take your pick on who that will be, but my money is at least on Revere and Utley). That’s not all that bad. If you mix in a little power from the 3-4-5 hitters, perhaps the lineup can trend upward.

Again, adapt or die. If the Phillies as a whole don’t start to make pitchers work and get on base by any means necessary, their offensive numbers will continue to suffer as a result. And if next season does not yield more runs for the club, they won’t go far. It will not be 2011, when the “4 Aces” reign supreme. It will not look like 2009, when they slugged 224 home runs. It will be 2014, with much the same lineup as 2013, and much the same in terms of output…unless the players get wise.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. George

    August 20, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Part of the problem is not just the approach, but the fact that the current team is filled with players who couldn’t hit water falling out of the boat: guys like Martinez, Wells, McDonald, and the recently departed Young and Nix. Maybe those players aren’t or weren’t regulars, but they’ve certainly been playing a lot with Howard and Revere on the DL. Earlier, when Utley was out, there was the weak-hitting Galvis, and when Ruiz was down, there was Quintero. If the Phils had better backups, the OBP wouldn’t be quite as bad, although it still wouldn’t be great.

    As far as changing the approach, that’s going to be a huge question mark. The regulars are older and even if they do buy into the new program, they still may be unable to execute that program. New faces will probably make the biggest difference, although if those new faces are like the garbage peripheral pieces on the current team, I don’t expect much improvement at all.

  2. Manny

    August 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I don’t expect Howard to provide any value at all from this point on. Wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a replacement level player. I mean, he already kinda is with his 0.4 WAR this year. The team needs to suck it up and platoon Ruf and Howard at 1st base, or give the starting job to Ruf for good… AND get a good outfielder in the FA market this offseason (they can definitely afford it) –someone like Choo I’d think.

    If we are actually hoping to change our approach and get better, players like Howard (and perhaps Jimmy too) will need to sit down for good. That 2014 lineup suggested above isn’t going to cut it… simply because most of the players flat out suck.

    • Hogey's Role

      August 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      If the Phillies sign any hitter in the offseason they will have to be either right handed or a switch hitter, there are all ready too many lefties with Utley Brown revere asche and Howard….

      Now lets say they do bench or get Rid of Howard, which will never happen… I would move Utley to first, either Hernandez or asche at second and Franco at third….

      And although Rollins couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper sack right now, there’s nobody better, in our organization or outside of it, to play short stop everyday…

      • Manny

        August 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm

        I think the whole “too many lefties” thing is somewhat overblown. Most pitchers in baseball are righties. As long as we don’t stack 3 or 4 of them together we should be fine. (And Howard definitely needs to sit against ALL lefties.)

      • Manny

        August 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm

        And why move Utley to 1st base? He’s still one of the very best defensively. We need his solid defense in the middle…

      • Carlos Danger

        August 20, 2013 at 6:08 pm

        “By re-signing Utley, the Phillies are essentially precluding themselves from adding any of the hitters who have a decent chance of upgrading this putrid lineup. Don’t think so? Take out a piece of paper and try to draw up a batting order, and remember that Rollins has an OPS under .650 against lefthanded pitching over the last 3 years:

        1. Revere CF (lefty)
        2. Utley 2B (lefty)
        3. _____________
        4. Brown RF (lefty)
        5. Howard 1B (lefty)
        6. _____________
        7. Rollins SS (switch)
        8. Asche 3B (lefty)

        “Keep in mind that never in the history of the National League has a team finished a season with six lefthanded hitters at 400 or more plate appearances. Since integration, only two teams have finished with five. There’s a reason for that. Balance matters.”

        http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/sports/20130801_Figuring_the_Utley_factor.html

      • Hogey's Role

        August 20, 2013 at 6:22 pm

        Move Utley to first to take some wear and tear off his knees…

        And five lefties are too many in a lineup of eight guys because the pitcher is irrelevant… couple that with now Howard has to sit vs lefties cause he can’t hit them that’s ridiculous, how many power hitting right handed hitters can’t hit a righty…. he shouldn’t be in the majors if he can’t learn to hit a lefty

      • Hogey's Role

        August 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm

        And you wanna sign choo who is also lefty, so six lefties in a lineup is what you want?

      • Lefty

        August 20, 2013 at 7:02 pm

        Hogey, I suggested going after Choo in another thread, but I meant as a replacement for Revere who has value, and could maybe be traded for bullpen pieces.

      • Hogey's Role

        August 20, 2013 at 9:34 pm

        i understand that lefty but Idk if I would make that move, plus what kind of bullpen arms could you get for revere, he is a good player but Idk if anybody will give up a top reliever for him…

        And like you said before, bullpen arms are volatile, good one year and bad the next….

      • Lefty

        August 20, 2013 at 11:14 pm

        Hogey, I’m just going with the theme of the posting. Choo has a .415 OBP, good for fourth best in MLB, and I watched him get on base 5 times on Sunday. The guy is flat out impressive. Plus it wouldn’t add a lefty if you move Revere. Maybe Ben can get you an decent arm, or maybe not, you make a good point.

        BTW- Revere’s OBP is .338 and he was pretty good in his last 45 games, I guess it depends whether or not they want to spend or not. Last offseason they didn’t, and I was actually fine with that. We’ll see if the new level of LT threshold (189m) changes their way of thinking this winter.

      • Hogey's Role

        August 21, 2013 at 7:10 am

        Well that and if our first pick is protected I think we’ll spend, but Idk if I’m ready to give up on revere yet… but would you take choo over revere for 4 more years?

  3. Rabbi

    August 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Rollins isn’t the only one who needs to change his approach. Howard also needs to get back to NOT being a pull-hitter. Just as for Rollins, there are a lot of hits up the middle (and the other way) for The Big Piece.

  4. Pamikedc

    August 20, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    @Manny, def agree w your comment about the L’s

  5. Bart Shart

    August 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    They can change only if the players change. Jimmy Rollins will not change. The team needs to keep track of on-base-percentage closer than batting average. The culture needs to change. Howard needs platoon and play primarily against right handers. Put simply, he does not hit lefties.

    We will win nothing for at least three years, as development takes that long.

  6. Lefty

    August 20, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Quite simply, they need an analytics department to inform management better. Right now the GM, former manager and new manager are all old ball players. The players see through these guys, they only buy in when management believes in what they’re selling. We laugh at Ruben and Charlie’s statements about walks. But I think to an extent, they believe in what they say, or they wouldn’t have said it at all.

    Just as a refresher- Charlie said “Walks ain’t hittin” and Ruben – well everyone knows what he said by now. It’s true that sometimes these statements get taken out of context, but the players hear it, read it, and IMO- despite what they may say publicly, these things stay in the backs of their minds making change almost impossible.

    I see the remarks by Sandberg as a positive and very encouraging, but he’s going to need a lot more backing with numbers, and a permanent job title, or they won’t buy in.

    • Hogey's Role

      August 20, 2013 at 9:25 pm

      I agree with you here lefty

  7. Ken Bland

    August 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    They can change only if the players change. Jimmy Rollins will not change

    Bullbleepingbleep, Bart.

    Jimmy GROUNDED out, and only semi pulled the ball in his firt AB.

    This subject is like 3 years old, and written up 75 times in that span, and you wanna crush the usefulness of the post by saying they need to change the players? But how will someone be able to write on this subject for the 76th time?

    #howdarehebesensible

  8. Bob D

    August 20, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Rollins is ok if hitting 7th / 8th. Not 1st – 3rd.

  9. james

    August 24, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Nice Submit. It’s really a great article. We noticed all of your important points. Thanks
    james http://www.tapacwm.net/userinfo.php?uid=87481

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