Monday, May 16, 2005

Petter Gammons and Jayson Stark

Peter Gammons:
OK, Jim Thome's back is bad, and that's another issue. But playing in the bandbox of Citizens Bank Park, how can this team be second-to-last in the National League in slugging percentage? How can they win with a leadoff hitter having a .282 on-base percentage?

It wasn't Larry Bowa's fault, so it can't be Charlie Manuel's fault either. And, thus, the only man left holding the evidence if this season doesn't turn around for the Phils is GM Eddie Wade; hence the Brian Cashman whispers have already started. This team has a $95 million payroll. Its farm system is so bad that as of Thursday their minor-league teams were a combined 48 games under .500. They produce Ryan Howard, keep him behind Thome and now have to deal with the knowledge that the Indians were seriously concerned about Thome's back holding up more than three years -- and this is the third year of the deal.

If the Phillies are out of contention at the All-Star break, what Wade does with free agents-to-be Billy Wagner and Placido Polanco may determine his future.

Not only is Jimmy Rollins bad for a leadoff hitter. He is 165 out of 183 players. That's just bad bad.

Jayson Stark:
Last year: Third in NL in runs (840), second in homers (215)
This year: 14th in runs (644 pace), 10th in homers (153 pace)

As recently as this spring – when we polled scouts, GMs, executives and players on which NL team had the best offense – the Phillies got a bunch of first-place votes. But after watching them invent new ways daily not to score, many of those same people are wondering what they were thinking.

True, Jim Thome has been hurt lately and was in a massive funk before that (.203 avg., .304 slugging, just one homer). But this team's problems run deeper than that.

"I don't see any spark," one scout said. "They just wait around to see if someone hits a three-run homer."

"They're an enigma," one front-office man said. "They should be better than they are."

"The names all look good on paper," another NL scout said. "But when have they ever really done it all together?"

Perhaps you can find a trend in these numbers: Through 36 games, the Phillies were hitting .254 with the bases empty, .238 with runners on base, .234 with men in scoring position and .211 with men in scoring position and two out. Ugly.

Looks like the gap between the batting average with men in scoring position and normal is widening. Three options about that: 1) It isn't statistically meaningful thus far. 23.4% vs. 25.4%? 2) The Phils aren't good under pressure. 3) There is something else I'm not taking into account.

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