The Phillies have lost four of their last five games. In those four losses, the Phillies are averaging just over two runs a game and are allowing four and a half. Their pitching has slightly improved, but the offense has gone cold. Meanwhile, the New York Mets have won seven games in a row, having swept the Braves and Phillies in two-game series and the Pirates in a three-game series. As a result, the Phils are 1.5 games behind in the standings.
No, it’s not time to panic, but it is time to correct some little things that have been contributing to the failure. Here are a few suggestions for starters:
1. Designate Miguel Cairo for assignment.
With his hit in today’s game, Cairo now has two hits — both singles, of course — in 15 at-bats. He is utterly useless as he’s a poor man’s Eric Bruntlett. Cairo’s poor performance is no aberration, either. His OPS+ since 2005? 64, 55, 66, and 75.
Cairo is taking away what could be useful Major League experience for Jason Donald. Donald isn’t exactly setting the world on fire in AAA, as he only has a .680 OPS, but that’s nearly five times better than Cairo’s .143 OPS. The Phillies have no legitimate right-handed bench player, and Cairo has no power. Donald is no Ryan Howard, but he does have the ability to go yard once in a while.
2. Acquire a right-handed bat with power potential.
If the Phillies don’t plan on promoting Donald until September, or even next season, then they need to acquire a RH bat that can hit some extra-base hits once in a while.
The Washington Nationals have a glut of outfielders, with Lastings Milledge and Josh Willingham seeming to be the most expendable. It would not be costly to acquire either and the Nationals would likely be happy to take a fringe prospect to save a few bucks.
Austin Kearns is another option but he would be more costly to the Phillies either in terms of talent given up or in salary taken. It’s also unlikely Kearns would be happy with merely getting one at-bat per game.
3. Designate Jack Taschner for assignment
4. Move Chan Ho Park to the bullpen
5. Move J.A. Happ to the starting rotation
The Phillies currently have three left-handers in the bullpen: Scott Eyre, Jack Taschner, and J.A. Happ. Since J.C. Romero has been serving his 50-game suspension, Eyre has been the de facto LOOGY, and Taschner has been the secondary lefty. Happ has been used as the long reliever.
There’s no reason to stockpile three lefties in the bullpen. Coupled with the fact that Happ has been pitching well and Park, for the most part, has been awful, it makes a lot of sense to flip the two and cut Taschner. Romero has less than three weeks left before he returns to the team. Looking at the schedule, the move could be made now since the only team they play, between now and Romero’s return, that has a lefty-heavy lineup is the New York Yankees.
Happ will likely need to make a spot start anyway with the doubleheader in Washington on May 16, so there’s a quick and easy way to transition him into the rotation. He definitely has the stuff to succeed there as a middle- or back-of-the-rotation starter.
6. Designate Chris Coste for assignment
We all love Coste and his remarkable story of having overcome many years in relative obscurity in independent league baseball. He’s been really unproductive this season and has been taking awful at-bats. Of his 58 plate appearances, he’s gone 0-2 nine times (15%). Overall, he’s been in pitchers’ counts 24 times (41%). Further, he’s swung at the first pitch 8 times (14%).
Since Marson has already been in the Majors, his arbitration clock has already started, so there’s really no reason to keep him in the Minors anymore. Marson showed the ability to handle Major League pitching, though he could definitely use some improvement. His development as a catcher and as a hitter is more important to the Phillies both this year and in the future than the minuscule advantage in offense Coste will provide.
7. Re-work the lineup until Jimmy Rollins starts hitting consistently
Rollins has led off in 26 of the Phillies’ 29 games and has only a .520 OPS to show for it. That OPS, by the way, will shrink even more after an 0-for-5 performance today.
Instead of giving Rollins the majority of at-bats with his flawed approach, drop him down in the order until he starts hitting again. Meanwhile, those that are hitting — which seems to be everyone else — are moved up in the order and get more at-bats.
A new lineup might look like this:
According to this lineup analysis tool, the most efficient lineup would actually be:
Rollins, like Coste, has been taking a terrible approach to each plate appearance. With 126 PA under his belt, Rollins has been in the following counts:
- Swung at the first pitch: 10 PA (8%)
- 0-1: 17 PA (13.5%)
- 0-2: 9 PA (7%)
- 1-2: 14 PA (11%)
Overall, that adds up to 50 PA, or about 40% of his plate appearances.
. . .
Those are some of my thoughts on how the team could be improved. There are some easy ones, like “Trade for Jake Peavy and/or Roy Halladay,” but I tried to keep them realistic.
Feel free to share your thoughts on what the Phillies should do or on the validity of my suggestions.