Oh no! The Phillies have been shut out in three out of their last four games and they have been held scoreless in 37 out of the last 38 innings. Clearly something is amiss!
Since a 12-run outburst against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 17, the Phillies’ offense has collectively hit for a .203 AVG, .282 OBP, and .309 SLG — worse than Eric Bruntlett‘s career numbers. In those eight games, the team has scored only 15 runs, an average of under two per game. This has got to be uncharted territory for the high-octane Phillies offense, right?
Incorrect. Here are some offensive droughts the Phillies have endured over the past few years:
- May 9-14: 5 games, 14 runs, .176/.291/.320
- June 16-26: 10 games, 35 runs, .208/.279/.344
- July 28-August 4: 7 games, 17 runs, .218/.279/.331
- August 25-September 7: 13 games, 31 runs, .236/.294/.417
- April 5-10: 6 games, 20 runs, .231/.326/.392
- June 3-12: 9 games, 33 runs, .226/.318/.365
- June 17-26: 8 games, 15 runs, .181/.257/.252
- August 1-9: 8 games, 21 runs, .207/.321/.368
- August 14-21: 7 games, 19 runs, .203/.252/.323
- May 15-23: 7 games, 27 runs, .218/.285/.389
- June 4-11: 8 games, 31 runs, .255/.325/.433
- August 8-16: 8 games, 32 runs, .227/.304/.373
- August 18-25: 7 games, 26 runs, .249/.295/.414
As you can see, the Phillies have traditionally hit at least four offensive skids per season. This will hold true for any similarly potent offense or starting rotation or bullpen. No team will average five runs per game and score exactly five runs every game. Sometimes they will score ten and another time they will score zero; sometimes they will score six and another time they will score four. We tend to overlook the times the Phillies’ offense is on fire because we expect it. The Phillies averaged 7.7 runs per game from the start of the 2010 season until April 16.
To quote J.C. Bradbury of Sabernomics on streaks:
Occasionally, these things happen in clumps (like the Braves losing nine games in a row), and fans are quick to respond with disdain and frustration. For example, the data below represent wins (w) and losses (l) in a 162-game season for a .500 team, generated randomly via a computer program (Stata code: generate x=round(uniform(),1)) . Note that this team actually finishes below .500 and has several streaks of wins and losses. In fact, there is an 18-game span where the team has two five-game losing streaks and one six-game losing streak while going 2-16. I imagine the sports pages would have a field day with this team as being one of the worst in baseball, when in fact it is an average team.
l l l l w w l l l w w w w l w w l l l w l w l l l l l w l l l l l w l l l l l l w w w l w w w w w w l w w w l w w w l w w l w w l w l l w w w l w w l l w w l w w w w l l w w w w w l l w w w l l l l w l l w l l l l l l w w w w l w l w w w w w w w l w w l l w w l w w l w w w l w l w l l w w w l w w l w w l w l w w l l l w l
This has to be frustrating for management, because the belief that random fluctuations represent real and easily-correctable problems can have financial consequences. A good team that plays poorly can translate into losses at the gate. A GM may look at his roster and see a good team that he doesn’t want to change, but “hang on and be patient” doesn’t resonate well among fans who demand answers. How can a GM signal that things are going to get better when the team is already configured optimally?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Phillies at the moment. They are still one of the best offenses in baseball even without Jimmy Rollins and a fully healthy Carlos Ruiz and a struggling Raul Ibanez and a powerless Ryan Howard (71% of his hits have been singles compared to 50% last year). Imagine how fun it will be if and when Rollins is 100% healthy and Ruiz isn’t banged up and Ibanez gets on one of his patented hot streaks and Howard stops hitting like David Eckstein.
That the league’s best offense has been shut out in three out of their last four games has not sat well with most Phillies fans and talking heads. However, the storyline would be a lot different if the Phillies had squeezed just one run in each of those shut-outs. It’s not so much that the Phillies’ offense has been rendered impotent over the last week-plus, but that the label of being shut-out — three times — is a Scarlet letter.
Just as I advocated when Cole Hamels was struggling, Phillies fans need to just ride out this wave of poor play. It is not representative of the big picture; things will turn around.