In the last nine games (May 22-31), the Phillies have scored a grand total of ten runs. The team was shut out in five of those nine matches thanks, in part, to injuries to the right side of the infield, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and third baseman Placido Polanco. The Phillies have replaced Rollins and his .339 weighted on-base average (wOBA) with Juan Castro‘s career .263 and Wilson Valdez‘s .254. Polanco’s .335 wOBA has been swapped with the .314 wOBA belonging to Greg Dobbs and Castro has logged some innings at the hot corner as well.
Along with the inferior substitutes, the bats of the starters have collectively cooled off as well. Ryan Howard has reached base in nine of his 36 plate appearances since May 22 on four singles and five walks. Chase Utley has reached base in only six of his 37 PA on three singles, a triple, and three walks. Jayson Werth is hitless in his last 20 plate appearances, striking 11 times in that span.
How about a look in graph form? (Click to enlarge)
The slump stats (May 22-31):
There’s a clear drop-off between career and streak wOBA when you get to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, and Greg Dobbs. Howard and Utley have hit nearly .200 points under his career wOBA while Werth is nearly .250 points under and Dobbs has completely fallen off a cliff. The reason the Phillies aren’t scoring runs? Their 3-4-5 hitters are simultaneously slumping. Between the three of them, they have exactly two extra-base hits in 101 PA. Werth, a maven of plate discipline, has walked only once in his last 28 PA.
Utley has only struck out in 4 of his last 37 PA, which is a good sign and leads us to believe that he has simply been BABIP unlucky for the most part. Howard, on the other hand, is back to whiffing after making frequent contract through the first month and a half. Over the cold streak, Howard has struck out in 32% of his at-bats, matching his career average. As the plate discipline stats on FanGraphs show, Howard has been swinging at a lot of junk outside of the strike zone. And Werth, as mentioned, has struck out in 43% of his at-bats during this cold streak, well above his career average 29%.
So I wouldn’t worry about Utley and Werth’s struggles are likely correctable. Howard’s slump is concerning since he has been turned into a singles hitter. 72% of his hits are singles compared to 50% last year and 49% in 2008. Additionally, his walk rate is 3% lower and he is hitting 7.5% more ground balls and 7% fewer fly balls. More ground balls means more singles and fewer fly balls means fewer doubles and home runs. This could be a function of how opposing pitchers are going after Howard as he has seen lefties in 35% of his PA this year and has seen even fewer pitches in the strike zone than he did last year, 45% to 42%.
However, as I wrote recently, this offensive slump is nothing to fret about although it is frustrating. The core of this offense has helped the team rank among the National League’s best in many offensive categories for three-plus years. That isn’t about to change.