Six games into the post-season, the Phillies' offense has struggled. Last night's shutout, the first shutout in Phillies post-season history since 1983, has put fans in a tizzy.
Where is the offense? How can Raul Ibanez be this bad? How can Chase Utley be so un-clutch? Why doesn't Ryan Howard get any of his hits when they matter? Are we past the expiration date on Jimmy Rollins? What good are Jayson Werth's long at-bats? What good are Carlos Ruiz's on-base skills when the person hitting behind him is an automatic out (whether a pitcher or pinch hitter)? When will Shane Victorino regain some pop in his bat? Putting aside Sunday night's performance, is Placido Polanco the worst number 3 hitter in playoff history?
For a team that is known for its offense, watching the team score 3.7 runs per game and get only 6.5 hits per game in the games that matter most is painful.
But the clause at the beginning of that sentence is the key here. Even if the 2010 Phillies are a team that should be known for its offense, it should not be known for being a consistent offense. In fact, the 2010 Phillies' offense is one that should be known for doing just what it's doing right now: going through big slumps where almost everyone looks horrendous. As I wrote in my preview of the NLDS in listing reasons why the Reds might win:
2) A slump-prone offense. The Phillies offense did pretty well this year, all things considered. But, it suffered through some serious bouts of offensive ineptitude. In over 20% of the Phillies' games (34 games), the team scored 0 or 1 run. The team had five completely separate 4-game stretches in which it scored a total of 9 runs or less, a different 6-game stretch in which it scored only 13 runs, and an incredible 9-game stretch in which they scored 11 runs, including three straight shutouts by the Mets (the Mets!). This offense can go cold when it most needs to be hot, as evidenced by the 9 total runs it scored from September 22 through September 26 when it was trying to clinch the NL East (although, thanks to great pitching, the Phillies split those four games).
The team is going through one of these slumps right now, albeit what it's going through now is not nearly as bad as other stretches it's been through this year.
The positive to take from this is that no one on the team is beyond a bounce back. Despite scoring only 0 or 1 run in over 20% of the team's game, the team scored the seventh most runs in baseball and the second most in the NL. There's no doubt that the talent on this team can pull through. But at the same time, what we're seeing is that having this offensive talent does not foreclose the possibility of prolonged droughts.
All this is to say that if you're unhappy with the team's offense right now, what you're really unhappy with is the 2010 Phillies' offense as a whole, because what the team is doing now is the same thing it's been doing all year.